Saturday, July 23, 2005


Welcome to Coventry

Anyone travelling to Coventry this Summer may wish to take notice of the following: under no circumstances should you have a horrible shot-away cokehead female friend who gets you in trouble with random blokes.

I saw it. I laughed.

Unlucky, mate.

Friday, July 22, 2005


The scarred underbelly of TESOL

Drug traffickers recruited female Korean English-language students in Vancouver, Canada, to smuggle more than $250m worth of drugs around the world, according to Korean investigators. The CanWest news service reported that 18 members of a Hong-Kong based gang, including seven women, had been detained by police in South Korea. Prosecutors say that the women were paid $1,500 to carry the drugs and that 10,000 ecstasy pills and 3kg of amphetamines were smuggled into the country over a 10-month period. With about 10,000 Koreans studying in Vancouver the traffickers believed that female students returning home from Canada would not attract suspicion from customs officials.
English learners used as drug mules
The Guardian, Friday July 22, 2005

Pretty run-of-the-mill language teaching procedure; I always suspected that my company was using me as a drugs mule when I first travelled to Japan. I'll try to make my o-miyage from England a little less provocative as I'm travelling back to Japan via Thailand and I'm pretty sure they take a tough stance on traffickers.

I wonder if the stalker has any holiday plans this year? Getting her detained in a foreign country seems like a smart move.

"Please accept this gift. In England we consider it lucky to carry a badly-stitched teddy bear with us when traveling."

"How adorable. What's his name?"

"Er... Charlie?"

"Very well. I shall carry him with me at all times."

"Sucker- I mean, super."


Monday, July 18, 2005


Quote of the weekend

I forget what car we were discussing, but we were in the Orcacab heading for Leeds and a weekend of footballing tomfoolery. It may have been a new Volkswagen model, but anyway; Orca and Liam were talking about some of the crazy hubris that had been laid out as requirements for the car, one example of which was that it had to be able to travel at 165 mph for 18 hours without heating up excessively.

I asked why someone would want to travel at that speed for that length of time, unless they were entered in the Le Mans or similar.

Joe piped up with one of his rare pearls of wisdom from the back seat: "You'd have to be leaving somewhere pretty shit, wouldn't you."

Friday, July 15, 2005


8,500 miles of one's own company

Faced with a big-ass plane trip to England via Thailand, I hit upon the idea of preserving my sanity as best I could by writing down my observations in my trusty note book throughout the flight.

It didn't work particularly well, but here are some of the highlights:

kankuu: Step one, flight to Thailand. The departure lounge has more than its fair share of Americans, making their connections from the LA flight. One strikes up a conversation with me, tells me that his family are going to Thailand to live with his wife's parents "for a while." I nod approvingly; my mind, flying on autopilot, conjures images of a failed business venture, mounting debts, repossession, and all that remains is standing in front of me: another exile.

My phone buzzes in my pocket; I take it out. Mail received reads: " word for the day: introspection."

I smile as I flip the phone shut. Word for the day, indeed.

akero: I was amongst the first of TG727s ill-fated passengers to book in, meaning that I got my favourite seat: the emergency exit row seat.

The advantage of this is two-fold: firstly, significantly enhanced leg room. The ugly bulkhead sticking out in front of me is a bit of a fly in the ointment, but it's still a big improvement on the normal seats. Secondly, everyone on board is at my mercy. If I decide to open this thing, we're all going to be on the news tonight.

The in-flight movie had better be good, for everyone's sake.

o-sake: I make my first ever in-flight duty free purchase: a bottle of Yamazaki single malt whisky. The flight attendant seems a little taken aback when I produce yen to pay with, although I think this perfectly normal as I embarked in Osaka. Perhaps she presumed that I'd come from LA and made my connection in Osaka. She gives me the whisky and departs with my money.

A few minutes later, a different flight attendant appears, clutching a slip of paper and 500 yen.

"Thankyou for waiting," she beams; "here is your receipt and this is..." Her brow furrows and she makes a vague beckoning motion with the coin in front of my face.

"My change?" I suggest. Normally I avoid finishing other people's sentences for them, but I find it a bit offensive that someone is waving my own money at me whilst trying to remember their English from school. As far as I'm concerned, this is not integral to the transaction. I know full well what you're holding. Money. My money. Hand it over.

The would-be linguist graciously agrees that it is, indeed, my change. She asks if I want it exchanged into another currency (not those exact words.) I inform her that I will be returning to Japan so it's ok.

Her winsome smile remains, but her eyes are suddenly wary; I know this expression: the look of utter incomprehension.

"Oh," she says, then, mystifyingly: "have fun."

Maybe she is expecting me to get started on the whisky straight away.

itadakimasu: Dinner on Thai Air: after nearly two years living in Japan, any reservations I may once have had about sniffing food before deciding whether or not to risk putting it in my mouth are firmly a thing of the past. The chicken looks like it didn't make it across the road in one piece and the best thing that can be said about the bread is that it's marginally more spreadable than the butter.

As for the salmon- well, I'm not really a fish person. I'll usually at least try a bite, but I draw the line at Thai Air sashimi.

gaijin: It's been a year since I was in Coventry and I worry that I may have become a foreigner, that I'm going to be continually bowing to people or saying "sumimasen" to bemused bar staff. I also worry that my sandals are not going to last the journey.

Whatever; England is still my country, regardless of what bizarre mannerisms I may have picked up in Japan. What will be will be and what has passed cannot be undone, only accommodated. I am going home and sandals will be provided.

jikan: Ways to pass time on an aeroplane: pretend to be asleep, and keep muttering thing like "Allah Akbar" and "burn the infidels"; try to start songs; go to the toilet just after dinner and stay in there for twenty minutes while people are crossing their legs and tring to visualise the Gobi desert outside; ask the flight attendant for a glass of milk, wait a second for her to repeat the order for confirmation, then get very defensive and shout "I just like milk, ok" at her.

Track down a drunken rugby player and dare him to do any of the above.

Write arrant gibberish.

asagohan: I think the grey stuff's supposed to be potato.

eikoku: On the bus, heading for Coventry. The anticipation should be mounting, but I cannot imagine my home, all I have in my brain is the memory of the seeming eternity that I have been travelling for. It's not even 9 am yet.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


The end of all things?

So, yesterday, I was gearing myself up for the final separation from Furukawa, expecting the head limey to walk in at any moment and tell me which crappy school he wanted to ship my sorry ass off to, but he never materialised. I'm not too sure why this is, as he'd told me he'd be back to see me before I went to England, but I can only hope that he fell down a very deep, disused mine shaft.

Included in my day of living on my nerves was a CHIBIKO lesson, which is the closest thing to outright prostitution that I've ever undertaken. 40 minutes of singing asinine songs to a bemused 2-year-old while the rest of the school listened and sniggered. Even his sister thought I was totally uncool and she's 4.

And to cap it all, I met the stalker after school to listen to another dose of her problems. This was a pretty short meeting, as I told her that I had to meet a friend (which was true) and that she should stop whining and do something about her problems instead of bending everyone else's ear. She stopped crying with remarkable speed when she realised that there would be no one around to listen to her bleating.

Sitting in Andrew's apartment, reflecting on my lifetime of achievement and good work, I received the following e-mail on my phone:

Thank you for tonight. well, tomorrow is my days off, so could I go to the Kansai airport to see you off? I don't cry absolutely

To which I replied:

I'm on holiday, after all.

Cheeky cow.

Edit: "She's a very polite stalker," Brian said. "Most would just have followed you to the airport."

Thursday, July 07, 2005


The eyes of the world turn to London

What a difference a day makes: this morning, my students were congratulating me on London's victorious bid to host the 2012 Olympics. This evening, they were talking about the bomb attacks on the London transport system.

The student who told me about the latter must have thought his English had been really bad as my expression barely changed. The sad truth is that terrorist attacks in London are not really news; the British government does some dumb shit sometimes, and even if they didn't things would probably still get blown up occasionally. It's just what people do.

Has it occurred to anyone that, after we pinched the Olympics, the one country that was really, really fed up with us was France? Hey, I'm just asking.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Three queens and the fall of the axe

I feel like today was a day to forget- maybe it was a day to remember. The future's not ours to see. At least, I don't think it is; I never saw today coming.

'Tis rumour'd she hath had three bastards, but
By whom, we may go read i'th' stars.

Hold opinion, all things are written there.

BOSOLA: Yes, if we could find spectacles to read them.

(from The Duchess of Malfi)

So, one of my students insisted on telling my fortune earlier, thanks to a deck of trippy hippy cards she just happened to be packing. The gag is this: you have to draw three cards, which illuminate,respectively, the past, present and future.

I did so, and drew up Isis, Pele and Brigit.

Isis told me that I was hanging onto the past too much. I needed to accept what destiny had in store for me.

Pele told me that I was containing my emotions; that I needed to listen to my dreams and trust them to lead me to a safe conclusion.

Brigit told me to stand up for what I know is right.

And whilst I was pondering the dubious significance of these, the head limey from our area showed up and told me that, oh, he was thinking of making some changes and would I mind terribly being moved to another branch and having shittier days off? I nearly vomited bat crap.

He gave similar to the Vending Machine Man. Naturally we hit the bar pretty hard after work.

The stars are all in place, you can take the horse to water but you can't make him drink. If I'm no longer to be guardian of the old river bridge, the next few months could be a good time to make some changes of my own. Time to let go of the past and listen to my dreams.

First up though is OPERATION IGIRISU: the homecoming. Less than a week away and I can't wait.

More to follow.

Monday, July 04, 2005


E-mail onslaught

Dan, could I ring you tonight?

Daniel, could you meet me today or tomorrow?

I was cut by glass...

Are you sleeping yet?

Could you go to karaoke?

DAMN, it's like having a woodpecker attached to the side of your head.

"What's that?"

"It's my woodpecker. I don't want to talk about it."

Friday, July 01, 2005


Generic grievance

I've been updating the 'pod today, trawling back through the songs I've stuck on the handsome beast and cleaning up the random mess of detail on the various files. The biggest problem I've encountered is that of genre.

Before I set to work today, there were well over a hundred songs on the 'pod, pigeonholed into almost as many categories: rock, alternative, alternrock... the list is endless. I particularly liked "other."

The winner, though, has to be the mouthbreather who'd categorised a Billy Corgan track I downloaded as "general alternative." What the hell is that? General alternative? You have to worry about the mentality of someone who taps that in and doesn't think: oh, hang on...

I hope that in real life his job doesn't bring him into contact with sharp objects and/or hostage situations.

The only band I left in the "alternative" category was Mogwai; everything else got dumped in "rock." Sorry Placebo, cross-dressing and drug experimentation just don't count as "alternative" in my book.


This week in the wild

Some of Rich Osborne's killer whale photographs aren't suitable for children. But among adults, the director of the Whale Museum in Washington sometimes brings out some of the censored shots: young males engaging in what might be described as a ribald form of fencing.

"We try not to impose values on these things," said Osborne, who has studied orcas for three decades. "But it looks pretty homosexual."

"Gay" behaviour seen in animal world
The Seattle Times, Sunday, June 19th, 2005

If, in the grand scheme of things, the above comment ends up being Mr Osborne's sole contribution to posterity, it's still a pretty good legacy.


Fishermen in northern Thailand have caught the biggest catfish on record -- a 646-pound (293-kg) giant the size of a grizzly bear -- and eaten it, the WWF and the National Geographic Society said on Wednesday.
Thai fishermen catch, eat record-sized catfish
Reuters, Wed Jun 29, 2005

Holy damn... they ate the thing.

Cheers to Brian for giving me this story, and to Walker for the "gay whale" story.



Pennies from heaven

The rainy season is upon us. Sleep is becoming less and less rewarding in the suffocating humidity of the Osaka night. The only respite from the oppressive heat is when it rains and, boy, does it rain.

Just like the heat, there is nowhere to hide if you're stuck outside: the rain belts you from all angles and, just when you get to Sony Tower finally, you get an e-mail from your student saying that she wants to meet for study tomorrow instead.

A minor annoyance.

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