chris vs. the arctic

chris: 72 // the arctic: 47


... Yes, that kind. I have quickly become very much so this past week. It started on Monday with another little panic attack about my life. They happen from time to time. I'll just freak out and do something productive. Or drink. This time, I was productive. (Okay... I drank a little.)

Kate gave me a brown leather folio for Christmas -- the perfect stylish element to my new productive life. I grabbed it and immediately wrote "The Ultimate To Do List." It was comprised of 12(ish) small things to do in the near future.

1) Mail away resumes.
2) Plan my Golden Week vacation.
3) Take the LSAT.
4) Take out the garbage.

Okay, so it wasn't exactly in any particular order. I've so far completed 7 items. But I added another 9 in the process... That's still productive, right? Yeah.

In other retentive news, my apartment is spotless. I don't even remember cleaning it... So it must have been slowly getting cleaner throughout the week without my noticing. Just this morning, I woke up early, made a balanced breakfast, and then washed the dishes. Who does that?? And last night, instead of joining a yakitori party and getting hammered, I opted to pick up my (large amount of) dry cleaning, do my banking, grocery shop, practice Japanese, and go to the gym. Does this mean I'm an adult now?

Maybe. I will feel like one this weekend when I take 23 English teachers on a bus trip to Nagano prefecture for a skiing/snowboarding minibreak. I organised it all (with the help of Renee and Josh), so if it blows up, it's going to blow up in my face. In the meantime, my snowboarding gear and clothing were retentively packed this morning and are ready to go. Can't wait!

Oooo, now I get to cross off “Write in blog” on my list! ... Oh, it’s not there... Let’s add it... Okay. Now I’ll cross it off...


WARNING: You may not care.

Canada just had another election. (Or, as it is said in Japan, erection. Oooh! Lame, I know.) There is a new Prime Minister -- Stephen Harper. He's the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and is very right-wing. His party managed to wrangle enough seats away from the ruling Liberal party to form a minority government. (That means they don't have enough seats to pass anything without some other party's help. Duh.)

Even though I lean left, I am happy with the results of the election. Here are my reasons:

1) The Prime Minister is not from Ontario or Quebec.
2) The Liberals don't deserve to rule Canada at the moment with all their scandals.
3) Change is good.
4) The U.S. may see Stephen Harper as a friend and stop hating Canada.
5) Minority governments don't last and have no real power, so Stephen Harper can't be hardcore conservative just yet.
6) The candidate I voted for in my riding won! The previous MP had been in office for 18 years...
7) The uncertainity of another minority government weakens the strong Canadian dollar, thus making it cheaper for me to buy Canadian dollars with my Japanese yen. (i.e. I don't pay out the a$$ to send my money home.)

We'll see how long this government lasts...


...With snow. I bet you thought I was going to be writing about my drunken weekend. Ney, my friend. I am going to tell you about my walk to work this morning.

Actually, I shouldn't really label what I did as 'walking.' It was more of a 'feat of survival.' A bit dramatic? Maybe. Deserved? Definitely. Let me explain...

Toyama is generally a snowy place in the winter. The season started out with a bang as mother nature dumped two metres of snow onto our heads. I was fine with that since I left straight away for another continent. I came home three weeks later to find a land thickly frosted with snow from mountains to sea. The trek to school was manageable, especially since I was driven there almost everyday day by a sympathetic coworker. It reached the point where I was considering riding my bike to work.

Then, without (an English and obvious) warning, Toyama was assaulted by a flurry of white death last night. I blame all the foaming-at-the-mouth frenzied snowboarding fanatics for praying for this weather. They love it. I hate it.

I left my house this morning assuming that my walk would be brief, as it is every morning. Surely one of my four regular chauffeurs would swoop me off the highway and into their car's warm safety. Surely.

Not three minutes into my walk did I regret not wearing my brand new snowboarding outfit. The wind was blistering cold and pushing against me. The snow was shooting straight into my eyes. My shoes were quickly filling with ice. It was hell. But opposite.

I consoled myself by remembering that a teacher was just seconds away from picking me up. My iPod distracted my mind from thinking about the loss of feeling in my fingers or the layer of snow building on my clothes.

I think it was around the Cosmo station that I realised I was going to die. Something about the combination of rice paddies and sparsely distributed buildings in the area made the wind and snow excited enough to form a real blizzard. I literally couldn't see more than one metre ahead of me, and I nearly started to walk down the wrong road. My trek through the Antarctic region of Highway 77 lasted another ten minutes. My body arrived at school covered in a thick layer of ice and snow.

My soul didn't survive.

Tokyo Weekend

Directly after work on Friday, Amanda and I made our way to Tokyo for a weekend of music and partying. In a stroke of luck, the concert we attended started at 22:00, which never happens in Japan. Almost all events start at 18:00 and end around 23:00, leaving no time for eager ALTs to get from Toyama to Tokyo if the event fell on a Friday. I suppose those times do allow people to catch the last train back, which in Tokyo is at midnight. How can a major metropolis just stop all the trains at such an early hour??

The event was called, "Gan Ban 5th Anniversary." Neither Amanda nor I knew what 'Gan Ban' was or why it was having an anniversary, but we knew it was going to be a huge party. The venue was ageHa, a major Tokyo club hall rocking 3 dance rooms and a water bar. I think it was those two features that created a rave atmosphere, to our surprise but not chagrin.

Space Cowboy, The Glimmers, and the United States of Electronica were on the bill for the night. Amanda and I specifically wanted to see USE, but the rumours of Mylo showing up were also enticing. (He didn't. Apparently he became ill. Boo.) Space Cowboy was lame. Picture a DJ playing premixed tracks whilst pretending he is mixing it live. Lame lame. The Glimmers made us fall asleep, but I think the glowsticking-toting, shirtless gaijin got their jollies. Finally, at 05:00, USE took the stage. They rocked!!

United States of Electronica, or USE (as us acronymphiles would say), is a Seattle-based electronic-pop group that plays happy, uptempo songs. Every one of their tracks seem to have a positive message. I can't help but think that all of this is an act. There's something sinister in people being flaky/cool all the time. Maybe that's just me being cynical. Regardless, the show rocked. They got some Japanese guys to come on the stage at the end, and two of them jumped into the air to smash their bare bellies together! Oh Japan. You loves the pops.

At 09:00, we made our way to Yokohama to spend the day sleeping at Marisa's place. We hadn't actually met Marisa yet... She was a friend of a friend, but she quickly became our friend! Here are some pics from the rest of the weekend:

Lindsay and MarisaTambourine!!
Marisa and Amanda
Ready To Go Home

P.S. A word of warning to Toyamites: When traveling to Tokyo on train, pay attention to which station you must change at. They randomly switched our station from Etchigoyuzawa to Nagaoka TWICE, adding several hours to the journey! Needless to say, we were pissed. Good luck!

▲ List: Celebrities I Look Like

...According to my students. These are some names my kids have yelled at me from down the hallway or in class.

In chronological order:

Spiderman (Tobey Maguire)
Brad Pitt
David Beckham
Mario (from the Super Mario Bros.)
Anakin (Hayden Christensen)

Not bad comparisons, except for Mario...

Japanese Truth [第7]

There are two words you'll hear repeated over and over in an aquarium by Japanese people: "kirei! and "oishii!"

Translation: "beautiful!" and "delicious!"

Random Thought [第15]

Someone should invent clear coffee.

Suggested Slogan:

"Crystal Coffee -- Stamina without the stain."

Congratulations To All The Happy Couples!

And there are many. This past holiday season, three couples I know got engaged! There's nothing like another person's marriage to make you feel old and everlastingly single... Congratulations again!

Holy Holophonic!

Put on some headphones and listen to this audio file! It's absolutely incredible and freaky!

Democracy By Mail

My ballet for the Canadian elections arrived at my house yesterday. I've never voted abroad before. I hope it doesn't get lost in the mail...

Back in 2000, I cosigned my roommate's American ballot. He was from Florida... Dah dah daahhh!


December 17
The Rules of Drinking
I flew from Tokyo to Chicago, leaving at 17:00 and arriving at 08:30 the same day. The dateline is a magical and confusing thing. Upon entering the arrivals area of O'Hare, I was greeted by two drunk(ish) ex-Toyamites -- Jamie and Sarah. (Classy, ladies.) We met up with Shelly, Amanda, Holly, David, Steve and Todd (Sarah's partner) at Sarah's place for a delicious western brunch. So good! Afterwards, we explored the frozen downtown of Chicago, including the famous L-train. That night, we partied like it was our job. I was quickly reminded of the real rules for drinking, smashing my skewed Japanese practices. I.D.? What's that? We first had real Chicago pizza, which should actually be called lasagna. That was followed by an adventure in Boystown, which involved a old man's pub called "Bucks." After at least four other places, we ended the night at a reggae dance bar. I forgot how much fun Americans can be! Everyone is outgoing, which after living in Japan, made me feel like the most timid person in the world.

BrunchBucktownThe L-Train
MirroredThe City In The BeanIntersectional Group Shot
Cement CityReal Chicago PizzaDavid Playing Pool At Bucks
Let Me Tell You SomethingCoppingDrunk

December 18
Happy Birthday Jesus
Woke up hungover. Everyone, save Shelly, Jamie, Todd, and Sarah, left for their respective homes. Shelly and I attempted to watch "Brokeback Mountain" in Boystown... Retrospectively, finding a seat in that theatre would have been like winning the lottery, except without the money. We ended up watching "Capote." Not a bad alternative. That night, Sarah held her annual "Happy Birthday Jesus" party, including the infamous white elephant gift exchange. I gave away fishy self-heating sake, and I got a smoker's kit. Jamie gave away surprise inflatable breasts, available at your local 100 yen shop!

Surprise Balloon BoobsBalloon Madness

December 19
Drinks at the 95th Floor
Shopping in the city, followed by cocktails at the top of the Hancock Building. The night was finished off with some super cheap and real Mexican food in the Pilsen district.

The John Hancock CentreChristmas Tree at the Hancock CentreThe Hancock Centre
Sunset from the Hancock

December 20
From the Windy City to Canada's Ocean Playground
Spent the day with Todd as everyone else had to work. We had an "impressive" time exploring the Art Institute of Chicago. (Sorry, that was a lame joke, especially if you didn't get it...) I then flew from Chicago to Halifax, with a brief layover in Montreal. I saw my family for the first time in 1.5 years!

The Art Institute of Chicago

Halifax and the Maritimes

December 21
Family Time
What is the very first thing one would do after meeting up with one's family for the first time in a long while? Have brunch together? Visit the ocean together? Try going to the dentist... Two cavities! My first. Later that day, we checked out the fishermen's area of Halifax. My family had flown down from Yellowknife to stay with our cousin and his wife. They have an amazing house right on the Atlantic coast. Not a bad setting for the holidays!

Ocean View

December 22-23
Food and Drink
Had my entire face frozen and my cavities filled. Relaxed and gorged on western food. Visited downtown Halifax and Dartmouth with my family. We checked out the Maritime Museum and the Alexander Keith's Brewery. Keith's is my favourite mainstream Canadian beer. I got a little tipsy...

Fishermen ShopsLobster TrapsFishermen Village
Crabs-R-UsDowntown HalifaxRopes
Alexander Keith's BreweryDucks and DocksTugboats

December 24
Slip and Slide
The heavy snowfall did not deter my family from driving several hours to Peggy's Cove. There's nothing like slippery rocks next to the ocean to get the blood pumping!

Touring Peggy's Cove

December 25
The usual, followed by a walk on the beach. The beach was invigorating that morning! My stocking was filled with some unusual items...

Rocky Beach

December 26-28
What time is it? Maritime!
In true Buchanan fashion, my family piled into a van and went on a road trip. We drove from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Since is was Boxing Day, and the weather was horrible, nothing was open. The home of "Ann of Green Gables" was neither green nor gabley. However, it was fun driving over the "longest bridge over waters that freeze in the world", a.k.a. Confederation Bridge. After lunch in PEI, we drove to Moncton, New Brunswick. We visited with my great aunt and uncle, as well as my other cousin. I hadn't been to these provinces since I was a child, so it was a great time!

Confederation Bridge

December 29-30
Chuckwagons and Trailor Parks
To add to my growing list of vehicles ridden during this trip, my family and I went on a horse chuckwagon ride on a ranch. My mom is ace at finding truly family-type things to do! The next day, my dad and brothers decided to break the law. There is a popular show on Canadian television called "Trailer Park Boys." The set (a trailer park...) happens to be 10 minutes by car from my cousin's home. So, of course, they had to see it. They drove to the place (without me), snapped some pics, and came back. As if to spite them, the camera hadn't worked. I was then forced to go with them with my camera and get the proof of their lawlessness. Ghetto fun!

Carriage HorsesChuckwagon


December 31
New Year's Eve in Style
Said goodbye to my family and flew from Halifax to Toronto, Ontario in the early morn. Met up with Lauren, Kate, Kari, and Christy at the Toronto Hilton. I reacquainted myself with Yonge St. and bought a completely new outfit for the New Year's party. We went to a closed party at 606 King and got completely plastered. At least I did... During the stumble back to my hotel, I realised how truly convenient Japanese convenience stores are. I can walk down to any street corner in J-town and get my late night munchy solution. Not in Toronto. Room service was slow and the pizza place wasn't picking up. I went to bed hungry. Just as well, I suppose. I had already eaten enough in the past week...

Party PeopleNikki and EmmaMe and Lauren
Me and KariMe and KateOrange Disco
Uhhh...Apparently Passing OutOrdering Room Service

January 1
Joined the rest of the nation in waking up hungover. The streets of Toronto were completely empty, save several homeless people and a handful of 20-somethings with disheveled hair and smeared mascara. We dispersed and I followed Kate back to her house in Oakville.

University Ave. New Year's DayToronto Towers

January 2-5
Back-to-Back DVDs
Transferred to Orangeville with Lauren. We spent three days drinking Tim Horton's coffee, shopping at big box stores, and watching the entire first two seasons of "Arrested Development." I don't think I've ever laughed as much or for as long as that! Lauren is moving to Australia this week to start med school, so I made it a goal to distract her from packing. I succeeded. Hence her handing me back to Kate...

January 6-7
Shopping, Sights, and Sadness
I followed Kate again, this time back into the city. She had to work, so I wandered around T-dot (Toronto) and went on a random shopping spree at 10 AM. Afterwards, I met up with Kate at the Royal Ontario Museum (where her design firm is currently working). We had lunch amongst a crowd of screaming kids with her cousin and coworker. They managed to sneak me a visitors pass to the ROM, so I explored the newly renovated museum and found a favourite exhibit -- Ancient Egypt. That night, Kate and I went to the top of the CN Tower and had some beers before a pub dinner. The next day, Kate and I went to see "Brokeback Mountain." I have to admit, I have never been affected like this by a movie. I was completely devastated (and the feeling lasted for a week). After the movie, it was more sadness at Lauren's going away party.

CN Tower in BlueUp High
Toronto from the CN Tower

January 8
24 Hours of Hell
On two hours of sleep, at 3 AM, my shuttle came by to take me to the airport. It was the beginning of a hellish trek back to Toyama. After waiting more than an hour to check in (because the counter was closed), I was directed to U.S. customs. (I had to get to Chicago from Toronto for my flight to Tokyo.) For some reason unbeknownst to me, I was subjected to every single screening check the U.S. has to offer. First, I was asked a lot of questions by the passport guy. Then, I was directed to a small room to have my baggage rummaged through. Next, my baggage was X-rayed and I was sent through the Gates of Eternal Annoyance (a.k.a. the metal detectors). I always set them off! So, of course, I was hand-scanned. Then my shoes were scanned. Then my carry-on was checked for gun powder residue. Then my carry-on was rummaged through. Then my person was searched physically. I wanted to yell this sooo bad: "Is there another hoop I can jump through for you?!" After my ass United Airlines flight to Chicago, I got on my sweet JAL flight to Tokyo. Except for several periods of waiting, I smoothly made my way back to Toyama and my freezing house. It's good to be back!