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!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

And getting ever closer...

The fucktard in my house (should I say the biggest fucktard) did it yet again. Woke me up at 6am this time with the washing machine. He knows it's loud. He knows there's a house rule about no usage before 7am, but does it make any difference? Like fuck. This fucktard is the one with two volumes - asleep/out and loud. Every week he wakes me up or keeps me awake with crashing around, shouting, etc. He doesn't care. The agency doesn't care. So nothing can be done about him.

Thankfully I don't have to put up with him for much longer.


Yesterday was another of those days that is spurring me on to leave Japan.

Some highlights:

The student who told me about his dead grandfather being kept on dry ice in his house for a week and how tedious it was to have to visit him every day.

How it's really annoying that, because of death of said grandfather, he can't go on a vacation for 45 days.

The student in her mid-60s who has to fly across Japan every week to take care of her parents before coming back to feed her husband. Her husband encourages her to go but only as long as she prepares all his food for him before she goes.

Another student who is in her mid-40s and lives with her parents because it's convenient and they are rich.

Another student, who has been studying English for a long time, but couldn't combine some random letters to make even a two-letter word.

Another one who insisted divorce is wrong and tried to convince me that all Japanese marrieds are happy.

And then there were all the company policies and government policies that I was told about that are just plain bizarre - such as a company who is severly short staffed but because they are undergoing a merger IN THREE YEARS TIME cannot promote anyone into a vacant manager position.

And so on and so on. I think I've blotted out a lot of the rest, but it seemed to be relentless yesterday!

When you get passed the 'cuteness' of Japan, the weirdness comes out and, for me, this is not always in a good way.

Don't get me wrong. There ARE things I like about Tokyo (and I'm sure my experiences would have been very different in another city or town here) but, quite simply, I've been here too long and am completely ready to go now.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


As moving day approaches part of me is thrilled at the prospect of getting away from the house I'm in now. Three of the housemates in particular are just so noisy when they come in, go out or just move around, that it drives me nuts - especially as it regularly wakes me up... and the other six manage to move around quietly.

The house is old. I won't miss the mice scratching in the walls or the damp and mould and cockroaches in the summer.

I will miss the location. I'll also miss having my own kitchen...

I move on Monday, as I mentioned, I finally narrowed the places I'd seen down to two and, although I saw a couple of interesting places listed on craigslist, just couldn't face seeing anywhere else. I chose the place I wanted last Friday and put down the agency charge - and then spent the weekend not being convinced I'd chosen the right one. Today I'm sure I've chosen the wrong one but I've a feeling whichever one I'd have chosen it'd have left me feeling like this!

It's all about the unknown. I have no idea what to expect of the house and, while I know the general location of the house, I'm not thrilled with having to re-locate myself, find my way around, etc.

But I'm sure it'll be fine. It might even be great.

And I'm looking forward to getting back on with the diploma and with job hunting!

After all - I'm not planning on sticking around that long.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Blast Off!

10. Had a lovely day on Sunday with friends enjoying a boozy lunch at the Meguro Tavern - a British - ish pub - that does an AWESOME Sunday roast. That was followed by a nice walk in the park. Lovely Sunday.

9. Packing is about half done. Chaos reins.

8. After I move, on Monday, it's full-steam ahead with the diploma again.

7. It's also full-steam ahead with job hunting for a summer job in Spain or England.

6. There are only six more sleeps to survive in this house before I leave the housemates. Half of whom I'm clueless about and the other half of whom are bloody loud / annoying. Especially one who has two volumes: out/asleep or bloody loud.

5. Twats of the day: Softbank (old Vodafone) who wouldn't accept a change of address from me before I get my Gaijin card changed, despite me telling them I move in six days and it'll be at least two weeks before I can get the Gaijin card changed. Maybe they're not bothered where they send my bills to?

4. I have to have my photo taken tomorrow for a colour insert that'll go into local papers to promote a campaign in my school. I hate having my picture taken. I particularly hate having to 'pose' for my picture to be taken.

3. Related to 4, above: I NEVER get spots. I mean, never. I have dry skin. I didn't go through teenage acne and can go for months or years between spots. Well, guess what? I have FOUR of the fuckers on my chin. Like, WHY????

2. Love of the day: there's a lovely (non-Japanese) lady who works in the local convenience store. She's always been very sweet and friendly to me. Today I went in to get boxes and she led me to the back of the store and loaded me (ladened me?) down with more boxes than I could manage - or would have if I hadn't made her stop. She THEN offered to help me get them home! I said she didn't need to but, like, bless! What a honey!

1. I have every intention of getting my India photos up once I move. My intentions don't always pan out, but I'll try.


Friday, January 22, 2010

And that's that.

Saw another couple of properties this morning and spent lots of time going back and forth between choosing one of them and one i saw week before last. Lots of pros and cons for both and, to be honest, i could keep looking forever and not find somewhere i like, so i threw the question to a colleague, nicer house or nicer location - and went with the location. Hope I made the right choice...

Current twatty agency has confirmed they'll move me on the date I want.

Because it's being demolished, I don't have to concern myself with any cleaning.

Deposit is paid.

Moving date is February first.

Er... I 'just' have to start packing now. And there's rather a lot of stuff. But am happy it's sorted now because as soon as I move I can get back on with studying. And get away from the idiots I live with now. I think all the people in the new place are Japanese and, based on my rather limited experience of Japanese housemates, they are a lot quieter and more considerate than Europeans and Americans.


Sometimes I grumble about my students. All teachers do. But I realised yesterday that, actually, I really like most of them. That scared me.


My English is going to pot. I'm picking up much too much Japanese English. Other than getting out of Japan I'm not sure what I can do about this!


It's now also time to start thinking about summer jobs overseas if I want to get one. Am a tad nervous about them being unknown entities though. My current company I applied to because I knew someone else who'd previously worked for them. It's weird: I have no problem with moving to a new city or country or travelling without planning it all out in advance but, for some reason, I'm nervous about my 'next' job.

Guess I'm just strange.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Confusing Times

Saturday the temperature was 3 degrees. Yesterday (Tuesday) it was 10 and today it was 13. What on earth is going on with the weather?


Am getting house hunting stress. Am very tempted to say yes to the first place I saw (provided it is still available) but what if I find something better? What if I don't? What if I leave it too late and someone else snaps it up? What if they don't?

My agency (who promised to help us move) doesn't want to move me on a Monday. Monday is the only day that really suits me.


I've been taking sleeping tablets again recently. For some reason this has been giving me very strange dreams. I rarely remember my dreams, but have been lately. The other night I dreamed I had a big garden (I hate gardening) and there was a (friendly) wolf and a panda (not together) in the garden, looking at me. There was also a queen sized bed. In the garden. I have no idea what on earth any of this could mean.

But the following day when a student started randomly talking about pandas in the lesson, it did kind of freak me out.


In Tokyo, I have no problem with slinging a coat and crocs over roomwear (pyjamas in other words) to go to the convenience store. What I love is that nobody else does either, and at 10.45pm when I pop in for emergency biscuits, stockcubes, shampoo and conditioner, nobody bats an eye. Gotta love it.


One of my students is getting two weeks off school soon because OTHER kids in her school have exams and so the teachers will be busy. Like WTF? Kids usually get a few days off after they do exams too so that the teachers can mark them. Like
that would ever happen in England.

Additionally, some kids have 'fake' teaching days so that parents can go and observe their school lessons on a Saturday. The kids get an extra day off instead. Actually, a lot of sports events are held on Saturdays in schools - followed by extra days off.

A lot of high school kids seem to have finished for the year now (academic year is April to March in Japan). It would seem it's not so tough here for all kids.


Another student, who is going to university in April, and who has finished for the year, has a part-time job in McDonalds. So far she's had FIVE days of training, including HOW to clean a table and how to smile.

I had a part-time job in McD's when at uni. I think I had about 30 minutes of 'training' and was watched while I got on with it. I remember a 16-year old squirt telling me off for salting the McFries from left to right and not right to left.

Like whatever.

But then again, in 'real' jobs here there seems a lack of 'training'. People talk about studying their job or learning their job here. Nobody I've asked seems to have had any kind of handover from someone in the position prior to them and neither are they prepared to give it to others.

Each (society) to their own, I guess.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Too many decisions.

Too small.
Too far.
Too dark.
Too little storage.
Too messy.
Too many people.
Too noisy.

Saw too many rooms today. None of them were 'right'. None of them spoke to me and said, 'Yay, we can have a good relationship, you and I.' None of them. My mind keeps going back to one I saw last week though. A little bit further from Shinjuku station than I wanted, but it talked to me...

I just need to play a little game now as it can't be held for more than a week without charge. It's been available for some time, so maybe I'll be lucky... Or I could push the agency as I think they might be flexible on this... Or fuck it, I might just pay a bit extra and sod it. I mean, I could look forever otherwise until I find something I like... and it's only for such a short time. Plus, the sooner I move, the sooner I get away from the decrepidness, noise and people in this house.

But I DO love a) the location of where I am now and b) having my own kitchen. I'll miss both.

And - eek - packing up... NOT NOT NOT something I'm looking forward to. Thankfully the agency I'm with now will move my stuff, for free, as they're inconveniencing us so much... Be interesting to see how flexible they are about this though.

Oh well!

And at the weekend I sent off my first application for a new job. Fingers crossed for me please!

Friday, January 15, 2010


1. This morning I saw a couple of dozen men standing around a heap of SMALL boxes, unloading them and putting SMALL plants into the ground...

all while wearing hard hats.

How dangerous can three inch plants be?

2. Anyone who has been to, or lives in Tokyo, knows the average hole in the ground will have at least a couple of flashing lights, some barriers and a workman or two standing around to point it out to you. BUT...

the last few days there's been some work being done on one of the pavements nearby. Pedestrians are being alerted to this by a portion of the road being barriered off into a new path each evening. The barriers are luminous AND lit with flashing lights. There are a plethora of workmen with flashing jackets AND flashing batons standing to point it out AND (in case that isn't enough), there's an illuminated van with a six foot pole at the top of which is a 6 foot high illuminated BLUE poo / teardrop / waterdrop. With a big smiling face. And arms and legs.

3. When you decide you can't be arsed to wait for the little red man at a crossing to turn green - which I usually can't if there's no cars coming - you should, of course, check for any fast approaching traffic.

You should also check for any stationary taxis waiting ten metres in front of you, because it's a little bit embarrassing when a crowd of politely waiting Japanese watch you almost collide with one.

Not that I would do that, of course!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Yes, Absolutely

Student: "I've never heard a dead person living forever."
Me: "I'm not sure I completely understand you."


3/4 of my students are coming to class with colds. Great.


And another link I'm knicking straight from Facebook, cos it's too good to not share:
'Shocked' Woman drove with body in windscreen.

Like, doh, what else what you do?


Cold outside. Dress up warmly. Overheat walking to station. Freeze when stopping for traffic lights. Overheat when walking. Bake and sweat when you enter the way-too-hot train. Change trains. Feel sweat on neck turn to ice. Get back on train. Melt. Get off train. Freeze. Go in building. Melt. Pop out to shop. Freeze. Enter shop. Melt.

Such is winter in Japan. The heating inside places is cranked WAY up. But anyway.

Here's a couple of amusing links I've knicked from other people: This one illustrates beautifully the paranoia of Japanese people. It's about how the Swine Flu was treated in one guy's company.

Of course, catching flu would be bad because it might stop people working and, well - there's so few hours in the day anyway that those poor overworked salarymen just don't get enough time to work, drink AND sleep so have to take advantage of every little minute, don't they? Like in these pictures.


Monday, January 11, 2010


why would you get a big purple heart dyed onto your dogs thigh?


[spotted today in Nakano Sakaue]


In other news, had a good attempt yesterday at updating my cv. I've never done a teaching cv before so kind of hard to know if I'm on the right track with it, but hopefully... Also had a stab at the cover email I'm sending with it. Will check them again tomorrow and see if I want to change anything.

I'd like to have a clear picture in my head of when I'm leaving as soon as possible. At the moment it's kind of between the beginning of April and the beginning of June which may not seem like much but it is...


Went and had a look at a room today that was quite nice. I have a lot of stuff and don't really want to chuck much away at the moment - before I leave Japan most of it will go, but that's another thing.

I want to move at the beginning of next month (a real pain if it IS only for a couple of months, but hey) and the task of packing up my room now is not one I'm relishing.

I'm putting all study on hold until I've moved. It's just easier that way.


I broke out the heat pads today and put them in my gloves, but then my hands got too hot so I took off the gloves. My hat made me too hot too, so I took it off. And then I got cold about five minutes later and put it back on again. And repeated this about 20 times in 20 minutes. Went into the agency and nearly melted.

Did I say I hate this weather? It's just so impractical!

In Culva (Goa) I hit on the idea of writing a book. It's something I've wanted to achieve for a long time. I started it yesterday.... First, I spent about 30 minutes on Amazon trying to think of a title that didn't already exist. Next, I wrote the first paragraph. And rewrote it. And rewrote it.

And was then too exhausted to attempt another paragraph.

The book may not be coming any time soon!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


8.45am today was 6 degrees in Shinjuku. That's 11 degrees below bearable, imo.

Day two back, saw only one error on today's schedule and I caught one for Tuesday early. Joy.

Conversation with student:
Me: hello
Student: *giggle* (student is 36 years old)
Me: how are you?
Student: *giggle*
Student: I have a cold. Now maybe you will catch it from me. *giggle*
Me: I'd better not...

Student: I started cooking classes.
Me: What kind?
Student: [blank look]
Me: Japanese? Italian? cakes?
Student: bla bla bla Japanese and cakes and bread.
Me: Do you like cooking?
Student: I've never cooked.
Me: ???
Student: I live with my parents (student is 36 years old, remember?)

Same student then goes on about how how this will be a bad year for her because, according to some Japanese custom I've never heard of (and when you teach mainly one-on-one and small groups you generally get the same stories again and again and again) - in Japan everyone gets six unlucky years and for women it's ages 30, 31, 32, 34, 35 and 36 (33 is given off for good behaviour?) and men it's 20, 21, 22, 40, 41 and 42 (or something like that).

She had NO idea why it was meant to be bad luck or what you were meant to do or not do in these years - apart from going to a special shrine blessing (temple blessing maybe? can't remember!) but she believed in it.

Blind faith, anyone?


Went out tonight. Had a couple of drinks. Have a headache now.


It's bloody cold.

Friday, January 08, 2010

First day back and

Three lessons were missed off my schedule...

One cancelled student I didn't know about although reception did, until after the start of the lesson...

One student couldn't decide between travelling to Korea or New York but was worried the tiredness from the New York flight but cause her to catch swine flu...

One student asked whether I had to eat with my hands in India (yes, sometimes) and then asked what if they were dirty (er, i cleaned them first, doh!)...

One student led in with asking if I got stomach problems in India...

One student said she wanted to change her job but had no idea at all what she wanted to do...

One student had been told to write 5 things for her homework and had numbers 1 - 5 written in a list. She had things written against the first three. I asked her where the others were and she said she thought she only had to do 3. (did she think I couldn't SEE the 1-5 list she had in front of her?)

One student reminded me how fucking ridiculous the way of working in Japan is and how ridiculously unfair the age over merit system is and how Japanese often don't say what they mean (I paraphrase slightly here, natch )...

One student told me how she spent 40,000 yen to go to Osaka for New Years Eve by Shinkansen - 3 hours travel to get there - found it cold. Found big queues everywhere. Couldn't get into a countdown concert - and so returned to Tokyo later that day - 3 hours travel back. Ate takoyaki from a stall. Declared it a fun but expensive day. Like, doh? (Let's recap - 6 hours travel to and from, approx four hours actually there, cost of a flight to somewhere a couple of hours away).

I had a Thai curry for lunch and have felt sick since...

My bedroom is like an ice box...

Roll on day two...

Back to work

And already it feels like the holiday was such a long time ago.

Tokyo is cold. Not cold by a lot of people's standards but cold by mine. Too cold. In Japan, this means when you go IN anywhere, the heating is cranked RIGHT up. Lots of hot stale air. Nice. And then you freeze. You dress up for the street, and then you melt as soon as you go into a building or get on the train.

Not nice.

And now I have to sort out packing up my room, finding somewhere new to live, applying for work in Spain - am still utterly unsure about whether to aim for work for the spring or whether that really is going to be impossible, and a heap of other things. Am going to pull a halt to studying for a couple of weeks while I sort those things out.

And am holding that the tiger I saw in Mudumalai is a token of a good year to come, as this is the year of the tiger.

Okay. That's me. Gotta get ready for work now. Am thrilled at the prospect of lots of stimulating input from my students. Hell, I can dream, can't I?!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Bombay and Matheran

Bombay wasn't about sightseeing. I did that last trip. This time it was about enjoying relaxing and catching up with Nicola and her family and exploring the areas in Bandra (a Bombay suburb) that I didn't see last year. It was about hanging out basically in a very 'normal' area that isn't frequented by tourists. Thankfully. Although I did try to persuade Nic to write a guide to the area.

New Years Eve saw the first party I've been to on a NYE for a LONG time. Pretty low key. Nice people. Beer. Food. Who needs more? Midnight was seen in with sparklers and setting on fire an effigy (no, not related to the effigy of Calvin mentioned in the Colva post) to burn out the old year.

After a couple of days chilling in Bandra we headed off to Matheran. Now, Matheran is another hill station like Ooty but couldn't be more different. For one thing, the weather was rather nice. For another, motorised vehicles are banned so there's no air pollution or horns being honked.

At just 90 minutes from Bombay, it's very popular with Bombayites (Bombayers?) and we saw very few foreign tourists. From the train, we took a taxi as far as we could and then had a 30-minute walk up to Matheran. Some people took horses but I didn't want to inflict my weight on a horse and the horses didn't look too healthy anyway.

There were lots of coolies around to carry peoples luggage for them, but that seemed awfully lazy to me, so I elected to carry my own up the hill.

Matheran has an obscene number of shoes being sold. Shoe shops and sidewalk shoe sellers were everywhere! And monkeys. Lots and lots of monkeys. I saw one jumping onto a climbing frame and swiping the kid out the way that was on it. I laughed. I'm evil.

There were also a LOT of hair salons and old-fashioned games places for hooping skittles and that kind of thing.

I found Matheran pretty charming. Save for the amount of garbage chucked around, but I've realised this is to be expected. One of the main pulls of Matheran are the amazing views from the top of the hill station and the walks to get to the view points. I'd have thought it may have occurred to people that they were spoiling these for others by throwing their food wrappings, empty pet bottles, etc around but the two didn't seem to be equated.

So, we walked lots and relaxed lots more and enjoyed our little mini-break there before returning to Bandra.

As I said, we walked up as no vehicles are allowed. There is an alternative. A toy train. But the queue was too big when we arrived and we didn't want to hang around a couple of hours waiting for the next one, so we'd walked. Once at Matheran we pre-booked the toy train tickets to come down. An hour and a half of chugging through beautiful crisp scenery - albeit in a tiny train squished between other people! Loved it! Oh and the hairpin bends were pretty interesting too!


Had another day and a bit in Bandra after that were we took in more sights including a Dhobi Ghat (sp?) where a large amount of Bandras laundry needs are taken care of. There's a massive one in Bombay that I'd seen last year, but with the Bandra one we were able to wander all around it taking photos and asking questions and watching the men (only men - although recently women have been allowed to press the clothes, apparantly) drawing up water fom wells and emptying it into huge tanks to soak clothing, bedding, etc. After that they beat the items by hand before moving to another tank (bath) where another man trampled it by foot. We then saw them wringing the water out by churning it round and round in a machine and then finally hanging it all up to dry in the sun.

We also took in a very old fruit and veg market that was interesting to see (and photograph) but not overrun by people.


Had all my hair chopped off in Bandra while I was there too.


I mentioned that women don't work in the dhobi ghats. Well, women DO work on building sites and in construction and seeing slim, sari'd women doing that kind of work was quite interesting - not really anything I'd seen before.


It's hard saying what highlights of the trip were, because there were many, but one thing I did really enjoy was on the final day going to see Nicola and Sanchia's old school. I'm quite proud to say we managed to disrupt almost every class that was being taught whilst there. We had three lovely girls show Nic and me around the school. The classrooms were small, with 50+ little old desks crammed in. Very England circa 1960's I thought! At lunchtime the hallways were splattered with kids outside their classrooms eating their lunches. It was fun chatting with some of the kids too and seeing what they were doing and how different it all looked from an English school and how different the kids were from Japanese kids!


And that was it. Time to come home. I spent FOURTEEN hours on the plane from Bombay to Tokyo. FOURTEEN. We were delayed for 90 minutes in Bombay AFTER getting on the plane and then delayed AGAIN for 90 minutes in Delhi (where we had to stop for an hour). And I didn't sleep the whole flight (although did sleep most of the bus ride home - which took about 2 hours cos of traffic).

Happy to be back? Hell, no! But I have lots of expectations and optimism for the year ahead. I think 2010 is going to be a good one. Can't be worse than 2009 anyway!

Going from Goa

Had a little contemplative wander in the morning before heading to Goa airport. After a year of feeling I was wobbling along a tight rope, these few weeks in India have seen me totally grounded, relaxed and happy. Life isn't a holiday, and we do have to face the daily routine or battle that is work and general everyday life, but it's how we approach these that matter.

It dawned on me that possibly I'm going about things the wrong way. Possibly life in a built up developed busy city ISN'T the thing for me. Maybe I would be happier where things are simpler and less complicated and noisy. It occurred to me that maybe the idea I'd had of going and teaching English to monks in Laos was actually a pretty sensible idea that would enable me to try and figure out exactly what I needed to be doing.

Naturally, that kind of work pays jack shit so I figured (and Spain IS still in the picture for this year) that balancing two lives would be the best way: get a high paying job in the middle east for a year or two and save. Go to a less developed place for a year or two, enjoy the calmness. Repeat.


Heading to Goa airport I soaked in the sights around me. Colour. India is about colour. One of my most vivid memories from my 2008/09 trip to India was Hampi and the heaps of brightly coloured spices and dyes and scarves in the main street and the brightly dressed women going into the river in the saris for the festival.

In Goa, it's the houses. Bright. Scarlett red. Fuschia. Bright bright blue. Bright yellows, greens, oranges... sticking out from lush greenery - long grass, palm trees - and between decrepid shacks and dirt peep out big bright houses with white trimmed balconies, windows and edges. Cheerful. Like a child colouring in a picture... A big contrast to everything around.