Japanese trains are silent. The engine may huff, the couplings will swing, and the cars can creak, but you won't hear a word. People bring silence to the train. It's an odd concept in North America since North Americans love to talk. There's laughter, sometimes overly loud music, and of course, conversation. Yet, in Japan, the silence is deafening. The few times I heard anything was often between foreigners or high school girls. Even still, the foreigners eventually learn it's a faux pas, and the girls always speak in hushed tones. The train became a prime example of Japanese etiquette.
For instance, if someone is carrying a backpack or any other type of bag, it takes up no space. If they sit, it's on their lap, and if they stand, it's between their legs and on the ground. Courteous. Polite. Efficient. That's not all. Say someone enjoys reading during their commute, they will use a book cover so no one may be offended and they are granted their privacy. In truth, I highly doubt there would be offense in the first place, but the thought is there. People listen to music, but you'll never see them move. No rhythmic bobbing of the head, or even a slight toe tap, and while you would think this was only true for the train...the night clubs always surprised me.
As I'm sure you've guessed, Japanese trains can be quite busy - especially Tokyo trains. Yet, there is no pushing or shoving. When the doors open, people allow everyone to disembark and wait in a self imposed queue automatically. The moment people are done leaving the train, the queue begins to board. Everyone respects the amount of time someone has waited, and respects the order. It was heavenly. I loved being able to trust that every single person understood the unspoken, unwritten rules of commuting. It made commuting safe.
But, marching in robotic synchronicity, and keeping absolute silence was sometimes painful. There's an absence of life. I can honestly say I hold politeness, courtesy, and respect in the highest regard, however...it was as if everyone lacked humanity. It was like the town from Footloose. Everyone was so morally upstanding, that it even prevented them from dancing. I wanted to be the person who breathed life back into Japan - well, everyday Japan. Japanese TV and media is another story. I think it's the only way they can express anything. Through over the top symbolism, and crazy hi-jinks. Trust me, in everyday life, people hide their eccentricities. Usually. Save for the odd man inexplicably wearing a girl's school uniform.
I digress. Japanese trains are efficient and always on time. If they're late (even by 5 minutes), either someone died, or the weather has actually gotten serious. Worried about being late for work? Just ask one of the many train staff for your proof that the train was actually late (chien shoumeisho). I'm serious, it's a slip of paper officially stamped, essentially acting as an apology to your employer. I had to ask for one a few times, but luckily it didn't affect me. I still managed to arrive early (thanks to leaving early and typically short delays).
Overall, the most impressive part about Japanese trains is the fact that so many of them are still running. I often took trains to rural Japan, and that meant riding on the oldest trains you've ever seen. Like the ones just after they were done with coal. They worked beautifully. Sure, they made a little bit more noise, and sometimes when they started moving again you could feel the whole train jolt and shudder as it caught up to the engine, but they worked perfect. That's another thing I learned about Japan, they believed in fixing things - not replacing them. Another quality I greatly admire.
For today's post, I've arranged a few photos from trains around Aichi. I've also included a few videos of trains in movement. They're a bit boring, but interesting. I hope you enjoy, and I'll be back for the next update on March 31. Jya ne! (See you!)
Today is the birthday of Peter Gene Hernandez aka Bruno Mars. He was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii by a family of musicians and today he is turning 28! Happy birthday Bruno Mars or Hau'oli la hanau (Hawaiian for "Happy Birthday" or literally, "Happy Glad Day"). In celebration of his birthday, I've decided to share some of my favourite Bruno Mars songs!
I jumped from a plane today! That's right, out of choice.
My sister and I have been thinking about skydiving for years. We finally decided to do it about three weeks ago. We made the reservation and next thing I know, the day is today and we're in a plane.
We drive out to the place, it's almost an hour out of town. I had already went to the bathroom about 6 times but of course, I needed to go again. So my sister and I rushed off to the bathroom before checking in. After that, we filled out waivers and watched a short orientation video on jumping and landing.
Then off to get ready. We meet our instructors. My sister's? A man about her height (she's 5'11") and not only an experienced jumper but also a pilot. What's my sister? A pilot. Skydiving was the next logical step apparently.
My tandem instructor? A tall, Danish man with over 4000 jumps under his belt. I felt like I was in very safe hands. Although he didn't let on he was experienced until much later. He certainly liked to play up some very dark humour while the plane was climbing, I digress.
Sig (my instructor) picked out a jumpsuit and helped me into the harness. At one point he asked me to spread my legs so he could tighten the harness around my crotch. Then he stood and adjusted the ones around my chest. That was all very intimate but of course absolutely necessary. I want it as tight as possible - I'm pretty sure that's the point.
After a brief explanation on the harness and what to expect, we meet our videographers and head out to the field. It's not only the two videographers, instructors, my sister and I, but three professional skydivers. Each one had their own custom jumpsuit and chute. One guy had a purple jumpsuit with the golden lettering, "Curious Chris" (a Curious George reference, no doubt).
The little plane starts up. The propeller whirrs loudly. They set up a little ladder to get inside the large bay door but it's quite steep and very windy, so I require the assistance of my instructor in order to get into the plane. I get inside and sit down, straddling a sort of long bench. A clear shutter is brought down, blocking the large exit and we start going down the runway. I haven't had any time in small planes, so the take off is quite different from a large plane. Of course, my sister is used to even smaller planes than this one, so she handles it like a pro the whole way up.
The ground shrinks away. The climbing is steep and takes a long time. My sister chats up the people around her easily, talking about learning to be a pilot and her flying experience. I watch the view, I can't help but enjoy the plane ride itself. Sig points out familiar landmarks. It was like having a tour guide, I really enjoyed that. I look at my videographer's wrist and see the altimeter rising. We're getting closer to our altitude.
Finally, we reach 12, 500 feet. The giant, clear shutter is opened up and all that's left is sky. The professional solo divers go first. I watch them. Two men and a woman. I can't believe they just did that. My videographer climbs out on to the bar, waiting for me to come out. My instructor helps march me to the door. I crouch, like taught, and look out. Oh god. My instructor reminds me to cross my arms over my chest and look at the camera guy.
Scariest moment of my entire life.
I scream. Apparently my sister says she can hear me scream after I jump (she jumps after me). I want to scream more but there's so much air filling my mouth that I can't dispel any. Instead I look around me. Holy fuck. Everything is so far and beautiful. A perspective I've never had. The weather is perfect, absolutely perfect. Not a cloud in sight and it's warm, and I'm falling. Actually falling. I can feel gravity pulling me down. The view is so awe inspiring that I don't know how to feel but to be amazed. I actually flail around a bit, kicking my legs and such - only because I'm so excited that I don't know how to express myself (since I can't talk).
Then he pulls the chute. We instantly shoot up into the sky. It was at that moment that I realized how fast we were falling because I watched as the videographer fell to the Earth like a comet. I was frightened for his life!
The first thing that happens when he pulls the chute is my legs fly up like I'm sitting. The same thing happened to my sister. The force is so great that it sucks you up.
That's when you really get to enjoy the view. Wow. I've never seen anything like that. All I could say was, "Wow" mostly. My instructor was holding on to the...oh gosh, what's the word? Well, they're handles that control the parachute. He asked me, "would you like to hold them?" I said, "sure!" Next thing I know, I'm steering the parachute! We did a couple 360s for fun (with his help of course)! Wow! So fun!
Finally, it was time for the landing. He brought us in easily and we landed softly. He unhooked me and I jumped up, incredibly excited. My first words, "I want to do it again!"
Obviously, I had the time of my life. I feel like a whole new person. Would I recommend? Oh yes I fucking would.
P.S. What did I wear? I wore my green Paris, France t-shirt my father bought when he was there years ago. I thought it was the perfect symbol.
I can't believe it. I'm almost finished my TESL course. On Sunday I gave my practice lesson and this upcoming Saturday is my practicum. What's a practicum? It's a pass/fail test where I must teach a lesson to the class and my abilities will be measured as successful or unsuccessful. If I fail (unlikely) I will be required to try again. Luckily, I know I'll pass.
How do I know that? Well, I am confident in my teaching abilities (already!?) and I did very well on my practice lesson. If my practice lesson would have been my practicum, I would have passed. So that's great news! I'm less than a week away from finishing the first part of the TESL course. The second part is an online grammar class. That will be a breeze. Hopefully I'll finish it by August (they give you three months to complete the online component).
Who knows what will happen after that? I might stay here temporarily as a TA for an ESL class or I might just find a job and go, go, go! I'm going to take advantage of whatever opportunities I can find. I'm ready!
It's so exciting to think about teaching in another country. On that note, no, I haven't decided where I'm going yet and yes, I will be posting more information about different countries. I simply haven't had the time. When I do, I will! I already have a draft written up about Italy. I am strongly considering going there. It's a truly historic and romantic place. Not to mention, Ezio Auditore. Need I say more?
In the mean time, I'm putting together a lesson plan for my practicum and getting ready to rock it! I will keep you updated!
It seems these days all I listen to is Tegan & Sara. I bought their latest album, Heartthrob and was pleasantly surprised by their new sound. Their past albums have been typically somber and feature acoustic guitars. This time their music is filled with a neo-80's vibe and captures the essence of being in and out of love. I know it's quite a departure from their original sound but it's still Tegan & Sara, they're just evolving.
Without further ado, here are some of my favourite Tegan & Sara songs! With each music video I've included a few lyrics. The last song is from their latest album, Heartthrob.
About two years ago I started watching videos about some very small homes. I was instantly intrigued since my partner and I shopped around and found a place a little over 1100 square feet. After watching video after video about places that were supremely smaller I was astounded at the ingenuity and efficiency. I'm inspired by the creativity of people living in small spaces and I think it's one of those things that lives up to the old adage: Necessity is the mother of invention.
I can't believe I haven't posted something since Sunday. I need to get on top of that. In the meantime while I'm trying to figure out what to post next, you can enjoy a funny YouTube video.
Side story: I visited Manhattan a couple of years ago and rode the subway. I was immediately surprised by the peddlers who traverse up and down cars collecting money for various causes. I was quite taken aback by this sight because I can assure you where I live there is nothing of the kind. The majority of people ignore them and mind their own business but there's always someone willing to give something. This video makes fun of this common occurrence and it's worth a look. Really well done.
Last Monday I chose three YouTube videos to share on my Blog. So in continuing with the YouTube spirit I thought I would pick three more videos to share. I think Mondays can be stressful for everyone so it is my goal to make it a little better or in other words, more tolerable.
As you may or may not know, I live in Canada. As soon as you hear that I'm sure there are preconceived notions that come to mind. No, we do not have winter year round but when it is the winter season it will get VERY COLD. Like, 40 below cold in extreme weather, which means snow and wind. I'm not kidding. Okay the average winter temperature is probably closer to -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit my American friends) but still. Let's just say Canadians are familiar with cold temperatures. As a side note to America, Y U NO CONVERT TO METRIC ALREADY! IT MAKES MORE SENSE! Water boils at a 100 degrees as opposed to 212 and freezes at O instead of 32! Seriously! Stop being stubborn and get on with the rest of the entire world. Anyway, here are some videos!
See you next Monday!
I was contemplating what to write today and thought about many subjects until I realized that Mondays shouldn't be bogged down with anything too serious. So I've decided to share a few funny and interesting videos.
Happy 39th birthday Jemaine Clement!
Jemaine is a terrific albeit underrated actor. I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate one of my all time favourite television shows (and musical groups), starring Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, Flight of the Conchords.
If you haven't watched Flight of the Conchords yet, you're missing out. This television series is absolutely hilarious with clever and irreverent moments. At first the music is a surprise but you inevitably end up falling in love with their folksy beats. I know I can't help singing, even long after I've watched an episode. They make songs about real life moments, making fun of the serious and dramatic.
Some of my favourite songs from their show are: "Not Crying", "Business Time", "Foux Du Fa Fa", "K.I.S.S.I.N.G./A Kiss Is Not A Contract", "Feminist Toothpaste", "Sugalumps", "You Don't Have To Be A Prostitute", "Hurt Feelings", "Too Many Dicks On the Dance Floor" and "Carol Brown". All of their songs are truly great especially since they're well timed and always hilarious.
Flight of the Conchords is the name of both the musical group and the television show. The group has been active since 1998, making appearances on shows to perform their original and amusing songs. In 2004 they had a BBC radio show and in 2007 they started a television show that ran 2 seasons.
Their fame was recognized when they made a cameo on The Simpsons in "Elementary School Musical" as two camp counselors. At first their life appears flattering until Lisa finds them living impoverished in "Sprooklyn" (homage to their show where they live in Brooklyn).
Jemaine's career was launched by his musical fame into new and interesting roles. For instance, he plays Kieran Vollard in Dinner for Schmucks. An artist in touch with his hedonistic and animal nature. His character poses a threat to Paul Rudd's romantic relationship due to his animal magnetism. It seems women just fall for him and he certainly doesn't hide his affections for them.
An even bigger surprise was Jemaine's role in Men in Black 3 as the villain, Boris the Animal. He does an absolutely superb job creating an aura of arrogance and infamy. I truly enjoyed this role. It was unexpected and well executed. It's such a stretch from his musical comedy that it was refreshing. If you haven't watched this movie yet, I would recommend it. It's definitely better than Men in Black 2.
Jemaine is not the only one making appearances on the silver screen. His musical partner, Bret has also made startling appearances. He plays a small part as an elf in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Return of the King. He must have made an impression since he's returned in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with a speaking role and name, Lindir. He is also scheduled to appear in The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again.
I hope to see more of Jemaine and Bret in the future. They are comedic geniuses and terrific actors. I should mention, there are rumours of a Flight of the Conchords movie. I really hope it's true! For now, I leave you with "Foux Du Fa Fa".
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