Wednesday, June 30, 2004

This was great, I just got so much love via the email. I simultaneously got emails from Annie, Jude, Ian and most notably my long lost roomate Brendan.

Annie can still complain while saying that everything is sooo great ( a unique skill), Jude is looking into gene therapy as a way to build muscles and Brendan is kicking it for real in central America. It sounds like his peace corps experience is a little bit more similar to my stint here in Japan than to Meghan's in Guinea.

Lastly, Ian is apparently starting to turn into our dad, I'll post the reasons why.


Finally, after all these years of blissful ignorance or sturdy denial I
have reached the unmistakable and inevitable conclusion that I am most
certainly a Ritz and that I am turning into Dad. This is maybe not necessarily a
bad thing but something scary all the same. I think I have felt it coming
on for a couple years now and it finally fully manifested itself in me
these past few weeks. This is not just meek conclusion that was decided on a
whim; no this is a process of deduction.

Here are my reasons:
1) I am working far too much and spending far
too little time on myself. I work in the mornings coaching at a soccer
camp and then I work out. I have maybe an hour of rest in which I grab a snack
and then I go to work at Jimmy Johns for 10 hour shifts from 5-3.
2) I spend too much time on my bicycle. I have been tinkering with my bike ever
since I got it up here, mostly fixing flat tires. It is fucking ludacris. I
have had 6 flat tires in as many weeks. I even got new tires from Dad and I
just flatted this morning. I'm going to try replacing the rim strips now
but the whole thing is a bitch.
3) I eat whatever is available. This is not anything too new but a contributing factor none the less.
4) All my activities i.e. work and soccer keep me far to busy to spend time with
my significant other at the moment. I have a little thing with a girl
from the beginning of summer and I just have too much stuff going on.

All of these reasons and many more attached with them have led me to
this state. However, I am trying to postpone the transformation a little
while longer...

Ian, if you're pissed about me posting your email for all 6 of my friends to see, then just tell me and I'll take it off.
This is a shout out to Alf Hickey.


I can't believe I waste my time checking your crap website. I'm going to remove the link if something doesn't happen soon, and then where will you be...Hmmmm? Hmmmmmm?

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

I got kinda pissed at the highschool students yesterday. This was at the good higschool, the one where they can actually understand when I give directions. The scenario is this: I give the students questions, which they can understand, and they must ask their partner these questions. To check that they do this I go around the class and interact a little bit and I also ask students to answer, "What did your partner say?" at the end of the activity. I usually ask 3 questions and usually quiz 6 students. THis sometimes works. It's such a bitch because the students, even the ones who do the activity, always freak out and shit themselves when I approach their pair.
For example, yesterday I asked them, "If you had 100,000,000 yen what would you buy?" I ask one of them, "What would he/she buy?" and it's like the end of the world. I feed them the answer, "He would buy..." and still, freak out time. The person I ask has most likely forgotten what the other said, so they have to re-ask their partner, which is where it all goes to shit because to this question "What would you buy..." they look like they have no idea what they would buy, they struggle, make thinking faces, purse their lips and keep saying, "Nandaro, nandaro" (what would it be, what would it be) under their breath. I was thinking, "Honestly, if you have a hundred million yen, you can buy almost anything, so if you say anything, anything at all, you can buy it, so just spit out one English word and I'll be happy."
I think that next class I'm going to start out with a lecture and make the Japanese guy translate. Here is a possibility:

For christ sake people when I ask you a question, particularly an easy question, I don't honestly give a shit whether or not it's the right answer, a particularly thoughtful answer, or anything special. I just want you to say something, anything in fact. When I feed you the answer like I do, it shouldn't take 2 minutes to grind away in your brain, just try something, you can do it you little halfwits. Now I'm not talking to the 5 of you who really do a good job, i'm talking about the 90% of you who just sit and stare. Enough of that, if i ask you a damn question, you should give me a damn answer, even if it's totally wrong. If you don't try I'm a-gonna smack-a you face eh?

Monday, June 28, 2004

i went to a barbeque with some Japanese folks the other day and in the process met up with a guy from Stillwater Minnesota. Imagine the odds of that. Here we are in the middle of the armpit of Japan and i meet up with a big tall guy from Stillwater. What's more, he knows/knew Liz Hajek and her boyfriend Josh, the only other two people I know from Stillwater. Creepy eh? What's more, he was a small time pyromaniac in his youth...just like me. Still even more creepy, his name is Andy, which starts with an A... just like my name does. To top it all off, he teaches English to Japanese people...just like me.

All in all the similarities were striking and eerie, I will in the future avoid this evil twin doppelganger with all of my ability, for fear that he weasel his way into my love life as well.

Umm, actually that's just a little bit nuts. However, it was great to talk to someone from the same part of the world. I love my canadian friends, but someone from the upper midwest can only really connect with another man from the upper midwest. It's just how it is.

Coincidentally, I completed my total Iowa/midwest revival day by watching the movie The Straight Story by David Lynch. This is a movie about Alvin Straight, the guy who rode his lawnmower from Iowa to Wisconsin to see his ailing brother. While some of the bit characters were kind of rough and amateurish, the movie was really superb. I say that particularly for the way that it portrayed Iowa as a land of subtle beauty. I was made intensely homesick for the flatness and the corn and the wide open expanses. Nagano is great, but rather claustrophobic. You can't just hop off your bike and expect to be able to take a piss anywhere on a lonely country road. Here there's always some shrivelled old lady digging a hole or picking some fruit or wielding one of the souped-up weed eaters they use to mow lawns here. I miss the corn, I miss the sky and I miss the thunderstorms. I'll always appreciate where I come from, even if I would be bored to live there again.
Readership going down, can't fight tides of indifference, giving it my all, but can'

My site meter reported that all six of you who visited me last week did a nice job of keeping the love, however the rest of the world just didn't give a crap.

This should be a signal to me to put s'more love into the ol website.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Here's another one of Aso-san. I would imagine that the fiew from the top of Asama is about the same, except for a little more plant life and a lot more fog.

This is not a picture of the mountain that I climbed today, but of the one from our Kyushu trip. It is pretty much the same sort of martian scenery, but on this particular day, you could see it.
So today we hiked to the top of 浅間山. This would be Asama-Yama, as i'm sure anyone who has traveled in Japan or possibly watched enough samurai movies knows, Yama means mountain. Anyway this is actually the 3rd vocano that I've ever seen personally and the second that I've climbed to the top of.

Lara, Shane, Jennifer and I went with Andy, a guy from the south eastern part of Nagano ken. Though his house is but 80 kilometers from us, it still took about 1:45 to get there because of the crazy-ass roads here and the super traffic and the mountains. At any rate we spent the night at his house in Mochizuki (the name means rice cake moon) and awoke at about 3:45 this morning to get cracking at the devilish peak. This seems insane to me, but actually the sun starts rising at around 4:30 because the Japanese in their infinite wisdom have forsworn the wonders of daylight savings time.
Anyway, we were climbing the mountain before 6:00 and had reached the summit at about 9:00 amid gale force winds and fog. It was a rippin good time while we ascended into the bomb shelter on the top and had a bit of breakfast. Honestly, I couldn't stand up straight, the wind was so fierce. It's possibly a result of the Typhoon that's coming our way tomorrow. Honestly, the hike up to the rim was really wonderful, some of the best scenery I've seen in Japan. Should anyone actually visit me in Japan, I'm all over hiking that one again.

I've posted some pictures of our previous hike to mount Aso in Kyushu. The landscape was pretty similar, but in this case we couldn't see it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I don't care what anyone else thinks, Elton John sucks.

To provide the appropriate "atmosphere" for an english conversation school my employer utilizes cable radio to pull in a preposterous number of stations. The one that has been selected is an easy listening/soft rock channel from Hawaii. Every day we listen to "romace through the night" piped in from across the ocean. It seems like the damn station (while probably owned by the Clear Channel) is sponsored by the Elton John fan club. There is at least 1 of his songs per hour. Let me tell you, you can only listen to "Yellow brick road" so many times before you go mental or punch out your eardrums.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Ahhh the buffet, how I had missed it. We went to a buffet restaurant on sunday. It was an unusual eating affair by japanese standards. For the most part japanese restaurants are sullen and over-polite, not necessarily welcoming in the American way. However, there's something about buffet style eating that really makes people behave like americans around their food; huge piles of fried things, mountainous salads and long ques when the specialty dishes are brought out. Maybe that's why they call it "viking" meals. That sort of atavistic eating behaviour is rather rough and tumble compared to the rest of the japanese eating experience.
As might be expected, I gorged myself to an uncomfortable level of fullness and felt like puking for a good 2 hours afterword. It is honestly so nice to do something like that after trying for months to keep my composure around the small serving sizes offered here.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

I almost got my ass busted by a big friggin truck the other day. I've taken to riding my bicycle to the more far flung places that I teach at, mostly because it's good exercise and it's more fun than sitting on a sweltering train wishing that I could be riding. With the rainy season upon us, it's pretty imperative that I get out the door as often as possible to avoid going crazy. Anyway, as for the truck incident, it was the standard squeeze out into the curb that I deal with every day here. This time however the mirror sailed right by my ear and I tried to evade by hopping up onto the sidewalk via a driveway. Unfortunately, like almost all joints in the road here it was separated by a 2 inch ledge, which in turn skidded me onto my ass.

Sure roads are narrow and all here, in fact many streets are passable by only one car at a time, but jezus, give me a break. I get to my destination at approximately the same time as the car drivin man, they can give me a break and be patient or at least courteous once in a while.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Instead of the fun fun silly willy weekend I had planned, I got a rippin good sore throat. Soooo, jennifer and i spent a lot longer in the apartment than out. However, i did watch all of the Pride and Prejudice mini-series and did a good deal of reading as well.
The most interesting thing that resulted from my shitty weekend was my discovery of a new and novel sore throat cure. That is, you take Methylene blue, the biology stain used to dye tissue for microscope slides, and you apply it via cotton swab to the back of your throat. THis in turn tastes like shit and gags you, as well as turns your tongue, throat, urine and stool a strange blue color. Apparently it's an antiseptic as well as an anisthetic which is nice, it reduces the healing time quite drastically, so I've heard. Give it a try if you've got a sore throat. I did and look at me now!!!

And the best one yet. It makes me wish for vacation eternally.

the ubiquitous romantic shot on an island paradaise.

Oh yeah, can't forget the butt shot. Just so you know, i'm the one with the less hairy ass.

when the waves are small, one still can have a bit of fun. I really enjoyed getting thrashed by the sand.

A rather flattering picture if i do say so myself

Thursday, June 03, 2004

I am kinda bummed about the old 仕事 (shigoto, ie: job). I learned today that my boss Tomo, the Japanese post hippie that I've come to love, is leaving to go back to gradual school. Not that I really blame him. His job sucks even more than mine. He teaches a bunch of classes and he's got to deal with all the bullshit from above and below. Alltogether he works a shitload, which must be tough; he's Japanese afterall, but he's got the heart of a slacker deep inside. I'll miss him for sure in the office, but most worrysome is the prospect of some "I gotta prove myself" wanker filling his spot. I'm not relishing the prospect of something like that. I guess I can only take it as it goes.

We spent some time meeting the locals

Us posed by a waterfall, island paradaise to the max.

One of the monster trees on the island. THis is the Yaku-sugi (yakushima cedar)

The first rainforest I've ever been in. They say it rains 35 days a month here.

I almost got Tarzan in the shot, but he yodeled like hell as soon as he saw us and off he shot.

One of the many waterfalls on Yakushima. THis was by far the high point of the vacation. Not this waterfall, but the island itself. You'll probably notice this because of the preposterous number of pictures I took there.