Saturday, September 20, 2003

Sat. Sept 20, 9:30 p.m.

That translation thing with my friends on Thursday turned out to be a near-marathon session after a leisurely dinner. The Beatles articles were interesting, though. By the time we got through the 6 pages, it was about 1:30 in the morning, which meant that I only got 3 hours of sleep that night.

Which meant that I was feeling pretty groggy all day on Friday. Luckily, I only had one class in the morning. What was difficult was that I met my friend in Shinjuku to talk about a possible interpreting session late next month. The ramen was good, but at points, I was barely hanging onto consciousness. However, I was able to get through my second last Friday night session very well, thanks to a spate of good conversation.

I got a bit more sleep today though I did feel a bit out of it at times today. My kids were OK, but near the end while I was talking with their parents, Tokyo got a pretty good jolt. And apparently, it was strong enough to merit a headline on

After a long walk around the City Hall area and a bit of coffee, I headed over to Asakusa to meet some old friends from my NOVA days. I used to teach two of them when they were teenagers, and now they are much more mature adults. Ironically, both of them did their post-secondary education in England. Just as ironically, our entire conversation was in Japanese. It's interesting how the two teens turned out. One of them was a bespectacled, older-than-her-years, downright serious student, but now she's got a somewhat more girlish and giggly side to her. The other had a more perky side to her but it's become less spikier with the years. It was a pleasant time in Starbucks and then in a ramen shop with my favorite type of soup, TONKOTSU.

The rains were coming down pretty heavy today, and they should be getting worse as we get into Monday since we've got a major typhoon hitting Tokyo then. I have my regular Monday morning class and then a dinner with my oil class, so I wonder how they will turn out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Wednesday Sept. 17, 8:01 p.m.

I just read in the paper today that Mrs John Lennon still had a bit of the performance artist in her despite her age of 70. She basically had the audience snip pieces of her clothes until she was absolutely naked on the stage. Now if it had been Cameron Diaz, I would've been rather excited, but as it was, I can only say "Yoko, oh no!"

A long commute out to Yokohama again as my former Monday nighters started their new Wednesday afternoon slot. They decided to have their first class at the woman's apartment there. And I think there was a bit of a resurgence in energy so the class went well. Still, I was snoozing my way back home.

Seeing that my income will be pretty chintzy this month, I've started my diet of austerity. I managed to keep my food intake down to less than 1000 yen. For dinner, I'm having a 100 yen bag of rice crackers and peanuts. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I won't go too mad.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Tues Sept. 16, 10:15 p.m.

In the afterglow of the Hanshin Tigers' victory, there was a very sad sign of the times in Nagoya when a courier company driver went POSTAL this morning. He took several male staff members hostage for a couple of hours in the company HQ and calmly demanded that he get three months' back wages transferred to his account. Apparently, that was done and everyone except for the branch manager was let go. However, seven minutes later, the entire office exploded killing the hostage-taker, the manager and a police officer, along with injuring 41 people. Apparently, the disgruntled driver had poured gasoline all over the floor in the barricaded meeting room.

I checked my pay today which finally showed up in my bankbook. Apparently, I'll be on daily rations of bean sprouts and tofu for the next month.

I've got a couple of friends coming over on Thursday. It'll be nice to see them but I'll have to do some major cleaning before I take off for my Jiyugaoka class tomorrow.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Monday Sept. 15, 9:33 p.m.

I often like to think of my little blog as the written ID to my EGO, so I would like to say that I was somewhat pissed off when I found out that the Starbucks that I use as my classroom for my Wednesday nighter was closed due to the holiday. But I wasn't as miffed at The Coffeehouse That Seattle Built as I was at my student who, for some unfathomable reason, didn't answer her cellphone despite multiple attempts. This meant that I had to end up sitting on a ledge in front of a bush for an hour instead of either canceling the class or making better arrangements. When she did come, she gave profuse apologies that she hadn't noticed her phone. Maybe she was busy at work, but I thought those bloody things rang at a loud enough volume and vibrated hard enough to qualify as a sexual aid. She was lucky that I was able to hold it in and cool off by the time she came by.

Well, at least we could actually take a look at the Hotel Okura, one of Tokyo's premier hotels which just happened to be close by, right beside the US Embassy. I must admit that the decor had the ambience of modern Japan....circa 1960, but the staff is super polite and friendly. I can't damn them for that. After a mini-odyssey trying to get to the South Wing, we made it to a cafeteria inside the hotel which also had that 60s feel. Again, super polite service with a bunch of well-heeled old folks as customers. There was one old guy by our table who evidently thought that 200 decibels was the customary volume to speak, but since my student and I had become accustomed to working during the operation of the Starbucks coffee grinder, it was OK.

Practically speaking, we could really only comfortably afford the desserts, and I must admit that it was the first time that I had a dessert that looked like something that often pops up on TV on a gourmet show. My dish was some sort of American Pear soaked in red wine on top of a slab of vanilla mousse with an almond-shaped scoop of sorbet ("sherbet" sounds too mundane for this place) on the side and the whole thing was ringed by raspberry sauce. Not cheap by a long shot but delicious enough.

The two of us managed to chat on a number of things, including one on ugly Japanese in hotel restaurants. For some reason, she's had recent experiences in these establishments in which the person sitting at the next table always seemed to harangue the staff for some sort of faux pas. Of course, such a scene makes the dining experience a very poor one for the surrounding guests, but naturally the complainant doesn't really care at that point. I surmised that exemplary service is such a thing to be taken for granted that when there is a mistake made by a waiter or waitress, the offended customer takes it that much more personally in a "Why me?" way that he basically loses it. Also those restaurants attract a client of a certain tax bracket which means more demanding folks which can include snooty celebs or even worse, members of the yakuza. My student remarked that the people who had sat next to their table had that somewhat organized crime feel to them, so she was relieved that her superior, despite her anger at them, held her tongue. The talk certainly made me reconsider whether I should dine in these fine restaurants or have a more peaceful time with room service.

After 18 years, the Hanshin Tigers of Osaka won the Central League championships. The Tigers are kinda like the perennial sad sacks of baseball with the loyal loving fan base. The Toronto Blue Jays certainly could sympathize during their first decade in the majors. However, the Tigers fans are a die hard, almost rabid, lot. Being Osakan, the fans are a lot more looser with their emotions and more loyal to their baseball team than, say, the more straitlaced Tokyo Giants fans. They drink hard, they cheer hard, and they sing their fight song, "Rokko no Oroshi" just as hard.

As I said, the Tigers have been the perennial doormats of the Central League so when they do win big such as they did tonight, Osaka and the Kansai area declare a mini-holiday. The manager of the team, Hoshino (a man who's often been called a thug for his very spartan tactics), go t the customary DO-AGE, or fling up into the air by the players on the pitcher's mound. No matter how he's seen, right now, he's the man of the hour.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Monday Sept. 15, 11:25 a.m.

BREAKING NEWS! Ben and Jen break up! Film at 11! Oh, the infamy, the tragedy....the stupidity! Well, I caught this one on CNN just now, and the talking heads were just barely rubbing their hands with glee. Apparently, there's no real love lost with Jennifer Lopez since she has exercised such diva-like behaviour. I don't what it is about these female celebs which makes them act so bratty. Lady Jen wants her tea stirred counter-clockwise every time?! Boot to the head!

Aside from that rant, I've had a pretty quiet weekend. Today is Respect-for-the-Aged Day in Japan, so it's a national holiday here. However, I still have one class to teach tonight, my regular Wednesday nighter who is actually one of the relatively few people who does have to work.

I took a call from...well, I can't really say friend, to be perfectly honest. He is a former student from a few years back, and although he doesn't intend to do it, he has managed to annoy a number of people. It can't be helped...he's a bit slow if earnest but he just doesn't know how and when to interact properly. Since his graduation, he's managed to keep in contact with me for the past few years. He had kept in contact with a couple of other teachers but those folks finally couldn't take him calling anymore so one changed her number, and the other escaped when he returned home.

He has a penchant for calling once in a while. I usually screen my calls so I know when he calls up since he never leaves a message. All I get is the three rings and then the busy tone on the machine when he hangs up. What is so bad about this guy? Well, he's not that bad but he just talks on some of the most insignificant stuff. Y'know, from his talks, I've realized that most callers have a reason to call or they want to know how I'm doing. I think part of it is because he wants to practice his English, and I can't damn him for that, but when he just prates on and on about stuff that really has no connection with anything. A couple of years ago, I had to read the riot act to him when he called me up close to midnight after I had gone to sleep; so he's better on timing now. Still, if I don't feel like picking up the phone, I just let him give his three-ring-and-a-busy-tone message. The problem is that he does this three times on that night.

Madonna? Author of children's books? French-kissing Britney Spears? Uh-uh...not near my non-existent kids.