I Broke My Blog, and Yet I Write!

Yep, according to my brother, who has been gradually nursing my poor site back to health, I have fouled something important up in the inner workings of my blog. Thus you cannot read my “about” link, “archives” link or see my blogroll. You can still click on posts per month on the left sidebar though. That, it seems, is still limping along. Hopefully my sibling shall figure it out and I can have this thing running back to normal. Now I know not to touch with that “plugins” tab in the wordpress control panel. You live and learn!

This week saw my introduction to Japan’s health services. It was the town hall’s annual health check-up so we all got to have our blood taken at the office, and then were ushered down the road to the hospital later on in the day. It was fortunate for me because a few days prior I accidentally leaned against the aluminium pipe of my kerosene heater whilst munching on my morning toast (with honey!) Yes… the heater was on. So I needed to have my arm looked at anyway.

Now in SA, where a significant proportion of our population is HIV+ and fast climbing, I’m used to every precaution being taken by medical staff to prevent blood-related diseases and suchlike. But here, the nurses didn’t use gloves at all when handling a score and more of blood samples and used needles. Heather had expressed a similar experience to me before where the nurses in Wakkanai also didn’t use gloves. It was rather disturbing, but I do realise that Japan has significantly lower HIV rates. Still… that’s not the only thing that could be transmitted via blood! Not that I could insist on gloves being worn either. They never brought any to the office. Eish!

At any rate, later on in the hospital the doctor thankfully did use gloves to prod and treat my ghastly-looking burn (when I showed it to my supervisor he actually closed his eyes and looked away!), so I think it might just be the nurses. Although I didn’t see any bleeding stumps come in for treatment, so I couldn’t tell if it was a universal SOP or if it was just limited to basic health check-ups. Likely the latter I’m sure!

Medical issues aside, and blog retardation notwithstanding, the week has been good! I’ve since discovered that teaching at the elementary schools is a far more enjoyable experience than I had imagined. The teaching part is relatively easy when compared to the impassive teenage masses at Takushin, but the physical interaction is exponential! The kids really respond well to loud English and are usually completely willing to try out new words without sounding silly. ‘L’ and ‘R’ is usually my favourite to display, and to get them all playing with their tongues and making “RRRRrrRRrR” bear faces is hilarious.

Those who know me of course understand how radical this sounds, because up until now I have been nothing but high-fallutin’ and pompous. My pomposity, in fact, is exceeded only by my well-rounded arrogance! With elementary school kids, however, that stuff is kinda destroyed at the first salvo of kids clambering to touch the Gaijin.

Sure, I wouldn’t want to cook and feed one of these ankle-biters. Nor would I particularly interest them if I wasn’t all foreign and hairy, but I find I really look forward to elementary school days, because I almost always come away from them with a smile on my face and a real feeling of accomplishment. Even if all I did was teach them how to ask “How does this look?” or somesuch.

Written by admin in: Things Japanese |

My House is Clean! Also, Swans…

I’m a lazy person at the best of times, so when it comes to cleaning my place, I tend to stave off the inevitable vacuum and trash collection as long as possible. In SA even ONE black garbage bag could sit for a week or two before becoming ripe enough to warrant house-eviction. And even then, thanks to the frustratingly anal garbage collectors in Melville, my brother and I would often be left with trash bags piling up in our non-regulation bin as the municipality’s finest drove past our overflowing garbage pile week after week.

In Sarufutsu, it’s a little more… complicated. Because Japan loves to recycle everything, I have six different coloured and texted trash bags for different things. Pink is for burnables, green for milk cartons, yellow for beer cans, white for PET plastic bottles (which is basically every plastic bottle in Japan), blue for glass bottles, etc etc. You get the idea! What’s more, things need to be completely disassembled for collection. Meaning my now-empty bottle of orange juice, for example, must have the lid and wrapper removed and placed in the pink bag, the bottle rinsed out and thusly placed in the white one (with brown writing. The white bags with green writing are for chemicals.)

So cleanup in my tiny apartment is a pain, but today I managed to successfully remove no less than six bags of cans, bottles, pink miscellaneous trash and some others odds and ends. And then vacuuming and so on. Oi vei! Completely mundane, but eh, it’s worth mentioning. Recycle all one’s trash so that one can feel good about whale harpooning and so forth I’d imagine.

The long weekend was also spent travelling with some local teachers to the nearby lake – now frozen over – to see the several hundred million swans that migrate there. Much like the lake in Wakkanai, only larger, the swans were less interested in the people and more on staying warm. Clearly our feathered friends had more common sense than us tourists flocking there.

On the drive back I took some shortcuts past one of the elementary schools I visit and encountered some extraordinarily slippery roads. More so than normal for the winter spell, even my precious Rav 4 was sliding all over the show. Thankfully ABS brakes and corrective steering saved the day and I did not wind up in a ditch on the side of the road, forced to gnaw off my arm to stave off starvation in the backroads of snowed-under Hokkaido. Or something…

Here are my pictures of the week, enjoy!

Written by admin in: Things Japanese |

What I Now Know About Snow

#1: It’s Awesome

Yes it truly is. Aside from making everything look completely different, it makes your surroundings so wonderfully quiet. Going to sleep to the sound of absolute silence is a sublime experience in itself.

The powdery stuff that falls in Hokkaido is also not as… wet, for lack of a better description. I can jump around in the stuff and avoid total freezing wetness of doom by simply shaking the powder off. Sure it’s cold as hell if you touch it with bare skin, but who’s that dumb. Pshh, it’s not like I’d try and make a snowball with my bare hands or anything…

#2 Snowballs!

I have been told time and time again from numerous sources that this snow is no good for making snowballs. And this, I can safely say, is utter rubbish! Instead of horsing around in the school gyms during breaks, I now gear up and begin epic wars of snowball battle against the students. Simple physics insist that, if you compact the snow enough, it will harden into ice and thus become a projectile to be used in deadly combat. And I must say I derive a pleasure from snowball fights that I don’t think I’ve enjoyed since I was but a wee lad, riding my bike and pulling faces. Sometimes I can’t believe I get paid for this!

#3 Creature Comforts

Having an ambient temperature below zero degrees outside means one enjoys the warmth of indoors all the more. I have a newfound respect for my apartment’s kerosene heater, as well as for the packets of Aero and Swiss Miss hot chocolate I have picked up. The only thing missing is a wood fire. But I think a fire in these tight residential areas would be rather… calamitous!

Also my fleece blankets, long Johns (get it? Long Johns? Oh nevermind) and new arctic jacket of doom are all wonderful clothing items that I never previously needed in Durban’s sweltering heat.

Put simply I still love this snowiness. Perhaps it’ll wear off soon enough though. To be certain, having my car doors frozen shut in the morning was… irksome, and trying to pry open a door in sub-zero temperature, while you begin running late for work is frustrating, but with a little lubricant on the seals I can sort that out. It’s simply due to inexperience rather than winter being ‘bad’. Much like wearing sunscreen in summer, it’s just something you learn to do after burning yourself beet red.

Sure many say ‘but it’s so cold! And miserable!’ and to that I quote somebody I overheard in Jo’burg’s comparatively mild winter:

‘There are two kinds of cold people in this world: Poor people and stupid people’

And that, pretty much, is the gist of it. Needless to say, I won’t be making snowballs with my bare hands again anytime soon!

Written by admin in: Things Japanese |

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