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!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Blue Skies, Babies and Blogs

I think, although someone disagreed with me yesterday [grrrr] that Tokyo gets MUCH colder than London does in winter. Coupled with a lack of central heating or double glazing it can be pretty horrible,


winter in London is GREY. In Tokyo, the skies mostly remain an optimistic blue, regardless of how bloody freezing it is.

I like this. Plus we ARE starting to get some milder days here, which is also nice.


A part of my job is to give trial lessons to potential students. Today I had to give one to THREE two year olds - but one couldn't (luckily?) make it. By 'two year olds' I mean a boy of exactly two years and a girl of one year and eleven months.

The twenty minute lesson went well. Well, the little girl cried for about five minutes but we sort of ignored her and she then came and joined in and really enjoyed it. They had really good concentration for their ages too, and I was pretty sure they'd join. As they'd have been given to me I'm not sure whether this would necessarily have been a good thing


out in reception, the two year old decided to try and beat up one of my three-and-a-half year old waiting students. The mothers then decided they were maybe too young to join yet.

So why did you bring them????




Am I the only one who can only sign into Beta Blogger by first attempting to sign into the old Blogger? Beta Blogger will NOT open by itself and it's really annoying having to boomerang around to get in.

Any ideas, oh wise ones?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Some more Thai randomness

Spotted in Thailand - the written word:

Loved this one. Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to take advantage of the panicure in this particular Chiang Mai salon:

I stayed in a variety of nice, okay, and coulda been nicer hostels whilst in Thailand. Funnily enough though, I wasn't tempted to stay here:

Neither was I tempted to eat here (can't think why, can you?):

I'm pretty good with food and my stomach is quite strong so I only have to use a little bit of common sense when picking what to eat, therefore I didn't have to resort to this street. Disappointingly though, I couldn't find the Food Danger Street:

The UK, where I come from, is often criticised as putting a bit too much emphasis on political correctness. Sometimes things still leave me a bit speechless though (look at the yellow writing):

And of course, remember, all kids, whatever their abilities, should be loved equally:

Do you have a collection of enemies? Then you'll be pleased to know that you can get a special deal on voodoo dolls in Bangkok:

One of my favourite sights in Thailand (I'm a Brit living abroad, remember) was this one that I saw all over the place:

Of course, whilst many health remedies can be found in Boots (a pharmacy chain, in case you didn't know), there's always alternatives to be had. For example, how about having a health remedy drink made from some of the powder in these jars? Which, despite the temptation, I did resist :

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Elephant Nature Park

I didn't post about this I realised but, as luck would have it, last night I had to write an article about it, so I thought I'd just c&p it for you to read too:

Thailand - The Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai.

Thailand. A popular winter vacation destination for [ ] teachers and many tourists. What does Thailand conjure up in your mind? Images of beautiful beaches, peaceful islands, snorkelling, partying, spicy foods and cheap beer? How about Buddhas, beautiful buildings, temples, monks and tigers? Or riding on an elephant around the town, or on a trek through the jungle? Maybe seeing a monkey or an elephant show before you go to see some waterfalls?

Wherever you go in Thailand you cannot get away from elephants. Stone elephants outside temples, pictures of elephants, metal elephants, cute baby elephants being paraded around towns with their mahouts (trainers) persuading you to spare a few baht for food for the elephant, posters and travel agents enticing you to visit an elephant camp or go trekking.

Due to necessary restrictions on logging in Burma and Thailand, an increasing number of elephants have found themselves unemployed during the last couple of decades, and many have been sold into the tourist industry as a result. Whilst it can be argued that elephants are physically designed for hauling logs about, the same cannot be said for carrying around tourists on seats that are not designed to work in harmony with the back of the elephant and which has led to many elephants being badly crippled.

Sadly, many working elephants in both industries have been and are being abused in their training and in their daily working lives.

With this in mind, I love elephants and was dying to see some in Thailand over Christmas, but without contributing to their bad treatment.

After a bit of research on the internet, and bulletin boards especially, I discovered The Elephant Nature Park (also known as The Elephant Conservation Park), which rescues abused and badly treated elephants and doesn't work them. The park currently has over 30 elephants, including children and babies.

Without a doubt, visiting the elephants was the highlight of my trip to Thailand.

At US$68 it maybe isn't the cheapest option that most budget travellers seek but it was well worth the money for me.

The day begins early with volunteers being picked up from Chaing Mai hostels and taken to a market to help load up a small part of the elephants daily food onto the backs of trucks.

After that it's a long but pleasant drive through villages and countryside until you arrive at the park and are welcomed in by one of the many enthusiastic staff.

Standing safely on a shady platform you are then distracted by the elephants as you hear stories about the founder and how the park came to be, how the elephants came to be there and how they are now. All the while, the elephants are within touching distance of you as they wait and hover around for the food trucks, which were late, to arrive.

The park is quiet apart from the noises from the elephants and the occasional yelp from one of the many rescued dogs laying around that someone trips over.

As interesting as learning all about the park is, being so close to the elephants as they wander around, play and look after each other is a truly amazing distraction.

Eventually the food arrives and the longer term volunteers disperse it between baskets. We then grab the baskets and the elephants come to us to be fed on bananas, cucumbers and the smallest watermelons I have ever seen. Most of them gently take the food from your hand, curling their strong muscly trunks around the food, some prefered the food to be placed into the nooks they formed with their leathery trunks that were covered in very hard hairs. Yet others, just couldn't be bothered with the effort of maneouvering the food 'all the way' from their trunk to their mouth, and just threw their trunks over their heads, opened their mouths wide, and gazed at you as you had to place the food into their mouth. Incredible.

All of our hard work (!) was rewarded with a massive delicious buffet lunch where, after pushing aside the many lazy cats so you could sit down, we relaxed and chatted with the staff.

After lunch it was bathtime for the elephants. We were handed a bucket and a brush each and walked down with the elephants to the river where we splashed splash and scrubbed them and tried to avoid being trampled on, soaked or hit by a passing turd...

As soon as the elephants had had enough, they wandered out and within minutes had again totally covered themselves in dust in playful displays of sand squirting.

We then watched a video about the elephants and learned some more about them before a final bathtime and a taking a few dozen more photographs and being returned to our hostels.

The park doesn't hide anything from the visitors. We saw them chaining up the elephants for the night but, as they explained, this was to stop the elephants from wandering into neighbouring farms and the elephants now associate their chaining up for the night with their final feed time. The daytime is their own to wander around. Seems like the next best thing to not having been captured in the first place to me.

The day was a truly unforgettable experience and one I couldn't recommend more.

It is possible to book in their offices in Thailand, but you can also book on their website, which is well worth a look anyway:


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It's not cold enough

according to a student I taught the other day.

Now, I am cold almost all the time right now so I probably looked at her as if she was insane.

She then went on to explain she had allergy [please pronounce this in your head with a 'hard g' like the 'g' in 'dog', as most Japanese do] because it was too warm.

Having been in Japan too long, and obviously because I'm a genius, I decrypted her ramblings to mean that the apparantly unseasonably warm weather [yeah, right] had brought about early hayfever by causing the pollen to proliferate from the cedar trees - an allergy which about 99% of my students seem to suffer from.

Of course, I was right.

[mindreading is a very important quality if you want to be a teacher].


I went to the supermarket for some salt. I went to the herbs and spices section. I found curry salt, salt mixed with pepper, salt mixed with things I hadn't heard of, other types of salt, rock salt, a different kind of rock salt... but no bog standard salt.

Of course, I was just being a stupid gaijin.

I mean, obviously, table salt would be TWO AISLES AWAY from the other herbs and spices.

Who doesn't know that?


Did I mention I am currently cold all the time?


I've made a bad discovery that is currently eating my time away:

I give you these links with a disclaimer that I cannot be held responsible for the undone chores and wasted hours that may result from looking at these links -

peekvid and alluc and tv links - all of which allow you to watch TV programmes and movies WITHOUT having to download them. This site can be used if you want to keep them, apparantly, though I've not tried it.


Did I mention that I'm always cold?


On a slightly more serious note 1:

June trip to the UK. I think it's fair to say it's not going to happen. Financially, there's just no way. I'm now going to aim for August 5th to 15th, so please make a note in your diaries. These dates both do and don't make more sense: on the one hand it's peak season for flying from Japan, but maybe I can avoid peak week and go before the prices increase; on the other hand, I'll have cleared my loan and money I've borrowed by then, so it'll make more sense.

On a slightly more serious note 2:

I'm kind of going nuts right now. My skin is really bad. Of course, I'm being really lazy about treating it (I do homeopathy not steroids - but had slacked right off on taking the tablets) and don't know what has caused the current flare up but I'm in pain. Most of the time at the moment. I think this may possibly also have something to do with why I'm feeling the cold so much more than other people seem to be - that my body just isn't controlling my internal thermometer as well as it should be. The skin is stopping me from sleeping well. Not sleeping well is probably making the skin worse. It's a lose-lose situation right now.

On a slightly more serious note 3:

I was exasperrated by the reaction of a Japanese staff member recently. In a nutshell, cos it's a bit long to go into detail:

- There's a kid who we teach who it seems is being bullied and has been for quite a while.
- It seems the kid probably hasn't told parents or her own school.
- I suggested maybe we could get some helpline information and put it up in the school.
- The Japanese staff member said no.

I don't get it. I really don't think it'd be such a big deal. I guess I'm wrong though.




Have a few more Thailand photos:

New Years Eve fireworks:

A bar in Chiang Mai near Thapae Gate. It make me laugh anyway:

An evening Pagoda shot:

Some pink eggs in the market:

Another elephant:

Friday, January 19, 2007

Trip to Thailand

Having taken a phenomenal amount of photos, I thought I should use some to share the pleasures of my trip.

I saw all sorts of things on my trip, including some rather bizarre Xmas trees, like this one in Bangkok:

I also saw a phenomenal amount of Wats, shrines and beautiful buildings like these:

Naturally, seeing so many Wats meant I saw hundreds of Buddhas, like these:

But it wasn't ALL about temples, there were also lots of markets, where I saw scary things like these mannequins:

And other amusing things like this:

Thailand has an attitude to the royal family that I've never seen or heard of before. There are pictures of the king everywhere, the national anthem is played twice a day, people even stand in the cinema for the national anthem. Yellow being the kings birth colour, is seen everywhere. Shame canary isn't my colour, really.

When I wasn't visiting the newer sites of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, I was exploring the older and more historical sites of Ayuthaya, Kanchanaburi, Sukhothai and Phitsanaluk:

And the Bridge over the River Kwai - let's all whistle along together now:

And then there were the more natural attractions like the waterfalls at Erawan:

And lots of cute things, like these piggies I saw at the Flower Festival in Chiang Mai:

I'm especially proud of this bamboo fish that I made there (under guidance of a cute wrinkled old lady):

Other creative moments came in a cookery course that I did where I made six very scrummy dishes like this one:

Naturally, having visited and donated to so many Wats, I'm expecting a lucky year. Especially, as this is the Year of the Pig, and that means it's my year (36 this year, folks!). Not such a lucky year for this piggie though that I saw as part of a temple offering display. Nice, yes?

On New Years Eve, I hopefully generated some more luck with the lantern I lit and let off. Imagine a sky full of lights from the lanterns that had risen up. Lovely!

Other quirkier moments of the trip included being invited to drink (lots of) whiskey and coke with three Thai women and two German guys, and to dance and share their picnic. in a massage parlour! Or drinking in a bar set up in the forecourt of a gas station:

Without question though, the absolute highlight of my trip, and the part I have about 90 photos of, was watching, feeding and washing these beauties:


This park, which I could write a LOT about, basically is a conservation centre which looks after rescued elephants that were pretty badly treated in the past.

You CAN'T ride them. You CAN'T see them putting on shows or painting or doing anything to entertain tourists.


You CAN watch them playing, interacting, having sex (the male elephant has a VERY long and curved penis). You CAN feel the power of the trunks as they take food from your hand. And you CAN play dodge the turd, as you stand in the river scrubbing them.

And that's it for now. Sorry it's taken so long to post this. Blogger's been a bugger recently.

Happy New Year to all and expect more elephant pictures as we go on. Maybe some other Thailand pictures too.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Out of the mouths of....

Japanese women:

Woman 1: the dates were crap. he was SO boring.
Woman 2: boring is good for a Japanese husband.
Woman 1: huh?
Woman 2: if he's interesting he's more likely to go off and have affairs.


P.S. Arm is much much better. I'll get all organised and sort out Thailand blogging and pix in next couple of days.

Monday, January 08, 2007

i'm back

i'm back. i'm tired, cold and grumpy. people in tokyo are rude. i missed a nights sleep. i have my period. i'm typing with one finger because i can barely move my right arm. donno what i did but it bloody hurts and i can barely move it and my shoulder is burning like fuck. i probably pulled or tore something in last couple of days whilst doing a lot of swinging backpack onto shoulder. didn't really start hurting til i got on the plane though, so that's something.

tales of thailand to follow when i have full use of both arms again but highlights include elephants, bamboo fish, cooking, bike hire, random meetings and 10,000 buddhas.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Bangkok Bombs

In case anyone is concerned, I wasn't in Bangkok at the time.

Happy New Year!