Monday, December 31, 2012

An end and a beginning.

Alright, here it is:

  I'm ending the weekly updates and moving to more of a once-a-month schedule. There are several reasons for this change. First is my schedule. I've been putting a lot of overtime in on Monday mornings which is when I'm at my most creative. I then find it hard to make time later in the week to write. Secondly, my weekly routine has really settled down. Especially in relation to work, I'm just writing the same thing week after week. Even my days off settled into a fairly steady rotation the last few months. Thirdly, I'd like to spend this creative time working on other projects. I've had a few things on the back-burner for a while and would like to move them forward this year.

  I'd like to thank all my regular readers for their continued support and occasional feedback. I will be continuing this blog but on a much more relaxed schedule than before. Hopefully this will allow me to focus my writing on bigger events and encourage me to post more of my pictures too.

  Again, thanks for reading,

Week 53

Tuesday the 25th (more commonly known as Christmas) I woke up early-ish and unwrapped a few presents I brought back from America when I went home for Thanksgiving. I had a super ralaxing day that involved no leaving the house ans only putting pants on to answer the door then the pizza guy came to deliver lunch. the the late evening I called home to wish everyone a Merry Christmas (gotta love time-zones and holidays.)

Wednesday morning I Skyped with a few more family members. In the middle of one such call work phoned me asking of I could come in and cover for another teacher who was supposed to do overtime but called in sick. I begrudgingly accepted and went into work for four houes on the second day of my vacation. On the way home I did some retail therapy in Nipponbashi (my favorite shopping district.) By the time I made it home I had gotten another call from work asking me to cover for the same teacher the next day too. I said if they called EVERY other teacher first and they all said "no" I'd come in. Just my luck I got the call a few hours later and my vacation was shortened another day.

The worst part of the extra work on Thursday is that I had to set an alarm in the morning which was the ONE thing I didn't want to do over vacation. The shift wasn't that hard but I was pretty ticked off all morning and more than once mumbled the line from Kevin Smith's Clerks, "I'm not even supposed to BE here today." More retail therapy was needed on the way home. As a sign of things looking up a belated Christmas present was waiting in the mail for me when I got home. After unwrapping second Christmas I started to get my apartment organized and ready for it's New Years cleaning (a tradition here in Japan.)

I finally got to enjoy my second non-working vacation day on Friday. After sleeping in I went back to Nipponbashi one more time to look for a new pair of headphones to go with the new computer case I'd put together the previous week. In the afternoon I did a big load of laundry (at the laundromat as it was too cold to use the washer on my balcony) and did te week's grocery shopping. In the evening I made spaghetti and watched TV late into the night.

Saturday morning was slow but I met two of my good friends for lunch at the local curry shop. They just got back from their honey-moon in the Philippines and regaled my with tails of their trip. We went back to their place after lunch and played video games all afternoon. In the evening my friends wife made a very delicious dinner for all of us.

I was wide awake a bit earlier than I would have liked on Sunday but was well rested so I rolled with it. It was rainy outside and would be all day. I caught up on an old movie I'd been wanting to watch in the morning and went out for lunch and a haircut in the afternoon. I played video games with the same friend from the day before but online this time. We ended up playing for almost twelve hours with nothing but a short dinner break.

Today (December 31st, 2012) I slept in a good amount. For the first time in over a month I had a chance to make my Monday morning to Sunday night phone calls home. I headed out mid-day to take some pictures around town. It was quite chilly out but very clear and sunny. I stopped for lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe uptown. Coming out after lunch it had clouded over just a bit and started snowing gently. It was really beautiful as I rode around a bit more. I came home n the afternoon and took a nap. A while ago a friend called to make plans for this evening (we're going with the traditional watch TV, play card games, and go wo a shrine after mid-night.)

I think this will be the first on-time post in almost a month. Sorry for the continued delays but more about that in the next post. Happy New Year!

Week 52

Tuesday the 18th I had my last kindergarten visit for the year. Things went smoothly as usual. I came home and changed quickly before going out to the usual Tuesday afternoon video game session down South. In the evening a friend of a friend came around and the lot of us went out for dinner at a local pub. After dinner I went to another friend's house for even more video games.

Wednesday I awoke with clogged sinuses from the cold I'd have been able to shake if I had a real day off to rest or go to the clinic and get some drugs. In the morning I started transferring the guts of my computer from the old case to the new one I bought the previous week. I lost track of time and ended up making a dash for the train up town for date number three with my new lady-friend. This time we went to see "the Hobbit" which turned out to be pretty good. In the evening I returned home and finished putting my computer back together and gave it a test run to make sure it didn't catch on fire.

I woke up well rested on Thursday and did my usual routine of lunch at Subway before work. The staff has more-or-less memorized my order by now so it's a pretty easy option. Work was very easy as I had no students in my adult classes and just taught three classes on kids all day. Back at home I headed to bed early to try and get another good night's rest.

Fortunately I slept very well again and even slept in a bit as I had a later than usual start on Friday. The late start also meant that I could go to my favorite burrito place for lunch. Between lunch and work I updated last week's blog and got that posted online. I went to substitute for another teacher in the afternoon. His classes were interesting and kids class kids were nice. This was the last day of Christmas lessons and I was a bit relieved to not have to hear kids call stockings "socks" until next year.

Saturday was the last official day of work before the winter vacation and all kids classes were on break already so I only had to teach two adult classes all day. The rest of the time I got to draw the New Years greeting on the neon-paint black-board in the front of the school. I also had my picture taken a number of times to be plastered on the school's home page. In the evening I went to meet the girlfriend in Umeda. This time we went to see the new "One Piece" movie (a pirate themed 'anime' that is super popular here in Japan.) After the movie we walked over to a British pub I know but it was too crowded and we left after one drink. On the way back to the station I made a formal request to officially go out together and she said "Yes."This, of  course, made my week.

I signed up to do overtime on Sunday and Monday morning, the first two days of my winter vacation. Both shifts were fairly busy and I really earned my extra pay. Sunday night I went back to the burrito place with some co-workers and did some last-minute Christmas shopping too.

After Monday's shift I rode the train out to Kyoto to have dinner with my girlfriend and some of her friends. It was a little awkward on a number of levels: First, it was a joshi-kai (an all girls party), second, it was a singles party to which we were invited to before we hooked up. All in all a good time was had by all. We had an all-you-can-drink set-menu meal at an Italian restaurant in Gion. I spoke mostly in English and knew I was getting a bit tipsy when everyone stopped, stared at me, and exclaimed, "oh, you DO speak Japanese." My girlfriend lives in Kyoto so we said goodbye at the station and the rest of the party caught a train back to Osaka together.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Week 51

Tuesday (the 11th) I went early in the morning to do the first of my kindergarten "special assignments". This particular kindergarten in the deep South of Osaka wanted me to dress as Santa and give out gifts to six classes of kids (from four to six years old.) Amazingly, the costume they provided was large enough and the kids really bought my act. In each class I said hello, passed out the gifts, there was a short Q&A (Where do you live [Santa]? What's your favorite color/food? Where are your reindeer?), followed by a song from the kids to Santa. It turned out to be a really good time for everyone involved. Oh, and I didn't catch on until almost the end but the kindergarten was run by a Buddhist temple. In the later afternoon, after I'd napped of the excitement of the morning, I rearranged my room once again. As usual this kicked up all sorts of dust and set off my allergies.

Wednesday I spent the morning getting ready for a second date with the woman from the previous week. This time we went out for lunch at a fairly nice restaurant before going bowling and singing karaoke at an entertainment complex uptown. The evening was capped off with a ride on one of the city's Ferris wheels. Back at home I made dinner for myself and set to cleaning out an old computer I received from one friend so that I could pass it on to another friend.

Thursday was a textbook day; wake up, browse the internet, shower, get dressed, take the train uptown, stop at Subway for lunch, finish the commute to the office, teach all my usual classes, commute back home, stop at the grocery store and do the week's shopping, go home and watch TV until bedtime.

I was very surprised and happy Friday morning as one of my long-lost students finally came back to school (just in time for the last lesson of the calendar year.) He had lost a lot of weight and muscle (so I barely recognized him until he spoke.) He took it easy and only did half of the usual class time but did well in that half. Unfortunately my afternoon student didn't show but that meant I got to play games with the other students again. In the evening i couldn't be bothered to cook so the 'ole speed dial to Domines was activated and dinner appeared on my doorstep 30 minutes later.

For the first time in a while I woke up felling like a million dollars Saturday morning. Once I got a chance to sleep in for a few consecutive days my body decided to heal itself. Sadly the feeling didn't last too long as the workday's stress got me coughing by the end again. A friend came over in the evening to play games and chat which was a nice way to unwind.

Sunday's shift was quite busy again but respite was on the horizon as a group of new trainees was in the office learning the ropes. After coming home and making dinner in the evening the friend who wanted the hand-me-down computer came over to pick it up.

Monday I was back in the up-before-sunrise game/ this time I had to head north, through the heart of the city, at rush hour which was a "joy'". Fortunately this, my second and final "special assignment" went just as well as the first one. The costume wasn't as complete (the pants were 47 sizes too small) but I think I made a convincing Santa's helper. There were only three classes this time and no presents so it was an interesting change-up to the last kindergarten. I stopped at the computer store on the way home and picked up a new computer case I've been wanting for a while before napping in the afternoon and heading off to work in the evening.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Week 50

  Finally! Here's the write up of my trip home for Thanksgiving (as well as the following week's events.) Or as I like to call it; "4 out of 5 breakfasts at home with bacon."

Tuesday November 20th:
  I slept in a bit in the morning before finishing most of my packing for my trip home. In the afternoon I got a call from a friend inviting me over for dinner. We had a delicious Nabe (hot pot) with chicken, pork, fish, and lots of vegetables. I left fairly early in the evening so I could get a good Night's sleep before the next day's adventure.

Wednesday November 21st:
  Eager to get going I woke up before my alarm, showered and made my final preparations for leaving. As my bag was quite heavy I walked out to the main road and took a taxi to Nankai Namba station where I caught the 9:00 rapid express train bound for the airport. I was checked in and through security a full hour before my flight boarded. On my first leg from Osaka to Seoul I changed seats twice to allow two different couples to sit together. Korean Air has a really nice in-flight entertainment system and I got to see "The Watch" with Ben Stiller (long before it comes out in Japanese theaters.) In Seoul I had a four hour layover. To kill time I had an overly-spicy plate of cashew chicken in the food court and played video games on my 3DS. When my flight finally boarded I ended up in a middle-row aisle seat but luckily the middle seat wasn't occupied. The flight was a bit bumpy but un-eventful. Sadly economy-class seats aren't designed with a 6'4" body in mind so sleeping was next-to impossible. Instead I watched "Ted" on the in-flight system and some of the TV shows I had brought along on my iPad. A little over twelve hours after take-off I landed in Detroit at 6:00pm local time. I breezed through immigration and customs and met my parents and one of my aunts outside the gate. In tradition we stopped at my all-time-favorite Mexican restaurant on the way home. After struggling to stay awake and chat for a while I headed up to bed and crashed out for the night.

Thursday November 22nd (Thanksgiving Day):
  Amazingly I was able to get up at 8:00 in the morning, in time to have a deliciously prepared plate of crispy bacon and toast (made from home-baked bread.) My energy didn't last too long, however, as about 11:00 I needed to lie own for a nap. Waking up refreshed once again after noon, family started to arrive for Thanksgiving dinner. Family from all over gathered together and even those that couldn't make it called to say hello. Dinner was turkey, three kinds of stuffing, green bean casserole, and gravy. Pumpkin and pecan pies made up dessert. Sated with so much delicious food everyone chatted into the evening. After everyone filed out I crashed out around 10:15pm.

Friday November 23rd (Black Friday):
  I managed to sleep until almost 7am and relaxed in bed for a bit longer besides. Breakfast, once again, was a full plate of delicious bacon and toast. In the lasts morning I headed out with my father to go shopping. Thinking to avoid the big malls we started at a shoe store near, but not in a mall. Finding things weren't too busy we ventured into the department stores next. By the end of the trip we had the system of dad waits in line while I shop down pat. We stopped at my favorite pizza place for lunch before heading home where I laid down for yet another nap. In the late afternoon I checked my e-mail and Facebook to make sure the rest of the world was still there. I took an hour later and sorted through some of my old stuff still packed away in the attic. My mother and one set of aunts and uncles came around for a dinner of beef stew with fluffy dumplings. The conversation lasted into the night again and sleep came easily once my head touched the pillow.

Saturday November 24th:
  I woke up exceptionally early with a certain still-jet-laggy grogginess. I lounged around in bed, trying in vain to get a few more minutes of sleep that wouldn't come. When I did get out of bed packed my bags again and rode from my father's house in the city out to my mother's house. The first order of business was a run to the local coffee shop for breakfast. This was followed by some quality time sorting out more attic-stuff. Late in the morning the two cats my mother started keeping since I was home last finally made an appearance. We had lunch at the theater while seeing the new James Bond movies "Skyfall". I managed to stay awake through the movie but needed another nap afterwords. In the evening my dads came for dinner and brought spaghetti (with my father's special spaghetti sauce.) Later I watched "the Vampire Lestat" on TV and tried to stay awake again. I managed to make it most of the way to the end but was in bed by 10:30.

Sunday November 25th:
  Once again I woke up extremely early but stayed in bed, trying to eek out a few more minutes of sleep. As a nice surprise when I did get up, I found it had snowed lightly overnight. Braving the slush we went out for breakfast with a few old family friends and I was once again able to have bacon with breakfast. In the afternoon we drove out to The Henry Ford museum to see an exhibit of famous buildings remade with Lego. In addition to the exhibit we had a good time walking around the museum and stopped for hotdogs at the museum's cafe. On the Was home we stopped at several stores in a fruitless search for a box of Twinkies I could take back with me as a souvenir. Back at the house I laid down for yet another nap. In the evening we dined on left-overs from the weekend and watched some 'quality' American TV (Fox's Sunday night line-up.) Around 10:00 I went up to my room to pack once more and was asleep by 10:30.

Monday November 26th and Tuesday November 27th:
  Even earlier the the previous two days I was awake before dawn. After making some final preparations for travel I spent a few minutes catching up with the American music scene but watch ing VH1's morning line-up. About 8:30 we left the house and picked up my father on the way to the airport. As is tradition on the way out we stopped at the airport hotel for breakfast and I got one last plate of bacon. ( For those curious: They serve Canadian-style bacon in Japan so I had to get my fill of American-style while I was home.)After breakfast In waved goodbye to the parents and went through security. I had an hour before my flight again and filled the time perusing the gift-shops in the terminal building. I had an exit-row seat on the trip back and so was a little ore comfortable (thought I still couldn't sleep.) I watched "Tower Heist" and "Get Smart" on the entertainment system and a few more TV shows on my iPad. I had a two hour layover in Seoul but was pretty sacked and just waited by the gate and watched some more TV. I ended up with a window seat for the flight from Seoul to Osaka and watched the lights of Korea, the boats in the Japan sea, and mainland town on mainland Japan pass under us while listening to music. My plane arrived in Osaka at 8:40pm local time. I was though immigration and customs within a half an hour and soon on a bus headed for my part of town. After a taxi ride from the bus depot to my apartment I arrived at 10:25p.m. After dropping my bags off I made a quick run to the convenience store for a late-night snack. A friend I hadn't seen in a while came over and chatted for awhile and I didn't get to bed until almost 2am.

Wednesday November 28th:
  I was awakened around 1pm by a phone call my sleep-deprived brain was sure was my employer wondering why I wasn't at work. Fortunately it turned out to be a fellow teacher calling to confirm plans for a lesson later in the week. Although shocked awake I lounged around in bed a while longer before getting up and having "breakfast". I spent most of the day watching TV and unpacking my bags. In the evening some friends came over to play "Cards Against Humanity", a new game I picked up while I was in the States. Everyone went home fairly early but I ended up staying awake until almost 1am.

Thursday November 29th:
  Luckily I set an alarm (I don't usually on Thursdays) and was up and out to work on time. Work wasn't too hard and made for a good first day back after vacation. After grocery shopping on the way home I took it easy in the evening again and fell asleep about 1am.

Friday November 30th:
  At my Friday high-school shift I finally had a student to teach in the morning. It wasn't one of my usual kids, but it was a nice change of pace. The afternoon's activity was playing "the Game of Life" in Japanese. When I got home in the evening I worked through a long list of things to do that had built up over the past week. After I was done I finally managed to wrestle myself into bed at the usual hour of midnight.

Saturday December 1st:
  Work, as usual, was early and went by fairly quickly. In the evening I went out with a friend to a bar where they were holding a MoVember/No-shave-November mustache contest. When the time came to get up on stage I was shyly dragged up but ended up winning first place (a bottle of champagne.) I stopped for ramen on the way home and was asleep at the usual hour once again.

Sunday December 2nd:
  I grudgingly woke up to the sound of my alarm. Work was terribly busy but, again, went by quickly. In the evening I got yet more work done around the house.

Monday December 3rd:
  I had to get up extra early to teach a kindergarten shift. As usual it was a chore to get up and out but was fun once I got there. In December we get to teach about Christmas, which all the kids love which makes it easier to teach. I had planned to take a nap in-between my shifts but I ended up working on my computer instead. The evening's shift was busy but a number of teachers, myself included, had a break at the end so we could chat which was a nice end to the night.

Tuesday December 4th:
  I slept in a little in the morning and met one friend to play video games in the afternoon. Half of the usual Tuesday group was out of town so I went to a different house (a change of scenery, I suppose.) for the first time in a while we went out for sushi for dinner. In the evening another, mutual, friend called and invited us out to the local watering hole for drinks. He and his wife are moving back to Canada soon so it was nice to have one more drink with them.

Wednesday December 5th:
  I was up at a reasonable hour and spent the morning putsing around the house and getting ready. At noon I went out for the first time in almost a year on what might be called "a date". We went to a nice vegetarian restaurant for lunch, walked around a bit, and saw "Skyfall" (again for me, the first time for her.) If things go well more details may follow in future posts. In the evening I met the same friends from the night before at the same Korean barbecue place where we celebrated completing our training for our current job almost five years before. After dinner we went back to the friend who's leaving's apartment and raided his bookshelves and pantry for things he didn't want to take back with him (I got some good English and Japanese texts as well as a 5 liter bottle of cheap rum.)

Thursday December 6th:
  I had a restless night of sleep due to a blustery wind-storm in the night. In addition I woke up with the start of a cold nestled in the back of my throat. Fortunately my shift was an easy one again and I didn't have to work myself too hard. As usual I stopped to groceries on e way home before watching TV and eventually falling asleep.

Friday December 7th:
  I woke up this morning feeling the cold from the day before advance another step. I did't feel awful yet, but I knew it was just a matter of time. My morning student didn't come again and I finally had the time and energy to sit down and type most of this post out.

Saturday December 8th:
  Not feeling in spectacular health I managed to drag myself to work, coughing all the way. things went by fairly smoothly though there was a perspective student looking on on my most rowdy bunch of kids. It was one of those lessons where you want to go out and say "it's not usually like this, my classes usually run a lot smoother." In the evening my friend, who I spent the week saying goodbye to called my up at the last minute and offered me his old computer. It was too heavy to ship home and he didn't want to throw it on the curb.Not being one to pass up a free computer, I accepted and wen to pick it up. Later in the evening the same friend threw one last big farewell party at one of the local Irish pubs. I felt obligated to go (and I had a terrific time) but left a bit early to try and get some rest.

Sunday December 9th:
  Sunday's shift was long and hard with all of my classes full of challenging students. I could feel my cold ramping up towards it pinnacle but was helpless to do anything about it. I went home and crashed out in the evening.

Monday December 10th:
  I had to be up at the crack of dawn to take a train way down south to a kindergarten where it turns out I was supposed to play Santa Claus. They had a costume all prepared (which actually fit!) and big bags of presents with the kids names on them. I handed out gifts to 6 classes of roughly 20 kids each in about 2 hours. It was exhausting but fun and really rewarding to see the kids smile. I came home in the afternoon and crashed out again before my evening shift. Finally on the evening shift I caught a break (literally 2 to 3 breaks in my schedule) and could relax a bit.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Week 49

So, yeah, no update this week either. Super-long post coming next week.