Wednesday, November 30, 2011

May 16th-22nd, Work, canoeing, robot dancing

16th May

Straight back to work. Remain in culture shock for two days. Start to lament my extra year (remember this was back in May) but people are happy to see me back which lessens the feeling.


Kendo, was a hard day after an absence but I go home feeling good.


Jodo sucks but classes going well.


Kendo again, feel clumsy and have huge blisters on my feet but feels good.


Culture shock (as evidenced by riveting updates above) ends. In my Friday class I say, almost under my breath, yay it’s Friday! To my utmost surprise the class ERUPTS into clapping. This is the beginning of a Friday tradition that never fails to put a huge grin on my face.

After work I go out for a coffee with Holly, an English girl from Aburatsu who I get along splendidly with. A coffee turns into a drink, then dinner, then looking for a bar. We have an interesting conversation where we realise we are COMPLETE opposites, and we heartily enjoy comparing things from the opposite side of the life-fence for awhile. Wish to hang out more.


I am up so early. It’s raining, but my ride still arrives so I jump in the car. Today I have been invited by my travel agent to go canoeing on the Oyodo river in the city. She lives near me so we take a beautiful back way into the city through the mountains. On the way there I suddenly see a butt flash above the windscreen, and watch in disbelief as a monkey swings itself out over the road and up into a tree. Hiroko points to our left and we watch an entire troop of monkeys scamper along the embankment.

We make a quick stop in the middle of the mountains to see a “Rose garden.” Because we are in the middle of nowhere I am dubious. This feeling grows as we slip and slide our way along a path, in the rain, under the trees. For some reason I see about twenty crabs scuttling along. We are nowhere near sea. The Rose gardens turn out to be someone’s house, hidden away, where they have decided to grow roses on all this uninhabited space. Despite the rain and the roses looking somewhat bedraggled, it is absolutely lovely. We see hundreds of lilies, and I learn that that bamboo water thing that fills and empties (making that soft clunking sound) is not for relaxation, as we often use it, but actually was created long ago to scare away wild animals.

When we get to the city, I go and find a bathroom. To do this I wander for awhile, then plunge into the nearest governmental building and up an elevator to an indiscriminate floor. Because I can read no kanji I never know what type of a building I am in, but because I am foreign, no-one ever asks me what I’m doing there. Being foreign in Japan gives this weird sense of being simultaneously in and out of bounds, probably because I am always out of -but no one would ever tell me. I use the bathroom (which is flash) and leave the way I came, nodding at the doorman.

We begin the canoeing! To my joy, there are more foreigners. After being shown how to paddle (literally, we all stand in a line on land and paddle) we are escorted to our canoes. For some reason paddles in Japan are tiny, or perhaps my arms are obnoxiously long.

I have a wonderful day canoeing with Asha, Matt, and some fun Japanese people up the river. Before long we fetch up on land, which is odd, considering we are right in the centre of the river. We get out and have great fun walking on water and pretending to be Jesus. Needless to say we are the only ones. When I look back at my canoe it is high above water so we realise the tide is dropping and hop it back to our actual canoeing. The weather all of a sudden becomes lovely, so I hook my legs over the sides of my canoe, rest my arms on my paddle, and lean back for a snooze. Bliss. Asha, Matt and I make plans for a river float, as it seems we are from similar places where slow moving water, alcohol and sunlight are the recipe for everything that is important in this world. On the way back to the dropoff point, it starts POURING. This is Miyazaki weather. The rain is ecstatically loud and we get absolutely soaked.

After this Matt, myself, and a young Japanese man we have terrified into joining us go out for American burgers(!) and then to wander around the city for a bit. We have coffee, and I check into my hotel at about 3pm.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this (I believe I have) but I have a love for hotels. So I have a fun hotel day, using condiments, bathing, reading, lounging around in a robe, and playing with a hilarious beauty face mask which makes me look like the Texas chainsaw massacrist. I guess the upside to living alone is that I am very, very easily entertained.

Tonight is a goodbye party for Mattsy and a few other people/birthdays/I can’t really remember what it was. For some reason Jordy and I wore glitter though. No regrets.

Out for dinner! We go to the same place as the welcome party all those months ago so it’s very nostalgic and there is a lot of talk of how wonderful it all was. Stomach hurts and it rains again but there are so many people I love to catch up with that it’s a nice, nice evening.

We go to a bar but it’s loud and chaotic and small so we go to karaoke. Miles gets me some medicine for my stomach (god knows where – but drugstores are open all the time in Japan) and Micah and I dance like robots in our seats in endless entertainment. In the bathroom some girls point at my (newly and accidentally) ripped rights, the hole in the crotch of my dress, my glitter, and call me sexy Lady Gaga. I’ll take it.

At the end of the night, we all stand around outside, I go and get a doughnut, and when I get back everyone is gone. I happily eat my doughnut and wander back to my hotel.


Lovely morning, meet Jords after breakfast and go for a nice coffee with Sam. After this we decide to get Thai massages. Why not? Sam and I go to what I wrote in my notes as “the viney house from the movie Rose Red” but which I now know (months later) is actually the Kencho where a lot of my friends have been working for years, to pick up his car which he secretly stows there. The more you know. Sam and I drove along the coast to Aoshima, where we met the Emmas and co. and had an extended lunch (literally like 3 hours) at some sweet wee vegan place on a hill. An afternoon of health against an entire lifetime of careless decisions.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

May 8th-15th, the rest of my trip to NZ


Today I go to the doctor and find out I have a stomach ulcer. Explains much. Undertake blood tests.

Have a cup of tea in the sun with Roses flatmates, who are an English couple. Every 30min or so one of them will pipe up “I’ll put on a brew shall I! Anyone for a brew?”

(They mean tea.)

Went for a walk with Kiri and Swayze around Taupo as a town in the exact same way we used to when we were high school students. Have a coffee with Swayze and hear all about her travel experiences in the states, which are extremely interesting. Say hello to Laura’s mum who loves me more than her and then have lunch with Laura!

Back to Roses. Ray is there so we go for a drive out to the farm to feed the dogs and end up shooting at turkeys with a 12 gauge shotgun. I miss every single one and on the last shot forget to fix the butt into my shoulder. Pain. Michael picks up the one feather on the ground and consoles me by saying I must have shot it off. I’ll take it.

Ray then takes me for a driving lesson in the paddocks (with dogs running alongside) which is fun for me pootling around but obviously boring for everyone else, as Ray tells me to accelerate and pull the wheel. We slide into a massive J turn and I get grass in my ear as it flies in all the right hand windows. Shocking but fun.

Head back to town and get cheesy weesys, which are god’s greatest gift. Fat half cooked chips, covered in cheese and mayonnaise, wrapped in newspaper to create a soggy mess of deliciousness. While waiting I was called off the street into a bar (all our bars are open front) to catch up with two friends I hadn’t seen for years. I love how Taupo is like this. Had a Malibu and milk at the recommendation of my sister, who tells me you can still partake on a stomach ulcer, provided you have a glass of milk. I decide to do both in one, at which the bartender responded “ew.”

When the chips are ready I take my leave and we go to Roses where we spend the usual hour trying to decide what DVD to watch, and end up on Saw. It’s gross. But the food is not.


Rose has work today, so I get up early and have a cup of tea with her. She leaves and then I go grocery shopping with my mother, through Rose’s checkout. Me and her chatter away like we haven’t seen each other in weeks and she scans the next customer’s items all the while, talking over shoulder to me.

Back to mum’s have a “double down” from KFC. I’m not sure if these came out in Japan at the same time, but they’re basically two slabs of chicken in lieu of bun with cheese and sauce inside. It’s slimy and weird but when I jump on facebook nearly every NZer has posted about the same thing. We are a country quick to excite.

I had promised to accompany my mother along to the cosmopolitan club (affectionately called the cozzy) an establishment characterized by Friday night raffles, men in road work clothes, and my entire family. We go to pick up Rose, and Rose and I decide we need a drink before attending. We try to pressure our mother but she is not having a bar of it so we vow to finish the bottle before setting foot out the door. My mother gets in the car and starts to leave without us. We run out with our purses and a bottle of wine with a tissue stuffed into the neck.

At the cozzy, the lady behind the counter has (loud) issues with my ID. Again, my ID is somewhat questionable but realistically I am not exactly a 12 year old slipped loose from my mother’s grasp, despite spending my Tuesday night with her. Rose gets mad, gets my drink, and we mutter darkly over our beers about power tripping women with buzz cuts.

After the cozzy (we leave quite early) I got back to Roses to have a couple drinks with her flatmates. We make “cocktails” out of the leftovers from the last party, namely “Bine” a tempting blend of beer and cask wine.

A few of our friends come round to join us, and we end up having a lot of fun, most likely due to me not being in stomach agony. A couple of us go to town and we have all the great drinks which we never used to be able to afford. I turn into Girl Who Dances by Self due to a mixture of an empty stage, Bine, not knowing anyone around except family, and not being able to dance in Japan, ever.

McDonalds and home. All in all, a very enjoyable night. I prefer it to going clubbing sometimes.


Rain. Despite this, we go prawn fishing. This is one of the many tourist attractions in our town that we have never actually done. We all feel heaps of bites, but only Rose catches prawns. We go on an “adventure walk” helped all the while by a wooden cutout of a prawn, named Shaun. We go over an obstacle course, (bear in mind this is a group of adults in their mid to late 20’s) are highly disappointed by the “water piano” which produces neither water nor music, and feed the fish.

We stop at the honey hive (ANOTHER tourist attraction, hint visit) look at bees, get photos AS bees (in which Rose and I attempt to look like bees that rather need to poop) and go and watch the Huka Falls for awhile. Yes, we do even have a waterfall.

Our big day of fun nearly over, we go and play pool and eat some fried mushrooms, the only way Rose will ever eat vegetables.

To Roses, to do some arts and crafts, throw foam balls at each other, and try to catch them with Velcro caps on our heads.

To mum and dads for a visit, where we generally just sit around making a nuisance of ourselves until they literally just get up and go to bed, leaving us in their lounge.


A day of goodbyes. I get up early and have a cup of tea with Rose before work. She starts her job at 9, so naturally leaves her house at 9. We say our goodbyes.

I go get a haircut up the road, wander back and read a magazine in the sun, and have a cup of tea with mum. We roam around for the day, I go back to the doctors for more blood tests, and we go to the house dad is working on for a nosy and a wander. We go out for our last lunch together, and dad gives me a parting gift, a bag of construction earplugs for use in summer when my AC starts rattling.

I read and sit in the sun all day until my dad arrives to take me to Mount Maunganui. Goodbye Taupo!

We go over the drive that I have been doing for the last 15 years and I recognise every corner. We go out for dinner and I completely stuff myself, mindful now of the days ticking to an end.

Food coma.


Wake up late, go out to visit Kath and meet her new baby for the first time. We go to her parents, where I remember running loose in kiwifruit orchards and over paddocks with her as kids. Natsukashiiii (nostalgic)

I am meant to meet friends at the Flying Burrito Brothers restaurant in town, so I get dropped there in the rain. I catch happy hour so sit at the bar having $5 margaritas by myself until I realise I’ve been there for quite awhile (I don’t have a phone) so leave. I see my friends out on the street and we come back in.

Dinner is mostly pitchers of alcohol. What food we have is delicious. We start to get loud and obnoxious so head out to town at about 10pm. We go to a heavy metal bar and have more pitchers. One pitcher is “sweet” one is “savoury” and we alternate shots of each. With my last $20 of NZ money I buy the rankest, lighter fluid-est mix I can find. At midnight the Cinderella must part and my friend TY drives me home to scratch on my dad’s sliding door.


Wake at 5.30am. Am on the road by 6. Have a lovely drive in the sunrise, and breakfast at the same cafĂ© we’ve been stopping at every time we’ve ever gone to Auckland. So many traditions revisited.

Go shopping, realise we are late, hurry to airport amid traffic. I am reasonably calm, I figure at worst I will miss my flight and have to just settle down and live in NZ.

Spend the first my 11 hours of flying sobbing ungracefully. I don’t even bother mopping it up, resorting instead to just letting the fluid fly every time I shake my head. Needless to say the people sitting next to me are uncomfortable. Somehow fill in the next 10 hours.

At Singapore airport I go straight to the gym, run on the treadmill in an effort to exhaust myself, shower and then wander around for 3 hours in a daze. Stumble to the gate and get on my plane at 1am. I’m so tired that I fall asleep before the plane even lifts off and get a huge fright when I open my eyes to see clouds.


Nap, eat breakfast, and stare like a zombie. My neighbour gives me a spare blanket (we’re back to Japanese thoughtfulness here) and I generally toss and turn and probably make him never want to encounter another foreigner again. At some point in the dead of night I sit bolt upright and sneeze about 60 times in a row, one after the other.

Fukuoka. Customs, train, bus, train. Finally get home in complete exhaustion and for some reason want to clean. Am hit with extreme culture shock and lie down waiting for the morning.

And so ends my trip home!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

7th-8th May, first two days HOME (Taupo)

7th (Continued)

It’s so nice to see this drive again, despite the stomach pain. So excited and nervous to see my parents! Mum has made muffins. My parents are disgusted by my eating habits. I have lived alone too long.

In an effort to take the focus off of this, I bust out their gift, which is a sake cup set. We share some umechu (plum liquor) and shochu (rice whiskey) which my parents actually like, around the kitchen table. It’s 4pm. I am preparing for a nap when ROSE arrives at the door!

We get into her car, which is as delightfully messy as always. Messy isn’t really the right word for it. To get into my sisters car, you have to slam the front seat against all the stuff in the back seat, and lower yourself into the cradle where you lift your legs, one at a time, high over all the rubbish under the dash. Nestled between your feet you can expect to find some or all of the following at any time: random toys (we often drunkenly think we need new activities), car decorations, confetti, panphlets, filters, tobacco, McDonalds, expired coupons, beer bottles, and, if I remember rightly, a crushed shrewsberry biscuit. It was a nostalgic experience for me, having spent many years of my life in this very position, waiting for Rose to roll her pre-driving cigarette.

We first stopped at the Tauhara shops for alcohol, which was an interesting experience. I often spent my weekends in and around the Tauhara area, wandering up to those shops in clothes I wouldn’t even wear in my own home in Japan – often belonging to other people. Usually I would buy the cheapest thing available, which is often some sort of 1.5l “NEW!” $8 thing that is horrible but exciting in novelty. Or, alternatively, we stumble up there at midnight for Chinese food, hearing spousal arguments roll out the windows onto the street - or in the blinding light of day past swearing kids cutting their bikes across the dirt in your path. It was interesting to note my discomfort at the place, which I never before had felt. I even confessed to not wanting to get out of the car, at the same place where we have literally started drinking leaning against them. Still, I got over it, and went inside where they were handing out free shots of some new sort of cheap whiskey.

We drove past Aaron’s fence, which has taken him probably a good 4 years to put up, and laughed uproariously about the idea of tagging it now that it is finally there. Carried on to Roses, where a few of her friends were, and I had to re-learn how to make Taupo small-talk all over again. (You don’t talk about your job or anything.)

Heaps of our friends came round, and we all started having a few drinks. Unfortunately, my stomach was hurting worse than in Palmy and got to the point where I had to steal away for a portion of the night because it was agonising. It was truly great to see everyone, but coupled with that joy was a large amount of guilt for not being able to really enjoy myself with them. We toyed with the idea of making me a giant placard which I could wear, which would answer 3 of the most common questions I was getting, e.g. How is Japan, How was the typhoon, Do people drink there. I also got asked where I was from/accused of being foreign, because I spoke so slowly and carefully. Damn you teacher English.

A lot of people tried shochu and hated it, and while I origionally brought it as a novelty I funnily enough ended up drinking it with water like I was in Japan, because it was softest on my stomach. Eventually I managed to rejoin the party at a stronger semblance of self, and work my way from group to group. A particular highlight of this night was my friend Ray, who is a giant, drunkenly pushing his way into people’s conversations and being as obnoxious as possible, because “Tiffany does martial arts (NB* I don’t) and she will waste you.” If I remember I will put a photo of myself next to Ray, so you can get this reference.

A dance party started downstairs, and I, upon joining it, was suddenly picked up from either side by two large males. They proceeded to slam me against a foundation and tape me to it from head to foot, shouting “now you can’t leave again!” Rose tries to help and leaps in, and is subsequently taped to me too. I was laughing too hard to care about my stomach or the handful of hair that is ripped out when the tape comes off.

I had forgotten what a Taupo party was. Pitching and hitting cans with a bat in the kitchen, drinks all over the hardwood floor making it into a slipnslide, a confetti rocket thrown into the road, a rubbish bin thrown into the road, fighting, shouting, dramas, tears, last people awake leaning over their drinks and cackling, it was all there. Wouldn’t change this place for the world.


Sunday. Woke up at some ridiculous hour (like 2pm) and had pizza delivered for hangovers. All of us ate an entire pizza each and then cleaned the house. This was actually quite fun! The best thing about parties like that is that your house gets so completely turned upside down that when you clean it it gets the most thorough cleaning it’s ever seen. Who could have ever thought there’d be things under the couch? Won’t know until it’s been drunkenly overturned and dragged half outside. Drinks spilled down walls? Only means that walls that would ordinarily not be touched are lashed down with soapy water. Pristine.

A mere 3 hours after waking up, Rose and I head out to an Indian restaurant for mother’s day/family dinner. Family dinners are always the kinds that make my dad sadly shake his head at his family, and tonight was no exception. There was random dancing in our chairs, pregnant bellies and moaning, loud, inappropriate conversation, and manipulation of curries to resemble siblings nappies. Dinner over, Rose and I then went to visit Ray, where we watched a documentary on monkeys.