Saturday, March 25, 2006

Back in the UKKK

I was planning on doing a large England post on my return, but for the time being, some observations on my place of birth:

-shop staff are rude and unhelpful
-girls are fat and mostly ugly
-sports coverage in the UK is incredibly good
-the summer weather is really nice

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Japan's Product Safety of Electrical Appliances and Materials Law. Doesn't sound so impressive or important does it?

Think again. Come April 1st, this little bastard takes effect, meaning that around 259 types of electrical appliances made before 2001 will not be allowed to be resold. Essentially this means that retro gaming enthusiasts and music enthusiasts will suffer the most, as all those vintage record players, consoles and guitars will be unobtainable. One of my long held dreams is to play a vintage fender strat through a 1959 SLS plexi marshall stack, a la Jimi Hendrix, but, in Japan at least, it looks like I'll be out of luck.

So why is this happening? Why the law? On the surface it's to ensure safety. But actually it seems to be just a huge concession to the giant electronics companies of Japan, who will profit greatly with a law that allows only new products to be bought.

Perhaps the increasing number of house fires had a part to play. Typical Japanese misappropriation. Instead of seeing that a lot of fatal fires are due to the daft way houses are set up here (no insulation, wooden structures, kerosene for heaters being kept in the house) they try to fob everyone off. God damn the old guard!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Some more wacky TV

Last week saw the "crawling GP", a popular event in which babies try to outcrawl eachother in front of hundreds of screaming parents. Inevitably, the babies started to cry, and this only seemed to make the parents laugh and cheer all the more.

Interestingly, the parents all seemed to be the same - yankee-style, catepillar boot wearing fathers, louis vuitton bag carrying, fashionista mothers. A number of techniques were employed to try to coax the little crawlers towards the finishing tape - perhaps the most interesting was the one pictured below.

Yes, a homie g shaking a piece of broccoli. Two things that should always be found together.

Moving on, yesterday provided me with my first chance to see Pan-kun and James, a chimpanzee and bulldog celebrity duo that travel around and do various activities. Well, actually Pan-chan does, and James just sits around looking like a bulldog. Last night Pan-kun was involved in a double header.

First of all, we were introduced to a "bu-bu cushion", the Japanese name for a whoopee cushion. To the amusement of about 100 colourfully dressed studio guests, the camera moved to a nearby zoo, and various animals were made to sit down on the cushion, to see how they would react. First up was an elephant, who fairly burst the cushion, and gave no reaction. Next came a camel, who did exactly the same thing. And finally it was Pan-kun's turn.

With the bu-bu cushion hidden inside a regular cushion on a chair in the room, Pan-kun toyed around a bit before ambling over to the chair to sit down. It was at this point that the film stopped and things moved back to the studio. The question - how would Pan-kun react?

The guests all gave daft examples, ranging from "he'll do a back-somersault and eat something" to "he'll repeatedly stand up and sit down". After a number of advert breaks (in which the key studio guests all appeared, predictably), we were finally shown what Pan-kun did. Sitting on the cushion and hearing the noise, he glanced down and looked a little surprised.

Then he got up and examined the cushion, opening it and finding the bu-bu. He put it on the chair, got himself into an elevated position above it and dropped onto it, savouring the second sound. But instead of some reference to the humanistic tendencies of chimpanzees , or intelligent opinions on evolution, the guests were contact to shout "bu-bu!" and "sugoiii!".

With the bu-bu having served its purpose, it was time to hit the baseball field. Pan-kun was kitted out like the little kids all around him, and was pretty handy at throwing a ball. Then came a trickier task: batting practice. The kids all demonstrated how it was to be done, whacking the ball off a plastic column. Pan-kun watched with interest, and his eyes visibly widened when he saw the aluminium bat being handed to him. He took a long hard look at the bat.

And then he started going all samurai on everyone, slashing and feinting at everything in sight! In my 25 years, there have been many things that have made me smirk, and a chimpanzee in a baseball uniform going salad with a bat is no exception. Luckily none of the kids fell foul to the swordworthy simian, and he was given another chance to hit the ball.

So what happened? Well, he didn't hit a home run, but the ball did go about 8 meters. There was a little preview of what Pan-kun would be doing next week, but all I could really make from the video was that at some stage he would be colouring in a woman's face with a crayon. Should be interesting...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

School trip - at the worst bowling alley in the world!

Wednesday morning saw the long awaited department bowling trip to Omuta, an event that almost didn't happen. Originally scheduled for months ago, it was knocked on the head by the Principal twice. It seems that it would be unacceptable for the students to miss three lessons of angry men in suits and slippers barking from an antiquated textbook.

Luckily, he finally gave in, and the International Department headed en masse to Omuta. When we got there, I was surprised to see that it wasn't the new alley near shikenjyomae station, but a ramshackle old warehouse of an alley in the dark recesses of the city. I didn't expect much, and that's exactly what I got.

Walking up the steps, it smelled like a bowling alley, and it looked like a bowling alley. There were the well worn house balls, the rubbish fruit machines and greasy proprietors skulking about. When we had all finally arrived (everyone was split up into coaches and cars), there began the grand farce that is the collecting of money. Despite the fact that the designated student leaders had already collected all the money from everyone, there still seemed to be a deficit, and around 20 minutes had to be allotted for about 5 people to individually count the cash.

After this, there was the obligitory 15 minutes of getting the correct shoes and balls. And then, just when I thought we might actually get bowling, everyone had to gather around, and there were speeches from the department head, the homeroom teachers and the designated student organisers. Bear in mind that the Principal had only given us 3 hours to play with, and this had to include traveling to and from the alley. With this added to the bureaucratic farce of money, shoes and speeches, it meant that there was only about 45 for bowling.

So, anyway, the moment had finally arrived, and having brought my ball, I was setting myself up for a potential fall. I glanced at the lanes, and recoiled when I saw that they were a dirty wood colour. It was clear that some oil had been applied to the lanes at some point in the past, but it wasn't recent. Given the hooking potential of my ball, I was worried.

The games began, and immediately the students seemed to be on song. The teachers seemed to fair according to their personalities - the nicer ones struggled, whilst the boorish bullies were hitting their targets. It was interesting to see their various styles: amongst my favourites were the ultra deep leg bend of the Department Head, the strangely-80s-music-video reverse roll of the 1st year teacher, and pictured below, the cosmic haight-ashbury fertility dance of the President's secretary.

When it came to my turn, I played safe, and threw a hard roll cross lane. It didn't turn as much as I hoped, and left the 10 pin. Attempting the spare, I missed by a far way, and this seemed to set the tone for the game. Whilst the two students on my lane played pretty well, I struggled, to the extent that I was open in the first 6 frames. At least 20 points down against people that had cheerfully told me that they hadn't bowled since the early 90s, I was under pressure. I could hear Linh Dang whispering abuse from afar, and I could imagine Ben Gammon bowing his head and shuffling off to find a new bowling friend. It would take something special to get even over a hundred, which was an absolute must.

I decided to go straight down the right with lots of pace, and lo, a strike, a strike, a spare, a strike and a spare! From being at the bottom of the heap, I had managed to leapfrog all the teachers and many of the students. In the end I think I was in fourth place, and narrowly avoided being presented with a bin bag full of cheap snacks. Face was maintained, for the moment.

Then began the team play, which seemed to be some weird system of random people bowling in random order as quickly as possible. Pretty uninteresting, apart from the fact that my monstrous hook 7 pin spare, in which the ball theatrically moves from the 30th board across to the 1st and whips into the pin, was witnessed by the student body and for a few moments at least I was an idol...

We only had time to play three games, and then there were some photo opportunities. I like photos, but there are only so many times you can pose and do the peace sign. Thankfully, one of my favourite students, the fantastically named Suyeon Woo, took it upon herself to pick up my heavy bag and do a few bicep curls, all the time looking like a very cute rabbit in a uniform.

Inevitably, despite the tight schedule, there was time for the teachers to demand that the students bowed and shouted thanks to everyone and everything, and incredibly there still seemed to be time to buy ice cream and milky drinks.

On the way home, I fell asleep in the car, due to the warmth of the day. When I was at the point of waking up, I realised that this was to be the last school trip of my short time at the high school, and I felt a little sad. It took a fast morning in a ropey bowling alley for me to know that, despite the crap that I have had to put up with at the school, I really will miss the students once I am gone.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Utter, utter waffle, courtesy of a teacher at school...

During my 2 years in Japan, I have heard some ridiculous statements (Japanese brains are physically different and superior to the brains of every other nation, the reason the Japanese olympians were flaccid during the Torino olympics was that the snow was inferior to Japanese snow, amongst many others). Even so, I wasn't really prepared for the little kernel of bullshit that popped out of a teacher's mouth this morning (please bear in mind that this guy is in a fairly elevated position within the school and is considered a rather wise chap).

We were in Omuta on a school trip, and as I was casually walking from his car, and noticing that there was a distinct chemical smell in the air and a yellowish tinge, I commented on the amount of pollution in the city. To which he uttered this classic response:

"Ah, it isn't pollution... it's actually sand from the Mongolian desert."

Really? Hell, I thought it was the waste from the chimneys of all those chemical factories...

Monday, March 13, 2006

Yaki Kaki - arguably the best dining experience in Kyushu

When I first went to a Yaki Kaki place (literally Barbecued Oysters) I was a little apprehensive. After all, oysters are those slimy things that are supposed to be aphrodisiacs. To eat oysters, you need to either be French or James Bond, preferably reclined on a ridiculously plush fur rug in a Swiss chalet with a beautiful femme fatale, or something along those lines.

My apprehension was compounded by the fact that it was the morning after the Kirin Beer Drink-off, and I was just a little queasy. But, when in Japan... I decided to bite the bullet, and to my surprise, the oysters were actually just like large mussels. Armed with a builder's glove and a twisty nail, I gladly polished off a great many of the kaki, and vowed to visit again.

An opportunity arose in February, so my wife and I decided to go. We were on the way to the same place, when we happened to pass another one. With it being closer, and tiredness on both our parts, we decided to give it a go. The format was essentially the same - you give your money to one of the staff, who goes and grabs whatever you ordered (usually plastic baskets of oysters, squids, crabs etc.) In the meantime your barbecue has been lit, and then you can start to put your oysters on. "My uncle says that the oysters naturally open when they are ready," my wife cheerily informed me. Which was only a part truth. Some oysters do indeed part slowly with a gentle bubbling of juice, but most - and this is why this is the best dining experience in Kyushu - explode violently, sending red-hot fishquid squirting in random directions with a rifle-like crack!

Utterly random spatially and temporally - I was hit on the shoulder, the ear and the thigh, and but for a few inches the biggest squirt of them all would have gone straight into my left eye. Yoko was fairly lucky, although she did get hit on the hand whilst picking another one up, which gave her a chance to practice her newly-acquired English swear words. Actually, thinking about it she wasn't that lucky really, as she did burn her lip rather badly and had to hold a can of beer against it for a few minutes to recoup.

No matter how many times the explosions happened, we never quite got used to them and each one made us jump a little. With the kaki almost down to the last few, I had a bit of a hankering for some squid, so we grabbed one from the staff and cooked it up, and it was utterly delicious. Rather than the tasteless variety found in sushi shops, this version was crisp and succulent and the process of barbecueing brought out all the flavour.

Two hours and two baskets of oysters later, it was time to go. We'd eaten our fill, been hit by burning juice jets and jumped at the sound of exploding shells, and we couldn't have had a better time. At the Yaki Kaki place there had been no talk of work, no unnecessary politenesses and no cries of "oishiiiii!", just families champing down on seafood and having a break from the real world. There really should be more times like that.

My first yattai

I've been meaning to have one for a long time, and on Thursday night I finally got around to visiting one of the many yattai stands around Kurume. Essentially portable noodles stalls, they provide quick, cheap and on the whole tasty grub for the late working salarymen, the night workers and the beer-addled foreigners on the way home from playing pool all evening.

I had a choice of places, and opted for the one with the yellow and see through curtain, for no other reason that it seemed a good idea at the time. Inside, it was how I expected - a little grotty, quite warm and rather like one of those lay-by portacabin cafes in England. A middle aged woman served me, and dealt me up some ramen with practiced ease. A tiny tv was in the corner, and another woman, obviously a friend of the owner rather than a customer, sneezed constantly as she watched.

500 yen. Not bad really, and it tasted good. It wouldn't win any awards, but at midnight and after a marathon of beer it did me just fine.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Nomihoudai, an appraisal...

The Japanese call it "Nomihoudai", the rest of us call it "all you can drink in a certain time for a fixed price". It's one of the many things that is great about Japan, and fits the Gaikokojin psyche like a soft glove - you drink yourself silly and then pay a fraction of what it would normally cost you. Win win, impossible to fail. Right?

Well, mostly. I'd say that at least 90% of the Nomihoudais I've been on have been roaring successes, but there have been a few that descended into, at best, stale farce, and at worst, exhibit A, B and C in any future deportation cases. Why? Here's why, in my very potted truths about Nomihoudai.

Truth 1 Gaikokojin + unlimited alcohol is an accident waiting to happen

Most Nomihoudais are peaceful and laidback, but there's always the latent threat that things will escalate beyond all control. With excessive alcohol, the Japanese versions of ourselves that we have nurtured are sometimes forgotten, and we often revert to our University ways - reckless necking of anything and everything that we can conceive, cries of "DOWN IN ONE!" and extravagent drinking games whose only purpose is to send the participants hurtling into a beery oblivion as quickly as possible. The rapid intake of alcohol affects us in many ways, but recurrent ones are the sudden beliefs that we can do anything, that we have solved the secret of life, that we can dance, that we should be doing this every week and not just on a special occasion, and that we simply must steal something as a memento for the evening. We Gaikokujin rarely need prompting to drink up, and the time limit of Nomihoudai seems to compound our idea that we need to drink a lot very quickly.

During my university days, I dallied with Chinese, and they introduced me to a number of ingenious drinking games which I always forget, only for them to resurface with gusto once a sufficient amount of ale has been quaffed. As is our wont, my friends and I would take these games and change them a little, making them more difficult and outlandish, creating such devilment as the Thumbmaster - Freezemaster - Backwardsmaster Game, which seems so very important when inebriated but rather ridiculous when sober.

When drunk we do things that we would never normally do, which occasionally put us in real, tangible danger.

Two of my best friends from back in England, who I will call JA and DI, were on their way to a fancy dress party, dressed as 007 characters complete with realistic shiny plastic guns. Happening upon some police officers, JA leapt at them, pulling out his guns and pretending to fire, much to the horror of the lesser-scallywag-of-the-two DI. Bear in mind that this wasn't long after 9/11, and on another night and place they could have been shot dead on sight.

Of course this is extreme. Usually we do less volatile things, such as when I took it upon myself to dance home in the style of Chrisopher Lee during the procession scene to the beach in The Wicker Man (and in the process somehow getting home in ten minutes instead of the usual 20). Alcohol seems to give us a feeling of immortality and untouchableness, which whilst thrilling is ultimately dangerous.

Regarding the desire to pinch stuff, there have been at least 3 occasions on which I have desired to bring the giant bowling pin from outside the bowling alley back to my apartment, even going so far as to plan it's capture on scraps of paper from Friends' bags. I don't know where this light-fingered desire comes from, but it's prevalent, at least in England, where the self same JA once filched a large ornamental plate from the wall of a local pub, and the sandwich board from outside a city pub, only for the police to pull up in their car just as he was heading off with it over his shoulder.

Truth 2 People maketh the Nomihoudai

All you can drink nights can be completely different experiences, depending on who you are with. Case in point:

On the night shown in the above photo, I was with the teachers from school. It was all shop talk and rather tame, their idea of all you can drink being to order a medium sized beer and nurse it carefully all evening. Only the insisted addition of 4 bottles of wine prevented the evening from being a complete washout. But besides the red faces and threats of ties being tied around heads, there were to be no fireworks, only talk about how delicious the food was, and what would happen during the next school year.

The photos below shows a contrasting night.

It was the night before the big Kurume earthquake of March 2005, and it was Zoe's leaving bash. Food and drink were laid on, as well as a subsequent bout of karaoke that went on until the next dawn. There was no shop talk, there was no reluctance to refill glasses and there was none of the sitting quietly and pretending to be interested to someone talking about work. There were loads of people there, and everyone mingled freely, talking about whatever they liked with whoever they liked. The karaoke session turned into a gartantuan effort, with arguably the largest number of people present before or since. Songs were sung in earnest, lacklustre happoshu beer (literally "sparkling liquor") was polished off with determination, Ben thought Christmas had come early with Linh parking herself on his lap, and Zoe and Ewan started pashing there and then on the sofa (which she still denies despite the photographic evidence above... "we were just talking" indeed..)

Despite the fact that we were apparently forbidden to rebook the first bar due to an unknown slight, and despite the fact that most of us went to work afterwards with only a hastily glugged genki drink to get us through the day, it was memorable, entertaining and fun. But this aside, the point is that even if we had all sat in the same restaurant as that of the school teachers and just talked, it would have been a thousand times better. It's who you are with, not what you do.

Truth 3 You have to be prepared for disappointment

Bad things happen sometimes on nights out, and Nomihoudais are no exception. Whilst it would be utterly unthinkable in another country, in Japan it is not uncommon for bars to delclare that they have run out of beer, and there endeth the supping. Thankfully, the very nature of Nomihoudai is such that the places hosting them expect more drinking than usual, and thus they prepare themselves and stock up. That said, it's been my experience that almost every Japanese bar and restaurant greatly underestimates the constitution of a bunch of foreigners on the lash, so don't be surprised if the staff can't keep up with you.

With this in mind, I've prepared a little guide for successfully navigating a Nomihoudai, with problems and quick solutions.

Problem: What's the best kind of venue for a Nomihoudai?

Solution: It depends. If you go to a karaoke place and do Nomihoudai there, chances are the quality of the food and drink will be less than in a restaurant/bar. Some people like small places, some like big, some with music, some without. Basically, a good guide is to pick somewhere with a pleasant interior, drinkable alcohol and reasonable price.

Problem: The staff can't keep up with our drinking!

Solution: You need to over-order! If three drinks are needed, get a few extra. The number required plus three is a good yardstick, as it allows for maximum drinkage in case of staff holdups. Of course, places vary, and so should your approach. In one place, a friend was asking for 6 glasses of red wine every time and receiving only 2. In another only one was omitted. In some places, the staff will immediately recognise that they can't delegate staff members to spend the entire evening running back and forth to your table with grog, and if they have the facilities they will bring you a keg and glasses, and ask you to pour your own.

Problem: Where is the best place to sit at a Nomihoudai?

Solution: Anywhere apart from at the end closest to the staff, as this is where a keg - should it appear - will be placed, and you will be duty-bound to pour drinks for everyone all night. A lot of places in Japan have curtain partitions separating parties, usually on one side. The other side is usually a solid wall, and this is perferable as it allows you to lean back and relax a little more.

Problem: It's the end of the meal, we're all hammered and we can't seem to make the money balance!

Solution: Do your homework beforehand. Find out exactly how much you will have to pay and have it ready in your pocket. Ideally someone should be designated as the money handler (usually but not always the party organiser). With larger parties, it pays to write down who is present and whether or not they have paid, although if you are planning an almighty city-razer, it might be best to get the money off people before you start drinking to avoid trouble later on.

Problem: One of our party is making a scene/causing trouble/being sick over everything

Solution: If you want to return the same venue in the future, you'll need to nip it in the bud quickly. Either pay and leave all together or choose someone to take the offending guest home. Whilst most Japanese forgive salarymen for throwing up on train platforms (and occasionally on trains too), Gaikokujins tearing down curtains, shouting at staff and launching multicoloured yawns everywhere will bring out the worst in them, and at the very least you can expect to be barred from the establishment. With there not being a massive community of us in many of the towns and cities around, bad news travels fast and many establishments enjoying the process of tarring with a ridiculously large brush.

Problem: Our bill is much higher than we thought!

Solution: Again, homework. Nomihoudai is for a set menu and set alcohol. If you start ordering extra dishes (and sometimes extra drinks), the staff will add it to the bill. It pays to find out exactly what drinks are included in the Nomihodai, and what food, and stick to that. The food will usually be a set amount, and it will be brought to your table automatically. To play it very safe, don't order any extra food, and stick to nama biru.

Problem: You call this beer?! It's vile!

Solution: Whilst most Nomihoudai beer is ok, sometimes the cheapest of the cheap is used. You have to weigh up whether or not you're willing to sacrifice quality for quantity. Generally speaking, the more expensive the set price, the better the alcohol should be, but don't quote me on that...

Problem: Having prebooked, some of our party are not here, and we are being told that we have to pay for them even though they are absent!

Solution: Make a choice. Either pay and get on with it, or make a scene and threaten to leave - tell them, as a friend did, that rather than lose the money for a couple of people, they will lose the money for everyone, and all the food was made for nothing. The establishment will most likely back down, but they might not. Having a Japanese speaking person here is a must (though not necessarily a Japanese person, as it's been my experience that they will often apologise and yield to whatever the establishment wants).

Problem: We've turned up but we're being told the place is full!

Solution: You should have made a booking, especially if you plan to go on a weekend. If you did book, and you are still being told that it's full, get someone who speaks Japanese to explain the situation to the staff. If this doesn't yield results, threaten to spread the word that the establisment in question is discriminatory and cares little for its customers. Claiming to work for Fukuoka Now! or some other such public news centre should spur them into immediate action. If not, take your custom elsewhere. Bookings are usually honoured in Japan, and I've never experienced the above scenaro. But that doesn't mean it can't happen...

Problem: It's the morning after and I feel like a pig has shat in my head!

Solution: There are a million and one remedies for a hangover, but the only one I know that works is to throw up all the ale before you sleep (if it's been a really heavy night it might happen for you). Having done this, you should wake up at 7am feeling chipper. Another tip is to eat something before you embark on your night out, as the food component of the Nomihoudai is often insufficient to counterbalance the vast amount of alcohol you will put away. On a similar theme, the simplest way to prevent the raging dehydration thirst of dawn is to drink at least a pint of water before you sleep.

Well, there we are. A little longer and more preachy than I planned, but I hope his rough guide to the Nomihoudai will be of use to at least someone. As for me, I really should get back to work. Mine's a pint, by the way...

Monday, March 06, 2006

A controversial standpoint and a pizza-making mishap...

The day before yesterday, my wife and I made pizza. It was great fun, pretty straightforward and absolutely delicious too, but something bad did happen, as illustrated in the above photo - Yoko dropped a piece of cheese into my shandy.

Now, I can already hear the screams from friends and strangers - into your what?!

The fact is, despite the fact that I enjoy beer immensely, as the likes of Diamond, Johnny Alpha and Gerard can attest, I firmly believe that shandy deserves a better reputation than it's currently got. After all, what's so bad about shandy? Beer with a little lemonade tastes grand, and provides an alternative to beer when you don't necessarily want to buzz.

Growing up where I did, and going to the high school I did, shandy was always in the background, but never partaken by anyone that didn't much fancy a good kicking. Shandy was seen as something your deeply unfashionable Great Uncle would order from a Sunday pub, and was deeply believed to be the sole reserve of limp-wristed fairies. Even mentioning shandy at high school would guarantee you at the very least a dead arm and a long-term place in the ridicule section of your friends brains.

I think everyone has been duped. There's nothing wrong with shandy. Lots of people drink shandy as an addition to their regular compliments of beer and spirits. And even those that can't face proper beer, does that make them somehow inferior people? Can you still be a real man and drink shandy? Of course.

The Queen is dead, long live the Queen!

Since that fateful morning in 1997 when I saw her perform Torn on This Morning with Richard and Judy, I have championed Natalie Imbruglia as the girl with the perfect mouth. College finished, University came and went, as did coming to Japan, and still Natalie kept the pretenders at bay and remained supreme.

Until now. As much as it pains me to say it, Natalie Imbruglia no longer sits upon the throne, which she has for the best part of a decade. Into her 30s, it was only a matter of time before she was replaced, but I kind of always thought that she would continue to be as she was that morning, all mouth and (combat) trousers.

But time moves on. It has taken a truly exceptional mouth to depose Natalie, as the photos following will attest. Naturally, I would have preferred to meet both ladies to compare and contrast, but alas it couldn't be done.
At long last, the mighty Natalie Imbruglia must concede her sceptre and ball to someone a decade younger and a tad more successful, and be content to slip into ignominious retirement to contemplate her place in the annuls of history.

So without further ado, friends, allow me to present to you the new Queen of the Mouth... Jessica Alba!

Ding, and consequently, ding.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The life

Nothing like a lazy weekend... bowling and pool Saturday morning, plum blossom viewing in the evening, a bit of Only Fools and Horses before bed, then some History of Britain on Sunday, washed down with some gentle beer and cheese sandwiches. Superb...

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Finally back online!

At last, at long last, I have an internet connection in my apartment. And what a connection.. 100mb/s fibre optics, faster than a greased pig on a flume slide. In the interests of my marriage, I have decided to limit my play time on my laptop, but my God it's so tempting...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

School Bureaucracy Gone Mad

With my departure from the high school imminent, I have been asked to administer the interviews to find a suitable replacement. So for the last few days, with the Prinicpal and Department Head sitting close by, I have met the applicants, explained the position and answered whatever questions they had.

Having advertised the position with clear instructions on how the applicants should approach the school, the Principal was inundated with emails and resumes. However, yesterday he told me that he had been on the phone all morning to a man wanting to apply, and requested a 5pm interview. Fair enough, I thought, this is my job after all. Whilst I was in the office, he called again, and with fluent Japanese managed to cram about 2 weeks worth of talking into 5 minutes, not giving the Principal time to answer and offering proposal after proposal, which were blatantly contrary to what the school wanted. After hanging up the phone, the Principal slumped into his chair and told me that "Mr Robert" will come at 6pm instead, so could I come at 5.30pm to prepare. No problem, said I.
The Principal then told me that ideally he would like to choose between the previous three applicants, and completely disregard "Mr Robert". Why not cancel his interview then? I ventured, and save him a trip. Ah, well, he has made commitments to the other teachers involved in his proposal, so it wouldn't be right, the Principal grumbled.

But... but... you're not even going to consider his proposal. Why pretend to be interested? Why do we have to sit here waiting and waiting ("Mr Robert" eventually arrived at 7.10pm with little in the way of explanation, or fellow teachers in tow) when it wasn't going to lead anywhere? And why was I asked to explain the job requirements when Mr Robert had something very different in mind, which made almost every point I made redundant?

To work in a school eh...