Monday, March 1, 2010

Birthday on a Bus

Of course I’m not spending a whole day on the bus, but that’s where I’m writing this now. Anyways, I turn 27 today. Probably. I’ve had to think about it a couple of times, but it makes sense: 1983 minus 2010. Scratch that, that kind of math will make me negative years old.

I think it was a slow week again, but I got to talk with friends and family a satisfying amount, although I wish to just touch base with friends and/or family I haven’t communicated with in months, in some cases years. My sister Patty keeps telling me about her cute cat and I get jealous. :)

Perhaps I’m fluffing this up because I feel like I don’t have a lot to talk about again. I had 1 class all week, and the day of was the only time I came in to work on time. Also it was hard to go to bed before 2 in the morning. As you can guess, things are slow. I should be using that time to search for jobs and such, and to some extent I have, but I wish websites didn’t make it as difficult as possible, just like the customer service you’ll (try to) find on many others.

One day I spent over 2 hours cutting and pasting my resume Frankenstein style into a specific/restrictive format online because they had no “upload” button. By the time that was finally done I was so tired, annoyed and bored I didn’t want to look or apply for jobs anymore even though my resume was there now, which is probably why they do that in the first place; they want you to give up. Oh and the site will remove it in 30 days.

Neal suggested I get in touch with some of my old professors and classmates to ask around about head hunting firms or things of that nature. At the very least it’s good to know your options. I’ve never tried that before.

On Wednesday I went out for a Yayoi enkai (party) that was way up in the mountains somewhere, so I doubt I’ll be going again simply because it’ll be so hard to find. The food and company was good though, with some interesting foods I haven’t tried yet; like some kind of ‘long’ potato with dipping sauce and “Nagoya Style” rice ball that has tempura inside. Of course I was the only one drinking again, so it was very brief; it’s no fun drinking alone.

On Thursday I went out for sushi with Honami, Junko and their friend, with that sushi train restaurant remaining as my favourite place to gorge myself for a reasonable price. There was some talking, but not too much with all the Japanese flying around. Regardless, everyone wants to see my mom, so she’s in for a busy couple weeks. That reminds me to call Ono sensei… but Japanese etiquette looks down on people talking on their phone in public. Note to self for later I suppose.

On Friday it was time for the yearly ski trip at Nozawa Onsen. Last year I cancelled and it would have been great to cancel again, but maybe I buckle to imaginary social ‘obligations’? Sure I could have easily saved $120 by not going, but you do anything in Japan and it’s easy to have a bill add up that high for little things; that price doesn’t include food or drinks or anything else unless you count a simple breakfast.

It was Dougal, Richard and I splitting a car, so right away it was almost worth it to chill with 2 other cool dudes from Canada and talk about whatever; we even split a room. It rained the whole way, cementing my decision to save an additional $50+ by not going on the hill.

Instead I slept in, and somehow started watching the Olympics for the first time this year on TV. I was surprised how involved I got with half the women’s final curling match: from team Canada’s comeback from behind despite a lack of hammer, to their chokes that cost them the gold. Atleast they still netted silver I suppose.

I caught a little bit of speed skating later, where we won a gold and a bronze in one race, and I caught most of Canada’s hockey game. A big reason why I didn’t cancel this trip was to enjoy a room that was warm, and didn’t have me sucking kerosene fumes for that comfort. I dozed off half way through the game and came to when speed skating was on again.

I turned it off and slept for an hour more maybe. It’s so nice sleeping comfortably again, instead of in tomorrow’s clothes trying to keep warm. Lately I’ve been stopping myself from cursing the snow or winter, because really it’s quite pretty, and instead focus my frustration and loathing on Japanese heating systems and paper thin walls; one of the many reasons I’m leaving.

The only thing I ‘regret’ was not getting a picture on top of the mountain, capturing the fog that covered the town. It looked pretty as Richard showed me later, but wasn’t worth the money, nor the deadly run down through the fog on the hill on ice/slush. In fact, most of the pictures I took this weekend felt a bit forced; I just wanted something fresh to put up on my blog after last week.

Dougal came back around 3 and finally got me out of bed so we could try an onsen (hot spring). Nozawa Onsen, as the town’s name implies, has many onsens. Many are small and free, with au natural smells. As soon as we stepped in this charming little shack and smelt rotten eggs/sulfur, you know it’s the real deal.

This place was quite small, and as I’ve been warned before, the water was scalding hot. There was no bathroom, and no real showers to bath first, so you had to clean by pouring the scalding water on yourself.

Once you’re in, like I’ve told my mom and sister, it’s important to move as little as possible. The more you move, the more it will sting and burn. Even so, I had to make fists because my fingertips felt like they were on fire. In seconds I was a lobster red, and after a couple minutes I joined the others sitting around the ledges.

The second time jumping in isn’t as bad, but we didn’t stay too long, and had to shower when we got back anyways to get the smell off. After we met up with his friends for a quick chat and drink. I was annoyed enough when a rum and coke was $5, but apparently that was happy hour, and they wanted $8 later.

Maybe I’m getting older, bitter and/or cheaper, but I kept thinking of the 4 (or more) bigger cans of something better I could get at a convenience store. Why do consumers put up with this abuse and insult at pubs? It reminds me of people who spend that much on a terrible cup of coffee at Starbucks, and for what? It’s certainly not for the atmosphere, I can easily build a better one at home with less pretentious strangers.

To be fair to Starbucks I don’t hate them for their product, but for their prices and what they represent. For example, try to purchase absolutely anything from them the next time you’re at an airport and ‘only’ have $4, which should be enough for a breakfast at any competent place.

Anyways, Dougal and I left early to join a supper we had signed up to days earlier. We were at the hotel meeting place 10 to 15 minutes early of the publicly announced meeting time, but were worried when no one was around. We called the organizer, and not only were they almost finished eating, but they gave our spots away.

In their defense they tried to contact us, but up on a ski hill and in the town, phone reception is very hard to come by. We weren’t heart broken to miss out on the supper, but I was steamed at how the whole thing unfolded. We were early, but that was too late apparently. Dougal and I were reminded why we don’t like being around other JETs much, and rejoined his friends.

Later we met up with Richard and played games at the hotel because I brought my Nintendo Wii. The 3 of us talked until late; another nice, rare treat, bringing nostalgia of all those volleyball trips I used to go on. I can’t wait until I can play volleyball again, or anything really to get in shape that isn’t jogging. Another one of the reasons I’m leaving; my limited options here.

On Sunday it was actually snowing, and skiing/snowboarding would actually have been fun, but we didn’t care and left early for home. Unfortunately life here being what it is, “going home Sunday” usually means you won’t be home until it’s dark even if you have things you need to get done. It wasn’t all arduous I guess, we got to see Neal. The host with the most offered tea, drinks, video games, and gave me my first birthday present: a can of root beer. I love that guy <3

We went for burgers and met up with T and her friend visiting from Australia. I bought a burger to go again, and enjoyed it that night with my new root beer. Richard was over again, and we watching the Russia vs. Canada game on the Internet. Later I called Ann and was delighted she got her Visa. She bought her ticket and will visit me on March 16th; another awesome birthday present.

After meeting dozens of girls, going on even more dates, and being where I am is yet another reason I’m leaving Japan. It’s hard to believe I’ve been single for almost 5 years now but I just don’t think about it, and now I like to think I have fun regardless, as I should.

Neal and I are talking about backpacking around Canada this summer when I go home. He also asked about things I wanted to see around Japan before I go. Other than a fleeting interest to see Hokkaido, I’m mostly done, and am waiting for Ann and/or my mom to come and see things with me.

I went to see a lot of JETs, but talked surprisingly little with most of them. Many times I get bored of ‘conversations’ that are little more than making noise and going through the motions. At times I crave intellectual and stimulating talks, the kind that challenge my beliefs and help me grow as a person.

The biggest thing bugging me lately is my notion of “common sense.” Common sense isn’t common if everyone apparently doesn’t know. I was reading someone’s ‘brilliant’ travel tips that included: “don’t cause people to lose face.” …I’ll keep that in mind the next time I’m trying to make someone feel stupid…?

Other gems included “smile at people” and “don’t forget your wallet”. I don’t know what I can say about that… I thought that kind of ‘advice’ went without saying. Clearly they must have done this wrong if they felt compelled to write it down. That or they just love to read their words that taste like butter to their eyes.

Speaking of which, for not having much to talk about I guess I wrote a lot. My bus is almost there though and I have time. I’m in Tokyo/Yokohama the next couple days for the “leaver’s conference.” Prepping me for my reverse culture shock, how to apply for jobs, and fun stuff like that. I just hope it gives me some advice I can actually use.

Ah well, I’ll leave the rest for next week’s update and play games now. I just wish whoever is farting on this bus would stop; another ‘common sense’ point I take for granted. It’s funny that when I think about it, this has happened to me quite often in Japan now, minus the times I’m on an empty bus. Regardless, it’s quite gross.

(update?) I’m in my hotel now ready to post this. I’ve been smiling as I went over several birthday greetings from many different people. Thank you very much :) Yes, it was a great day. I hope to write back formally when I’m home and have more battery power; I should post this soon ^_^

“It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education than to have education without common sense.” - Robert Green Ingersoll


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