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!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ah, things!

So, the new place is 95% totally sorted now. I've figured out my routes and how to get to and from my house without getting lost / walking around in circles, most of the time. It's now Golden Week, which basically means ten days of holiday!

Today I picked up a chunk of the money I was owed and met some friends for lunch before heading back to Shinjuku. Now, I've see a lot of, er, interesting people and things in Tokyo but today I saw a middle-aged man wearing a - well, I can't even describe it as 'bum-skimming' as you could see a LOT of the pants he was wearing - under his little pink mini-skirt.... I mean, it certainly looked like a skirt, but the length kind of defies description.

I was on my way to buy some Brita filters (oh the excitement) but decided to hunt out the ward office and get my Gaijin card (alien card) updated with my new address, etc.

In Japan, people don't lose their tempers. Well, I've seen the odd drunken salaryman shouting at people, but it's not a thing you usually see in public. Today though, in the ward office, there was a gaijin (what else?!) who wasn't happy and was being pretty aggressive towards the female staff members. I was so shocked though - not by his behaviour - but by the fact there was a security guard just lazily looking on while he hurled abuse at the staff and got a bit too close for comfort. Even more amazingly, another security guard also lazily wandered over to observe - but also from a distance.

I have no idea why he wasn't escorted off the premises / taken away to a private room to calm down / stop disturbing people.

Oh yes I do.. It's Japan. The security guards obviously aren't paid for dealing with aggressive gaijin.....!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Let's Make Babies!

A student told me tonight he was meeting his friend to meet her baby.

Except his pronunciation is rather crap and what I heard was 'I'm meeting my friend to make a baby.'

My face said it all apparantly...!

P.S. New pad is now 80% sorted. Sense of direction, however, is getting worse :(

And, even more frustratingly, I got a phonecall from my company this morning telling me that 50,000 of the money they owed me (£250 ish) is now available for me to pick up. (They still owe me 78,000 - although how much of that I'll see is anyones guess) and it's all too late for me to have gotten in my first rent payment hassle free to the new agency. Oh well, that's life, innit!

Settling in

I'm sorted about 75% of my stuff in the new place. I can locate most of the things I'm searching for, at any rate and there's not so much more organising to do.

The location is wonderful. The other people who live here who I've met seem really nice. I'm slowly figuring out how to use things and where things are in the house.

But I keep being unable to end up where I'm going. What I mean is, although eventually I've always found a station, it's often been a different one to the one I've been aiming for or I've ended up accidently walking in totally the wrong direction - whilst 'following' a map and without even realising it. This is going to take some getting used to. Remember: bad memory AND no sense of direction and throw in the fact I'm 15 minutes walking distance (taking getting lost out of the equation) to a handful of stations and, well!

I also really miss taking my time on the toilet and doing sudoku there. Really! Shared toilet joys!

(Well, if Timorous Beastie can talk about falling over in her boyfriends wet patches, I can talk about shitting and the joys of sudoku.)

So there!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I love my agency. They're happy to wait until payday for my rent so I can relax and have a bloody good Golden Week!

Roll on....

Gimme a fucking chill pill, okay!

I'm stressed. I'm not totally sure why I'm so stressed. Could be PMS, but I'm stressed anyway.

My skin has gone really bad. Really really dry. Drier than it's been in ages - very itchy and dry. I'm treating it.

I woke up and had a nosebleed this morning. WTF?

I worked out the route I wanted to take to get to work from my new place. Here to station - left, right, left. Except I was looking at the map the wrong way around when I figured this out and went right, left, right - where the fuck am I? Ended up at another station I didn't even realise I was so close to (my house is within 15 minutes walk of about 5 or 6 stations, conveniently enough. Or it will be once I figure out how to get to them all.) and rechecked my link times and stations as I wasn't where I'd planned to be.

Finally I was about three minutes behind schedule. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal BUT I'd calculated the original times to coincide with a certain bus I wanted to get and missing that bus would be very inconvenient.

Guess what? I didn't miss the bus! I saw it, ran for it and made it.

Only problem was.... it wasn't the right bus and I didn't realise until about 15 minutes into the journey. My head really IS somewhere else these days. Ended up going to the terminal station of the bus and getting a taxi. Except the taxi driver had no idea where to go. This seems a common thing with taxi drivers here: they have GPS but don't actually use it half the time. Various phonecalls later he figured it out anyway.

I met up in the evening with Sharon and Jen... and somehow managed to dawdle down a few wrong turns on the way home.

I'm never leaving again. Except... I send a big chunk of money back to the UK each month. This month I sent that money, paid a whole month of rent on previous accommodation (half of which I'll get back at some stage), paid a half month of rent and a deposit for this place, etc... and payday is on the 12th this month. I don't have the rent money that is due end of this week. In almost 20 years of renting this has NEVER happened.. I'm really hoping the agency are going to be decent about this. There are a couple of possible options if they aren't, but I don't really want to go down either of them.

On the plus side: four more days of work before a ten day break. Cannot wait!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tired and Happy

I did it. I've moved. The stress is over. And it was all hitch free.

The removal guy came on time and, of course, I wasn't ready - so he just got on with it. Poor guy! He earned every one of the yen I paid him for too. I can't believe how much stuff I've accumulated!

It didn't rain. We didn't get stuck in traffic. And we got everything unloaded pretty quickly. The way the room was when I got here, the stuff filled all the space and I couldn't face dealing with it, so I went off to the Earth Day Festival in Yoyogi Park and hung out there for a bit before walking back.

I can walk home from Yoyogi Park. HOW HAPPY AM I?! It's what I've wanted all along, to be honest.

Anyway, the new place wasn't exactly what I was expecting but I like it and it's growing on me more and more. It feels pretty spacious although it kind of isn't because the 4.5 mat (apparantly) bedroom (square shape) opens straight onto my kitchen (also meant to be 4.5 mats) and square shape. There's heaps of storage too. I was really worried there wouldn't be enough space for my crap. But there is.

When I got back from the park I rearranged the furniture and actually unpacked about 1/4 of the stuff - pretty amazing if you know me! I like how it is now. And when the carpet is box and bag free I'll like it even more!

I've briefly met two of the other people in the house (there's ten of us in total) - a Japanese guy and a Japanese girl and they both seem really nice.

The house was silent when I got here and silent when I got back from the park too. The walls are really thin and I'm a bit worried about that. Not so much about noise from the computer as I can use headphones when it's late (my last place was pretty soundproof), but noise should I have any visitors back. I can understand the no guests after 11pm rule.

But I live in Shinjuku now so fuck it! Sacrifices can be made!

I'm one tired and happy bunny right now although a little confused about the knocking that's going on in the room above. I can't figure out what it is. Odd!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Please, just let it end!

The recent rain has been really getting me down. It's just relentless. Today was another great day.

At about 5am-ish, there was a thud outside on my balcony as the rain had weighed down my drying (dripping) duvet cover so much it had broken loose from the pegs. Seeing my balcony was flooded with about six inches of winter left me a choice - do nothing and risk my apartment being flooded, or go out in the pissing rain onto the balcony, rescue washing and try and see if I could unblock drain. So I did. Great fun. Not.

By the time I could finally drag myself out of bed and get organised I was running dangerously late for school. Of course, getting to the station there was a wonderful train delay to contend with and for the THIRD day in a row I was late. I made it to the school a minute before the first lesson... stressed, sick and fed up.

Yesterday I got up early to get ready for the apartment 'inspection' despite REALLY needing the sleep. The woman inspecting came, chatted, debated about me getting rid of a table and chairs and left - without actually inspecting anything. I rushed around the whole day from location to location without time to even sit and drink a coffee. It was pretty horrendous and I was feeling sick all day.

To start with I had to give a home lesson demonstration. We give what we call 'trial lessons' all the time in our schools where you talk crap to a student and do a mini lesson in 20 minutes to determin their level. A demo lesson is different though. It's basically a full-on, this is actually what you'll get if you pay us money. I was told I was teaching three-year olds, but had it in my head I was teaching four-year olds, for some reason.

When I got there, it turned out they were 2.5 years old. The apartment was too small to move around much in. The floor was heated so it was too hot and I was worried about us jumping as they had neighbours below. There were toys everywhere that distracted the kids. In all, not a particularly fun experience....

Getting there though, I'd checked train times and the route and then got on a train thinking it was a local when it was an express and even the stop I wanted was an express stop - I didn't realise until I'd gone three express stops past it. When I met the company rep we followed a complicated map - for about 25 minutes on foot until we found the apartment complex - and then spent about ten minutes trying to find our way in.

By the time we left it was raining heavily.

I then had to go and do a test resit - I did a test last month and failed one paper. I got there feeling shit, tired and really not in the mood. I'm pretty sure I cocked it up again.

Then I had to rush to teach my evening office classes.

The day before, I had another stupid location to go to. I got on what I thought was the right train, suddenly wasn't so sure, got off, realised (as the train was leaving) that it probably had been the right train, and waited ages for the next one.... getting me to the school 2 minutes before the first lesson.

THREE DAYS IN A ROW. Unbelievable.

So what with the trains this week, the rushing around, the rain, feeling stressed, preparing for the move... and not having time to get to see the new place yet, I really cannot wait for it to just end. My stress has poured itself into physical symptoms - tiredness, sleeplessness, skin outbreak, sore throat, aches, pains, snuffles...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Roll ON Sunday. I think.

I just wrote a long wittery pointless post. And decided to delete it.

Let's just leave it that I'm having a busy, stressful, shitty week. I feel like shit. I'm stressed to the hilt and can't wait for the week to end.

Ouch, my feet (and legs) STILL hurt!

Actually, I'm aching all over today - but I have a sore throat too, so maybe it's not all down to yesterdays energetic teaching. The headmistress actually said she was worried I'd wear myself out - like, no shit!

Today I was stressed. Super-stressed. Tomorrow I have an apartment inspection, in order to get my deposit back, etc, so today I got up really early to scrub things like balcony doors (not fun), extractor fan in kitchen (definately not fun -especially after, er, 3.5 years of not getting around to cleaning it!), doing washing, etc.

Left home late. Got wrong train. Except it wasn't wrong train but I only realised AFTER I'd got off and it had left... Waited AGES for the next one - and finally got to the school I was covering in about a minute before my first lesson. Did two trial lessons - both of who signed - yay me, I get a whole extra 1,000 yen in my pay pack - and realised that pretty much all of my schedule had changed since yesterday.

Realised I still have no idea what I'm meant to do with my rented modem - and I keep forgetting to dig out the phone number to check.

Realised I should have sent information to head office about what I was leaving in the apartment - two weeks ago.

Realised I probably won't be able to afford to go away for Golden Week.

Realised I still have a fuck of a lot to actually do before Sunday. And I really wanted to arrange for the removal guy to come earlier so I could make the Earth Day Festival in Yoyogi Park. I'm dithering as to whether I'll be ready for him if I change the time though.

AND realised that I'd parked my bike in a 'cage' that is locked at 10.30pm and, thanks to being given the wrong information about my schedule, there was no way I was going to make it back in time and I was worried about the consequences as it was in the 'wrong' place. Luckily, my lovely neighbour was able to rescue my bike (she recognised it by it's dents, when I emailed her to ask. But then again, I recognise it by it's dents too when I'm hunting for it.)

In short, I had a major stress-out today.

Tomorrow I fear will be worse as I have to:
  • get up early to do stuff to my apartment before the inspection at 10am
  • rush and do a 40-minute demo lesson in a house with four 4-year olds
  • leg it over to check exactly what is in the new place so I know what to leave/take from here
  • hurry to another place to do a test resit
  • and finally dash to do my evening class - at 6pm.

Gimme strength - and take away my aches and sore throat please!

Oh - AND I cut myself shaving my leg. Luckily it didn't bleed all over the crummy carpet I'm hoping they won't charge me wear and tear for!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ouch my feet hurt!

I will remember, one of these days, that lots of jumping, running, hopping, etc in bare feet is bad and has consequences. The consequences being I can't move! Even though there's a half-opened bottle of Cab Sav in the kitchen calling me...

okay, my neighbour popped over to return a load of dvd's she borrowed, so i had to move. i'm not happily back, in futon, with bottle of wine.

Today I taught TWO groups each of 22 4-year olds. This was their first English lesson and, in fact, they only started kindergarden last week, so it's all a bit new for them. I fully expected 50% of them to be in tears and the sight of a strange gaijin expecting them to do strange things.

Nobody cried. Not one. Not even me! Actually, it was kind of fun, but don't tell anyone I said that!

And these were the largest size classes, of any age, that I've taught so far. It was an interesting experience! Hopefully it'll continue to be.


I've signed the contract and collected the key for my new place. I still haven't actually visited it though.


It was hot and sunny today. Spring might be finally here....


Days to move: 5
Condition of apartment: hmm, about 75% packed and scrubbed. Maybe slightly less.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Drip Drip Drop Little April Sodding Showers

Today it rained. Yesterday it rained. The day before it rained. The day before... it rained.

Rain. Rain and more sodding rain. And cold. It's cold.

It's now winter again, but WITHOUT the cherry blossom.

And I hate the trains. Today I went to the station to go to a last minute emergency cover which I was DEAD grumpy about - to find out all the trains were stopped for the next hour or so due to electrical faults. Went back later - but earlier than needed - and my journey to and from my job took twice the time they should have taken. Oh joy.

Days to move: 10
State of packing: slightly more disorganised chaos but I now have a few empty boxes

Drip. Drop. Drip. Drop. Still, could be worse. Could be snowing.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Japan has four seasons

Why do Japanese people keep telling me this?

The current season is winter with cherry blossom. Sunday was spring - and I got very excited - but then we had two days of heavy rain and strong wind. It's nice again now - but I'm not holding my breath that I'll be back in flip-flops any time soon, which is sad as the very strange tan marks I have on my feet from Cambodia are starting to fade. I rather enjoyed having stripey feet.


Jingles. My local supermarket plays a jingle which can best be translated as: 'fish-fish-fish-fish-fish-fish-fish-fish-fish fish-fish-fish-fish-fish-fish-fishfish' [and repeat].

In 99-yen shops the jingle running is '99-yen, 99-yen, 99-yen, 99-yen'.

Of course, the worst thing is when you spend the next hour after each visit singing the bloody jingles.

And people get paid for writing these? I'm in the wrong job!

Do you have any more mindblowing jingles from local stores?


Days to move: 11
State of apartment: organised chaos

Monday, April 07, 2008

Quick Roundup

This morning I decided to fully embrace spring after a gloriously hot day yesterday. Wearing a flouncy skirt, fabric shoes, a light hoody and glasses I skipped off to the supermarket (well, cycled off, but whatever). As I left the supermarket , it started chucking it down. Got soaked.

Still, I got home before it started raining chihuahua sized raindrops.

I promise I'll upload Cambodia photos soon but in the meantime:

Had a good weekend:

Days until move: 13
Amount of packing done: zero
Amount of visits to parks: three - Yoyogi Park on Saturday night for a Techno festival, Yoyogi Park on Sunday afternoon to chill out, Shakujikoen on Sunday evening for Hanami
Amount of penis festivals visited: one (Kanamara Matsuri in Kawasaki). Photos and videos definitely to follow!
Amount drunk: surprisingly little actually
Amount of sunshine: one whole glorious day!

In all - extremely pleasant!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Yeah, bloody Mexicans...

"I come back from Los Angels two days before."

"How was your trip?"

"We went to Los Angels, San Diego, Grand Canyon and Mexico."

"How long was your trip?"

"Five days."

[what did you do, like, see, bla bla bla, etc]

"Was the food nice?"

"I missed Japanese food* and the Mexican food is better in Japan**."

* remember, said trip was FIVE days.

** at this point I resisted temptation to bash my head against the wall.

At least she didn't do what another student did: the trip was to London for about 8 days - she loaded up her suitcase with Japanese pot noodles to take with her in case she couldn't find food she liked.


P.S. I have ten days to travel Japan in Golden Week. How many cities do you think I can do? Can I do all of Japan in ten days? ;-)

It can't be!

Hayfever that is. It can't be hayfever....

In England I got hayfever pretty badly but I never had a problem in Japan. This is pretty common, apparantly, as the allergens are different that going between countries sufferers are okay. Japanese sufferers going to the UK in hayfever season are also generally said to be okay.

Japanese sufferers make me suffer actually. It really does get rather tedious when nearly EVERY student whinges 'i have a-lur-gee' ('hard g' like 'go') EVERY time they walk into my classroom.

Maybe I'll just whinge back...

I had a conversation a couple of years ago: someone told me it generally sets in after about three years. Well, guess what? I've been here 3 years and 6 months and I think I have hayfever. I'm trying hard to convince myself that I don't but, whilst the sneezing and sniffing can be passed off as a cold, the tingling nose and sore eyes really can't.

Great. Just great. And I don't think I have any of my homeopathic hayfever remedy with me either. Actually, I went and checked my supplies and I do have a whole unopened one I bought in June last year. Forget my own head, if it weren't screwed on!

(Still hoping it's just a stress-induced mild cold though! - although 20 minutes of streaming eyes each morning is an 'interesting' symptom)

(And still not really made any headway on packing up / getting rid of my huge amount of stuff).

Stress. Not hayfever. Stress. Not hayfever.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Cambodia - Part 2

The trip was short, but I have pages of scribbles - though not as many as normal. They're in the other room though, so I'll save them til I get the photos uploaded.

Some of the highlights though:
  • The sunshine - of course!
  • Getting up to watch the sunrise over a lake - and then going straight to temples where I was the only person. The peace of an ancient temple without a single other person to block your silence, view or freedom is indescribable. Spiritual comes to mind.
  • Leaving a temple as a big group arrives. Smugness!
  • Meeting lots of wonderful people and hanging out with them. Sharing a breath of each others trips.
  • Learning from and talking to monks and enjoying their happiness at my NOT wanting to take their photos.
  • The Singing Tree Cafe in Siem Reap. A little oasis in the midst of the hecticness. I went there three nights on the trot. The first night to enjoy their wonderful vegetarian food in their garden. I read, chilled and sat with a cat purring away in my lap for a couple of hours or more until the days weariness - and early morning start - set in.
  • The second evening in The Singing Tree Cafe was for a free session of 'Monk Chat' - well, I talk to monks all the time anyway, but this was super-cool and very very interesting. A group of people who were also there invited me to join them at a restaurant called 'The Dead Fish' - which had crocodiles swimming around on the first floor, and Cambodian dancers performing on a different level of the multi-levelled restaurant.
  • The third evening in The Singing Tree Cafe was more monkness with a meditation workshop. It was wonderful! Afterwards I spent the rest of the evening talking in the garden, under shelter as a wonderful storm had brewed up - thunder, lightening, the works! - with a Spanish girl who's teaching in England but in Cambodia for three weeks of voluntary work, an English guy and his Greek boyfriend who work in Bhutan (I think! - or was it Dubai?) and who want to open a boutique hotel in Cambodia. So many stories....
  • Showers. Showers were a real highlight after a day getting covered in dust from the tuk-tuk and streets!
  • The temples: what can I say - magnificent.
  • The history. I don't know if this can really be said to be a highlight but to me it's important to learn something about the places I visit. I've read a couple of books about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge / life under the Khmer Rouge over the last couple of years but seeing documentaries, and the related sights (Genocide 'Museum', Killing Fields') was something else. More of this with the photos though.
  • Palaces, museums, markets.
  • Eating fruit from bags. In the sun!
  • Cold water.
  • Clean sheets.
  • Smiling faces.
  • Fresh vegetarian spring rolls.
  • Getting an exit seat with oodles of leg room on the plane.
  • Taking a long boat trip.
  • Motorbike taxis.
  • Massages.
  • Not rushing from city to city - I spent 1.5 days in Phnom Penh (quite enough!), a leisurely half day on a boat, 4.5 days in Siem Reap, a day travelling back to and chilling out in Phnom Penh - and then back home.
  • Deciding I was too old (!) to sleep in an airport - okay, I'd had about three hours sleep the night before which was the real reason - and transferring to a 'luxury' hotel in Taiwan.
  • Talking, talking, talking. And silence. Lots of silence.
  • Teaching three English lessons to monks and locals in a temple! And attempting to get a mingle drill out of them! Wanting to do a coin spin game - and realising Cambodian money doesn't include coins! Seeing monks wandering around with Headway and Minna No Nihongo...

My kind of holiday is not everyone's cup of tea, but I think it's important to know what you like and go for that. I'm sure I could add a lot more highlights to my trip!

I did like Cambodia, but liked Lao more, for the simple reason that, in Lao, every second person wasn't asking me for money. In fact, in Lao, nobody asked me for money. In Cambodia, this wasn't the case. It ruins it a little when you realise that a simple smile will be interpreted as an invitation to ask for money. On the other hand, when I did want to buy something from street kids it was a good, and usually very amusing experience. It was just a bit too full-on in it's constancy though. A bit like Vietnam really.

To be continued....

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Cambodia - Part 1.

People travel for many different reasons - this kind of goes without saying. For some people it's to see a famous site or a place they've long dreamed of seeing. For others it's to see what their friends have seen. Yet others want a change of scene or to experience new foods or activities.

I've been trying to put a finger on why I love travel so much. And I can't. Although part of me is convinced it's because I'm searching for 'something'. Donno what 'something' is yet, but when I find it I'm sure I'll know. Or not.

To steal a phrase from a friend, many people are 't-shirt travellers' - been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, ticked it off the list - one country in one day? No problem. It's marked off the list now. I've just finished reading Alain de Botton's 'The Art of Travel' - which I recommend - if you like an observational kind of book. He certainly had me nodding away in agreement for quite a lot of his points. Anyway, he talks about people who whizz through countries and cities and how much people miss when they do this. How much people don't see.

It's also why tour groups do my head in. Whilst I'm happily skipping (well, when nobody is watching!) around in quiet areas of temples enjoying the quieter spots, tour groups are being herded, obtrusively, to the same spots and being allocated their 2 minutes before being herded onto the next spot. Like a gang of camera-clicking sheep, really.

One of my favourite parts of travelling is people. I enjoy travelling alone and one of the main reasons for this is that people talk to me when I'm alone and I'll talk to people. Every day, random people, random conversations. People enter my life for a few minutes or a few hours and, often, leave it somewhat richer for the experience. I love learning about people's lives. Little snapshots into who they are and why they do what they do. I meet so many inspirational people this way.

Cambodia was full of people like these. From a tuktuk driver, through many monks, ex-monks, travellers, holiday makers, ex-pats, volunteers, students, old people, young people... my conversations in Cambodia have left me with many happy memories, a warm heart and many potential new roads to pursue.

More to follow...

What does it mean?

Unsurprisingly (as I'm moving soon) I'm wading through piles and piles of stuff trying to reduce the amount of stuff I have (a lot).

In so doing, I uncovered the following. By way of explanation, when I was working in the college I had to set an end of course exam for the students. One of the questions was concerned with vocabulary connected to animals. Here are some of the student answers. (They were given the first letter of the target words. Enjoy! Oh, and these are all intermediate level students.

Parrots are covered in beautiful fur.

Some people are afraid of bees because they can spite you.
Some people are afraid of bees because they can spot you.
Some people are afraid of bees because they can stick you.
Some people are afraid of bees because they can spuize you.
Some people are afraid of bees because they can stach you.

Most birds leather their eggs in a nest.
Most birds land their eggs in a nest.

A mosquito is an inhabilian that can body people.
A mosquito is an itch that can blood people.

Leopards have skin all over their body.
Leopards have swallows all over their body.

Crocodiles are sometimes hunted for their stanker.
Crocodiles are sometimes hunted for their stomach.

Snakes are reptangles that can poison animals and humans.
Snakes are [not sure what they put here] that can protect animals and humans.


P.S. "It might be useful one day" really isn't a helpful thing to say to yourself when sorting through your possessions. Thrown so far - a lot of pieces of paper and a santa hat head band. Not thrown - a tiara - well, it might be useful one day - and a lot more paperwork. GAH!

Actually, a lot of my 'sorting' has been more 'pick something up, look at it, put it back down on a different place on my bed'.