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Archive for October, 2005

The Big Move Oct 30

Well I’ve done it, moved into new location. Place is just wonderful. Here is a the excerpt of email written to parents. Easier than typing the same message over and over again!

The apartment is absolutely brillant, you might call it small but with only me it does not matter. All the furniture fitted except for a coffee table I had brought in London. Well it would have fitted, but then the room would be very crowded. I had purchased it online so had never seen it. Unfortunately/Fortunately it was not "solid" wood (unlike the oak table), but rather laminated effect wood and on closer inspection the lamination was not really very well done either. It happens to be the perfect size for holding potplants on the balcony, so guess where its gone! I don’t know if it will like the climate that much, but it will do for a few years i am sure.

The new oak table it really wonderful. Glad I got the 4 seat size, it fits the room, but does not take over. Had to get some special stuff to put on the bottom of all the furniture as the floors are all wooden. (The floor in the living room also has underfloor heating for Winter.) The kitchen is adequately sized. I would have prefered them to make the shoe closet a little smaller and put in 3 burner stove, but not a major problem, How many times do you use more than two burners? The gas system drives everything and there is a panel in the kitchen that if you press one of the button it will pour your bath at the desired temperature and depth!

Microwave and TV arrived, TV works off the computer so I now have

DVD Player
Video Recorder (once connected to Cable TV)
And my computer, I had planned it before I left and so far it is working a treat. Soon I’ll have it hooked to the internet which I understand is Fibre Optic so will be lightning fast
All in one box. It runs a special version of Windows called Media Centre and I have a remote control that runs everything from the Sofa!! Once all hooked up will be quite something. I’m going to have a go at voice control later as well.

I have to go and buy light fittings tonight as they were not included, nor were curtains, but this does mean i can get to pick my own. The view is huge, feels like you are looking out at the world. There is nothing to block the view, or have neighbours looking in. Gets some decent light as well (which is good if we remember the lack of light fittings). Instructions for everything are in Japanese so some things are a little trial and error. Someone at work today has helped big time with translating, and I found manaul which has english panel for washing machine. Fridge is fairly straight forward and is now happily making ice and keeping everything cold, now to fill it up!

The other thing that I really appreciate particularly after living at the temporary accomodation is just how quiet the place is. No street noise, sirens or such. So nice that you can actually hear in the insects in the trees below. The other place you could not hear yourself think it was so noisy. There is still the background hum of a big city, but thats never going to go away. And you can only hear that with the windows open.

Now that everything is unpacked I am going to spend next few weeks clearing stuff I don’t need as I’ve accumlated so much, particularly clothes and t-shirts. Bit hard thou as most come from different parts of the world!

Slowly Surfacing Oct 27

Well I hoping that I’m finally surfacing out of stage one of culture shock. Got the phone, got the cheap call card, got my life line out to here. Spent 1/2 hour talking to Jane last night which was just great. Makes it feel like I haven’t just dropped off the end of the map into a complete parallel universe. I know that only an email away, or forbin, MSN, but its just not quite the same as hearing a voice on the line!

Starting to get to grips with the job now and have enough work to keep me occupied, and can now start to ramp up and take on more. Its odd I actually used the words にほんご が はなめません today with out even thinking them. I hope I got the spelling of that correct. As you may now have figured out I’ve learnt to type hirigana on my keyboard, watch out folks he is on a role, well not really. (2006 – update – the japanese I typed meant – "I don’t speak Japanese")

Move day is tommorow and I’ve got some extra stuff to purchase tonight for the big move, then pack my stuff and we are off. Oh better go and write my new address to carry in my wallet for a while. Bad news is that computer connection will not be ready for new apartment, and i doubt phone either. Real estate agent didn’t quite grasp that fact.

oh well next time. What you mean your going to do this again.!

A Mobile is a Mobile is a Mobile Oct 25

Well not if you buy your mobile phone (aka. cellphone) in Japan. To start with they use a completely different system from the rest of the world. In Europe you buys your mobile, charge it up (and tell me who ever changes it the recommended first time!), and off you go. Travel off for a quick tan in the sun, no worries you mobile will work, everywhere you take it. Not quite.

The use of mobile phones when travelling has become as second nature as making sure you have credit card. It probably now ranks higher than travellers cheques on the list of things to make sure you take with you. When I first started my own little juant around the globe 7 years ago this was not the done thing, mobiles were still abilt chunky, chargers were a hassle and networks/tariffs did not interlink, or were prohibitively expensive. How much it has changed!

We used to have to rely on email and "internet" phone calls to communicate with friends and family from the outer locations of civilisation (Chaing Mai/Chaing Rai, and forget Luang Prabang – no internet, delightfully refreshing). Even then if your F&F were online you could hear back from them in the same "email session" and the really radically would use Yahoo Messenger and AOL, MSN was not quite the giant it is today.

Makes you think back to the days when there was no such thing as email and communication had to be done by snail mail. Maybe I was one of the very last lucky travellers here as Mum and Dad at that time had a computer, but the internet had not hit the sticks of New Zealand so they were not "Online". The closet they got to real time would be me sending an email to my sister in-law who would print it out, phone them to tell them a fax was on the way, then fax it to them. Many communications back then were done with good old fashioned pen/paper and post office stamps.

Today the next generation of travellers leave with there mobiles all primed up for international roaming and are really never out of touch with friends or family as they as just a phone call/sms message away. The odd impractical time zone issue arises, but in essence we never really lose contact now. Does this dimish the experience of travelling around africa and then phoning to tell mum and dad about it. Hell I phoned Sue from Petra, who am I to talk. I do however feel that we may have lost some of the magic of travel because now its no longer the remote experience it used to be. We used to wait for people to arrive back in the country to sit down and tell us all about it, now we know it all before they land. Still there are always the pictures – Digital – another story to.

Back to phones, well got one, will explain the gory details later. Culture shock is diminishing slightly.

Enough of the earthquakes already Oct 23

Okay, I could handle one earth quake, but pushing to 3 really noticable ones in one week, why me I ask. This is not counting the couple that I know happened while I was almost asleep. The bed moves in a certain way when the tower is shaking! Figure must have been really bad in previous life. Certainly hope I enjoyed it.

Went shopping to Tokyu Hands during the weekend at Shinjuku which is a mega shopping area, and yep it really is full on. Visually, spacially and aurally its quite an assault on the senses. Tokyu Hand itself is quite manageable and only got crowded towards the end of my visit. Found rubber matting to put under furniture to protect floors and picked up a toolkit. Located what appears to be picture hooks but shied away until can confirm what landlord will allow, so overall rather pleased with result of actually locating and purchasing.

Even located Ironing board, but was not feeling brave enough to enquire about delivery, could justify this in many ways as still waiting for confirm of local transit included in move, plus confirmation of final address, actually loads of excuses to cover that I’m to chicken shit to try it out for afraid will get it wrong. Really must get over that scary cat thing, but not easy which surrounded by people who cannot understand you. And that even if they can speak english perfectly cos mine is not perfect and difficult even for english to understand.

Back to sign language maybe. Moved on to track down a really nice fridge, but again without confirmation of house not much could be done. Actually its all waiting on that now. Oh how I am looking forward to my own pillows!

Unidentified Friday Night Injuries. Oct 19

So the plan so was to go for a run last night. Sounds all very healthy and good for the psych. The climate was even kind enough to have stopped raining. It was halfway home that I remembered the bruise and something on my foot. They arrived to my consious on Saturday morning which getting up I realised that something hurt. Closer examination revealed the beginnings of a rather nice brush and a lump of missing skin.

Problem is I’m not completely sure how they occured and since they were not present Friday morning will have to be attributed to "Unidentified Friday Night Injuries", and I am sure you all know what I am talking about. The injuries that you don’t recall because you don’t really remember them hurting you at the time, thanks to the wonderful events of Friday night drinks. I wish it was something glamerous, but suspect it was a dropped object such as frying pan. Oh well, not running!

Instead we replaced running with an aggressive bout of Ironing, why!. Well my new iron arrived from Amazon (next day delivery free, some thing rock here). So obviously I had to find out of it was any good. I am really have got sad, and also the owner of a totally ironed wardrobe.

Giving some serious thought as to wether I should be here or not, its not exactly been stimulating for my mind so far. Perhaps take a loss and just get someone where I familiar with things. shite third symptom.

On the bright side there was somethig I saw today that just made be laugh about Tokyo, and damned if I can remember what it was. May lunch which was delicious, sushi hand rolls that you have to unroll, remove the wrapping then roll again. Bit fiddly, but highly tasty.

The Shock is Settling In Oct 18

Yesterday not the best day, did not succeed in the slightest at finding insurance, and have received nothing back from the real estate agent, or the lease company. I am coming to the slow conclusion that things move rather slowly here in Japan across the board. How slow, well it makes the UK look positively hare like.

I guess for us foreigners the compitition is not that strong so a degree of "who cares" settles in. But hey we do have some excitment today, I get to pickup my "alien registration card" to officially begin my life as an alien, I can also open a bank account, which promises to be a long and drawn out process, but then again I could be surprised. We shall see and report back all the gory details.

Well the vending machines here as just as capable of turning out bad coffee and tea as elsewhere. It must be a universal law that internal free vending machines must turn out crap so that we are forced to go out and buy our coffee. If you took a deep look at the vending companies and traced all there accounts back via the caymen island you will no doubt find a consortium of Starbacks, Nero and other lead players secretly controlling the quality of free coffee vending machines. Looks like I’m up for a walk downstairs for a Latte anyhow.

Feel totally tired all the time at the moment, not really sure why, may be the dismal weather outside, last night it was raining kittens and puppies for the walk home. Or perhaps its being forced to watch 70/80s reruns on Super Channel. Actually its rather fun watching CHiPs again. The stories are quite delightful, male chavenism still rules, AIDs and other problems did not exist and everyone walked around with big hair and smiles. Its a glimpse back to a time of innocence that is now forever gone.

Well its almost the end of the working day, and I’ve not got a lot more to report. Tuesday is always a little bit interesting in that I’ve some routine stuff to do!

Got the bank account open with very little problems at all. Actually to be brutally honest it was easier that opening one in Britain. Well in this case easier and cheaper. First step was to pickup my Alien Registration Card. For those curious this does not mean that I come from somewhere outside the orbit of pluto (although some will argue differently.), then wander over to the bank with this, my passport and some address information. Within 30 minutes walk out with Bank account, and application for credit card. Sometimes the hard things are easy and the easy things hard.

Well to cure today bout of culture shock I’m going to head home and go for a run around the whole park! With my faded tan its will be an interesting point of who is shocking who. Revenge is such an ugly trait, but hey did I ever say I was perfect!!!

And the other achivement today was get 145 out of 155 hirijana charactors right in a test. Now to work on the entire alphabet, baby steps!!

My Very First Earthquake Oct 17

Well folks
I had my very first earthquake yesterday. Now you may think, so what, well at my core (dig deep, real deep) , I’m still just a country boy from outback New Zealand, and my particular bit of NZ sticks doesn’t know what an earthquake is. The closet we would get is a mug slide, or a particularly low flying fletcher airplane. So big areas of terra firming shaking is not something I was looking forward to.

Actually I didn’t really notice it at first. I was more curious why the telephone cable was swinging around, then I notice the door was opening and closing to its own little rhythm, and then the fake pot plant in the corner started it own little counter point. At about this time I realised that this was an earthquake and I was 9 floors up observing it. Actually it was not a bad a I thought, but lets not roll out a larger one just so I can see what thats like.

For those interested. Anyway first earthquake survived! This is some city to get used to.

Culture Shock – Welcome to Japan Oct 17

I’ve always understood that culture shock exists and have experienced it enough times (Thailand/UK/Ireland) that I’ve got familiar with its feeling. This time I thought I would write about it as part of the process of dealing with it.

My move to Japan may not have been one of my better thought out plans. Hell since when I have I ever thought out plans, I am more your fly by the seat of your pants kinda guy. A little careful planning, a decent dollap of luck and most of all, don’t panic cos you cannot change it. A highly useful piece of advice particularly when stuck at Gatwick airport without any details of where you are staying in rome, and no mobile phone, nor contact numbers to retrieve all the information you let sitting at home! That another story and proves that luck is not always there, or was that planning.

Anyway, whats culture shock. My current personal definition is that every single thing in this country is completely different from what I am used to. I don’t speak the language, let alone read it, and trying to determine what is sugar and what is salt suddenly becomes an issue when you are the supermarket.

Wikipedia has the definition

Which is fairly accurate, although I don’t like the "disgust" reference. So its been two weeks now and where am I, well I think still in stage 1, but moving to stage 2. To be honest the weather at the weekends has been so yuck the idea of playing tourist doesn’t really grab me a lot.

Having sorted out the apartment bit things are looking up abit. I’ve tackled stage one of the metro system and can get from A to B. Still need to master the Japan Rail bit, but baby steps here. I think I’ve discovered that I have a real issue with metro systems and being afraid of doing the wrong thing. Each tube system is different and when its in another language its does not help.

Also people tend to be rather pushy if you get it wrong etc. Its quite a shock from being so confident with the London Rail network to being total beginner, but I suppose thats part of the "experience". Anyway a lazy weekend of just maintaining my own little bubble of reality.

Today, we shop for house insurance. Now that should be a fun exercise. Perhaps I can get them to put my wisdom teeth back and so I can take them out again. I think it will be less painful.

British Airways, the joys of terminal 4. Oct 14

Well I’ve arrived in the Land of the rising sun and did it in style. I knew I was flying business class from London, but got a rather pleasant surprise at the check in counter that I had been upgraded to First Class.

Now British airways is not really my favorite airline, despite there advertising to the contrary. Too many long delays in Terminal 4 waiting to get checked in, along with every other Tom, Dick and Harry, there accompaning wifes, and generally 2 screaming kids. Add in a very liberal dose of europeans who are totally incapable of queuing and have to push in everywhere, a few generally good natured americans who just know this would never happen in Texas, and finally a sprinkling of people for whom english is not the first language (and know living in Tokyo I have a great sympathy for). If you wonder why I stand in the queue listening to my walkman the above is my defence, and no court would convict on such evidence, particularly if the judge has ever been to terminal 4 on a friday of a long weekend.

So British Airways fail dismally at terminal 4, so I was overwhelmingly happy when I had to check in at Terminal 1, and the "priority" check in area. What a world of difference. They were unfailingly nice, and having procured first class ticket to seat 3A, it was off to the private secrity scanner which had more staff taking care of the 3 passengers than I have ever seen at Terminal 4.

Back amongst the hoards, and a little shopping it was off to the lounge for one tomatoe juice, cos idiot here left it to late to lounge arond in the lounge, catch a little tv, a wine over some nibbles, and a molton brown spa! idiot, idiot, idiot. And the chance of me flying business class out of Terminal 1 are about the same as Rome traffic flowing correctly.

Ah, but all is forgiven, first class, now thats another write up.

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