*lots to catch up on: long post alert!*
I hope the start of 2009 finds all you lovely people healthy, happy and optimistic for the year ahead. As for myself, this year promises to be one of many challenges and opportunities, to put it as optimistically as I can. I will be going back to Japan in two days time and from then on, I will not see England's green and pleasant land until August: 7 solid months of hardcore Japtasticness. I have exams starting on the 9th of January, but once I finish my exams and hand in my final projects for the year on the 15th I'll have no more classes until some time in March/April time. During the intervening Spring Break I have a little skiing holiday planned, followed by extended visits from both my older brother and my parents. With a bit of luck I might injure myself horrifically during the skiing, so that when my family come to visit they will have to spend their entire time nursing a cripple.
I am back in lovely, lovely England - that most wonderful of countries where everything is bloody amazing and I am deliriously happy every single day. Nothing makes you appreciate home like spending 3 months in a different country. Well, spending 7 months in a different country will probably have the same effect, but 3 months was quite enough. It's the little things that you come to miss: pubs where people don't look at you strangely if you just want a pint with no food; saying "thank you" to the man in the shop when you buy a paper (in Japan this is considered very strange behaviour); holding the door open for someone (also considered somewhat deviant in Japan); reasonably priced beer, taxis and pub grub; Wi-Fi. All these simple, everyday things which we take for granted in England are either incredibly rare or considered strange and freakish in Japan. Returning to England every little thing is a new and exciting treat for me.
Of course, you also miss your home, family and friends when you are spending a long time abroad, probably more than you miss wireless internet, but that's to be expected really.
Oh, and cheese.
So, what do I miss about Japan when I'm in England? Well, I'm not sure if I really 'miss' much, but I suppose there are things in Japan which I will be glad of when I have them again. For example, my daily Fibe Mini - a fibre supplement drink that looks and tastes a bit like Irn Bru, without which, and thanks to the sudden dietary shift from brown rice and vegetables to meat and cheese, my daily motions have become increasingly traumatic. There's also the gym - the gym at my Uni in Japan is actually remarkably crap, low-tech and badly equipped, but it is on-campus and, most importantly, completely free so I actually manage to go pretty regularly. This will hopefully be a great help with my New Year's resolutions.
Speaking of which, it would probably be appropriate for me to put forth some New Year's resolutions. Usually they just float around my head vaguely and I can conveniently forget/ignore them as I fail them one by one, so I'll put them in writing this year. This way everyone will know exactly how I fail to live up to my own expectations.
This year's resolution, I suppose, is probably going to be the same one which I have failed at each year for the past 5 years: sort my life out. When I told this to Jethro, he told me that, as far as he could tell, my life seems pretty well in order and doesn't need too much sorting out. Upon further consideration I had to concede that this was probably true, and I do in fact worry too much about the state of my life. Nonetheless, there are a few key points about which I have long wanted to make some changes, so I suppose 'sort my life out' can be divided into the following sub-resolutions:
- Study more, work harder, be less lazy
- Drink less booze, less often and be less drunk all the time
- Exercise more, eat properly, lose loads of weight
4. Have more sex (perhaps a slightly strange New Year's resolution and not directly linked to 'sorting my life out', but hey, there it is)
So those are my New Year's resolutions, and they have been my New Year's resolutions pretty much every year for the last three or four years. Every year I make these promises to myself and, virtually without exception, fail at them all to varying degrees. This is probably because none of them are particularly easy, they are all very vague, and they pretty much require sweeping changes to all aspects of my lifestyle, so perhaps I ought to go for a single, simpler, more attainable and measurable resolution, for example:
5. Read a Japanese newspaper every day (while I'm in Japan)
Which is something I can actually conceivably achieve to some reasonable degree. So, actually, while I have certainly considered lots of New year's resolutions I don't actually seem to have settled on a single one to actually stick to. Oh well, I guess I'll just do my best. Or at least がんばります, which is almost the same as doing my best, but it actually just means 'persevere' with no implication that I will do well; just that I will continue struggling along even with no hope of success.
Right, now I'm going to try to tell you about all the stuff I've done since my last post, but my last post was 3 and a half weeks ago so this is going to take a long time. Also, as I can scarcely remember what happened 3 weeks ago, it might be a little hazy.
3 weeks ago I was still in Japan. Apart from a History exam for which I didn't study properly, but still expect to get at least 80%, the only events of note, as far as I can remember, were a couple of Birthday parties and a Christmas party. The first birthday party went along the usual formula - we went for a meal with 2 hours all-you-can-eat-and-drink followed by going to Hub, the English Pub (as usual). This party was pretty fun, but only really notable because of the fact that I actually succeeded at catching the last train home and finding my way successfully to my own bed without mishap.
The Christmas party was good fun too. There was a formal dress code at the restaurant (all-you-can-eat-and-drink for 2 hours) so I got to get all nicely dressed up in my smarts.
Here is a nice(ish) picture of me and my friend Kaleb
We both own pink phones and we work out together a lot. If I didn't know I wasn't gay, I would probably think we were gay together, but I know I'm not gay, so I guess we're probably not gay together after all. All the Japs think he's gay, and he gets very pissed off at them. His catchphrase is "I hate this frickin' country", so we have a lot in common. (Not gay).
My catchphrase, incidentally, is "God, what a dreadful country populated by awful, awful people."
The following day it was Byeolyi's birthday (one of the cool Koreans at my school). We went for Thai food (2 hours all-you-can-eat again, although this time only one drink was included), and I actually abstained from drinking altogether. Aren't I just the very model of temperance and moderation?
The next day was my last day of school. I had my history final in the afternoon, after which Kaleb and I went to the Centre for International Studies to check for the fourth time that we definitely didn't need to get a re-entry permit before we left the country for Christmas. We had each independently come to the office to inform them that we were going home for Christmas and ask them about re-entry permits on more than one occasion, and we had both been assured that no, we didn't need to do anything else or get a permit, it was fine, just come and let them know when we got back to the country. However on this occasion, the day before Kaleb was flying home and 2 days before I was to, they suddenly realised that, oh shit, actually we do need to get a re-entry permit before we leave the country, otherwise we invalidate our visas and won't be allowed back in.
Actually they weren't even as helpful as that. They just looked panicky and confused and said "Yes you definitely do need re-entry permit. Very important. What? You fly tomorrow? Oh, maybe you don't need one. Hmmm... It's okay, you don't need one. Should be okay. You be okay." Which was actually entirely not true. We very much did need re-entry permits, but the Japanese compulsion not to be confrontational or tell someone they have done something wrong obliged them to simply lie to us and say that we'd be fine. An entirely unhelpful way to deal with problems.
So, stressed and anxious about our re-entry permits, Kaleb and I proceeded to Hub, the English Pub for some conciliatory Gs&Ts (happy hour G&T still a pretty good price, despite the exchange rate). The more astute among you may be noticing a certain theme of Hub, the English Pub developing in this blog. I don't actually like the place all that much, and their beer is unfeasibly expensive (actually about normal by Tokyo standards, but extortionate by UK prices), but somehow we end up going there almost every time someone wants a drink, largely because their happy hour last for 3 hours and offers £1.50 cocktails.
At the Hub we rendezvoused with Haneul (Korean girl), Alex (American gay) and Alex's brother and friend of brother (American young people) and decided, after happy hour, to go do PuriKura which is basically fancy photo booths which take 'amusing' pictures of you and your friends. I might go into more detail on the subject at a later date but for now I'll just show you the finished product:
Believe it or not, only one person in this picture is gay. (It's not me).
Anyway after purikura we shook off the Alex and his harem, acquired an Australian girl, Tessa, and spent an amazingly pointless hour or two wandering around trying to find somewhere to drink, by which time Kaleb had sobered up enough to realise that he couldn't afford to drink any more, so we ended up just going to Wendy's for a burger. For some reason I felt compelled to order the Super Mega Wendy's Monster Burger or whatever it was called (basically a triple bacon cheeseburger type thing) which, to make it even worse, comes with a free upgrade to large-size fries and soda. I quickly realised that I did not want to eat this much burger and chips, but a misplaced sense of pride/honour/frugality/greed forced me to consume the entire meal, leaving me feeling extremely unwell.
*parents and family members: skip the next part*
It was at this point Tessa, who incidentally is the girl I asked out a couple months ago and was rejected by, asked me if I wanted to go round to her room to watch Love Actually, share a bottle of white wine and, quite possibly, spend the night. Presumably she had some kind of amorous advances in mind (or just thinks I'm gay), but I had literally eaten so much that I couldn't face it. I had somehow eaten my way out of pulling.
This is just another example of my extraordinary talent for not having sex. There have been a surprisingly large number of occasions when a woman I fancy has been trying to get me into their bed and I have somehow ended up accidentally talking my way out of it. It's like some kind of strange affliction. I think I might be under some kind of malignant curse, although I can't specifically remember pissing off any evil witches recently.
So I went home clutching my stomach and sat around thinking about how I could have got laid.
2 days later it was Christmas Eve and I was on my way home.
I realise that I haven't even got as far as me leaving Japan yet, and I've at least another two week's festive frivolities to fill you all in on, but I feel as though this post has been going on for an awfully long time, and as my tale seems to have reached a natural break, I felt I might just take a little break as well - It's hard work this blogging malarkey, you know. I started writing this at half five and it's now about ten o'clock, so I think I deserve a little bit of a rest, don't you?
I'll try to do another one tomorrow or, failing that, soon after getting back to Japan, to let you know what I did over Christmas (even though most of you, being my friends and family, will already know what I did over Christmas, as you were probably there. Still, it might be amusing for you to read about things you personally witnessed or even participated in from someone else's point of view).
But before I go, I shall deal with a question which a few people have asked me regarding the Japanese children's television program Pitagora Suicchi.
Hopefully some of you will remember the video I posted a while ago of various opening sequences for Pitagora Suicchi with the amazing marble rolling aparatus. Here's a brief reminder for those of you who missed it (sorry for the horrible sound quality):
Well, a couple of my friends asked me what the actual content of the TV show was: was it just half an hour of improbable marble rolling? Well, no. The show is made up of various short sequences which are very diverse and as far as I can tell the only thing they have in common is that they are all works of utter genius. Here is one of my favourites: The Algorithm March. I watch this almost every morning before school and I think it is the sole thing which enables me to cope with life in Japan.
I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did.
Farewell all, and I'll hopefully be updating this again very soon.
Season's greetings and much love,