Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Of Ice and Ice bars

So, this weekend, we embraced all things Icy. Although the weather seems to be gracing us with an early spring (well, one can only hope), It's still cold enough for ice not to melt. Which is great for, you know, walking on the sidewalk and stuff. Mind you, I shouldn't complain, sine most of the snow is gone and you can actually see grass in a couple of places. Although it's pretty sad and yellow and dead at the moment. Hey, listen, last spring I was so desperate for a little colour that the dandelion invasion was a very welcome sight.

We started off on Friday night by loading ourselves with carbs at Viking Restaurant Taishokan (yes, they let us back in after that Halloween, and no, I still don't know why Japanese all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants are called Vikings.) . As usual, I pigged it. As you can see I had Sushi and potatoes and Gyoza and chicken fry thingys and Gengiskhan and Yakiniku and chocolate cake and melon soda.

I also had a couple of cappucinos. Oh and another slice of cake. Don't worry, I managed to work off all the calories with about of karaoke (did "walk like an Egyptian" again, there was also a rendition of "jailhouse rock", which is actually a dirty dirty song and Elvis should be ashamed). And some Pirikura, of course (they can send it to your cellphone now, which is fantastikku!

Then on Saturday evening we went to the Swan Matsuri on Tokachigawa Lake. Now, this was a misnomer on so many levels. Firstly it wasn't on the lake so much as near it (it was by the flower clock, which due to it being winter has no flowers, and thus, as Erin said: "a large weird clock"), and there were no swans. So basically it was a winter lights festival. It was bloody cold and there were no food stalls, and the only hot drinks on offer were hot milk (bleeeh) and some sort of sake-milk-rice thing that looked vile, but which Dan seemed to enjoy. It was bloody freezing and my Feet were doing that Achy-bone-pain-of Satan thing again, so I was glad to head over to the Onsen, the good one that costs Sen-En but is so worth it. We Onsened for two hours and then went to Alixe's where we annoyed her and her guest by mocking "coach Carter" which they were watching.

And then home to bed.

The next day, despite a valiant effort on Erin's part to convince me that justice would be better served by staying in bed all day and sleeping, we managed to get out the house, and after a healthy breakfast of Donuts, D-pops and Nikkuman (from Misdo, Natch), to head out on the road to Shikaribetsuko (Ko meaning Lake), where there is an Igloo Festival Out on the Ice. Erin tells me the Ice over the lake is at least 3 feet thick, and that you could walk from one side to the other no problem. This didn't really reassure me so I just maintained a steady state of denial. We visited the Icebar which was frickin' freezing, so we had some warming drinkies (me: Kahlua Milk, Erin: Hot Buttered Brandy). This worked well for about three minutes, so we headed over to the Ice onsen to try and warm up.

Where we encountered a problem. Mainly that it was a mixed onsen, and there were people in it. And we didn't really want middle aged Japanese men to see our boobies. Or, particularly, to see them naked either. Luckily as we were pondering our quandary (Erin Pondered by trying the Ice slide, which almost froze her bum and left her with cold pants for most of the rest of the day), they exited the onsen, leaving it empty, so we dashed in, undressed in the changing room (built out of ice and therefore not really conducive to nekkidity), and plunged into the sulphury, hothothot water. It was fantastic, until a middle-aged man saw our boobies.

Oh well.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Effing Okinawa...

The one part of my job I despise without reservation is marking essays. And really, even that is not so bad. The problem is Horita-sensei, who has no qualms about giving me a pile of that crappy recycled paper that makes my skin itch and puts my teeth on edge... This pile is usually made up of a term's worth of essays, so usually ten per student, around thirty to thirty five students. So let's call it 300 essays, conservatively.

which, you know, would in and of itself not be that bad, except that they are all the same essay. Really. Education here favours using the framework out of the text book over originality (not the individual teachers, mind you.. I'm talking the system as a whole), and I've heard horror stories of exchange students getting zeros for work that was "excellent, but you were supposed to copy out of the textbook, not do your own research". So all of the essays have the same exact framework, they just change the occasional noun or verb. Adjective if you're lucky. This does not make for compelling reading, especially not thirty times.

among the repeated gems, as written:

"our high school has many events, the most exciting of which is the school festival"
"We went on a school trip to Okinawa in November. I had never been in a plane before, so I was very exciting, and very moved by the beautiful emerald-green sea [I told one student way back in November that descriptions of green sea could enhanced by the use of the word emerald. Apparently he shared that knowledge with every member of the class].
"I am the best good movie mine is Tonari O Tottoro"
" For me, convenience stores are the convenientest type of store"

the essay I loved the most read (in full).
"I rarely read books."

so anyway, at about 11:30 last night I finally had a meltdown. I started venting spleen. I swore like a sailor. I became enraged. And I decided that this was all the fault of Okinawa. And their Goya, which apparently is a food, and not a dark and moody Spanish artist. Damn you Okinawa!

Damn you to hell!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Some Rehearsal Pics...

Click for larger images, 'kay? And Mouseover for captions.

Another day, Another Presentation to the assembled Teachers of Tokachi...

So, this weekend was a bit of a doozy. After finishing up at Hombetsu (Got to go in late as I only had one class and some after-school stuff... all involved with the Step test. Or possibly the TOEIC. whatev), I caught the 5pm train to Ikeda, connected with the 5:40 train to Obihiro, then to the 6:36 to Tokachishimizu, where Erin and Gregory fetched me and we were off on our way... Only to meet with a wee problem. The damn mountain pass was closed due to snow, or somesuch. Well, the 2-hour detour enabled us to truly bond as never before. A total lack of combinis meant that the two diet cokes and numerous coffees I'd drunk on the train and in the station (caffeine is my lovely friend) were insisting on vacating the premises, and now, thankyouverymuch. so, yes, i peed in the snow by the side of the road. Actually, it was a lot less painful than I'd imagined it would be. So there's another experience I can pass on to my grandchildren.

the rehearsal itself was pretty cool, aside from certain distractions that those of you who are in the know will totally understand. in any case, lack of sleep notwithstanding, there was much jollity, good conversation, singing, dancing, eating, drinking, onsening, and John G getting pantsed and tossed in the snow. Well he did make Susan and Chelle rub his butt cheeks... My, we sound like a rather risque and daringly decadent bunch... But no, this was just the result of a dumbass, end-of-evening kinda card game.

Aaaaaaanyway, yesterday I was (surprise surprise) kind of tired. So I crashed by about 6:30, got up for about an hour at eight to wash my hair (it had to be done) and then back to bed... So I felt at least a little prepared for...

The onslaught of today... 1st and 2nd periods Eigo I, then setting up the "dancing room" with chairs, conference style, putting up examples of students' work... And then a wee bit of lunch before a gajillion teachers converged on our English in Daily Japanese Life (wins Golden Poopie award for most Oxymoronically named class ever), and watched or super-special condensed "lets fit in all the activities ever invented" version of our class... And then we had a meeting about it. For an hour-and-a-half. The damn meeting was longer than the class. However i like being held up as a genius and an example to live by hahahahahaha. But geez, an hour and a half of Japanese meetingification. Cripes. And then the obligatory tea- in- the- kocho- senseis- room- with- honoured- guest- dude. Eventually I had to beg off so i could go get stuff done (pay telephone bill, get food, do furikomi) Before the Toyu dude came (I cannot live without heat in my house for even one night people) and then English club...

man, Tuesdays are reaching a new level of ridiculousness... I am pooped.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

It's all about love...

... apparently...

I think It might be a little warmer...

... Because the snow has started to melt and go slushy during the day. There are even patches where you can see the ground. Just the other day as I rode the train back from Ashoro, I noticed that there were huge segments of farmland with no snow... The bare soil peeking through. Which is kinda weird seeing as this time last year it wasn't nearly this warm during the day.

During the day being the operative phrase. It still seems to be pretty freakin' cold at night. The other night I went to the Valentine's Day Fireworks/ Ice festival, and it was beautiful but I coulda done without the 20-minute trek through the cold snow... My feet went numb and scary and I swear I thought I was going to get frostbite.

although I'm sure you have to spend more than 20 minutes of freezingdom to get frostbite... Surely?

Amazingly there were still plenty of women with bare legs and no jackets, or freaking stiletto boots and mini skirts... I'm all for dressing up for a date, but... come on!!! I'm sure the whole "I'd die for you" romantic ideal doesn't include the words "as a direct result of my dress sense".

Anyway... I'm hoping the unusual warmness means that we are in for an early spring... Maybe There'll even be Sakura this season... I'm talking about a real Sakura Blooming, not the sad, late, whimpering buds that barely made it past the deadline last year. I mean, the Obihiro Sakura festival.. Didn't have any Sakura... Horsemeat, sure... But no Sakura. And it was kinda chilly for an outdoor festival.

So let's holding thumbs for a bright cheerful springtime!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I feel the same way sometimes...

Friday, February 10, 2006

By The Way...

... Just in Case you thought I was Exaggerating about the Weather...

For Today I will be a Grumpy.

Man. Ever have one of those days where you're irrationally angry and grumpy for no apparent reason? Yeah, today was one of those days. I guess I could be premenstrual. A bit early, but that's to be expected. Anyway, I totally was lacking patience with the ichinenseis, but dude, they were just being... I dunno, immovable and resisting change!!! As per usual! I am normally way more patient with them than the JTE's (especially at Hombetsu) but Gah. Today, no.

Maybe it's repressed anger. hahaha. Do I have repressed anger? You betcha. But not towards my students. My feelings towards them are usually pretty straightforward: they're pretty good kids once you get used to the apathy and/or goofing around.

Maybe it's cos I'm stressed about the whole money situation. But then again I always am, and have never taken it out on the students. Well, I don't think so.

Maybe it's cos I'm not going to Yuki matsuri this weekend, and everybody else is.. And it looks to be quite a party. Mind you; it'll be just more of the same HAJET bullshit--- everybody getting drunk and talking shit and pairing off and blah blah blah. Rehearsal weekends are way more fun, less expensive and involve fewer hangovers.


Also I find myself writing the Fibonnaci Sequence out compulsively at random moments. I do not get this latest weirdness. I am so totally not a math geek*... I hated high school math. I got a "g" for an exam in 9th grade... And I didn't even know that was possible.

*although I fully admit to being a common-or-garden-variety geek.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Don't get me wrong

I may complain a lot, but don't get the idea that I am unhappy, or that I dislike my Japanese experience (although I could do with fewer cold days and people who reek of old, layered tobacco)... it's just that this blog is kinda my venting outlet, so the point of view I present here tends to be lopsided. But hey, I am having fun... so in that spirit, reasons to be cheerful....part 3 (obviously).

  1. 24-hour-a-day, freedial call centres where the staff are polite, friendly and helpful no matter how stupid your question is.
  2. The post office delivers on Saturdays, and sometimes Sundays, and Amazon usually delivers to my office if I’m at work...
  3. it's so safe here when I walk alone at midnight down a darkened street past a shabby building, my main worry is an attack by Japanese ghosts, who are both moist and oogy.
  4. Japanese ghosts are the most ghosty in the world. They sure can do horror here.
  5. A sunny, warmish day when it's snowy is somehow very cheerful, probably because the whiteness of the snow reflects the sunshine--- so it becomes ubersunny.
  6. Pocky decorer, seasonal flavouredKit Kats (Kit Kat bitter anyone... could I ask for anything any more sexy?), seasonal flavoured fanta (white strawberry... pineapple...kiwifruit...grrr) and the vast array of Hagen dasz within my grasp ... although why vanilla fudge brownie flavour is only available on the mainland I’ll never understand.
  7. When spring does come, it is pretty damn stonkin glorious... tulips and flowers and greenery and nice smells and warmth and cheerfulness... after all the sensory deprivation of winter its extra-amazing. And the sakura, when it finally decides to show up in Hokkaido.
  8. Eating weird things like horse, or nabe, which are all pretty good, gets you a very positive reaction.
  9. Any use of Japanese at all gets you the "aaaaaaaaH! nihongo jouzu ne?!" seal of approval, especially from the nice ladies at Posful.
  10. The nice ladies at Posful. Department stores are usually staffed by sweet middle-aged ladies who are helpful, and like you, and want to help.
  11. There's no such thing as a fashion mistake here. You can walk down the street in candy-striped pink and red stockings with fur boots and a miniskirt and a lumberjack shirt with a furry sweater all droopy over it and a cowboy and nobody would bat an eyelid. You might even get a Kawaai.
  12. I pay 78 dollars a month in rent for a two-bedroom apartment with an eating room (dining room is a bit grandiose, but still)... 78 DOLLARS, man!!! That’s like 480 Rand! Insaaaane!
  13. The Obihiro people, Saradia, And all the fab other people here whom I adore.
  14. Uniqlo.

So. Wow. Lots to be cheerful about then. This is practically turning into an Oprah Grateful Diary. Remember those? So I'll stop now, but you get the picture.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Let's Play Spot the Gaijin!!

Bye Bye OC2... I miss you already...

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Proverbial Dotted Line.

Yeah. So. You're wondering what happened to the last few posts. I deleted them. Because the stuff that went on was too much and too personal to be online, where they were everybody's business. So. Now they're gone.

Anyway, today was Recontracting Decision Day 2006! Woot. Of course, they forgot, and i was in Hombetsu, and The Sup had to fetch me from the freakin station,So that I could sign the forms. Well, at least it got me a free ride home, and I didn't have to do the walk-home-in-the-sub-zero- temperatures thing again. Anyway I ran upstairs, found my damn Colon Blow pen with the smiley faces, and signed the damn thing. So now I am officially going home in 6 months. Obviously there'll be part of me that will miss this place, mostly the people I've met, and the kids. Well not all of the kids (some of them are the apathetic spawn of rancid yet boring demons), Onsens of course (there's nothing quite like a rotenburo snowfight under nighttime skies)...

...But I want to go home. I miss people who get me, people who know me from before, people who have the same cultural references as me... People who speak English. I miss my family, my friends... And my freakin independence.

I miss my hairdresser. God, that woman was a genius. And I need her now.
I miss real sunsets, and cocktails watching those sunsets, preferably by the beach.
I miss those sunsets being at 9pm.
I miss the beach.
I miss real steaks, and gemsquash, and Boerie rolls at midnight on Long Street, and peppermints crisps, and Creme Brulee.
I miss Joburg and The Shack and the Cornerhouse and little drum 'n bass holes and fab new clubs.
I miss Royale and Zero and 5Flies and, sadly Debonair's Pizza.

Mostly, I miss not being Fuckin freezing all the time. And I'm tired of always, always being the foreigner, the outsider, the one who is stared at, talked about, and Different.