Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Robert - No rest for the wicked

Rob leaned ever closer towards that dangerous point of no return, from reclining your seat to picking yourself up off the floor. He always found the sweet spot, just before the danger, maximum comfort. The seat next to his gave ample foot support too. Though the teacher whose desk it was often gave him the dirtiest of looks, he usually had his eyes closed. Like he did this very minute. This was the life, but it was not all naps and relaxation. Not one without its trials.

His first trial of the day came when YouTube stopped playing his music. Damn adverts he muttered to himself. He'd been in Japan for 6 years now and it had not taken him long to start muttering to himself. The napping was a more recent development. A bloody good improvement, by all his assessment criteria.

Sitting up straight, he reluctantly opened his eyes and unplugged his earbuds. Back to work, he grumbled.

He began setting up another 3 hour playlist, all his favourite tunes to send him back off to the land of nod. Just as he was about to click play, he felt the slightest breath of air on his neck.

Swivelling around, he spotted Mr Yoshinaga standing next to him, patiently waiting for him to rouse. How long has he been watching me sleep? Rob wondered. Creepy. Doesn't he have anything better to do with his time?

"So sorry to disturb you Rob-Sensei" muttered Yoshinaga, humble and honorific as always.

Rob shrugged and pulled out the ole Japanese, "Daijobs" he gave the word with a smile and volley of spittle. Mr Yoshinaga both bowed and wiped his face in equal measure.

"We are having a meeting this afternoon to discuss the speech contest and I was hoping you'd be able to attend, if you are not too busy." Yoshinaga bowed again. This teacher was the bowiest as Rob called it.

Rob glanced at his watch, "Chotto matte ne" he muttered. Yet again throwing out his words. Yoshinaga waited patiently.

Reluctantly moving away from his playlist, Rob opened his spreadsheet on excel, to check his schedule.

"Nanji?" Rob asked.

"The meeting? Oh yes, it is at 4.50pm, today. Please, thank you." There was always one or two too many pleases, sorrys or thank yous with Mr Yoshinaga.

"A, e-to ne. I've a private lesson. Soz" Rob replied. He liked the word soz. None of his coworkers quite knew what it meant, but Ms Sumida, the home economics teacher believed it was something to do with sausages. And whenever she brought sausages over, he always ate them quickly and with minimal chewing. This to her was confirmation that she was right about soz.

"I understand, so sorry to disturb you, thank you again. Sorry."
Yoshinaga bowed 8 times and left. Rob paid him no attention, the playlist was waiting after all. He had only 4 hour before his first private lesson. He needed to finish the playlist quickly. No rest for the wicked.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

モクレンでの舞子 Maiko in the Magnolias


Just now I finished a picture. Yay. The picture, which I started the day before yesterday, was drawn using pastels. Normally I don't name my pictures, but this one has a name. It's called "Maiko in the Magnolias". 

Now I'll show you some photos.

On a spring day, with Maiko, I went to the place where Cherry blossom comes out first on Shodoshima and took lots of photos.

First I drew the easy background colours.

3. 次に家と庭を詳細に描いた。家は難しかったけど、すぐ綺麗になったと思う。
 Next, I drew the house and garden in detail. The house was difficult, but I think it quickly became beautiful.

4. この写真は家が見えやすいで。
Here's a photo where it's easy to see the house.

 5. 次にモクレンの木を描いた。暗い色の上に描いたので、難しかった。もし、もう一度描くならば、モクレンの明るい花を先ず描く。
Next, I drew the magnolia trees. Because I drew over dark colours, it was tough. If I did it again, I'd draw the bright flowers first.

6. 最後に友達の舞子を描いた。人の描きかたをあんまり知らないから、大変だったけど、これで良かったかもしれない。僕が決めることではないけれども。
Finally, I drew my friend Maiko. Because I don't know how to draw people, it was hard, but I think, perhaps it turned out okay. Though that's not for me to decide.

Maiko in the Magnolias

The End.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Entry 39

Entry 39

time there: thirteen months four days three clicks and sixteen twists.
today's measurements compared with yesterdays:
distance from the northern edge of the market to the line: +122.9xm.
distance from the narrowstrait to the line: +130.84xm.
distance from this very desk in the school to the line: -12.01xm


Guards along the line are still patrolling on both sides. There is talk of the number here being increased as a pre emptive measure in case of an attack. Talks between both sides are said to be continuing, but many in the school, teachers and students alike, don't see the use. "They are always talking, but never stop to listen" one of the therespeak teachers muttered today. I'm unsure whether he was talking to me or not.
The uneven shift of the line continues. 
Today a guard stopped me to ask me what I was doing so close to the line but I managed to pretend I didn't understand therespeak and as I'd already rolled in the tape, I walked away. His target lingered on me for a moment but not for long. 

The family sent another card. This one they wrote in visible ink. That's a good sign, I suppose. They're not so worried about it being read now, but there wasn't much of use in it. They asked me about my research, but I won't write back about that. Anyway, it's not conclusive yet. I'm still mapping. It might be the gloomy weather that's hanging over the school today, flecking the windows with rain, but I don't have high hopes for where the research is taking me. I have a few ideas, but not enough proof. Research is nothing without evidence. I won't say anything until I am sure.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A day without classes but not without studying

It's four minutes until it's time to go home from school/work and it's safe to say I've had the laziest of days. I've been sitting at my desk so much my bum's rather uncomfortable. Must not get fat. (Bridget Jones thought of the day)

I've been studying Japanese a little and I even got to practice a bit which is never a bad thing. One of the tasks in the exercise book Japanese from Zero Book 2 was to write a conversation using the language I had learnt so far (where is the ...., it's over there, next to the ..... Which .... is it next to? That. ... etc) It's coming together quite well. I find composing it pretty quick/easy (perhaps that's a little too strong a word, but it's not difficult anyway at this stage) but what is difficult is the remembering it and the reproducing. I find reading it outloud slow too. I've got to practice bymyself more because though it's nice asking the teachers and a very good way to learn, I can only ask them so many times and once I've used up all their patience, work won't be so fun.

It's time to leave, but I just want to finish a little story or two. Today I tested one of the teachers on her Welsh. I've been intermittently teaching her a phrase or two. Her pronunciation is great, it's just remembering it that she finds difficult. So the same as me with Japanese, except I don't have the pronunciation... She, unfortunately only remembered "Dwy'n" (I'm) of the sentence "Dwy'n athrawes Siapanieg" (I'm a Japanese teacher" Oh balls, I should have illicited "Saesneg" (English) not "Siapanieg" (Japanese) as that's what she teaches. Doh. I wondered where she was going with what she was struggling to say. Maybe that was where!

Oh well, learners are forgiving of teachers mistakes, right?!

I hope so, because I make ample and so does everyone else apparently.

Last quick story. Rambles on over time.
I turned around, as I often do, at the sound of the staff room (shokuin shitsu) being slid noisily open, and looked at the person coming in. Then looked back at my desk, back to my browsing of the starcraft pages I expect or was I writing an email? Either way, then I snapped back. It was one of the important teachers from one of my other schools. I was quick taken aback seeing him out of place. And, it seemed, so was he. Normally comfortable and content, he looked oddly sheepish and hesitant. He wondered in, greeted everyone but made a beeline for me. He's a nice teacher, he gave me a lift to my house in order for me to go to the drinking party at the start of term. And in his slightly out of place state, he clung to me. It was so strange. Normally I'm the one out of place, but for once it wasn't me at all. He spied my laptop and asked what it was I was working on and looked quite desperate to be occupied while he waited to be summoned for the meeting he said he was here for. It was lovely. Shiota, I remembered his name. Shiota sensei. He's the biology teacher according to Miki sensei (biology teacher in today's school). Well that's that, time to head off, I'm seven minutes overdue!
It's been so long since I've posted, how do I end these things? God speed?

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Under a Korean Umbrella

On Monday, I got back from a little trip. (click here or there to see the full video)

Monday: It started the Monday before, well I suppose it started earlier with buying tickets and frantic printing of train times and the uncertain and awkward packing of underwear and clothes (someone may have miscounted on this front). The first place I went to was Osaka.

One night there, a very fun night indeed, then onto Hiroshima.

Tuesday: First I took the streetcar, which was nice and easy to navigate, with an abundance of English and clear cut instructions, to the Atomic Bomb Dome:

The building was haunting, but nowhere near as harrowing as my next stop, the Hiroshima Peace Museum. The first floor of the Museum started off factual and historical detailing changes in the port city leading up to the second world war and the events leading up to the detonation of the first nuclear bomb in war time, but then upstairs, things took a darker turn as the museum went into depth about the 6th of August 1945's bombing of Hiroshima. The museum was incredibly moving, my eyes watered and though the room was full of people reading the exhibits, it was almost completely silent.

An overwhelming message of peace filled the museum. Another beautiful message of peace was visible in the millions and millions of paper cranes donated to the Children's Peace Memorial. The inspiration for using the paper crane as a symbol for peace comes from the story of a girl called Sadako Sasaki, who died of leukaemia, ten years after the atomic bomb fell. She had believed that folding paper cranes (she managed to fold far more than the lucky thousand) would make her better.

For the night, I found a traditional Japanese style hotel to stay in. A small place, with a lovely lady at reception. Here, at this humble inn, a small miracle happened. (No, no virgin births) I managed to book the room and even discuss the city's speciality, Okonomoyaki (cabbage and other vegetables in batter with egg, pork and squid and noodles all mixed in with a delicious rich sauce on top with the option of melted cheese or mayonnaise as well), entirely in Japanese with less than a handful of English words thrown in on either side. She was a lovely lady and recommended a place I go to eat that evening. Eating out alone was something I wasn't hugely familiar with in the UK, but it's a lot more common here and it's quite enjoyable, especially for Udon or Okonomoyaki, which they cooked in front of me on a massive hot plate. With continual refills of water given, I watched the cooking. The dish was delicious and in true Japanese fashion the three men beside me who'd each ordered a variant of Okonomoyaki took their cameras out in sync and took snaps of their supper. Who was I to break the trend?

I loved it, though next time I'll probably not opt for mayo as it was a little much.

In the evening I met up with Gavin, a friend I'd met in training, and had a few drinks in the park, discussing our experiences in Japan so far.

Wednesday: The next day, I got the Shinkansen (I've come to be quite fond of the lady's voice when she announces: "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Shinkansen" (bullet train)) to Fukuoka, which is where 5 months ago, I arrived in this beautiful country (and yet I still for some stupid reason was surprised to see planes landing, "oh there must be an airport here" I said.) I met up with another friend from training, Anthony and his friend Matt, and then Barrett, my to be travel partner.

We wandered around the city (mostly the station, which in fairness is huge and has a lovely roof garden) a little bit and then headed (chased by imminent rain) into the Shooting Bar, where for a price you can shoot BB guns at targets and drink and eat. The BB gun idea really didn't appeal to me at first. Oh but when I fired the first one, I wanted more and by the second (an automatic machine gun!) I was a huge fan. All the while thunder and lightning roared outside.

Then came the eating of "live" squid. As to whether it was actually alive, I'm not sure. It had reflexes, but don't headless chickens too? It definitely acted like it was alive, but it had no internal organs, including brain, which does sound like it was medically dead to me. It was tasty, albeit strange and a little disturbing. There was a lot of horror at me eating it (on Facebook) but as my friend Manisha puts it "out of context it sounds cruel/strange/horrible, but in context, Japan, a culture that loves to eat raw fish, it's not bad." (paraphrasing). There are photos of the squid in question, but for the sensitively dispositioned, I will omit it (though it features in the video above, warning/spoiler)

Thursday: After a night in the small town Barrett lives in, we headed back to Fukuoka, ready to embark for South Korea (or as it is often called in Japan (when speaking English): Korea) We caught a bus Matt helped us find and checked in at the ferry port. The journey started off calm and relaxing but ended with us being told to stay in our seats and to keep hold of sick bags just in case. A storm had rolled in and it had heavy winds, heavy rain and high waves.

In Busan, our first few minutes were sketchy, we had arrived, easily enough, but finding our hotel proved to be a bit tricky. We took a taxi and ended up a little lost in heavy rain. In hindsight it's rather amusing. We found our hotel in the end, taking the underground and it was soon clear it was both in a great location and most likely a Love Hotel with a double bed for two of us. (also amusing in hindsight,)  We found a Korean BBQ place as soon as we stepped out the door and unlike the Yakiniku of Japan, the waiter not only delivers the raw meat to us on a plate, but also cooks it for us. It was delicious, it is quite easily my favourite food in Japan (though it's Korean). Pig skin was surprisingly the winner in taste and after saying how lovely it was, the waiter gave us a complimentary extra plateful, which when dipped in the nut powder provided is incredibly tasty.

Then we passed several places to drink, one called Thursday Party, which looked nice enough and hey guess what it was a Thursday? So we went there. There was beer pong and beer and beer pong and Korean people and beer. 

Friday: The next day, slightly later in the day than we had intended, but we did go drinking the night before, we headed to Busan's Aquarium, which features a lot in the video at the top of this blog, so I won't mention it too much, but it was amazing. The tunnel underneath the tanks was particularly cool. 

Then Barrett napped and I went further up into the city, seeking to see more of Busan's Haeundae region. I passed lots of little carts stacked with vegetables for sale and open air food places, selling strange things I'd never seen before. There was a particularly fish-tank-containing street of stalls, which I loved, they stocked, eels, crabs, fish, squid, and I almost got splattered by a woman as she gutted a squid. I walked up hill, hoping I'd know my way home and found a temple overlooking the rest of the city. There, a Buddhist monk spoke to me, asking where I was from and what religion I was, he didn't seem to abashed by my lack of a religion, which was nice. A sweet man, who also hinted at the tensions going on between Japan and Korea over the resource rich islands

On the way back down the slopes, after taking much too many photos, I saw a hairdressers and went for it. I got a haircut in Korea, not knowing a single word of Korean (though by the end I could just about say thank you  감사합니다 (gamsahabnida)) and the hairdresser was efficient and good and his English wasn't too bad either, well he did stare at me several times in utter confusion, but fluent English speakers do that too.

Friday night: well it wasn't a Thursday but we went to the Thursday Party place again, there were lots of foreigners there, lots of drinkers, we were at home :) That night I may possibly have been a little sick... Not sure how as I drank a lot less, but it wasn't pretty.

Saturday : we spent most of the day in the hotel, hungover (well I did anyway) and then we headed to the beach as the sun had decided to come out. The beach was packed, so so so many people and Koreans like to wear clothes on the beach, closefitting ones, but clothes all the same, even in the sea. The waves were amazing, huge and really warm. There's definitely a build difference in Koreans though, the men are a lot buffer and broader than their Japanese counterparts. In the evening, we met up with Katy, my old workmate from ICWS, and had italian food and headed out for some drinks. Her friends were lovely though there may possibly have been far too many jokes about slavery...

Sunday: Back to Fukuoka, Shinkansen to Fukuyama, where I met Anthony and hung out with him again. He has a nice place, I'm jealous, he has tatami flooring.

Monday: Home to the lovely, the glorious, the beautiful, Shodoshima.

Ta da. Under a Korean Umbrella:

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Things to do

I’ve done a fair few new things lately.

I’ve eaten, made and essentially become part sushi.
I’ve sea kayaked, climbed a mountain or two, driven in a typhoon, seen and killed things I didn’t even know existed before this month.

And it’s got me thinking, what sort of things would I like to do before I bid this place farewell (and I’m not talking Japan or Asia here)
I had a nice little idea the other day. It came to me as I was walking back to the teachers' room from the photocopier room in Tonoshou High School. It was a gusty day and I was carrying a bundle of freshly copied papers. A what if… moment occurred.
The papers slip out of my hands, hundreds of them, separating instantly and momentarily blotching out the sky before dispersing in an instant… but then what if it wasn’t some sunny and dusty playground they were scattering in and it wasn’t faded white sheets, but the edge of a cliff, above a roaring ocean, with a thousand different coloured sheets of paper, all yearning to paint rainbows in the sky and the sea and everywhere they can get to. So that’s what I want to do. One little thing. It would certainly make a good photo and boy would it be fun, but could it be fun AND a good photo? Sure, as long as I do it twice, once through the lens and once through my own eyes.

What else?

Write a story with someone else? Well I’ve hardly written my own yet, so not sure I’m ready for that, but yea, one day. Not exactly profound or exciting though is it? (well the result could be)
Have an asian baby. Yea okay, who knows, but boy are they cute.
What else can I do? Teach English in an Asian country, check.
Paint the same beach ten times, check.
Beat a Japanese man at Japanese chess, check mate.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Brian’s misadventures in Japan

He was sitting at his desk, the little twitch in his eyebrow back. No-one was talking to him and he certainly wasn’t going to speak to them first. They could hardly understand a word he said. He couldn’t understand why, he spoke the Queen’s English and nothing but. They were probably just stupid.
Today it was the drumming outside that was making his eyebrow play up. It was beginning to give his face a sinister twisted look and he was about to ask Siri what the word for “Shut up” was in Japanese when it stopped.
“Oh thank god,” he muttered. It hadn’t taken him long to begin muttering to himself. He hadn’t noticed mind, he still thought he was being his usual subtle self. However one of the other teachers had noticed.
It was half an hour until lunch time and he wasn’t looking forward to it. Last time there’d been something slimy which had gotten stuck in his teeth and every time he’d breathed it had slapped the roof of his mouth. The muttering had been particularly audible at that moment. Brian had thought the food ridiculously impractical and clearly no-one could eat such things. 
Just as he made to mark another of the hundred letters he’d been written by students (“They are just gibberish. They make no sense at all!” Brian had muttered to himself several times in his somewhat nasal voice,) a pair of teachers he didn’t recognise came over smiling.
He never liked it when they smiled.  It made his stomach churn with unease. It usually meant they would offer him something horrible or take him somewhere nasty. He liked it as his desk, where he could pretend he was back home.  He glanced at the framed photo of the Queen on his desk. It always made his chest slacken and his nerves calm, just looking at it.
These two teachers had given him a tour of the school at the start of the year and they’d even given Brian a little sweet each as a welcome gift. He scowled at them, whoever they were.
“What?” he uttered, “What is it?” he added, remembering his manners and ever so slightly softening his tone.
He hoped they weren’t going to offer another cup of green tea. The teachers always seemed to offer it. He’d accepted the first one, because it was important to try new things and be polite. He was quite adventurous and always polite after all. It had been so bitter though. With some effort, he’d managed to swallow it, but his cheeks had turned a little red. Subtlety being his strength, he’d told them it wasn’t his cup of tea. He couldn’t understand why anyone would like it. It was horrible.
The two teachers gestured for him to stand up and follow them. He hated it when they gestured. He had ears and wasn’t an animal.
Soon he was halfway down an unfamiliar corridor and there were loud noises coming from up ahead. He could feel his bladder clenching. The two teachers were nodding, smiling and whispering instructions into his ears, but he wasn’t listening. There was no point. He was certain that their English was too poor to understand.
The noises up ahead became clearer. Clapping and cheering. A crowd. Brian began to sweat. They’d reached a curtained door and the teachers were standing on either side, gesturing for him to enter.
“Oh god.” He hissed, but his words were lost in the folds of fabric as the teachers pushed him through.