Random thoughts, comments, observations and general fluff from a random bint who left London at the end of September 2004 to embark on a new life and new adventures in Tokyo, land of the cute.... and is leaving mid-June 2010 - and counting!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Of coughs and things.

I have three days in a row off, thanks to a national holiday. Well, in theory. I`m on standby to cover any teachers that are ill tomorrow so we`ll have to see.

Today`s been a write off due to feeling so shitty. I did drag myself out for some fresh air. Hence why I`m sitting in an internet cafe.

And talking of ill - Saturday afternoon I developed a bit of a sore throat. By the end of teaching it was a very sore throat, and by Sunday morning it was raw and I was Miss Croaky 2004, a bit feverish and NOT a happy bunny. Managed to eventually drag myself out to the shops though as I had loads of things to do and get there. Good old miming got me some antiseptic throat spray. Tampons proved more of an issue though. In the UK, (sorry about this) you have little diagrams on the back suggesting what strength to get, etc. In Japan - no chance. The choice was pink or blue. I looked in several shops and the choice was still pink or blue. Miming shaving gel (I got it and amused three assistants in the bargain) or miming throat spray for sore throats is one thing...... but there are miming limits. I bought both and then discovered the boxes are different thicknesses. Bit of a give away really, no?

I`ve now done a whole week of teaching. This means I`ve now met all of my current students, with the exceptions of those who`d cancelled or those yet to join. It also means I no longer have to be dependent on other people`s crappy handover notes. I had my first intensive lesson on Saturday. 3.5 hours with two students. I`ll have four next week. The time flew by and I think we all enjoyed it and they, more to the point, learned loads. Thankfully, they (two girls a couple of years younger than me) enjoy games and roleplays, etc, so the lesson didn`t get too dry.

Learned in another lesson, the only way I can really discribe the meaning of the word `disgusting` is by miming picking my nose. I seem to be miming everything these days and gesturing a lot. I keep catching myself mid conversation doing it to other teachers now too. Oh well.

More random observations from the last few days:

Posh and Becks are on a huge poster in one of the stations. I have no idea what they`re advertising but had hoped I`d managed to escape them.

Shower gel, and most beauty products are extortionate compared to the UK.

Describing Tokyo, I`d say imagine Leicester Square or Times Square, and that`s what you`ve got. Everywhere. I love it. SO SO tacky!

On the trains, most people`s books have covers on them. This reminds me of middle school. Or are most people ashamed of what they`re reading.

Talking about reading. I saw one guy with a really funky gadget. Imagine a pen, but wider. I think it was a dictionery. He was using it to point to some of the words in his book with a lazer beam. I was dieing to ask him about it, but didn`t think it would be polite to do so.

Japanese people are good at hiding emotions and expressions. Until someone sits snoring on a train, and then everyone glares in disgust.

The trains here are amazingly crowded at the times I get them. In London this was one of my pet hates. Here, it doesn`t really bother me.

Japanese is a lovely language. Shame I don`t understand it really. People`s names and place names just sound so nice. And cute. (sorry to harp back to the whole cuteness thing again)

Refuse. Firstly, the refuse vans appear playing music akin to an ice cream van. Secondly, refuse confuses the hell out of me. Thirdly, it confuses Japanese people too, according to a conversation I had with a Japanese assistant at one of the schools. Burnable. Unburnable. Recylable. PET. Gah! And each has to be separated and put out on a separate day. I`m getting better now and know the sign for recyclable on things. The biggest question though, is why is so much food produced in plastic packaging here?

Road crossings also play very pleasant music. Cute. lol. It`s like a mini symphony or something.

Umbrellas. People cycling with umbrellas is extremely amusing. I need a bike just so I can do this. Bikes share the pavements with people, not the roads with cars. This can be quite scary. I left my borrowed umbrella at a school by accident, so I had to buy a new one. I got a lovely see through one. These are very popular here, and remind me of being five years old again. Of course the reason they are so popular is they cost about a pound. I did see some on sale the other day for 50 pence. But I didn`t need another one. And everyone has big umbrellas. I`ve not seen more than a couple of handbag sized ones since being here. And you have umbrella etiquette for shops. Either you leave them outside, or you get given plastic wrapping to put around it. It`s great!

Some random white woman on a bike said hello to me the other day on the way to the station. What`s going on? Am I part of some exclusive club now? Most odd.

Language. I love the way a lot of notices and menus have a couple of words of English on them. For example, menus outside restaurants may have the headings, starter, main and dessert, but the rest of the menu will be in kana or kanji. I think it`s hilarious.

And I still have no idea what I`m eating half the time.

To add to the earthquake which, by the way was a 5.9, if that means anything to anyone -- well, I asked someone what the measurement goes up to and, apparantly there`s no limit. Now, excuse my ignorance, but what`s the point in giving something a value if it`s meaningless? I mean, if it was 5.9 with a maximum measurement ever of, say 15, then it`d mean something, no? Anyway, 5.9 means big. There were a couple of little ones this morning too. Oh and I`ve had a typhoon since being here and a lot more rain. Is it me?? There`s been a couple of nice, bright, sunny days too though.

Supermarkets. Heaven. Is there anything more exciting? Okay, there IS, but I love supermarkets, especially when there are lots of new and unfamiliar things. Yesterday I wanted some Soya Sauce. I identified what I thought was soya sauce, by way of it being in the same area as another bottle that had what could have been soya beans on the label, and of it being roughly the same colour. You try miming `is this soya sauce?`. The woman I asked, and myself, ended up giggling our heads off. My Japanese on the situation consisted of `nani desu ka? soya sauce?` and her`s consisted of `brown`. I THINK I ended up buying soya sauce but haven`t opened it yet.

Vending machines. These are everywhere - like every 100 - 200 metres or so down any given road. After everything I`ve heard though, ie that you can get everything from them, all I`ve seen so far has been drinks (alcohol included) and cigarettes.

Convenience stores. There are nearly as many of these as there are vending machines, and the sad fact is, food from them is generally cheaper than getting fresh food from supermarkets. This, of course, means a lot of waste.

Toilets. The toilets flush the wrong way here and there`s a male flush setting and a female flush setting. Seriously. There are also little diagrams explaining females need to sit and males to stand. I LOVE this place.

Drinks. I`ve now had Pocari Sweat and Calpis. They both taste of sugared water.

Beware of the elephants. I have no idea what it meant but I saw a sign the other day saying elephants weren`t allowed to do something. Remember the cuteness thing? This could have been advertising anything, but was probably something extremely UNcute.

Homelessness. I was wondering about this as I`d not seen any homeless people in almost two weeks. I discovered them the other day though. Another fact of urban life, I guess, but without the aggressive begging. Maybe an elephant would sit on them if they did?

(un)Happy Hour. I had a happy hour pint on Saturday night that cost me three pounds. This was half price. I nearly passed out. The barman looked at me and said, you`ve not been in Tokyo long, have you? How`d he guess?

My washing machine. It`s a toploader and I have no idea how to make the water hot in it. You load the clothes in one half and put powder over it. You then turn on the tap and make sure the powder is all disolved before putting the lid on and setting a time for up to 15 minutes and one of three strengths. Then, when the timer goes off. You change to another setting to drain the water, and move the clothes to the other half of the machine to spin. Then, when the spinning is done. You move the clothes back to the first half, cover with water, to rinse it, put the lid back on and set the timer again. Finally, you drain that water, move the clothes back to the second half and spin them. Three cycles of spinning still doesn`t get them completely dry though. Due to the weather I have washing drying all over my apartment. My washing machine amuses me. It`s one step up from doing it completely by hand.

More shopping. Everything, pretty much, that you buy that gets put into a bag, gets cellotaped down. It`s great. Everytime you open your own bags feels like you`ve bought yourself a present.

I`m becoming addicted to the little pots of fruit in jelly you can buy here. Probably 100% sugar, but so nice.

Actually, talking of sugar, etc - weight loss may not be that easy here. Everything tastes too nice!

Couples. I`ve noticed lots of White man/Japanese woman couples here, and know that there are a lot amongst the teachers. What I`ve not seen, so far is any White woman/Japanese man couples. Wonder why?

Oh, going back to the school boy and school girl thing. I saw a load of school boys today. They DO exist!

Today I saw a chihuahua in a t-shirt. My opinion of dogs is pretty simple: big dogs are lovely, little dogs are not so lovely. The Japanese seem to love little dogs. Especially chihuahua`s. Why? And of course, they get carried everywhere. Prior to seeing the t-shirt wearing `thing` I passed a pet accessory shop. I saw, and I swear I`m not making this up, sunglasses and necklaces for dogs. And I thought Paris was bad.

Sorry, for the long postings, by the way!


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