Thursday, 30 August 2007

PostHeaderIcon Och aye the noo

I haven’t updated my blog in a week eh? Time certainly does fly over here in hot and humid Kochi. I thought about updating once of twice this week but I’ve been in and out of bad moods so I thought I’d put it off until I wasn’t grumpy. The main thing that has been annoying me is the monetary woes back home. My bank account had to be closed so all that money is frozen just now. Signing up to transfer money home takes ages and I still need a valid bank account. I’ve got rent and stuff to pay back home that I can’t do and it makes me feel like a dodgy bloke running away from debts. Also, the same day last week I found out my mum had broke her foot which kind of sucked but it turns out my parents can still go on holiday which is good. They’ve been taking care of the bank crap back home too and dad and I have had great fun trying to work out how fax machines work again. Coupled with the fact it’s so bloody warm and I’m sleeping badly means I’ve been slightly moody all week.

Random picture to add colour

However, last weekend was pretty awesome fun and took my mind of everything until Monday morning. On the Friday I went into Kochi City to buy some stuff that I needed and ended up buying a pretty sweet but reasonably priced guitar. Since I can’t really do anything with my money I decided I might as well spend it like the free loading scumbag did with mine back home. I bought some ‘Isle of Jura’ single malt in a liquor store too and it was half the price than it is in Scotland. I’m quite proud that I managed to smash neither whilst running for the train and then returning from Aki City drunk the following night clutching both.

On the way back from Kochi me, Noah, Matt and Andrew met up in their neck of the woods for some dinner. This slowly evolved into a drink or two which then ended up with us all getting really drunk and playing Tekken 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 – I just call it Street Fighter like the old Sega Mega Drive days. The following morning was baseball day woo yeah “We want a pitcher not a belly itcher”, The Simpsons has taught me everything. Andrew had organized for all the local JETs to swing by (boom boom) Aki stadium to watch the Hanshin Tigers play Hiroshima – although it was the wee diddy versions. I was quite excited at first and impressed with the speed and distance of the pitch but that soon wore off under the heat of the sun. I think the players got bored and EVENTUALLY after about 3 and a half hours later the Tigers were beaten by 4-3. The best part was me got to blow up massive balloons and release them into the air during the 7th inning WOO YEAH BALLOONS. There were no hot dogs.

That evening once again evolved and turned into dinner + karaoke + bar = drunk. It turns out that karaoke is awesome fun (especially with lots of beer) and even if you can’t sing it doesn’t matter. Andrew and I were awesome at the Arctic Monkeys/The Killers, Joey (new ALT from Muroto) and I had some outstanding duets going on and Yasuda David and I gave a beautiful rendition of ‘Wonderwall’. ‘Pretty Vacant’ by the Sex Pistols didn’t go down as well as I’d hoped though. Oh yeah, the girl’s name I couldn’t remember was Marika/Mareka and she was fun and pretty good at karaoke. The last few hours were spent piling into a quiet bar and bringing the place to life with our loud gaijin (foreign person) ways. I remember we had everyone singing Bohemian Rhapsody and… Heeeeh Macarena.

Also, I have a bike now. I went for a cycle along the coast to Yasuda and watched the sunset the other night. It was really relaxing and I posed for some pictures that I will load up eventually. I remember thinking “Hey this is so great; I’ll just cycle everywhere now”. I burst the back tire on the way home.

Although I’m meant to be buying a car tomorrow afternoon nicknamed ‘Eileen’. I said I’d keep the name despite the fact it reminds me of Dexy’s Midnight Runners and their dungarees. Actually, I have the same kind of shirt they used to wear.

Work finishes pretty soon so I’m going to wrap up my stream of consciousness. We’re playing indoor football tonight which I’m looking forward but I just found out I can’t attend the BIG football festival in 2 weeks time. It turns out it is the Junior High sports day that weekend so I need to turn up and wave. “Yeah, great running kids. I could be playing on a pitch England trained on for the World Cup yaaay”. Ah well, that’s why I get paid.

P.S I was asked about a Scottish saying to teach the kids. I scanned for some clean ones but everything I said was just in a different accent. So pushed into a corner I panicked and went "Och aye the noo". They found it great and I wept inside. I'm sorry Scottish people, I shall set it right.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

PostHeaderIcon I'm rich for the first tim... oh damn

I got paid quite a lot of money the other day for not a lot of work. This pleased me until someone robbed me back home. I’ll get onto that in a minute.

Last night I went to an informal Japanese class with David from Yasuda. Ironically it was run by Kondo sensei who is one of MY students from my advanced English class. I learnt a few useless things about hiragana (mainly that my reading is woefully slow) and a phrase or two. On the way home we stopped in at his place as Nahari David was celebrating with the Japanese girl Yasuda David lives with as she had just past a driving test thing. I’ve forgotten her name but she was a good laugh and spoke excellent English with a twist of an Aussie accent. I’m always forgetting names these days even though I’m usually quite good with them. I think it’s because I’m focusing on processing and pronouncing all these new foreign names that when it comes to remembering them my brain breaks.

Yesterday I sent some emails back home trying to organise paying off the last of the rent from my flat last year. I got one this morning from my parents that suggested there had been some dodgy business going on with my bank account last week. A few hundred quid had been used to buy some stuff even though I’ve been living away in Tano with my debit card in my wallet. They’ve obviously gotten my details from somewhere and used them to purchase stuff off the internet. I’m slightly confused as to how this happened as I tear up every single bank statement into a thousand pieces, set them on fire and then throw the ashes into a lake. Secondly, I’ve never let the card out of my sight when I used it so that no freeloader could try and steal all my lovely details. FURTHERMORE! I’ve been away for almost a month now so someone must have had the details for a certain amount of time and then used them.

So it has been a bit of a crappy day so far. It was interesting explaining to the office the concept of credit card fraud because a) Japan is a cash society and nobody uses them and b) People don’t tend to steal as much here (generalisation warning).

To try and sort the situation out I’m attempting to establish this GoLylods thing which will allow me to send money home and pay the rent but I need to jump through more hoops and waiting periods for that too. The exchange rate is bloody woeful too. Damn you pound sterling, damn you to currency hell.

On the upside I had an exceptionally nice peach yesterday.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

PostHeaderIcon Pictures!

I've yet to master the art of uploading/linking/commenting on the pictures etc but you get the idea. If you click on my Flickr account to the right then you'll see some more pictures with comments and all that jazz.

PostHeaderIcon Bad Japan: Spiders


In all the excitement of yesterday’s mammoth blog update I forgot to mention the worst thing that happened in the past week. I returned home from the orientation late in the evening so my apartment was pitch black. I took off my shoes and leaned across to turn on the light. The neon bulb flickered on and off for a few seconds, illuminating the entrance enough for me to notice something on the wall. My eyes took awhile to adjust before the full horror was unleashed…. A SPIDER.

I leapt back into my shoes and ran out the door. In the initial rush of fear I had forgotten that in order to get spray I had to walk past it again, so off with the shoes and into the kitchen. Along with the spray I picked up my massive “Team Taught Pizza” manual and got ready to kill my nemesis. As I was sizing up my foe from a distance, Noah from next door swung by to pick up some DVDs. He mocked my irrational fear.

When I first went to smash it into little bits it ran away so quickly I was almost in tears. I swear I have never seen anything move that fast. Things started to get desperate so I used the bug spray BUT that only antagonised it so now I had an angry, lighting fast spider running about my floor. When it started to JUMP about I nearly passed out but I saw my opportunity when it started to climb my balcony window. With words of encouragement (ie “HIT IT NOOOW”) from Noah I swung with all my might and nearly broke the whole window.

Craig 1 v 0 Work of Satan

P.S I’m going to try and upload some photographs now. I don’t have one of the spider but trust me it was the size of your head.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

PostHeaderIcon Work finishes in exactly one minute

Hello! Tuesday afternoon seems to be evolving into the lazy period where I can update my blog. This morning I managed to connect my laptop to the Board of Education LAN after my basic computing knowledge managed to crack the numerous (Japanese) codes. So now I have a more reliable source to work/study/be lazy hurrah. I might even be able to upload some pictures.

I must warn you that before I start this recent entry I am starting to feel pretty knackered so my spelling and grammar might make a bad bad. Ironic since I’m here to teach English.

I can’t remember what I last talked about so I’ll begin with last weekend. Noah and I went with the new JETs from Aki City (Andrew and Matt) to Kochi City for more of the dancing festival (I think it’s called yosakoi). On the Sunday morning I had just awoken when Noah convinced me to hike up a mountain to visit one of the 88 temples found on our island of Shikoku. We had to rush for the train so I had no breakfast or even a drink, a decision that would come back to haunt me. At the conbini (convenient store) I quickly grabbed what I thought was a Danish pastry or something but turned out to be a cold hot dog which tasted foul. So off I went hiking… with no food/water in 35oC.

It turns out we picked the wrong bloody path and after about 45 minutes we reached a wall of trees, mocking us with their treeness. We headed back down the path of despair and thought we had discovered a shortcut across a small valley. We contemplated jumping but they were only the crazy thoughts of desperate men. Also, we saw a spider in the bushes and ran away.

When we reached the bottom I was dehydrated and gave up. I had a blinding headache and passed out in the train station, sulking at my weakness whilst that crazy American climbed the real path until about 5pm at night. I found out the other day that it is apparently the toughest hike out of all the 88 temples. Although in theory I didn’t hike a single metre of the true route.

The first half of the week was mainly work but I did get a mobile phone (keitai) which does some fancy stuff. You can email it actually at and I can reply woo exciting.

Wednesday night was the town festival and I had to do a few things in my position as the new ALT. Firstly I danced in the yosakoi with wooden clappers and bright clothes etc. Then I had to go onstage and introduce myself and the female host just went “KURA… KURAZY KURAZY haha” – I’m now going to use my surname. Although after that I did get to throw thousands of rice cakes to the crowd which was fun. I kept trying to throw them to all the small kids at the front but all these middle aged women smashed them out the way. I even managed to hit a mother and child right in the face. That’s 100 points.

Thursday and Friday were taken up by the Kochi Prefecture orientation in the city. It was slightly more useful than the ones in Edinburgh/Tokyo but it was mainly an excuse for everyone to go out and get drunk. I met more new JETs who had the same reaction to my name/being Scottish but it was nice to meet some other people.

On Saturday I went to the local barber who looked terrified at the prospect of cutting my hair. I can’t blame him since even back home everyone goes “Aye that’s a right thick curly heid you’ve got pal”. Poor local barber, only trained in straight/light black hair and not this dirty foreigner stuff. We had some good banter going despite our limited language but then he gave me a shave and made me lose about a pint of blood. It was a damn good shave though. I got a free comb too.

That evening the Tano/Aki/Nahari/Yasuda guys went up to Kitagawa for their festival. We were helping (ie eating and drinking) the CIR up there called Nick with his Aussie sausage stand. We then went back to his creepy empty ex-school dormitory house for some drinks and drunken chat/poker. It was a damn fine night with a good crowd but the following morning I had to play football (soccer/sakka blah blah) with a hangover. We got mauled 5-0 but I didn’t do as woeful as I had feared and had a good few runs/chances. I got sunburnt.

I think that’s everything for now. There’s probably more I could type about as I seem to be up to something all the time. I’m still studying Japanese but it’s hard to tell how well I’m progressing at the moment. I still find myself lost in every conversation and then people look at me for an opinion. Also, I need to start preparing for lessons and my adult class which start soon… speak of the devil. I just got given the leaflet that is getting sent to everyone in Tano regarding the adult English classes. I’ve never looked more like a sweaty, hairy barbarian in my life.

My message is in Japanese and reads “How do you do? It’s nice to meet you”. That gets me through everything. Even better is simply “Yes” and “I’m sorry”.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

PostHeaderIcon An update of sorts

Ahoy hoy

I`ve been neglecting my blog ever since I left the land of Scotlando 2-3 weeks ago. I was exceptionally busy in Tokyo and I`m now finding it hard to get on the internet here in Tano (the kanji means rice field paddy field woo). I`m at my desk at the Board of Education and it`s now late afternoon after a long day so I`m being a bit lazy on the internet. Sadly this is the slowest machine in the world and has literally taken all afternoon to log in.

To Tokyo - I was 8kg over my weight allowance despite my bathroom scales LIES. I had to pay 5kg extra which was about 200 quid (I cant find the pound key). I was so stressed I didn`t care. Fast forward 20ish hours and I get to Tokyo to be told "Mr Hanta your bags not arrive, please go here". Not the best welcome I could have hoped for and I paid 200 quid for it!

Tokyo - One case had turned up so I had all my smart clothes with me at least. Most of those few days remain a blur due to the jet lag but I remember it being fun. On the last night the cool Edinburgh types went to the (very colonial and grand) British embassy and met the ambassador and such. Then we went to that bit you always see on TV with the big billboards and busy crossings.

The first bit of culture shock came when Americans/Aussies/South Africans couldn`t understand a single word I said. Most replies were "Whadya say?", "Are you... Irish?" and my personal favourite in reply to "I`m Scottish" was "Hop...scotch? Like the game?". Also, nobody outside of Scotland can pronounce `Craig` the good Scottish way. One Aussie girl who helped me get my lost case thought I said `Albert` when I told her my name. Sadly the Japanese of my name is KU-RE-I-GU and it`s just as much trouble.

Tano - So we flew into 35oC Kochi wearing full suits and met all our supervisors. I wasn`t on my own though because the new CIR (someone who knows Japanese and isn`t a useless Arts graduate) was starting the same time as me. Infact he`s sitting across from me now getting stuck into scary looking kanji. Anyway, his name is Noah and he`s from Iowa in America. So we both met our supervisor called Chika Takano who is really nice and helpful. She`s only 22, likes Oasis and wears converse to work. It sums up the kind of friendly and laid back attitude our prefecture seems to have.

We went for an Indian meal straight from the airport which was strange. They were asking me "Is there anything you don`t eat Kureigu?" beforehand and I was all "Nah nah" because I quite like Japanese food and was expecting sushi etc. Sadly I really don`t like Indian because all the spices make me ill and swell up my whole head. So that was pretty unlucky on my part but it turned out to be nice. I also got my first taste (boom boom) of sitting at a table and not knowing a single thing going on. Luckily Noah acts as translator for all the important stuff.

Man, I`m writing loads and its probably a mess due to the dodgy keyboard. To fast forward every so slightly. Our apartments are huge, furnished and FREE and the town is pretty small but is pretty well serviced with new supermarkets/drug store/train station. Everyone in the office is very friendly too and we`ve already introduced ourselves to most people in the schools/towns so we`re probably well known now.

There was a typhoon the second/third day here and I didn`t have a jacket.
We met some other JETs near us and they seem pretty cool.
We had a welcoming party (enkai) and they "made" myself and Noah get pretty drunk.
We went to the dancing festival in the city over the weekend too and met some other JETs.
I now know how to read Hiragana and Katakana which are these にいチニイ but I don`t know what any of the sounds mean yet. Last night on television I saw a quiz of Japanese people guessing what many kanji meant. These are the Chinese pictographs (I think thats the term) and there are thousands of them apparently. ANYWAY, this was a show quizzing grown adults on their own language! What chance does poor old Albert Kureigu have?
I might tidy this up at a future date and add all my pictures but it`s back to work for now.
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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.