Thursday, January 31, 2008

rocking the slopes and cooking in the dark

First of all, I’m alive. I’ve been out of touch with people back home for a few weeks now, for which I have several excuses and no real reason, but I am definitely alive – doing rather well, actually.

Let’s see, excuses include most interestingly a lack of electricity. On a day of less than usual transience, I came home after work and flicked my genkan light switch to no effect. I immediately knew what the problem was; with my undisciplined postal awareness, less than exemplary filing system (ie a messy floor), and irregular paying habits, it wasn’t hard to guess. Apparently those notices with red writing that I kept receiving in the mail weren’t friendly letters congratulating me on another successful month in Japan. They were notices that I was about to have my power cut off! Such are the exigencies of illiteracy that now in darkness do I well.
The scoop is that somehow I managed to lose my power bill from last August or September, and for whatever reason it wasn’t added to my subsequent bills. In that case, I am thankful to the Man for not cutting me off sooner!
I wasn’t too concerned about the whole situation, even though the temperature has hovered between -6 and -10 for the last few weeks. Actually, The Weather Desktop (*TM) says it’s -11 right now. Truthfully, my heaters were broken before I moved into the apartment so I have been going through the whole winter without them anyway. Ironically enough, I just got my heaters fixed last week (company’s coming soon) and used them approximately once before my power went out.
In any case, I was accustomed to the cold. I had my handy headlamp and so was able to scrounge up some matches and candles. That first night, in fact, I had a quiet candle lit dinner chez moi avec book and a lovely cup of tea. (Since that, I’ve been mooching off the girlfriend ‘till I figure out how to say “I’m an idiot, please turn my electricity on” in Japanese).
Long story short, I haven’t had access to the internet for email’s sake, nor have I spent much time around the phone for phoning’s sake. I will figure out the power situation soon, and then I’ll be back in touch.

----The next day, I phoned the power company. After telling me that they didn’t speak English, the operator left the phone momentarily. He came back asking if it was Mr. Wilson calling. I didn’t tell him my name, and I wasn’t calling from my home phone…! Apparently there is only one person in the whole city who had his power cut off. Tee hee, silly me. I managed to tell him that I paid the pill and if my power worked that would be peachy. Now, Thurs the last of Jan, I’m at home and reconnected for the first time in a while, woot---

Second excuse: intentional disconnect. I had a decision of some import to make recently: whether or not to stay a second year here in the J-spot. I felt like my mind was bouncing back and forth between here and home a bit, so I figured I would focus on my friends and life here for just a little while until I made up my mind.
Depending on your feelings toward me and your current geographical location, the news is either good or bad. I’m staying. I’ve signed the contract, so barring any unforeseen calamity or severe change of heart, I’ve got around 18 more months before I’m out from under JET’s umbrella with a paid ride back home. (Later or in another post and if I remember, I’ll come back to my temporarily improved disposition toward my work situation.)

Third excuse: itsumo isogashii desu, jinsei te son’na mono sa (Always busy, such is life.) Work occupies the same amount of time as always, true, but I’ve been spending more time with friends (socializing as a regular way of life is still a bit new to me). There have been some more exciting activities to spice things up as well.
The weekend before last I went for a hike up the back of the tallest mountain in Sapporo, Teine, with friend Ido. The path was partly packed by previous perambulators, otherwise we would have simply drowned in the metres of soft powder, what with the snowshoes that didn’t fit our boots. It was an awesome four hours, followed by an enjoyable slide on my rump down the ski hill on the face of the mountain, to the bemusement of many a skier and boarder (some of whom I passed – man those M.E.C. rain pants are slick!), concluded by an ever wondrous soak in an onsen (this one had relaxing marble bucket soaking seats as well as personal ‘cradles’ to stand in and get the massage jets right where you need ‘em).

Last week I bought a gi and rocked up to a judo class that a fellow JET told me about. I spent a couple hours practicing falling over and smacking the floor properly. Yesterday night I did the same! I got thrown over some guys backed and slammed to the ground. Sweet! Today, I was only slightly sore all over.

Speaking of sore, all week I’ve actually had more sore muscles than at any one time before. Last weekend, a crew of us stayed at a friend JET’s place near Niseko, a ski town of some renown. Three of us took the plunge, hired snowboards and booked a lesson. Having skied only three times now, and boarded never, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Snowboarding always looked so immensely cool but also immensely difficult. However, as soon as I strapped in, I was hooked.

We were up the mountain about five hours both Saturday and Sunday. Though by Sunday I was able to shuffle down an easy run without falling, I kept trying to learn the proper movements and turning, as well as increasing my speed, which meant the falling didn’t stop. I think you could probably average it all out to a tumble every 2 minutes (maybe I was a slow learner). With ten hours up the mountain, that’s heaps of tumblin’ – all of it very ungraceful and some at unsafe speeds for a useless novice like me.

In any case, it was wicked. Hokkaido’s incessantly incredible powder kept coating the slope; the mountains never seem all that crowded here, but late Sunday evening I saw a total of two people on my way down the run; I was finally able to snake down the hill tip-first without spinning in circles to slow down; it was great fun hanging out with friends in a new town; I finally tried this damned sport that I’ve been afraid of for years and years: all around, it was awesome. We hopped the two hour train back to Sapporo, and were home by ten.

Consequently, the soreness. Unfamiliar muscles in about four or five places ache to high heaven – lying in bed, I actually had to lift my head up with my hands because the muscles around the throat that normally take that job were out on strike for the day! All the usual muscles too seem at risk of cramping at any moment. I love it!

Ok, so that’s a sense of why at this moment, I’m glad I decided to sign the contract and keep my option open for next year.

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