The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Exploring Nihonmatsu

I'm going to have to make this short because I've been hogging the public computer here at the city hall for a while now, and I'm starting to get some "looks" if you know what I mean. Maybe I'll take a break to let somebody else on and then come back later.

Anyhow, I haven't been doing much lately, but I have been managing to get out and go for quite a lengthy (3-4 hour) walk every day. The other day it was up (and up, and up, and up a bit more...) to the top of the mountain to see the ruins of Nihonmatsu castle. There is nothing left there but the stone foundation, but it is still impressive to imagine the way this castle must have dominated the surrounding territory from its vantage point at the top of the hill. When I was there, I was all by myself for quite a while, but just as I was leaving, three middle-aged Japanese folks came by and tried to tell me about the history of the castle. I'm afraid I didn't understand most of what they were saying but I guess the castle played some important role in the collapse of the Shogun's government toward the end of the 1800's.

Yesterday was Christmas so I treated myself to dinner at Denny's ... kind of sad, but it's just about the only restaurant in this town. And for some reason, the Denny's franchise in Japan seems to be trying to go "upscale" ... it's not cheap by any means, and the food is actually quite tasty and "gourmet style". So, anyway, it was quite a nice meal and a fine Christmas treat for myself. It was a rather lonely Christmas but I didn't let that bother me too much. I thought of all my family and friends, and I knew that (some of them at least) were thinking of me...

Anyway, I'd better go. More later?

Important Correction!

Forgot to mention in my last post: there was indeed something slightly wrong with my address. Here's the corrected version.

Smile Heights Sampei #101
Mukaihara 261-2
Nihonmatsu-shi, Fukushima-ken

Roughing It...?

Where did I leave off? Anyway, it's been a tough couple days so far. I was told that I could move into the apartment ahead of schedule, which was a lifesaver since I didn't really have anywhere else to stay, given that I had to leave my Abiko apartment on the 17th. So I picked up the key for the new apartment, got all packed, moved out of my old place, shipped most of my stuff by courier, and boarded the train for Nihonmatsu.
With me, I had my backpack with a pillow and my toiletries, a briefcase-thing with my important papers, my sword (I didn't want them to lose that) and my foam mattress which folds up. All in all, it was manageable... but just barely. I got onto the train and, much to my displeasure, saw that there were no seats. I piled all my junk in the alcove? vestibule? (the space between trains) and stood with all the other losers who couldn't get seats. It was pretty awful, and that lasted for about 1 hour until enough people got off the train to free up some seats. I finally got to sit down for the last hour or so.
I got into Nihonmatsu around 6 pm. It was dark and the wind was incredibly cold and strong. I couldn't believe the difference 2 hours made in terms of temperature between here and Chiba. I took a taxi to the apartment. As expected, it was absolutely freezing inside. They had told me that the bedding was at the cleaner's so there wouldn't be any blankets. Indeed, there was just a bare mattress. The apartment itself is huge, especially for one person. I turned on the kerosene heater, setting it to full blast. There was absolutely nothing to do, (all my stuff was in transit so I didn't even have a book to read) so at about 9pm I tried to sleep on top of the mattress with all my clothes on. With the heater going at top speed, the apartment began to feel approximately liveable so I drifted off to sleep...
But then at around 3am, the heater started beeping to tell me it had run out of kerosene. Great. I looked around for another tank or something, but there was none... Japanese homes idiotically have no insulation whatsoever... it's like living in a tent... so within 5 minutes the inside temperature had dropped back down to about zero. I eventually hit upon the idea of sleeping underneath my foam mattress... this worked halfways well but was pretty drafty. (Imagine you are a hot dog trying to sleep between two pieces of bread... not exactly ideal.)
Anyway, I have since purchased 60 L of kerosene which should last a while. I have also been informed that the blankets won't arrive until Wednesday. Sigh. I shouldn't complain, I suppose. They weren't expecting anybody to move in for another week, at least. So until the other teachers start arriving, I am kind of on my own. It's not an exciting prospect, spending Christmas by yourself in a cold, drafty apartment, but it could be worse. I'm not sure how, but I'm sure it could be. Well, for example, I could be in jail in Malaysia facing execution after having been framed for importing 3 kg of heroin. That would definitely be worse. Warmer, but worse.
By the way, if you would like to try calling me, I received an international call the other day so I know it can be done. You have to follow the international calling instructions in the phone book which means you dial either 0-1181-80-5008-5333 or you dial 00-1181-80-5008-5333. The difference is whether you put one zero or two zeroes at the beginning. I'm not sure, so look it up and give me a call. Be forewarned, it's probably really expensive.
I don't think there is any way I can call anybody. I am currently using the internet on what appears to be a Commodore 64 here at the city hall. At least it's free. So I can check my mail and everything, and update this blog once in a while. Once I start work, I don't know how things will go but with any luck, at least some of my neighbouring teachers will have a laptop that they will let me use occasionally. So.... stay in touch and I will try to do the same. Send warm thoughts to me!

Monday, December 12, 2005


Here's the address I've received from my employer. It sounds a little bit strange to me (like maybe something's in the wrong order?) but presumably they know what they're talking about. I hope.

Smile Heights Sampei
Mukaihara 261-2, #101
Nihonmatsu-shi, Fukushima-ken
Japan 964-0916

I think moving shouldn't be a problem. Fortunately, they are letting me move in early, before my contract starts, and they are also charging me a very reasonable rent during that time. (Once my contract starts, I can live there rent-free.) So I should be able to pack, send my stuff with the movers, arrive there myself, and receive my stuff the next day. This was the simplest (and most obvious) solution to my moving worries, but I have just come to expect that things are never as simple as they could, or should, be. Pessimist me. So anyway, I'm happy about things. I'll let you know how things work out!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

New Job News

Well, I was offered the job in Fukushima teaching JICA volunteers, so I guess I'll be sticking around Japan for another few months. After that, I have been offered a renewal with Westgate from March to the end of July, so the earliest I anticipate coming back to Canada will be next August. It seems like a long time but I'm sure it will go by very quickly.

I don't know my new address just yet, but as soon as I do, I will let everybody know. My phone number should be the same, but as always, email remains the best way to contact me.

The next couple weeks are bound to be a bit stressful for me as I move out of my current apartment and (eventually) move into my new place. It's that 2 week interval in the middle there which currently has me stumped. I need to store my luggage (and myself) somewhere and avoid becoming homeless. I'm guessing that I will impose upon a series of friends to put me up for a few days at a time. There's also the possibility of finding a short-term apartment or something. I have no idea at the moment, but I'm sure it will all work out.

I'm not sure when I'll be able to update this blog again. If you don't hear from me for a while, it's just because I am in transit, so don't worry and I'll talk to you soon. I probably won't update before the end of the year, so.... Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Job Mania

Well, two job interviews in two weeks isn't exactly "job mania" is it? But still... not bad. I had an interview for a Junior High School ALT job in Nagoya (large city, central Japan) and another one for a job teaching volunteers who are involved in the Japanese version of the Peace Corps. The second one seemed better for a number of reasons, but the leading reason was that it would allow me to work between Westgate semesters, whereas the ALT job would be a one-year contract. I think I want to come back to Westgate in the spring, so I was leaning towards the "Peace Corps" job.

Both interviews went really well and both companies seemed like they wanted to offer me the job. The first company called me, offered the position, and asked for my answer, but I still hadn't heard from the second company. Since that was the job I was really hoping to get, I declined the first offer. But now, I still haven't heard from the second company. I'm wondering if I shot myself in the foot by declining the first job... but sometimes you have to gamble... let's just hope I haven't "gambled and lost" (which is also a euphemism for crapping your pants when you think it's just going to be gas)...

If I DO get offered the Peace Corps job, (actually, let's call it by its proper name: JICA) ... if I DO get offered the JICA job, I need a place to live for 2 weeks between contracts. That is causing me some amount of stress. I could always buy a tarpaulin and become homeless for a while. The bums in Ueno park always look like they are having fun. But I will also need to change the date of my return ticket to Canada. I'm wondering how long I have until I am no longer able to change the date...

Anyway, I am eaglerly awaiting the news about this job. If I don't get it, I can either scramble and get a job with one of the big McEnglish schools (unlikely) or just be lazy and come back to Canada (fairly likely). So I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen, but if all goes well (?) I won't be back to Canada for a while. If I get turned down, the upside is that I will be able to come back and see everybody sooner than expected...