Category Archives: Ranting

In a Smoky Bar at Midnight

So I started this post by writing this giant rant about the ridiculous complications involved in moving house in Japan. I wrote it, proofread it, and got ready to post it.

And then hated it.

I’ve been writing casually for years now, and I use the term casually very loosely. I like writing for a whole basket of reasons, a lot of which are shared with why I like reading. But it took a whole lot of writing and reading before I got half decent at evaluating myself. And even then I wasn’t particularly good. Being a teacher has shown me that everyone is their own worst editor: you need to be twice as critical of yourself than others.

So then I tried to write about music.

THAT got the axe right quick. I’m not really what people would call a sharer. In fact I’m more the opposite since I like to hide my insecurities with jokes, lies, funny faces, and non sequiturs about the weather, local sports teams, and fauna.  But here I am in a smoke filled izakaya writing on my phone off stolen WiFi with a pint in my hand getting steadily snarkier by the moment. One of my friends or family is probably gonna message me later about how I’m losing touch with reality in Japan and I can’t keep it real anymore.

Well goddamnit. Maybe I gave up on writing about music too soon.

Whoever is controlling the demented robot DJ behind the counter set it to  a terrifying mix of American rap and Taylor Swift.  If I find the stereo and beat it to death with a bottle of shochu, maybe they’ll change it to something less likely to make me go postal and swap my underpants with my ties at work.

Speaking of creative neck wear popular among the mad and functionally insane, the situation in Nagoya hasn’t improved even slightly. They get their new teacher next week and they show no signs of understanding that they will probably turn the poor sod into a slobbering mess with delusions of humanity and a queer preference for hats that clowns would recoil at the sight of. They have problems that are only going to continue compounding because no one has the stones to make tough decisions.

Then again I’m not averse to watching someone get turned upside out and inside down. I’m actually interested in observing how a person falls apart and I’m sure I know a few people would delight in watching the same happen to yours truly. It ties into my interest in statistics and weird correlations. I’ll probably warn him if he starts showing signs of declining sanity, but after that he’s on his own. I honestly have no horse in this race, so his fate is in his hands unless he comes looking for help.

My co-workers have figured out by now that I have a great empty field of shits to give. The few seeds that sprout are reserved for a very select listing of  people, a list which includes my family, my friends, and the use of the Oxford comma and double spaces after periods. It pisses off all the right people that I care about that sort of thing. It’s the little things that keep me moderately unhinged.

Fantastic. Just fanfrickingtastic. The robot has switched to unconvincing R&B sung by overpaid artists who use stage names they picked out of a hat and spelt blindfolded. Where’s that shochu bottle?


-GJ

I’m Feeling Snarky Today

Snarky – snide and sharply critical.  Adj.

I’d rather this blog weren’t a sounding board for my cute and fuzzy internal demons concerning Japan and the culture therewithin, but damnit I want to rant and rave, so something has got to give.  I’m not going to preface this with a funny anecdote or an interesting factoid: let’s jump right in.  Allyonse!

In the right corner we have shockingly ill equipped co-workers who won’t confront parents and deal with a problem child.

It started a while ago, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized the abyss this problem had carved out before me.  On Wednesdays and Thursdays we have this class of six 6/7 year olds who take a beginner class together.  Four boys and two girls make up the class, three little shits filled with pent up energy and misplaced aggression, one shy and bumbling boy who had some serious anxiety for the first month of classes, and two girls who are like nothing better than to put the boys in their place.  It’s a minefield where every mine is attached to rats of unusual size and have my name on the trigger.

So when someone put this class together, they told the parents it would be alright if they wanted to drop their kids off a little early and they could do their homework.  Good selling point, I can’t fault anyone there.  If I were the parent of one of these mobile migraine producers I would adore an hour off frim them in addition to school.    But this “little early” has turned into 45 minutes of after school daycare for the Japanese teacher we have working here where she has to be there to keep an eye on these ankleshankers who’re one conch and a deserted island from a reenactment of Lord of the Flies.

The parents drop them off, they run around a classroom and the school sounds like the mosh pit at a Taylor Swift concert, and we have to keep an eye on them while we wait for the proper class time.  It interrupts other classes, ties up the Japanese instructor so that she can’t really get other work done, and just winds them up for the actual class where they are almost uncontrollable.

And no one will tell the parents that they’re being arseholes.

I asked “why?”* to my co-workers, and the answer was basically “We don’t judge them”.  After my silent incredulity echoed through the room for a moment, I followed that up with “Aaaaaaanddd??”  Apparently none of my Japanese co-workers will confront the parents and tell them not to do this and talk with their kids about their behaviour because…they don’t think it’s their place.

Well whoop-de-fracking-do.  Let me go find my horse drawn carriage and cane and we can work this out like proper civilized folk in Victorian England!  Honestly, you are the teacher.  The children are behaving badly.  The parents are being inconsiderate.  You go and tell them not to do this, have a nice calm chat with their child dangling over boiling lava about behaving properly because we are  not a boarding school for troubled jungle savages!  Un-fracking-believable.

But none of them will, I guarantee this.  My manager is non-confrontational to the point where I need to hunt her down to fill out paperwork, the Japanese instructor has a very socially convenient platform for her high horse hidden somewhere out of sight, and the counselor who should probably be mentioning this to the parents when they show up won’t say anything because she won’t take an off schedule meeting with a man about the female equivalent of a horse without permission signed in triplicate.

Fracking mental.

But oh ho ho, things don’t end there. In the left corner we have Japanese parents who like to come in and tell us their grub “doesn’t like men”.  The fact that the larvae almost invariably turns out to be a male, they have a parent who is male(shocking, I know), they have friends who are male, and probably a small dog that keeps it’s family jewels on the exterior completely escapes them.  Their perfect little angel doesn’t like men so we HAVE to use female teachers for this kid.

This is of course a logistical nightmare, because the foreign teachers at The Company are 80% men** and this prefecture and four closest prefectures don’t have a female foreign instructor.  As a result, we need to put the kid into a class all on their own and whenever it comes time to teach them a foreign instructor lesson we need her in there with me to get this done legally and without anyone getting cross about contractual obligations.  The contract says we give the larvae a gaijin lesson once a month so that’s what we have to do.

It’s nuts.  And with the exception of one kid who has a problem with anyone who isn’t this one lady, it’s just a giant hand wave and dust cloud for the fact that the parents are discriminating bigots.  But that’s OK!  So we encourage this kind of behaviour and mentality by catering to their every whim and make sure Little Timmy has everything arranged just right for him so that he doesn’t freak out when he discovers his sensei has an X and Y chromosome!!!

And like before, no one will tell the parents that this isn’t acceptable.  They’ve probably been to a half dozen different schools saying the same thing, had their kid enrolled until it became too much of a headache, and then rolled on out to a different school to rinse and repeat this ridiculous pantomime.

And just top off this quickly derailing boxing metaphor, I found out that there is a railway company that recently had a very important cat die.  But wait, there’s more! If you order the next five minutes you can discover this cat was a Stationmaster! And that through shinto religious tradition this cat has become a goddess.

No.  Joke.

So a few years ago this train company was in a financial sinkhole with no way out.  Their hail mary? Promoting a cat living at one of the stations to “Stationmaster” as an advertising gimmick.  Turns out people really like patting cats before getting on a train, and they enjoy a cat in a fancy hat even more.  It saved the company, and her death was such a great loss they are “training her replacement” as we speak.   And does anyone think this is strange or weird? Nope, it’s just me and my rapidly declining resolve.

But before this all sounds like my sanity is balancing at the edge of a cliff***, there have been a lot of good experiences out here.  The paperwork, red tape and borderline delusional mentalities aside, I’m enjoying my time here.  I’ve got friends, I know the town I’m in pretty well, there’s a dog daycare near my house that lets me drop by and pat some of the dogs, a couple restaurants I really like going to, and a group of geeks I meet a few times a month to geek out with****.  I’m financially stable at the moment, I’m not stressed at work, I’m losing weight and I don’t feel isolated and alone like I did in China.  My apartment’s shit and I still bang and crash into things like a drunken mastodon because nothing is sized for me, but thus far the good outweighs the bad by a good margin.

Although the crazy does outweigh both combined by leaps and bounds….


-GJ

This is What Democracy Tastes Like

So it’s going to be voting time in Japan soon.   Or maybe in this district of Japan.  Or maybe it’s just for the school board or something like that.  Hell if I know what it’s for, no one at my work seems to know either and they’re Japanese.  How do I know that it’s going to be voting time?  Because the Japanese method of letting people know about their platform and proposals is to hire a car to drive around town with a horn blaring a recorded message to the masses.  No joke.  Aside from one rally I saw in Nagoya which felt more like stand up comedy, this has been the extent of my exposure to the local election.

Standard Japanese Election Car
Seriously, this is basically what I’ve seen and heard four times a day for the past two weeks.

 

This brought me to ask my industrious and valuable co-workers about the election.  And they don’t have a clue.  I felt right at home and I got my ranting cap ready.  Apparently Japan has the same problem as the other First World countries.  The youth and adult voters aren’t taking 20 minutes out of their busy schedules to put a few check marks or Xes on a piece of paper.  Seriously, why the hell aren’t you people voting?

Yeah yeah, I’ve heard a giant steaming pile of excuses: “my vote doesn’t matter”, “the party I like won’t win”, “I don’t agree with any of the parties”, “the government is going to be a bunch of crooks regardless”. You know what?  You can take those excuses you keep giving and stuff them in a remarkably comfortable place to a small demographic of people who enjoy that sort of thing.

Voting is important, it’s why things like school tuition and bus fares keep increasing: because the political parties know you lot are unhappy but are too bloody lazy to get out there and actually show how unhappy you are by voting against them.

When a politician says something like “Young people don’t vote and it’s a big problem”, they are in fact saying “the biggest potential voting demographic doesn’t vote and force us to talk about the issues they care about and we like it that way”. You know why politicians keep getting up in front of the camera and talking about crime and medical? Because the elderly love that kind of stuff and their voting more than you are.  Seriously, 80 year old cripples are worth targeting and we aren’t.

This is especially important because back home in good ol’ Vancouver, Canada there is a vote to increase the taxes by half a percent to pay for transit fees.  Apparently the bus service in Vancouver has once again buggered up despite posting record bonuses for their executives.  Apparently these guys are doing such a bang up job that they need more money to solve a problem they caused and still give themselves a wage increases totalling in close to half a million dollars.  It’s ridiculous and frankly shameful, and most of you probably can’t be bothered to put down that pint of craft beer and go vote.

God I miss real beer.  I haven't had a proper pint in weeks.
God I miss real beer. I haven’t had a proper pint in weeks.

So you know what people, here’s why you think the government doesn’t care about you and that your vote isn’t important: it’s because it isn’t.  You haven’t been voting as a group for a while now and the political parties know that.  They’re taking advantage of that and you can show them how wrong they are.  There’s a million students who don’t vote out there, I guarantee that if even half of you made a fuss this election things will change in the future.  Show them your frustration and anger by at least voting out of spite.

Or ironically, I know a lot of you are hipsters.

-GJ

When Last We Left Our Hero

As I write this, there’s a pot of Asian red beans with two enormous boneless chicken thighs simmering away on the stove in a home made Asian bbq sauce.  I just tried it and the chicken is good enough to make me squeal like a little kid discovering Santa isn’t a evil captain of the coal industry.  Well, the chicken is outstanding, but the beans have a ways to go.  I’m gonna let it simmer away some of that sauce for the day, hopefully those four dollar quarter kilo bags of beans won’t have been purchased in vain.  Bloody expensive beans.

Writing this is challenging as I’ve hit a sort of writer’s block recently.  I’ve got a couple different little side order personal writing projects because I actually do enjoy writing.  But for some reason I haven’t been able to generate anything in this marshmallow head of my mine for the past two weeks.  Maybe it’s this mass of curls on my head that are attaining enough density to generate their own gravity and are now sucking the imagination from my brain.  Usually crazy and stupid ideas aren’t a problem for me.

I tried to get them chopped off(the curls) a few weeks back but the metrosexual Japanese guy(which is to say  a Japanese male under the age of 30) who explained it would cost me 3500 yen, or about 40 dollars.  The second place I went to said something similar.  And the third.  And the fourth.  Forty bucks for a hair cut is something I am not willing to pay.  Doesn’t matter if it comes with a complementary hot towel, a neck and scalp massage, a shampoo and my choice of naughty mags.  I am not paying forty dollars for a hair cut.  Again.  It happened once, and I’m not proud of it.

I’m assured by the other gaijin teacher from Canada in these here parts that I can get a hair cut for under 2000 yen, but I’ve yet to find this mythical and magical place from which reasonable hair cuts spring forth.  Maybe I just need to look harder, because Google Maps is great for the trains but bloody useless for finding run of the mill stores.  I spent two months looking for a gaming store and travelling into other towns and cities to get my gaming fix because this two-horse city didn’t have one.  Turns out, I was wrong(I’m getting remarkably accustom to this fact nowadays), and Google Maps is wrong as well.  It’s practically down the street from me, a 15-20 minute bicycle ride.  Found it last week and it even sells English product.  I’m sure by this time next month I’ll have found a perfectly reasonably priced barber shop that’s around the corner from me and has a barber who speaks some English!

The problem is that the cost of things is perfectly reasonable.  You’d think meat would be expensive, and it is.  But living in North America where meat is cheaper has trained me otherwise.  And alcohol, Canada and Europe has this annoying habit of charging us a bit of a premium for getting sloshed.  But here I can get sloshed without spending anything more than seems reasonable.  The candy and pop is cheap, eating premade food is cheap, and making your own food is only a little cheaper which seems perfectly reasonable!  And then I encounter red tape and I lose a small piece of my sanity.

The red tape is not a lie.  I know some people associate Japanese with creepy middle aged men and deep sea cephalopods, but my recent experiences are making me associate Japan with stupid recycling policies, wasted paper work and light years of red tape.

If I forget to clock in at work, my boss can’t go to my time sheet and sign off and write in when I arrived.  No, she has to bring out the special sheet that needs my signature, her signature, her stamp, and a bunch of writing in Japanese that I’m sure someone is using to gather some really funny demographic information  And then she needs to fill out another form so that whoever is checking this kind of thing knows she didn’t sign and stamp that other page by accident.

If I want to sell some magic cards into the local magic card market, I can’t go to the store and  get them to make a note in the computer that they bought some cards for X amount.  No, they need me to fill out a form in Japanese because English is NOT DONE(insert German accent here) with each cards’ name and store value and set number, write down my address(again completely in Japanese), phone number(which I don’t have), email address and let them take a photocopy of my resident card(which I’ve learned to carry around everywhere like some kind of worry stone), all so that they can give me an in-store only cheque that I can redeem for cards or cash.  Selling magic cards is taking me 20 minutes or longer, but back home I usually had to wait in line for 20 minutes, but took 2 minutes to actually sell.

You do not want to know that land mines that have been waiting for me in this nutty country.  I like it, but it’s no surprise there is so much repression among their populace.  The rules are breeding generations of people who need to find weirder and weirder stuff to let out their inner frustrations and demons.  And I’m such a smashing example of normalcy after all the tortures I endure by she who shall not be named.  Maybe this country is more my mental speed.

 

Buskers, Bears and Music

Street performance or busking is the practice of performing in public places, for gratuities, which are generally in the form of money and edibles. People engaging in this practice are called street performersbuskersstreet musiciansminstrels, or troubadours.  Street performance dates back to antiquity, and occurs all over the world.

 

Busking is something that we need more of in Vancouver.  Walking down the streets of the city would be vastly more flavourful and enticing if this ancient profession were more prevalent.  While I have nothing but respect for those who do street performances, it does lack a lot of perks the majority of people want in a job(job security, dental, eye care, a lunch room, unlimited photocopies, things to steal after you quit or get fired).  And while I can understand the draw of it, Vancouver lacks the number and quality of buskers pretty much for the same reason we don’t have tourist attractions over a hundred years old.  We lack the history needed for a true busking tradition.

In Europe, buskers get everywhere(At least that I’ve been to, I’m sure there’s a nook or cranny somewhere on the continent that they’ve yet to discover).  It’s hard to go anywhere in a big city and not find someone playing music, performing magic or entertaining an audience with a comic performance.  In London I saw a man weave together magic and comedy to amuse and entertain a good hundred people on the street.  In Paris a small trio of (possibly and probably gypsy) musicians distract a crowd of tourists while their light-fingered compatriots ducked their way through the crowd.  And in Nice, I watched a quartet of buskers attempt a French take on American rock and roll at the crossroad of four restaurants.  Right afterwards a group of jugglers and acrobats shared the same space.

 

Rock and Roll Buskers
Rock and Roll Buskers

 

Vancouver has it’s street musicians, but many are unfortunately homeless men and women with guitars.  This isn’t to say all buskers are homeless or all homeless are buskers, but the entry level to this profession doesn’t seem to be very high and seems to lend itself to the cardboard box and tinfoil hat crowd.  Either way, a healthy and vital society of buskers seems to require one key component that we simply don’t have and won’t have for a long while yet in Vancouver: age.

This city isn’t old by any definition of the word.  Vancouver is old in the same way that wild grizzly bears make safe pets: they don’t and Vancouver isn’t.  Busking requires a history and tradition of entertaining crowds in a city friendly to their occupation, much like house pets also require a history and tradition of not mauling you to death.  And this isn’t something that can be created, any more than a grizzly bear can be made into a cuddly and loving non-death-machine.  Okay, enough about bears and claws, back to music.

Busking has a romanticism to it that entices people, and it appeals to me in so many ways.  I can appreciate someone playing music for fun or for the love of it without being recognized for their passion. I can also appreciate someone who has a love of magic but can’t overcome the barrier of entry into indoor performances or recognition.  I’ve spent a few years trying to get into the teaching profession as a full time job, but there’s this wall that has been erected by the human urge to craft invisible barriers which has a sign saying that I need X to do Y even though I am perfectly capable of doing Y already. Experience opens the door and gets me further, but I need to climb the schooling ladder a few more rungs in order to get over the wall.  Except that I don’t really know how high or wide it is, it being invisible and all.

But back to busking…wait, where was I going with this? [shuffling papers]

I honestly believe music is best appreciated outdoors, and this includes classical orchestras and black tie performances.  Music feels wild and uncontrolled, and putting it in an enclosed space feels confining.  Buskers are my preferred form of enjoying music because it meets these conditions and I don’t know what’s going to happen: the music could be instrumental, card tricks or maybe staged combat.  Pub music comes close to this as well, except that I can’t hear a damn thing except the music inside a pub. And in Vancouver we simply don’t get this(the rain might be a deciding factor since I’ve yet to see someone play music and hold an umbrella at the same time).  Outdoor concerts help, but, like giant murder bears, outdoor concerts lack that personal and private touch.  Although I suppose a bear killing you is outdoors and very personal and probably very private(okay, no more about bears!).

Busking has apparently been around since antiquity(Romans, Greeks, Trojan horses and all that jazz, Wikipedia I hope you’re not lying).  Vancouver hasn’t been around for nearly that long and that isn’t about to change any time soon. There’s one place in Vancouver I can definitely find buskers and not homeless stringed instrument enthusiasts.   Hopefully I can find more.

The Flying Welshman’s Theory of Truthiness

I don’t really mind admitting this: I like outdoor markets.  Not the shopping aspect(honestly this is as enjoyable as a prostate exam from the Spanish Inquisition), rather it’s the discovery that I enjoy.  Any outdoor market in any city anywhere in the world is an exploration and discovery of a city’s soul.  They are places where small shops cater to two very specific and enourmous groups of people: tourists and the 99%.  These shops range from phone accessories(lets be honest, iPhone/iPad/iMac accessories make up the vast majority) to clothing stores both of which sell nothing I am remotely interested in spending money on.  But hidden between these shops are a few hidden gems, stores that sell a few things that are a little different from the trend.

Let me paint you a picture(I’m sure I could show you one and save myself a thousand words, but you’re not here to see me post pictures all day): imagine a sea of tiny tent pavilions of white cloth with small alleyways weaving between them.  Under each tent are cardboard posters acting as walls holding up t-shirts and hoodies with funny phrases and pop cultural references.  And in the center stands a young man or woman whose only interest is getting as much money as possible from you using as little as possible merchandise.  No fake sincerity, no “it’s supposed to be a little tight” or “it won’t shrink in the wash”.  Across the way, you see some tiny food shops selling some local cuisine, perhaps tandoori or obscure ethnic Chinese food.  At five in the afternoon the small signs get replaced with 2 for 1 deals enticing your pallet and forcing you to drool.

 

Welcome to the Camden City Market.

IMG_20130611_173637

 

When you go there, you first notice primary needs shops(food stalls).  At the Camden City Market I saw twenty different food stalls selling waffles, Chinese food,  Japanese food, pizza, curry, fish and chips, vegetarian food, Thai food, Vietnamese food, sandwiches, baked goods, burgers, Korean and Mongolian bbq, North American bbq, fried chicken; you name it, they’ve got it.  The variety is astonishing and my compatriots who’d never seen markets like this had what can only be described as a foodgasm.

IMG_20130611_165231

Next, you find the mass consumerism shops.  These typically sell t-shirts, jumpers, bags, phone accessories, jewelry, and hats.  These are for the tourists who want a shirt commemorating their trip to the city, some local earring that have that quaint and cute charm you only find on vacation, the fake brand name bag that makes you feel a little more classy and those cheap phone cases that are guaranteed to break before the vacation is over.

And lastly, you find what you really wanted to see, even if you didn’t know it: the unique and obscure.  Shops that probably couldn’t survive anywhere else in the city, but are odd enough to be popular in a very niche market.  Chances are if you enjoy these shops like I do, then you’re a hipster.

IMG_20130611_172904

 

 

The Camden City Market is a sprawling outdoor market that stretches across several areas that used to be streets at one point, waterfront property that was probably a park at some point and buildings that almost certainly had noble intentions before becoming the grounds of a curry shop.  It’s a glorious example of London’s true soul.  The consumer retail stores of New Oxford Street and the coffee shops of Soho and Picadilly feel empty in comparison.  As do the endless pubs that all share the some store front: identical black wood facades with hanging flower pots and windows that can only be seen through with a flashlight.

However, Camden is London unedited, undiluted, undeterred. Cities have a mask of civilization that they want visitors to see and be comforted by.  I would venture that knowing there is a Starbucks in a foreign city has a calming effect similar to smoking a joint or watching Peter Mansbridge.  But outdoor markets straight up want your money and they want you to buy stuff.  No smoke and mirrors, no lies and deceits.  It’s here that you’ll find the soul of the city you’re visiting.

For me, Camden revealed its soul with a guitar shop where I couldn’t get service because both shop owners were giving a gorgeous Spanish girl guitar lessons, with a record shop that I couldn’t get into because they’d closed for a joint break and the windows were so fogged up I thought there was a fire, and with a camera shop where the owner took apart modern digital cameras and rebuilt them in cases of cameras predating the Vietnam War.

This was London’s soul.  I hope you find it as well.

More Tales from the Crypt

I have mentioned before the secretary that is supposed to organize the schedules for the foreign teachers.  She has buggered things up on multiple occasions, but she has also got a lot of things right on an equal if not more number of occasions.  And today we have another meeting of stupid and bat-shit bonkers.  It all starts with National Day.

From what I understand, this is a holiday to celebrate the founding of the PRC, or at least it’s grass roots, and the government decided to give the people a week off from school, work, etc. insofar as government work and some private companies.  They are only required to have last Friday off, so some schools only had one day off, and others had the whole week.

At this particular school, someone decided that the week off is good, but that the students should have make up classes for the missed ones.  Last week Friday, no class.  Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, no class.  That’s seven days.  I don’t teach Wednesdays and Fridays.  So this would mean I have a whole week of classes to make up for at some point in the future.

Apparently, this is wrong.  This someone also decided that we have make days only for Friday, on the next Friday, and the Thursday on Saturday.  Why?  No one can fricking tell me.  This is apparently perfectly normal for any classes that happen to reside on Thursday to get an extra day of classes.  This makes NO SENSE.  Why make up for only one day?  They get extra? Am I supposed to make up a class lesson for only 6 of my 14 classes and say %#$%^ all to the rest of them?  The secretary couldn’t explain this, neither could the other teachers.  Apparently they always do this sort of thing around here.

But this is where it gets interesting.  Last week, the week where Friday was the first holiday, my schedule changed so that I don’t teach Fridays, and all my classes from Friday were moved to other days.  The secretary helped me change these classes, she was privy to the entire process.  What happens?  She schedules me to have make up classes yesterday for classes that were never missed.  I called her and told her this.  I had a student call and tell her this.  She didn’t believe me until I took her to the class room I was supposed to be teaching in and showed her how another teacher was already there teaching a make up class and none of my students had made a cute file outside the room.  She admitted her mistake and told me that I didn’t have any make up classes.

…until this morning.

Apparently I still have make up classes for classes that were never missed.  She said she sent me an updated schedule, which is the exact same schedule that she gave me that had me teaching Friday.  She never bothered to correct it so that I would think it was the correct schedule.  She calls me, waking me from my reverie of women, steaks, and Canadian beer, to find out I have a class waiting for me.  (#&%$*ing wonderful.  So now, I have to make up for the make up class that was never missed, and two make up classes this afternoon for classes that were never missed.  Maybe afterward they can show me to the cooler with the Coolaid everyone around here seems to be drinking.

National Day Holiday: Day 3

Seriously, there is something very wrong with the Chinese understanding of the word “hike”.  Several students have asked me what I like to do, and hiking came up as one of the responses.  So I went with Jim on a hike, and this was not a hike.  In fact, this was a nature walk with stairs.  It was about the thinnest definition of hike that I have ever known.  There were woods, there was a trail, and people were doing a form of walking on an incline.  The integral parts of hiking did exist, but it WAS NOT (*#^#&($&^$ HIKING!  Ye gawds, and yesterday I went for another walk that the Chinese thought of as a hike.  This was, likewise, not a hike.  It once again had the necessary steps to be a hike.  But it was a hike in the same my sister’s house cat is the Queen of the Jungle.  Yes, she has a tail, whiskers, feline-features, and a distinct taste for creatures not as fast as her, but she definitely does not prowl the wild Savannah.

And I have concluded that either someone has failed all Chinese simultaneously in explaining what hiking is, they share a cultural delusion of grandeur, or that is actually what hiking is like in China.  I’m currently leaning towards the second option given how delusional the Chinese seem to be out here( I think it’s something in the water or the tea).  But a whole post of me ranting would hardly inform you of a chinese hike, so without adieu, I give you Baishuidai Park.

Baishuidai Park, like most Chinese parks, is run by the government and is thus in superb upkeep and condition.  The steps are well cut stone, the roads are well paved, the price of entry and parking is quite reasonable, and the path has lights for night traffic.  The Park starts at the base of a hill.  No, this is not a mountain despite what the locals may say.  This is a glorified mound in another wise flat city.  There is a lake about a quarter of the way up, a river that feeds from a spring, all on a well groomed walk and path.  It then has an uphill path that leads to 11 story pagoda.  Quite a view and pagoda is very nice.  It is well painted and taken care of.  Not like an earlier temple we visited.

I don’t know it’s name and I’m glad I won’t have to ever file away that little bit of knowledge.  This was a temple at the top of another hill that was, in two words, god awful.  Apparently it wasn’t up the usual snuff so they had it completely renovated.   The railings were replace, the buildings repainted with a very tacky vision of Chinese architecture, the sculpture was horrendous, and all the iconogrpahy(statues, symbols, etc.) was painted gold.  No joke, painted gold.  It looked like the leftovers from Liberace’s house and the excluded section of Michael Jackson’s ranch for blind and feeble children.  I didn’t take pictures for two reasons:

1) I didn’t want to sully my phone with pictures of those…things.

2)I would have been doing a disservice to the memory of what those statures once looked like.

The only good thing that came from the morning “hike” was a smaller temple at the base of one of the hills which deserves a post all to itself.  It tweaked my historian brain.

Heat Wave

It has been crazy hot today.  And I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill, normal for Chinese, regular for the local climate, standard operating procedure for the upper atmosphere kind of weather.  This is sweating-from-places-that-shouldn’t-be-sweated-from kind of deal which has me a hair’s breadth from calling it here and now, putting on a red hat, and heading to Vegas.

It is so hot that is has me really pissed off.  Weather has made me unhappy.  It has made me displeased.  But genuine hatred and anger is definitely new.  I feel ridiculous getting mad at weather when the fault lies with my dad.  Oh yes, Dad, I have you to blame for this.  You and your  O-so-superior “Jones” genes being totally incapable of even thinking about trying to adjust to ambient temperature.  Sensitive my ass.

But what is more worrying is that this is the kind of weather that just barely preceeds a ridiculous downpour.  And for everyone back home, rain here can, in less than an hour, break records that take all day to even considering being uppity enough to break in Vancouver.  Just you all wait, a reckoning is coming.  Those Chinese girls next door who simply will not stop moving furniture in the middle of the night better pray my mood improves soon otherwise they’re gonna be considering a reenactment of The Great Escape to reach the apartment next door with my foot playing the part of an entire Panzer division.

“The Penalty Volcano”

For those of you who don’t know(big spoiler here) I play my fair share of video games.  Right now, because it lets me play with my friends back home and keep up with them, I am playing World of Warcraft.  The great addiction, scourge of my generation, the 6 year time sink, and many other epithets.  The game is enjoyable, I can play whenever I want, and I get some good laughs.  I can quit whenever I want.  And I regularly get a prostate examination too!

Now, my cousin Kevin and I had our accounts banned because of a a series of ridiculous events mostly involving my location in China and his location not in China.  And the end result is both our accounts closed because of “suspicious activity”.  So I log onto their website, and I look for a solution to the problem.  Apparently, at no time, did it EVER occur to Blizzard that suspicious activity may occur without something suspicious actually going on.  In fact, everything I found was involved with the account being hacked.  That catch all phrase on the internet that can just about anything.

Kevin was also looked on the website, coming to much the same conclusions.  But he also found something hilarious.  The Penalty Volcano.  Apparently the Blizzard PR department was working day and night to come up with this anology.  As your mistakes get worse and worse the penalty volcano gets closer and closer to EXPLODING!  Each level has a distinct color to show you just how bad things are getting.  And at the top of the page on which this is located, is a quote from Abraham Lincoln.  The great man himself who accomplished many great things in his time, his most reknown of course being, writing quotes for companies to put as headers for a hilarious analogy.

We didn’t believe Kev at first.   We thought he was making a joke.  Really, a volcano? This is some high class *&$%.  They had people on this day and night, and they came up with a natural formation filled with liquid hot magma.  Liquid Hot Penalty Magma.