Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Afternoon

I really meant to post yesterday but I was writing something else and then the day just ended. Although... there really isn't much to report. Same cloudy skies. Same cool weather. It's actually sunny right now but those words deserve to be in quotes because there is no blue sky. That might actually be worth reporting: strange weather. The forecast continues this way into next week, almost the third week straight. But my horoscope today, don't they all, said to look on the bright side, so I guess I should be happy it's not raining. Friday is almost finished. Downhill from here. I'm going to grab some ramen for dinner before badminton, or, more accurately, lose at badminton.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bobby Banana

I went in to buy some fruit last week and was confronted by this. Why anyone would buy fruit without a cute character on it is beyond me. Purchase products not represented by cute characters at your own risk in Japan. Here we see Bobby Banana confirming Dole's commitment to the same great taste in every banana. Ola!

Monday, May 26, 2008


It's another piss poor day here in Tokachi. A second Monday in a row of rain, which might seem fitting given it's Monday except that stretched between these two points is a week of rainy weather, and when not raining, cloudy. Only the most modest of blue streaks have blessed us. I'm starting to get a bit edgy because in actuality this socked-in weather has extended past a week and seems determinded to stick around. It's cold and laundry takes forever to dry. Running in overcast weather isn't such a trial but today, as with every Monday, everywhere is closed where I could possiblity run inside and I'm too much of a wuss to the brave darkening wet skies after work. I just thought I'd fill everyone in on this crummy weather. All I wish for now is a sunny day worthy of sunglasses - a day worthy to be called summer.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Afternoon not in the office

One of my schools broke new ground today. On Friday's during lunch it's normal for a pair of grade 5/6s to interview a student over the PA system. It's seen as a way to entertain students over the lunch period. I don't see the problem with expecting students to talk to each other over the lunch period but that's just how it's done here. Today, for the first time in the program's history, they interviewed a teacher, Nakajima-sensei. And, from knowing the results, they picked the perfect student to lead the interview, Shodai-kun. Keep in mind this school has under 50 students and all the questions were prepared beforehand. Shodai is a polite, engaging grade 6 student that is a pleasure to teach. However, it can be said, he has his own way of doing things. From my comedy training, I'm use to thinking of off-the-wall questions, but Shodai, wheather purposely of not, raised it to an art form. Most of his questions were met my long puases as Nakajima-sensei struggled to put his thoughts togather. Shodai had a line of questioning about bananas, their history and what goes best with them. Lucky for Nakajima-sensei, he likes them. "How healthy!" Shodai noted. The teacher was asked to name something he is ambivalent toward, the more accurate Japanese translation being something that he neither likes nor hates. This was met by the longest puase of the interview because it's not everyday one is asked their opinion on something they are ambivalent toward. We teachers could hear Nakajima-sensei straining to answer. When asked which student he didn't like to teach, Nakajima-sensei deftly deflected the question. The only part of the interview to go off script was a number of probing questions about Nakajami-sensei's visits to the emergency room delivered with the force of a seasoned reporter. I was eating with the grade 1s at this was happen. They seemed to have forgotten I was coming that day which is odd for a country I find so detail oriented. They had split my potions, which they assumed to be extra, between the grade ones, given each an absurbly large portion of both salad and rice (only 3 students); more than they could possibly finish. This raised the level of confusion near the end of lunch because there are strong rules agasint not finishing one's lunch. They gave us that cute look where they tilt their head and give you an expression like they have no idea what's going on. Eventually some had to go to waste because, after knowning where their hands have been, there is no way I'm eating it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Doughnut

This elitist of a doughnut showed up at 7-11 a couple of months ago and, needless to say, since then, I've been dying to try it. 7-11's in Hokkaido have a reputation of being the test bed for future products before they roll out nationwide. The number of novel food items passed through has never ceased to amaze me. It always concluded the same way, one day they would be there, the next gone - discontinued. This particular doughnut is made specially for 7-11 by some high-end Tokyo pâtissier, though one could argue, being placed in 7-11 questions such a pedigree. Upon learning the doughnut had a whooping 376 calories I was amazed: Had the makers stumbled onto sometype of rift in the space-time continuum? Had they bent the laws of physics to make such a sinful deight? It was like staring at some type of new energy source to power the future. The secret is partially clear: deep-fry sugary rich goodness and then dip it in chocolate. Many times I passed the shelf, knowing that one day it would be gone and imagining the shear eastacy of bite after dite, but resisted. Today was that day. My co-workers and I learned a value lesson: I need to eat more sugar because I had a nasty post-sucrose crash and my co-worker don't ever want see me eat sugerbecause they get along with hyperactive Blair. (I jest!)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Drying out

Shikaoi is drying out after nearly 30 hours of rain after the remains of a typhoon passed over Hokkaido. Little of the rain and wind was left compared to what fell on southern Japan but it was still enough to be called stormy. A patchy dark sky is all that represents the tailend of the storm today.

Monday, May 19, 2008


In leu of a cancelled class, I was invited to accompany the grade 1s and 2s on their field trip to the Obihiro Zoo. I'll skip a description of the sorry state of Japanese zoos and instead go right to the story: The weather was actually looking very ugly the day of, the only reason it went ahead is because the forecast for the backup day looked even worst. Drizzling rain; forbidding skies; dropping temperatures; that's what we had to work with. The kids were mostly happy to trounce around the empty park; the teachers close behind to make sure no one put there fingers where they weren't suppose to go. It was set up in a novel way with the grade 2s partnering with groups of grade 1s. Some groups managed to pick a plan and stick to it easily whereas other groups encountered a bit of drama in deciding what to see first. And no matter how many times the grade 2s were told not to run, everywhere poor grade 1s were left behind to be matched up at a later point by the teachers. Opening up a world of future disappointment, asked what animal they wanted to see the most, a common answer was the cheetah, of which the Obihiro Zoo has none. Of existing animals, most kids made a b-line for the hippos. The group I was with drew great pleasure from encouraging a sleepy polar bear into the water. The seals were also very popular due to the fact the water was very low and we could get very close to them. And, predictably, though we were at a zoo, about 20 grade 1s and 2s surrounded a tree with a lone terrified squirrel in it to their great amusement and created a highlight of the trip. For me, the petting zoo portion was most memorable; nothing was more heart-warming than watching the joy spread over the kids' faces as they discovered the world of rabbits annd guinea pigs. My smile refected in their shrieks of laughter. Everyone remained warm enough until we sat down for lunch. As soon as we stopped moving everyone got cold. To keep the children's spirits up, I never once complained about the weather (until later and only to the teachers), and led a rousing rendition of "Do the Hokey-Pokey" that even attracted the attention of the nearby giraffe and zebra. I wasn't particlarly tired until we got onto the bus and one by one the grade 1s started to fall asleep. At that point I started to feel my own fatigue. An interesting histoical note, I have been to this zoo once before in 1997 as a high school exchange student. I had completely put it out of my mind until I saw the monkey.. pit...? Kind of a sad state of affairs but re-living a zoo experience through my students I must admit I had a good time.

This elephant came over to see what all the commotion was about and stayed to watch us.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I don't get it

My grade two's must have been to a check up recently because they were all over me today; grilling me about my dietary choices; checking for grey hairs (still none) and generally poking and pinching me. I don't exactly see its connection to health but eventually I was declared "safe", their only word for "healthy" gleaned from baseball. I was also harshly hushed by this same class for talking during Pokemon at lunch. As a treat the teacher allowed them watch Pokemon and I was caught babbling on about something when they wanted to watch the action. As for me, I don't understand the attraction of poorly drawn, poorly voiced anime, but the students seemed to like it. In the end, I might as well tried to carry on a converation with a carrot for how enchanted they were with the video. I couldn't keep up with all the characters and each's motovation. Did you know Pokemon characters differ vastly in size? I was admondished for thinking Pika Chu was the cutest as evidently that title is held but some... other... thing. I am reminded about the time I started to watch the first Harry Potter moive ten minutes in; I couldn't all the different characters straight nevermind what they were talking about. I was eventually kicked out of the room and thus ended my brief encounter with Harry Potter's world. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Blog Housekeeping

I'm a bit late to the party for this post. Just some blog housekeeping I thought I should mention: I should have been more on the ball for such a momentous occasion. On May 8th my 10,000th individual reader loaded The Perfect Architecture Company since I started keeping track three years ago from somewhere in Gifu prefecture, Japan. The whole thing is a bit anti-clamtic since it turned out to be just some random person coming through google looking for "boy company architecture." (???) That is only one example of the some the strange architecture search combinations my blog manages to drag in. Search engine hits have increased in the past year as my blog has slowly worked its way up the google page rankings (onto the first or second pages). I can only imagine how depressing it must be to find my blog at the end of a link for perfect architecture. Suckers! In an effort to hoist this wreath of honour on a regular visitor, rather than someone who just stumbled onto my blog, never to return, I would like reader 10,001 to please step forward. If you live in Smokey Lake, Alberta, please identify yourself so you can claim your prize. You were the 10,001st visitor at 10:33 PM on May 8th!

Monday, May 12, 2008

The answer is: "Yes!"

I decided to take the wedding invitation I received into school to show the teachers since many are of marrying age. You see, from an anthropological perspective it's an interesting cultural artifact. The young teachers commented on it's modern style and completeness (including maps, RSVP information, and such). It led to questions about how big Canadian weddings are compared to Japanese weddings (Japanese weddings are generally bigger because one is obligated to invite everyone from work, but on the other hand, people pay their own way), and I had to talk them out of the idea that all North American bachelor parties are like the ones that make international headlines or are represented in Hollywood movies. I thought the invaitation was pretty novel myself and the answer is yes - I will be attending.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The bottom picture is of an especially sad sakura tree. It seems like just last week I was making fun of Albertans for their late snow and yet this was staring me in the face when I got to school this morning. It was only raining in Shikaoi (but cold), but the school, located on the plateau above Shikaoi (where I sometimes run), could not escape the the slushy fluffy snow. The kids actually seemed alright with it where as the teachers walked around like they were looking for the nearest cliff to jump off of. Being on plateau, there might have been a slim chance for that, but I knew in this case the plataue was only bordered on all sides by sharp ravines more likely to mame than finish the job completely. It would of been premature in anycase as the snow melted straight away but left a chill in the air. I'm wearing in the office now in my down vest over a sweater. I can also happily report I finished the lesson planning I needed to do for next week. Now all I have to just pick it up and go to class. My word, that's a good feeling on a Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A story about Japanese Badminton

Last week as I walked into the foyer of the Sports Center for badminton, my club members, already arrived, looked at me as if I was glistening cooked meat. Perhaps pulling a wagon of heavy gold after me? The reason behind this warm welcome was that, including myself, they reached a quorum and could now hold the annual club meeting as scheduled. I wasn't particularly looking forward to a meeting when I'd been expecting badminton but I grinned and bared it in light of how generous they've been to me. Though most talk about yearly financial statements went over my head, but I thought it humorous enough to note here that while there are barely 21 members, 12 of which pay dues and 7 of which come regularly, they run the club like it's a 10,000 strong non-profit organization with activities around the globe! Looking at the numbers in detail, I realize now there is no way our merger fees could ever cover the substantial cost of shuttles. I had no idea we used so many each year! A board of directors and annual meetings are crucial requirements to securing funding. It quickly became apparent the real sticking point would be positions on the board. The opposite problem of having everyone wanting the same position: there were not enough regular members to fill even a handful of the required positions within the club. This devolved into an abusrd spectacle of people taking multiple positions or assigning people not present to positions considered ceremonial (case in point, poor Ishida-san, not seen in months because of his bum knee, has to play park golf in September). In this respect it was the only corner cut. In this act I was basically dead weight because I'm leaving in a couple of months or I could have very easily found myself on the committee-to-plan-a-badminton-festival.

7 pic from Spring

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Tragedy Strikes Shikaoi's Sakura!

Actually not really. Or at least I'm part of the problem. Saturday and Sunday - most people in Shikaoi having the same idea - I used the sunny weather as an excuse to put off chores. Marking the air for two days was the smell of cooked meat and bitter charcoal. I fully planned to finally take pictures Monday: Monday came and was not only overcast, but miserably cold and rainy. Not the best conditions for photos. Tuesday came and I made a special effort to get out but it was windy, an effect of the storm moving on out to see. No close ups were possible. Between the strong winds and long rain, there were more petals on the ground then on some trees. I did get some shots and will put them up tomorrow. Between running and swimming today (and doing 170 push ups - Booya!), I worry even this post will become incomprehensible, and thus don't trust my photoshopping skills at the moment. (How's my spelling?) Tomorrow, tomorrow I promise! Also this week; a great badminton story. Acutally a badminton meeting. Those Japanese keep me on my toes. I also have some photos from Honshu that I eventually want to put up onto facebook. A "best of" of sorts.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Good news in Shikaoi

I never heard back yet if Shikaoi is getting the space port but the Sakura were in bloom today which is perfect timing because it's Golden Week and everyone has four days off in a row. That kind of news is liable to put anyone in a good mood! I'm not doing anything too special (but do plan on eating myself into a coma). One of my goals, other than getting a handle on spring cleaning and preparing for my future departure, is to run everyday. I just got back from an expectionally good run on the plateau above Shikaoi. Empty roads finally filled in with green fields on either side and everywhere along the horizon dotted with pink and white cherry trees. I was thankful I don't have any pressing injuries at the moment. It was the first run in a while that nothing hurt (comes with the territory of long distance running). I will get some pictures of the Sakura up probably tomorrow.