Friday, September 30, 2005


The weather has finally cooled down a little, and about time, too.

Yesterday morning when I got to the station, I looked down and discovered I was wearing shoes. I was astonished. I could have SWORN I had put on my boots. How did that happen? I'd had no intention of wearing those shoes. They are scruffy, and not very comfortable when I'm on my feet all day. I didn't have time to go back to the house and change, and spent the day being aware of my feet.

Classes went all right, but I HATE these five o'clock risings.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


On Friday a man from Missions to Seamen is coming to the house to take away my books. I have far too many books, and they take up too much space. I have decided to be ruthless, and have told The Man to just send all the cartons I've been piling up downstairs to be sorted one day. I have no time to sort them. They're all going.

He has been taping up the cartons and getting them ready for collection. Some of them are piled up by the front door already. I don't know how many there will be. More than twenty cartons. I don't want to count them. I am trying to ignore them.

Yesterday, as he was repacking some of the cartons, he called,

"I think I saw a Doris Lessing book in one of those boxes. Don't you want to keep those?"

"YES!" I shouted. "Which box?"

"I think it's that one. Or maybe that one."

I ripped off the tape and opened the cartons, and looked through. Immediately a little voice in my head started. Ooh! This is a good book! Maybe I'll read this one again... and look! Do I really want to get rid of this one? These are GOOD BOOKS. Do I really want to give them away? Are ALL the cartons like this, so full of good stuff?

Suddenly I wanted to throw myself on the piles of cartons, screaming, "NO! NO! DON'T TAKE THEM AWAY! STOP! THESE ARE MINE! MINE! MINE!"

Then got a grip on myself and put them all back. The Doris Lessing was not there, but The Man found it for me in another carton. I kept only that one. I also still have a lot on my bookshelves, the only ones I actually sorted. I kept about a quarter of those.

I'm grateful to The Man for doing this. I never open these boxes, normally. They just sit there, taking up space. Lots and LOTS of space. As the books are getting packed away and put aside, the house keeps getting bigger.

But I'm glad The Man is packing the books, and not me. If I were packing them the job would never get done. I would start reading and wondering if perhaps I should keep this one, and that one, and ...

But I wonder if any of those missing Leslie Thomas books are in those cartons? I can't go through them to find out. I couldn't bear it. And anyway, The Man would kill me if I untaped any more of those carefully packed cartons.

I have to stop thinking about this now.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Computers and cows

Last night I had computer problems. It is so long since I had computer problems that I had forgotten the usual troubleshooting procedures. As it turned out it was not a problem I'd ever had before, and I had to do a power reset. I didn't know how to do this at first, and have lost the manual for the computer. I never need it.

The Man found instructions on the web, and hit the power reset button. The computer turned itself off. For a panicked moment I thought he had killed my computer, because it had been stopping halfway through starting up, and I couldn't turn it off at all before. I could only restart, and have it freeze halfway through the process. But then I turned it on again and EVERYTHING WAS FINE. HALLELUJUH! EVERYTHING WAS FINE!

(I really thought it was the end of my computer there for a couple of hours.)

Today I was reading the student homework I was worried about last week. I have marked more than half of them already. (Ha! No need to panic about that, either.) The students were writing about what they did in the summer vacation. None of them had as good a time as I did, but one wrote something that made me snort. He had visited a farm with his brother, and wrote:

We watched cows and goats. They prowled around.

They have really interesting farms in Japan.

Monday, September 26, 2005


I promised I would tell about the Kodo concert.

It was, of course, wonderful. But it was also a disappointment. I first saw Kodo more than 15 years ago, when I first came to Japan. A friend had been told about them, and we bought tickets for an outrageous price and went to the concert, not really knowing what to expect but having been told it was worth every yen of the hugely expensive tickets.

At that concert, I remember the drummers coming on stage. Then I was shaken to my bones, and ten minutes later the concert ended. I looked at my watch, thinking it was intermission, and discovered that two hours had passed.

This time, technically they were very good. The audience was on their side, and loved them before they started.

About halfway through the third piece, I found myself being disturbed by the snoring of one of the secretaries, who was seated right behind me. I wanted to turn around and slap her face, but then thought, no, wait a minute, maybe she has a point. Last time I saw Kodo I didn't even notice the rest of the audience was there. A bomb could have gone off under my seat and I wouldn't have noticed.

So what happened to them?

One thing I think happened is that this was a pared-down Kodo. It was not the full group. It was a free concert, and it's not even listed on their web page. I don't know the details. I don't know why it was free, or how the university Coop managed to organize this. Maybe someone owed somebody something.

They are still wonderful, though. I would still recommend that you see them if you get the chance, even if the tickets are expensive. Maybe it was just this one time they were a bit off, and maybe my expectations were too high. And anyway, towards the end it did all start to come together.

It just didn't happen soon enough.

I started thinking of other Japanese music concerts I have been to. There are not many. There's a free festival thing they have around at City Hall every year, in which various groups perform, usually fairly amateur but occasionally surprisingly good. I have been to a few Okinawan music concerts, and they are always good. The most memorable have been those of Kina Shokichi. He is completely nuts, a crazy person, and his concerts are unforgettable. He makes you dance, whether you want to or not. His music gets INTO YOUR BONES AND YOU HAVE TO DANCE, EVEN IF YOU CAN'T DANCE, OR IF YOU ARE DYING, CRIPPLED, OR VERY OLD. That man could make DEAD people get up and dance. He is the human equivalent of the red shoes in the fairy tale. His concerts always end in chaos, with half the audience up on stage with the musicians and his face occasionally appearing amongst the rabble, playing like a maniac, bouncing around like a rabbit on speed.

The best Kina Shokichi concert I went to was one he gave for the benefit of handicapped people, after the earthquake. These people had a very hard time - deaf people were not found, because they couldn't hear rescuers and the Japanese government was stupidly quarantining sniffer dogs when they were offered by other countries. Mentally handicapped people were bewildered and lost. People in wheelchairs were helpless. At this concert there were all kinds of handicapped people, and there was a lot of impassioned ranting, and interpreters for the deaf had their fingers given a real workout as Kina babbled on at high speed, unable to slow down, apologizing, laughing, twitching, bouncing around with the force of his passion.

Then the concert started. It wasn't long before the mentally handicapped were on their feet. They did not have the ability to control themselves. One young man was totally overwhelmed by the music. He was so happy he could not stand it, and ran up to the stage, shouting incoherently. Kina grinned at him. He went up and danced, shouted in Kina's face, Kina shouted back, and the young man ran down again, happy, still dancing. He went back to his seat, but was soon back as the music sped up again and the drumming got wild. Others followed. The music got faster and faster, and soon nobody could stay seated. It was all wild, wonderful, and mad. I was happy for days afterwards.

I asked The Man what happened to Kina Shokichi. I haven't heard any news about him for a long time, or of any concerts.

"He became a politician," said The Man. "Forget about him."

A politician? A POLITICIAN?


Saturday, September 24, 2005


France made me grow taller. (In Germany I was a midget.) I also discovered, on my friend's mother's porch, that if I positioned myself JUST RIGHT I could give myself a waist. And you didn't know I had such long legs, did you?

Neither did I.

Friday, September 23, 2005


When I was in France, I thought of you all, my dear readers. I waved, even.


Two days ago, The Man said to me,

"I'm going to clean the house."

I looked at him sideways. "Uh huh," I said.

"We have too much junk," he said.

"We do," I answered. It is true. We are both pack rats, and the house has been shrinking for years as we have accumulated more and more and more. We never chuck things out. We have old futons in the cupboards downstairs that have become unusable. We have castoff furniture from previous tenants that we have never used. This should be a big house, but it isn't. It is full of STUFF.

"I'll start tomorrow," he said, and he had that look in his eye. I know that look. It's the look he gets when he really means it.

I braced myself.

Yesterday morning he asked, "What shall I do about your books?"

I thought about it. There are several dozen boxes of books downstairs. Many of them are mine. I put them into boxes when I run out of shelf space, and intend to sort them later. Then I don't, because I never have time during semester. During the vacations, in the last few years, it's either been too hot and/or I was studying, and in the spring vacation I used to be studying but last spring I wasn't here. And before I was studying I was sick, and all I did was read because I couldn't do anything else. Those boxes have been piling up for YEARS. I had a book-deprived childhood, and I've never quite got over the feeling that books are treasure.

"I'll sort them out," I promised. Then I thought about it. "No, on second thought, there are boxes there that have been there for ten years or so. If I start opening them I'll never throw ANY of them out. Don't open them. I don't want to spoil this. Just let them go."

Being ruthless feels GOOD. It is also kind of scary for a packrat. I am not a natural chucker-outer.

He started the job yesterday, and you know how things always look worse before they get better, when you do this sort of cleanup? Last night it looked like a bomb had hit the house.

I left for work this morning just after six. I was teaching all day, and then there was a Kodo concert right after my last class (more about that later) for which I had free tickets. A bunch of us went, and some of us stopped for coffee on the way home. I finally got home at 11.30 pm.

Tonight it looks like TWO bombs have hit the house.

We don't have regular free big gomi (rubbish) collection these days, like we used to. When you have big gomi, you have to call City Hall and arrange for them to pick it up, and you have to pay. We have to wait for a collection date, so all the stuff he's throwing out is being arranged into piles which I am carefully avoiding investigating. What if I see something I want to keep? I DON'T WANT TO KEEP ANYTHING. I WANT IT ALL GONE. I have to be strong and ruthless, and I think the only way I can manage to maintain this for the time required is to not look. I am determined not to spoil this. I won't have time to help much, with work getting into full swing from next week, and the most helpful thing I can do is to keep out of the way and let it all happen.

But I'm also still kind of amazed. When The Man says he's going to do something, and he gets that look in his eye, he REALLY MEANS IT.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

My favourite imaginary number

Student: I have a sister.
Me: How old is she?
Student: Twenteen.

Not my fault

Today was my first day back at another place, with four classes of entirely new students. (Courses there are one semester only.) I spent yesterday preparing today's lessons.

Well, that was the plan, anyway. I INTENDED to spend yesterday preparing for today's lessons. In fact I spent most of yesterday on the phone, doing grocery shopping, doing an emergency load of washing, and then forgetting to hang it out because I was playing the OTHER two versions of GROW CUBE: GROW ver.3 and GROW RPG.

I have now solved them all. HA HA HA!

At around nine o'clock in the evening I was presented with a banner saying 'CONGRATULATIONS!' but my gleeful cackle was cut short by the sudden realization that I had to get up at six and still had no lesson plan. I made one. Then I made a second, backup plan, remembering the disastrous start to last semester.

My classes at that place were fairly awful all last semester, due mainly, I suspect, to the awful way I started. On the morning of my first day back, I turned the alarm off in my sleep, woke up an hour later than I'd planned, RACED to work without breakfast or any of the usual things I need to get me going in the morning (several cups of caffeinated beverage of some description, especially), and babbled to the poor students all morning. For the afternoon classes I suddenly came down with some kind of stomach upset that had me dashing from the classroom every ten minutes or so. The entire day was devastatingly horrible for me and for the students. I think the students decided, collectively, that I was a baffling foreigner they could never hope to understand, and gave up from the start. I was never able to win them back, and spent the entire semester feeling like a failure.

This semester I was determined that things would be better, hence the two lesson plans.

I finished preparing all the materials by around 11.30 pm, had a shower, and went to bed, setting the alarm for 5.45 just in case.

When the alarm went off my sleepy brain VERY NEARLY tricked me into thinking that it wasn't a work day today and I'd just set the alarm by mistake, but fortunately I was able to override my internal snooze button and catapult myself out of bed.

When I got to work I discovered that I had left a whole bunch of materials there from last semester (so THAT'S where it all was!) and found something I decided was far more suitable than the lessons I'd planned, which I put aside. My suddenly new, third lesson plan went down very well. But then, in a spur of the moment decision while the students were writing something, I rushed downstairs and made photocopies of the materials I'd prepared after all, and handed them out for homework.

The students were stunned. They had enjoyed the class, I think, but they weren't expecting homework on the first day.

Later on I started feeling a bit stunned, too. All four classes went well. I have a good feeling about these new classes, and I think the students do, too. But if they all do the homework next week I will be handed 120 papers to mark. The three places I work all have different starting days, and next week will be my first full week back at work. I will not have time to mark the homework during the week. WHAT WAS I THINKING?

I hadn't had enough sleep to be thinking, that's what.

After work I went to visit a friend who has been ill, and we had a lovely chat. I meant to stay only an hour or so, but had far too much fun and didn't get home until ten thirty.

Now I am tired and somewhat worried. My classes today went well, and my friend is looking good, but when I look at what I have to look forward to my heart sinks a little. Five full days of work next week, a weekend lost in homework marking, and then another full week of work. What if I have another brainstorm and give my OTHER classes homework as well? I'll have to at some point, anyway. Is this coming weekend going to be my last weekend off before December?

The weather may be still hot and humid but the summer vacation is well and truly over.

If I hadn't been playing GROW CUBE, I might have had my lessons planned and had an early night, as I'd intended. If I had had an early night, I might have not had a lapse of judgement and given homework on the first day back at work. If I hadn't given homework I might have had a weekend to look forward to after my first full week back at work, when I'll need it the most.

And that is why I blame Francis, who introduced me to GROW CUBE in the first place.


Monday, September 19, 2005

Why I didn't post yesterday

It's all Francis' fault. I read this post, went to have a look, and the rest of my evening vanished mysteriously.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

NZ Elections

Did anybody actually win? What about the special votes? When will they all be counted? Will they make a difference? If National gain one more seat after the special votes are counted, what will happen? What about the Greens? What if they lose one? Why is Helen Clark already saying she'll form a new government? Can she do that before the special votes are counted, when it's so close? What if Don Brash does the same thing, as he says he will do in this article? Can he do that?

National's leader, Don Brash, also said he was going to work to form the next government.

What if they both form governments? Can a country have two governments? Would it work? Maybe one should take the North Island and the other should take the South. Or, since most of the population is in the North Island, perhaps they should draw a line down the middle of the country, to be more fair. One party could take the right side (National, of course) and the other the left (Labour, naturally). Would that work? That would have the additional advantage that righties wouldn't have to go so far to have holidays in the Green and environmentally lovely nuclear-free Left side, and lefties wouldn't have to commute so far to their offices on the concretized capitalistic Right side.

I once knew a marriage that worked like that. After separating, this elderly couple decided they couldn't live without each other, but found it hard to live together. They solved this problem by drawing a chalk line down the middle of the house and the garden. She had one side, and he had the other. The line went straight down the middle of their big double bed. One side of the house was a mess, and the other was as neat as a pin. The garden was schizophrenic.

But it worked for them. Couldn't it work for NZ?

What happened to my fingernails? Where have they gone? Why did nothing I had planned to do today get done? Why do I feel so CONFUSED?

So many questions, so few answers...

Friday, September 16, 2005

First day back at work (really)

It was the first REAL day back at school today, and everything went haywire, as usual. The fantastic new level checking method for streaming students worked fine in the first semester, but our department had decided to do it again mid-year. We were not happy about this, for various reasons.

Fortunately, this only happened in one of my classes today, because of the seven faculties whose students we teach, only two decided to cooperate with this new method. The others told us today that they'd decided not to do it. TODAY. The first day of teaching, and NOW they tell us! Meanwhile we have already ordered new textbooks for the new semester, and they've arrived, and the students HAVE to buy them even though we didn't finish the textbooks we used in the first semester. The students are not happy. The teachers are not happy. (I have to admit being a GLEEFUL about the faculties not cooperating with the stupid idea, but not happy. Gleeful is not the same as happy. They should have told us.)

But there were two bright spots in the day. The first was when I met my 'difficult' class. They thundered into the classroom, greeted me enthusiastically, and were cheerfully cooperative and noisy and funny in very bad English. When I think of how I used to have to bellow at them to get them to stop using Japanese all the time I wanted to kiss them all, individually. Even my so-called 'best' class (i.e. highest level) doesn't try that hard. (Perhaps I should bellow at ALL my classes.)

They told me all their news. Koji, who was wearing a suit and looking like a kid dressed up in Daddy's clothes (but wouldn't tell us why) claimed that he had spent his summer vacation speaking English ALL THE TIME. After listening to him for a while I decided that at least he THOUGHT about using English once or twice - but good for him! He has held onto the progress he made in the first semester, and now believes he can be an English speaker, which he was firmly convinced was impossible at the beginning of the year. My little squeaky guy, Naoki, was looking pale and wan, and told me that he'd spent all of August sick with a viral inflammation in his bowels. He'd looked it up especially so he could tell me about it. Poor little guy. He was looking even skinnier and smaller than usual. Everybody was sympathetic, especially the cool guys, who crowded around him asking questions about his illness and shaking their heads, looking mature and concerned.

I realized all over again that this class, which started the year as the one I dreaded the most, has become my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE. I am very pleased that they haven't been shuffled around - their faculty was one that didn't cooperate with the new system - so I have the same funny bunch I had in the first semester.

The second bright spot of the day came from my newspaper, which I thought I'd finished reading and had left in the teachers' room. A sharp-eyed teacher spotted the article below, which I have copied in its entirety because the Yomiuri does not archive news stories, and what's the use of a link that will only work for a few hours? (I have included the link anyway.)

This story MADE MY DAY. It made everybody's day, when my colleague read it aloud. We were laughing so hard she couldn't get past the first paragraph.

I don't think any comment is required. It speaks for itself.

Woman held over hiring hit man

The Yomiuri Shimbun

A 32-year-old woman who complained to police that a hit man she had hired to kill her boyfriend's wife had failed to do the job was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of inducing a person to commit murder, police said.

The ambulance officer from the Tokyo Fire Department's Shibuya Fire Station allegedly asked a self-described private detective to kill her boyfriend's wife. The private detective also was arrested for allegedly receiving money to commit murder. The wife was found safe.

According to police, Eriko Kawaguchi of Tama, Tokyo, met Koji Tabe, 40, of Kunitachi, Tokyo, through an Internet site where hit men allegedly can be hired.

The Metropolitan Police Department arrested Kawaguchi and Tabe on suspicion of violating the Law Concerning Punishment of Physical Violence and Others.

Kawaguchi called a telephone number listed on the site, which apparently was Tabe's, in November and requested that he kill the 32-year-old wife of the man she was having an affair with, according to the police.

Kawaguchi paid Tabe 1 million yen in cash for his 'investigation' in late January. Tabe allegedly accepted the payment as a fee to murder the wife.

Tabe allegedly explained to Kawaguchi how he planned to kill the wife when the two met in Tachikawa, western Tokyo, in mid-January. He allegedly suggested chasing the woman on a motorcycle and spraying her with a biological agent in a tunnel.

Police also discovered that Kawaguchi had transferred millions of yen to a bank account opened by the administrator of the Internet site. Police are questioning the administrator under suspicion the administrator may have been aware of the plot.
(Sep. 16, 2005)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

First day back at work

Today I had my first day back at work. My alarm went off at five (FIVE!) and I crawled reluctantly out of bed. After my second cup of tea I felt more or less human, and headed off out the gate.

The commute felt longer than it used to. That's what happens when you haven't done it for a while. It stretches. It will get shorter later, I'm sure.

Once I got to my station I went into a coffee shop for breakfast. (I do this rather than breakfasting at home so as to avoid the HIDEOUS rush hour on the Osaka Loop Line.) I have about 40 minutes for breakfast, which is enough time to get three cups of coffee down me. After this I feel REALLY AWAKE. Then I head off to work.

I still have half an hour for prep after getting to work, so I generally spend this time... prepping. Today I found the teachers' room door was locked. I was the first one there! I heard a cough, or fart, or something, from the boss' room, but didn't disturb him. I checked the other door to the teachers' room, and found it was open, so went through and opened the main door. I sat down and started going through my things, wondering if my plans for the first classes of the semester were adequate. I hadn't left too much time for ad libbing, had I?

After a few minutes I thought it was odd that nobody else had arrived yet, and went through to see the boss. I knocked on his door.

"COME IN!" he shouted.

I went in.

He offered me coffee. I hesitated, remembering the three I'd already had, but then reasoned that they were SMALL cups, and not very strong, and accepted.

We sat and chatted for a while. What we did in the summer vacation, what kind of chaos to expect from the stupid new system where students are moved around in the second semester so we'll have mostly old students but some new ones in our classes, why so many teachers do not speak Japanese, what the gossip is at the university, blah blah blah.

After a while I checked my watch. It was 8.55. Class started in five minutes!

"Where IS everybody?" I asked.

"Er... you do realize that classes start tomorrow, don't you?" said my boss. He snorted. "I thought you'd come in early to prepare."


He sniggered, and pointed at the schedule, which was pinned on the bulletin board.

"But I copied the dates from this schedule!" I said. "Were they changed at some point?"

"No," he said, and sniggered again.

"You shouldn't snigger," I informed him. "It's unattractive and undignified. So is snorting. And anyway, my summer was MUCH more interesting than yours. Nah nah!"


He laughed and laughed and laughed.

(Message to The Man, if you are reading this. YOU, TOO, CAN STOP LAUGHING RIGHT NOW.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

How not to learn a language

Yesterday I met a couple of friends for a drink, and it cheered me up. I knew it would. I had my first real belly laugh since I came back to Japan.

Friend One was talking, and happened to mention something about her Japanese teacher. Friend Two interrupted.

"I didn't know you were having lessons!" she said. "When did you start?"

Friend One waved her hand dismissively. "Oh, twenty years ago, or so," she answered. "I'm still on the same textbook."

We stared.

"My teacher can't understand a WORD I say," she said. "I'm SUCH a bad student."

When we stopped laughing, Friend Two said,

"Hasn't it occurred to you that it might be time for a change of teacher?"

"Oh, but I LIKE her," answered Friend 1. "She's my friend. She's a cool lady."

"I bet she teaches you in English," I said, giggling.

"Well, yes..."

"And I bet her English has REALLY improved after all these years!"

We hooted.

"Well... yes..."

"And YOU pay HER? How much do you pay her?" asked Friend Two.

"Oh, not much," said Friend One, somewhat defensively. "It's hardly anything."

I think it's sweet that she has remained loyal to her teacher for all these years.

On the other hand, I wonder how much of her trouble with Japanese would not exist if she had switched to another teacher, say, oh, nineteen and a half years ago?

Cows in Bratislava (the explanation)

Remember I told you about finding cows in Bratislava? Well, I found a link on the web about the Cow Parade, and all has been explained. It started in Zurich way back in 1998. How come I'd never heard of it before?

Anyway, these cows were everywhere, and I took lots of photos because they were so colourful and funny, but there was one time I missed getting some really good photos because I was laughing so much I forgot, until the last minute. My friend and I were sitting in the town square, and there were some other people there, including an Italian family. The little boy was about four, I suppose, and he was really taken with these cows. In fact he took the cows so seriously that he decided to milk one.

His mother called to him, embarrassed. But she was laughing, too, and he looked anxious and went on to the next cow. He had to milk them all. He'd done one, and it wasn't fair not to do the rest as well. So he ran from cow to cow, and milked them all. I think he must have been a farm boy, because he also did the sound effects - the hissing sound as the milk hits the pail. And after he'd finished all of them, he went to the front of the last one, stretched up his arms around its neck, and rested his head on the cow. Then he patted it comfortingly and finally went back to his parents, satisfied that he'd finished his job.

I only got one picture, as he was milking the last cow, and as you can see I wasn't the only one. Can you blame us? He was SO DAMNED CUTE.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Peculiar curry

I've forgotten how to write. It's been too long since I was writing every day. When I did, it was like falling off a log. I just sat down and the words spewed from my fingers, and I hardly edited at all. Now I sit down and wonder what I'm going to write about, and how.

I've also forgotten how to make potato curry. I decided to have potato curry last night, and went out to buy cabbage and yoghurt, two of the ingredients that weren't in the house already. Then I had to look up the recipe, which I had written somewhere on my computer. I don't usually need the recipe, but I'd forgotten what to do.

There was a bad moment when I couldn't find the coriander powder, and thought the spice thief had been at it again, but then I realized that the second jar of turmeric was in fact not turmeric, but coriander powder. Right at the end I spooned in two big spoonfuls of yoghurt, and licked the spoon.

That was when I discovered that I had accidentally bought sweet yoghurt.

I spooned as much of the sweet yoghurt out again but some had already gone into the curry. I cursed for a while. Then I found a lemon, juiced it, and added the juice to the curry, hoping it would cover the sweetness.

The curry wasn't bad, exactly, just a bit peculiar.

I've forgotten how to write, I've forgotten how to buy yoghurt, I've forgotten how to cook, and I've forgotten how to be a gaijin. I think this means that I should be on holiday PERMANENTLY.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


I am working on the photos I took in Budapest. This one made me laugh, so I thought I'd put it here. It will go in the Flickr 'Budapest' set when I have finished, but I just couldn't wait. (Addendum: the Budapest page is now up, on a new Flickr account - they wouldn't let me have more than three sets without paying.)

Grumble grumble

It always takes a while to adjust to being back in Japan. After five weeks of being a real person I am suddenly a gaijin again, and I don't like it. I will be fine after a couple more days, but in the meantime I am feeling a bit grumpy.

The weather is not helping. It is supposed to be cooler. It's September, right? And classes start next Thursday. Isn't it supposed to be autumn?

Well, it is not. It is humid and sweaty and uncomfortable, and I just checked the weather for tomorrow and discovered that while the temperatures aren't that bad, tonight the humidity is going to be 100%. I think that must be a mistake. It can't be 100%, surely, unless it is raining? But that's what it says on the weather page. I suppose I should be grateful that the temperature is going below 26C tonight, but it hasn't happened yet, and I am grumpy and sweaty and not in the least bit grateful.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Childish, I know

These signs, spotted in London, amused me enormously. Did somebody say, "BOO!"?

KL photos

I've uploaded some photos from Kuala Lumpur onto Flikr, if you're interested.

Addendum: I've now added a London set as well.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Jet lag

I didn't suffer from jet lag when I flew from KL to London. Nor did I have any trouble with jet lag flying from Paris back to KL. I was expecting it to be awful, and it wasn't. I had no problems at all.

I have a theory about this. I think that jet lag is more likely to afflict people who have reasonably regular routines. If you have a regular sleep pattern to start with it makes sense that you are more likely to suffer when it gets disrupted. I do not have a regular sleep pattern. When I am working I get up at a different time every day, and when the vacation starts I turn into a night owl almost instantly.

Flying from KL back to Japan is no problem anyway. There is only a one hour time difference.

But I got back to Japan at six this morning, and at around one this afternoon decided to have a short nap. It is now nearly eleven o'clock, and I just woke up, utterly confused.

Bollocks. NOW what am I supposed to do with myself?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Magic medicine

Yesterday I spent most of the day napping, and taking the Chinese medicine The Man got for me.

"Take this," he said.

I read the label. "It says it's for distended stomach," I said. "I don't have a distended stomach." I looked down. "Well, no more than usual, anyway."

"Ignore what it says," he said. "It has stuff in it that will help you."

I took it.

"Oh, and take this one, too," he said.

I didn't bother reading the label this time.

After napping most of the day I was feeling quite a lot better. By dinnertime I still didn't really want to go out to eat, though, so The Man went out and bought some tofu pudding and soybean milk, which I wolfed down so fast his eyes popped. I guess my appetite was coming back after all.

Then it was bedtime, but although I felt sleepy I couldn't drop off. I thought I should, though, and lay there twitching and listening to the noises around the hotel, which I hadn't noticed the night before. There were some dogs arguing, rather musically, I thought. Doors sometimes banged in the hotel. I got hot. I turned on the air conditioning. Then I got cold, and turned it off again. The Man snored.

Around 4am The Man woke up. He sat on the edge of the bed and looked at me.

"Can't you sleep?" he asked. "We could go out and have Dim Sum and porridge. That place opens around now..."

I stared at him. "It's four in the morning!" I said.

"I know. It opens early, and it's REALLY good."

"You're just a walking support system for a stomach," I informed him.

We sat and chatted for a while, then both went to sleep, and slept until the phone rang. It was the man at the coffee shop of the hotel, informing us that it was now 10.30 and breakfast was only served until 11. He was concerned because we missed it yesterday and it was included in the price of the (cheap) hotel.

How kind of him to think of us. We hurried downstairs just in time.


After breakfast we went over to Shukran, my favourite place for roti chanai, for a second breakfast (yes, I have my appetite back!) and then went shopping for a while. The Man worried about me. Was I well enough for this? We took a taxi to the shopping area we wanted to go to, and bussed back. Normally we'd walk.

Visiting a friend

In the afternoon I visited a French friend. (Yes, I know. I visited English friends in France, and now my French friend in KL. It doesn't make sense to me, either.) The Man didn't want me to go.

"You'll get tired," he said.

"But I'm feeling fine, now," I told him.

"I don't trust the feeling," he said. "If you get tired it might come back."

I went anyway. I haven't seen this friend for five years. Actually, I'd thought he was in Paris, so it was a surprise to find out he was in KL.


I still felt fine after visiting my friend. He wanted us to go to a concert with him tomorrow, but I'm leaving in the evening. Bad timing.

The Man and I went to Chinatown instead, and bought some movies and a few other things. Then we went to a good Chinese restaurant The Man had found the night before.

"You have to have the mushroom noodle clay pot," he told me. "I've been feeling guilty about having it yesterday when you were sleeping. It was REALLY, REALLY GOOD."

So I did, and he was right. It was SCRUMPTIOUS.

Just as we finished eating a fuse blew and all the lights went out in the restaurant. The waiter brought a candle (eventually) and we sat by candlelight, sweating and drinking the rest of our tea.


That had to be one of the strangest and shortest flus I've ever had, if it was a flu. Either that, or the medicine The Man gave me has turned me into Superwoman. I have been on the go all day, it's midnight, and I still feel FINE.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Heading home...


If you ever visit Paris, I highly recommend that you do not get sick. The headache turned out to be a little more than that. Every bone in my body ached. My legs decided to pack it in altogether. Walking became painful.

The GOOD thing about having a problem like this in Paris is that there are chairs and benches all over the place. In Paris, they know that if you are walking around their lovely city you will want to sit down sometimes. By the time I had finished buying the medicine, got to the Internet cafe, sent that last blog, and started heading off to the Louvre (my plan for the day) I discovered that my body was refusing to cooperate. So I sat. I walked, and sat. Then I walked a little more, and sat some more. Then I stopped for coffee, although I wasn't sure my stomach would hold it, and took the medicine and waited. It helped, quite a lot, but my legs were still not cooperating so I went to the Jardin de Luxumburg (sp?) instead of to the Louvre. I knew from passing there the day before that there were benches and chairs ALL OVER the place. And I sat. I took a few pictures, too, and wondered what the hell was wrong with my legs.(What kind of flu gets you in the LEGS?)

After a while I went back to my hotel and spent the rest of the day sleeping, sweating feverishly, aching, and feeling generally miserable. Between bouts of sleeping I watched CNN and marvelled at what looked like pictures from the third world coming out of the US.

Those poor people.

Homeward bound

The next day I had to get to the airport by ten, so left very early in case I'd need to sit on the way. I had to take the Metro and then change to the RER, and was worried that the way I was feeling I'd get lost and confused. I dragged my bag to the Metro, and found a man behind a counter.

"Bonjour!" he said.

"Bonjour," I replied. "I, er... do you speak English?"

He looked at me seriously.

"Only on Saturdays," he informed me.

I had to think for a moment. I didn't know what day it was. I took out my diary to check.

"Oh, good. Today is Saturday," I said. "In that case, can you tell me EXACTLY how to get to the airport? And where I can get a ticket?"

He was helpful and friendly, as everybody was in France. He sold me the ticket, and gave me very exact instructions.

Kuala Lumpur Revisited

Now I am in Kuala Lumpur, with The Man (WITH THE MAN!!!)and feeling miserable and happy in pretty much equal quantities. Whatever this thing is has not gone away, but it is evidently some sort of inflammation because when I take Ibuprofen it goes away, more or less, until the Ibuprofen wears off. I will go to the doctor when I get back to Japan, in four days. The Man is staying on longer, but I have only a week after getting back before I start work. I am not looking forward to working with this thing, so I have to get better.

I am taking it easy.

I love The Man. I love KL. I feel as though I'm home already.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Paris politeness

People persist in being polite and helpful. I went to the PO today, expecting at least a rude look when I explained that I could not speak French, but instead got a very friendly man who did his best with his limited English and was very helpful. He sold me a box to send back to Japan.

I went back to the hotel and filled the box (with all the heaviest things I could find, since the cost of sending was not related to the weight) and took it back to the PO, where a large queue had now formed. I watched the three guys at the counters being polite, helpful and friendly to everybody. The people waiting in line were very patient. Then my turn came, and I got a different guy to the one I got the first time. He looked at me and frowned.

"But, madamoiselle, you did not need to wait!" he told me. "You have paid for the box already. You could take it to my colleague downstairs, where there is not such a long line."

"Oh," I said. "I didn't know. Thank you."

"If you send another parcel, remember to take it downstairs," he said. "You waited too long, and you didn't need to."

He was distressed that I had waited so long. I reassured him that I didn't mind, and he shook his head sadly and smiled. "But you didn't need to wait," he said.

Later I went to a chemist to get some Ibuprofen. The last two days I have had a headache, which this morning had transformed into an almost crippling backache. (This is what inspired the sending of heavy stuff through the mail.) The woman in the shop was wonderfully helpful, and when I asked, also sold me something to rub on my neck, to help with the pain. She was friendly and funny, and when I suggested Tiger Balm she told me they only had Dragon Balm, which was very expensive.

"It's because dragons are expensive," she said. "They're hard to find in France."

How true. I haven't encountered a single dragon.

I bought something cheaper that did not involve tigers or dragons. I hope it works on the plane tomorrow.