Archive for category The Ex
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).
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.
With my sister doing better, I was able to spend some time with friends. I went out to my first Premier Championship Wrestling (PCW) show in two years.
When I was a student, my friends and I went regularly to the weekly show at a bar near campus. Local pro wrestling is hit and miss, but some of the wrestlers are very talented and might just have a future in the business (if they can get out of Winnipeg). The crowd was smaller than it used to be, but I still saw a lot of familiar faces.
One of the familiar faces was The Ex, who came up to ask how my sister was doing. We hadn’t really talked since my last return to Winnipeg, and weren’t on the best terms. Because we have a lot of mutual friends, I sent her an email before I left Japan explaining the situation with my sister, and letting her know that I would try to get to a wrestling show. The intent was to avoid any awkwardness with our friends and where they were going to sit. To my surprise, she showed up at the hospital with flowers for my sister the next day, which was a very nice gesture. Our relationship may have ended badly, but The Ex was a good person and legitimately cared for the well being of my sister.
The wrestling show was pretty good. PCW was nice enough to bring back their wrestling trivia contest just for my return. I was the reigning wrestling trivia champion, and won a few drinks for myself and my friends. Also, we were once again the loudest section in the building. It was a fun evening!
(2015 Update) The most successful wrestler to graduate from PCW is Kenny Omega, who currently wrestles for New Japan Pro Wrestling among other promotions. If you have never had the pleasure of seeing Kenny wrestle, do yourself a favour and go to YouTube now!
One of my favourite Kenny moments online is his “Champion of Anywhere” match, where he challenges Winnipeg wrestling mainstay Mike Angels to a match at Angels’ cabin. Awesomeness ensues.
During the afternoon I met up with Brother X, one of my pledge brothers from when I joined the fraternity. Brother X was usually a pretty good guy, but had some bad habits that got him kicked out of the fraternity. We had been keeping in touch, so it was good to see him again. After catching up for a bit, we went to see Meet the Fockers at the cheap theater. MTF is a sequel to the hilarious “Meet the Parents”. It was disappointing.
In the evening I met up with The Ex. When I had originally decided to move to Japan, we were having a lot of problems in our relationship. We had been together for about 5 years, but weren’t sure where the relationship was going. I wanted to have an adventure before I got locked into a career, and after studying Japanese in University, I decided a year overseas to teach English would fit the bill.
It would be hard to describe the current status of our relationship. Ironically the word “complicated” is the simplest way to describe things. When I decided to go on an overseas adventure, I asked The Ex to come with me but she had no interest in living in Japan for a year. I asked if she was interested in coming to visit, but she wasn’t completely sold on the idea and was also planning a major trip to visit her cousins in Portugal. Before I left Canada, we had agreed to go our separate ways and to reassess the situation when I moved home.
For the first part of my time away, we had exchanged some phone calls to keep in touch. We switched to emails to try and get some distance. The emails were generally friendly, but it was a strange situation that we were both having trouble navigating. My decision to stay longer in Japan was also a bit of a stress point.
Before I left Japan, The Ex and I made plans to meet for coffee at Perkins while I was in Canada. We met in the entrance way and then moved to a table. It was strange to talk to the woman I had been in a relationship with for 5 years but hadn’t actually seen in a year. Things started reasonably well; we hit the safe topics – catching up on how our mutual friends were doing, and exchanging some of our current adventures.
The topic then changed to relationship stuff. She told me that she had been dating a coworker for several months now, and made a point of telling me that he was really tall. I told her that I was dating The Penpal (which understandably got a negative reaction), and that my parents had already met The Penpal’s parents. One of my biggest complaints about my relationship with The Ex was that in the 5 years we were together, our parents had never met each other.
I’m not really sure what either one of us was expecting out of this meeting. It was an extremely awkward situation and one of my least favourite trips to Perkins, but I think we both walked away with a bit more closure than we had before.
Perkins was close to Cinema City 8, the discount movie theater. Instead of being left by myself to over-analyze the uncomfortable conversation I just had with The Ex, I met up with my sister and we went to see Napoleon Dynamite. The movie was a collection of loosely related events in the lives of some very strange people in Idaho. It was weird and funny and very quotable. Napoleon Dynamite was a good ending to a day with some uncomfortable moments.
Hello to my regular readers and new followers. I am writing this post in March 2014, exactly 10 years after my 6 month anniversary in Japan. Posting and updating all of these blog entries has been a fun project so far, and a great trip down memory lane.
For anyone who hasn’t been following from the beginning, this is the story of the 3 years I spent teaching English in Japan from 2003-2006. I had a blog at the time, and am reblogging all of my old posts 10 years later, usually with a lot more detail.
To catch you up so far, in 2003 I was finishing University in Winnipeg, Canada and looking for an adventure before giving my life to the exciting world of corporate accounting. Thanks to an elective Japanese language course, I had an interest in teaching English in Japan and managed to get hired by a conversational English school called NOVA. I left a strained relationship behind in Canada and moved to Kawasaki, Japan to live in Hello House, a dormitory style residence with other English teachers.
In my first 6 months I had some memorable adventures, including:
- My first all nighter in Tokyo
- Some failed attempts with the opposite sex
- My first Christmas away from home
- Strange Japanese TV
- Getting a haircut with a language barrier
- Many opportunities to poison my liver
As distance and disagreements about the future put more distance between my ex girlfriend (The Ex) and I, my friendship with my penpal (The Penpal) had just recently and somewhat unexpectedly turned into a boyfriend / girlfriend type relationship. At the time I was living in Kawasaki and she was living in Numazu, so we were only able to see each other 1-2 times per month.
As I entered the second half of my first year in Japan, I was preparing to switch to a full time schedule, as well as getting ready for potential visits from both family and friends. Trust me – the upcoming friend visits are fantastic.
Thanks for reading and I hope that you continue to enjoy reading about my adventures as much as I enjoy reliving them through this blog.
I had to teach a 4 year old girl today. She ran screaming and crying from the small Nova fishbowl sized classroom, even when her mother was in there. So I ended up teaching her in one of the empty kids classrooms. Once she got into the bigger, friendlier looking room she was really fun to teach.
Just before I started writing this post I got an email from The Ex letting me know that the Pixies are reuniting and going on a tour. Holy sh*t!! Unbelievably, the first date of their tour is WINNIPEG, while I am stuck here in Japan. To keep this blog mostly appropriate for all ages, I would like you to think of the worst, most vulgar curse words you know. Now imagine me screaming those words over and over until I lose my voice. That’s how I feel about the situation. Hopefully they will manage to keep it together until they make it to an as yet unannounced Japanese date. I mean, seriously, that`s just cruel. The only thing that could be more heartbreaking for me would be Kurt Cobain revealing he is really still alive, and Nirvana starting a reunion tour from Winnipeg. F@*k.
It took until April 2011 for me to finally see the Pixies in concert. The show was on the Doolittle 20th anniversary tour and it sold out in less than 5 minutes. I bought tickets from StubHub, a ticket reselling (scalping) website for twice the price. Not long after I made my non-refundable purchase, the Pixies announced a second show in Winnipeg that I could have easily got tickets for. Meanwhile, it took me weeks of getting the wrong tickets, sending them back, getting the wrong tickets again and then hours on the phone to finally get my overpriced concert tickets.
Do go see the Pixies if you have a chance. Don’t buy from StubHub. Ever.
Went to an izakaya for the first time. An izakaya is a Japanese style pub. Not a lot of loud music, great drinks and food. It is located conveniently close to Hello House. I will be returning when I get paid.
When I was getting ready to post this again I was wondering why I had put so little detail originally. Surely my first trip to an izakaya would warrant more detail or a better blog entry. Then I remembered the reason why I didn’t provide more detail – Yumi.
Yumi was one of the people I met online in Japan looking for a language partner. She lived in Tokyo, reasonably close to Noborito and was looking to practice her English. We exchanged some emails and found that we both liked beer. Since I had never been to an izakaya before, Yumi met me one evening at Noborito station and we went to a nearby izakaya located along the Tama river.
Yumi and I had a fun evening of drinks and conversation, learning about each other and drinking culture in each country. After a few hours I walked her back to the station and said goodnight, promising that we would stay in touch and hang out again.
At the time of the post, I was only one month into my year in Japan. Before I left Canada, The Ex and I had many long, difficult discussions about the state of our relationship and how things would work when I was away for a year. We ended up deciding to take a break on the relationship and re-evaluate when I returned to Canada. We had an understanding that seeing other people was okay, but neither one of us really wanted to think about it. I decided that blogging about going out for drinks with a nice young lady that I had met online was probably not the best idea at the time.
Since it is now 10 years later and I am now happily married (not to Yumi or The Ex), there is no harm in blogging about this now.
To say that the day before I left for Japan was busy would be a huge understatement.
When you are about to go away for an extended period of time, people you know tend to call you to say goodbye and wish you well. They also always ask if you are free for one last coffee, drink, pizza, whatever. My whole day was spent avoiding the phone and packing. Not only was I finishing my Japan packing, but I was also packing my stuff to go into my parent’s house for storage. At the time my sister and I were sharing a two bedroom apartment, and she needed my room empty so she could find a roommate.
When you have lived in one place for a while, you tend to accumulate huge amounts of junk. Packing up the big things are easy, but sorting through years worth of random papers, pens, CDs, clothes, etc. is a never ending battle. My family and The Ex were helping as much as possible. I started the day grumpy, moved on to unpleasant and finished downright miserable.
At the end of my packing day, I had 2 large suitcases packed with clothes and essentials to go on the plane. I had my lucky Canada flag backpack filled with stuff for the plane, and a laptop bag with my sisters ginormus dinosaur laptop of doom. The rest of my room was stacked with packed boxes making movement difficult. On our last night together, The Ex did not stay over. She said that she didn’t want to come to the airport with me so we would have to finish our goodbyes the night before. For all intents and purposes, that was the last night of our relationship.
Getting to sleep was nearly impossible thinking about all that I was leaving behind and the promise of unknown adventures to come.
I got back from Edmonton yesterday. Very quick trip, but still fun. All went well with the consulate. Casualties of the trip: one pillow (left in hotel), one towel (stolen from waterpark), one skunk (run over on highway). Can’t complain!
2013 note 1 – The Ex and I drove to Edmonton to visit the consulate. This was a bit awkward knowing that I was going away for a year and that our relationship was going to become more challenging. Winnipeg to Edmonton is approximately a 14 hour drive. Driving through Saskatchewan is BORING. Hitting the skunk was the most exciting thing that happened on the way to Edmonton, but unfortunately the outside of the car smelled like skunk for the rest of the trip.
At the consulate I filled out the forms for a working holiday visa. I had to answer questions about where I was going to travel and what I was planning to do for work. You are not supposed to get a working holiday visa if you already have a job in Japan. NOVA warned me that telling the consulate that I had a job lined up could disqualify me from the working holiday visa. Technically I wouldn’t have a job until I landed at Narita airport and signed my employment contract, so I wasn’t really lying.
While I was waiting, a blonde woman came into the consulate and started filling out forms. She asked me if I was applying for a working holiday too. I answered yes. She asked me if I had a job waiting. I answered no. She made some small talk and asked me again if I had a teaching job waiting. I still answered no. To this day I think she was working for the consulate and trying to trip me up on my visa application.
2013 note 2 – The only other exciting thing that happened in Edmonton was that I got a call from one of my close female friends. She had just learned that she was pregnant from her boyfriend. The pregnancy was unplanned. I got this phone call about 30 minutes before The Ex and I were going to be back in the hotel having some… um… alone time. Learning about a friend’s unplanned pregnancy is a serious mood killer. Thanks for that friend!!
Overall, the Edmonton trip was successful and I returned to Winnipeg with less than a month to go before moving!
One day in my Intermediate Japanese class the professor told us about an upcoming seminar about opportunities to work and learn in Japan. I attended the seminar and learned about The Jet Programme. The Jet Programme is a long running Japanese government program to bring foreign English teachers to Japan. Being a JET teacher gets you a free trip to Japan, housing subsidies and a juicy tax free salary. The work all takes place at public schools. The downside is that many of the teaching positions are in small towns in the middle of nowhere.
Overall things sounded good, so I filled out the extensive application forms and sent them in for processing. I was contacted some time later to set up an interview at the Manitoba Japanese Canadian Culture Centre. To prepare for my interview I did a lot of online research about Japan and found some blogs written by people who had lived and taught in Japan.
My JET interview could have gone better. The interviewers were 3 intense looking people in suits who asked a lot of tough questions; why did I want to teach, how would I cope if I was the only foreigner in a small town, would I be okay if the teacher just wanted me to pronounce a list of words to the class, things like that. One of the things they focused on was my business degree. They wanted me to explain how an accounting degree would make me qualified to teach English. I answered that because I had practice explaining accounting concepts to non accounting people I could explain English to non English speakers. I made a reasonably good showing until the ending, where they decided to test my general knowledge of Japan. When I was unable to correctly name the emperor it pretty much sealed my fate.
I got a rejection letter a few weeks after the interview and discussed it with my Japanese prof. She told me that one of my classmates had been hired, but she thought I would have been a much better choice. Apparently the JET interviewers were giving preference to arts and education degrees, and my business degree was a major obstacle.
I was feeling pretty down about not getting hired. The Ex sympathized, but I think she was a little relieved that I would not be leaving the country for a year. I decided instead of giving up, I would find another place to teach English and be the best English teacher that the country had seen. I didn’t quite get that good, but I do believe that the JET Programme missed out.
In 2003 I was in the 5th year of a relationship with a woman who will from know on be known as “The Ex”. One of the reasons why The Ex became The Ex is due to my travel to Japan. Although The Ex is not a direct part of my experience in Japan, she is an important figure in the time leading up to my departure, and will occasionally pop up in the story.
Anytime someone talks about an ex-girlfriend, especially one from a long term relationship, there is a risk that the content will end up becoming an angry rant. I will do my best to prevent this from happening. The Ex is an intelligent, hard working person. We just weren’t the right people for each other. 10 years later we are both happily married (to other people, duh) and life goes on.
If anyone is reading this blog (and I hope there is), and you feel that I am being unfairly critical of The Ex, PLEASE feel free to call me out on it. I will try to present a balanced perspective. Thanks!