chris vs. the arctic

chris: 72 // the arctic: 47

Maybe I Am An English Teacher...

I'm so happy right now! I've been helping a student with an English speech for the past couple of months. She was preparing for a speech contest in Toyama City, in which 25 junior high school students compete for the top spot. The contest was held yesterday... and my student won!! She's going to Tokyo to represent Toyama-ken!

I'm so awesome.

Oh, and she is too...

Pump Me Up!

I've discovered one of the sweetest benefits of having a salary: a gym membership. A brand new gym -- or should I say, "sports club" -- just opened up in Takaoka City. It's a 'mere' 35 minutes away by bike. (Great for a warm-up and cool-down before and after my workout.)

This place is fantastic! It has a pool, sauna, training room, aerobics classes, and... an aromatherapy room with massage chairs!! For a flat (and reasonable) monthly fee, I can get unlimited massages from one of those heavenly machines! The equipment is also top-notch. Each treadmill has its own LCD TV and remote! I watched Gackt and Harudo Gei shake their stuff on a Japanese variety show whilst running at 9.5 km/hour. You can't get any better than that! Oh wait, you can. The locker rooms are slick, and the showers have free toiletries. Love it!

I also signed up for an online personal trainer. I log on, download my exercises for that day, and go. Then I log back in afterwards and track my progress. I hope it keeps me motivated. (If anything, the monthly fee will...)

The only foreseeable problem with this gym is accessing it in the winter. I cannot bike there in a meter of snow, so I'll be forced to take the train and then walk. It'll be worth it though.

Let's get pumped!

A Classic Moment

Just a few moments ago, I found myself in the middle of a classic situation at school, which made me laugh my ass off.

After I left my 2-nensei (Grade 8) classroom, I was whistling "Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead" down the hallway. Four girls, who were walking in front of me, started to laugh and ask me what song it was. I said it was from the Wizard of Oz.

Blank stares.

"You know, Weizaradu afu Aazuu?"


"There was a witch. With a green face [gesture], black hat [gesture], broom [gesture]... "


"A house fell out of the sky [gesture]..."


"Okay... See you later!"

I can't even imagine someone trying to explain a random movie to me, which I probably haven't seen, in Japanese. Hilarious!

A Hero, A Lunch, A Birthday

This past weekend was crazy as usual. It started off with a Lovebuzz show at Club Mairo in Toyama City. Lovebuzz is a group of DJs from Toyama-ken: Tomoji, Koichi, and Bob (haha!). Tomoji happens to be Amanda D.'s lovaaah. Amanda and I were at the show together, but we didn't go together. No, my friends. I went to the show with the Dancing Machine!

My Personal HeroThe Dancing Machine Refuses to Take the Stairs

Amanda D. is my personal hero! She made this costume to rock Lovebuzz's world and to spice up people's lives. (Okay, I'm sure the reasons were more mundane...) Needless to say, she actually wore it from her house in Takaoka to the show in Toyama, taking a bicycle, a train, and walking down the street! It was the sweetest sight to be seen that evening!

Me and the Dancing Machine

After rocking out at the show, I left at 2 a.m. to take the express train back to Takaoka. But I couldn't get on! And why is that, you ask? Because the train conductor wanted ¥7,400 for a 12 minute ride!!! Of course, since I was drunk and don't speak Japanese, I didn't realise that was the reserve ticket price... I ended up flipping the guy off and sleeping in the train station, waiting for the first local train to arrive. Luckily, after several hours, Kaoru found me sprawled out on the staircase and drove me home! My savior! Seriously, he doesn't even know how much he saved my ass. I had a community lunch to attend in 5 hours!

The lunch was good. I was surprisely not hungover at all. It could have all gone wrong though. I had to make a Japanese lunch with 15 genki elementary students and their mothers. The kids were a blast!

Community Lunch

After sleeping for a few hours, I did it all over again! This time it was Amber C.'s birthday party at 135's in Uozu City. I hardly ever go there, so I was excited to party it up! Tons of people showed up, including the elusive Niikawa crew and some of the Toyama crew.

Happy Birthday Amber!Paul, Dan, Amber S., and Phil

Since the train times at Uozu station are ridiculous, we had to take the last local train back to Toyama at 23:45. No worries, Amber C. joined a bunch of us for some celebrations in the city. We hit up My Pleasure karaoke and Bar Maxx (the Brazilian bar). The typical, yet fantastic, night out ended with all of us taking the first local trains back to our respective cities at 7 a.m. I slept until 3 p.m. Ah wasted Sundays... :)

Yellowknife Connections

As I hope most of you know, I am from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Yes, it's cold. No, I don't live in an igloo. Yes, I have a polar as a pet. No, you can't touch it.

The great metropolis that is Yellowknife is home to around 19,000 people. Needless to say, it's real easy to get to know a lot of people. I recently stumbled upon someone on the Internet that I knew in high school... and on quite an unexpected site. No no -- it's not dirty or anything. It was! (For those of you unaware of the best source of movie information, I recommend you explore the Internet Movie Database.)

Just tonight, I was thinking about an assembly I attended when I was in grade 10 in high school. It was one of those cheezy inspirational pep-talks you only get from a guest speaker. This one turned out to be a Yellowknifer who moved to Hollywood and had some very minor roles in some B-rate horror flicks. (Tobias Mehler was his name, by the way.) But he wasn't the person that I stumbled upon.

After searching for 'Yellowknife' in the biographies field of, I was shocked to see a familiar name on the list: Dustin Milligan. He was one of those skater kids who made skate videos and practiced jumps all day. When I graduated from high school, he was in grade 10. Now he's in some major motion pictures! I can't believe it!!

To further my quest for other Yellowknife peeps, and possibly crossing some sort of line, I googled other names. I found out that Molly Milligan, Dustin's sister, made it on to a snowboarding team in British Columbia. She wants to compete in the Olympics, and I'm sure she'll make it!

It's nice to see Yellowknifers representin'! If you're one of my Yellowknife friends, e-mail me and let me know what you're doing!

Chicken Beer?


Chicken Beer?
Originally uploaded by buck82.
Nope. Sapporo and Family Mart were running a deal on beer and fried chicken. It freaked me out for a second! I wouldn't be that surprised by chicken beer in Japan.


So a 'typhoon' passed through Toyama-ken Wednesday afternoon. The first day of classes were canceled in anticipation of dangerous winds and rain. Yeeeahh... It was one of the sunniest days of the year! Granted, there was a strong wind, but it was more of an annoyance than a hindrance.

The kyoto-sensei (vice-principal) let the teachers take nenkyu (annual leave) if they wanted, since they had nothing to do all day. This is a rare thing for them, as nenkyu is usually difficult to schedule. I, being a cheapskate with my nenkyu, decided to hang out at school. My kyoto-sensei, realizing that I'm a cheapskate with my nenkyu, let me go home 'for free' at around 14:00. This was a big deal! My school is very conservative. They'd make me take an hour of nenkyu time if I was late for work. So I was grateful for those several hours of freedom (during which I napped).

I hope they loosen up some more, and let me go home early more often! Doubt it...

On The Train

Japan still manages to surprise me in unexpected ways. Yesterday was the famous Owara Festival in Yatsuo town, Toyama. A popular novelist mentioned this festival in one of her books a decade ago, propelling it from a small, local event, into a massive tourist destination. Thousands of Japanese from Osaka and Tokyo pour into the sleepy streets to watch men and woman dance the Owara. It is a slow dance with defined moves, set to the music of the koto and a high-pitched singer.

The trains were packed, understandably, to and from the event. Since I had to work the next day, I had to call it an early night. On the train back to Toyama, I was corned into my seat by Japanese people in front of me and sitting next to me and Amanda. I figured it would be another silent train ride, but I was wrong. The Japanese man sitting to my right turned to us and asked where we lived. My initial shock over his random English (it's rare in Japan) wore off, and we slipped into a conversation. Soon, the man standing in front of me revealed his English prowess too, and began talking about how he wished he could speak English better. (He was pretty damn good, actually). After a couple of minutes, the standing man brought two high school students into the conversation.

The dialogue wasn't particularly interesting, but the fact that a group of usually shy Japanese struck up a conversation with foreigners, in English no less, surprised me. I'm sure the festive mood had a lot to do with it, including the festive 'spirits', but regardless, it was great!

My Summer Engrish

I know I seem to go on about my kids' mistakes with English, but it is too funny! These are some choice lines from my second grade students' diaries from the summer (after corrections):

"You may have been able to taste a feeling of achievement."
"I thought that I was dangerous."
"It rained and it was damp, but my heart dried today."
"Today was hot, so I ate cold watermelon. I ate too much. I have diarrhea." (Haha!)

▲ List: World Capitals I Have Visited

Kuala Lumpur