Friday, June 17, 2005


- Does our fascination with monsters stem from the fact that we miss the days when we had natural predators?

- Are maternity wards quiet because, in a genetic hangover from our past, the babies instinctively know that to call out when not under the protection of their mothers could attract predators?

- Were the antelope horns and leg bones found in archaeological digs the early weapons of our hominid ancestors, or merely the parts of the meal that the big cats left?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Subtle psychological pressure...

In my job contract, it says that my working hours are 8.30am to 4.30pm. On numerous occasions, I have been told that, when 4.30pm arrives, if I have finished all my work then I can leave. Easy right? Well, not really. You see, my colleagues are all Japanese, in every sense. Despite the fact that they too can leave at 4.30pm, they always stay until at least 6.30pm, out of a sense of propriety and duty. Fair enough, I can appreciate that. However, I am not prepared to sit around for an extra 2 hours twiddling my thumbs when I have other commitments. Most of the teachers I work with live in the same town as the school. I, however, live a distance away, and what with waiting for buses and trains, it takes about an hour and a half to get home.

Any westerner working with Japanese colleagues will know that whilst Japanese people certainly work longer, they don't necessarily work harder. My work day consists of 3 lessons and 4 free lessons, or vice versa, which leaves lots of time for lesson planning and administration. My colleagues have similar schedules, yet they seem to drag their duties out, all show and no substance. If you want an example of this, go to the post office or city hall with a simple, 2 minute request and see how it's dragged out to 30 minutes for appearances sake.

Anyway, so at first I left at 4.30pm on the dot. Partly because of the above, and also because I need to catch a bus to the station, which leaves at 4.40pm. If I miss this bus, I have to catch the next one, at 5.20pm, and I can't make the 5.35pm train, so I therefore must wait until 6.05pm. After a few months, I kind of felt guilty about leaving so promptly, whilst all my colleagues were sat "working"... added to this, our identity card swipe machine is positioned in front of the main office, in full view of some senior school bigwigs. It has always felt a little humbling leaving so soon, under the watchful gaze of my superiors.

Now, in my 3rd month of employment, I 've decided to mix things up a little. If I want to get home promptly, I leave on the bell. If I'm not fussed, I wait until just after 5pm. Sometimes, with lucky traffic lights and no old ladies to pick up on the way, the 5.35pm train can be made.

I suppose the conflict for the western-minded worker is the drilled-since-childhood maxim of why put of tomorrow what you can do today in a society where not completing a job is acceptable as long as you appear to have tried in earnest. In truth, most days I have finished by 3pm. I'm left to plan far off lessons and tidy my desk. I sometimes wonder what would happen if there was another native English speaker here. Certainly my dark humour would have an outlet, and my humorous asides would have a chance to breathe and not fade to the back of my mind as I sit through another interminable morning meeting.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

On a tuesday afternoon, the things that are in my head...

1. My upcoming wedding, and the details and arrangements that are needed.

2. The film Dead Man's Shoes, and the messages it conveys.

3. The music video to Lets Groove by Earth, Wind and Fire.

4. Wondering if there will be any emails in my inbox when I get home, and if so who they are from.

5. Why are yawns and stretches so satisfying?

6. Why does the brown haired school boy that passes me as he gets off the train everyday look worryingly exhausted?

7. Will I ever go to Australia?

8. What's the name of that tv film I saw circa 1990, in which a young schoolboy called Edgar formed a school police force and caused a lot of problems in his school, the end scene being him praying?

9. Is it true that if you are in a maze, all you need to do is put your hand on the wall, and as long as you don't take it off, you'll get out?

10. What is the thing with Japanese girls and camoflage print at the moment?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Is it just me...

Is it just me or is....

Sandra Bullock incredibly plain?

The Rocky Horror Picture Show an utterly, utterly shit film?

Sarsparilla (or Root Beer) completely vile on the tongue?

George Bush the spitting image of a shaven Charles Manson?

Are you a ninja?

Imagine this... you are a ninja, and you find yourself in unfamiliar countryside. You need to make it back to your secret base, but you are not sure which way to go. What would you do?
If you would cut down a nearby tree and examine the tree rings, knowing that the wider spot denotes south, then you are truly wise and could well have been a ninja in a previous life...

Spontaneous song lyrics composed whilst waiting for the bath to run...

I met her in a hilltop coffee shop
Waiting for the rain to stop

She said she liked the authors of the books she read
And living life before you're dead

There was only so much she could give to me
Honey haired Felicity

Saturday, June 11, 2005

What Crocodile Dundee didn't tell ye...

When Mick Dundee went "walkabout", did you think he just went for a stroll to clear his head? Well, he did, but it's a lot deeper than that... according to The Songlines (Chatwin), the idea is deeply rooted in Aboriginal history. Going walkabout means to walk and follow the ancient songlines of the land, the paths created by the first ancestors as they wandered and sung whatever they saw into existence. Everything was sung about, and there was an ancestor for everything. Each person is decended from a particular ancestor, such as the Wallaby. Therefore, a Wallaby descendant, if on walkabout, will follow the wallaby songlines, to get back to his or her roots and understand his or her ancestry.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Things that happened on a school trip to Arao...

1. On the way to the station, a salaryman arrogantly pushed his way to the front of the crowd waiting to navigate the pedestrian crossing. He then hawked loudly and spat. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for me and the others who didn't appreciate his rudeness, he missed the pavement and gobbed all down his trousers. To make things funnier, he was so embarrassed that he simply pretended that it didn't happen, and strutted off.

2. At this mornings hotel breakfast, it was sadly usual to see a restaurant full of people choosing exactly the same meal from the very expansive buffet. With the exception of me and a very young kid, everyone else had a cup of cha, some rice, some natto, some miso soup and some suki-mono.

3. Waiting to go on the very large Ferris Wheel today, there were two old ladies in front of us. Yeah, they had the hats, yeah they were pointing and grumbling. When the attendant motioned them to get in a cart, they did some more pointing and faffed about as if they were standing next to a bomb. The ferris wheel moves at about 2cm a second, yet the ladies made such a drama about boarding it that the attendant had to stop the ferris wheel for a full minute to let them on!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Why do most salarymen have rancid breath? Is it because they grab a quick yattai after work? And why oh why was the acid-breathed salaryman on the train this evening reading his book outloud?... I was sorely tempted to tear his book in half and feed him the pages... that would have given the old ladies something to gossip about...