Archive for December, 2016
December 28, 2016 marked my father’s 70th birthday. Since my dad is a regular reader of this blog and a recurring character, I have decided to post links to some of my favourite stories that he has been a part of.
- Pulling rank – when my dad accidentally interfered with my sister talking to American soldiers
- Meeting of the families – my parents meet The Penpal’s parents – somehow both fathers wore the same hat
- Kaiten Zushi – my dad’s first time trying conveyor sushi
- Final adventures 2004 – where my dad has a beer with a stranger in the park
- Canadian parents on the loose – my dad gets the hotel staff to demonstrate the automatic parking garage
- Osaka Castle with my parents – my dad bravely tries on samurai costumes in front of a golden tiger
- Kiyomizu Dera with my parents – my parents try to walk between the famous love stones in Kyoto
- No bathing suits in the onsen!? – my dad and I immerse ourselves in Japanese culture and extremely hot water
- Translating for my dad – my dad tries to have a conversation with a taxi driver in Osaka
- Izakaya with my dad – after a busy trip to western Japan, we relaxed with a few cold beers at an izakaya in Numazu
The stories on this blog only give a small look at my father – he is an avid music lover, tai chi practitioner, former gymnastics coach, science fiction fan, Tim Horton’s aficionado, and an international traveler. He is also the kind of person who will snowblow the neighbours driveway or make a special trip into Winnipeg to help with my car.
Happy birthday dad!
Tonight was a guys night in with Azeroth and Super Dave. After work we stopped by Don Quijote for snacks and drinks. DonKi is just down the street from our apartment, which is convenient because it’s very easy to overshop at a store that sells everything.
Upon returning home we drank beer, ate toaster oven pizza and pepperoni / cheese wedge sandwiches while watching Trailer Park Boys. There is something really international about watching Trailer Park Boys (a low budget Canadian show) in Japan with an American and an Australian.
Greetings readers, it’s -20 in Winnipeg tonight. I’m bundled up and hiding in front of my computer working on a chronological index of all of the posts on my blog. The chronological list makes for a cool master reference of the over 700 posts (as of right now) that I have already written about my time in Japan. Working on it is also a good way of procrastinating on long overdue new posts.
Looking back on some of my posts brings back good memories of a simpler time: I was living in an exciting place, having adventures everyday, saving a little money and spending the rest on food, beer, and karaoke. I hung out with people from around the world, knowing that when I was tired of that lifestyle I could simply pack up and return home to Canada.
I am writing this now from a house that I’m paying a mortgage on, up too late on a work night for an office job, listening to the baby monitor to hear if my nearly 3 year old son is waking up. It’s a very different lifestyle than 10 years ago, however there are still some minor similarities; I’m up late on my computer listening to music and drinking a can of Sapporo 🙂
Although I know that the carefree time of daily beer and karaoke is over, I know that I still have a lot of adventures to come. I’m looking forward to taking my son on his first trip to Japan next year. He’s already asking to see the ocean and ride trains. It’s going to be different than before, but sometimes different can be good too.
If you’re reading this, I wish you all the best of the season and hope that wherever you are that you’re close to friends, family, and happiness.
I’m not exactly sure the date of this story, but it happened when I was a teacher at Numazu NOVA, so May seems like as good a place as any.
Jenny was a difficult person to get along with. She was one of those people who always had a chip on her shoulder both inside and outside the office. I had very few interactions with her in person, but I had heard a lot about her from other teachers.
According to the rumour mill, Jenny had been working at Fuji NOVA and was having trouble getting along with the supervisor. Before her annual performance review, she contacted the area manager claiming that the supervisor didn’t like her because of the colour of her skin. Since intensive HR training and conflict resolution are likely not mentioned at all during NOVA’s barebones manager training, Jenny was simply transferred to a nearby branch to solve the problem.
The other thing I had heard about Jenny was from her former roommate Angie, one of my good friends and someone I trust. Angie was a lot of fun to work with, to hang out with, and everybody liked her. Well, everyone except Jenny. Apparently they had some kind of roommate disagreement which resulted in Angie’s new computer being being damaged after liquid had been poured inside. Angie had no direct proof, but with Jenny being the only person with access and motive Angie was convinced that Jenny was responsible. She went to NOVA and demanded a new apartment because she didn’t feel safe living with Jenny anymore.
I had worked with Jenny a few times, and had attended Charlie’s farewell party with her last year. I was always a bit wary of her because of Angie’s experiences, but I tried my best to be professional and play nice at the office. Sharing a cramped teacher’s room with people you don’t get along with makes for a very long day at work.
On one particular day, a branch manager from a nearby school was visiting Numazu. Jenny was at Numazu on a shift swap. The two of them were talking in the teachers room between lessons. Teacher’s room conversation is usually open to anyone in the room, so after I had gotten ready for my next lesson I joined the conversation.
“Excuse me! EXCUSE ME! This is a conversation between A and B, so you can C your way out of it” yelled Jenny with an angry look on her face.
I was shocked by her rude response; it came completely out of nowhere – I had no indication that she had any problem with me before, and even later I still can’t think of anything I had done to provoke such a strong reaction. Usually I could let something like this go, but I think Jenny had caught me on a particularly stressful day with one too many kids classes. My response was quick and probably more harsh than it needed to be; I decided to borrow the words of Ricky from Trailer Park Boys. Yes, this Ricky:
I looked directly at her and asked “Hey Jenny, do you have any offs that need fucking?”. She responded “What?”. I answered “FUCK OFF”.
This immediately had two effects: the first was that all of the other teachers in the room said “WHOA” at the same time, likely because nobody had ever heard me talk to anyone else in that way before. The second effect was that Jenny never said another word to me again. Not during the day, not on the train, not at another branch, never. Jenny’s silence did not, however, have a negative effect on the rest of my time in Japan at all.
Standing up for yourself is important, although I probably could have handled the situation better. I’m not proud of jumping directly to Ricky quotes, but looking back on the situation I also don’t have any regrets.
Today both the Penpal and I had the day off, so we decided to go engagement ring shopping.
For those following the story, I proposed suddenly in February when the opportunity came up. Due to the sudden nature of the proposal, I didn’t have a ring. I had no experience buying any jewelry beyond bracelets and earrings before, so I was a bit concerned about picking out something myself. I was also worried about the language barrier on a major purchase. I talked about it with The Penpal and we decided to go shopping for the ring together. We discussed my budget in advance, and were prepared to buy if we found something good.
There are two jewelry stores in the Nakamise shopping area of Numazu. I went to one of them with my mom on her recent visit to Japan, so we decided to start with the other one. We were greeted by a smiling, friendly older man who led us to seats near a display case. As soon as we were seated, a young, well dressed woman brought us green tea. These are good examples of the little touches that Japanese stores use to make customers feel comfortable and important.
The smiling man asked some questions about what kind of ring we wanted (diamond engagement), what metal we wanted (thrash), and if we had any other requests on design or appearance (not particularly). Neither one of us are flashy people, we were looking for something simple that looked good on The Penpal’s slender piano player fingers.
We went through the process of looking at a few different rings and ended up narrowing the choices down to two: one with a slightly larger diamond, and one with a better quality diamond. We chose the slightly smaller one featuring a very high quality stone with a white gold band. It was beautiful!
At this point I had a small moment of panic because we hadn’t talked about price. After all of the discussion and choosing it would be really embarrassing if this ring was completely out of my price range. I got The Penpal to ask about the price. The friendly older man pulled out a list, looked down it, and then typed a number into a calculator for us to see. He then said “and a 10% discount” which brought the price just under the ceiling of my price range. I said we’d take it!
While the store worked on the bill of sale, I ran down the street to the same bank machine where late last year I had withdrawn over $2000 to pay for a plane ticket. I once again withdrew a huge wad of cash and returned to the store to finish the transaction.
Since I had proposed in February we had discussed our engagement with family and friends. Getting a ring somehow made everything seem more real. As we walked out of the store smiling and admiring the ring, I realized that this was the first major purchase of my life that I didn’t have a single regret about. Not a one.
2016 Update – Still no regrets 🙂