The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Being Boring

I was teaching a lesson the other day and I started to get the sneaking suspicion that I need to get out more. We were telling each other about our most exciting weekends, our most dangerous weekends, our most romantic weekends, and so on. I had a pretty hard time coming up with anything! In the end, I had to do a lot of "creative embellishment"... I am the teacher after all, so I can't be telling them that my most exciting weekend ever was the time I rented a PlayStation and sat around playing Tomb Raider for 48 hours straight.

Now I'm wondering if I shouldn't seek out some more exciting hobbies. Skydiving is out of the question. But maybe I could handle scuba diving... that whole drowning thing never really appealed to me, but otherwise, it looks like fun. I've tried downhill skiing a few times ... my students are always so disappointed to hear that I'm from Canada but can't ski. Maybe I could take up snowboarding... Or motorcycle racing. Or pistol quick-drawing. Or trick riding.

And as for "most romantic weekend" ... sigh... I'm not sure what I should be doing to remedy that situation...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

September in Japan

I don't know if I've mentioned how beautiful it is here right now. Apparently, the weather changed quite abruptly the day before we arrived in Japan. It went from summer heat to autumn cool overnight from what my friends tell me. Now, it is absolutely beautiful weather, with clear blue skies and a nice breeze; the temperature is around 22 degrees and we haven't had much rain (yet). October and November tend to be typhoon season, so I should enjoy the nice weather while I can.

My station (Kashiwa) is the busiest one in Chiba Prefecture. Every day, over 300 000 commuters use it. I think most of them were there at the same time as me this morning; there was some sort of problem with the main train line into Tokyo, so everyone piled onto the local train (which is the one I take). All I can say is, I'm awfully glad that I don't have to take the commuter express regularly. Riding a packed train twice a day every day would drive me crazy, I think. It's a miracle there aren't more axe murderers in Japan...

This weekend, I don't have a concrete plan, although I notice that there is an exhibition of Leonardo DaVinci's sketchbooks in a big gallery downtown. Apparently, it's the first time they've been exhibited in Japan (so I'm guessing it's probably the first time they've left Europe). If I go, I'll tell you how it went. Hope everyone is well...

Monday, September 26, 2005

My Apartment

Just in case you were dying to see my apartment, here it is. Not very large, but suitable for one person. My kitchen and bathroom are in the other room so all you're seeing is my bedroom/sitting area. Having the bed raised up like that is nice because I have a lot of storage underneath it, but those little steps are surprisingly hard to navigate when you're drunk... I mean, exhausted from overwork.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I'm Baaaaaaaaaaaaack

Hey everybody. I survived the 13 hour flight to Tokyo (barely - is it possible to die from terminal ass numbness?) and actually managed to get a little bit of sleep during the flight. This was both good and bad: a couple times I woke up and had no idea where I was; I suddenly realized I was on a plane and almost yelled out loud. And I got moved into my place last night. The new apartment is almost identical to the one before, but in a slightly livelier part of town and perhaps a tiny bit closer to the station. My neighbours are a married couple from Manitoba who seem really, really nice. They are retired and are teaching in Japan for the fun of it, which should give you some idea of how stressful this job is.

It's warm and humid here, but not as bad as it could be. I'm very happy and excited to be back; it really feels like I never left... I got back on the train at the airport and had this feeling like I've been riding trains forever.

Nothing much to report. The address I gave in my last post is the correct one, so I will be expecting the flow of presents and gifts to start any time now. If I saw you in Canada, I just want to say it was good to see you. If I didn't, it's because I am lazy and disorganized, and I hope to be able to see you soon. Stay in touch, and I'll try to keep this thing updated as frequently as is reasonable.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

My New Address (Maybe)

I have received my tentative school and apartment assignment for my next contract. (These are never 100% certain until you actually start working; I guess this is because people who are being sent to other schools could drop out at the last minute, meaning the administration would have to shuffle teachers around a bit.) So anyway, as of right now, I'm supposed to be going back to teach at Tokyo University of Science (yay!) and I will be living in Abiko again. Abiko's a nice little town I guess, so that's not too bad. I think I'm far away from the station again, which kind of sucks, but you can't have everything. If you want to jot down my address, here it is:

Leopalace LAKESIDE
2-4-7 Kotobuki, Abiko City, Chiba 270-1152

Keep in mind that this could change, but until you hear otherwise, this address should be fine. I'll be there from September 21st. Send me stuff!

By the way: if you have a moderately powerful computer and a fast internet connection, you might consider downloading "Google Earth"... it's free, it's really cool, and I have become addicted to checking out satellite imagery of the world! You just type in a place name and the system zooms in on satellite imagery for that place. Some major cities even have 3D buildings so you can see skyscrapers. They don't have buildings done for Tokyo yet, but it's still fascinating to look around and try to identify places from the satellite photos. And if you're curious where Abiko is located, it's a great way to find out.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


I went into Toronto today to apply for a new Visa to work in Japan. It was fairly straightforward, as these things go but when I took my paperwork to the Consulate, the man behind the double thickness of bulletproof glass started asking me vague questions about my visa and my re-entry permit and why was I only in Japan for three months at a time?

Before I left last time, my employer told all of us that we should be sure to get re-entry permits because we wouldn't be allowed back in the country without them. I dutifully used up one of my vacation days going to the municipal office, and spent almost $100 getting the permit. Now I learn that my permit won't be valid because I'll be entering on a new Visa... In addition, I will have to get a new Alien Registration Card and surrender my perfectly-good current card. The process of getting a new one takes over a month, during which time I will be unable to get even the simplest thing such as a video store membership or a bank account.

Sighhhh. Just a few days ago I was saying how I was really looking forward to going back to Japan. Now, that feeling is being tempered with my remembrance of how much Japanese bureaucracy frustrates me.

But, just to keep things balanced in terms of bitching...
Coming back from Toronto to Guelph took almost 2 and a 1/2 hours because I ran into no fewer than 4 separate traffic jams. They were all caused by minor accidents. The whole traffic system in Toronto hinges on there being no accidents, but of course, there are multiple accidents every day, which means that there are always traffic jams in Toronto during the day. Unlike Tokyo, which has an efficient train system used by millions daily, the train system to and from Toronto is absolutely pathetic. And it's going to take a lot more than expensive gas and traffic jams to get people to ride the trains; it's going to take a real shift in the way people think about getting around. (There are currently 2 - count'em 2 - trains from Guelph to Toronto daily, so most people won't even consider that option.) Until then, we can expect to have to deal with smog days, traffic delays, road rage, and all that other fun stuff.