Friday, 29 June 2012

Brian’s misadventures in Japan



He was sitting at his desk, the little twitch in his eyebrow back. No-one was talking to him and he certainly wasn’t going to speak to them first. They could hardly understand a word he said. He couldn’t understand why, he spoke the Queen’s English and nothing but. They were probably just stupid.
Today it was the drumming outside that was making his eyebrow play up. It was beginning to give his face a sinister twisted look and he was about to ask Siri what the word for “Shut up” was in Japanese when it stopped.
“Oh thank god,” he muttered. It hadn’t taken him long to begin muttering to himself. He hadn’t noticed mind, he still thought he was being his usual subtle self. However one of the other teachers had noticed.
It was half an hour until lunch time and he wasn’t looking forward to it. Last time there’d been something slimy which had gotten stuck in his teeth and every time he’d breathed it had slapped the roof of his mouth. The muttering had been particularly audible at that moment. Brian had thought the food ridiculously impractical and clearly no-one could eat such things. 
Just as he made to mark another of the hundred letters he’d been written by students (“They are just gibberish. They make no sense at all!” Brian had muttered to himself several times in his somewhat nasal voice,) a pair of teachers he didn’t recognise came over smiling.
He never liked it when they smiled.  It made his stomach churn with unease. It usually meant they would offer him something horrible or take him somewhere nasty. He liked it as his desk, where he could pretend he was back home.  He glanced at the framed photo of the Queen on his desk. It always made his chest slacken and his nerves calm, just looking at it.
These two teachers had given him a tour of the school at the start of the year and they’d even given Brian a little sweet each as a welcome gift. He scowled at them, whoever they were.
“What?” he uttered, “What is it?” he added, remembering his manners and ever so slightly softening his tone.
He hoped they weren’t going to offer another cup of green tea. The teachers always seemed to offer it. He’d accepted the first one, because it was important to try new things and be polite. He was quite adventurous and always polite after all. It had been so bitter though. With some effort, he’d managed to swallow it, but his cheeks had turned a little red. Subtlety being his strength, he’d told them it wasn’t his cup of tea. He couldn’t understand why anyone would like it. It was horrible.
The two teachers gestured for him to stand up and follow them. He hated it when they gestured. He had ears and wasn’t an animal.
Soon he was halfway down an unfamiliar corridor and there were loud noises coming from up ahead. He could feel his bladder clenching. The two teachers were nodding, smiling and whispering instructions into his ears, but he wasn’t listening. There was no point. He was certain that their English was too poor to understand.
The noises up ahead became clearer. Clapping and cheering. A crowd. Brian began to sweat. They’d reached a curtained door and the teachers were standing on either side, gesturing for him to enter.
“Oh god.” He hissed, but his words were lost in the folds of fabric as the teachers pushed him through.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

8 new words

I'm studying Japanese (Nihongo o benkyou shiteimasu)
and I've reached a point where there are 8 brand new words that I can spell with the letters I've learnt.
There's something in me which has me lacing them together into a story, which Freud would judge, harshly.


  1. ぬぐ (nugu) to undress
  2. にっき (nikki) diary
  3. ねじ (neji) screw
  4. ねあげ (neage) a rise in price
  5. かね (kane) steel
  6. にく (niku) meat
  7. ねぎ (negi) green onion
  8. なつかしい (natsukashii) longed for, dear

Let your minds wander and I wonder if your story resembles mine in any way shape or form


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Words about Her


Haruka closed her eyes. She knew her way without looking. Her hands followed the walls of the narrow passage. They slid along the cool rocks as she went further into the darkness. This month’s sacrifice was fat and strong. Haruka had tied one end of a rope around her waist and the other around the fat offering. She didn’t want him running away and telling everyone about her. He kept digging in his heels, resisting. She bit her tongue with impatience. He was proving the biggest challenge yet.
She knew she’d bruised the sacrifice, getting him through the narrow entrance and making him follow her, but the Gods would be forgiving. They always forgave her. Of course they did. She was a good, loyal subject, after all.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Mountains and Monkeys

Today was pretty awesome and awesomely pretty.

The view from my house, containing Otouzan

It started early and by pressing the snooze button. In the town where I live and visible from my window, there's a large twin peaked mountain. Its name is Otouzan. Today, with seven others, I climbed it. I left my house at 8.15am, no skin exposed, sunglasses and a hat donned, as instructed by Kinoshita San, a local government man from my Eikaiwa. After meeting outside the town office and leaving our cars there, we headed into a part of the town I'd only driven past. It was, like every part of this country thus far seen, beautifully idyllic and utilitarian at the same time.

I knew very few of the details of what was planned, I'd mentioned climbing the mountain, kind of in passing, almost casually, but now I was on my way to do it and there were new faces all around me. I'd thought it was going to be just the two of us, but there were 6 men and a woman and they were all around 50 give or take a few decades. They were lovely, their English was quite minimal but Kinoshita San did his best to translate and he did a great job, it was nice seeing him use lots of English as he is perhaps a little shy in class. I was handed a box and a pair of chopsticks, a bottle of green tea and I smiled and arigatou gozaimasued my way through until my gratitude was appropriately conveyed. We first drove around behind the mountain, passing into really unfamiliar territory, which I should really go back to explore again, bamboo forests (Taki? or Take in Nihongo?) and the road was not one I'd like my car to go up, very very narrow and steep, over grown in places, to the extent that a window had to be wound down and a branch pushed aside.
We unloaded and headed up a watery track (which was apparently drivable too, REALLY not where I'd take my car) through bamboo and up into the mountain. The path was intermittently crossed with cobwebs which the leader often walked into (spiders and all. Quite big spiders too.)

the group of us that climbed the mountain
We reached a vantage point and for some mysterious reason the lady's umbrella (a black one with frilly edges) ended up in my hands and I was posing for a photo on the ledge with it. No idea how that happened. There were quite a few of these photos and all the men shouted "Kawaii" at me when I held it (which means cute) and they took a lot of photos of me, sometimes covertly, sometimes failing covertly, very overtly.
one of so many umbrella photos
KAWAIIIII!!!!


We ate lunch (the bento box given to me, so nice!)


the ridiculously lovely Bento



 on the next stop, another lovely view and oddly enough took more umbrella edge photos. It was a really nice day, I tried my best to mime and nod and probably mangled my Japanese and my English into a big fat mwsh.
a pretty lost sign

Then came art class, which was fun as always.

Then the Guam party. I want to go into detail, but I don't want to write an essay. There were songs, sweet letters read to Host families, dancing, songs in Guam's language Chamorro and Japanese. It was really nicely done, if only I spoke more Japanese! Well there's one way to fix that... eat chocolate... okay perhaps not. (this is unrelated but yesterday was the day Guam students came to visit Tonoshou HS and there was origami, caligraphy, badminton, table tennis and a tea drinking ceremony oh and also in between all that there was Shogi (Japanese chess) which I so beat a Japanese national at :P) There was also a lot of food, very delicious Guam food. A lot of which is now in my fridge as there were amazing amounts of leftovers. I spent quite a bit of time trying to explain Sarcasm to a Japanese person, failing somewhat miserably. 

All in all, a lovely weekend (and week) and it's not even over yet!

And in fact, let's add to it:

After a busy Saturday, Sunday started with a nice lie in, but soon sped up. There were ribbons, farewells, monkeys, peacocks, deer, panoramas and the most wonderful of gifts. Let's have a photo summary:
these beauties are noisier than I expected

some of those dastardly monkeys


ahh and so the panorama photos begin

these were endlessly fun

and remarkably side splitting/cloning.

inspired by Manisha (and the photo above)




from art class










a lovely gift. Japan really does gifts well.


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Three months

I'm approaching three months away from the UK, away from my friends and family. And away from Starcraft II. Does this count as three months "sober"? Should I get a little counter which says 3 months on it. Okay, I slipped off the bandwagon a few times, but nothing serious, just a few games online with randoms, no-one I knew. Nothing dangerous. I haven't played with William or anything. I think it's OK. The dreams have stopped, but the cravings are still there.

Oh the dreams. Maybe I'll play later.

Inspiration in a typhoon


As her mother closed the storm shutters, Haruka new now was the perfect time. She snuck out the back door and grabbed her bike. She needed to be quick and careful. Bikes and typhoons didn’t mix well, but she needed to find a boy and take him to them. It had been too long to wait just because of a silly storm. How dangerous could it be?

On the edge

As the rain starts to get heavier and heavier, I stare out of the window reflecting on my earlier decision to leave the umbrella in the car. Not my wisest move. The air's thick, well it's pretty thick in general with all the humidity (if it gets to 100% are we swimming not walking when we pass through it?) with a buzz of excitement.

There was definitely something off when I drove into school this morning. It was raining lightly, but it's rainy season. The man on the radio said lots of things I didn't understand, but one I did stood out. Typhoon.

Was I late? early? Something was amiss. There was only one kid and no sign of cars. It didn't click right away. (No, they hadn't all been blown away)

School wasn't cancelled for me, but for the students it was.

This was all explained in the morning announcement, none of which I understood. I didn't even notice the word Typhoon this time, but the English teachers explained to me afterwards which was nice. So it's on its way. A Typhoon. The school needs to be storm proofed and checked for already present storm damage.
There isn't any.

Phones keep ringing and teachers in their composed and calm way keep making other phone calls. There are no pupils yet they're all so busy. What they're doing's quite a mystery to me. There's a little excitement in it. That sadistic appreciation of scary weather. The inner storm chaser in us all is awake and ready to chase.

The storm will be over us around midnight. Will the room shake? The windows rattle? At least it should mean no mosquitoes.

The teacher beside me tells me all about the strength of winds, 50m/s, and I look a little hazy eyed. That's pretty fast. 111mph. On an island where the max speed limit is 31mph, that's going to feel a tad on the speedy side.

The rains still going, the baseball field looks sad all sodden.

I hear it'll be time to record the listening test for the san nensei (third years) later, and I can't help but imagine doing that in a really strong and fatal storm. Would be an interesting way to go.

Friday, 15 June 2012

summery summary

As a great writer once said: 


"the thing about having a blog is that you start to get very good at writings recaps" 


So here's mine (haiku poets forgive me)


Sushi, kayaking
Flowers and ribboned farewells
in Japan with spoons


Tongue twisters stupid
superstitions stupid sup-
erstitions stupid