Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Don't ask me to cook Japanese food for you. Jennifer and I made a feast for our families and as I'm typing this my mom is puking in the bathroom. The octopus balls didn't agree with her. Everyone else is OK, but she's suffering man.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Time flies here in the ol US of A. I can't believe that I've already been home for a week. It was awesome to hang out with people in the Twin cities and home life hasn't been that bad. After some serious consideration. I think that i like living in the US better than living in japan. That said, I'm looking forward to hanging out with all the homies back in Nagano. Well, i guess that means Lara, Shane and Dawn. With luck there will be some lovely powder snow waiting at Myoko Suginohara so that I can actually use the half day passes that I bought with my hard earned money. Cheers for now, I'm heading to see the old country, Sioux City Iowa.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

It's a long week when you're waiting to go home after almost a year and a half. This is the 24 hour stretch here, this is the money shot. We head out tomorrow morning at about 7:30 and the plan is to avoid sleep until then, well actually until we get on the plane, but you all know me and cars, out like I was hit with a bat. I've still got to get a little last minute stuff for peeps back home, mostly the gallons and gallons of sake that i'm bringing back. It's cheaper than beer here by a long margin and quite good, not like the skunky stuff you get back in the US, but more on the relative merits of alchohol later, I'm heading for the promised land. Head East young man, head East!! It's manifest destiny in reverse!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Ok folks, here's the itinerary for the upcoming holidays.

Leave Japan at about 2:30 pm, December 18th (saturday) and arrive in the Twin Cities at 2:00 pm. Freaky.

We plan on staying in the twin cities for the next couple of days, going home on Monday sometime in the late afternoon, early evening after gorging ourselves on such regional specialties as Steak, Ethiopian, and Holy Land deliciousness. We hope to spend some time with all our favorite people including, but not limited to; Ben and Marye, Emi and Tim, Timmy Pavlish, Paul, Annie, and with the possible strange reunion of my former roomates, Doug, Alf and Jude. This seems unlikely as certain members of the enterage have become estranged over an incident involving Chinese virgins. With luck no other virgins will get in the way of a great reunion and "Fun, Fun, Fun Times." If you are lucky or willing, you may have the chance to bid, yes bid, for the chance to have two smelly travellers and about 1 metric ton of souveneirs in your house/apartment whathaveyou. Contact the comment box below for further details.

For the week immediately preceeding Christmas we will be lounging in comfort in the fabulous burg of Ames, Iowa, home of the Husker Stomping ISU Cyclones; the biggest bunch of nitwits ever to tear down a goalpost.

After fattening ourselves for a week or so, we fully intend to travel East to Amherst Massachusetts to visit our good and somewhat thinner and bronzer friend Meghan Greeley who will have just returned from 2 years in balmy Guinea in equitorial West Africa. From Amherst there is also a good chance that we'll meet Steve and Yarrow, where we will swap stories about Asia.

From the East we'll head back to our home high in the still snowless Japan Alps where we will attempt to recover from jetlag and begin teaching RIGHT AWAY!

We have shitty 100 yen and cheaper gifts for ALL of you, so don't delay, the time is right, let us sleep on your floor Saturday and Sunday night!!!.
Jennifer and I sat down today and got out our map of the US in an attempt to narrow the focus of our future domicile. We decided, after reflection on our household's worth of shit stored in her parent's basement, that we should really make an effort to set up an actual household somewhere. THis would of course be in a city with a nice cosmopolitan feel, a population of no fewer than 500,000 and no larger than 24 million. We would have to have access to at least one world class institution of higher learning, or at least a university with a world class urban sociology/education program. We also figured that the place must have ready access to outdoors activities such as cycling, rock climbing and hopefully cross country skiing. There must be a thriving and diverse immigrant community, if for no reason other than that we really like to eat. The Bible Belt has been ruled straight out.

The list as it stands, is in no particular order:

San Francisco
Twin Cities

Some outliers include New York and at the behest of our good friend Lara here, Montreal
I spent a really enjoyable evening with my (former, now quitting) boss and his family last night. It was really great to be hanging out with a family, even if they aren't my family, for a change. Aside from the fact that I really don't want to be a parent full time, I had a blast with Tomo's son, Yuma. Yuma's about 4 and a half and the kid's absolutely addicted to Disney. His platelets look like mouse ears, no shit. Tomo hates Disney, as well he should, they've successfully colonized this country with an efficiency that would drive the Conquistadors green with envy. You can name any Disney/Pixar/animated feature from the past 10 years and this kid can tell you the characters names, and what's more the names of the actors who did their voices, English and Japanese. Wow, I would like to have him on my Trivial Pursuit team.
It was really nice to hang out with Tomo and his wife Kayo. I realized while there that I had first met his family a year ago and Tomo over 15 months ago. Odd to think that I've been here that long, and that I've seen kids getting noticely older while to me it's just another year. I'm scared of all the shocking things that have happened in my absence from the US.
I went solo as jennifer was rather preoccupied with packing for our impending return to the Motherland. In a little under a week we'll be back in the Midwest, home sweet home. Tonight we watched "Garden State", directed and starred by Zach Braff. It's a fabulous movie about coming home all screwed up and getting your head back on straight. I recommend it to anyone as a good film and I found it to be particularly fitting as a person who's been out of touch with his home for a long time.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I'm getting a little antsy about the impending trip home. IN a little over a week and a half, I'll be back in the US. I honestly can hardly imagine the joy, the rapture and the culture shock of being back home. I'm soooooo sick of Christmas here. It's just as shitty as Christmas back home, the incessant music in all store (including my office) the shopping bonanza signs and everybody on shopping spree all over town, but there's none of the hopeful family feeling that was cruising under the surface in the US. Here people go "Christmas Shopping" for themselves. My new shirt, it's a present FOR ME! I guess that's one thing that the Japanese take to heart, a reason for shopping. I'm living right in th middle of Consumerville, next to Packaging Square, on Shopperset Ave.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

I found my new vocation yesterday. Think apparently dangerous, think ice, think winter, think sliding down headfirst at high speeds.

That's right! SKELETON!

The Nagano Bobsled, Luge and Skeleton team held their open house yesterday and it was open to the public. About 50 people showed up for the event, about 25 of them foreigners. We showed up at 8:30 and got a little safety lesson at the 1998 olympic course and then we were shuttled up the mountain to the 8th turn (out of 15 turns total). We then waited our turn for the thrilling experience of shooting down an ice tube at 40 miles per hour (the pros get up to about 80-100). It was a damn scary experience the first run. The sled just kind of accelerates on it's own and you're relatively unable to steer. According to our coach we should, "Think to-fu, make the body like to-fu."
Well, the first run, i was decidedly not tofu and smacked the wall a good 8 times before sliding to a stop in the finish area. Jennifer smoked me by some 3 seconds. I kind of knew that I wasn't going to do well, I pretty much suck at things where natural grace and poise are concerned. By the second run, times were slower due to soft ice. I beat jennifer this time, to my delight, but still sucked in general. I thought "tofu, tofu, tofu..." to myself but it really didn't have any effect.
One thing that really surprised me was how safe it all felt. Once you get over the shock that you're going to be on a small piece of plastic and steel hurtling down the olympic course, it's not so bad. The sled is built in such a way that there is little chance of you actually falling off. You pretty much have to try to tip the thing over, and even then it would be difficult. Your center of mass is so low that going around those death-defying turns actually is the easiest part . The hard part is not hitting the wall coming off the turns. It was, however an ultimate rush. Physically, it's not so difficult but mentally you're on the edge. Pretty awesome if you ask me. If ever you get the chance to do Skeleton (can't vouch for luge) take it, you won't be sorry.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

I'm feeling a little stressed about the visa matters that I previously wrote about. I gotta get everything processed in 2 weeks, which as anyone knows is like lightspeed for a government bureaucracy. Good luck to me I guess. Lets not get deported now, shall we!

Friday, December 03, 2004

I had the privelage of waiting around for several hours to change my visa the other day. If there's one place you can be sure to find foreigners, it is of course, the immigration office. I really should stop by an american immigration office some time to see how they compare. I imagine that the japanese office is a little bit better since they're such bitches about letting people into the country in the first place. Apparently, if I overstay my visa, there's a good chance I get deported and fined something like $5000. If i had that much, it would still be a problem.
Sitting and watching the crowd change in the filmy haze of flourescent light and poorly delineated smoking areas was an interesting experience. I get to try guess the nationality and situation of other undesirables like myself and then to sneak a glance at their passports to confirm my hunches. While i was waiting a large, well dressed young guy came in with a stack of green (Philippine?) passports and began to fill out the forms while his gaggle of young ladies waited in the car. While it's not fair to stereotype, I must assume that they were probably "hostesses". It's kind of odd how blatant the sex industry is here. There is little pretense about it, you go to a hostess bar where you pay some pretty girl a lot of money to sit and engage in small talk with you and then if you're willing and can afford it you pay some extra cash and sleep with her. There's a small enclave of Russian women operating and living in an apartment not 100 meters from my office. They are just the modern Geisha, imported to fill a spot vacated when the Japanese became too affluent to bother with the trade.