Tuesday, 30 September 2008

PostHeaderIcon Farewell to Capitalism.

It's strange how fast the whole world is falling apart over all this economic and financial woe. I've tried reading up on it but I'm not totally sure what is going on. All I remember from my revolutionary youth (I'm a bitter and deluded 22 year old now) is that Marx said that Communism would win in the end... in some form or another. Nah... it's just another recession and period of woe, isn't it? All thanks to a bunch of rich, city boys playing with money and a bunch of idiots borrowing way beyond their means. Is that right?

I watched some of the heads of those massive financial banks begging Congress to give them a cheeky lend of $700 billion. They were very nonchalant about the whole thing in my opinion. "Oh... we need $700 billion now or the country is going to hell. Erm... you might get some of it back. I won't even accept an increase in my salary this year! That's how committed I am."

The worldwide news is really focused on America these days it seems. I watched the Presidential debate on Saturday morning with a hangover and I was not impressed by either of them. By that I mean... I've been a fan of Obama for ages but I expected him to be a bit more informed on some things. I wanted him to deliver a 'knockout' blow on McCain as the media would say. McCain on the other hand... he came off alright considering he went absolutely mental the week before by suspending his campaign. I've found his whole campaign to be completely disgusting. I saw a youtube video of an advert the Republicans ran which pretty much called Obama a paedophile. The thing he actually approved was aimed to let children differentiate between affection/pat on the back and something more sinister.

Furthermore... I'm not even an American and I am completely appalled at the appointment of Sarah Palin as his running mate. It's not that she is totally inexperienced in all aspects but she is borderline clueless on very important issues. There is something worrying when you feel more intelligent and know more about the world/government/economy than a woman who could be President of America. Let's not kid ourselves either... I'd stick a bet on McCain dying in his first term. It was such an obvious and embarrassing political move that there isn't much else to say about it. If America elects the pair of them then I'm pretty sure the rest of the world will probably give up on them. I've always hated it when people go "Yeah... bloody stupid/fat Americans" but if the country votes for 12 years of those cretins then.... well, it's a shame.

Some other things that annoy me about listening to this election campaign:

Why do Americans insist on calling their country the greatest? I have never heard any other nationality utter it with such confidence and arrogance... apart from those totalitarian ones. I almost feel embarrassed when I hear people saying it. Salute the flag... an apple for teacher... love freedom. I mean... massive inequality gaps, racial tensions and the best goddamn health care system the developed world has ever seen.

Why do Americans think that God loves their country the most? Alright... supposing God is sitting up their in the sky and he hands out the good times to his favourite people. Why would this be America? A country that is only about 230 years old? Who did God support before this? Did he make Europe fight over him for about a millennium and then get bored? Maybe it's because they back up his own hunting ground of Israel? That's a bit of a mess now so he switched?

Anyway, enough of that for now. British politics are a bit of a dull mess just now as well. Gordon Brown won't leave, Labour are collapsing and the Tories are going to win the next election by default. Then everyone will remember why we hated them so much and Scotland will vote in favour of independence. However, it will all go to crap due to another recession and everyone in will be eating raw potatoes in holes in the ground. Not me though. I'll stay in Japan and ride the gravy train whilst writing history books with my fluent Japanese skills. I'm actually enjoying studying these days but I'm so appalling at speaking that it can seem a bit worthless.

The weather here in Kochi recently has been messing with my head. This time last week it still felt like the summer and the temperature was kicking around 29oC or so. On Friday night I went to a party with University students outside and it was actually really cold. Ever since then it has been raining and the temperature has dropped to about 20oC. That kind of change takes months back home. It's even more relevant when you live in a house that imitates the exact same conditions as outside. I've went from using the air conditioner to actually getting a little bit cold. Still, it's a nice change but I'd have preferred a nice gradual entrance into Autumn.

I'm going to Osaka on Thursday to see Radiohead. It's going to be excellent. Cheerio.

p.s I love America. It's one helluva country. Actually, my dad really does love American politics but only because he watches too much West Wing.
Monday, 29 September 2008

PostHeaderIcon Scotland: August 14th - September 1st

Hello. I've been back in Japan for just under a month now. Although time has gone fast in some regards... it still seems a lot longer than that. The memories of my summer holiday seem to have vanished as I return to the routine of my life here. Nevertheless, I'm going to try and write up about them despite my lack of desire and my seemingly new lack of confidence in writing blog updates.

I've already complained to most people about just how f**king long my journey to and from Glasgow was. I was awake for about 48 hours and ate more airplane meals and drank more coffee than I care to remember. I had terrible seating positions but I wouldn't have been able to sleep even if I wanted to. I think I was close to dying on the last few hours from Dubai to Glasgow. I was watching the plane's journey on the map and it took forever to fly over Turkey. I did have a moment of culture shock in Dubai airport as I was pushed around by a variety of arrogant nationalities and their fat, ugly children. The best moment was finding two entire stands of English newspapers... I almost cried with joy.

I was greeted at Glasgow airport with a miserable little arrivals building.. After travelling around the world in all these brand spanking places, Glasgow was kind of embarrassing. There were about 300 people crammed into one tiny corridor, one side was an escalator that wasn't working and the other people were waiting to get their passports checked by about 3 people. I was then questioned by a female police officer just at the final door:

Her: Excuse me. Can I ask you a few questions?
Me: Of course.
Her: Where have you come from?
Me: Errr.... Dubai.... well Japan... via... Dubai
Her: Can I ask why you've come to Scotland?
Me: Err a holiday I guess but... I like... live... here... I'm Scottish..
Her: I see. Can I ask why you were in Japan?
Me: Well... I kind of.... erm work there.
Her: What do you do?
Me: I guess I'm an English teacher
Her: Thank you. Enjoy your holiday.

Then I met my with my parents and my mum reacted exactly like I expected she would. The first evening really messed up my mind to be honest. I don't know how much of it was a lack of sleep but I struggled to merge these different lives in my head. The main thing was that it didn't seem strange to be home and at points I kept trying to think of things in Japan to remember that I had been away for a year. That vanished after a good night's sleep and I got back to things without any other weird mental problems.

Things that I did notice were how luxurious my wee semi-detached house appeared to me. Lying in the bath and relaxing was amazing. The water, towels and clothes were so soft and comfy as well that I don't feel even slightly embarrassed admitting it. Also, I enjoyed being able to buy lots of newspapers and being able to do things over the phone etc where I could talk in my own language with ease. I think it was the wettest August since records began but the weather was amazing since I had just come from the height of the Japanese summer. A surprising thing that struck me was just how annoying adverts in your own language can be. I wanted to strangle just about every overly pronounced Scottish accent on the radio. Also, it took me a few days to adjust to the food and at first a lot of it just tasted like the fatty crap that it is. However, I soon grew to love fry-ups, crisps, Irn-Bru and beer that isn't Asahi or Kirin.

I spent my first weekend in Fife with my mum and dad. This was a really nice time as we just relaxed and went to St Andrews for the day. The days that followed that were really miserable and depressing in retrospect. All my family and friends were at work and I went to useless doctor and dental appointments. The last year I lived in East Kilbride proper was a bit depressing and it felt like I had slotted back into that era and I didn't like it one bit. So... I quickly planned an extensive trip across Europe the following week that I'll write about later. Things in Scotland picked up again when my little brother came back from America after teaching football for a few months. Looking back at our childhood... I was the football mad athletic one whilst he was chubby, ejjit kid with a vivid imagination. Now things have reversed nooooooooooooo. I went to the football with him and my dad, had a family reunion thing in my house, went to Edinburgh for the festival... that was about that.

It was really nice to see everyone in my family but I don't really think I talked about Japan much at all. It was definitely more different for me as I'd been doing all this stuff for a year whilst they just hadn't seen me for a few months more than usual. Also, I kind of regret not seeing some friends when I was back. My time was tight and I took a rather selfish approach to my schedule. It was hard to meet up with people as they've moved all over the country and have jobs now. Still, occasionally I had to explain to people that I couldn't just swing around for the weekend because I had about two of them in Scotland over two years.

I spent the last day in Scotland at a music festival by a loch/castle a few hours up the road. I was kind of hoping it would be a nice summer's day and I could chill with my brother with a few beers. Instead, it absolutely poured down with rain and the two of us spent about 5 hours kicking about being wet, muddy and miserable. We did see a few decent bands whilst waiting on Sigur Ros but it was pretty dreich (Scots for wet/dismal). However, the sun did come out right at the end of the day and Sigur Ros were absolutely amazing. It just about salvaged the day but the pair of us were knackered from travelling and a lack of sleep. I felt a bit sorry forcing all the invites on my brother but it was a good last day. After only another few hours sleep I got up the next day and set off on my journey around the world again. It wasn't as hard a journey coming back and I felt (worryingly) at ease being back in Japan. I was glad to see my family and the whole trip proved to be an important separator between the years in Japan. Good old Scotland.

PostHeaderIcon Scotland: Pictures

This guy has a flag for every country in the world so my mum got him to put up Japan.

Crail harbour in Fife.

The ruins of St Andrews Cathedral.

I like this one. That's seagulls in the background.

With the parents.

I would love this right now. That's a "roll un square soosauge"

I would have been average height a few centuries ago.

The erm... Edinburgh Festival

Fitbaw' = Pie and a Bovril

Forced smiles no doubt.

The sun comes out at last.

I washed these and now use them as my 'indoor' shoes at school.

Sigur Ros. Excellent.
Friday, 19 September 2008

PostHeaderIcon Cogito, ergo sum

僕はあなたがよくケーキを食べると思います

After studying Japanese at a snail’s pace for over a year, I’ve finally figured how to say “I think…”. The above sentence doesn’t translate very well (if it’s even correct) but it kind of means “I think you’re a big fatty who eats cake all the time”. This new addition to my language arsenal may prove valuable in the next few months and makes me wonder if I was even thinking at all last year.

I still don’t have the internet at work and I am scared to ask because it will turn into this massive thing probably. Also, I’m putting it off because it benefits my Japanese study because there is absolutely nothing else to do. My next few weekends are being hijacked by sports days. This means that English class is a casualty to the numerous hours of practice that are required in pursuit of perfection. Actually, my next 6 weekends are pretty much decided without me realising it. I’ve got an English camp in Muroto coming up in which I give up a 3 day weekend to earn about £5 instead of going to a sake festival in Hiroshima. After that I have some fun things because I managed to buy myself a Radiohead and Sigur Ros ticket last night in the convenient store at the normal price. That was an unbelievably hard challenge in which three members of Lawson’s staff also failed miserably in trying to help me. I have a big sumo event coming up in October too and then it should be the weekend of Halloween and a big party in the city. The time is really going a lot faster this year.

What were my other short term goals? Oh yeah, I might go looking for a couch tomorrow but I’m doubting myself over it because I don’t know how to arrange everything. Also, I would rather spend all my money on travel, food and booze. I’ve got about £40 just now but I get paid tomorrow. Good old JET with their vast sums of yen for very little work in a world that is in economic woe. I managed to kill all my ants as well. Although… I did have a bird fly into my apartment yesterday. I wasn’t actually that surprised because two had flown into Noah’s last week.

It was a holiday on Monday so I spent most of the weekend eating and drinking around my half of the prefecture. We had a big karaoke night in Aki on the Friday in which everyone drank too much. I rudely discovered that a sandwich covered in mustard is horrible hangover food. Joey and Naomi (new Irish girl) spent the Saturday night at my house where we drank and chilled with a film. On the Sunday we went up for a tour of Umaji in the mountains. It was raining on the Monday so we chilled in David’s house in Yasuda where we ate pizza and played Monopoly. I totally destroyed the three of them in 20 minutes or something.

It’s strange that I’m writing about playing board games on a rainy day when I still haven’t mentioned my holiday back home. I guess it is easier to write blog entries about the present and future rather than needing to focus on your memory. I’ll write them up eventually but it might break my brain as I’m just getting used to my life here again. Yeah… old Japan ain’t so bad. I’m constantly searching for motivation and a sense of accomplishment here but I can’t deny that I have an excellent gig lined up on paper. Especially now that the world economy is turning to crap and all I have is a history degree. I’ve actually been thinking a lot about what I want to do next year because now is actually a good time to decide if I wanted to apply to anything. I’m not ruling out a third year on JET and will probably think it over for the next few months. I feel a sense of urgency and anxiety to figure out what I want to do in life but then I remember that I’m only 22 and I am in no rush at all. Indeed, if it wasn’t for… what I think is a healthy desire to continue to move on and achieve other goals…then it would make sense to stay here. However, I then remember that I am writing this at my desk near the end of a long day where I have done very little. Still… I managed to buy my tickets. Yatta.

僕は僕が人を食べないと思います = I don’t think I eat people.
僕は僕が魚を聞くないと思います = I don’t think I listen to fish.
僕は僕がすばらしいと思います = I think I’m wonderful.
Wednesday, 17 September 2008

PostHeaderIcon I can't sleep

Hello. It's 1am and I can't sleep. My floor is covered in stones from the beach and I've stupidly got them into the bed with me. I am currently looking into buying Sigur Ros and Radiohead tickets for a stupid amount each. Actually... it's almost liberating being able to spend all that money if I want. They are my two favourite bands so I dont care. However, I have no idea how to work the Japanese auction site and no idea how the payment will be made since there are no bloody credit cards in Japan. The annoying thing is I have actually went out of my way about twice for each gig and have failed miserably at numerous steps along the way. I'm also building myself to ask someone in my work to connect me to the internet and/or printer so you know... I can do parts of my job and errrr update my blog.

Oyasumi nasai
Tuesday, 9 September 2008

PostHeaderIcon Objective: Couch


I bought a new laptop when I went home because my other one died. It’s great and everything but now I’m stuck at work without the internet and my printer connection. I tried to crack into the wireless network but I’ve got no chance and I’m putting off having to ask someone. Anyway, I’m only writing this because I have an hour of work left and can’t do anything else at all. Well, I have my adult class tonight but I’m just going to make them write something whilst I go get a coffee.

I’ve been back just under a week now and I’ve found it a little difficult to slot back into my life here. It feels more normal now but for the first few days I was a bit of a confused and jet lagged mess. I still hate the weather as well and can’t wait until it turns cooler despite it being nice and sunny all the time. I think the contrast in a year has been quite apparent when I’ve been out for dinner with the new foreigners in the area. They’re really energetic and have yet to be brought down to earth by the odd bouts of frustration, isolation and the general mundane of everyday life. I was like that last year but now I’ve got one eye on what I want to do after JET and what I want to get out of the next year. I’ve decided that I like teaching when I rarely do but the continuous, long days of doing little at my desk slowly destroy all motivation. I did have two good days at the junior high school and the other staff and pupils seemed pleased to see me again. I’ve even got a few extra classes with the students with learning difficulties who are actually better at English than the majority of those in their year.

I have an awful lot to write up on about my trip home to Scotland. Also, I spent a few days travelling about Germany and France and have about 150 pictures to upload. I’ll do that when I can be bothered.

My current short term goals are as follows:

Successfully buy a Sigur Ros ticket on Saturday morning. This will be harder than it sounds.

Have my adult class translate a ‘Muji’ catalogue so I can try and order a couch. I cannot sit on the floor any longer. Also, I want to buy some bed sheets that aren’t meant for bloody futons.

For about the 3rd time this year... I’m going to start exercising more. I’ve actually decided to walk a lot more each day rather than going for the odd run. It’s much more enjoyable.

Stop ants from getting into my box of cereal.
Thursday, 4 September 2008

PostHeaderIcon Back in Japan

Hello. I got back in Japan about two nights ago after another enjoyable and sleepless journey across the world. I had a right hassle trying to find a hotel in Osaka which was a bit of a joke. For about the third time that week I had somebody look me up and down whilst judging my worth for their establishment. This time it was for some fancy hotel that was actually really crap and not that expensive. I just wanted to go to sleep so I didn't really care. They made some porter guy take my case which I always really hate so I struck up some weak Japanese banter which he seemed to like. The rich folk in these places always treat the staff like scum. Anyway, I eventually got back in my house last night and went straight out for dinner. Then I went into work... where I lasted about an hour before bailing out of there and heading to the elementary school to read my book. I've managed to go through about 300 pages of 'Glue' by Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) in about one day. I'm really enjoying it but it also means ah want tae type like this ye ken?

I'm really pretty exhausted at the moment. I'm glad the weekend is coming up because I've been travelling all over the place in the last week and a bit. I'm on a bit of a downer now that I'm back here but I'll leave it until after the weekend to see how I'm feeling. Do you remember when you were a kid and you went on an amazing summer holiday? Then those long summer nights came to an end and you were back at school. And after that first period it felt like you'd never been away from the place? Well.... it feels exactly like that. One week you're sightseeing around Europe and the next you're watching the guy next to you whip off his socks and clip his toenails over a bin.
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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.

Shashins