Thursday, March 13, 2008

Blog Moved

I've decided to move my blog, just to make it a little bit easier to edit and write new blog posts! Apologies all!

You can now find me at

Moving will help me get new entries up faster, so I think it is a good thing! All my previous posts are logged there, so if your coming here for the first time, you won't miss a thing. See you there!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A long Absence...

Yes, I've been away from this blog for far, far too long. Actually, the last post is dated on Boxing Day, while I was recovering from a party in Thailand. Having just come back from Hawaii, and the beach again, I felt it was time to make a return.

It's not all that surprising that the blog went quiet for awhile, in fact, it's depressingly normal, as apparently 60-80% of the blogs on the internet are abandoned, most in the first week, with the median lifespan for a blog being only 126 days. (Which coincidentally, is just slightly shorter than the length of time I had been posting.)

But in any case, I'm back now. I still don't have any new video to post, (I'm considering changing the name of the blog to "Tokachi Not-Terebi") I thought it was important to get SOMETHING up.

So here's a brief rundown of the last couple months. I came back from Thailand, was busy snowboarding, musicalling, and dating in January, got crazy busy in February, went to Hawaii to see my family, sat on the beach and ate pizza for the first time in months, barely made it home, and am now back at the daily-so-called-grind.

There. That's all the boring stuff out of the way, so let's talk about something more interesting.

No, I don't mean more retrospective, (how passé) but just some things that are striking me as interesting at the time. Of course, at the moment nothing is!

School is easy right now, as the 3rd years are finished, and graduation is this Saturday. I was actually quite surprised as I wasn't informed that there was going to be a graduation ceremony, and was told I didn't need to attend. This seems to be unusual, and I've been left wondering if I've done something to make my High School think that I don't care about the job. Or perhaps they think they are just doing me a favour. In any case, it is this Saturday, so I am still deciding whether to attend or not.

Everything else is fairly usual, or at least, usual for my situation here. I'm hoping to make this weekend a bit of a "catch-up" weekend, a chance to see everyone that I haven't had the time to see, so hopefully that will go well!

See you soon,

(Oh, and go on facebook to see recent pictures, it's a pain to post them here!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

On a beach in Thailand...

Ahh, the power of the I am, not ten metres from the beach, and still able to post about my goings-on. The road to this small beach may be non-existent, but the internet is fast and ubiquitous. This is where I'm staying.
View Larger Map It's pretty much heaven on earth, white sandy beaches, delicious restaurants of all kinds right on the beach, many people of all different ages, and a relaxed and easy-going island atmosphere. Today it's been raining and windy, but otherwise the weather has been picture perfect. The moon is so bright at night that you can see as clearly as day. I don't have any pictures for yout yet; my camera is up at the bungalow and I don't feel like walking up to get it.

The trek to get here was a slog. After taking the train into Sapporo on Thursday night, there was a mixup, and I couldn't get into my friends house. I ended up sleeping in an internet cafe near the station (although that's not the hardship it sounds, cafes in japan have private booths, showers, free drinks, and reclining chairs..they're meant to be slept in by people who missed the last train home. If they didn't leave the lights on, or play soft-jazz all night they would be perfect) which ended up being a good move. I had to take the first train out in the morning to make it to the airport on time, but even being so close to the station I still missed as I took to long showering at the cafe. In any case, it didn't particularly matter, as it only takes 10 minutes to check-in, go through security, and board your plane in Japan. It's sooo much nicer then the endless lines and security rigomarole of home.

I arrived in Bangkok in the afternoon, and the weather was absolutely stiflingly hot. I took the bus into Banglamphu, the backpackers district, which was an adventure in itself. As you leave the airport, you climb onto the elevated freeway, and shantytown's and slumbs spread underneath you, until in the distance, highlighted by the blood-red sun, (which is red because of the smog) you see the skyscrapers of downtown. The vista aggressively highlights the economic disparities here, and it was the first time that I really felt that I was journeying through Sout-East Asia.

The drive through Banglamphu was similarly gorgeous, as the whole area was lit with lights, and the streets teemed as the Thai election, the first since the bloodless coup in 2006, was taking place two days later. After more than in hour in the inner-city traffic, made worse by cars parked in the street, and scooters weaving through the crowds oblivious to cars, pedestrians or sidewalks, we made it to Th Khao San, the backpackers street, and one of the major places of residents for tourist in Bangkok. The street was completely packed with people of all nationalities, going into and out of bars, restaurants, go-go dance halls and a thousand other places. I wandered around, somewhat lost, for 20 minutes or so, until I manges to find the ferry company to Koh Phangan. I caught the bus, which took around 12 hours to reach the port town. And from there, I took the ferry to Koh Phangan. It was similarly sweltering in Thong Sala, the main port city of the island. As soon as I stepped off the ferry I was assailed by taki drivers, offering to take me where I wanted to go in their songthaew. The songthaew is basically a pickup truck, with benches put along the sides in the back, and an open but covered roof. They are the main transportation around the island, if you don't take a boat, or rent a scooter.

After a harrowing hour long journey through the jungle which could optimistically be described as "roads," but which are in reality so washed out as to be dirt and rocks slopes, I finally arrived at my destination, the small beach of Au Tapan Nai Noi.

Since then, I've been lolling on the beach with the friends I've made here. Sleeping, swimming, and suntanning during the day, partying at night. It has been so idyllic and relaxed, that is, except for the crazyness that is the Full Moon Party.

The Full Moon Party has to been seen to be believed. It is an absolute madhouse, quite unlike anything I've been to before. It outdoes any rave, any rock festival that I've ever seen. Jen and Jackie, two Canadians who now live in Kenya, started the night off with me quietly enough. First, we made our way to one of the beach resorts down at the south end of the beach, as they had happy hour, and 100 baht cocktails from 5-7. Afterwards, we walked down to the other end of teh beach, and had a large thai barbecue at a different resort. We absolutely gorged on seafood and other treats, (I had sirloin steak and mussles with thai curry, which was unbelievably good) as we knew that we'd be drinking a lot later. We had a couple of large bottles of Singha, (a thai beer) but I took it slowly and paced myself, as I knew it would be a long night. Finally, at 11pm we caught the longtail boat down the coast of the island with some other friends of ours, and arrived at Had Rin, the site of the full moon party.

It certainly wasn't what I expected, and I think because of that, I didn't take full advantage of it. We disembarked from the boat, and made our way up the beach to the drink stands, where a hundred different stall where all selling the standard Full Moon drink, a plastic bucket, into which they poured a bottle of thai whiskey, a can of coke, and a bottle of Thai Red Bull. The whole thing went for the equivalent of $8. Now, to some of the more hardcore among, that may sound somewhat large, and yet tame, but let me assure you it is not. The Thais invented Red Bull, it was first made here, and it is quite a bit different than the stuff back home. Thai Red Bull is rocket fuel, as there are no legal limits on the amount of caffiene, guarana, and (I suspect) pseudo-speed. I was already half-cut when I arrived, but promptly bought a bucket, drank it, and went into a trance, dancing to ear-splittingly loud House music for 6 hours straight, till the sun burst over the sea. All in all, I have perhaps 15-20 mins of memory of the event, the rest is a blur. I didn't move around, I didn't see my friends, but I did acquire several mysterious bumps and scrapes.

Unfortunately, I missed the boat back to my beach, and was hence stuck on the beach at 8am, as the music continued to pump and people variously, threw up, took drugs, passed out, had sex, and went swimming in the garbage and piss-filled water. Although the party was set to continue until 6pm, (at which point the Christmas Full Moon Party was to begin) I desperately wanted to leave. As I am staying at a small and distant beach however, the taxi drivers wanted a princely sum of over $40 to drive me back home. I decided to take the taxi back to Thong Sala instead, hoping that the ferry would arrive with new tourists who also needed a ride to the beach. Unfortunately, no one arrived who did, except for Jen, but I never saw her, as she was passed out not 20 metres away in a different taxi. I gave up and paid the money, arriving back at the beach around noon. I stumbled home, striped down in my bungalow, and passed completely out.

Finally, around 6pm I woke up, and headed out for dinner. My Christmas night was fairly quiet, but after the crazyness of the night before, that whas undeniably a good thing. Today, I've been calling home, browsing the internet and taking it easy. I still have more than a few days here, which I am very thankful for, so in the next couple days I will probably do some scuba diving, snorkelling and hiking, that is, if I can peel myself off the warm sand and away from the embrace of the beach bar...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

On the Way Out...

Wow, crap, it's been awhile since I posted! Errh, in my own defense however, I have been busy with other matters. Look, I finally finished another video! It's called Episode 3, but really, it's more of a mini-episode. Catch it here.

It's footage I shot of a hike that a bunch of us did back in August. Yeah, August. My current editing speed is about a minute a month, which is beyond pitiful, and into the realm of not even trying. But I have been filming quite a bit, and I promise that, come January, and the students being on break, I WILL get a little more done.

Well, with the self guilt out of the way, why don't I update everyone on what's been going on? Basically, since my last post, and with the exception of last week, I've been doing a ton of traveling.

The first weekend in December, I headed to Sapporo on Saturday, the 1st, for the Sapporo Mid-Year Conference. This once-a-year business trip is paid for by the Board of Education, and while the seminars range from moronic to useful, it's simply a great way to catch up with friends who don't live close to me. The parties were off the wall, (including the trippy karaoke bar pictured) and by the time I returned on Tuesday, I was exhausted. The best part of the trip however, was that both my Junior High Japanese Teachers of English, and the Elementary teachers came as well. 8 in all came with me, which was very unusual, as there were only about 40 Japanese teachers from all of Hokkaido invited, the vast majority from Sapporo. I was really proud to see my teachers really going at it, trying their hardest to understand all the English around them! And of course, it was a lot of fun going out in the big city with them.

The weekend after was another Musical rehearsal weekend, this time in the Southwestern town of Toyako. Toyako is quite famous for it's hot springs, as well as it's volcanoes. One mountain near the town is called "Showshinzan" because it erupted out of a farmer's field fifty years ago. We went to it, and smoke was boiling from the top. (Video coming soon.) Progress on the musical has been slow, and our lack of a pianist to play the parts is really REALLY frustrating, but I think we are still making progress. Actually, one of my Junior High School teachers has said he may be able to play the parts for a recording, and may even be able to come to the rehearsals, which has really lifted my spirits a lot.

School has been normal and routine, if occasionally frustrating, which is pretty much par for the course. Most of my classes are working on long term projects right now, and are not learning new grammar etc. so I have very little to do inside or outside of classes. This has been perfect, because I've spent most of the time preparing for my trip to Thailand, and getting Christmas stuff in order. I left a bunch of stuff, (like my transportation in Thailand) to the very last minute, so I was relieved today when it all finally came together. From Bangkok, I take an all-night bus, then a high speed ferry for 6 hours, then a jeep through the jungle for an hour, or a Thai long-boat around the coast of the island for 1 hr, so it should be quite the adventure. I'm really looking forward to it, and have already kind of checked out from my work responsibilities, but that's also partly because I just have so much other stuff going on right now! I'm really trying to prep a lot of the musical stuff for when I get back in January, I'm thinking about running for the Hokkaido JET President's Council, I've still got Squash going on, Gregory wants me to take up Kyuudo, or Japanese Archery, I really REALLY need to buy a snowboard and hit the slopes, and my Adult Conversation classes start at the end of next month! Busy times in Japan...but I wouldn't want it any other way.

Anyways, last weekend was supposed to offer a bit of rest and relaxation, as I wasn't travelling, but it ended being just as busy as any other. On Friday I was finally able to convince the elementary school JTE's to go out for a night. (Several of them are pictured in the top picture, which was taken at our party in Sapporo.) We were supposed to go to Torisei, the local fried chicken, sushi, beer etc. izakaya in town, but it was packed with companies having their "Bonenkai" or "Year-Forgetting-Party." The schools are having them too, but unfortunately I will miss them while I am in Thailand. On Saturday I went for one of my very rare shopping trips to Obihiro, in order to pick up Christmas presents for my family. I failed my saving throw vs. shiny! however and was literally FORCED to pick up a new digital camera. It's a Canon IXY 10, and is quite purty, quite good, and very very small (It's about the size of a pack of playing cards.) It's 7.1Megapixels, and I bought two 2gig SD cards for it, ($15 each, each one hold 700 pictures) and the whole package cost me less than $280....It's at a very nearly commodity price point, and it's a really awesome and small camera, far, far better than my measly 2 megapixel cell phone camera. So all the pictures after this point were taken on it.

Saturday night was especially busy, as I had two different parties in different towns to attend. First up was my Squash Bonenkai, at the Western (All-you-can-eat-barbeque-with-candy-and-sushi-and-ice-cream-and-all-you-can-drink-beer) in Otofuke. Don't believe for a second that Japan is a land of rice, and fish and healthy diets all the time. :D It was quite delicious, but wrapped up around 9 pm, when Chris picked me up to drive back to Shikaoi, for another "Pure-Malt" party.

These, put on the by the Pure Malt center in town, are designed to bring the 20-something girls who stay at the center together with the farmers of Shikaoi. It sounds weird I know, but what ends up coming out of all this is a great, nowhere-else-in-japan party, with live DJ's and Bands, an incredibly cheap all-night all-you-can-drink/eat (less than $10), and more young people then I knew even existed in Shikaoi. I rolled out of there around 2AM, and stumbled home early, because I had to wake up at 8AM the next morning.

Sunday, I had a special squash day. I originally thought it was a tournament, but it turned out to be an open-house for the club, so we had a lot of first-timers there. (Video Soon!) I didn't get to play as much as I had hoped too, but overall it was still a fun time. I got to play the club-founder (an ex-army officer with great English) in a match twice, beating him twice, and so winning the bet of "two beer."

And of course, Sunday night, I went to the Onsen with Chris which has become a bit of a weekly thing. Sunday is actually perfect, because nothing is going on, and I can sit in the hot water, rest, and get ready for the next week. I made great plans to clean my house, etc, none of which I've followed through on. Meh, that's what January is for!

Have a Good New Years!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Strange Times

This week, time has seemed...out-of-sync. That's really the best way to describe it. Perhaps a change is coming, I'm not really sure.

This weekend I had Thanksgiving dinner on Friday, which was a holiday here in Japan. It's kind of a made up holiday, but nonetheless, it was nice to have it off. Saturday I focused on my squash game, playing quite hard for 4.5 hours, before going out with a friend from town on Saturday night. Sunday, as usual, was a day for recovery. I got up late, had a delicious bowl of Ramen in Shimizu with Chris, and then we headed to the nearest onsen, (it's actually quite a nice one.) Afterwards, we watched the new Battlestar Galactica and headed home.

As I was leaving his house, I mentioned that I felt...weird. It's hard to explain, but my best explanation is that the temporality of the moment was displaced, or compressed. What I mean by that is, I felt placed out of time, or as I said on Sunday, "The past is occuring in the present." It may sound crazy, but that's what it felt like!

This weird feeling has persisted throughout the week, and seems to have had other effects. My routine, which had become pretty stable, has been completely shot this week. I stayed up far too late reading on Monday night, and also did a lot of messaging and Japanese studying, which for me, is unusual. Tuesday I was exhausted, and completely unmotivated, which isn't terribly surprising, but I also had this very weird feeling throughout the evening, much like my feeling on Sunday night, a sense of things, occurring out of order.

On Wednesday, this feeling only increased. I was still tired, and so I went home early, around 4:15. (Technically I should have gone to the Board of Education after school, but they never check.) I decided to have a nap before playing squash, but I was tired enough that I slept till 9pm. I had strange dreams, which took part not in the past, or the future, or in some strange dreamtime, but completely in the present. Sometimes, when you wake up, your disorientated for a second, perhaps you're unsure of where you are, but this time it took me literally minutes to figure out where I was and what was going on. I could have sworn I'd gotten on a plane a week ago and travelled back to Canada. It was a disconcerting feeling, and I was upset that I'd missed squash, but I decided to take it easy, and ended up going back to sleep a couple hours later.

Basically, the whole week has felt weird, I haven't been able to get anything done, (and the BoE has been extremely aggravating) and I've felt as if I'm waiting for some sort of change to happen, as if something big is going to happen soon. Who knows, but it's been....


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Good vibes in the strangest places

So I've been kind of down the last couple days, but tonight everything is looking up. It's amazing what a good supper, (spaghetti with garlic bread and salad, all homemade) and (strangely) bad reality TV (the amazing race) will do to lift one's spirits.

And someone in Shikaoi finally messaged me back. :D

Monday, November 19, 2007

Retrospective Part 2

We'll return you to your regularly scheduled programming (or lack thereof, what with the writer's strike in Hollywood and my own video-editing negligence) in a moment, but first, a quick rundown of the last couple weeks for me here in Shikaoi.

Life is dull. November has for many years now been my least favourite month, and this one, despite being located on the wind-swept plains of a frozen and foreign island, proved no less tiresome. The best word to describe the 11th month is neutral, or if you prefer, gray. The sky is gray. The ground is gray. The temperature is grey. My mood is grey. November lacks the crispness of autumn and the purity of winter. It's cold, but without the benefits of the cold, like snow and snowboarding. It's a month of transition, which means it's dirty and off-putting, but it's even worse than March because it lacks the promise of new warmth that wafts through the spring air. I hate November with a special passion.

At the same time, I've also stumbled onto my JET-scheduled culture shock. Back in the handbooks they gave us in August, it claimed that between 6-12 weeks we'd get our real culture shock. Not the "wow Japan is so crazy and wonderful" culture shock, but the "why the fuck can't I find whole wheat bread?" kind of culture shock. Of course, I thought to myself that it wouldn't be a problem for me, but right on schedule I've been going through it the last couple weeks. The biggest trigger for it has been my feeling of isolation these past couple weeks. For whatever reason, the people in my town that I used to hang out with just haven't been around. I'd be paranoid if I thought they were avoiding me, but it certainly seems odd. I had a bad experience with a teacher not telling me about an event I was supposed to go to, and myself consequently looking like a complete fool at a bar in town, before getting sworn at by one of my English teachers, so I guess it's just a feeling of getting a little burned with cultural miscommunication. What seems to happen with a lot of JET's is that they either integrate into their community, or they don't quite make it, and retreat into the understanding circle of foreigners in their area. I'm not at all bashing hanging out with foreigners, god knows, without them I wouldn't still be sane, but I feel as if I've lost the balance I used to have. I definitely feel like I've been sliding towards Option #2, and I think it's about time I did something about it. Perhaps that's too harsh an assesment, but I've just grown tired of messaging people in Japanese and never getting a response!

So my game plan for the next few weeks is to have fun in my area with some of my old friends, enjoy the 30cm of snow we just got, and figure out a way to pay for all the things I want to do in the next few months.

At this point I don't actually feel like writing up a couple retrospective points, so look for those in the future!