December 29, 2004

Hong Kong & Kowloon ROCK!!!

Our trip to HK was very exciting. HK is like no other city on earth. It is quite vibrant and it never sleeps. shops stay open till midnite, you bargain on nearly everything you want to buy, and everything is very close. At night, the lights dazzle you and HK glows like precious jewel. Its skyline is brilliant both in design and illumination, and the people are great. It was a great trip with lots of sightseeing, shopping and dining. I can't wait to go back there again!!!

December 20, 2004

Hong Kong

Well, the travel plans are in. We'll be leaving for Hong Kong on the 27th and returning on the 29th. I'm really excited about going to China. man, the mecca of Cantonese Chinese food!!!! yummm......foooood.......hmmmmmm

November 15, 2004

Osaka, year two

I'm staying in Japan for another year. I have renovated my contract and renewed my vosa, this time, for three years. I am looking forward to the next stage of my stay in Japan. Much has change in the way i see things. putting together this newest version of my blog got me reading some of my first impressions of this place. How things have changed!!! for the better of course!!!

There was a period between february and july where i went through some really tough times. I had many personal problems and conflicts with people who were close to me at the time. that was very hard on my outlook on Japan as a whole. in a sense i was in a hole. But by mid july I craweled out of that temporary black cloud and stepped into a new Japan, a new way of looking at the world, and a new way of enjoying life.

In my time here, I have studied about Zen and wabi-sabi, trying to simplify my life and change many of my bad habbits. I've been trying to learn and practice "The Way", but it is very difficult to understand it, let alone practice it or live it, but i've managed to incorporate a few bits here in there into my daily life. I've found miyself oscilating between a spartan and hedonistic lifestyle, trying to find a balance. Its not easy. Zen tells you to give everything up, all material things, even those really awesome sushi, little by little I've been trying to adjust, and though by no means am i becoming a monk of any sort, i am just trying very hard to simplify my life.

I have a new relationship now, and we are moving at a steady pace. We enjoy our time together quite a bit, and we laugh a lot. I'm very happy. We've been traveling around western Japan a lot, and Goldie has shown me these places the way only a local can. Its been a wonderful experience, I've seen so much, and understood so much more as well.

I am now teaching at a few elementary schools in Osaka, and the kids are really something else!! they are energetic and most of them have never met a foreigner, and their eyes are so big when they come to class. The kids are very curious and ask lots of questions at the end of class.

Also, my Japanese has been steadily improving, albeit slowly. I can now read both katakana and hiragana confidently, i can read about 50 kanji, and recognize another 50 or 60. Chinese characters are trully mazing.

For the past few months Goldie and i have been working on a train set layout, and we are 95% done. we have a river and a mountain and some houses, a station, tunnels and a forest. we are enjoying this project very much, and have gone to a couple of museums to see pro model makers' works. we have a church and a pagoda as well. they look very cool.

I will post more pictures as soon as i can, there is much that i still need to tell.

February 12, 2004

Osaka, year one

How does a foreigner who is grateful to be a guest in this country write objectively about his host? You don’t. That is one of the things I have learned while being here. It is very important to look at things in a positive light, so that we find solutions when problems arise. Back home, we praise sarcasm, the negative slant, cynicism, and constant bitching and complaining.

It is different in Japan. People here are people like anywhere else, but there are many factors; which have formed their societal rules. This is a country in which the group has as much value as the individual, or perhaps more depending on the context. It is also an ancient country, which has been undergoing transformations and renewals constantly for the past two thousand years. Rapid industrialization and modernization, urban density, a feudal past, imperial rule, and other factors have shaped the inter-personal rules of social intercourse. For one, the architecture of the cities must be noted. For dwellings, the walls are very thin and fragile. You can punch a whole through them with a dirty look. I’m talking about the walls between apartments (reminds me of the movie “Office Space”). The development of a strong need for privacy is something I’m not quite sure how it comes about, but people here have less privacy than back home. All you have to do is get a lover and you’ll see how hard it is to get some privacy (for free that is). You get used to silent or whisper lovemaking very quickly, unless you favor the “love hotel” option, but that is something I can’t write about because I have no experience with them yet. But you can get a coupon booklet at the convenience store in which the region’s love hotels make some sweet deals (10% off your kid’s daycare fees, shit like that)

Back home anyone and anything is fair game to our open criticisms (founded or not) unless of course these criticisms are based on race, religion, sexual orientation or national origin (Caucasians, Catholics, Heterosexuals, and the French are the seeming exception).

We pride ourselves of being an open society who is tolerant; and whose main strength is its diversity. That is very true. In an open democracy in which equality is a goal we constantly strive to achieve, one can forgo and dispense with ceremony, decorum, tradition and even, politeness.

But here in Japan, my experience has been mixed so far. I have been told many things about how the life of a foreigner develops here. My experience has been somewhat similar to back home, with the exception that in japan, I have been forced to face myself much more than back home. Here, although I feel right at home, interactions at work, outside of work, and at home are challenging. Here all your support comes from your bones, and all your protection comes from your skin. Both foreigners and locals are tough amongst themselves and with each other. At the same time it’s a finely tuned society, it is also a very dangerous jungle. You’re stripped of your remaining innocence when you move to a foreign land by yourself. You are forced to make drastic adaptations to survive. How does an individual like myself make it here? I’m not sure. I still love this country and its people. What you realize is that people are people wherever you are, regardless of any visible or cultural difference. There are good people and bad people wherever you go. I have made some very good friends here, and others I thought were friends and loved ones turned out otherwise.

Most foreigners I have met here don’t like it here. The foreign women complain at every opportunity. The local women don’t speak. The local and foreign men get drunk and laid whenever possible, and women are happy to oblige.

You grow up pretty quickly here. You have some time to think, but not too much, most of the time you have to act. You are competing for space, for rank, for attention, for money, for time. You have to think on your feet. You have to learn how to read and write quickly, you have to learn to speak a new language, learn new rules, make sense of a new world on the fly.

The charms of Japan are countless, and its challenges are no less numerous. There is no time to fold, give up and go home, not for me. Many do that. I know there is something good for me here, I know it deep in my heart. To make it you have to be tough, but not bully type tough, tough on the inside, very deep inside. Emotions, impulses and desires have to be curved, and for someone like me, that is very difficult to do. Its not that you have to be an asshole, but you have to become shrewd as soon as possible. Employers, students, friends and women all have strong and demanding expectations of you. There is little time for bitching about this or that. You do. You act. You make. You break. You move. And you have to move forward.

I realize now how easy I had it back home. How comfortable a life I led there. With all its stresses and challenges, it was still a comfy life. But life here is better for me.

Encouragement has to come from within, and from your beliefs. Your strength cannot be derived from anywhere or anyone else. I smoke, I drink, I eat, I fuck. But true pleasure, comes from the inside, when you have overcome a huge obstacle at work, at home, etc. when you see that you can make it. Its not just pleasure, its true self-realization. The chore itself is irrelevant, it’s the fact that you face it, and beat it. You do get used to disappointment here, but every time it affects you less and less. Slowly but surely, happiness begins to seep out from within you. With everything you do, you feel more solid, more capable, stronger, wiser.

There are things you will face time and time again in your life. Work, relationships, responsibilities, duties, etc. you learn to deal with them. And as time elapses, your skills are honed. You perfect your abilities till they are strong as steel, and razor-sharp. I’m not there yet, but I see now how it is, and how one needs to evolve as a man to make it. There is no time to be weak, but some days it’s hard. Some days you cry yourself to sleep and you never really sleep at all. Your dreams are filled with friends and family, the places that meant something to you, and good memories are replayed in your head time and again.

But you doubt whether you can make it. You doubt your resolve in those cold nights. But then, the next day, you help someone unlock a door to a new world of ideas. And they love you for it. You help someone get closer to their dream. And there is your reason for being here. You forget about the shitty issues, and relish in the fact that someone you taught has opened a door to a new world with your help. You can’t beat that with a stick.