chris vs. the arctic

chris: 72 // the arctic: 47

Thanksgiving Dinner

On Japanese Labour Day (November 23rd), a bunch of us journeyed up a mountain in Nyuzen, Toyama to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. It was a potluck, so each of us brought one dish to share; mine being mashed potatoes and Swiss Chalet gravy. We had quite the spread.

Preparing To Get FatThe Spread

The absolute highlight of the meal, however, was the real turkey! The Niikawa people ordered a turkey and a ton of pies off the internet, so it actually felt like home for a day!


We played some elementary school games and stuffed ourselves to the brim. Thanks Kirsten, Amy, Linea, Jon, and everyone else who helped plan the event! It was fantastic!

Delicious AND Offensive


Delicious AND Offensive
Originally uploaded by buck82.
I bought this pack of chocolates at the Toys-R-Us in Takaoka, Japan. I'd say
the character on the front of the box resembles a "blackface" from the
racist minstrel shows in the US during the 1800's!

More info: 'Blackface' in Wikipedia

Classroom Innuendoes

Most of the children I teach at Daimon junior high school are tame. They are like other students in the world; they get bored, amused, excited, sleepy, etc. One class, however, is out of control. When I walk into the 1-4 (Grade 7, Class 4) room, the class erupts into a chorus of praise and applause. (I'm not even exaggerating here.) "Oh Chris! Handsome! Cool cool! Kawaii (cute)!" Today, I got "Bonjour! Ni hao! Bonjorno!" Random. I love them.

Today's lesson riled them up. I have to teach from an English textbook called "Sunshine." It's slightly embarrassing, but it does hold some gems. For instance, today's program:

Cowboy: "Yuki, this is for you."
Yuki: "Wow, it's big. Thanks. How do I eat it?"
Andy: "Just take a bite."
Yuki: "Everything is big here. Big houses, big yards, big hats, ... and big sandwiches!"
Cowboy: "Yeah." [Read as, "yeeeeeah."]

Just picture 40 enthusiastic 13 year-olds reading this text out loud! They think the "yeah" part is hilarious, but they have no idea what's going through my sick mind...

Actually, they apparently do have an idea. After class, a couple of boys ran out of the room and caught me in the hallway. They asked me the usual questions to get a sticker. "Do you like fruit?" "Are you from Japan?" All typical, except for their extra-curricular application of a new phrase...

They pointed to my crotch, then grabbed their own, and said, "it's big! It's big!" Thanks guys. To top it off, one of them came up to me, brushed the hair off my forehead, and said, "Chris. Beckham. Handsome. Chris is handsome." Where did they even learn that word?? Hilarious!

★ Article: "It's great up north"

I'm normally pretty modest and discrete about being Canadian, but I thought this commentary was really excellent.

A Question For You Canadians...

Is every guy in Canada sporting long hair and a huge beard now? Every musician and hipster I've seen photos of are rocking that style. I don't know if I can handle having a beard when I move back! :P

Death From Above 1979

A Brief Background On Yellowknife

Many of you probably don't know much about my home city -- Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. In fact, I bet you don't even know where it is, do you? It's okay. Most people don't. Here's a map: Yellowknife. Try zooming out and see exactly where the city is.

Yellowknife is the capital of the Northwest Territories. It has about 19,000 people, yet it's considered a 'city.' It was originally established as a gold mining town, but now it's main industries are diamond mining and government.

During the peak of the short summers in Yellowknife, there is nearly 24-hour daylight. The sun will dip below the horizon around 01:00, and come back up at 03:00. (It sucks, trust me.) The summers are a pleasant 25°C, but you are lucky to enjoy the weather for all the mosquitoes, blackflies, and other biting/sucking bugs looking for blood.

During the fantastically long and frigid winters, Yellowknife usually reaches an average temperature of around -40°C. The days are dark, with the sun rising at around 09:00 and setting at 15:00. You can see the northern lights only in the winter, but they are frequent.

Yellowknife Aurora
The Northern Lights (a.k.a. The Aurora)

Many Japanese tourists visit Yellowknife every year to see the aurora. I believe this phenomenon holds a special significance in Shintoism.

There's a TV program on CBC called Rick Mercer Report. (It's like The Daily Show, for you Americans.) The host of the show ventured up to Yellowknife last year to check it out. Here are some hilarious videos from his visit:

Yellowknife Video

Rick also visited the NWT (Northwest Territories) Legislature (capital building). I used to work in this building. It's really sweet! Actually, I hope to work there again once I leave Japan...

NWT Legislature Video

I hope you are now well-versed in all that you didn't want to know about Canada's Arctic (and my home)!

★ Article: "In 'wrongful life' suit, disabled woman blames doctor for letting her be born"

What kind of sick case is this?! I cannot believe how far people will go with suing! Life sometimes sucks. Deal with it.
Court TV

My Debut

Have you ever started doing something that you knew wasn't going to end well? Like deciding to leave the house with no umbrella because it was only dribbling, but of course, it started to pour? Or drinking your third cup of coffee before a long car ride? Yeah, that's how I felt when I agreed to sing with Yamazaki-san at the Daimon Culture Festival...

Yamazaki-san is a short, spry woman who used to be the head English teacher at Daimon JHS. We had previously met when she invited me to cook a Japanese lunch with some elementary students a while back. I had an enjoyable time. It was certainly a one-time thing, I thought. I was wrong.

It all started when Yamazaki-san phoned me up at school. Her proposal to me: "Chris, do you know 'You Are My Sunshine?' You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when sky is grey [sic] ... Oh, you know it. Good. Let's sing the song together with my ukulele at Daimon Culture Festival."

My initial reaction wasn't my proudest moment -- bursting into laughter in the middle of the staffroom -- but it was warranted. Even though (for some reason) I was in the choir in high school, I could not possibly see me singing in public! But Yamazaki-san is a wily one. Using the exceptional convincing skills that only a verging oba-chan can possess, I agreed to do it. I mean, really, who would be there to hear me murder the song?

In the weeks following my agreement, I had several visits and telephone calls from Yamazaki-san regarding the performance. Each meeting with her brought a new element into the mix. The first: "So we will sing 'You Are My Sunshine' at the Daimon Culture Festival. ... Only that song. Also, 'Silent Night.' ... You don't know it? Okay, I'll bring you the words. ... Yes, just those two."

The second meeting (an early morning phone call [07:45]): "We are singing at the culture festival. 'You Are My Sunshine' and 'Silent Night.' I'll play the ukulele and organ. ... Yes, just those songs. And your national anthem. I have a music CD. Oh say can you see. ... Oh, you are from Canada? ... That's okay. You can sing it."

During the third early morning reminder phone call, I realised this train wreck had to stop. I pulled all my courage together, and I said, "Yamazaki-san, I cannot sing with you during the culture festival. I cannot sing." Her, "So just those songs. No more. Just 'You Are My Sunshine', 'Silent Night', your national anthem, and England's national anthem." Zoom! Right over her head. OR... she's that good. And I suspect she is.

Needless to say, I'm a big wimp who can't stand up to a 65-year old, 5-foot tall Japanese woman, and we sang at the festival...

After false-starting 'You Are My Sunshine' several times, we finally got it going. Some members of the unexpectedly-large audience started to clap along -- that is, until the tempo shifted more than once on the ukulele, making it nearly impossible to follow along.

After barely surviving the first song, it was my solo debut: 'Oh, Canada.' Oh, embarrassment, more like. I actually caught several audience members trying not to laugh!! I can also add this tidbit to my list of personal acheivements: "Missing Every Note In Canada's National Anthem."

Finally, it was the last song: 'Silent Night.' Incredibly, it wasn't that aweful. I actually hit the right notes and people got into it. But the mood was already soured by my almost treasonous redition of 'Oh, Canada.'

We bowed and gracefully walked off the stage. I continued to gracefully walk past the stares of the audience, straight to the coffee and cake at the back of the room (wishing there was some whiskey there as well)...

The act that followed our sad performance blew us out of the water. Cheaters. Cute kids always win!

The next time Yamazaki-san phones me up, I won't be in.

★ Article: "Japan's whaling fleet sets sail"

I just wish Japan had the balls to come out with it and say they hunt whales for food! Why the run-around? Seriously, I can walk down the street and eat raw whale RIGHT NOW, and it's no secret.


i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out // i gotta get out //

of japan.

★ Article: "We Americans are like recovering addicts after a four-year bender"

An excellent editorial by Naomi Wolf.

Robot Festival

Robots from all over Japan descended on Toyama City for the Robot Festival this past holiday Thursday! Amanda, Carl, Amber C., and I checked out. I think it's fitting that the holiday was Culture Day. What better way to celebrate Japanese culture than a robot festival?? Check out the pics here.

RoBoEvil Robot
EmiewAkutoroi Do-der

My Apartment This Morning

I woke up this morning to a different apartment. It's still the same small, yet stylish, pad it was yesterday -- save two differences:

1) It was freezing! I had to turn my heater on for the first time this season. Not too happy about that.

2) It was moved. When I went to bed last night, my apartment was nestled between the towns of Daimon, Kosugi, and Oshima. This morning, it was smack-dab in the middle of Imizu City. My towns amalgamated today. (Another cost-saving measure for Toyama-ken. I'm guessing about 100 people were fired today.)

I'm back to being a city-dweller. But I'm still in the middle of a rice paddy...

▲ List: Countries Where My Good Friends Are Living Right Now

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