chris vs. the arctic

chris: 72 // the arctic: 47

Random Thought [第11]

30.7.05
Perhaps the top benefit of becoming friends with a huge group of new people is the fact that your wardrobe is instantly fresh. They've never seen any of it before! Sweet.

Suggested First Step: Launder that mountain of clothing in the corner...

★ Article: "Japan's asbestos time bomb"

29.7.05
Well, I guess I'll be holding my breath for the rest of my time here!
Guardian

▲ List: My Travel Plans for the Year

This list is more for myself, but I thought you might be interested.

13-14.08.2005: Osaka for Summer Sonic 2005
24-25.08.2005: Tokyo
27-28.08.2005: Yamanashi for the AJET Mt. Fuji Climb
10-11.09.2005: Aichi for the Aichi Expo 2005
23-26.09.2005: Okinawa
08-10.10.2005: Kyoto for the AJET Kyoto Trip
03-06.11.2005: Korea ?
17-19.12.2005: Chicago, Illinois
19-30.12.2005: Halifax, Nova Scotia
30.12.2005-08.01.2006: Toronto, Ontario
02.2006: Nagano
18.03-02.04.2006: Vietnam
03-07.04.2006: Nagasaki
29.07-?.2006: Australia and/or New Zealand, then Canada.

The Problem with the Squat

WARNING: Don't read this post if you're squeamish.

I just discovered the biggest problem with Japanese-style squat toilets. Before I tell you, I'll list the others:

- You have to squat.
- You have to be aware of where your pants go.
- If you are drunk or really tired, it's a feat.
- They're not ergonomic for puking.
- You're too close to the bizness.
- If you have *ahem* 'problems' doing your bizness, you have to squat for that entire time.

And finally, the top reason that I discovered yesterday at a mall in Toyama City:

- People can easily step in their sh*t and SPREAD IT ALL OVER THE FLOORS FOR OTHERS TO STEP ON!!!

That's right. I used the bathroom in the CIC Building in Toyama City yesterday, and someone had spread sh*t all over the floor and out into the mall. After pointing it out to Amber, I noticed that I had some on my sandals!! OMG! That's all I could think about whilst drinking my coffee at Seattle's Best.

*shudder*

Lovin'

28.7.05

From the Bottom
Originally uploaded by buck82.
For Amanda's b-day, a bunch of us took over a looooove hotel room and got down and dirty! Partying that is...

Neighborhood Spider


Neighborhood Spider
Originally uploaded by buck82.
An army of spiders has invaded my front porch. In a brief reprieve from being freaked out by them, I noticed how beautiful their webs were.

Goodbye!

Goodbye to all those leaving Japan! Please keep in touch! I want to hear all about your adventure off this island!

Embarrassment of the Week [2005年7月22日]

22.7.05
I recently had my hair cut J-style (Japanese style). This morning, as I was making my coffee, I was inspecting my new coiffe in the reflection of the cabinet doors in the staffroom. As I was doing this, the photocopy lady came up behind me and asked if I was looking for something. My response: "heh heh... heiya chekku... sumimasen (excuse me)..." Of course she had a good laugh about that. :)

Mt. Fuji

19.7.05
I did it!! I climbed Japan's largest and most famous mountain -- Mt. Fuji! What an experience!

I was the organizer of the trip as Toyama AJET's Excursion Representative. So the onus was on me to make sure things went smoothly. I'd say they did, apart from one thing I'll mention in a bit.

Twenty of my fellow Toyamans and myself took a cramped minicoach from Toyama prefecture to Yamanashi prefecture on July 16th. We arrived at the Kawaguchiko 5th station at 17:00. (There are several '5th stations', from which you may start your ascent up Mt. Fuji. No one starts at the 1st station.) From here, we started our climb at 18:00.

The Fuji-san Climbers

I was doing pretty well during most of the ascent. It was a steady pace, with plenty of breaks and snacking. I was obsessed with not getting altitude sickness, so often inhaled pure O2 from my handy aerosol can. I'm not sure if it actually did anything, but I didn't get sick! (Ahem, placebo...)

It started to get dark about 1 hour into the climb, and it was completely pitch black 2.5 hours up the mountain. Luckily, my stylish headlamp allowed me to scale the boulders and gravel through the night.

In the distance, as we climbed, there was a large storm brewing. You could see violent lightening flashing through the clouds that seemed only miles directly in front of me. I have to admit, I was scared! I wasn't sure if the storm would head straight for me, or bypass us. I mean, we were in the clouds! Eventually, I realised the storm was only passing, and actually provided an excellent show. While resting at one of the stations, Amanda and I noted that this experience would have been really religious, had either of us been actually religious.

Sunset SkyThere Was a Storm in the Distance

Even though we'd all set out at the same time, the group had broken up into pockets of people. The groups would pass each other and/or exchange people at various points up the mountain. It was a bit like a party, with mingling and chit-chat. It kind of took your mind off the fact that you're clinging to loose rocks 3000 metres above sea level!

By 22:00, the group I was climbing with decided to spend the night at one of the huts at the 8th station. For ¥6,300, we got the amazing privilage of spooning with strangers in cramped quarters. We had to fit 5 people in a space only 2 metres wide! Ah, snuggling at 3200 metres. :)

At 01:30, we jumped out of bed (okay, crawled...), and began our final ascent to the peak. We wanted to be at the top of Fuji-san by sunrise (around 04:45). To our utter misery, the climb up the remainder of the mountain was cold, rainy, and packed with others trying to reach the top in time.

It Was Ridiculous!Sunrise Was Missed

My climb up the last section of the trail was literally a queue. I took perhaps 1 step a minute on average. I couldn't believe it! How could there have been so much people trying to get up the same stupid mountain at the same stupid time??

We ended up missing the sunrise, but it was just as well. The clouds had hidden any sunshine, so it would have been missed anyway. Oh well.

At the top, I warmed up with my expensive coffee, and toured the crater of Mt. Fuji. The view alone definitely made the whole trip up worthwhile!

The Crater of Mt. FujiMariette, Me, and My ¥500 Coffee
The Money Shot

After resting for an hour, we began our 'slide' down the mountain. We had to navigate a zigzagging trail of volcanic ash for most of the journey. It was definitely much easier and faster than going up, but there was one problem... At one point along the trail, the path splits into two different directions. One leading back to Yamanashi prefecture, and the other leading to Shizuoka prefecture. I had warned everyone several times to take the left path to get back to the bus. But, Amanda went right! It's not her fault, as it was easy to miss and hard to backtrack. (It happens every year.) However, it was a big problem. The bus couldn't get around the mountain in a reasonable amount of time, and a cab back to our station was much too expensive. So... Amanda had to take the train back! Actually, she probably had a more comfortable ride than us.

That's it! I get to plan it all over again for the new people coming to Japan in August. I may go again, just to make sure things go smoothly. As the saying goes, "A wise man climbs Fuji, but only a fool climbs Fuji twice." I guess I'm a fool-to-be!

Farewell Weekend

On July 9th, I was packed into Jake's car with Adam, James, and Michael, and we headed to Toga. It was quite a precarious ride up the mountains of Toyama, twisting and turning through endless small towns and greenery. At times, we defied death by passing large coaches within several centimetres of being thrown over the cliff.

After several hours, our surprisingly correct navigation brought us to Toga. Toga is a mountain village known for its camping facilities. It is here that we would party to dawn during the AJET Farewell Weekend.

About half the people on JET here in Japan leave every year in August. The Farewell Weekend is a way to say goodbye to those leaving. It's a sad time, but a good time.

The Sparklers and IPeeps

Goodbye to all of you leaving, and please keep in touch!!

★ Article: "Bounty hunters nab dogs in Canada"

15.7.05
Ah, home. This town is an hour drive from my home city of Yellowknife. A proud moment for us all.
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Coincidence!

This is a crazy coincidence! (At least, I think it is...)

I drew the drawing in the first picture. The second picture is the current cover of the Economist magazine. Crazy!

MineThe Economist

Tanabata Festival

14.7.05
On July 7th every year, Tanabata festivals are held all over Japan. This year, Andy, Amanda, Yoko (our Japanese teacher), and I went to Toide, Toyama-ken to check out the festival. Andy and I wore benjins (like pajamas), and Amanda and Yoko wore yukatas (summer-style or less formal kimonos).

Andy, Amanda, and I in Yoko's house.Ribbons with wishes are hung on bamboo.

In less than a month, Yoko will be moving to Tonga! We're super sad!

It Has Begun

They've started. My students have started to prepare for Sports Day.

Sports Day is a one-day event held every year during which there are relay games, presentations, and creepy Nazi-like marching. It's held in SEPTEMBER.

It's JULY.

They will spend almost every day from now on rehearsing, training, marching, prepping... One of the many quirks of Japanese school life. I must say, though, the kids really do enjoy it. And they get super competitive about it too. Last year, I had kids crying because they only got 2nd place in the race. Ouch.

Here are photos from last year's Sports Day.

▲ List: Annoying Terms Used by the Media

13.7.05
slam - used as a condemnation term. Its usage in this context is not listed in the Oxford dictionary.
row - meaning 'dispute.' The third and colloquial definition of this word.
call - correctly used, but annoying none the less.
hail - used as a praising term. Its usage in this context is not listed in the Oxford dictionary.

Who uses these terms?? You wouldn't hear this kind of dialogue in a regular office:

"Did you hear that Tim and Jack had a row last week?"
"Yeah! I heard Tim slammed Jack for his white socks with black shoes."
"That's right. Tim is calling for a black-socks-only policy at work."
"I think most people would hail that decision."
"Word."

Yeah, right.

It's not a secret, cuz it ain't true!

My kids are convinced I speak Japanese. They think it's a big secret that no one is supposed to know about!

Today, I laughed when one of the students asked my supervisor's age during class. The student was surprised that I knew what she was talking about. Hello! It's not like I haven't picked up a few phrases in my year here!

Just now, a student 'caught' me 'speaking' Japanese with the teacher who always speaks to me in 100% Japanese (even though I don't understand what he is saying). The student had a sly, knowing smiling on him. Gah! I don't know anything! But, it's fun pretending I do...

★ Article: "Universe 'too queer' to grasp"

This article raised some questions that have blown my mind! I sometimes forget that we only see a very select part of the world, and we completely make up our own realities -- even between people. What is real? OooooOOOOoooo. :)
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Today's Special!

12.7.05
I just had a random flashback to one of my favourite shows when I was a kid -- "Today's Special." It's definitely a Canadian-only memory. I loved it!

Can any of you Canadian peeps back me up on this? :)

★ Article: "S Korea offers North energy aid"

Isn't the real situation completely obvious?? The North is holding on to its nuclear technology only to receive aid. If it can convince the world that it's a threat, and may give up the technology with enough appeasement, then it can coast through famine and power shortages. I guarantee you that the majority of the people in North Korea do not know that the extra food is actually from the South. The government is probably suppressing that information.
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★ Article: "`Petro-loonie' Will Surge"

Okay, here is where my financial geekiness comes out. This stuff is interesting and affects our lives!

Canada will soon have the strongest currency of the G8 and China. This is mainly due to our vast oil reserves (second only to Saudi Arabia).

I better move back home soon and start earning Canadian dollars instead of Japanese yen!
Bloomberg

Random Thought [第10]

11.7.05
You know you're a real teacher when you spend 10 minutes perfecting your coiffe only to arrive at school with a 50's style hair-do. Damn that wind!

Suggested Fix: Book your hair appointment now!

★ Article: "Terrorism and You: The Real Odds"

Time

Toyama Fact

Toyama City is Japan's 3rd Largest City (in terms of area)!!

Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto are actually prefectures, and not cities. For example, Tokyo is made up of 23 wards, 26 cities, 5 towns, and 8 villages. Each have their own government.

Another 'Top 3' for Toyama Prefecture!

English Is Informative!

8.7.05
Written in big, bold letters on a desk in the English room today was, "I practice sex."

Simple and informative. And grammatically correct. At least, eh?

London Attacks

I'm going to go ahead and point out the obvious that no one wants to mention: There are consequences for your actions. Britain is currently engaged in several wars. Britons are fighting overseas. There are losses on both sides. If anyone in London had forgotten they're at war, they're going to remember now. (Canada is also a likely target, as it's engaged in the war in Afghanistan.) Article

A terrible incident.

★ Article: "Koizumi wins postal reform vote"

6.7.05
I didn't know Japan Postal Banking would be the world's largest bank! It makes sense. Most Japanese do not trust regular banks, so they keep their savings in a safe government institution. Also, the post office is the only place where you can make interest on your savings. (Almost all bank accounts here have 0% interest!)
BBC

Oto No Hana Vol. 5

3.7.05
Sarah and Jamie have been doing these amazing parties in Takaoka called "Oto No Hana" (or "Flower Sound") for the past two years. Last night was the final installment of the series, because they're both moving back to the States soon! :(

The theme for Vol. 5 was "...And There We Were." That's a phrase Jamie often uses to reflect on the current situation. In this context, it refers to those who are leaving Japan in a month's time. The party took place in an art gallery in Toyama City called MAU. The organisers of this event -- Mariette, Owen, Robert, Jamie, and Finn -- showcased their artwork. Some of the pieces included photographs, paintings, drawings, video, and music. There was also a form of performance art in the public art project, which included a wall and tools to create something random and fun. As well, several locally-famous DJs came out to the event and we got our groove on.

Good times! Thanks guys for putting it on!!

Exercise or Interpretive Dance?

2.7.05
Yesterday, I joined the Track and Field Club at the school. It was raining outside, however, so we had to run in the hallways and climb the staircases to train. It was pretty fun. But the best part was seeing the baseball boys exercising (if you could call it that). Several of their 'moves' involved prancing down the hallway doing a "Flashdance" style of motion! They were leaping and flailing their arms -- it was fantastic!! The hilarious part was that they were yelling, "Ichi! Ni! San! Shi!" [One! Two! Three! Four!] while doing it! I don't know how the most macho guys could stand doing that, especially in front of everyone else. It's great!

Japanese Truth [第5]

Combinis (convenience stores) rise and fall in mere minutes in Japan.

Example:
A new Family Mart seemingly appeared overnight yesterday, two blocks down from another Family Mart. Also, a Lawson's opened in December, and was torn down in April.

★ Article: "Massive catfish caught in Thailand"

1.7.05
I'm actually in shock. I can't believe it. Look at the picture!
CNN

The War Rages On

November 2004. A dark month in the history of my personal space. Night after night, they came from all directions. The crevices of my floor boards, the depths of my closet, from beneath my window... Some brazen ones were caught crossing the floor in broad daylight. Another cheeky one was found sticking his butt up at me in the bathroom sink.

Earwigs.

I hate earwigs. I also lothe nightcrawlers, spiders, beetles, and cockroaches.

Since November, I've been on a campaign to rid my apartment of all things crawly. It has meant both chemical warfare and brute force.

I'm happy to report that I'm winning. My apartment has been completely free of bugs since the end of winter! But the front lines have moved. As I write, there are forces growing in numbers right at my doorstep (literally). Every night, I have been spraying the growing army, and enjoying the ensuing madness. (Much to my neighbor's' curiosity.)

However, just this morning I found an insurgent inside my house. I sprayed it immediately, but it fought back. It jumped and tried to fly away as it died. I can see this will be a continuing battle that will require resolve and determination.

I'm pretty sure these latest attacks are linked to 9/11.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CANADA!

Gay Marriage Race?

So now Spain is apparently the third country to legalize gay marriage, beating Canada to the punch.

Just yesterday, Canada was the third country to approve gay marriage! But since it hasn't been passed by the Senate, it's technically not law right now. Spain's will be law in a month's time. Whatever.