Thursday, March 31, 2011

A park in Nagoya

Yesterday after work I decided to go for a walk to blow off the stress of training. We've been working every day for 6 hours in children's classrooms taking turns leading lessons and pretending to be students. The training includes another 6 hours of prep time (read: unpaid homework) that we have to do every night to get ready for the following day. Thankfully, what started as 6 hours I now have down to a nice and pleasant 3 hours, through sheer repetition and practice. However, for work we all have to show up 45 minutes early to get our teaching materials ready (i.e. flashcards, games, puppets, sing-a-long's), also unpaid. So basically I've been working 10 to 13 hours a day, every day, for the past 10 days. I'm a little tired. Did I mention that there are no breaks at work? If you have to eat, you have between 2 and 8 minutes to inhale some food before running back into the classroom.
Now, for my western lazy ass, this routine was a little difficult to get used to, but apparently this is totally normal here. You only get a real break at work if you are being paid for more than 8 hour days. My shifts don't qualify. The Japanese work ethic is a real thing, people. Everyone does it here. That's why they're so advanced, I guess :)

But here are some pictures of my walk;

I thought I had found a park to go walking in, and I said to myself "how lucky"! But it only lasted for about two blocks and then turned into a shanty town.

 So I moved on, but the sunset was so pretty that I kept taking over exposed pictures of it, since I'm not a photographer and I don't know what I'm doing. But I found a playground!

We have the exact same teeter-totter at home! So I guess some things are truly universal. I remember that thing sucking as a kid though.

And here's a picture of something creepy;
Apparently no one in Japan has a problem with 4 story high crazy-looking clowns. This is an ad for an arcade. I just can't imagine a kid looking at that and thinking this place would be totally safe to enter. But then again, I can't read Kanji. A good slogan under this clown would be "there are absolutely no clowns in this building" or "we cannot ensure your safety from 200 foot high raging clowns."

 On the left is either a traditional mail box or a traditional lantern of some kind. I can't tell the difference between them, but they're both pretty! On the right is a poster that I think is for a rally to support the current lotus blossom movement in China. There are attempts to speak out against the government there using lotus blossoms as rally points. Or it might be a poster for an origami group. I'm totally illiterate in this country still.

This might be difficult to see, but there's a spiral staircase on this apartment building that goes all the way to the top. No wonder Japanese people are so skinny. Can you imagine trying to get your couch up to the 20th floor on moving day? Nightmare.

And a $7 can of pringles! But here, it's pronounced 'plingue'. They don't pluralize words very often. Now that I think about it, it's probably because even the word 'pluralize' would be a huge hassle to say, since they flip their l's and r's all the time. Or it's because their language is thousands of years old and we are retards to even question their logic.

So tonight is my last night in Nagoya. I'm being shipped back to Tokyo to complete my training tomorrow morning. Don't know where I'll be staying yet, but it's probably near Shinjuku, not that anyone really cares. So my fellow trainees and I are heading out to an arcade, because we all need to play some mindless videogames and stare at some flashing lights to wipe our brains clean. There may or may not be alcohol involved in the brain wiping.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I have clothing gnomes haunting me.

This post will contain no photos, since I haven't had a chance to take more with my workload for training. So if you only read this blog for the pictures, please just ignore this. However, I must share a sneaking suspicion that has been growing in my mind.

Have you ever had the totally irrational and paranoid thought that something (i.e. a physical object you own) is working against you? This happens to me now and again, but I'm usually just projecting the frustrations of my own failures onto objects to alleviate my sense of obligation to deal with said frustrations. It all started with a button...

I was getting up from sleeping on the plane on my way to Nartia. I stretched, and my entire shirt popped open. Please understand that the shirt I was wearing (as well as most of my clothes with me in Japan) was custom made for work, and had just been fitted for me the day before. They were also fitted deliberately to include such movements as stretching, since I work with children and I run around like a speed freak all day.
Buttons= 4, Vivian= 0. Luckily, it was dark in the plane, and I was given the opportunity to do up my shirt quickly before receiving a raised eyebrow from the stereotype-gay flight attendant.

Next, I was at training, jumping up and down repeatedly for some mock-class exercise. It was my turn to lead the class, and everyone was jumping around with me. I said "raise your arms" in my cheery kindergarten voice.... and my pants almost fell off. I had to quickly un-"raise my arms" to catch them from reaching my knees. Now, this one can be explained through the fact that I've lost quite a bit of weight since getting here, and my pants are almost too loose. I wear belt at all times now. But still, one has to wonder why the universe decided that that was a good time to deliver the message;

"Hey! You should wear a belt today!"

Moving on. The other day I had to do laundry, but I was skeptical about using the overpriced machines at the hotel I'm staying in. So I washed all my work shirts and pants by hand, along with the regular essentials, and hung them to dry... with the exception of my fitted shirts and some heavier clothing that would have taken up way to much precious time and space on my shower curtain rod. So I put my shirts in the dryer with my jeans and some sweatpants. Two hours later, no more white shirts! Now they were blue shirts. Or rather, white shirts that were just experimenting with being blue. Basically, it looked like my jeans had raped my brand new white shirts and left dirty blue man-stains all over them. I totally freaked and went out to buy bleach. Because I'm a superhero, I found it in under 1 hour, using only Kanji and my 10 word vocabulary, but I digress.

Today was la pièce finale. I was yet again in class, jumping and dancing and doing cartwheels, when I felt a strong breeze in my crotch area. There were no windows open nearby, so I gingerly reached down to feel out the damage. 5 INCH WIDE HOLE IN MY PANTS. Forcing down the sheer panic that one feels when one's underwear is exposed involuntarily, I finished the lesson, like the superhero I am. I then ran the 200m back to the hotel to get another pair of pants WHICH HAD ANOTHER HOLE! IN THE CROTCH! Now, one hole from jumping and flexing too much is one thing, but I hadn't even worn the second pair yet! They were brand new. And when I got them, they did not have any extra holes. Just the one in the top and the two in the bottom, like all good pants are supposed to have. So my only logical conclusion is that I have clothing gnomes out to get me. They sneak around at night when I'm asleep and tear tiny holes in the seams of my clothing in the most embarrassing spots. Gotta be gnomes.

Upon further thought, they are probably in league with my toilet, which is a sentient being that plays songs and has water features that try to touch my no-no bits. Great. So I'm surrounded by clothing gnomes and a molestering toilet. If my phone gets any ideas then I'm going to run away screaming.

As a closing thought;
I did some introspection on this weird thought process I've been having. I've come up with the source of the problem. I saw The Brave Little Toaster as a child. That sh*t'll f*ck you up.
WATCH, if you dare.

G'night gnomes!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"If you're not making a total fool of yourself, you're not doing it right."

... said my teaching instructor the first day of kid's training.

So the past couple since my last post have been pretty busy, but not very picture-worthy. I've been in training for over a week now, where I've basically had to find my inner meth-addict in order to keep up with the teachers. Holy crap do they mean business when it comes to being energetic ALL THE TIME. These poor kids must think all white people are drugged out of their mind on uppers. They're in for a bit of a surprise later, I suppose.

But aside from learning how to teach English like a crack head who is REALLY into high-fives, these is some stuff I've seen;

And here's some more;

 The last one is a restaurant that specializes in crab, in case you were wondering. I did not go in, since they're price range was a little out of my league.

These are the guys that are in my training group;

These are from last night when we went to find a recommended rock concert. We got totally lost and just ended up bar hopping for the night. This bar was called the Mexigan. Note the obvious type-o. This place sold Corona (which is technically an American beer) and nachos the size of your pinky (plate of 8 nachos= about 500 yen). I opted to stick with my bourbon/whiskey staple, since it's so cheap here. A shot of premium whiskey is 350 yen, but a pint of crappy beer is usually around 700. Why go for volume? Quality is definitely winning over quantity so far.
The Mexigan also had some funky lighting that I felt the need to capture;
Nothing says Mexico like red crystal chandeliers. I love this country and their perception of the rest of the world. Everything here is either kinda kooky or just plain adorable;

Look! It's mini beer! For when you need to get just a tiny bit drunk! And a mini Red Bull! To snap you out of that tiny hangover you'll get from your tiny night of drinking tiny beer!Say it with me now;

And I found another girl wearing a costume to promote some bar;
She gave me a coupon for half price food, or something. But upon further inspection, it was a Maid's Cafe type of place, so we didn't go in. For those of you who do not know what a Maid's Cafe is, it's where girls dress up in skanky outfits and wait on you hand and foot... and will do pretty much anything for a dollar bill. It's like a good ol' fashioned strip joint, but without the poles... or so I've heard :)
Side note; her dress ends where the picture is cut off. I almost feel bad for her, since it was cold outside. Almost.

I took more pictures of this building, since it's some kind of landmark and it was really pretty;

Here's some more things;

When I grow up and have a giant house with a nice garden, I'm going to trim all my hedges into dinosaur shapes. I have been inspired. Great, now I'll just HAVE to become successful.

Oh yeah, and I got a new phone;
It's just like my old phone, but with the number 4 after it. It's also shinier, cheaper, shinier, and has a lot of Kanji. Still working out the kinks... but I have a phone! I tried desperately to hook up my iPhone 3 here, but the sim card slots are different sizes (those sneaky wieners), so my phone could never be recognized on any Japanese networks. I "reluctantly" upgraded to a faster, prettier, significantly cheaper phone. About 40 bucks a month, as long as I don't make any long distance calls on it. But I got Skype, so that's irrelevant. It comes with unlimited everything else, and the phone's free with the plan. Should I opt out of the plan, the phone will be around 50 bucks. Apparently the iPhone 4's been here for like 10 years already, so no one pays for it like we do back in Canadaland.
So I better get to bed, since I have to be super cheerful in the morning for work. Force it until it feels like real happiness, right guys?

P.S. today I washed 2 of my white dress shirts by hand and then threw them in the dryer with some other clothes. The laundry gnomes must hate me or something, because shirts absorbed the blue dye from my jeans and are now ruined forever. I tried to bleach them out, but apparently the shirts like being an inconsistent blue, since the bleach didn't take. My brand new hand made tailored dress shirts are completely f*cked. I sulked for about 6 hours, and I still don't know what to do about them. I do have other clothes, but these were brand new! And they fit over my boobs! Do you know how hard it is to find shirts that fit over my boobs?!?! What the hell!?!?!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ECC is slowly taking over my life

They're sneaky f*ckers, those ECCers... first playing coy and pretending to want me, then telling me to go home, then telling me to meet them in a different city for another encounter. Like a catholic school girl who can't decide between listening to her teenage hormones and her abstinence training. I've finally gotten into the swing of things here, but not without some serious (and expensive) hiccups. The most annoying of all has been the move from Tokyo to Nagoya, which has definitely had some impact on my bank account. It just means that I will have to be more frugal now, which is a concept I am more than familiar with.
So to recap the last couple days;
This is the new view from my room. ECC has put me (and the other trainees from Tokyo) up in a hotel for the next couple weeks just until our actual placement is decided. Side note: they still want to send me up to Utsunomiya, but I really really don't want to go up north. See previous posts about nuclear reactor as to why.
Granted, the accommodations are generous, but it still doesn't account for the several hundreds of dollars I've spent getting from A to B.

 These colourful ladies are all celebrating their 20th birthday. The part I don't quite understand is why there were hundreds of them. People must like to give birth simultaneously over here or something. I know this country is very collectivist, but COME ON. That's just ridiculous.
On Saturday night we all went out as a group to get drunk and celebrate finally starting our training. We had two consecutive days off, which is a good reason as any to get inebriated. Our night started at this cute little bar just around the corner from the hotel.

 I decided that I should stick to only one kind of alcohol, in order to keep the hangover down, but my theory did not reach practice. The bartender (who spoke perfect English) realized that I like bourbon, and then proceeded to let me try every single one of his bourbons. I stopped counting around 15. But I took a picture of the best one;
Apparently, you can't get this back in North American, even though it's made in Kentucky. Some Japanese guy liked it so much he decided to bring it to Japan, and he wasn't going to share. So this picture is dedicated to a fellow bourbon enthusiast back in Guelph (you know who you are). Don't worry, I'll bring some home with me:)

The second part of that night was a bit of a haze... and thank Jebus, because it involved Karaoke. It got kinda crazy, so forgive me for the blurry pictures;

Yeah, this was the first and last time I will ever do this. Don't get me wrong, I had fun, but it was expensive and totally not my scene. I would prefer to sit in a pub and talk to the locals. There's actually a little "English" pub near to where I'm staying. I say "English" because they don't actually speak the language, but they have fish and chips, as well as Sheppard's pie on the menu. It's a little pricey, but it seems to attract all kinds of hilarious people. Like these girls;

These were the waitresses that night. I can't believe you're not allowed to tip here. I feel weird not tipping someone who has to wear stiletto cowboy boots all night involuntarily.

And now I'm going to go find a cheap beer garden with my fellow trainees.
See ya!