chris vs. the arctic

chris: 72 // the arctic: 47

Surprise Vacation!

13.7.06
Vacation days (nenkyu) in Japan are rarely used by the Japanese. It's seen as not good work ethic to take time off. Foreigners, however, usually take every opportunity to use their nenkyu.

I had the right to take 20 days off every year for the past two years, and I was close to doing so. As of Monday, I had 3 days left, so I was going to ask for the last couple of days of my contract off. My house needs cleaning and my bags need to be packed.

As I was handing in my forms, my old supervisor asked me why I was taking so little nenkyu. I told her I had only 3 days left, so I was taking as much as I was allowed. Then she says the most golden sentence: "No, you have 11 days of nenkyu left."

Huh? How is that possible? I had taken a lot of nenkyu in the past two years. I kept track. 2 days for Beijing, 1 day for Hiroshima, 10 days for Thailand... I definitely only had 3 days left.

To prove to me that I had a significantly larger number of days off, she showed me the "big black book" -- the attendance record for all the teachers. It was written there on top of the sheet: 22 days this year.

It suddenly came back to me that the board of education had decided to give me extra nenkyu. Back in December, my supervisor told me it was very rare and special. I should be thankful. I completely brushed it away at the time as being a communication error. I mean, really, why would they give me more time off? I'm already hardly here! But apparently they had. Here it was, in black and white.

Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yesssss!!!

Now I'm taking off almost all of my remaining time here! After the 20th of July, I'll never have to come back to work ever again! (My last official day is August 1st.)

My new problem is spending that time wisely. I could just lounge around my apartment, cleaning and packing. Or I could go to the beach everyday. Something better has come up, however. Andy and I are going to go to Tokyo Disneyland! It has been on my 'List of Things To Do in Japan' for a while, and now I can cross it off!

I think I may also go to Nara and Kyoto. I haven't been to Nara before, and I heard it's the best. I might as well be cultural if I'm going to be consumeristic.

Only 5 more days of work!!

Travel Plans Realized

7.7.06
I just discovered this post in my archives. I ended up doing almost everything on that list and in that order! However, I didn't go to the Aichi Expo or Nagasaki. I managed to make it to Mt. Fuji, Okinawa, Kyoto, Chicago, Toronto, Halifax, Korea, Vietnam, and soon, Australia & New Zealand! I'm pretty impressed with myself.

I'm in the midst of planning my Christmas travel for this year. Holly and Dave are getting married in the Dominican Republic in December, so I'd love to join them! Also, Heather will be living in Martinique at that time. The two islands are close(ish), so it seems plausible to travel between them. It probably isn't likely to happen, though. There are no direct flights between DR and Martinique. Maybe I can charter a yacht? Or connect flights via St. Lucia? Does anyone have any experience traveling around the Caribbean? Could I pick your brain?

Ha ha, I have to stop planning my trips so far in advance! I've got to focus on Australia and New Zealand. Actually, I'm really excited about showing Kate around Tokyo when she flies over from Toronto in... 25 days! Woo whooo! I'm, like, sooooo out of here soon!

The Rise and Fall of a T-shirt

3.7.06
Some of my best clothing has been acquired through impulse shopping. In fact, it's reasonable to assume that almost all my clothes have been impulse buys. I think the only person I know that goes out to buy specific items is Amanda.

"Today, I'm looking for a black merino wool or cashmere cardigan that's not too long and has no neck. Preferably, it will have cute buttons and cutting edge details or a subtle pattern. I'm also looking for a pair of brown sandals that are strappy with a flat raised heel and a backing. The brown should be dark, but not too dark. Suede is okay."

After three hours of searching the mall, or at times, the city, she'll walk away having bought only a couple of pairs of socks. Meanwhile, I'll walk away with three or four bags filled with t-shirts, pants, hats, or shoes. Sigh.

On one such consumer adventure last week, Amanda and I wandered into Takeo Kikuchi -- a famous Japanese designer (apparently). I was 'only looking' and Amanda was 'searching' again. An hour of fittings and decisions later, I walked out of that joint with a new pair of pink/purple jeans and a peach t-shirt. (Don't worry, fashionistas; they're not going together!) I was suddenly less financially liquid, but more fashionably hot.

My peach TK shirt made it's debut at The Bento Boys CD release party in Uozu Saturday night.

Francie and I

I got a surprising number of compliments! Perhaps 16 or 17. Seriously! (I'm not bragging or anything...)

The party was pretty fun, at least for me (sorry Britons). Between you and me, I would say I got h-a-m-m-e-r-e-d. Beer, chuhis, red wine, tequila, whoops...

"But Chris," you say, "why would you drink red wine whilst wearing a new shirt and being slightly coordination-challenged?" Good question. My shirt would also like to know why:

Red Wine Stain
Red Wine Stains Up Close

I woke up in the morning covered in purple streaks! It was so tragic that I just had to laugh at it all. My shirt had flown too close to the sun and got burned. It was pretty much trash.

Or was it?

I figured that since my shirt was bound for the garbage bin anyway, I might as well try getting out the stains any way possible. I searched for a method to remove wine stains and found an unusual recipe. Hydrogen peroxide mixed with dish soap can apparently remove even the most stubborn stains. (Is that line copyrighted?) I decided to give it a go.

In Canada, (here we go...) we can buy litres of hydrogen peroxide at any store. Not so in Japan. After much discussion with the Kahma Home Center guy, it was decided that I should go to a drug store, maybe with my passport. Maybe they won't let foreigners buy H202 (h.p.) without proof that they are indeed foreigners. (??) It turns out I didn't need an ID to buy my ¥150 bottle of Oxydol (the Japanese name for h.p.).

Armed with a secret home remedy, I embarked on a journey into cleaning that only house wives/husbands (gotta be PC) have the stomach for. One wash and dry cycle later, it was judgement time... It worked!! The concoction totally worked! My shirt is (almost) completely free of all purple streaks and spots. Whew. I couldn't have promised myself I wouldn't buy another shirt to replace the damaged one, but now I don't have to!

So, what's the moral of this story? Don't mix red wine and expensive shirts? No. What's the fun in that? No, I think the moral of the story is this: Always trust the internet to produce the answers to life's problems.