days of yore

March 11, 2009

I figure I owe it to myself to blog in the old-fashioned way, before this whole Japan experiment got started, back when I had too many dreams and aspirations to fit into my days (as opposed to not enough). I’ve been reading over some of my old blogs – from my adolescent halcyon days – and they are quite seriously littered with hilarious anecdotes and controversy. Like our anonymous stalker who kept prank-calling us around the clock, seven days a week and the thirty-two comments it spawned. Or my ingenious relationship smasher service (patent pending). Here’s a quote I am particularly fond of, presented here in it’s original letterbox format (i.e. without any grammar or capitalisation):

as for those people who believe that soccer is the ‘world game’: i’d like to see all those square-jawed, golden-haired euro trash pretty boys sacrifice one fucking hour of their time and earnings to get together in the name of charity, not to mention saving lives. soccer is a fucking joke and if you support it you are naive and stupid.

This blog has always been marginally more serious than my previous efforts, though, so for that reason I have avoided late night ramblings or personal anecdotes. Plus I’m not sure how many readers I’ve got. Who knows who might be watching. Probably all those future employers who want to recruit me but are afraid (owing to my prior history) I might slip up and are therefore tracking my net footprint. 

Here’s a list of things I miss about Australia.

  • Good coffee. I thought I could do without it, and for a while, I could, but there’s only so much tepid dishwater I can reasonably be expected to imbibe. I guess the only reason I still do it is that I would lose my freaking mind sitting here for eight hours a day without the intermittent excitement of getting up to make myself a hot drink.
  • Fish and chips and meat pies. I would make a killing if I opened up a fish and chip shop over here. Y’all gots no idea. If the Japanese are up for anything, it’s food, and they love their poutato furai. I could charge an exorbitant amount of money for this and get away with it. As for the meat pies…well, it sure beats the tepid floating menace that is oden when the weather is cold.
  • Talking. To people.
  • Outspoken bigotry, impatience, impoliteness. Gotta keep things interesting, you know?
  • Music. Melbourne famously has one of the best live music scenes in the world. I have become far too accustomed to going out at night without music or, worse still, making my own (karaoke).
  • Being able to keep up with current affairs. Watching the news over here is pointless, because even though I can’t understand most of it, I can definitely understand enough of it to know that it is insular, blinkered and (really) only a step or two away from flat-out nationalist propaganda. At least in Australia, where I can speak the language, I have the freedom to select where I get my news and opinions from.
  • Learning stuff. When not battling with a language, one is much more freely able to research and investigate topics that they find interesting. My weekly excursions into bookstores have completely stopped and I only buy the occassional thing off Japanese Amazon.
  • My family and friends. Somewhat self-explanatory.
  • Over-saturation of Aussie rules football. This is probably my number one most-missed thing from Australia. Fkn BigPond in all their benevolent wisdom have made it impossible for people outside of Australia to watch their videos online, thus shunning the biggest demographic of people that would ever want to watch their shitty Windows Media format streaming videos online. Also I miss cricket. It is has just finished being summer back home, after all.
  • Phone conversations. I remember talking to a good friend of mine in year 12 every time we had a literature essay due. We would spend hours making pointed and highly intelligent observations to each other and eventually digress and start talking about eighteenth birthday parties and school assemblies and how we wanted to start a lounge act (still the best unfulfilled dream of my life…and there have been many).
  • Philosophy. As you are no doubt already aware, most of the thinking I do over here relates to being able to communicate with the people. I used to think about social trends and the media and artificial intelligence and the artistic integrity of video games and things like that, but it’s hard over here. Also I’m a lot busier.

Totally got a care package in the mail last night. It contains all kinds of survivalist rations. I am a hoarder of the first degree. But I am one with mini Mars Bars and Minties and deodorant. Yeah I still stink though. My stomach is growling at me like a caged animal cause I haven’t fed it today. It seems like for as long as there has been a recorded history I have had the same anxieties about accomplishment and procrastination. Would it be better for me to just ignore it and spend as much time as possible distracting myself with meaningless (let’s call them ‘cultural’) endeavours? Or is this something I need to address swiftly and comprehensively? I guess I’m just searching for some kind of evidence that my life since finishing high school hasn’t been a complete waste of time. I wouldn’t dare venture something so stark as a list, though. It would end up short and flaccid.

Dude in my office compulsively brushes his teeth without toothpaste, gargles without mouthwash, and slurps all his food and drink, from instant noodles to plain old tap water. So much of the conversation that goes on in my office is hollow and formal. Here’s a full transcript of everything that was said in the last hour:

“Ah! Muramatsu-sensei. You brought the bento! You have my sincerest gratitude!”
“Why no, it was simply my pleasure to bring you this bento!”
“How is your honourable bento?”
“But of course, it is utterly delectable!”
“I will now return the empty bento to the office!”
“Shibahara-sensei, you’re too kind! Will you be eating bento again tomorrow?”
“I certainly shall! Tomorrow is the last day of bento!”
“You are indeed correct, Shibahara-sensei.”

I suppose when this is all I get to listen to each day, I am actually better off not knowing much Japanese. If they only knew that I am talking about them right now!

I couldn’t sleep last night. Not sure why. I had an itch on my leg (the outside of my leg, perverts) that I couldn’t stop itchin’, and maybe the old electric blanket was up a little bit too high. I read yesterday that when sleeping, your body needs to reach a minimum core temperature for the sleep to be meaningful. It always leaves the next morning. It never says thankyou and I feel cheated and used. Anyway I suppose having the electric blanket up too high would explain why I feel even more lethargic today than I have in a long time despite going to bed relatively early.

Yeah, the blogs were definitely better than they are now. Post more comments, people. I know you’re out there. You’re not alone. After all, the internet is the one place where you can really, truly, be yourself, right?

but the thing is, i just can’t listen to meaningless music anymore. why listen to a song that says ‘i love you’ when you can listen to a song that says ‘this list is what went right, your name is written twice’? i dunno.

i’ve been sitting here so long, staring at a blank page that should be full of either the musings of a poet or the calculations of a genius. unfortunately no amount of rhyme or reason can break this spell that i’m in. it’s a daydream at night, but it’s not a fiction. it is a life, or so they say. is a life spent materialising the sensations we encounter, every day and every night? that is how a life should be sold, not bought. i’m in a different time zone. i have a different exchange rate. my all-ordinaries are fucking strange. my mind set sail before i had checked it in. i bought insurance when i should have gotten assurance.

matter of fact, i’ll make a journal entry at 2:20am. who says maths exams can’t be fun on five hours sleep and even less time studying. i do. i’ll make it fun. i’ll make it fun by pretending that two plus two equals five. or that complex numbers are not in fact any different than real numbers. in fact, complex numbers often make more sense than real numbers. here’s a complex number: there are 31,536,000 seconds in a year. here’s a real number: about 400 people between 15 and 24 commit suicide in australia each year.

Yeah, I got a lot of catching up to do. Over and out.


cleaver me

March 10, 2009

A whole week with no appointments, deadlines or obligations would be a blessing for many people. Think again! I’m sitting here, rheumy eyes glazed over, brain feeling much the same way, tapping away on the keyboard in an effort not to draw attention to my general droopiness. For now, it’s working.

The reason I find myself in this position is that it’s entrance exam week at my school. That means that the whole place shuts down and only the most hardcore of teachers need to show up. Yep, that includes me. Good thing I’m here, too. These hours won’t waste themselves. So to get to the point, there are hundreds of wide-eyed junior high school kids here today sitting their entrance exam. I’m not sure why they bother, to be honest; mine isn’t the most academically excellent of schools. And we’re not talking about desirable real estate, either. Surely kids don’t need to do an hour-long English exam when all they want to do is play baseball or cheerleading. But what would Japan be without hours upon hours of inefficient customs and beauracracy? I’ve said it before: I stopped asking permission to do anything around here a long time ago. I realise this may seem presumptuous of me, but so far it has only resulted in startled admiration from my co-workers (“you organised this all by yourself? Darren-sensei, you are very busy だよ!”). It’s not because I’m subverting authority or because I don’t wanna talk to the vice-principals (OK, actually it is a little bit of both of those), it’s just that if I did things by the book, I wouldn’t do anything. 

I don’t feel like writing movie or music reviews here anymore. I’ve lost my critical edge. Oh no! The smoothening has begun! I can feel my jagged and caustic personality being whittled away to an inconspicuous sand dune with every passing day in Japan. Opinions are as rare over here as good coffees. I find myself retreating in a sea of self-loathing every time I venture an opinion thanks to the startled looks I get from my co-workers. And then I step back and realise that my brain is rotting away. Time that used to be spent criticising art and music is now being spent semi-consciously trying to conjugate verbs or thinking about the housework I gotta do. I should get back in the habit of hating everyone and everything. Life was good back then, the world was so full of possibilities. 懐かしい。。。

I started snowboarding a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, started, in late February. But it’s OK because the snow season goes for like six months of the year in these parts. We went up to Zao which was everything you expect a Japanese ski resort to be, complete with eery ghost-like steam emanating from the natural hotsprings.

I was alright at snowboarding, actually. Better than I probably should have been on my first attempt, so naturally on the second time around, my head got a little too big and as a result the benevolent forces that be decided to plant me firmly on my arse. Big head = sore arse. That’s how it works when it comes to snowsports. But it has only strengthened my resolve to go out and drop heaps and heaps of cash on gear that I’m probably only gonna use a handful of times. We are located within two hours of about a dozen ski resorts over here, it’s pretty mental. Every Japanese girl on the mountain is dolled up in brightly coloured jumpsuits and beanies, regardless of their ability when it comes to, you know, going. Down the mountain.

Let’s see, now. A few us dropped a crazy number of yen on tickets to Fuji Rock in July! To be honest I’m only lukewarm on the lineup at this stage but I figure it will be fun regardless. Three days, at the foot of a mountain. You have to hike through forests and cross over streams just to get between stages! I’m also going to Punkspring although the lineup is pretty lame.

Today is bento day. When there are no classes, they have these bento days where the teachers are supposed to eat bento together and strengthen their office relationships. Well, I’ve been here for two hours and nobody has said a word to me. As if relationships needs strengthening! The bento days are the same as any other day, except there are no students bouncing in and out of the office, and your lunch is cold and costs 1100 yen. No thanks! I’m planning on taking myself off to the supermarket on my bike and getting some yaki soba or ramen

The olds are arriving for a visit in April. They’ll probably be around my area for about eight days. The following week is Golden Week – named not for any special celebration but simply because there are four public holidays within two weeks. So I’m looking at going to China again during that time. I don’t have any desire to go to Korea, have just been to South East Asia, and definitely don’t wanna go to Malaysia or Indonesia. Plus there is so much of China I haven’t seen, and the food is incredible. This time I wanna go further south (but avoid Shanghai). 

My mate and I are campaiging to take over the local JET newsletter for the upcoming year. I would be lying if I said it had nothing to do with my brain going stale. Any opportunity to be able to express things in my native language is welcome, as far as I’m concerned. We want to make it entertaining and pleasant to look at. There is no reason why it needs to be bland and utilitarian. We’re living in Japan, for God’s sake (神の酒?), there should be no lack of inspiration. A well-written and entertaining publication is as important as an informative one, and if we can lure in a solid readership I think it will only become more and more popular and attract more and more contributors. If you are reading this, you are probably already familiar with our campaign or you are in a position where to actually care about my editorial aspirations would be an enormous waste of your time. It’s just something I’m looking forwards to doing.

There’s only so much Japanese study I can take in. I recently bought a textbook with an accompanying workbook and CD. It’s so intimidating that I don’t wanna start it yet. I think I know enough by now that I could comfortably skip the first half a dozen lessons, but then who knows what nuggets of wisdom I might be missing out on? It’s a daunting prospect, taking on an entire language textbook without any guidance or prior experience, but I guess by moving to a foreign country with very limited English I haven’t left myself with much choice. My conversational Japanese is still clearly my worst point, which is a shame but I guess it’s understandable. A month or so ago I threatened to take on the 3-kyu JLPT in December but, considering I have  taken in very little new material since then, it’s looking unlikely.

This thing is losing steam. Peace y’all.