土曜日, 2月 27, 2010


This month was awesome, and painful, like a microcosm of life.
I decided, this being a short month and my gaining a few kilos over the winter, to take the month off alcohol. I don't know if that sounds like an amazing feat to you or note, but i do so enjoy drinking socially, that I for one was curious as to how hard it would be. The first test, Feb. 6th, my friends George and Jemma had a party to celebrate their getting married. The party was a mandatory 2500 yen for all-you-can-drink, and I drank two glasses of orange juice and some of the worst iced coffee of my life! But because I still had a blast and thanks to being there I got invited to play poker the following day with just the kiwis. Funny enough, I left that party early because I had already made plans for poker that night, too, at my friend Simon's house. I lost 3000 yen there, but if you subtract how much I'd usually spend on drinking while playing poker, I was guess it would have normally been a 4000 yen night.

The next day I woke up and went out to Hachihonmatsu (near/in Higashihiroshima) and played poker with those guys. It didn't even dawn on me until about 3 hours in that other than myself, everyone there was from New Zealand. I don't know if these specific Kiwis represent your average dude on the streets of NZ, but these guys know how to live. Lots of laughter, no one being overly serious or imposing, and humble. George ended up winning everything (it got to be a pretty big pot, too) but he didn't even say "I won" when the girls came back from their day out. I have yet to meet a Kiwi I didn't like.

The next weekend Sachi and I took 5 days off to see our friends in Fukuoka and then go sight-seeing around Kagoshima. We ate tons of great food, especially kurobuto, or black-pig pork, which is the Kobe-beef of "the other white meat". We also visited Sakurajima, home of one the most active volcanoes on Earth, constantly spewing ash, and Furusato Onsen, a Shinto shrine with pools of sea water heated by the volcano. On the way home we stayed the night with our friends in Fukuoka, ate Fukuoka's specialty, Tonkotsu ramen, for lunch and nabe for dinner while their two adorable little boys raised hell around us, and the next day stopped in Shimonoseki on the drive home for fugu-burgers, which is exactly what it sounds like. Delicious, poison blow-fish meat batter-fried and served in a bun with tartar sauce, and shredded cabbage. SO GOOD! Of course, all this great food meant my not-drinking only SLOWED my burgeoning gut. By the last night of the trip I weighed 69 kilos, up 3 from the beginning of the year!

That's why this month has also been all about getting back into jogging. I only managed to get out there 4 (I may go tomorrow, making it 5) times this month, but I've discovered that by tuning out I actually run much further than i thought before, so each time I've gone, I've jogged 4 miles, plus a 5 minute cool-down while I walk home and stretch. I really wanted to keep this up every day, but rain and bad health got in the way! Here's what happened:

Tuesday, my first day back from the Kagoshima trip, I got to go on board a 75,000 TON cruise ship making a round-the-world voyage, and interpret for the English Captain and Japanese government types. That was the biggest cruise ship to ever dock in Hiroshima Port and the first of several similar interpreting jobs for me this year, but next week's ship is less than half the size (although that's still massive). The weather had gotten unusually warm that week, and I mistakenly thought my suit jacket would be enough, but on the coast a super cold wind was blowing and that equaled over-exposure #1 for the day. When I got home I changed into warm-ish jogging clothes and went running in the freezing cold night - over-exposure #2. Then my buddy Kazu came over to give me a haircut. That was fun, but i sat in my cold bathtub wearing only my underclothes, and followed it up with a hot, hot shower. Three strikes, I'm out.

After the shower, I immediately broke a fever of 38.2 degrees (100.7F), and had violent chills where I thought my body was convulsing. Thank god I had my hot carpet on and I sandwiched myself between that and my futon, and after abuot a half hour, I felt well enuogh to crawl under my covers and go to bed. The next day I stayed home from work, went to the doctor, and had a blood and flu test. The flu test was negative, but the doctor told me, (and I think this translation captures the exact attitude and style in which he said it) "What else could it be?" Either way, the medication was both Tamiflu AND antibiotics, so whatever it was, it went away, but not before keeping me home from work, alone, for another 2 days. Again, this sucked, but I DID finally watch Slumdog Millionaire and I loved it! (Oh, everyone loved it? Okay.)
This week I managed to get back out there jogging, but by Thursday my legs were dead and last night it rained all day long. But I DID excercise! My buddy Dan came way out from his island to show me a 2nd floor, indoor skateboarding bowl/restaurant! It's called Fury Pool, and it's right by Diamond City. We spent the 500 yen to use it for an hour, and I must have ate shit about 5 or 6 times, meaning my right side hurts ALL OVER now, and I fucked up my wrist, but it was so worth it to get back on a board and dropping into bowls. What a rush! This year I plan to be back on my skate board MUCH MORE. Wish me life!

火曜日, 2月 02, 2010

Ending my January right.

I don't mean to make it sound like I only live on the weekend! I actually had a great Thursday night out after work with some co-workers who took me to a small restaurant that only charges 500 yen (roughly $5) for all you can drink soda, juice, tea, wines, beer, cocktails, whatever, for 90 minutes! Not only the drinks, but the food was quite cheap, and not bad. I don't know how or why it was so cheap, but I will be going there again sometime for sure! Work itself was a lot of written translations and the usual. I also do an "English lunch" every Wednesday with people at work who want to use what they know, but most are quite shy and need prompting/prodding. And Friday I went to an elementary school in Mihara for work. After giving them my standard lesson about American culture we ate lunch together, then some of the older members of the community came to help us pound mochi and play traditional Japanese games, like japanese spinning tops, gokokunarebi, a variation of Igo, kendama, and others. It was a fun day.

Saturday I worked, and at night played poker with my friends. I lost. heh heh. But the whole time we talked about goofy shit and enjoyed the highs and lows as the game progressed. I went around midnight because I had to work the next day too! Sunday I got up and rushed to work by 7:30am. From there, myself and some other members of the HIC, as well as volunteer staff, loaded onto a bus with 39 foreign residents of Hiroshima to Kita-hiroshima Town's district of Mizoguchi. Basically the boonies, but this was my second time going on the trip. The purpose was to show these foreigners, mostly from India, Indonesia, China, Brazil, and Mexico, what life is like in a region with heavy snowfall. Last year was waist-deep snow we made snowmen and inter-tubed downhill on. This year we had our big snowfall a few weeks early, so when we got there all that was left was the dirty, small patches left in the shade. "Oh no! What did you do??" you might fret, but fear not, the locals figured this out a few days in advance and whipped up some other traditional events, like...pounding mochi! Boring for me, since I had done just two days before, but good fun and a rare occasion for most people, Japanese included! There was Kagura as well, like last year, and I got to watch an Oni who made his way through the crowd to stage, stand right in front of me and reduce a 4 year-old Japanese boy to tears just by looming over him. I almost died laughing.
Don't forget this was for work. What work? I was translating constantly. Announcements before during and after, on the bus there and back, and speeches and explanations about the foreign and local food and cultures Japanese to English AND English to Japanese.

Best of all were the old men outside. The were there last year too, and only came inside for lunch. Despite the freezing cold, they preferred to stand outside around an stove pipe stove on wheels and they cut cups out of bamboo that morning to drink sake out of. This year though was an added treat. One of the old men had just come back from hunting wild boar in the mountains, and cooked up ribs for anyone who wanted them right there on the top of the stove! I ate about...5 ribs. They were sooo good!

As if my weekend, despite working everyday, couldn't be any better, Monday I finally got a day off. This was good timing being February 1st, the 2 year anniversary of my relationship with Sachi. We met for lunch at Swiss Fondue restaurant specializing in all you can eat dessert, and traded gifts at our table while the girls at the table next to us said "aww, that looks fun". Then we went bowling, strolling, shopping and finally stopping (see what I did there?) off at an elegant one screen theater with couch-like upholstery where we watched The Lovely Bones. It was long, and lame, but just like 2012, having Sachi there next to me made the whole movie seem better. We were still too full for dinner so we took another long walk together and parted ways so she could drive home to Kure. Later she texted me to say her mother was most impressed by the dozen roses I gave her. Bonus points.