Monday, August 29, 2011

bfg on "To Blendy, with Love.

Dearest Blendy,

When I found you my world changed - not just for the better... I became a different person, a better person.

Even though we met yesterday, I had to stop myself from tearing off your cap and devouring you. But I had to think of work the next day and a lady needs her sleep! But this morning ... ahhh  so worth the wait. As I threw out the old Liquid Coffee and poured you into my cup, mixed in a little milk... I was knocking on heaven's door.

Blendy Espresso Liquid Coffee, why do you hid yourself on the shelves of Max Value when you should be in the fridge with the other, granted inferior, cold coffees... We went too long apart.

How have I changed? Besides the fact that there was a skip in my step and song in my voice, you mean? Well, even after five cups this morning I had a sixth right before heading out to Curves, my gym. Didn't tell you about it? Oh, I am super famous there. As the only Gaijin not only is my "Curves Message" at the top of the pyramid, but everyone is aware of both my measurements, my attendance - hell, they even tell  me about my own life.

"Vanessa-sensei~! School starts on Thursday~"

"It does? I am not so sure... I should check."

Giggles and sugoi!'s everywhere. "Thursday!! Yes yes."
Well, Hot-Diggitydog! They were right...

When I missed a week for Hiroshima/Kobe vacation, not only was I required to give a full report as to why but I was warned that I really could not afford to eat so much omiyage. "Really? 13 omiyage?"

"But I had to try every flavour~! How many times will I be in Miyajima?"

Of course, I do this while working out so I am saved by the woman's voice saying "Change Station Now" and all the women chanting together "Chan-gi!"

I have friends there Blendy, though none as precious as yourself. My favourite is Glasses Lady. She works out in pink sunglasses. I think I may be in love with her even though she points at me saying "AKAI! AKAI!" (red! red!) to whoever is working out beside her. I forget I am working out trying to figure out what she's thinking.

My Brain: "Oooo pursed lips. Do you think things are getting hard?"

Other part of My Brain that has the voice of my cousin Amanda: "Maaaaa, what are you SAYING!?"

My Brain: "Maybe she is thinking about her doggie. A woman with pink tinted glasses has to have a doggie."

Other Part now switching to Bad Sean Connery: "Peacock."

My Brain: Nods "goooooood one."

After Curves, I treated myself to one more before heading to a coffee shop where I had lemonade. The serving woman almost fainted.

"I-su-du Ca-fe Ra-te?"

"I-su-du Re-mon onegaishimasu!"

"CA - FE Ra- TE" It was like talking to a two year old. Or one of my students.

"ReMON. L size."

Repeat 5 times.

Chatted away with Ashley and got some studying in - no yawning or eye rubbing at all!! Power-biked home in under 15 minutes listening to George Michael, planning a Gay Pride lesson and dreaming of just ONE more cup before bed. I was distracted from my surroundings with the exception of the 70 year old woman (who looked 50) on her mini-bike, MC Hammer pants and florescent Brazilian t-shirt montage-of-athing. She puts Pink Glasses to SHAME. I want her autograph!

Blendy, you made a good life great. Because now I know that with every quirky Ja-of-pan moment I go through I can accent it with a cup of you. Let's party.

bfg goes to watch The Good Wife. Bad title, good show.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

bfg on having the best cup of coffee in the world. And I don't mean maybe.

If I never hear the word "Maybe" for the rest of my life it will be too soon.

Usually moments that are lost in translation are cute. When my student tells me, "I'm hot!" and I explain that can mean sexy we giggle. If a teacher tells me how "terrible and excited" they felt about a movie, I explain that terrible really has no positive meaning. And I just love explaining to the students that "shat" really does not mean "shirt". But "maybe" is so misused, so misunderstood and so frequently that I may become violent.

For example,

"Are you hungry?"



"Did you go to the party last week?"

"I think so."

Oh, really?

The one I hate the most is when I ask for directions.

"How do I get to the movie theatre?"

"Maybe you turn left from Gofukucho at the Seiten."

"Maybe? You don't know?"


"What? Okay, lets look at a map."

"Oh, but we don't need to."

"But you said you don't know where it is exactly..."


"So we should check the map..."


Kill me now Sweet Jesus!!!

Last Sunday after a long series of unfortunate events where the gods reminded me why I must stay indoors with a Japanese Boy-Toy doing my dishes and other domestic duties for handicapped individuals such as myself, I was comin' down the mountain with friends after camping and there before me was this lovely little cabin that said the most beautiful thing I ever read: "Coffee".

Not even waiting for it to stop, I was out of the car running in. It had been more than 24 hours!! How can a human survive? Who would want to ?

"No! Please take off your shoes."

I don't bat an eye. Direct directions is all a white woman on a coffee mission needs.

I never thought caffeine paradise could be on a mountain with bears and wild pigs. I associate such things with going to school not heaven.

But just look at how they made my coffee. It was like a dance! A song! A ceremony! I was so happy I ordered two.

Good enough to go back for thirds? Maybe...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

bfg on when the extraordinary is ordinary

The other day it hit me.

Old man slows down, rolling down the car window to see if I really am what I am. I bow and continue on my merry way.

Clerk overcharges me 10 YEN. Manager has a hernia. I smile and say, "だいじょぶ!” 

Couple stop crossing the street to look at my tattoos. They backtrack, pointing very obviously. I smile and bow my head. Yup, I got tattoos on my chest! Want a closer look? Promise I cover them in an onsen. Cross my heart.

I forgot my 100 YEN pen in the shopping basket on the 6th floor of one of the most crowded malls in Shizuoka. Walking out of the elevator, a clerk meets me at the bottom of the STAIRS out of breath. "GOMEN!!! You forgot this." I take this in stride. She had to take the stairs so she could catch me at the elevator doors, you see.

Fact is, all these little instances that made living in Japan so manga-wide-eyed have become normal. In many ways, I am EXPECTING such behaviour. Does this mean I will wear nylons at work in humidity of 1 gazillion? I am not psycho. But seeing other female teachers with nylons, woollen socks and sandals - all part of my morning coffee experience.

And there are other "settling in"moments - my students have been friendlier to me. They yell "Hello Banessa!" from across the football field, sneak a wave if I walk by the class and some actually smile. One of my shiest students came up to me yesterday to say he was happy "I can speak to Banessa sensei". I was not supposed to teach 2nd year students but this year I was asked to...

Even disciplining is better. They know what I will do. So I give the look and they smile and I say, "Goto!!" and he actually does it. How the hell did that happen!?

And as the realizations hit - that a year has actually past, that many of the people I have relationships are leaving - I think about what will I do this time next year... Right now, with Megane Boy writing me an email about birthday presents, Yuka making me an ink drawing of Taylor Swift and bike tiers screeching in the city streets with the basketball team chasing me for a "Hello" and weekend sighting I can't fathom it.

Summer is here and I need to take a step back at being "Banessa Sensei" and get back into reading, working out - yes, I actually wrote the words without Mother Earth swallowing me whole - and enjoying Japan. Because with this year having gone by so fast, the other one is just around the corner. I have some catching up to do.

Hiroshima! Kobe! Osaka (again)! Here I come!!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

bfg on the bold and the bloodless

Tonight I am having a girls night ala Edward/Bill/Eric.

That is correct folks - us gals are painting our faces, dressing up to the nines, putting on some Twilighty movies and hitting my kitchen dance floor.

This is my life. Welcome.

I should say this is my life post-thesis; a series of how well I can entertain myself now that I have so much time. The funny thing is now that I and Time are reunited my most productive endeavour is probably getting over the hangover before I drive to work in the morning.

Oh, my walls are littered with to-do lists. Alphabetized. Colour-coordinated. Even stickered and hankoed up. But there is always the day after tomorrow or "not when it's raining" or "after the nap I need since I only slept 7 hours"... etc.

Work is busy enough but while my nights are spent worshiping bloodsuckers my students are energy suckers. My third year students are wild and I find that either I have to just sit back and ride the wave waiting it out or I need to be a marshal. Both are so unappealing and for the first time since I have been here I refused to teach an entire lesson, forcing my JTE's to take care of the first half.

Coming back after two weeks from home, I was itching to get back to work excited to see my students. I guess this is the bad end of the "anticipation" side of things... Who was it that said never make plans or have expectations for anything more than two days in advance? Words of wisdom my friends.

This past month has been a scramble of enjoying freedom, adapting to my work schedule that has doubled and just settling in for another year of Japan. I have posts I need to do on Nagoya, Osaka and even Vietnam. But its been a while and I thought a little note that marks a year from when I opened my placement and read the words "Shizuoka" was called for. Reading all the newbies being so excited of what is to come, I remember how far and yet how behind I am after having spent almost a full year here.

I better start checking things off the list.

bfg gets off her Italian-ass.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

bfg on ...

What title would be appropriate for this? bfg on the tsunami? Please, that is so...

Uh this whole thing is a mess. I am in Japan. I felt the Earthquake but in all honestly it was exciting and wondrous. I thought I was dying because someone poisoned me then I thought I fell asleep and was dreaming about Inception then someone yelled "EARTHQUAKE" and I realized I needed to get out of my bubble and start living reality. It lasted a long moment. It felt like an hour and a few seconds at the same time. It also felt like my stomach went up my esophagus and into my brain.

There were many warnings and it was scary to see your city highlighted in red on the Japanese Meteorological site but the truth is I feel like I am in another Japan. One that had a little shake and a little scare. This is not the Japan where 1000 people died, houses were swept up, people, cars, planes... THAT Japan is on TV and facebook statuses. It is part of the Lady Gaga bracelets on sale for the relief fund.

I hate this because once Hollywood gets involved suddenly it feels like this is a work of bad fiction. Instead of being engrossed I am removed. Pretty soon Michael Jackson will come back from the dead and sing a song about it - all proceeds going to the relief no doubt. In three years a movie about a dog will come out where he singlehandedly rescued an orphanage of children stuck on a roof by swimming them across to a more stable rooftop and the Government of Japan will make a peace centre for it.

It just doesn't feel real anymore. Instead it is so removed and distant... like a movie. I drove to the shoreline because I had to see it for myself. I was expecting some coastguards or something... but instead there was silent beauty.

So, please stop thinking of me family and friends. Think about Sendai, help them too before Hollywood sucks the humanity out of it. I am off to study at a resto so I don't consume energy (which Shizuoka is providing to Tokyo) and maybe get some homework done.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

bfg on yish!

My intention was that my next post would be large banners that read "FINISHED", "DONE!" and "I AM SO ELATED I AM RUNNING NAKED IN THE STREET!". Oh, the Thesis is coming along and in a week should be completed thank the gods but no it is not done. However today's events... yish. I need to let this out.

I told you about Goto, right? He is, with the exception of Megane Boy, my favourite student. Unlike shy Megane Boy, Goto loves attention. He would make a great actor. To me he does not look Japanese... he has a round face with a strong jaw, dimples, short, fit boy since he is on the running team and a smile that can charm anyone - even a giant foreign English teacher like me.

And that kid knows it. Every time I look Goto's way, even when he is doing something other than what he is supposed to, he flashes me a willing smile. Sometimes I smile back, sometimes I say "Just because your smiling does not mean you can get away with that Goto! Stop!" but it does not have the same bite that I usually put into my Sergeant General statements in class. He listens though. To me at least he listens.

To top it all off he wears glasses. He is not a very good students but in class Goto raises his hand and seems to do well. His speaking ability I think is much more advanced than his writing, not that that is particularly important but so it goes.

I love teaching him and his entire homeroom. They are my favourites and they know it! So today when the Homeroom Hanko Prize was announced none of us were surprised when Homeroom 14 won. However, I was surprised that Goto was not there for he never misses a class. But I set his test and prize aside and did my shpeel.

After was when the bomb dropped, "Sensei! I am holding on to Goto's test and prize so let him know when he comes to school to come see me please."

She seemed uncomfortable. "I do not think you can see him. No one is really allowed to."

"Allowed to see him? You mean he is in school?" Oh God, was he sick?

"Yes... he was caught doing something bad..."

"What?" I know she hated being put on the spot. See if I care.

"He was caught at a store..." she gave me a look saying 'Please don't make me tell you' which didn't work and so finally, "He pick-pocketed."

Now in Japan, this is a mega big deal. I almost made a joke about how I used to steal gum from the local store but I wonder if that would get me fired here. But poor Goto... none of the teachers really like him. He just sleeps in class or disturbs. But this kid is active. He has no outlet for his creativity and humour. He can be great really he can but there are few opportunities to express himself and if there is one kid on this planet that needs to do that its Goto. I know - I was exactly the same! Urg!

"Can I see him?"

Well, I pushed the buttons and it did not take much for them to consent to let me see him. Goto was still wearing his glasses but now his eyes were tiny from having cried so much and his face super round from puffiness. I gave Goto his homeroom prize and then his Student Prize for having "improved" throughout the year.

"Goto... I am sorry this happened."

He said thank you.

"Goto... you are a smart boy. atamaga iidesu" I wanted to say more. That I thought he had so much potential but he has to learn discipline. That tomorrow is a new day and he can start over; just let this go and start anew. But he could not face me. He kept shacking his head with such loathing and self-hatred I just wanted to hug him and let him cry.

But this is high school and I am not his mother. "You are a smart boy who made a stupid mistake." He shook his head. He whispered in a tiny voice. "baka desu." I am stupid.

I gave Goto his papers and went around the table in the tiny room he has to spend the next few days in writing letters of apology to the community, the person he pick-pocketed, his teachers, basically everyone in a 10 mile radius, and tapped his shoulder - a huge thing here as physical contact is not the norm. But man that face, of such guilt... what could I have done? I feel like it was not enough and yet to have done more would have meant overstepping a boundary that I wonder if a teacher should ever cross.

I wish I had him as a student next year. I WANT him and 14 homeroom and so many others. And so I am going to fight this... I am going to fight to teach 2nd year students.

On Goto's survey he wrote how my class was his favourite class. "I am free." I would rather teach Zombie Girl and Giggle Bitch for a whole year if it means sticking with some of these precious gems. See the thing is he is smart... its just that so many people told him he is stupid - all the fuckers he is writing letters to: his school, his community, his peers - that he believe it. And how to make him see... I have to at least try. Nothing is worth much if we do not at least try.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

bfg on going to the doctor; take notes Canada!

A few months ago I had caught a cold. It was exam time so there was no way I was missing school. I would catch naps in the woman's tatami room when it got too much. It sucked but I survived. I did not want to go to the doctor. The idea of going to the doctor was something that promised all the challenges of being in a foreign country without the grand adventure. Not even a Starbucks mug for me to gloat over.

When I woke up this morning I felt like shit. When I got out of bed, I almost collapsed.

I was just so dizzy, that has not happened to me for sometime... in fact, I can not remember really ever being so bad. I texted my supervisor promising to call later on when she was at school and fell fast asleep.

In the end, she called me. It was 10:30am, more than three hours after I texted her and I was still zonkers. Even though she was on the phone and could not see me, I was embarrassed at having drooled all over my pillow. My Muji pillow cases are sacred artifacts after all.

"Do you need to go to the hospital?"

I was afraid to answer. Was this a trick question? Like if I say no does that mean I am not sick enough to warrant staying home? But I did not want to go. I was scared they are going to ... do things. I don't know but I was scared. "I don't know."

"I understand. You are sick you can not think."

I do no't think it has to do with being sick but okay.

She continued, "I will come then... around 3 o clock. Do you want something?"

I could not believe she would do this for me. "Thank you." I closed the phone and went back to sleep.

Hours later, she messaged me saying she was on her way. I carefully picked out a doctor appropriate outfit: must be 2 pieces so if they need to look at my chest I do not have to show my crotch, many layers to keep warm but easy to discard a certain amount depending on what section of my body they needed to see. Etc.

When she arrived she had a bag full of food, "For you! I did not get sushi heehee." but she got me my favourite coffee and juice, rice balls, some noodles.... more coffee. It was heaven in a bag. I had not eaten the entire day and though I was not hungry I know I need to force myself. And no matter what state I am in, I can always have coffee.

"Do  you have your insurance card? It is blue like this one."

"Yes, of course I have it! I always keep it in a little pouch in my wallet." I pull out my wallet. The pouch was empty... "Oh it must be... oh my god! It is not here." I never take out my insurance card. Since I drive to school ever day I always keep it on me in case I get into an accident or something. But it was not there. "I do not understand. I never used it."

She called the school to see what had to be done as I looked in my file of "all things Japan that are uber important"... no luck.

She closed the phone. "Tanaka san said we have to pay. It will cost about five man."

I have one man six sen yen in the bank. "Oh, I can not afford that now!"

She said, "Do not worry. I will pay for you and when we get reimbursed you can give me the money."

I wanted to cry. I wanted to be home. I wanted my card. I wanted to not be sick. And I felt so horrible. "Okay..." I put on my jacket getting ready to leave holding back tears of disappointment that I could be so stupid and irresponsible. As I shut the bedroom light I saw my bookshelf, "One moment. Let me just check in one more place." I went to the top shelf were I have a little bin I put papers that I have not classified yet. It is how I cheat. And sure enough, there was my card. I have no clue how it got there but it was there and I had found it. Elated, we both headed to the car but by then I was sweating and ready for a nap.

"I am not sure what clinic to bring you to. Do you know?" My sensei is always so thoughtful. In her situation, I would have brought said foreigner to where ever was convenient to me and not bother asking.

"Actually... do you know Magarikane clinic?" Another amazing fact was that after having read on facebook that I was sick, my Japanese friend Mao emailed me a clinic that offers English speaking doctors. I did not even have to ask her... she just messaged it to me. Can you believe that?

Off we went and in less than five minutes we were in this cute little brown building.

Walking in I was surprised to see facial creams on sale... it was odd. There were three nurses there and I was starting to get nervous. They gave me a form and a thermometer which I had to stick in my armpit. Classy!

I answered the questions but my thermometer was broken. My supervisor informed the nurse where she promptly ran to a back room and came out with this mega thermometer. I was super afraid at that point a thought running through my mind that she would ask me to drop my tights or something. I looked at her with big eyes. She zapped my forehead and said. "Ahhhhh 36.8 degrees" and wrote it down. It was a super Star Trek moment and I wished for a fleeting moment I had my Vulcan ears.

As I sat back to begin waiting, my name was called. "Huh?" Huh!? How is that possible? I just gave her my form. Not only that but I made the nurse actually work by helping me... does that not mean I would have to wait at least an hour?

I was escorted to a brightly light area with many a white door. The nurse opened one about half way down and motioned for me to sit down. "Influenza test" she said. Enough English for me to understand.

She took out a long thin Q-tip as she explained in Japanese that she needs to take some of my snot. "Okay," Not sure what to do, I tilted my head back.

And up she rammed that mother fucker. I felt like my brain was being tickled. It was so weird and disturbing I instinctively turned my head away ever so much. She did not try to reframe me at all just followed me and she turned that mother fucking thing into the deep recesses of my nasal cavity.

And then, just when I started to cry from the feeling (the kind of tears you get when plucking your eyebrows) she stopped. "Iiiii."

After mixing my fluids with what looked to be a device very much like a pregnancy test she said, "Chyotomatekudasai" and left me.

I fell asleep so I am not sure how long I waited but when the female doctor arrived I was relieved. In Quebec, they passed a law saying citizens can not request a civil servant of a particular gender (driving test examiner, voting administration, etc.). I am very much for this and try my best to follow this ideology myself even before the law was passed. The only time I have ever preferred a particular gender though is with a doctor. I never asked for a woman before because I think it would be hypocrisy but I do feel like there are certain things female doctors just understand more...

"You do not have influenza," she said, "but you do have the symptoms. Also, you are very pale so I am concerned..." she checked my throat. "How do you feel?"

And I told her I felt horrible but that I was not sure what part of me was in pain from being sick and what part of me was suffering from ladytime which started this wretched morning.

"Ah!" She understood. "Chyotomatekudasai" 

I waited a long time. Must have been five minutes when a nurse returned.

"Kusuri." and she handed me medication explaining to me in Japanese how I was to administer it. I will allow myself this peacock moment that I actually understood everything she said even though my head and uterus were about to implode.

She actually got my medicine for me. I was stunned. I paid her the 2,000 yen and went on my way.

In less than twenty minutes I came into a clinic in a foreign country and was offered better service, better care and much cleaner facilities - eating off the floors clean - than I have ever, EVER witnessed in Canada.

 The staff were so gentle and kind. When I showed my supervisor the medicine she nodded her head. "They are very kind. Usually, the do not do this. But you are so they wanted to help you." To avoid me having to go to a pharmacy, they fulfilled my prescription for me. I am still overwhelmed and can not believe it. This happening to me, a supposedly unwanted gaijin? My friends, colleagues and the clinic were more helpful and polite than any doctor I have seen in my life and that is a scary thought.

 The medical system seems to be similar to Canada with insurance and such but the quality is of an entirely different level. In a way, I am kind of ashamed. Before leaving Canada, I was very sick and every doctor I saw refused me. I could not even go to the CLSC - they showed me the door and said to try again in six months. I ended up in a walk-in clinic where I waited five hours. And I had to pay $60 for a note for work. My adventures, because that is what it did turn out to be, showed me that a social medicare system does not necessitate bad quality, grumpy doctors and nurses that take sick pleasure in sticking a needle in your arm; definitely a moment of culture shock for me.

Canada, I think it is time for you to wake up and take some notes!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

bfg on seeing the face of god; or Starbucks Challenge #2: Nagoya

My lungs are on fire. It hurts to breath much less swallow and little men are stomping on my eyelids saying, "Close it dammit! Close!" But my fingers are itching to write this. I have to write this.

When my friend Vanessa (yes same name and both from Montreal at that! Luckily she has blonde hair) announced on her facebook status that Miyavi was performing in Nagoya in February, I hastily commented that I would love to go with her. Up until today, it was hard to believe that I would go see him...

Now she was probably disappointed to discover that I am not a Visual-K fan not by choice but just that until today I never really bother with the term. And no, I don't know any of his songs really. I first "discovered" Miyavi by accident two years ago; I was looking for a youtube video of "Hit the Road Jack" and came across this:

I remember watching this and just falling in love. Usually, one does not notice accents when you listen to someone singing and yet here even if blindfolded you would know this fellow is Japanese with his clumsy "r"s and "l"s. I continued to watch several of his music videos loving his cutting edge style, his effeminate ways (to me) and his guitar. God, that black guitar... And the entire time I thought how I would never see him live. He would never come to Montreal and what was the chance of me being in Japan when he is playing? Right?

You would think of course that since the time Vanessa bought my ticket, I would have spent more time researching and memorizing the lyrics to his songs but in all honesty it never really sunk in that I was actually going: not when I bought the ticket, not when I was riding the Shinkansen, not even when I was stuffing the locker at the back of the concert hall with my bag and coat. Possibly because I am sick but I think mostly because he was just a Youtube fantasy in my mind. I never really imagined him beyond the 2nd dimension.

Some Wally Lamb book ends with the line "God is in the roundness of things"; that line came to mind when Miyavi walked onto the stage. I was expecting a get-up a la Boy George Golden Years: full make-up, an outfit that out does Lady Gaga and Elton John on their most extravagant days  and a hat. Instead, a slim body dressed in an almost too thin black shirt with a boat neck cut, black shpants and, yes you guessed it, black sneakers walked on stage. The only other person there was his drummer, a talented individual who I didn't even notice was playing in his zebra print underwear until the second half of the show because I was all eyes on Miyavi.

I never do well in crowds or parties since I get all shy; I much prefer intimate drinking gatherings so though I was relatively close to the stage I was probably the Audience Oldie standing with my arms folded preserving my voice by not shouting and standing in the way of the all to eager jumpers.

From the first note, I just could not stop thinking of how amazing this artist is. Some of his songs I do not enjoy in the least; not my type of music. But the show was mesmerizing principally because of how charismatic that man is with his guitar. No professional, I could not help but gawk at each note, his pace, his rhythm. Even his timing... it was like a Kawabata novel! His songs, especially at the end, often fool you; you expect something low like a "dam -dam" and he gives you a light "bing" and says thank you. You expect a high note ending with some screaming, and just when he builds you up, it ends. And then right when you have nothing left to expect he belts out this scream where even from where I was standing I was able to admire two perfect white rows of teeth (truly an achievement here in Japan).
Then is the fact that other than the drummer it was just him and us. The stage had five microphones set up with one split so that he can make "rap like noises" ( I really do not know what else to call it - please forgive my ignorance). My favourite was the microphone facing the drummer. Instead of the drummer being behind the singer he was next to Miyavi, his right side facing us. (picture it now...) So that when Miyavi was facing him, it felt like they were in their own moment and we had a chance at a sneak peek. It created this intimate feeling of getting a glimpse  of what it must be like when it is just the two of them playing together. 
Much more handsome in person than in photos (and he is handsome in photos so you can imagine) the best part of his looks are his eyes because they too deceive. Manga eyes, not like Bambi but almond shaped that when closed you think they are tiny so each time he opens them it is like "Wait a second...!"
I can go on but all of this quiet frankly just made me so curious as to who this person is. Why did he pick up a guitar because it looks like he was born with one? And though I praise him for his genius the best part of tonight is seeing a man - A HUMAN being create this pregnant atmosphere of abandon and transparency. When he felt like flicking his wrists or dancing Celtic or jumping in the air he did it - so it was no surprise when the little Japanese lady with her hair tied up in a scrunchy that made her look 70 years older than she was squat down in sumo position and fling her head side to side in complete loss of self - though she did excuse herself when she knocked into people. It is moments like that which make me want to do something, write or draw (god, I can't draw), sing or prance, or SOMETHING. I think that is why I love meeting authors and such; I realize their not a name on a cover or an "idea" or a youtube video but a person who simply just did not hold back. 

I left Nagoya with an empty wallet having claimed my Starbucks prize, a travel mug which I can now check off the list, along with a Miyavi t-shirt and bag. I do intend to return to the city but this night was, despite being poor, sick, looking like a troll, cold and having missed the last bus home, perfect.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

bfg on the japan challenge a la starbucks

The only one that matters since it is me doing it.

So it is official: I have re-contracted and am staying here at least until August of 2012. We shall see what happens then.

So with all this time left, I want to see everything. Some foreign countries I would love to see like Russia and Korea. But really, I came here for Japan and Japan I will see.

But where to go? Where to start? I told you all before I am a woman run by the power of the list: checking off the box, crossing it off, highlighting them and numbering them - I live by this.

But what theme should I go by for Japan? Literature? Museums? Randomly going places-  I can not do. I needed a list.

When my friend G was here for the holidays we did find time from all our Tokyo travels to shop in Shizuoka. I love Shizuoka more after that holiday in Tokyo. The shops in Big-T may be huge and just MEGA but Shizuoka has pretty much everything you want without the crowds. Not to mention not getting that overwhelming feeling of "So Fucking Much" when you walk into the four floored LOFT in Tokyo. Maddening.
Towards the end of one shopping excursion, we passed by a Starbucks where a mug of Shizuoka caught my eye! It is f-ugly but it says Shizuoka; how could I not buy it? They have all these other mugs but I needed my Shiz.

Then G lifts up one of those pamphlets that showcases all the mugs available. I roll my eyes turning away at how stupid it is to have a mini catalogue of the cups. Did anyone say useless?

But she really opened it and my eye did catch a map of Japan. I looked.
poster is up in my room
There before me was my list.

The map has points all over where Starbucks has their mugs. Not too many. Not too little. Just enough to do in 18 months I have left. Useless to lifeline in a matter of seconds!

And so Mug # 1 Shizuoka has been obtained. And only when I travel to those destinations and get me another mug will the item be checked off my list.

Some may call this the ramblings of a control freak. Others may say this is too anal. I say, hell to it.

Get ready Japan. bfg is acomin'.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

bfg on tarzan moments

I have two posts in my head but this one has been brewing for longer and this ain't soup; if I do not write this soon the magic of the moment will dissipate and I will forget.

Momo means "peach" in Japanese and the student in Class "3Z" who sits in the front row reminds me of one. She is gorgeous: she has a peach coloured blush to her checks, maybe from her Asian toned skin, round manga eyes that are so innocent, a fine figure and plush lips. Basically, she is breathtakingly beautiful though she could use a little height and, too me, still looks so young which means -  she won't lose the look until she is 70. Oh, the horrors of being a white woman.

I digress.

Momo is beautiful and with all that you can just imagine how much I hated teaching her. Whenever Momo walked into my class these past 16 weeks, she has had the look of a civilian entering a lion's den. An untamed lion. With a spike collar. And razor sharp claws. And bad breath. And - you get the picture.

And while teaching- oh the distraction! I would be saying something, "The future tense in English is...." Momo dares to look at me and I meet her eyes. She looks down at her desk and I can feel her panic. I loose my train of thought.

I almost never call on students. I always say sorry when I do and the Japanese teacher's can not understand this. "Just ask the kids that like to talk if you feel bad."

Fuck you! I was a kid that likes to talk (now I am a semi-old person) but I hated it when teacher's called on me. "If I knew the answer I would raise my hand! Leave me alone."

So Momo's fear could not be that... I could not understand. I asked her several times... nothing. She would look away and I honestly felt like a monster. I must be ! I scare peachy girls! bfg was no BFG.

This last semester has been very difficult and odd. The third year students only have three weeks of class whereas I have seven weeks with my first years. So from Day one, I was prepping my third years for their exam while prepping for first year classes. The rhythms do not jive and it has been difficult to keep up.

Considering how successful my Mega Hanko review classes were, where I am basically the Hanko Prostitute giving the kids 5, 10, 15, 50 even! hanko I thought it would be great to do it again.

Then Momo and the other "really shy kids" that stare at me with the Look-of-Terror  came to mind: Mega Hanko is Mega Scary. How could I get them into it...?

Walking into class Tuesday the kids found a POSCA marker and a stack of scrap paper on their desks. "Some questions I will say SPEAK and you have to say the answer. Some questions I say WRITE and you have to write it down and wave it in the air. Ready...."

It took her fifteen minutes but Momo eventually picked up the marker, wrote the answer on the paper and, I still can't believe it, she tried! I almost gave her a thousand hanko on the spot. But it was not fair; she was not the first one to do so and Team Supersonic got the points.

But... three questions later and she was not just trying, she was going at it: writing fast, talking with her team mates, looking things up in the book. I tried my best not to beat my chest and howl - IT WAS WORKING.

And then - even now writing this, I can not express it right... dam you words!! I love you but in this I am failing... I feel so relieved that I am NOT a monster -- And then, she laughed.

Yeah, she was having fun. Looking for the answer, trying to write it down and answer, disappointed when someone else beat her team to the punch, thrilled when her team got their hanko.

I did not say a word to her and I hid everything that was happening inside. Especially my third years, I love them. I feel guilty that it took me this long to find a venue for Momo, my peach girl but I know she will always be my yardstick. Whenever I have a student in a class that I can't reach, no matter what I do, I have to remember Momo - that sometimes something so simple - like changing the way a student express themselves from the spoken to written word - can change everything; make me a better teacher and, more importantly, make the Momo's out there smile.

- and that my friends is my Tarzan moment.

Friday, January 21, 2011

bfg on Suck It: a review of True Blood by an amateur in everything except expressing vulgarity

I am working on my thesis. Which means looking for any form of procrastination.

        Another word for culture.... tradition? No, no. Culture? No that is the word I used 8 million times... Didn't I say I was going to write a blog post on True Blood.

I was pretty sad I wouldn't be able to watch True Blood (and Dexter and Caprica and ...) with the bf but my True Blood party more than made up for it. It was a party for two with me as the third wheel; my friend K and C came over (she a fellow JET, he hopefully will be by this time next year). I had the file on my computer and they the projector. My awesome white walls were baptized with the oh-so-awesome visage of Eric. Yum.

My friend JG hates True Blood. And if you hate the site of blood... this show is not for you. But my deep affection for this show lies in the firm fact that the writers and director have one foot in cheap-stick entertainment and another in a complex social critique; a mixture that has me hooked, addicted, DEDICATED.

Point #1: Do not read the books. Garbage. Mme Harris I am very happy you are a fat rich lady but honestly, learn how to write a sentence. For the love of the English language and out of respect to your peers please try. 

The main character in the books is such a cardboard - boringggg.  And basically so is everything. It is like a soggy cake. The entire time you are eating it, you are thinking of eating something else ( I really could have used a dirtier example which is more moi but I wanted to keep this post as PG13 as possible).

This fact makes the writers and producers at HBO that much more amazing and divine.

Point #2: Setting. One of the charismatic aspects of True Blood for myself is the scenery shots. It isn't dark and creepy in the gothic style one is used to seeing with vampire folklore. Nor is it Twilightesque in the sense that it is set in a high school. With the staple wooden shack bar and pick-up trucks, TB is really set in a place that feels. The setting is so alive and so riveting that it can be considered as one of the great characters in this series.

 The graveyard is my favorite for it reminds me of home: instead of being dark and gloomy it is dark and welcoming... it feels more like a historical site than a danger zone. 

Sookies' house is another example: deceivingly large for the rooms themselves are small but there are so many that connect one after the other... shiver. I want to curl up with a book and be chased by a warewolf all at the same time! The confusion! The contradiction! Adrenaline rush that one can't help but Love it!

Now perhaps this is because I am my mother's daughter but I most point out that the fact that you see the characters rewearing outfits, mixing and matching items increases that sense that this is a living breathing place. That is life - one closet in a town with a graveyard where some dead famous uncle is buried. It makes it so that when the supernatural does occur the imagination is more willing to fall into the beauty of believing it all for the 54 minutes of HBO goodness. 

Point #3: The characters. 
Really. Let us take Jason. Arguably the best-looking of all the male beauties that have graced the TB scene, Sookie's brother is a genius when it comes to being stupid. The Santa line takes it all.

"Warewolves exist?"



Oh my God! Marry Me!

Many a time during these three seasons has Jason brought the audience on a roller-coaster ride. There are moments where he seems to be improving, waking up from his dream state of "D-U-M-B" only to so gracefully fall back to being clueless Jason. He is the Han Solo of the cast: the comic realease and hopefully the constant in this show. The unevolving character who just spins around in circles. Because people like that do exist and it is always nice to have a flatline.

Now to the villian who is.... no body. Or everybody. See, that is just it. The moment we begin to point the finger at anyone TB goes and problematizes this. What is a victim? Perpetrator? Where do we draw these fine lines? These are ideas I face a lot when reading history, especially about Japan, and with TB I love the idea of exploring it on an individual basis because I also begin to ask myself if there are different ethical standards on the micro/macro level. 

Eric probably is the best example of this point. This resent season the audience was given a glimpse to Eric in his earlier vampire days and even as a human. Suddenly, so much of the ruthless actions we have become accustomed to expect from him are ... understandable. And then what? What do we do? Love him for it? Fantasize about him THAT much more because he isn't just hot but a troubled rogue you want to save? What does that say about you!? About us? Fuck, I love this show.

Please someone buy this for me.
Speaking of Eric, I must also make something clear. I totally want to sleep with the man but I am and always will be unless something really stupud happens a Team Bill member. In fact, if you are Team Eric please stop reading, go away and don't come back.

Now that we got rid of unwanted company, I don't think I need to delve into the details of how us Team Billers support the relationship between Sookie and Bill. And though it maybe a little because we want big E for ourselves, the fact remains that lust between Eric and Sookie is natural but just that: lust. Bill and her have their own bucket of worms but the tensions in their relationship relate more to affection. And they have great sex so no complaints.

No, but really. Even Warewolf man is a better option than Eric. Warewolf Boy and Sookie are a team and are attracted to each other... something that was totally building up towards the end of Season Three and hopefully they will continue this storyline. I would like to see if they would explore the triade many of us find ourselves confused by in our love life: extreme lust which can be mistaken for love (Eric); extreme affection which can be mistaken for life-time partner (Bill); and compatibility which can be mistaken as either lust or, more likely, love (Warewolf Boy). It is a story line I would not mind they explore.

That said, I am still Team Bill. Fear not!
So watch the show. Again. And this time, you better like it.

I can't lie though. The whole Eric and Bill thing is crazy awesome. I just wish Bill was allowed to speak in his cute British accent (because let us be honest, Canadian may be the "best" accent but Brits by far have the sexiest) instead of some Southern brawl but maybe there will be a revamped edition when the show actually ends.

 Lafayette. Six Feet whatever - that black dude is one tall mother fucker. And I am very jealous at his make-up application skills. Lafayette continuously explores ideas of genderization and language. The English language, unlike other Latin languages, does not genderdize items (la  /le in French for example) but it does associate social stigmas with objects. The hoop earrings and head scarf on a man who is good in the kitchen, talks with his hands and can kick your ass any second and done so in a way where you don't make the association initially - that is the genius with this character (and speaks to how well he is played). Lafayette wears these items as a part of his person not as a public statement. The character really integrates it well.

To the left is Nelsan Ellis as himself
 and to the right him as Lafayette.
Oscar performance!
And it is wonderful to see him grow as a character. Up until this season, we were never privileged to see the affectionate side of L and it brought out some of his vulnerabilities behind the spatula and fake lashes. Yet, it didn't spill things on a table like the writers are in some hurry to get the ratings to tell a story.
Which comes to the conclusion of this: story telling. True Blood doesn't just tell a story, it shows us slowly, dramatically, rhythmically to the point where you hear the sound of your blood pounding when you discover Bill's dark secret along with Sookie at the end of this last season. True Blood brings the age old art of bonfire storytelling to the modern world. HBO, I love you for it!

PS: HBO, please be as awesome and amazing with Song of Ice and Fire because I will have a hernia if you don't get that right. Like I might come over and protest. Loudly. Violently. Etc. with love xoxo vgg

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

bfg on being the big green alien

So I have many a blog post written and none finished.

Suck it up. (no, am STILL not over suck. or ass. It provides too much entertainment these cold, cold nights for me to let go).

The good news: I finished my draft of my thesis.
The bad news: I rewrote certain sections and though better its not... perfect. Its not exactly whats in my head. Why does it always sound so much better IN my head? Note to self...

There was an anecdote I wanted to use in my conclusion that I ended up cutting because it seemed one too many personal accounts for a Master's thesis. But it is probably one of, if not THE most memorable moment in my short history in Japan (to date! The future is so promising).

At the end of semester, I gave my students a survey in both Japanese and English asking them if they liked me, liked English, wanted to travel, and, most important for me, if my tests were fair and what else they wanted me to teach them the following term.

As to point A, an overwhelming 94.6% said my tests were FAIR! I couldn't believe it since all the teachers comment at how difficult my exams are. This is one of those moments where I fully intend to plastic bind a pie chart with the results and whip it out next English teachers meeting. I need a Law and Order outfit for that.

As to the second point, most of the students wanted me to teach them about television culture. I was very surprised by this as it meant them not understanding the majority of things.

"Oh! You expect captions... right."

I explained to them that if we did this they need to tell me what they like because there are so many choices.

"Sensei, what like you?" G is one of my favourite students. He is toooooo cute. I totally want to adopt him. He wears thick black glasses, has a winning smile which he flashes at me every instant he gets knowing I will shower him with hanko. So much for me not having bias. I totally fail in THAT department.

"I like shows about aliens!"
peaceful alien
"Eh! Nandesuka!" Oh, that familiar chant. How I hate you.

"Aliens. You know..." I went to the board and took a marker. "You know... A...LI...ENS... They are green" I took the green marker, "and they have little antennas, "I drew antennas, "and they have space ships and they are from another planet. Aliens..."

Blank faces. Another talent I lack is drawing. So much for being Italian; I can't cook OR draw.

"Okay. Mimori sensei maybe you can help? How would you say 'alien' in Japanese?"

She looks at me. "Alien." She looks at my picture and says, "Gaikokujin."

Now in case you don't know, gaikokujin means alien in the sense of foreigner.

I stared at her. "I am a green alien?"

"Yes. You are an alien. You are gaikokujin."

In her defence, I was wearing a green dress that day.