Saturday, February 16, 2008

On the wagon - kinda

One of the running jokes among foreigners here is the amount of alcohol we consume. Access is incredibly easy - nearly every convenience store sells booze (though some don't - I've never understood why those two or three individual stores in particular don't, they aren't even the same chain), it's available at train stations for hardworking salarymen to pick one up on the long train ride home, vending machines all over the place. Also, there's not many activities here that require total sobriety to do (besides work, and even then not for some) because I know only two or three people who drive a car/motorbike, and even then that's just to work, afterwards they're out at the bars.

Working for the now-defunct NOVA, the school ran 7 days a week, so teachers' days off were staggered, so it was always someone's Friday, plus there was always a reason to have a party - someone had just arrived, someone was leaving, someone's birthday was coming up, or someone's roommate's co-worker was doing one of those three things and we tagged along.

When I moved to the junior high schools, I lost a lot of those contacts, for better and for worse, but one of the guys who'd changed jobs with me, my good friend Julian, was a big fan of casual drinking, so we'd finish work around 3:30 or 4 and head back to Hiratsuka, grab a couple of cans in the convinience store and hang out in the city park for an hour or so if the weather was nice. It was a good way to spend an afternoon, we did it quite often.

Well, as time goes by, it just becomes one of those things, part of the culture. It's not just foreigners, the Japanese are the same way, especially older working men. It can be a lot of fun, but after a while, you find yourself drinking 5 or 6 days out of the week. Not getting smashed, but a can or two to relax after work.

So I decided February would be my no alcohol month. I didn't plan it very well, as I had a friend leaving at the beginning of the month, and another good friend's birthday party tonight. So this month has become my "drink only three nights" month. Though I've come down with a bad case of allergies/sinus infection, so tonight will be mostly booze-free as well. I thought initially it might be why I wasn't sleeping very well at night and not feeling so good during the day. Well, that's been proved wrong as I've felt exactly the same, and even managed to get sick this week. So much for that idea.

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