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Moorea



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 383
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:25 am    Post subject: Snapshots! Reply with quote

Hi everybody! Welcome to my new writing project, entitled SNAPSHOTS! Periodically, I am going to be posting little snippits of my life on this forum. I know, this has nothing to do with Warcraft, but there are other writing projects on here that are not game related as well, so I hope ya'll won't mind. My main goal in posting these stories is to entertain, I hope that no one will be offended by what I write as I do have the tendency to be a bit sarcastic.

The topics will be a variety of things, both past and present, that have happened to me in my life as I've travelled and lived in different locations. Many of these incidents are quite humourous and I'd like to share them. I have become a huge fan of travel writing/foreign living IRL and now I'd like to dip my quill into this genre as well (Bill Bryson is my favorite author atm). What you are going to read in this forum is truth, though perhaps a bit embellished for storytelling purposes.

And if anyone is wondering, no, I have not given up writing Warcraft stories. I have lots of Warcraft, fiction, and non-fiction stories bubbling away inside my head, which will be committed to paper once I get my research papers done.

As always, comments, suggestions, and even Amaunator's grammar checks are always welcome and much appreciated.

Cheers!

Moorea
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Life is great until the toilet paper runs out....


Last edited by Moorea on Thu Dec 18, 2008 8:21 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Moorea



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 383
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A 1ST GRADE TEACHER


Today, while reading a storybook to my cute little first graders, I watched a kid named ALEX out of the corner of my eye. Alex had his index finger inserted up his left nostril all the way to the 2nd digit and he was just going for gold. I've been sick for a few weeks actually and at that moment I was medicated enough to sedate an elephant. So, my brain wasn't firing on all cylinders (when does it ever???) but that's ok, atleast I can function well enough for my 1st grader babies. Anyhoots, on with my gold digger story. Alex was just a' digging away and I was trying hard not to giggle when suddenly he pulled from his proboscus a globule of condensed, coagulated, and very much deceased white blood cells about the size of my thumbnail. At that moment, my life switched over into "slow-mo" mode. It was like in those kung-fu or Matrix movies where the action all takes place in slow motion. I saw Alex pull out the bugger and then extend his hand towards the floor (the kids sit on the carpeted floor while I read to them) and I know at that point my heart jumped into my throat. Dropping the storybook as I rose from my chair, I practically yelled (in slow motion) for Alex to cease and desist from depositing that Mt Rushmore sized bugger nugget on my carpet. Grabbing my box of tissues, I proceeded to perform "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" maneuvers, weaving in and out of my students in order to reach him before tragedy struck my poor, abused floor. Alex raised his eyes and saw me leaping over other children towards him and he panicked...that index finger stopped a bare inch from the surface of the carpet before it was hastily retracted. Unwilling to surrender that valuable piece of personal property over to my cheap, gas station tissue, Alex proceeded to use that gained momentum to bring that index finger up to his face where the finger disappeared in a blink of an eye into the dark recesses of his oral orifice. Horrified, I dropped several tissues upon his head. The local teacher, Ms Cheung, was practically hysterical over my odd reaction to this perfectly normal function in the daily life of children. She thought I was stark raving mad, standing in the middle of the group of kids, waving a tissue box around like that. Embarrassed, I sat back down and continued reading my story. I did, however, have a bit of a sense of satisfaction knowing that the carpet in my classroom was salvaged from such a brutal application of germ warfare.
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Life is great until the toilet paper runs out....


Last edited by Moorea on Fri Feb 06, 2009 8:08 am; edited 3 times in total
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Heloly



Joined: 31 Jul 2005
Posts: 1602

PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That was well written but also disgusting. When you talked about white blood cells I almost suspected that you were about to make a House level health assessment and slide tackle the kid to prevent his liver from exploding or something. Wink
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Amaunator



Joined: 03 Dec 2005
Posts: 2074
Location: Belgium ... innocuous but intrepid!

PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Enormously disgusting :p. Bodily functions are always a reproachful subject :p. Not bad though, but you could have skimmed a little on the rant, expounded on the room's interior (and only near the end did one understand why you were so hysterical about it in the first place. Could have been better placed to see the real tragedy in the reader's eye Wink) and maybe try not to use capitals and triple question marks? Wink

And I do think all of the numericals you use (2nd digit, 2nd and 1st grader babies) should be written in full (second digit, second-grader babies, first-grader babies).

And overall some more structure in the story simply by means of paragraphs? Then there's the small things like 'Mt. Rushmore' (do use the period) and 'slow-mo' (it is informal language, and it's good that you accentuate that it is by the means of quotation marks [though I would advise using apostrophes for it], but I'd still just use slow-motion if I were you).

And the pop references, though interesting, give it a cheesy feel, in my opinion Wink.
_________________
the sun may melt the rain
may rinse the sky may sink
the clouds may meet the dirt
may drop your heart may heal

feelings of love you love
fluttering hearts you hate
revealing souls you love
breaking spirits you hate that

the sun...
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Moorea



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 383
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 11:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

AN EXAMPLE OF STUPIDITY

Known fact of life: stupid people are everywhere! We are surrounded by stupid people…at work...at school…on the street…everywhere we can possibly go. Now I’m not making any claim that I’m not stupid, because I know that on many occasions I have done some VERY stupid things. I’ll get into my own stupidity later. But for now, I’d like to talk about an incident that happened on the Hong Kong subway a number of weeks ago that just keeps running back over and over in my mind and the sheer stupidity factor is just mind-boggling.

I ride the subway to work every morning and afternoon. I actually enjoy slipping on my MP3 player and tap out Led Zeppelin tunes on the metal overhead bars while I look at every single person around me. “People watching” fascinates me for some morbid reason as more often than not, I’m repulsed and disgusted by what I see people do. And on a side note, thank God for the MP3 creator so that I don’t have to listen to what so many idiots are jibber-jabbering inanely about on their cell phones at ear-splitting levels.

One afternoon heading home, I was standing in the middle of the subway car when I noticed a short, stubby, plump mother with thinning hair and humongous buggy frog eyes holding hands with her two surprisingly cute children; a boy around the age of 6 and a girl probably around 10. In Hong Kong, the subway car doors slide open as a female voice says in Cantonese to watch out for the doors. Following her is a rather sexy, deep voiced British woman reminding the patrons to “Please Mind the doors and the gap.” (meaning the gap between the platform and the actual car, about 4 inches maximum). After the two voices, there’s a loud, annoying beeping sound that continues for about 5 seconds, then the doors close and we move on to the next stop. This whole door closing procedure usually lasts probably no more than 20-30 seconds. As my train was pausing at that station, I observed this family as they came down the escalator and mentally wondered how this woman could produce such handsome children, when the signal beeping began. Now the stations in Hong Kong are equipped with double platform doors to prevent suicides. Always the platform door first, then the subway car door opens and closes. Quite sensible and the number of nasty, messy suicides have been significantly reduced. What this woman did next is my example of stupidity.

She outstretched her jiggling arms to stop her children from approaching the beeping doors, yet strangely the doors did not immediately shut as they usually do. She shrugged and starting pushing her children in front of her to enter the subway car. The total distance they moved was only about 5 feet I’d say. As they sauntered forward, the warning beeping began again. (When this happens, I usually take it to mean someone is blocking the doors and the platform conductor is just ringing the warning buzzer again). Instead of stopping again, she grabbed her children and rushed the doors. Her son came through safely first , but the doors began closing as her daughter jumped over the gap. The froggy woman panicked and thrust herself forward into the narrow closing. Well, she must have thought that she was thinner than she really is because the outer platform door caught her squarely on her stout shoulders. It was like that moment was frozen in time….her eyes bulged out even more and her children screamed.

Now the doors are programmed to stop closing if they are met with any resistance. So after only a gentle squeezing on the bulbous mother, the doors opened up and she was free. Judging from the look of relief on her face, she obviously did not know that she was never in mortal danger. She stepped over the gap into the anxious arms of her caring children and the gleeful feeling those three portrayed that she “made it” will probably be forever imprinted on my mind. They all giggled and squealed and gesticulated wildly about their little adventure with the platform doors. However, I could not stop myself from thinking, “Stupid woman, what the hell were you thinking?”
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Life is great until the toilet paper runs out....


Last edited by Moorea on Sat Jan 10, 2009 1:13 am; edited 1 time in total
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Amaunator



Joined: 03 Dec 2005
Posts: 2074
Location: Belgium ... innocuous but intrepid!

PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 5:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This was an interesting one Very Happy. I saw one little typographical thingy there, somewhere ^^. But I like the event, really :p. Especially the ascribed heroics by the woman and her children themselves Very Happy.
_________________
the sun may melt the rain
may rinse the sky may sink
the clouds may meet the dirt
may drop your heart may heal

feelings of love you love
fluttering hearts you hate
revealing souls you love
breaking spirits you hate that

the sun...
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Moorea



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 383
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 4:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MEMORIES OF MRS. HAYASHI


Many years ago as a wide-eyed, wet behind the ears eighteen year old, I knocked on the door of a very old traditional style home in a rural area of Ichinomiya-city, Japan. After hearing several calls of “coming, coming,” the door slid open to reveal a plump, late middle-aged woman wearing a colorful summer kimono. Her big eyes glittered as she introduced herself as Mrs. Hayashi. I was ushered into the large genkan (an area at the front door where shoes are taken off). She giggled like a schoolgirl at my big feet while digging through a cabinet for some slippers. She apologized profusely as the largest pair weren’t even remotely my size. I shuffled behind her as she escorted me through a maze of dark hallways into a spacious sitting room with a real sofa (a rarity at that time in Japan) and plush chairs. I sat down and gazed around me as Mrs. Hayashi excused herself to fetch some drinks. The windowless room contained a piano, an old hi-fi stereo, and a few musty darkwood chests. In one corner contained a wall scroll painting that hung from the ceiling to the floor. The obviously old painting was of a furiously scowling samurai, his sword raised above his head, as if ready to bring down a killing blow to his enemy. I never grew tired of gazing at that painting. Mrs. Hayashi returned with some lemonade and that’s how our decades long friendship began.

“Occupied! Occupied!!” I yelled as I frantically tried to cover my nakedness with that absurdly small square washcloth. Hatsuki giggled and smiled at me as she closed the door, though not fast enough in my opinion. Mrs. Hayashi’s youngest daughter, Hatsuki, was just 14 years old and the only child out of five still living at home. For all five of the months that I homestayed in their home, Hatsuki would open the door while I was bathing and look at me at least a few times a week. Despite my complaints to her mother, Hatsuki never did stop. All Mrs. Hayashi would say, between much giggling herself, was that Hatsuki liked me. Eventually I discovered a public bath house, or sento, where I could at least bathe with only usually old men and the occasional cleaning grandmother glaring at me. At least Hatsuki could not follow me into the men’s section, though sometimes she did gather her pajamas and walk with me down the street to the bath house. It is quite normal in Japan to bring your sleeping clothes with you to the bath house and just walk home in your pajamas, all ready to hop into bed.

Every evening when I returned to the Hayashi home, Mrs. Hayashi would send her daughter to come to my room to fetch me for dinner. I was positive after just the first few weeks that Mrs. Hayashi was trying to set me up with her daughter, though she never would openly admit it. The food was always magnificent. Thanks to her careful explanation of Japanese etiquette, I learned quickly how to handle my chopsticks in a manly fashion (all the way at the end, not in the middle, that’s girlish) and how to behave at a Japanese table. Mrs. Hayashi and I always dominated the dinner table, the topics and range of our discussions would wander all over the globe and cover every conceivable idea. She would invariably translate the discussions for Hatsuki (who never participated, she would just stare dreamily at me), Mr. Hayashi (who never said anything, just smiled a lot), and Grandmother Hayashi (Mr. Hayashi’s very old mother, who only ate mushy rice gruel as far as I could tell and never spoke, except for one occasion). But those translations helped my Japanese tremendously. I learned so many interesting vocabulary words and phrases at that dining table. One completely unforgettable dinner was when Grandma Hayashi was ill and could not control her seemingly endless supply of gas. The first poof happened during a pause in Mrs. Hayashi’s speaking, so it was loud and very noticeable. I bit my tongue to stop myself from laughing, and I could tell that Mrs. Hayashi was struggling to control her demeanor as well. Grandma Hayashi stood up, passing a long-winded expulsion of natural gas. Then she spoke for the first time. She said, “Sumimasen,” which mean’s “excuse me.” Poor Grandma then puttered down the hallway away from the table, as fast as her ancient body could carry her. With each tiny, tiny step she took, another little toot escaped. And with each toot, she repeated her apology. Pffft, sumimasen. Pffft, sumimasen. Pfft, sumimasen, all the way down the long hallway and around the corner to her room. By this time, I was pinching my legs so hard to keep myself from open laughter, but I lost it when Mrs. Hayashi and Hatsuki started giggling. It took many minutes of belly aching laughter later for all of us around the table to calm down. Mrs. Hayashi then proceeded to teach me how many different ways to say “fart” in Japanese and how to use these words in a wide variety of grammatically correct sentence patterns.

A few times a week in the evenings after dinner, we would retire to that sitting room where Hatsuki would play the piano for us while I continued my fascinated gazing on that samurai painting. After she grew tired of the piano, Hatsuki would take out a violin and play Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, and a host of other classical giant pieces for our enjoyment. During these recitals, Mrs. Hayashi would sit close to me on the sofa and whisper incessantly of the talents and hidden charms of her youngest daughter. Yes, yes, I would agree with her. Hatsuki is a cute girl with some amazing musical talents. But I always deflected the conversation to something else when Mrs. Hayashi got too far ahead of herself and the future wedding plans of her daughter. She always seemed to know that I was just being polite and then we’d have a big, long laugh.

On some weekends, Mrs. Hayashi would take me to local sightseeing spots. I learned the surrounding area and its rich history from her. Occasionally, Hatsuki would come with us, but she wasn’t very interested in her mother’s lectures. We visited castles, beaches, ancient battlefields, museums, mountain vistas, amusement parks, and hot springs (my favorite). Thanks to my weekly exposure at the public bath house, shedding my clothes in front of many strangers was not a problem for me anymore. Sitting in an open air, rock lined hot tub with steam rising off the water while snow falls down on my head has got to be one of the greatest pleasures on earth. I was grateful that Mrs. Hayashi never did take me to a co-ed hot springs. Each one we visited was segregated, much to my relief. I never did find out what the women do on their side. Do they go naked like the men do? I still don’t know.

After five enjoyable months in the Hayashi household, I was asked by my sponsor at the local university to transfer to another town, quite some distance away. Having learned from our prior discussions that pizza was my favorite food, Mrs. Hayashi prepared some homemade pizza for my last dinner. It was delicious, but the conversation that night was subdued and not very enthusiastic. The next morning, Mrs. Hayashi walked with me to the train station. Hatsuki was already there waiting, so cute in her school uniform. Big tears flowed down her cheeks as she handed me a sealed envelope, then ran away without looking back down the street towards her school. Mrs. Hayashi gave me a brief hug, trying hard to hold back her tears as well. We said a teary good bye and I boarded my train for the next destination.

About 6 years passed before I visited Mrs. Hayashi’s home again. I had lost her contact information during my many moves so I could not let her know that I would be visiting Japan again. However, I had no difficulty finding her home again from the train station. Very little had changed in all those years. I knocked on that same old door and we both jumped for joy at seeing each other again. I wanted to express to her my excitement at seeing her again in Japanese, so I said what I thought was correct. Her reaction proved me wrong. At first shock, her face then morphed into a big smile and giggled loudly. I puzzled at her reaction until with absolute horror, I realized that I added just one incorrect syllable, which changed my intended “I’m happy to meet/see you” into “I’m happy to make love to you”. I’m glad no one else heard my mistake and that she didn’t take me up on that statement. We sat for hours in that same, unchanged sitting room with the scowling samurai painting, chatting away in both English and Japanese at the different events in our lives. I accepted her invitation to dinner and I was even pleased when the front door slammed opened and a breathless Hatsuki, now no longer a little girl, rushed into the dining room. Her mother had called and informed her of my arrival. Shyly, she spoke of her university life and I could see the pride in Mrs. Hayashi’s eyes as Hatsuki told me that she had just been accepted to play the violin in a major symphonic orchestra. The night passed pleasantly and Mrs. Hayashi insisted that I not waste my money in a hotel, that my old room was still vacant and available. I accepted but was a little nervous as I squatted next to the ofuro (Japanese style bathtub, really small, you don’t get in it, you just dip water out of it in a bucket to pour over you) to wash myself. I kept expecting the door to slide open, but it never did, thank goodness.

Mrs. Hayashi and I exchanged email addresses that time and we kept up at least a monthly correspondence for many years until gradually we just both stopped writing. So I was pleasantly surprised and happy to see her name pop up in my email box a few weeks ago. I opened the mail and read on. It wasn’t from Mrs. Hayashi. The email was from Hatsuki. She had found my name in her mother’s computer and sent a very short note to inform me that her mother had passed away a few months ago. I sat in a quiet stupor for a long time before composing a letter and hitting the reply button. I don’t know if Hatsuki ever received it or not. Since that time, my thoughts have often wandered over to Mrs. Hayashi and our time together. I confess that sometimes I berate myself for not making a greater effort to visit, especially since I have been back to Japan many times since that last visit to her home. Regret is a powerful emotion, but I know that Mrs. Hayashi would not want me to regret anything. I should rejoice in the friendship that we shared. I’m trying to remember that. Sayonara, Hayashi san. Mata itsuka aimasho ne.
_________________
Life is great until the toilet paper runs out....


Last edited by Moorea on Sat Jan 10, 2009 1:13 am; edited 1 time in total
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Moorea



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 383
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 11:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PEPPERONI SARCASM

I have one particular talent that I've perfected over the years that I've lived in Asia; the ability to make myself look as dumb and innocent as a rock so that no one will feel threatened by my size (put it this way, no one has ever wanted to pick a fight with me since I was about 14 years old). Occasionally people still do jump and gasp when they bump into me around corners or when the elevator opens, but then one look up at my ruddy boyish face and my lopsided goofy grin, even the most timid child usually relaxes. This isn't a complete act, so please don't think I'm a phoney Laughing My parents did raise me to be nice and polite to everyone and I do try to follow that creed as much as possible. But there are some exceptions such as the older I've become, the more inwardly sarcastic I tend to be. I may not say it out loud to the guy next to me on the train that he smells like an open cesspit, but I sure do think it and if it is really bad, I'll even mutter "go take a bath, dude" under my breath or something like that. I'm not worried, the chances of someone understanding my mutterings is practically zilch, except for my wife who gets royally ticked off at my "insulting" others.

Yesterday was my first day back at school. I was running late so all I had for breakfast was some apple juice. Lunch time came around and I was dismayed to find that the lunch box my sweet wife prepared for me only contained salad. Sat through some dumb teacher meetings until 6 pm, then rushed over to my university where I needed to do some more research for my thesis. Dinner was put on hold until after I left the library, but being a Friday night in Hong Kong, finding an empty seat in a restaurant is nigh impossible (Hong Kongers love to eat out, especially weekends). I wandered around a nearby shopping complex until finally I spied an empty table at a NON-Chinese restaurant (I didn't want Chinese food as that's all I had for the entire week of touring in China). Pizza Hut, baby! Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. I don't go for all that seafood gunk that they do to pizzas over here, so I ordered just a regular size (6 small pieces) with extra cheese and pepperoni. Now each topping costs an extra $10 HK dollars (a few bucks, $US). After 20 min, my pizza came out and guess what? There was exactly ONE piece of pepperoni on each slice. The waiter then asked me to pay the bill since they were closing the till. I gave him one of my innocent, dumb looks and asked why there was only one slice of pepperoni on each piece. He mumbled something to the effect that it wasn't him, but the kitchen. I smiled sweetly and told him to go fetch the manager. She appeared 10 minutes later, rather peturbed. She looked at my pizza and asked what's the problem? I gave her a look that would curdle milk. Are you serious? I pay TEN BUCKS and only get 6 slices of pepperoni? She said that's normal. I then took my fork and pried off all six, dumping them on another plate. I'm not paying for that, I informed her. She started mouthing off again so I just interrupted, letting her know in my most sarcastic voice that I may be a stupid gweilo (the Cantonese version of honkey/whitey/whatever), but no one would pay that much for such a stingy extra topping. She grumbled that a new one would be made, sweeping the whole pizza away. After 20 more minutes, a new pizza came with TWO pieces of pepperoni on each piece. Delivering it herself, the manager made a very snide comment that I should be satisfied. Shaking my head over the ridiculously stingy usage of pepperoni, something caught my eye. I had made an incision with my fork on the first pizza and after lifting up the bottom of the supposedely new pizza, yep, there it was, an obvious break in the crust where I had previously cut it. These dopes took my old pizza, put the old pepperoni back on and purposely made me wait 20 minutes to prove to me that they had made a new one. Oh boy, my blood pressure soared. I asked her if she thought I am stupid. Now I'm not going to pay for anything, I informed her. She reluctantly nodded, slinking away. Well, at least the extra cheese was good.
_________________
Life is great until the toilet paper runs out....


Last edited by Moorea on Sat Jan 10, 2009 1:12 am; edited 1 time in total
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Amaunator



Joined: 03 Dec 2005
Posts: 2074
Location: Belgium ... innocuous but intrepid!

PostPosted: Sat Jan 03, 2009 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Life over in Asia sure has its... phenomena :p.

The 'Mrs. Hayashi' story was very dear and close to that sensitive part of the brain I prefer to shut-down during the day. The ending was tragically regretful, but I'm glad you took to heart the gravity of the time you had spent with her. I think it's magnificent that you wrote that story down, because it's terribly worth telling.

People always say or think that their life is nothing special, but people always forget that they're their own leading roles! If people didn't write about themselves, we wouldn't have any great literature either. Keep up the good work Smile.
_________________
the sun may melt the rain
may rinse the sky may sink
the clouds may meet the dirt
may drop your heart may heal

feelings of love you love
fluttering hearts you hate
revealing souls you love
breaking spirits you hate that

the sun...
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Moorea



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 383
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 8:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A VANISHING TRADITION

Japan is an ancient land, with thousands of years of meticulously recorded history. The culture and traditions of this mysterious land are equally diverse and rich. One such tradition that I was immediately exposed to, and I do mean literally exposed, was of the neighborhood communal bathhouse, or sento as it’s called in Japanese.

In the summer of 1990, for the first time in my life, I found myself sitting in an airplane, too nervous to sleep or read. All I could do was stare out of the dark window, wondering if I’d see some samurai, ninja, or geisha walking around upon my arrival. I confess, I was as ignorant of the real Japan as humanly possible. The only words I knew how to speak were the previous three, plus manufacturing brands like Toshiba, Hitatchi, Kawasaki, Toyota, Nissan, Suzuki, and such like that. I was only 18 years old and had never really traveled beyond the borders of what is generally considered “the South”. Only two weeks before, I was notified of my acceptance into the work/study program and I had been too busy packing up and saying my goodbyes to do any real studying up on Japan. As the plane descended, my panic rose because I realized I didn’t know even basic survival words or phrases such as how to ask for the toilet.

Mr. Haneda, a small, balding man, greeted me at the Nagoya airport. He was the director of the foreigner work/study program at one of the local universities. He talked incessantly as we retrieved my luggage and made our way through the parking lot to his van. But to be honest, I hardly understood a word he said. I couldn’t figure out if he was speaking English or Japanese. But he was friendly and he had a big smile. I liked him immediately, thinking that he was bit eccentric, but interesting. As Mr. Haneda drove me to his home, where I was to spend the night, my face was glued to the window. No ninjas, samurais, or geishas on any sidewalks. But any disappointment was overcome by the myriad of completely incomprehensible people, buildings, and activities that unfolded past my eyes. In that forty-five minute ride, I saw so many flashing lights, neon signs, and people doing things for which I could offer no explanation. I just sat there amazed and dumbfounded. I didn’t realize it at that time, but I was beginning to fall in love. No, not with Mr. Haneda or anyone else – I was falling in love with experiencing new cultures.

Though it was near 10pm when we arrived at their home, Mrs. Haneda insisted that I eat something. I wasn’t particularly hungry either because of another first in my life. The first pangs of that overwhelming exhaustion known as “jet lag” were beginning to kick in. But the warm soup of the instant noodles was delicious and gave me some needed energy. How come I never had any instant noodles back in America that tasted this good, I thought. After I finished my quick meal, Mr. Haneda asked me to gather my sleeping clothes and meet him at the front door.

One by one, I was introduced to his family. His oldest was Ryusuke, a sporty teenager of 16 years old. Sachiko was next, at 14. She had long beautiful hair and when she smiled, her eyes shrunk so small, I wondered how she could see. Daisuke was small and shy at 9 years old. His hair was shaved so close that there couldn’t have been more than 1/10 inch of hair left on that poor child’s round head. Gorgeous little Yuki was the youngest, barely 4 years old. As shy as her brother was, Yuki was not. She had no fear and we took an instant liking to each other. We couldn’t communicate at all at first, but that didn’t stop us from playing. I saw her a few times over the next few years and she absolutely loved for me to pick her up and spin her around in the air, again and again until I’d collapse from exhaustion. The entire Haneda clan, including the parents, were wearing pajamas. Mr. Haneda opened the front door and led us all outside.

Where were we going at 10:30 at night, wearing only pajamas and slippers? Jet lag was tugging at my sanity and I was really beginning to wonder if I was asleep and just dreaming all of this. Mr. Haneda led his large family (in number, not size – they were all small people), followed by me (a full head taller than anyone else at 6’1” or a bit over 180 cm for you metric people). We passed by many people on the street and in the alleys, but no one seemed to notice anything strange about the Haneda family’s attire. The people just stared at me. Finally we stopped in front of a brightly lit building. We separated into two groups and entered separate sliding doorways. Ryusuke, Daisuke, and little Yuki came with me and Mr. Haneda while Sachiko went with her mother.

Mr. Haneda passed a handful of coins to an old woman sitting in a peculiar chair. The chair straddled a wall, splitting the room into half. She could see on either side, but the wall was still higher than me. Mr. Haneda led me to a locker and indicated that I was get undressed. Eh? The last time I had got undressed in a crowd was in football locker rooms, but I never particularly enjoyed it. The children, including little Yuki, had stripped and already entered through a glass door into a steamy room beyond. I felt completely ridiculous as I undressed. That old woman in that high chair was looking at me, Mr. Haneda was looking at me, and all of the other people in various states of undress were looking at me. The little square washcloth provided inside the locker was so tiny. Geez, what the heck do they expect me to do with this thing??? I looked around and noticed that actually, no one except the younger boys and teenagers were trying to cover themselves with the cloth. All of the older people just didn’t bother. Some had even placed the little cloth on top of their head. Ok, taking a deep breath, I finally got down into my birthday suit and decided to follow Ryusuke and Daisuke’s example of at least trying to cover my front side. Everyone was still watching and I do remember hearing some giggling. I learned later that they weren’t giggling at what they saw, but rather giggling at my brightly glowing red face, the absolute epitome of embarrassment.

I followed Mr. Haneda inside. The room beyond was warm and humid, steam rising off several different pools. He beckoned me to squat down onto a tiny little kiddie stool, where blue and red faucets were lined up under a row of mirrors. My host explained that in Japan, you never get into the pools first, you must wash yourself and then get in. Japanese people hate it when foreigners would go and hop in the pools without washing themselves first. Still embarrassed to my very core, I slowly and hesitatingly got all lathered up before using the provided red bucket, filled up under that faucet to splash the soap off. This place had jet powered water pressure, the bucket just filling up in seconds. It was always too cold or too hot. Eventually, after many uncomfortable tries, I finally got the knack of controlling the temperature. Mr. Haneda sat next to me on his identical tiny stool, patiently waiting for me to finish. Finally he led me into a big hot tub. The water felt like it was boiling hot. I’ve always been a wimp when it comes to heat. The children, as well as several old men already immersed up to their necks, laughed as I hissed and grimaced at the scalding water. It took a long time, but finally I was able to ease myself inch by inch into the pool. Everyone else had a look of sublime peace on their face, but I wasn’t comfortable. I felt like one of the many probably thousands of crawfish in my lifetime that I’ve seen chucked live into pots of boiling water. They change to bright red really quick, just like I was.

Seeing that I was uncomfortable, Mr. Haneda had Daisuke lead me to another pool. He jumped in, cannonball style. Ok, I’ll be brave. I mimicked his action. A millisecond later, I regretted my decision. The water was like ice. I mean really freezing cold. Daisuke frolicked about for a bit longer, then jumped out. I was already out, shivering. Then he led me to another pool which was much better. The temperature was just right. I sat back and felt like a blob of butter, slowly melting on a warm pan. Soon, I realized through my droopy eyes, that the rest of the Haneda family had joined me. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there were not just males in the room, so I asked Mr. Haneda about it. As he spoke, his daughter Yuki sat on his lap, her arms around his neck. He said that in the sento, girls up to a certain age were allowed to go into the boys’ side, if accompanied by the father. He further explained that it was only after WWII, when the Americans came to Japan, that bathtubs became a regular fixture in Japanese homes. Before that, everyone bathed in the bathhouse. That’s how communities stayed close together. After a hard day’s work, it was normal to go to the bathhouse, get clean and relax in the different kinds of pools with your neighbors. That’s the way to create a harmonious society, he explained. He seemed to lament the fact that nowadays, less and less people came to the sento. Now most homes had bathtubs, even his own home did, though he did take his family there to the sento at least a few times a week. He said that it was impossible to get as clean at home as you could in the sento. Seemed a little strange to me at first, but the longer I sat there, the more comfortable I became. Eventually I got out and hopped in all of the other pools, trying each one. One had murky, medicinal smelling water, which had various healing properties, I was told. Though I can’t tell you what it cured, because I couldn’t understand Mr. Haneda and besides, I didn’t like the smell of the water and it made my skin itch. Another seemed like it was made out of milk. I rose from that one, my skin feeling all silky and smooth. Besides pools, there was a steam room, and then the sauna, which I found to be way too hot for my taste. We stayed for perhaps an hour.

I understood there at the end why everyone was wearing their pajamas. We walked home and everyone just hopped into a futon (like a sleeping bag.) Though my body screamed for sleep, my brain was registering happy feelings off the Richter Scale. Never in my life had I been so comfortable. Mr. Haneda was right. I felt so clean, so utterly devoid of dirt or stink of any kind. My skin actually squeeked when you rubbed it. Later, as I learned more about the sento, I learned that the heat opens the pores of the skin, and then the jumping into the cold pool shrinks the pores quickly, thus forcing out all dirt and oil. That’s the reason why the body feels so clean afterwards. One very fit old man, who claimed to be over 90 years old, told me that he took his bath in the sento every day of his life and that he had never caught a cold of any kind. He attributed his health to the sento, saying that by repeatedly jumping from the hot to the cold pool over and over again would clease all germs from your system. I don't know if he's right, but I followed his advice whenever I could and I do remeber that I was only sick twice in all the years I stayed in Japan. The Japanese sento became a huge part of my life. I would always go there instead of bathing at home, if I had a choice. I loved to search other neighborhoods, looking for different bathhouses. Some were great, others were not so hot, please excuse the pun. But regardless, I always enjoyed it. As my communication skills improved, I met so many fascinating people, and heard so many wonderful tales, all within the steamy, warm embrace of the sento.

In 2007 I visited Japan again, saw a few friends and looked at some new sights. Wherever I went, I asked about a sento, but I couldn’t find a single one. I was told that they still have them in some rural areas, but not in the city anymore. None of my friends could find one, which really saddened me. I didn’t find a single one, not during my entire three-week trip. All of those people I met in the past, folks that I chatted with in the pools, got dressed and went out on the town with, eating yakitori (charcoal grilled chicken bits on a stick) and drinking beer late into the night with, where do they bathe now? I couldn’t find my favorite sento in the town of Kasugai, just north of Nagoya, which had a crude, but beautiful painting of Mt. Fuji on the wall. I used to sit in the pool opposite that wall and watch the steam condense and roll down that majestic mountain’s flanks. Where was it now? The building was torn down; an ugly shopping center stood in its place. The tradition of the neighborhood sento is gone, I’m afraid, but I hope that my memories and experiences will not.
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Exodus



Joined: 26 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 6:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

These are excellent. Brilliant, really. I've experienced these bathhouses, but in my experience, I was warned months beforehand about the nudity. Let me tell you, though: the warning didn't help much. Thanks for bringing back those good memories.
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Amaunator



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

God, I do love these snapshots Smile. This last one was particularly heart-ripping because I love to take the same attitude to bathing: steaming hot bath to start with and at the end a freezing cold shower before I properly dry myself. Even with the nudity, I think I'd love those bathhouses just by reading about them Smile. Mind you, the social interaction model at the root of the idea has other lights in my head blinking, but that doesn't really pull on the heart strings as much as does the imaginary sensation of bathing Wink.

I saw a little error somewhere along where you missed a conjunction and somewhere were you missed either a verb or a noun, can't quite recall. You'll catch it upon a reread one of these days Wink.
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Moorea



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 383
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad ya'll are enjoying them, folks. I'm having a great time writing them too:) I have like half a dozen more, all in varying states of completion.


Started thinking some more about Japanese bathhouses....and found this on Youtube.

Don't worry, there's no exposure. This is what a small sento looks like. Sorry about the language, I can't translate that Rolling Eyes

http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=GRn-QIN69-s&feature=related


And then there are the kings of all baths....the ONSEN (spa). These kinds of places are truly HEAVEN on Earth.

http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=NlsfrizKnj4&feature=related

and another

http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=4Gnb4Hxlmyk&feature=related
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Moorea



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 10:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And now, for no other reason than I'm in a nostalgic mood for all things Japanese, here are my favorite Japanese shows.

http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=pp9PDj_zb1k

My Neighbor, Totoro is the title in English. I watched this movie a gazillion times when I lived at the Hayashi house. I taught myself Japanese from watching this show, actually.


I love the other Hayao Miyazaki movies. I watched all of these when I was living in Japan.

Kiki's Delivery Service -- Another masterpiece

http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=nnbxRAVRjS4&feature=related


And this one, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, just absolutely blew my mind.

http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=seCOK--9mGw&feature=related

Here's a trailer for his first full length anime movie, Nausicaa. Made in 1984, the world had seen anything like it. Talk about I had to wear out my dictionary to understand parts of it too. This is the grand-daddy of all anime movies.

http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=m_2qnT-GRS8&feature=related

Here's another called HOTARU NO HAKA (Grave of the Fireflies). Based on a true story, it will just rip your heart out.

http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=oki5s9RuJWE&feature=related


Those were the only ones that I saw when I was there. I would watch all of them over and over to improve my pronunciation and learn more sentence conjugations. Miyazaki has put out many more as the years have gone by though. Hard to say which one is my favorite, but I would probably have to say Laputa. Here's another original clip for it.

http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=rmxPV7xOOZU&feature=related


I absolutely despise what Disney and Miramax have done with these movies, but I guess for those who will probably never learn Japanese, it is a good thing so atleast you can enjoy these movies too. Here's a stunningly beatiful movie, Princess Mononoke. The original Japanese is so hard, like comparable to listening to Shakespearean English. Even my Japanese friends couldn't understand or translate huge chunks of it to me and my dictionary was useless at times.

http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=pkWWWKKA8jY

And this one is just one heck of a rollercoaster masterpiece ride. SPIRITED AWAY. I had bought it in Japan and shown it to my high school students back in Louisiana long before Disney bought the rights and translated it. My students loved it, eventhough they couldn't understand the Japanese. I will admit though, out of all of the translations, they did a good job on translating this one.

http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=6az9wGfeSgM&feature=related

And here's one of the later ones, HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE. Very magical and strange and holy heck what an imagination this director has.

http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=9hbntEofuT0&NR=1

There are many many more, actually. These are probably the most famous ones.

Much to my wife's dismay, I bought all of them in Japan on my last trip (each DVD was like $40 US each) and then last summer in Louisiana I bought all of the English versions, average $25-$30 each. She freaked when the credit card bill came....hehehe She couldn't believe that I spent hundreds of dollars on cartoon movies. Sorry, Baby Laughing
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Exodus



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 2:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

All of those movies you listed... Excellent. I haven't seen Grave of the Fireflies, or Nausicaa, but Tonari no Tottoro and Princess Mononoke, among the others, are some of the most fantastic films I've ever seen -- I've watched Tottoro multiple times starting around the age of 6 or 7, and it's still a fascination to watch.

And Am, while getting to know people in public baths may seem awkward and uncomfortable at first glance, neither of those words apply to for a few reasons, the first of which is that everybody else is naked, too, and chances are you'll be the only one that really notices. On top of that, the atmosphere is so relaxing, even the everyday barriers that stop you from talking to clothes people fade a little. Think of it as the classic situation of the weary traveler, who stops for a rest at a road-side diner, sits down with a sigh, asks for just some coffee, please, and somehow ends up telling his life story to the guy next to him.

That got away from me a bit in the end, but oh well.
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