Archive for category Life in Canada

Train legs

For those who are new to this blog, I taught English in Japan from 2003 – 2006. One of the best parts about living in Japan was getting around by train; Japan’s train system is known around the world for being reliable, punctual, and inexpensive.

In my first year as an English teacher, my daily commute was 27 minutes each way between Noborito and Kawasaki, in addition to more trips around Tokyo and Yokohama than I can count. My second year commute was a modest 6 minutes between Numazu to Mishima. Despite not needing to commute in my third year, I still logged a lot of distance on the rails.

After being in Japan for a few months, teachers start to develop what we referred to as “train legs” – the ability to balance while standing on a moving train. This is a skill that develops over time, and it’s even more impressive considering the destabilizing effect of the average English teacher’s alcohol consumption.

When I was on the train with other teachers, we would occasionally compete to see who could stand up without any support the longest. Yes, we did get some strange looks from the Japanese people in the same train car, but we were lost in the friendly competition and didn’t care.

I have been back in Canada for 10 years now. Most of my trips to and from work are on the far less reliable and punctual Winnipeg Transit, with the bus riding over Winnipeg’s notorious potholes. Thanks to my train legs, I am usually able to walk from one end of a moving bus to the other with minimal support. It’s not the world’s most useful skill, but I still feel a sense of accomplishment every time.

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Happy 70th to my dad!

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.

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!

birhday-cake

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The story of the knee injury

I have had a dodgy knee for years, which as you can see in a recent post, I occasionally re-injure. The story of my knee injury is in two parts, the first one is not so good, and the second one I stand behind proudly.

Part 1: Everclear is never a good idea
I joined Delta Upsilon Fraternity in 2002, and in the summer I went to my first “Big Ass” meeting. We had weekly meetings during the school year, but only one meeting during the summer. The summer meeting was usually held outside of the city, and included a full afternoon and evening of discussion about the previous year, the upcoming year, and a chance for brothers to air and resolve any grievances. Also, drinking. A lot of drinking. Due to the size of the meeting, we called it “Big Ass”.

After the meeting we were sitting around a fire drinking beer. During that time, someone pulled out a bottle of Everclear, which I had never tried before. For those unaware, Everclear is a grain alcohol drink that is usually somewhere between 75% and 95% alcohol by volume. At the time it seemed like a good idea to start doing shots (it wasn’t).

everclear

Everyone was already in a pretty good mood, and the combination of the beach setting, fire, and fraternity brothers led to some good-natured rowdiness. At some point I snuck up behind one of my pledge brothers and tripped him for some reason, which I can’t recall, but again probably seemed like a good idea at the time. I ran away giggling as he chased me. I am not the fastest of land mammals, and he was a hockey player with much better cardio than I had. He quickly caught up to me and gave me a shove / bodycheck from behind while I was at my unimpressive top speed. My right leg planted on the ground and my entire body twisted around it. I felt something pop and hit the ground in a heap. I was surprised to find that I could barely stand after that, and had to be helped back to the cabin. We laughed it off, but within a few hours my knee had swollen to about triple the usual size. After a very uncomfortable sleep on the floor I was returned to Winnipeg where I spent the rest of the day with my leg iced and elevated.

Getting hurt during alcohol fueled shenanigans – not the best story. Keep reading!

Part 2: Runaway balloon
Several weeks later my knee was feeling normal again, and I was out with my girlfriend at the time (The Ex) and her family. We went out for dinner with her parents and family. We had a total of 6 adults and 2 kids. One of the kids was just a toddler, and had been given a nice red balloon on a string. She was proudly carrying her balloon, waving it, bouncing it, and generally enjoying a balloon the way that only a toddler can.

Winnipeg is a windy city. The terrain is very, very flat, and the newer areas of the city don’t yet have tree cover to provide windbreaks. We happened to be in a big box store area off Kenaston, and it was a very windy day. As we were getting into the car, a gust came up and ripped the red balloon out of the happy little girl’s hands, blowing it towards the undeveloped empty field nearby. Without a thought, I took off running after the balloon. I reached the end of the parking lot, and continued sprinting in the nearby as yet undeveloped field trying to catch up with the balloon. Just as I started to get close enough to consider grabbing the string, I felt the familiar “pop” in my knee and my leg gave out.

When I was a child I spent 4 years in kids gymnastics. I credit this with training my body to roll and protect my neck when I fall. Thanks to this instinct, what would have been a fall on my face turned into a somewhat graceful roll to a stop. I watched from the ground as the balloon blew away, never to return.

I limped back to the car, looking and feeling ridiculous. However, my selfless sacrifice did manage to earn me some respect and sympathy from The Ex and her family.

When people ask me how I hurt my knee, I like to gloss over the first part of the story and focus on the balloon chase. Anyone can be a drunk idiot and hurt themselves, but there are few things more noble than trying to rescue a little girl’s balloon.

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August 29, 2005 – So many channels, nothing to watch

Today I took the day off and hung out at my parents’  house in Portage la Prairie. I decided to plant myself in front of the TV for a few hours.

There aren’t a lot of TV channels in Japan, so it was a culture shock to have hundreds of choices on my parents’ overloaded cable package. Even though there were lots of channels to choose from, most of them just show the same shows all day.

You don’t realize how little you will miss TV until you don’t watch it regularly.

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August 27, 2005 – Prank backfired

The main reason for my trip home to Canada was to spend time with my sick sister and help out my parents. However, since I am not sure when I will be home next, it’s nice to get to see people while I am here. Since my sister is doing a bit better, I decided to take the day for myself. Tracking down everyone individually was too difficult, so I told the fraternity guys that I was just going to spend most of the day at the Delta Upsilon House.

During the day, people came and went, and I got to visit and have a few beers. At one point, one of the guys suggested we go for some… um… exotic entertainment. I agreed, and we all piled into the car and went to the old reliable exotic entertainment venue.

Occasionally when I need to entertain myself, I attempt to pay with Japanese yen at businesses in Canada. This usually gets some fun reactions, and is a good conversation starter. I decided that I would attempt to do the same thing at the dancers. Usually during or after a dancer’s set, customers show their appreciation by leaving tips on the stage. I decided to put down a 1000 yen bill on the stage at the end of the set.

The dancer was picking up all of the tips when she came across my 1000 yen note. She picked it up, looked at it, and said “hey, this is a 1000 yen note, that’s like ten bucks!”. She told us that she dances a few times a year at a similar entertainment venue in Roppongi. My friends told her that I was teaching English in Japan. She told me she loved Japan, invited me to see her perform the next time she was in Tokyo, thanked me for the tip, and walked away. That was not the reaction I was expecting at all. My friends laughed their asses off.

Out of all of the dancers in Winnipeg Canada, I attempted my Japanese yen prank on the one that also works in Roppongi. What are the odds?

After another overpriced drink, we picked up BBQ supplies, returned to the fraternity house, and proceeded to eat way too much grilled meat. It was a fun day.

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August 26, 2005 – Being a helpful brother

Today I tried to be a helpful brother. I took my sister to her doctor’s appointment, giving my parents a nice break. I hung around in Winnipeg in the afternoon, and even managed to do some clothes shopping. I hate clothes shopping, but it was overdue!

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August 23, 2005 – Out of the hospital

Today my sister finally got released from the hospital! They had to remove some staples from her surgery first (yuck). My parents and I took her home, and got her set up in her apartment. We gave it a quick cleaning, picked up some groceries, and took care of the stupid cat that hid under the bed the whole time.

Jetlag is really messing with my sleep. My schedule is all over the place! Flying back from Japan seems to be harder on my system than going to Japan.

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