Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Long Walk

Today was an easy day of classes and I had a ton of energy after seeing off the last of my runts. I decided that I would try to catch a train that I normally do not have time to catch, this meant that I jogged with my backpack for about two miles only to see my train pull away from the station just as I was approaching it. This left me with two choices: A)Sit around the station and play on my DS until the next train an hour later or B)Do something I have never done before and walk to the next station down the line toward my town. I went with B.

Now that fall is kicking summer out, it has been extremely pleasant here. The temperature hovers in the low-80s and the rain has been pretty minimal. Today was a tad cloudy but other than that, a perfect evening for a stroll. I know the next station from the one I was at was a ways away. I figured that I would just make sure I could see the train tracks and eventually I would wind up at the next station. This plan worked for about the first hour of my walk.

As I walked, it steadily became darker and the further out I went from the town, the quieter it got. It was the perfect walk. There were fall smells and dinner smells and I was alone on a path next to the road to enjoy it all. It was at this point it occurred to me that this would be one of the last walks I would enjoy in while in Japan. While this made me a bit sad, I was heartened by the fact that if this were my last good walk here, it was a really nice evening for the stroll. Eventually, I found myself creeping away from the road and the next thing I knew I was meandering along a path between two large rice paddies. I could hear the bugs and see stars and as I mentioned, the whole thing was rather serene. I used to not like walking when I was in the US but since I have come here, I appreciate the value of a relaxing stroll.

About fifty minutes and six or seven miles into the walk, I realized that I was no longer near the railroad tracks. Somehow, in the darkness they had ninja's themselves out of my view and I was left wandering on the side of the road.

Speaking of roads, this is kind of odd. In most of my dreams, I am in one of a handful of places and most of them are not real locations. One of the places I dream in is a town that is really spread out and rural. Whenever I dream there, I always find myself on the very long road that runs through most of the town. On this stretch of road, there is a section with trees drooping down over it and on one side, there is a wall of rock where the road had been carved into the hillside. I found that stretch of road tonight. It was almost identical to the section in my dreams and it was very odd to see it while awake and to see it in the dark. When I am in this location in my dreams it is always daytime. Anywho, back to the walk.

So with no railroad tracks to follow, I went back to the expressway and followed the road because I knew that if worse came to worse, it would get me back to my house...about 16 miles away by this point. I didn't particularly want to walk that far but if I had to, I knew I was on the right road. But still, where in the heck was the train station? By train, the stretch of ground I was walking could be covered in about 11 minutes doing just over 50 kilometers an hour and by my horrible math, that put me somewhere relatively close to the station.

I kept walking and it became apparent that I was not going to catch this next train either because you need a station in order to do that and there was a distinct lack of stationy goodness to be had in my general vicinity. So, I kept walking. Eventually, I came to the beginning of the town that the station I was trying to get to is named after so I knew it wouldn't be long now. I found a very interesting little village area that was a big touristy place that had a large public garden and a restaurant and I think a hot spring area. There was also a little sign that showed me where I was but did not do a good job in orienting me as to where the train station was at, though it did show the train station on there. Not wanting to get lost more, I decided to go back to the main road and keep walking.

Not to far up the road, I came to a sign that said something about the train station but it was very dark and I couldn't read all of what it said because it was twenty feet above the road. So I kept walking. As it turns out, I walked passed the road that took me to the train station but fortunately, I found another sign that pointed me in the direction I just came from before I walked too far.

I came to a sign and found that I had to turn on to a smaller road and walk another mile and then I would hit the station. At this point in time, I had been walking for two hours and had probably traveled about ten or eleven miles total. Before long, I found myself back at the public garden and hot spring place. I read another one of those "you are here" signs and it told me that I had to walk through the garden to get to the train station. Within minutes, I was waiting on a platform, ready for my ride home.

Overall, the walk was very nice but the novelty of the jaunt wore off about an hour into the campaign. I like exploring new areas and it turned out to be a very refreshing evening, I just wish it would have ended an hour sooner than it did. All in all, it was a good walk.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Unbudging Door

Having just returned from grocery shopping, I parked my bike in the bike area and went into my apartment building.

As I climbed the stairs, I was busily thinking to myself about the chicken and broccoli with pasta that I am fixing for dinner tonight. Having climbed a couple of flights of stairs, I approached the door to the apartment and put my key in the lock. I turned the key. The door did not open. I figured that maybe the lock was just a little jammed and tried again, still, the door would not budge. I took my key out of the lock and made sure it was the right key. It was. I tried the key again, still the door held firm.

I took out the key again and tried another key just for fun. No. I tried another key. No. I went back to my original key, held it close to my face and eyed each of the grooves and jags. Yes, this was the right key. I placed the key back into the lock and turned again. Nothing. I hit the door hard thinking maybe the lock had not slid into place when I left earlier and it just needed a "technical tap", still nothing. By this point I had hit the door a couple more times and uttered several obscenities under my breath. Why was the door not opening?! I backed away from the door and stepped on the end of the baguette I just bought.

I was getting angry.

I tried the key one more time and smacked it a couple of times for good measure. Still, I was not rewarded with the satisfying click of the locking mechanism. A good minute or so had passed since I began my struggle with the stupid door and knowing that I was about to snap and begin kicking and hollering at said door, I stopped and took a deep breath and realized, the door I was about to kick in was to apartment #200.

I humbly picked up my groceries and walked up one more flight of stairs.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Response To An Odd Request

I have been stepping up my browsing of Craigslist, in search of job openings for when I come back to the States. Tonight, I found a strange one from a family in Boston.

Basically, they are a family of four with two kids and are planning on going on a year long trip around the world next year and want a teacher to come with them to impart nuggets of education to their kids along the way. I have heard of families bringing tutors with them on longer vacations but I have never heard of a modern family requesting one on a trip of this magnitude. Anywho, my curiosity is piqued so I shot an email off to them to introduce myself a tad. Their requirements were pretty simple, they want a licensed teacher(check), someone that is used to and enjoys traveling(big check), someone with a good sense of humor(sure...check), and someone that was free from July of 2008 through July of 2009(I don't have any big plans...check).

Who knows if I will hear back from them but it is a unique offer I figured I should at least look into a little more. If something like this were to go down, I would want to meet the family and especially, the kids way before committing to the ordeal. There is no way I would ever do this with people that were weirdos. It is bad enough to go on week long trips with people I don't like, I can't begin to imagine a year like that. But is an interesting proposition and I think if it were undertaken correctly, it could wind up being a really cool experience for all of the involved parties.

Anywho, I will post if I hear anything back from them.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Back From Tokyo (Again) and Done With Trains

This isn't going to be a long post but let me say this, riding to Tokyo and back in less than 24hrs. sucks. I don't care if it is on a bullet train or not, and I don't even care that the ride was free, I just don't want to ride trains anymore.

I forgot to mention I was heading to Tokyo again on here but that is what I did on Saturday night. Yesterday, I got up early and headed over to the Tokyo Game Show. I was disappointed by it last year, this year wasn't a ton better. I think I am growing out of video games(gasp!)or maybe I just don't see the fun in walking around a crowded convention center with a bunch of people that need a shave and a shower. The highlight of the trip was almost running into (literally) Koji Igarashi, the guy that created the Castlevania series of video games. Anywho, after sweating it out with geeks for a few hours and snapping some pics, I jumped back on a train and came back to my neck of the woods.

Once I got here, I crashed in the town that I had a meeting at today and then came back here. The downside to the return journey was a very large and very crazy rainstorm that delayed my train for half an hour in a nowhere town. I also did not have my umbrella with me, so the ride back to my house after a quick dinner at a ramen shop was more like a shower. But I am back now and I can truly dive back into my rut so I can just zone out again and make my four months left here go as fast as humanly possible.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Three $%&#'ing Wives?!

While Ben was here, he suggested a take a look at a show called, Big Love. I have been watching it and I have to ask the question, why on God's green earth would you want more than one wife?!

I am not sure how many people know about this television show because pop culture news sometimes doesn't make it across the ocean and I fall out of the loop on some things. For those that have not heard of the show, it is about a polygamist in Utah and his three wives. Speaking from experience, having one wife can be a challenge, I cannot even begin to fathom dealing with three of them. I have watched three episodes now and I can definitely say that I am a one wife guy. There are just too many reasons not to marry three women. Here are some of my top few:

1)Women have a tendency to be to be biddy hens when forced to be in a group of other women. Women are mental ninjas and dealing with one can sometimes be enough to drive you to insanity. Dealing with a clan of mind assassins and not knowing what may be brewing when you walk through your front door, to me, would be almost unimaginable.

2)Many women like to have kids. I like kids too and wouldn't mind having a couple at some point. I would not however, feel like having a couple with each wife and end up with a whole militia of my offspring. There are times when one kid is enough, let along nine or ten.

3)Having a significant other costs money and emotional effort. You need to provide for them, nurture them, and water them daily. It is a good kind of responsibility but not one that I would want to have for three other women. One is good enough for me. I don't even want to think of the money it would cost to support three women and all of theirs' and my kids. In "Big Love", each wife has their own house and all of the houses are connected by the back yards. One house costs enough money, I do not want three.

4)I lucked out with the in-laws that I got the first time around, I know this. But imagine having three wives and then having to deal with in-laws you do not like. Imagine having two sets of in-laws you don't like. Imagine all of the family politics you would have to wade through. No. Not happening.

5)Lastly, imagine having to be a fundamentalist Mormon. Regular Mormons can sometimes be a nuisance, coming to your door at ungodly hours of the day(before 12pm)and asking you if you like God. Nutcase Mormons just make me want to stay in Japan or at least the East Coast of the US.

Notice how I didn't mention the fact that polygamy is illegal. Quite honestly, there are plenty of laws that involve the family that I don't agree with and this is one of them. If a guy wants to have multiple wives and those women are dumb enough to go along with it, let them. For me, polygamy falls into the same realm as gay marriage, what people do in the privacy of their own homes doesn't affect me. All I know, I am definitely a one-woman man.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Eerie Quiet

It is crazy how quiet my apartment is when I am here alone! This happens every time when I have guests for extended periods and they leave. Since there is no one else moving around or talking, I can hear stuff creaking and all of the noises going on from out side of the building. It is like I have bat ears or something.

The other funny part about people being here and then leaving is the random stuff I find in places where they are not normally found. Nothing gets lost or anything like that, it is just when I move about the apartment, I notice little things that are off kilter or moved slightly and I pause and try to remember when I touched that item or bumped something and when I draw a blank, it takes me a moment to realize that my guests may have touched or moved that item. It is kind of like the movie, Misery, when the crazy gal figures out that the guy she is holding hostage has been moving about the house because one of her little porcelain penguins was moved thirty degrees in the wrong direction.

Anywho, I am sure things will get back to normal in a day or two. Another upside to Ben's visit was the fact that while he was here, we went to sleep earlier and got up earlier than I am used to when in my normal routine. I have enjoyed getting an early start these past few days so I think I am going to try to maintain the sleep pattern that Ben bumped me into and see how that goes. It is kind of nice to feel tired at 1am. :)

Also, I figured I would post one of the pics I took while Ben and I were in Tokyo. This is the Tokyo Tower, an iconic Tokyo landmark.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More Worktime Fun

In the previous post, I mentioned that the big trip with Ben kind of marked the beginning of the end as far as my stay in Japan is concerned. I have mentioned before that by the end of April of 2008 I will pretty much be done with Japan and back in the United States. I kind of moved up my timetable a bit.

Thanks to my boss deciding I "needed a change", in October I will be losing my classes in my town and am being forced to go to another place about half an hour away by train followed up by a half an hour walk to the class. Why is my boss moving me? Because he decided that the new person that will soon be coming to Fukuchiyama needed an easier schedule.

A couple of weeks ago, this topic was brought up and I told him that I would not appreciate losing any of my classes past the one I am already giving up in order to start a new classroom even further out in the middle of nowhere. Basically, the trade was made because there was no way I was going to have two weeks filled with three hours worth of trains each day. At the time, he mentioned me possibly having to give up my Fukuchiyama classroom and that every week would involve train commutes for me instead of having one easy week a month in which I just rode my bike to class. I told him that, while I wasn't fond of 95% of the kids in the Fukuchiyama classroom, I saw the trade off being that I had an easy day as far as getting to and from work was concerned. I also mentioned the fact that I had been here for longer than all but one person in my group and that my seniority should play into my wants a tad. I have after all, been a pretty decent employee for the two years I have been here and since I don't get almost any office time, unlike my peers, and since none of us get raises, I would hope that I would at least have some say in where I teach seeing that I have been at all of my classes for almost two years now. At this point, it isn't even all about me anymore, what about these kids that have grown to know me and respond well to me and now they will get a new guy that if fresh off the boat and has no clue what I have been working toward for the past two years?

Anywho, yesterday my boss told me that he had finalized his decision to move me from my Fukuchiyama classroom and make me commute to a new class each month starting in October. I asked why not just wait until I leave in April and his reply was basically that is would be easier on him to do it now. Part of me says, "Okay, this is fine, I don't have to deal with the antics of my Fukuchiyama kids anymore and this new guy is going to be entering hell with the schedule and kids he is being given." The other part of me says, "Well, it is pretty obvious that my boss is only looking out for ways to make his life easier and neither he nor this company really care all that much about their employees or the kids that we are supposed to be teaching."

So after asking him if that was indeed his final decision and him saying that it was, I basically told him that I would be leaving when my contract ended in January and he could forget me staying until late-April. He got kind of upset when I told him this and said that he would be sorry to see me go and didn't want it to be this way but I told him that it wasn't just his decision on this one matter that made me change my mind, it was more of the last straw. He did sound concerned but I got the impression that it was more because he was afraid that my leaving was going to inconvenience him and not because he actually gave much of a damn about me.

Having decided this, I have to say that I feel pretty good. The light at the end of the tunnel just got a bit brighter and my hopes are buoyed by the fact that soon I may actually have a real teaching job in a place that appreciates their teachers a bit more than they do their wallets. I wouldn't mind leaving earlier but having signed a contract, agreeing that I will stay until January, I will do so and uphold my end of the deal. That and I don't mind getting a bonus either.

Also, it seems that this blog has picked up a couple of new readers within the past week so now I will take this opportunity to welcome the Mac users from Nagoya to my site. d(^_^)b

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Very Busy Week and a Half

Thanks to the recent lack of updates to this thing, you may have already figured out that I have been busy. With Ben here, I barely had time to sit around, let alone type up a blog post befitting of the past ten days' excursions. Well, this morning Ben took off to begin his journey back to America and I am left with an empty apartment and another dose of free time so here goes the update!

First was Tokyo. After Ben came to grip with living on a flipped time schedule, he and I became the modern day Lewis and Clark. We covered more of Japan in a week than most Japanese do in decades. Tokyo was a fun place to introduce Ben to Japan. There is so much there and so many different areas of the city. Tokyo was the "shock and awe" phase of the trip. I wanted to jolt Ben in to Japanese culture and I think it worked. The downside to Tokyo is that it also wears me out. The constant energy and dynamic scenery that Tokyo brings to the table is crazy. I have been there six times now and I still find places to visit and explore.

This time around, we found Roppongi Hills. Basically, Roppongi Hills is where the well-off Tokyoites live and play. There is a good foundation of bars and eateries as well as a ton of boutique shops and clothing stores. The gem of Roppongi Hills is the Mori Building. For a small fee, visitors are allowed into an art museum and an observation deck called, The City View. Basically, it is a 360 look at Tokyo from 55 stories up. Unlike the other observation areas, this one is open at night and gives you a sweet view of the Tokyo skyline as well as the Tokyo Tower and Mt. Fuji. I will be uploading the pictures from the visit to Flickr soon and then you will be able to see what I mean.

After Tokyo, we raced down to Hiroshima on the bullet train and took in the A-Bomb Dome, Peace Park, and museum. Hiroshima is a good place to visit once, but going through the museum twice gets annoying. The first time, you are kind of in awe of the displays and pictures, the second time you start to kind of see more of how the Japanese skew the event a little. Going through the museum, you would think that only women and small children were killed in the blast and I find that somewhat annoying. It feels like they are trying to hard to make you feel bad about the situation. Aside from the museum, the rest of our stay there was great. The Granvia hotel there treated us very well, we got English newspapers every morning and we were also invited to take a sake tasting survey in which two bottles of sake from a local brewery were provided for Ben and I's judgment since we have a rather refined and well-honed taste in booze.

From Hiroshima, I took Ben to Himeji to see the castle and then to Kobe to wander around for a bit. I don't know about Ben but the highlight from that day for me was finding a Panda Express and eating orange chicken for the first time in a couple of years. Yum...sweet...sweet orange chicken....ahh. Oh, I almost forgot, there was one other Hiroshima highlight. So, after the museum, Ben and I wandered about for a bit. As we were walking, we came upon a stadium of some sort and the nearer we got to the stadium, we began to realize that this was the home of the Japanese major league baseball team, the Hiroshima Carp. Then we discovered that they were playing a game that day against the Hanshin Tigers who are basically, the New York Yankees of Japan. I had never seen a Japanese ball game and Ben was up for the event so we bought tickets and shortly thereafter, found ourselves just above the third base line, amongst hundreds of Hanshin Tigers fans.

Japanese baseball games are funny. The stadiums are a smaller capacity than their American counterparts and the level of play is somewhere between a MLB team and a AAA team. They are good players but not quite as good as US major league teams. The one thing that stood out however, were the fans. The fans of Japanese baseball are some of the loudest, most spirited bunch of people you will ever see. Each team had flag wavers, drummers, trumpet players, cheer leaders, you name it. It was like the baseball equivalent to a college football game. The crowd was nuts. During the game, there was constant singing and chanting and shouting of encouragement to the players. During one inning, all of the fans blew up the huge balloon and launched them off simultaneously, creating a rainbow shower of deflated balloons that rained down on everyone. If American baseball were like this, it would make the sport much less boring to watch. Also, there was this crazy old guy in front of us that asked Ben and I if we liked beer and then proceeded to go by each of us a tall cold one. I tried to pay him but he wouldn't have it so I went and bought him a beer as well. We all cheered to the Hanshin Tigers and it was a milestone moment in Japanese/American relations.

Once we had seen the castle and Kobe, Ben and I jumped on a train to come back to Fukuchiyama. Ben was expecting something different from my town. I think he expected my town to not be a ghetto and town is kind of a ghetto. Anywho, after getting a good night's sleep, we jumped on a train the next morning and headed to Osaka. It was here that Ben decided two things: 1) He was getting sick of trains and 2) Thanks to decision #1, he would treat the two of us to a hotel in Osaka so that we could have an earlier and faster ride to Kyoto the next day. This turned out to be quite fun.

Once I knew where we would be, I called Jessica and asked her if she was free for the evening. She didn't have plans so she joined us in Osaka and we went to a couple of bars and then to a club called, Pure. I had heard of this club and I knew that it was trance night so I was kind of excited to see the place. If you visit Osaka, do NOT go to Pure. It sucks. The DJs were horrible and cannot mix songs at all. You knew a new song was coming if the DJ started to scratch a lot or if they stopped the beat. I have been to my fair share of dance clubs and I have to say, Pure has the worst DJs I have ever heard. Aside from DJs, the club is just a bunch of white guys trying to pick up the ten women that were somehow duped into coming to the place. In summarization, if you haven't figured it out already, Pure sucked but the rest of the Osaka section of the trip was good.

Lastly, we went to Kyoto. Kyoto is the city I enjoy showing off the most and I was looking forward to sharing it with Ben. Jessica decided to come with us too and we also met up with Terri and our first destination was an obscure temple on the Northern outskirts of the city. I knew it was going to be a little bit of a trip but I didn't think the place would take as long as it did to get to. By the end of going through a couple of temples, it was late enough and we were all tired enough to just call it a day and go out to eat. I felt kind of bad that I didn't get to show Ben all I had planned to in Kyoto but I was also really drained and just kind of sick of being on the move all the time. That night we came back to Fukuchiyama and crashed hard.

After all the traveling, we finally had a day of rest, which was great because we were both out of clean clothes and needed to do laundry. For lunch we went to a sushi place and Ben was amazed at the efficiency of the place. The sushi was also tasty.

Last night was Ben's last night here and so he and I and Maya and her friend, Ayako, went out to dinner and then to karaoke. That was a blast and for Ben it was a highlight because he had never been to a real karaoke place and had a lot of fun. I am glad his trip ended on a high note and we were able to check one more thing off on his list of Japan experiences. It was cool to have him here and to be able to roam about all of Japan one last time for myself. This trip kind of marked the beginning of the end of my Japan experience and it is a good way to start the process of going back to the US. That is still a few months away, but I feel it is much closer now.

Anywho, I hope you had fun, Ben and I was glad we were able to hang out and do all that we did. As for the rest of you, click on my Flickr link and you will see some snapshots from the trip's various stops.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

While Ben Sleeps...

I make a blog post! Poor Ben, crossing the Pacific has left him somewhat laggy and as I type this he has been asleep for almost an hour. It is 8:15pm. He has taken Tokyo in stride and I think is somewhat in awe at the difference between Japanese and Western cultures.

I like having visitors because they either point out or remind me of things I don't think about very often. Ben has noticed that when roaming about the city, we are awash in a sea of black hair. I remember noticing that in the beginning as well, but over time you just don't notice that everyone has the same hair color.

He has also commented on the way in which Japanese people go about their day as they traverse the city on one of the hundreds of trains. He finds it slightly off putting that no one really talks to each other on trains. I explained to him that the time on a train is considered by most Japanese to be their "alone" time despite they are traveling with hundreds of other people. I have been trying to tell him that when you live with millions of other people all very close to you that you have to get private time in for yourself whenever you can and for the Japanese, that is on trains.

Again, my decision for Tokyo to be the initial assault on the senses has proven to work. By the time Ben and I leave the city for other areas of Japan, everywhere else will feel more relaxed to him and he can enjoy "true" Japan without feeling overwhelmed by it all. Tokyo is such an experience in and of itself, it is hard to find a common ground between life here and life in my neck of the woods. I have reassured him that after Tokyo, things will slow down and a Japan more true to outside views of the country will emerge. One thing holds true, Tokyo is really friggin' big.

It is excellent to see how Ben reacts to everything here because he has traveled the world quite extensively but never anywhere in Asia. When Jim was here, it was cool to see his experience because he had never really left North America and I was able to see the reaction of someone who experienced only American culture first-hand. With Ben, he has been around Europe and has a little bit more of a complex index for how "Western" people act. I think he appreciates and acknowledges the differences a little bit differently and it is fascinating to lead him through my little world. I wish I had enough money to bring all of my friends here just so I can see how they react to all of the stimuli I put in front of them. I won't lie, this is kind of my little experiment and the best part is, it is fun for everyone.

Last night, we found a section of town I had never been to and hung around there for a bit. I think we will go back tomorrow night for some more pictures of the place. Today, we went to Akihabara and to eat and my favorite Indian place. We also went to the Japanese Sword Museum. Tomorrow, we are going to hit the skyscraper area of Shinjuku, the Imperial palace, and O-Daiba. It will be a full day but I think we can fit it all in.

Anywho, the laptop is telling me I need to charge my battery and I am getting kind of hungry; so I think I am going to take off. I will try to post more updates and that will not be too difficult if Ben's sleeping habits prevail. (^_^)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Escaping On the Early Train

So tomorrow is the big day! I made it through the week and am heading to Tokyo. Ben comes in the day after tomorrow but I figured I would take a day for myself and save some money by using a special ticket that I have had for a while. The kicker to the special ticket is I can only take local trains. This means that a three hour bullet train ride to Tokyo at the cost of $140 turns into a twelve hour ride for free. That makes for a really long ride and it takes a good chunk of the day to do. So what I think I am going to do is jump on the first train from my town to Kyoto at 4:45am and then make my way up to Shizuoka. By the time I get to Shizuaoka, I may decide that I want to make the rest of the trip by bullet train and if I do that then, the ticket would cost me less than half of what it would cost me if I started from Kyoto on the bullet train. We will see, I have options.

We will be staying in the same hotel I always use while in Tokyo and then on the 13th (Japan time) we will go to Hiroshima and stay for a night. After that, it is back to my area where we will take in a festival in Osaka on Saturday and also fit in a trip to Kyoto and Himeji castle. Like when Jim came, it will be a busy week but it will be a ton of fun.

The big difference between Ben's visit and Jim's is that Ben is less concerned about seeing a lot of the cultural stuff and more interested in experiencing all of the different cities. This is one reason we are staying an extra day in Tokyo, because there is some stuff there that I didn't get to show Jim that I want to show Ben. When Jim and I left Tokyo both of us agreed that one more day would have been nice and so I fixed the scheduling for Ben's visit.

I am also excited because with Ben comes the newest expansion pack for the Sims 2. Yay!

Anywho, that is what the next week holds in store so I will probably be sporadically updating this to reflect our movements when time allows. Stay tuned, fun stories and pictures to be coming soon.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Future Goals: Part One

When I grow up, I want...oh crap...hold on...I am grown up. Damn. Okay, lets try this again. When I get settled down after I get back to the US, I have some goals that I think would make me happy.

First, I want a vegetable garden. I like to cook and I like using fresh ingredients, who doesn't? So I figure, I should start a garden when I come back and get somewhere where I can have one. I would like to grow tomatoes and carrots for sure and then maybe some herbs. Since I have come here, I have enjoyed watching rice develop from tiny seedlings to full grown stalks of grains. I really like being able to say to myself, "Yup, that field is ready for harvesting." You know a rice paddy is ready to go when the stalks start to get so top heavy they tip over, for your information. There is just something about a garden and watching things grow that anchors me. My mind works over time and all of the extra hours makes time feel like it is flying by. I think if I had something to look at and know that there is still a lot of time left and that time is actually pretty slow moving when you let it be, it would calm me immensely. A garden would also give me a productive and kind of meditative way to spend my time too. And at the end of the season, I have fresh veggies to share and use. Yeah, I want a garden.

The next thing I want is a pet. I have said this a billion times but I have the pet category narrowed down to three contenders, maybe four.

If I were to get a dog, the forerunner by far and away would be a Welsh Corgi. They are smart little buggers, not known for excessive barking, and they enjoy people. Other upsides include their huge ears, the fact that corgi is Welsh for "dwarf dog", and the fact that since they have shorter hair, they wouldn't shed as much. If I got a Corgi, his name would be either Ein or Colonel Mustard. You get bonus points if you know why I would name him Ein. I would probably try to get a Cardigan Corgi because they tend to be healthier than Pembrokes.

The next contender in the dog bracket would most likely be a Jack Russell Terrier. I like their looks and they are also supposed to have excellent personalities but I dislike their barking. If I were to not get a Jack Russell that would probably be the main reason. If I had a Jack Russell, possible names include, Sprout, Colonel Mustard, Duffel, and Fraggle.

Now on to the cats!

There are only two cats that I would particularly want. The first is a Persian. I love Persian cats, they look very noble and evil. I get the sense that while I would be asleep or away, they would be plotting my demise and then when I came home, they would act all happy to see me. I think that is why I like them, they look moderately evil. I would like a gray to black Persian and his name would be Mr. Muffins. There is no other name my Persian could possibly have, it's a perfectly harmless name for a most sinister being. For the longest time, a Persian was the only contender in the cat arena and then I stumbled upon another breed that I fell in love with after one picture...

Gaze upon the face of your doom!!!

This is a Devon Rex. Other aliases this cat goes by are "Pixie Cat" and "Alien Cat". I freakin' love this cat for a number of reasons. First, he also looks like he is plotting to kill me and then everyone I love. Second, he has HUGE ears. Third and this one is a biggie, they are some of the most intelligent and dog-like of cats. They can be trained to do dog tricks and they love to play. These are people cats. The Wiki also mentions that they like to sit around the head and neck area of the person they own but I am pretty sure they are just trying to see if they can suffocate you while you sleep. I could also train this cat to attack things and it would do so upon hearing commands that I would issue in Japanese. They are pretty short haired cats but I would get the longer haired ones of the breed. They do not shed as much as other cats either and this is a good thing. Actually, this cat has a lot going for it and I think I am actually starting to prefer it over a Persian. There is only one downside to this breed and that is the cost and the availability. They are pretty rare cats and they run around the $700 range. But if I could get one, I am pretty sure I would get my money's worth out off it. There are only two names for this cat, Mr. Muffins for the same reasons as stated above OR Sniffles the Caring and Affectionate Rex; I could call him Scar for short and that is what his minions would also revere him as. I suppose I could also just call him, Sniffles too.

Anywho, that is a brief roundup of a couple of my coming back goals and in truth, life goals. I am sure I will come up with more but for now, that is a good start. Actually, I already have other, more important ones but I really didn't feel like writing about them tonight.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Way Things Turned Out

So every once in a while I like to look back on my past blog entries to see what I was doing one or two years ago at about roughly the same time. I didn't realize it but upon reading some of my September 2005 stuff, this was the month that I first applied for my job and found out that I was coming to live here. I remember a lot about that time two years ago because that was the first time that I really started doing things instead of waiting for things to happen on their own. I felt more alive that particular month than I had in a long time.

One post that I thought was funny was me saying that the part about Japan the scared me the most was the loneliness factor. I can now safely say, being lonely sucks but it doesn't bother me like I thought it would or like it used to. Right now, boredom is my #1 dread. I have come to despise being bored. I supposed the alone time and the boredom go hand in hand but more than anything now, I just don't like to be bored. I feel like I am here, and I am here for a limited amount of time now so I need to make the most of it. The downside to that attitude is most of the time, thanks to my location, doing means spending money which is something that I don't want to be doing.

If I don't want to spend money, I just hang out around my apartment or go wander around town but my town is small and that can get old kind of quickly. Today, I cleaned like the dickens and got a lot of stuff organized that will save me some trouble as my time to leave Japan gets closer. Tomorrow, I have a guy coming over to figure out my air conditioner and see what the deal is with that and that acted as a catalyst for my tidying up. The funny part is that only one section of my place really got finished.

I have this wooden cabinet near my door as you enter my apartment. Historically, this cabinet has been where I have dumped all work related papers and anything else that I don't want to throw away but don't have much use for. So today, I think I went through over a thousand pieces of paper trying to decide what to keep and what to toss. Most of it was pretty useless and I ended up chucking out five grocery bags of garbage. Now all of the papers that are in there that I actually wanted to hang on to only take up half of the bottom shelf.

Another thing that I talked about in posts of yore was the fact that I may someday have a Japanese girlfriend. That never really panned out. As far as significant others are concerned I have pretty much given up on Japanese women and have come to grips with not having a lady friend for the foreseeable future. This is not a totally bad thing because I have come to the conclusion that most Japanese women are kind of space cadets. I can't stand people being late and I have found that the Japanese as a whole are horrible when it comes to this. I can't stand people saying they will call and then not calling and this is also a pretty common trait with some of the Japanese I interact with. The gal from the train station has yet to call me and at this point, it is probably a good idea if she doesn't. I have come to the conclusion that I like American women...a lot. With Americans, you know where you stand with them. Japanese women are hard to decipher and I have just stopped trying. There is also a broader selection of women in the US, here most of the women look the same, which isn't a bad thing particularly but they tend to act the same as well. Japanese women strike me as being a higher upkeep than American ones and I am a guy that is still trying to decide whether I want to get a cat or a dog when I come back and am unsure if I will have the time to dedicate to a pet, let alone a person with feelings, wants, and needs and whatnot. On that note, I am looking at cats more and more. As for a woman, I am sure if one came along that interested me, I would have no problem readjusting my timetable but so far, here that has not happened. Japanese women look nice on a whole but I don't like most of their personalities and I hate their voices when they whine and the women I interact with seem to whine a lot.

A couple of things that did turn out how I expected them to are as follows. I expected to learn more Japanese I have done that. I am pretty good with the language and I am happy that I met that goal. The other thing that is pretty much how I anticipated it is my attitude to little kids after having dealt with them for two years. I can't stand teaching the little buggers and after this, I will never set foot in an elementary school unless it pertains to dealing with my own children. I am sick of Japanese kids and I would like to beat 75% of them. Japanese parents do not discipline their runts and it shows. Japanese kids have dreadful manners and I have no patience for their crap anymore. At first, some of their little quirks and outbursts were cute and funny, now all of them are annoying. I will never teach little kids again after this.

The rest kind of went as planned as far as my expectations go. I am a different person than I was when I came and I feel that the experience has changed me for the better in many ways. I have met a lot of nice people and I have sen and done a lot of stuff that not everyone gets to do. Living here has strengthened my desire to keep seeing the rest of the world and travel as much as possible. It has also taught me to not take many parts of life in the US for granted, there is a lot of stuff I miss that I never imagined I would. There is also stuff here that I am sure I will miss too but for now, I really just want to get off this island. I am ready to start the next phase of my life and I am ready to declutter and shift stuff around once more. Coming back to the US kind of creeps me out for a handful of reasons but it is in the same way that I felt about coming here. Yeah, there is creepy stuff just around the next bend but I get a rush thinking about the uncertainty and the possibilities that lay in it and now that I have done this, I know I can handle it all.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Reasons the Rest of the World Thinks Idahoans Are A Bunch of Crazies #8469273: Larry Craig

When traveling abroad, being an American can sometimes be an annoyance. You tell people you're American and most of them launch into this tirade about how George Bush is the devil and how he kills toddlers and grinds them up into sausage links that he serves to is dogs. While lately, I tend to side with a small percentage of their gripes, it still gets tedious. When traveling anywhere, including your own country and you say you are from Idaho, the general response is kind of along the same lines.

These are some lines I have heard and my replies:

"Idahoans are a bunch of redneck fascist Republicans." - Yup, most of them.

"This one time I was watching The World's Weirdest Police Chases and there was one from Idaho where this guy wouldn't pull over because he was drunk off his ass and totally naked." - Yup, I saw that one too.

"This one time I was watching The World's Weirdest Police Chases and there was one from Idaho where this guy wouldn't pull over because he was drunk off his ass and wearing women's lingerie and stiletto heels." - Yup, I saw that one too.

"Aren't all of the skinheads from Idaho?" - They used to be until they were kicked off their property and the main building was turned into a Jewish Heritage museum.

"Idaho has a bunch of crazy survivalists hiding out in the mountains doesn't it?" - Yup and the guy that Rambo is based on heads up a community of them.

After you get past those gems that I get every couple of months, you have to add in the random potato references, Napoleon Dynamite questions, and the jokes about where we park our horses when we go to work. Occasionally, someone will bring up Ruby Ridge or Helen Chenoweth and I get to answer those questions too. I guess what I am getting at is that the only people Idaho exports to the rest of the world are the people that Idaho should really be trying to hide. Take me for example. The only thing positive to have come out of Idaho that anyone in the rest of the United States, let alone the world, cares about is last year's Boise State football team; which coincidently is the last time I actually was proud of the fact I graduated from there. Yeah, I have to answer questions about the blue turf but I can handle those.

Now, one more thing can be added to the list of reasons the world thinks Idahoans are some of the nuttiest people alive, Larry Craig. Some states have senators that have killed people, some have had senators that were part of the KKK, but I am pretty sure we are the first to have one arrested for looking for gay sex from the stall of an airport bathroom. The sad part for him is that other than this, he was a fairly good and well-reputed senator, but in five years, the only thing he will be remembered for was as the guy who got busted while looking for a little pitcher and catcher action in an airport john. Not that it would have helped him in Idaho(because the only thing that most Idahoans hate more than Liberals is gay people) but he really should have gone public with the whole incident as soon as it happened and not two and a half months later and only after someone already started blabbing about it. He would have looked a lot less guilty and a lot more reputable by doing so.

Now, the press gets a field day, his Conservative base gets a witch hunt, and Idaho gets one more blemish to add to its trophy case. Here's to hoping BSU wins again this year to even it all out.