Thursday, December 22, 2005

First day back: Disorientation

After I got up around 4:30, I wandered downstairs to forage for some food. I walked into the dark hallway, past the suitcase, down the stairs, and got some food out of the kitchen. I chatted with my dad for a bit, wandered around downstairs in the dark for a bit, then headed back upstairs, past the suitcase and into my room. I sat down at the computer to see if anyone from Japan was up, but no dice. I wandered out of my room again, past the black suitcase, to the bathroom for a....wait a sec, black suitcase?

I was so out of it I'd walked past my luggage 4 times. I guess it'd arrived after I'd gone to bed the night before. So thankfully, I have all of my clothes and presents now. All that's left it to wrap them, which will probably take a while.

I got to drive a bit on my first day back, and I seem to have remembered how to drive a stick as well as which side of the road to be on. Since I never drove in Japan, I guess it's not that difficult to fall back into the old habits. Let's hope I don't pick up any of the bad ones again.

Back home again, in Indiana

So I arrived back in Indy yesterday evening, 7am Tokyo, 5pm local time. I'd spent 23 hours travelling and had a nice rest. Now it's 4 am and I'm sitting up completely awake. I went to bed around 10pm, so 6 hours of sleep isn't so bad. I'm just gonna need a nap during the day to keep me going so I don't collapse at 6pm.

I arrived feeling tired but good. Unfortunately, my baggage didn't. As far as I know, it didn't arrive at all. I made it to Detroit, picked it up and headed through customs. Because the flight from Japan was delayed, I cleared customs with approximately 5 minutes before my flight left. Some jerk DHS guy searched my carry-on because I didn't take out my computer or laptop, and proceeded to swab everything and put it through a chemical analyzer. Dick. By then I had 2 minutes to go. So I'm sprinting all the way to gate A55, dodging up escalators, knocking down the elderly who can't get out the way quick enough, and when I arrived, there was no plane.

I looked up at the board and realized I'd gotten the WRONG flight to Indy, that mine was actually leaving from Gate B2, which is all the way back to the hub, down the stairs, through this enormous tunnel with a disorienting light display, and back up the stairs. I arrived panting and saw the door was closed already, but the plane was still there. I pulled out the ticket and gasped, "I'm...on...this...flight!"

"Don't worry said the guy, there's a problem with the elevators and it's delayed. You made it." Let's hear it for chronic tardiness at Detroit Airport. So I arrived in Indy an hour late, but I couldn't find my bag. I feel like Greg Focker, I'll probably get the wrong bag which, instead of presents and things from Japan will probably have whips and leather or some fat lady's underwear and a clown suit.

So until then, I'm going to put my early wake up to good use. I'm gonna go pet the animals.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Terminal Man

So, I'm now at Narita airport. I've undergone 2.5 hours of train travel (1 of them standing, the remainder sitting on an overheated seat). I arrived, checked in, went through customs and immigration, lost my boarding passes (both of them), got them replaced, drank 2 bottles of nihonshu, and am now waiting for a flight that is delayed for another hour. And it's not even 3pm here.

So I thought I'd shell out a few yen (500 of them, to be exact) for the chance to use the internet and charge my computer. One complaint I have with Japan is that it's very difficult to find wireless LAN anywhere. I know this country is famous for being gadget-hounds and tech-savvy, but that's all using phones. You don't need a computer to email people from Doutor (or Starbucks) if you can email them anywhere using your cell phone. I guess it's just another difference between Japan and the US. At least now I've brought my chunky laptop out. If I ever get another one, it'll be an extremely small one for web browsing and email only, though probably won't need it til I return to the US (or wherever outside Japan).

So, peace be upon all you, and have mercy on my co-passengers when I take off my shoes! See you all back in Indy-land. I can't wait. Gonna make my folks drive me to Mexican food ASAP!

Monday, December 19, 2005


So, Japanese TV is strange, everyone knows that. This stereotypically quiet and reserved culture, once put in front of a camera, send their women off eating bizarre (even for Japan) foods while pudgy men compete in physical competition for the glory of their company.

Well, while lots of that may be true, this takes it to a new level. Meet Hard Gay (ハードげ), a man running around Tokyo in black leather biker wear with extremely short shorts. See videos here and here. He's a sensation all over Japan. It's been this way for about 6 months, but the pop culture cycle has progressed, and he'll be out of the limelight soon. But until then, everyone knows about him, even my students, ranging in age from 12 to 15. They think it's extremely funny. I laugh at everything, Hard Gay himself and the juxtaposition of him with the vision we have of Japan. The best thing is that this guy is on TV at all times, even during the weekend cartoon runs. I've never managed to catch him myself, my TV being crap and missing a couple of channels, but it's something you won't see on American TV, that's for sure.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Photos up and other stuff

So, instead of packing, I decided to organize a bunch of photos and such. So, all my latest photos are up on the flickr site (link at top of page or on sidebar).

I also found a site Google offers that allows you to upload your own videos so people can see them. I've uploaded some of mine, but they're awaiting verification, evidently, so you can't see them yet, I don't think. But I did find a couple that were entertaining. One is a "documentary" about proper sushi eating (via Octopusdropkick), and the other is a combination of two of my favorite things, video games and dancing. This even beats Nathan doing the "masochism tango." Aaron, you'd get a kick out of it.

The countdown to return

Only 3 days till I leave chilly Japan and head to frickin'-cold Indy.

So in the past two weeks, amid all the hard-charging partying to send off Ana & Damien, I neglected to get enough sleep. Now it's come back to bite me in the tookus, in the form of getting sick. Bicycling around in the cold and shivering in the classroom hasn't helped either. I'm going to spend Sunday quietly packing and cleaning (maybe) so that everything's ready before I go and I'm not doing a mad scramble on Tuesday night. Well, I probably will anyway, but just in case.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Commence the Preparations!

So I'm coming back in a week. In less than 7 days, I'll be winging my way home for the first time in over 20 months. It's all rather surreal. Indiana is like some 20-year-long dream that I can't quite seem to shake. I've got subarctic weather to look forward to, but for some reason it never seems quite as cold there as it does where I'm at. In both Japan and Spain, it's the coldest I've ever felt. I think it has to do with the lack of central heating in work and at home. Here at home, I use a kotatsu, a quite wonderful convention, and I've put the space heater in my bedroom because I can't figure out how to turn my aircon unit to heating from the cooling I used during the summer. Curse my poor kanji skills and lack of any manual!

School has been frigid the past couple days. I took to using the coat I'd been wearing to work as my indoor jacket as well. It's actually colder inside than out. The teachers have been having me do these 'conversation tests,' which involve me speaking to each and every student in the 2nd grade (our 8th grade) for 2 minutes apiece. Now, there's no way to do this in the classroom, so I have to do it in the hallway, where the windows have been left open all night. Yay. And to think the poor girls still have to wear the skirts of their school uniforms even in winter. I swear, these kids must be polar bears or something underneath. And the older students STILL insist on hiking up their skirts (it's the fashion). Crazy kids.

In other news, Ana left Hiratsuka this morning. She's been seeing her friends in Narita before heading to the airport tomorrow morning. I can't pretend to know what it'll be like for her. I've watched her say goodbye to all our friends, and I know that I'll still see her back in Indy in a week or so. It's all rather surreal for me. And I think that it's become that way for her too, saying goodbye to people more than a week before you're actually leaving. I think sometimes we say goodbye so much, to so many people, that we become numbed to it all and it loses any emotional impact. Good thing I can avoid that for a little while longer. All I say to people is, "See you later."

Speaking of which, I'm going to climb into bed now, after I take a nice hot shower to thaw out my lower body, which has been numb all day. I tell you, a good Xmas present is silk long johns. Keeps everything down there from losing feeling. Hope I can write more and post the last couple months of pics this weekend, in between packing for home. I don't really plan on bringing any clothes back, but I still have lots to stuff into the cases.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

That post that never quite seems to write itself

In the continuing saga of Jeremy not blogging because he's too busy out doing things, I've seen one of my good friends, Damien, off. He left last Thursday for Australia. I said goodbye to Ana tonight, though we'll see each other in Indy.

Damien, Julian, and I had the obligatory bowl of ramen from "The Ramen" restaurant (actually, it's 'Za Ramen' because Japanese can't pronounce 'th' sounds). Later, we proceeded to a really cheap 200 yen/beer happy hour and wobbled back to Ana's after to wait for her. In the meantime, we made these little Xmas ornaments/phone dangly straps. You just draw some sort of design on it and pop it in the toaster oven for a minute and it curls up and shrivels, looking about to burst into flame when suddenly it lays back down flat and has turned into a nice little ornament. Probably something 12 year-olds do (in fact I know they do it because my students love it), but also good for boozy 20-somethings with a fascination for arts and crafts.

After Damien left, I've been hanging out with Ana at every opportunity. One time we didn't was Friday when I went to a teachers' party with Julian and about 8 Japanese English teachers. We had an awesome 4 course dinner at an izakaya, then a few of us peeled off to sing karaoke. Turns out a few of them are regular drinking buddies, and typically go out with the math teacher from the school I'm currently at. I had no idea. So I proceeded to poke fun at him the past couple of days.

Saturday was nabe. For Xmas, I received a nabe pot from Ana & Damien. Nabe in Japanese means 'pot,' but the food is a stew of various vegetables and meat in this low, wide earthen pot. Nowadays, it's usually cooked in an electric pot-type thing. The fun part is doing it with all of your friends sitting around the table drinking and eating, with the nabe pot simmering in the middle. Even better was getting to use the kotatsu (table with a heating element under it and a skirt to keep the heat in) with it. Julian, Ana, Miwa and I had dinner in this style.

Sunday, Ana and I went to Kamakura. It's not a far train ride, and the temples are fantastic. We went to Hase-dera, one of the better-known temples, but one neither of us had ever been to since it's out of the way. It was great! The gardens were beautiful, and there was a library complete with revolving shelf storing all the works of Buddhist scholars over the years. The legend goes that if you turn the shelf round once, it's the same as reading all the sutras contained inside. I got real smart that day. There was also a small cave with carved statues of the 7 Buddhas. Each one is for a different aspect of life: money, health, luck, etc. After, we had a great Indian lunch near the station and bought some locally brewed beer that was quite tasty.

Monday was okonomiyaki night. We hit the one okonomiyaki place we knew near the station. The waiter was really nice, and Julian managed to charm him along with the table of ladies next to us that we each got a little phone strap reminder. It was a little bottle of Kirin beer that flashes for a while when you smack it.

The rest of this week won't be terribly exciting. Wednesday (tomorrow) is going to be an early evening. Thursday is evening lessons at the part-time school, Friday is a fish restaurant with a couple of old students from Nova, and Saturday is Xmas shopping with my pseudo-cousin Amanda. I finish work on the 20th, then I fly out the 21st. I'll get back and see all the people I haven't seen in ages. Finally. I've enjoyed being here, but it's been too long away from home.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Wiped Out

It's been a rough past few nights, what with all this socializing. I want to write more about it, but I won't have time until the weekend, probably. I took the Japanese Proficiency Test on Sunday morning, and it's been nonstop since. That evening was the going away party for Damien, who leaves Thursday morning, and Ana, who's still got another week to go. Monday was a Xmas dinner with various people. The highlight for me was getting a nabe pot. Tonight we went to a fire festival in Odawara City, the same one I went to last year. Cold, fun, cool drumming and chanting, and I got to go firewalking again. Tomorrow's the last day with Damien, we'll just hang out and maybe go eat a last bowl of ramen (I'm hoping).

More to come. Maybe I'll write at work some, if I have time.