Thursday, July 28, 2005

a great 25

25 hours of pretty good life for an English teacher in Hiroshima. Tuesday is my day off work.

A fun English lesson for my Japanese-English exchange friend at the HIC: Practicing describing people, always makes for an interesting lesson, and it is relevant for immediate future use.

Instead of our usual Tuesday night Japanese class, a social gathering for all-you-can-drink-and-eat at the Kirin Beer Garden was on for students and our sensei alike! With people from Brazil, China, Thailand, Canada, Australia, and of course Japan, we were quite a cosmopolitan bunch. I was quite surprised at how everyone was really getting into the swing of the atmosphere: sculling beer and stuffing ourselves full of food, like there was no tomorrow; language sandwiches and plenty of universal laughter.

After the feasting had finished, our gang split into home-goers, kareoke-goers and pub-goers. I think being Australian, I fell into the last category by default. The interesting challenge at the pub was teaching a game of 8-ball to a Japanese friend who'd never played before. A big thanks to Ian for giving me so much helpful advice on my game some months ago (see the bigger balls post).

On Wednesday, I had the pleasurable company of my 1st Hiroshima friend over coffee/lunch on the 3rd floor of Starbucks - sorry Melbourne coffee lovers, there's not much choice of independent cafes and I've just about burnt out the staff at the best one: blue flat cafe.

On the 25th hour, no planning was required to jump in to my first lesson of the day, a Voice class. I was most pleasantly surprised and impressed that a student had brought in a gift jar of the mighty Vegemite for me! I am totally stoked! Not only did I gratefully receive the present, but I also have clear directions and a map of where to buy more of the mighty stuff. The simple things in life... are often the best.

Monday, July 25, 2005

the way she walks

tiny heels - still look painful
dollops says:words like kaaaaaawwwwaaaaaaiiiiii!
Vernon says:Which is cute?
dollops says:yep. a staple of the japanese female vocab.
Vernon says:Thought so.
Vernon says:Cool.
dollops says:said with eyes clenched and hands waving
Vernon says:ha hah ahhaah ha
Vernon says:classic.
dollops says:toes pointed
Vernon says:Oh yeah!!!!
dollops says:shopping bag uncomfortably on the crook of the arm
Vernon says:Talk about leaning towers of footwear!
dollops says:legs bowed
Vernon says:Some ferret dog under the other arm.
dollops says:6 inch footsteps
Vernon says:and somehow not falling over!
dollops says:mobile phone on the ear
Vernon says:What a vivid picture.
dollops says:in pink

the way she works

Like your job? Love your wife?

From a series of observations and discussions with various people around, I have formed the following general opinions:
  • the family unit in Japan is more of an economical unit
  • more often than not, married couples don't actually like each other
  • men spend more of their married life with women other than their wife
  • house wives are the elite class of women
  • both men and women often work such long hours, sleep so few hours, that turning up to work tired as a dog is a norm
What do you reckon?

Friday, July 15, 2005

shapely fruits jungle

shapely fruitsAll sorts of interesting and shapely goods can be enjoyed during a shopping experience at the all new Di-a-mon-da Si-tee. You have to say it like that if you're asking for directions from any Japanese person. If you ask for "Diamond City", apparently you will receive a rather confused look, as if you've asked for directions to a nearby coffin convenience store.

As well as the never ending shopping, I think this is the local equivalent to the Chadstone shopping centre jungle back home, there's also the cinemas, and a branch of Nova just around the corner from the lingerie shop. Navigation landmarks are important if I don't want to be late for work - I've been lost there already! To get there in the first place however, I have a few options:
  • I could walk, but it might take a while... and my shoes are on the brink of death.
  • As I was advised last Sunday, one can always take the JR, (the local train) a whole 1 stop from my home station. ¥140 yen later and a 5 minute walk, hopefully not under rain conditions.
  • There's also the free shuttle bus which plonks you right at the door of the giant shopping mall, ready to shop.
  • The best non-rainy day option is to have a friend guide you and ride your bikes down a few back streets. Thanks Amanda, you're a legend.
Having arrived at work in time for a cover shift, I didn't need the spare pair of dry socks in my bag. The sloshing of swimming pools in my shoes is not on today!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

visiting the world

Okay, recently I joined the Flickr: visit the world - the travel guide group as... Well, it's free and I reckon it's a bloody good idea. The new traveling guide : Why not? Planning your trip on photos is better than on boring and insignificant descriptions. In the group discussion lies the answer that, albeit it is in my Lonely Planet phrasebook, I need to practice it (in Japanese!) a lot. May I take your picture? - seems like a simple enough phrase, right?

Free Guestmap from
Welcome to my GuestMap! Okay all you itchy-footed friends out there. Mark your location, or where you are planning your next holiday and leave a message of the utmost significance! "I so need a holiday!" - I know you don't think so!

Following the title of this post; unless you have a thing for Tom Cruise, don't waste your hard earned on the latest War of the Worlds movie - why won't Tom Cruise simply die in his next movie? What are the chances of losing him in M.I.3? If you're really into the War of the Worlds story, buy the original novel by H.G. Wells or the vivid 2 disc musical version by Jeff Wayne.

What a pity, my first cinema experience in Japan last Sunday night was a crapper of a movie. At least the company made up for it.

Monday, July 11, 2005

yellow life

yellow life
yellow life,
originally uploaded by vfowler.
My little bonsai is on the brink of death. Despite my best efforts to keep it healthy and green, it is high time to retire the little tree to ... where ever...?

I enjoy the flowers and gardens around Hiroshima, but there is no life in our apartment without some plants.

Today's purchase: a replacement healthier looking little pot plant. Maybe I should try ikebana some day...

Sunday, July 10, 2005

how convenient - a fat boy

how convenient - a fat boy
how convenient - a fat boy,
originally uploaded by vfowler.
Now this would be a cool way to get around Japan. Though as a student pointed out to me the other day, "It's too hot in summer, it's too wet in rainy season and it's too cold in the winter."

The argument continued with reasons including insurance law in Japan requiring that; in a motorcycle accident with any other (larger) vehicle, the other vehicle pays 100% of the costs. Regardless of whether the motorcyclist is at fault. I couldn't determine whether this was intended as a for or an against.

Now I have just calculated that with my current wage, including the average amount of over-time, I should be able to afford a nice motorcycle after about 4 years!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

killer kanji

KanjiDeterrents come in many shapes and forms. I've been making an effort to learn the Japanese language, nihongo. I've been sourcing the details from various references. Nothing has been more discouraging than the opinion of one brief exchange:

I was asking what a romanji word on my mobile phone means. After a tiny understanding of what the word could be interpreted as; I then heard that the language, in particular kanji, is difficult even for Japanese people!

That came as somewhat of a shock to me. How can Japanese people find their own language (one of them anyway) difficult? More to the point: why would a nation put up with a language that so many of its own people find very difficult to just read the newspaper?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

sticks training

Jen loves okonomiyaki! Yeah, I have to admit, the first time I tried eating this delicious and super -fresh meal, I was a little baffled as to the chopstick technique one should employ.

Often at home I have given up, or not even bothered with the kebab-skewer-sticks. This evening I decided to take another crack at the tools of Japanese dining. I'm not too bad until I get down to those sticky rice grains that aren't as sticky as they should be and they don't stick to my chopsticks so well...

At first I thought maybe I just need some training wheels... Well the chopstick equivalent of such: the Training Chopstick Set, why of course!

So are they really that hard to master? I mean are you going to starve if you can't eat like the locals? Liang Yu described the gadgets thus Despite their inability as a weapon for direct attack, chopsticks in fact imply a covert and internal force.
photo courtesy of Shanghai Star
Some research has concluded that more than 30 joints and 50 muscles as well as related nerves are involved in the use of chopsticks - a phenomena that exercises the nervous system and increases mental acumen.
Does that mean we can reverse the effects of excess boozing by using chopsticks?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

air bags

Howstuffworks describes how they would work for a car. The inflation system is not unlike a solid rocket booster (see How Rocket Engines Work for details). But the trusty bicycle is a formidable opponent on the streets of Hiroshima. Especially when equipped with rocket engines! I can't find helmets for sale even if I wanted to buy one. Where can I find safety while riding my humble steed? Bike-air-bags?

Monday, July 04, 2005

almost famous

When Steve and I visited the climbing gym in Yokogawa a few weeks ago, it was quite funny to have another climber asking me out of the blue if I knew Steve. She then raved on about his abilities for a few moments until I had a chance to point towards Steve around the corner. This phenomenon of being Almost Famous has recently washed over me. Ian warned me that it can work against you, especially in a small town like Kudamatsu. But hey, I'm in the big smoke here.

Late last week one of my students recognised me while I was shopping in the convenience store. I easily remembered her name, so it wasn't embarrasing, and it's a good thing for the students to realise English teachers aren't gods, but we are real people... Actually maybe that's a bad thing?

Then on Saturday I arrived in the elevator lobby with my shoes half-full of rain, ready for work. While standing there waiting for the next snail elevator to arrive, a young jail-bait girl just started chatting to me. Talking about shopping and other stuff as if we were friends from way back. You only need to take one glance, it's not hard to guess that I speak English (Australian actually is different). I put it down to just somebody wanting to practice a bit of English.

Round 3: yesterday while hunting for much needed cleaning supplies, a complete stranger who, not only new my name but also several other things about me, started a conversation with me. I didn't recognise her face whatsoever. I covered my mouth and expressed embarrasment in my eyes, while thinking Who on earth is this? She was making a tofu steak dinner, and as much as I would love that, it would be rude to invite myself!

Rock stars, English teachers, and gods - What do they have in common?

Saturday, July 02, 2005


Mini Cooper SIt seems funny how a MINI seems like a normal size car around here. Returning from this morning's Japanese language lesson, I spotted a red one zipping around in the rain. I still want one...

Meanwhile, riding my bike with umbrella in hand is pretty normal.

toilet season

Difficult as it may be, sleeping in the mid 20's I can adapt to. But the sound of a giant unflushable gurgling through the night brings new meaning to the rainy season. So much for Japanese plumbing.

Did it really seem strange that the characters couldn't sleep in Lost in Translation? No, not one bit...

Friday, July 01, 2005

another brick in the war

Pink Floyd : The WallBack in 1979, Pink Floyd may have been cranking out some great tunes, but the lyrics are still fresh in my mind. Especially after this week's activity! Occasionally the music lesson comes along and this is a great way to kill 40 minutes as I often have to define what lyrics are, and other music vocabulary.

Sarcasm is not only a foreign concept for most Japanese, it is too difficult for our students to even contemplate. As much as I'd love to, there's definitely no dark sarcasm in the classroom.

A short string of students often don't show up for their scheduled lessons. I don't know about them, but I certainly need to continue with my own education (in Japanese language). I welcome the opportunity of a spare 40 minutes to learn another Kanji character from Kanji Pict-O-Graphix: Over 1,000 Japanese Kanji and Kana Mnemonicsmy recent book purchase

Finally, no matter how flirting (or frustrating) any student may be, of course there is that strict company rule: Hey, teacher, reave those kids arone!