June 15, 2017 part 3 – Quest for pants

The Penpal, TD and I had survived our first flight, although TD and I had been on the receiving end of purple barf and needed a change of clothes.

We began our long walk from the domestic terminal to the international. We had brought a folding stroller for just such an occasion, but TD was so excited by the conveyor belt escalators that he wanted to walk the entire way. He refused to wear his backpack, so The Penpal carried it, along with the travel bag, her backpack, the stroller, and a purple stained giraffe toy which we stealthily disposed of at the first opportunity. I was wearing my backpack and carrying the car seat over my left shoulder while holding on to TD with my right hand and thanking myself for getting a gym membership.

We found our gate, and The Penpal took TD off to change his clothes. When they returned, I went to change my clothes. I was disappointed to find that I had packed myself a new T-shirt, socks, underwear, but instead of jeans I had brought my workout shorts. These are the kind of shorts that look fine at the gym or a pick up basketball game, but look fairly stupid in almost any other situation.

After swallowing my pride and putting on my shorts, I decided to rinse as much of the barf out of my jeans as possible in the bathroom sink. My plan was to clean them up, dry them, and put them on right before we boarded our flight to Tokyo. After giving them a very thorough washing, I discovered that the bathroom I was in did not have any hot air dryers, it only had a towel dispenser.

Thinking that this must be some mistake, I dried my jeans as well as I could and carried them to all of the other bathrooms in the international departure area. There was not a single hot air dryer.

Other than the unhelpful bathrooms, the international departure lounge was also home to several stores which sold the usual last minute souvenirs, snacks, and duty free goods. Surely one of these stores must sell pants, sweatpants, or at least a less dorky pair of shorts.


I understand that the souvenir T-shirt is ubiquitous, but I found it hard to believe that nobody had thought to sell souvenir pants of some kind. In addition to T-shirts, I could have bought jackets, hoodies, hats, or designer bags. None of these helped my situation.

After searching every store carefully, I decided to try my last option; asking for help. I waited in line at the Air Canada customer service desk. When it was my turn I approached the CSR who looked like she had just received an entire shift of abuse from tired, stressed out passengers. I’m going to call her Agnes. I mustered up my friendliest smile and told Agnes that I had a question somewhat related to my recent Air Canada flight.

“My son barfed all over me on my last flight. Do you know if there is a bathroom around here with a hot air dryer, or alternatively a store that sells pants?”

Agnes had not been expecting this. When she realized that I was asking a serious question, she did her best to think, then tapped at her computer before realizing that there was going to be no information about pants or dryers to be found. Agnes gave me a sympathetic look and said “I’m sorry, I really was not prepared for this question!”

Having tried everything, I resigned myself to wearing dorky workout shorts on our 12 hour flight to Tokyo. It was still an improvement over damp, slightly smelly jeans.

To the entrepreneurs out there I offer these two can’t miss business ideas: souvenir pants and departure lounge laundry services. I will accept royalty payments in beer.

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En route to Japan 2017

At the time this entry is posted, I will be en route to Japan with my wonderful wife (aka The Penpal for those who have been reading a while) and our 3 year old son. This is his first time to visit Japan, and his first time to meet his Japanese grandparents in person. It’s also the first time that The Penpal’s parents have had a 3 year old in their house since The Penpal was a child. Overall it should present some good blog material.

Blogging about my trip as it happens will put my overall story out of order (again), but you can always refer to the chronological list of all of my posts here.

For those who are sitting next to us on our long flight – my apologies in advance. We’re going to do our best to keep the little guy entertained. I will accept donations of sympathy beer once we land.

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August 8, 2006 – Typhoons are not helpful for drying clothes

Today a typhoon passed by Numazu. We weren’t directly in the path, but we did get some sideways rain. There isn’t an umbrella in the world big enough to keep you dry when it’s raining sideways.

The weather one, not the wrestling one

Typhoons are also not friendly to laundry. Clothes dryers are not common in most parts of Japan; most people hang their clothes outside to dry after washing. In my company apartment, my roommates and I hang our clothes to dry on our apartment balcony. Since the balcony is covered, we never rush to bring in clothes when it starts raining. Unfortunately a covered balcony doesn’t help much when the wind picks up and switches the rain from vertical to horizontal.

Today’s typhoon ended up soaking all of the clothes we had out for drying, but at least nothing blew away like some of the less fortunate people in the neighbourhood. Trying to find your wet, muddy clothes on the street after a typhoon passes is no fun.

Remember friends – bring your clothes inside when the weather gets nasty!

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August 7, 2006 – HOT HUMID


Summer in Numazu is evil.


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August 6, 2006 – Moonlighting as a children’s entertainer

A few months ago I had a lot of fun being gaijin Santa Claus for Yamaha English School’s Christmas party. The teachers at Yamaha liked my work enough that they asked me to be a part of their summer party. When I moved to Japan I had no thoughts about being a children’s entertainer for hire, but I am trying to pay off student loans and save for a wedding so I happily accepted.

All of the English teachers at Yamaha are Japanese, so having an actual foreign English speaker show up is a rare treat for the students. The Penpal (a former Yamaha teacher) picked me up early and drove me to the small town of Izu Nagaoka, located in beautiful Izu Peninsula. In the morning I helped the Yamaha teachers entertain 47 children aged 2-3. In the afternoon I was the center of attention for 20 kids aged 5-9. I got to help the kids play games organized by the Yamaha teachers, and I got to act out “summer words” like campfire, jellyfish, and beach.

The kids all seemed to have fun, and unlike when I was Santa, nobody cried. I had some fun too, but being a fun, enthusiastic person for a room full of kids is hard work and very tiring. I have nothing but respect for full time children’s entertainers, and have no desire to attempt this as a full time job.

After everything was done, the Penpal and I returned to Numazu where we celebrated a successful day by watching The Blues Brothers, one of my all time favourite movies filled with very non-kid friendly language.

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August 5, 2006 – Broken remote karaoke

After work I went out for some karaoke and drinks with Koalako and her friends in Numazu.

Usually when I go out for karaoke, I’m with at least a few English teachers. Tonight I was the only non-Japanese person in my group, and possibly in the whole building as well. Koalako is functionally bilingual but her friends weren’t so it was a good chance to practice my Japanese. We had a lot of fun and I wasn’t completely awful at singing.

On our way out, the karaoke remote had an unfortunate accident on the stairs to the front counter. We apologized to the staff and Koalako attempted to reassemble the remote for the staff. They acted like it wasn’t their first time to see a remote bounce down the stairs.

Seriously though, who puts a bunch of stairs in a place where people are drinking?

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August 2, 2006 – Friends

I worked an early shift today and got to spend my evening with The Penpal. We ordered pizza and watched Friends. Believe it or not, there is a lot of material to cover on both topics, so I’m breaking this up into two posts.

As an English teacher, students are often asking me what they can do to improve their English. One of the things I recommend is watching TV in English, and I specifically recommended watching Friends.

I was a fan of Friends back in Canada. It’s a fun show and it was always easy to find reruns on almost any channel. For those who have been living in a cave, Friends is a show about 6 friends who live in New York City. All of the action takes place in only a few main locations, and the stories mainly revolve around relationships, family, and jobs.

In addition to being a fun show, Friends is a great tool for learning conversational English. The characters speak the kind of English that many students want to learn when they go to a conversational English school. The language is casual without being overloaded by slang, the conversation is about things that people actually talk about (the aforementioned relationships, family, jobs), and there is a lot of movement and physical humour to help provide context to the spoken language.

English students in Japan can all find something to relate to in the characters in Friends. Overbearing parents? Check. Working an office job that your friends don’t understand? Check. Divorced parent? Check. Apartment life in a big city? Check. While not everyone has a pet duck or an evil twin sister, there still are at least a few things in the characters that everyone can identify with.

As one final advantage of the show, Friends is easy to find. Reruns are shown on TV and the DVDs are easily available to buy or rent. The DVDs come with audio and subtitles in both English and Japanese. I’ve been encouraging students to watch in English with English subtitles if possible, and only to use the Japanese subtitles if they had trouble understanding something.

What’s not to understand?

I know a few students have taken my advice so far, and I have been enjoying rewatching the show with The Penpal as a fun way to practice her English before she moves to Canada. That’s when we’re going to graduate to The Simpsons!




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