Dreams.

I had the strangest dream last night.

I was on a train, traveling somewhere. I had with me my big suitcase, and two full bags that were weighing me down. I bent down to pick up my baggage to get off the train and as I turned back to my suitcase I found that someone had stolen it.

I was distraught by the loss of my suitcase, mainly because it had the thing I loved most in it- my big camera. I sat wondering who could have taken my camera away from me, when someone appeared, telling me that they had tracked my suitcase down and found it. However, the only thing left in it was my camera. I was upset because I’d lost so many things from that case, but relieved that my camera was safe.

In real life, yesterday I lost something very very dear to me. Something I thought would always be there in my case was suddenly taken away from me. Perhaps someone kind will bring me back my beloved camera. But I fear I will just have to learn to live without taking beautiful photos with it any more.

Clubbing in Germany

When I was in my first two years of uni, I used to go out clubbing quite a bit, I guess. Though I’ve never really been “into” it, I just went along with what was expected of me and what my friends were doing.

But when I was in Japan, the nearest club was a 40 min car ride away, meaning that I would have to rely on someone else and that someone would probably be driving back after drinking (as if often the case in rural Japan) and also I wouldn’t be able to just leave when I’ve had enough (probably way before anyone else). Despite this, I did miss having the chance to just get dressed up and go out. So, coming to Frankfurt, I was quite excited to go out and have some fun here.

.. but it hasn’t really turned out that way. I never seem to get round to sorting things, and fear of the music being… well, German -lots of noise and beats as opposed to things you can sing along to- has sort of hindered me.

One of the tallest buildings in Frankfurt is the Japan centre, and at the top, every month there is a party. We’ve been saying for ages that we’d like to see what it’s like up there and we finally made it last month, as a girls’ night out. We knew beforehand that they are a little picky on the doors, so we scouted out photos on their website to see what kind of things we needed to wear. Also, it’s always better to go in smaller groups to these things so we split off into smaller groups. As my friend and I joined the queue, it wasn’t so long and we only had to wait a matter of minutes before we were at the front. There were two boys – one Indian guy and one Chinese guy. The bouncer looked them up and down, said “Nope. Sorry” and jerked his thumb to the street to make them get out of the way. This was quite shocking to us… as we were next. I had started to wonder if I really wanted to go into this club at all now. But since we were meeting everyone inside, I went with it.We got in ok, though the guy wanted to know where we are from and wanted to check my friend’s age.

The party itself was ok… up until 11pm it wasn’t overly crowded, the drinks were nicely priced, and the view was breathtaking. However, as I had feared, it was 99% white middle class German 20-somethings. There was one well dressed East Asian guy, and one smart black guy. That was it. We got up to dance but the music was actually German beats-and-noise, up until midnight when they put the lights down low, said “this is when tonight’s entertainment begins!” and then started playing some chart music. But by that time, it was overly packed, people were bashing into myself and my friend and it was pretty unpleasant. By 1am I had had enough, and luckily my friends thought so too so I could go home without looking like a spoil sport.

The experience really made me wonder if I’m just too old and grumpy for this… I really hate having people bash into me – but isn’t that what clubbing is about? I spend half my time positioning myself so that when a certain person continues to knock me, they’ll get a nice sharp dig of my elbow instead.

I didn’t want to give up though. Around the Zoo and Bornheim area there were posters for a “we <3 the 90s” night. Perfect. We DO love the 90s! So we decided to go.

We were a group of 7 – myself and my friend from the Japan Centre party, her boyfriend, and 4 Nintendo employee friends. At the door, we were initially turned away – the bouncer saying that they had a dress code to stick to. What. I mean, I wasn’t in heals (purple flats), the boys were all in shirts .. though they did have trainers on – nice ones though… we weren’t any more casual than the people being let it. After being made to stand in a circle of shame for 5 mins or so, we were told we could go in. As we walked by a comment was made in German apparently not impressed at our lack of German skills. Whatever.

The night was a blast. They played really awesome music, we danced, sang, had oodles of fun. HOWEVER. The people around us were really Debbie Downers. They wouldn’t jump around and have fun like us – when the Macarena came one, we were the ONLY people dancing in the whole place. They did, however dance like idiots and keep bashing into us, so I had my elbowing technique at the ready again. For us, it was like a school disco. Most of the other people were about 10 years older than us, so I guess it wasn’t the same for them. But it was quite shocking how uptight they all were.

When I lived in Japan, I would have taken experiences like this and then make sweeping generalisations about the Japanese people. I won’t do that this time. German people just like different music, and like to stay a little more sane on the dance floor. It is a shame that they pack the clubs way too much – the 90s party had the same problem. It makes it so that it’s impossible to enjoy yourself because you keep getting hurt.

We’re off to the 90s party again next month… let’s hope it’s even better next time!

The Wonder…. The Wonder of Japanese Food…

One of my favourite things about Japan is the food and drink there. They have an amazing culture where they take pride in their local foods, are interested in different and unusual dishes and are constantly spending money going out to eat. It’s a big business – much bigger than in the UK, where people tend to eat out only on special occasions. Eating out in Japan can often also be much cheaper than buying food from the supermarket and making it yourself.

So, I’d like to dedicate a post to the wonderful things I ate in my week in Japan. I have *SO* many other food photos from the 3 years I lived there, I may have to do these more often.

Speaking of unusual food (… drink), here is some bottled tea that contains the goodness of green vegetables. You can see the things in it on the bottle – broccoli, cabbage, spinach… and there on the top right, goya. I HATE goya. It’s a vegetable from Okinawa in the south, that tastes really bitter. I was interested in this tea, then saw that and refused to even try it. Such is my loathing of goya.

This here is soy milk icecream. My town also does some pretty good tofu icecream, which you really must try if you come across it. You can find some really crazy icecream flavours in Japan.. even wasabi!

Fried stuff. People think that Japanese food is healthy. That if you eat enough sushi, you’ll live forever and be really skinny.

WRONG.

First of all, Japanese people have 3 ways of preparing food – eating it raw (fish, beef, chicken -yes, chicken… that’s a story for another day), pickling it to death or deep frying it. There is SO much deep fried food in Japan. When I had to eat Japanese school dinners (oh, that would make a good post too… hmm, I’m on a roll…) I got SO fat just from all the fried stuff they gave me all the time. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved fried crap as much as the next girl, but it was a real overkill. Before Japan, I didn’t have any opinions on fried stuff. Now, I don’t eat it if I don’t have to. Well, maybe a burger monthly.

Ah, now this is the good stuff. I love these kinds of dishes. Fish done in soy sauce, probably crap loads of sugar with ginger, mirin and all that stuff. The pickled plums are there to keep the “fishy” smell away, apparently.

Sushi AND deep fried stuff!

Again, creative snacks – this is chewing gum with 7 flavours that you can taste in one stick, one after another. Ok, so I could only taste 2 or 3 vaguely fruity flavours. But, they are still trying and that’s what counts.

My karaoke staples. A packet of chocolate covered macadamia nuts, whatever limited edition milk tea flavour is on, and some non-milk drink to wash the milk down with before singing (milk is very bad for singers…)

Fried stuff on sticks at chinatown in Kobe.

Mmm steamy goodness of niku-man. Steamed buns with meat inside.

While to us croquettes are cylindrical potato goodies, to Japanese people they are similar to hash browns, I guess, but with meat or prawns in them too. I really like them (though are in the deep fried stuff category…) The one above is “niku jyaga” flavour.

This one was just a Kobe beef croquette, but I had seen people queuing for hours for them, and went past at a time when the wait was only 5 minutes. So, I had a go. Japanese people were walking by, saying “woah, even foreigners want them!” and I had to stand on the pavement eating it which is taboo in Japan, but it was really good so worth it.

I think that concludes my round up of the food I ate. I have so many photos from when I used to have a Tumblr, so I might do more of these themed photo dumps. It was quite fun to write.

10 Things From My Japan Trip

This post is very late.. I shall explain why later…

1. I don’t think I will ever really like Japanese milk.

I drank this milk every day (well every working day) I was in Japan. It’s just too creamy, too thick. And this is how it is with most Japanese milk. Mister says that it’s best like this, that that’s how milk should taste. Nonsense. It tastes gross.

2. Engrish will never cease to amuse me.

3.  Japanese food is awesome.

I’ll do a separate post on things I ate, I think.

4.  Japan is awesome at taking things we know so well and making it original.

This is a Starbucks coffeehouse in Kobe. But the same can be said of Kitkats, Fanta drink, sandwiches… so many things.

5.  Food in Kobe chinatown is yummy-tastic but most is from frozen and not made by the people selling it.

I watched the girl pour packets of frozen things into the steamer…

While these guys were making them before our very eyes. I bought from this shop, of course.

6.  Women’s sections on trains.

In Nagoya they have these, but only during rush hours – in Osaka there were cars of the train restricted to women only at any time of the day or night. I used these cars when I saw them. Are they necessary? I have no idea. I know that a lot of women get molested on trains in Japan. I have never had that experience, luckily.

It’s funny to watch men who walk into the train and don’t realise that it’s the women’s carriage until it’s too late, though. Hehehe.

7.  Submarines are AWESOME!

And so much bigger than I had expected. And not nearly as yellow as I’d hoped…

8.  Cat cafes are the place to be.

I visited one called Gurguru Dou ぐるぐる堂 in Osaka – a minute’s walk from Namba station. It was one of the best cat cafes I had been to. The cats were very well looked after, and given decent food (I’ve been to places that only give them the cheapest stuff on the market). The owner really cares about the cats, and they are all fit and healthy. The only bad point was that the cats were not really interested in interacting with humans – either slept in high places or fought with each other.

9. Japanese people are lazy and rude sometimes too, you know.

People think that Japanese people are all hard working angels. This is not the case, of course. There are silly people, ignorant people, lazy people in all countries and cultures.

I was flabbergasted by the laziness and cheek of the owners of the above suitcases. In Japan, trains know exactly where they will stop, so you always know where the doors will open, and queue there. These ladies had tickets for the non-reserved seat section, but could not be bothered to wait and form a line, so places their suitcases down there instead and walked off to the waiting room. I was in an easy going mood, but I felt like tapping the station man on the shoulder and reporting the unattended baggage. Of course, no one else complained.

10. It’s good to be home again, though.

People keep asking me how Japan was. I reply “yeah it was ok”. I sound like I didn’t have a good time. I did, I really did. It was great seeing my old friends, my students, my “Japanese family”. But I didn’t feel the excitement for Japan that I once had. I was really looking forward to going to a convenience store and eating onigiri rice balls, or other instant food. But I got there and thought that nothing looked good to eat at all. Everything was expensive now I’m not paid in yen anymore. And I had a couple of episodes where Japanese people were rude to me or looked down on me because I am not Japanese. In particular, the JR lady who sold me my express ticket to the airport was so intent on dealing with me as quickly as possible and by communicating with me as little as possible, that she got my ticket wrong and overcharged me by quite a bit.

I really felt like I got closure on Japan. Don’t get me wrong, I love being in my “home town”. I want to see my Japanese friends again soon. I have some very special people there. But I wouldn’t like to live in Japan again so soon. Not only because of the reasons above, but also because of the aftermath of the tsunami (again, I guess this is a story for another post) and I’d just forgotten what it feels like to be a second class citizen, to stand out like a sore thumb, to be watched in everything I do. It made me appreciate my life in Germany a lot more. I said those exact words in Japanese on my blog at Lang-8 and Japanese people got uppity about it, saying they’d like me to focus on the good things in Japan. There are good things, of course. But it all feels either completely normal to me now, or is something I’d rather not have in my life.

I flew with Finnair (don’t, they weren’t worth the cheap tickets.. pay more and go with someone better..) and my flight home was during the day (11am Japanese time, to 6pm German time). This was such a bad choice and made me have terrible, terrible jetlag. I’ve never been so ill with it – even had stomach aches from lack of sleep. That is my excuse for not having blogged yet… I think I’ll write a few more on my Japan trip (like the food one, and the tsunami one) when I can, hopefully this week.

 

 

Language Learning – Pimsleur Korean

I’m back from Japan and slowly working my way through my photos. Once I have sorted them, I’ll do a write up but until then, there’s time for something different :-)

A while back I mentioned that I had the Pimsleur Korean cds waiting to be used. A week or so before I went to Japan I gave them a go, and here are my findings!

I had heard that the Pimsleur method is similar to the Michel Thomas method – in that they work on building blocks of language as opposed to grammar and so on. I guess in that way they are a little similar, but sadly they were not nearly as effective as I had hoped.

I used the cds as I did the Michel Thomas ones – on the way to work. As I set off out my door, I’m told to listen to a Korean conversation. I’m then told that in minutes I’ll be able to understand it all. I think they do this to try and daunt you, then make you feel like you’ve achieved something, like “oh, that daunting conversation is now so easy to me!”

I’m off down the street and I’m told that the conversation is between an American man who sat down next to a Korean woman and wants to have a conversation with her. GROAN. Oh, come on. Really? Ok, ok, I’ll stick with it.

Where Michel Thomas has students repeating and constructing sentences, Pimsleur has you repeating after the native speakers. They break down words so you can say them clearly. I’m not sure why this method didn’t stick with me, but by the time they’d finished one word and moved onto the next, I’d forgotten the previous word. It just wasn’t as effective as the constant questions that Michel Thomas asks of you and the two dummy students.

I stuck it out until I got to the main station, and to the end of that lesson. Usually with Michel Thomas, by that time I would have a few new words and would feel confident in making a handful of new sentences. With Pimsleur I could barely remember the 4 or so new words they had taught me. I have experience in Korean before, so it wasn’t new to me at all. Yet I didn’t feel confident in the new phrases I had learnt.

I think if you yourself are in a class that has this method, it’s probably a good thing. But for me, the cds just didn’t work. It could just be me though – a friend of mine said that he really finds the method useful and effective.

I wonder if anyone out there has any thoughts on these two learning methods? I’d love to hear other opinions.

From Start To Finish.

While I was waiting for Mr in town on Saturday, I noticed that the game shop had Mario Party 9 in the window. I went to investigate and found a bunch of kids playing it.

Now, here’s a warning – I get emotional at everything. EV.ER.Y.THING. And this was no different. I was tearing up, thinking “omg, they are enjoying the thing we worked so hard on” when the game shop guy turned to me and asked if I wanted to play. YES!

So I spent quite a large amount of time beating the kids at the game. The game shop guy told me that they get the games 2 weeks in advance so they can play them and get used to them, so he was pretty good at the games too. The two kids playing against us were just left behind as we fought with each other to win each mini-game. Sadly, I think in the end, he won. But it sure was fun.

It just amazing to see kids run into the shop and tug at the guy’s shirt saying “oh wow! Is this Mario Party 9!!?” like they had been waiting for it this whole time. I’m so glad I can be in a job that’s so rewarding that I can instantly see that people enjoy the things I help create, and it makes me work all the harder to make sure they keep coming back.

Ok, I’ll probably shut up about this now, haha.

My Game Was Released!!

Exciting times, because the game I worked on came out!! My first project was Skyward Sword but since I was new and knew little, and because I joined half way through the project, it was cool but not so special. I was the main UK translator on Mario Party 9, so it’s very special to me. The project was the making of me and helped me grow and learn in so many different ways.

So if you are in the UK or Ireland, and you see that game, take a good look at it, because it’s my baby!