Friday, February 19, 2021

Lost in Translation?

During the 90s, I lived in Tokyo for around six years in total. First for one year, then after a year back in Australia, back for another five.

It was a great experience, a wonderful time to be in Japan. I made a lot of friends, working with teachers from around the world. We worked all day, socialised after work, and mostly got on very well. There were a lot of transients, young people working to make money to fund the next leg of their adventure, but there were also those we considered "lifers".

Those were the days before the internet was a thing, and so sadly I never really managed to keep in contact with many of my friends.

The last school I worked at was the exception. It was a small Berlitz school in Shimo-Kitazawa, and the core staff there hardly changed for the four years I was there. For the most part, we're all still in touch, and some of us have even caught up occasionally.

Last night I was feeling nostalgic, trying to remember names and faces, and wondering what happened to them all. I'm sure I have photos, but unfortunately most of them are currently in storage.

My first teaching job was with Nova in Otsuka, a suburb of Tokyo near Ikebukuro. I worked with Susan, a Canadian, and Heidi and Tim - both Americans. I am still in touch with Heidi, but I do wonder what happened to Tim and Susan. (and yes, I recall their family names).

I don't remember many students there. There was one lady who I think was a reporter, and a trained opera singer. One night I convinced her to sing. She only let one, short note out, but it was intense and I remember the office staff all jumping and looking up. She also managed to get me tickets to the filming of Naruhodo The World, a TV show hosted by Beat Takeshi.

Another student was a huge fan of Mr Big, and gave me one of their CD singles when I left. Another gave me a cassette tape of the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. I hope you're still enjoying your music. 

When I returned a year later, I started working at Nova in Ueno. That is where I met the Doctor, a good friend who remains in contact. We even manage to catch up every couple of years and hang out. But I lost touch with all the others there. (Canadians) Doug and Sean. (New Zealander) Mel. (Americans) Rick, Dan, Brett. (English) Sian, Ed, Elizabeth(?). (Australian) Harold. There was a Japanese-American guy whose name (I think) might have been John. And many others. All good people, all fun.

What became of you all?

I moved to another Nova school for a short time. I think it might have been Okachimachi - very close to Ueno. I only remember one teacher there. I think she was Australian, and her name may have been Lisa.

I hope you're well.

After that I moved to Berlitz at Shimo-Kitazawa. As I said, I am still in touch with many of the teachers there, and one student. But during training, and visiting other schools, I got to know many more. There was the lady who spent a year living in a tepee and dealing drugs in a previous life, Larry - a keen photographer, and John, whose sister was a famous comedienne in Australia. Paul from South Africa, Juliet from the US, Chris from Canada, Oliver who loved cycling, and a few others.

Wouldn't it be great to catch up and reminisce?

And then so many students. Many of these I remember. Kumiko, who was embarrassed when she gave me giri-chocolate. The TV director, who gave me ringside seats to the Sumo and went to America to study film-making. The husband and wife dentist team, the two lovely ladies who took me out for lunch when they heard I was leaving. So many whose first names I forget. Many of these I remember their family names, but I'm leaving those off this page.

Ah what a time it was. And if you remember me from Tokyo days, whether through language schools or elsewhere, please get in touch. It would be wonderful to hear from you.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Soups On!

I've always joked that salad is not a meal, but a decoration that accompanies the steak. I've also joked that soup is not a meal, but a starter before the main course.

Of course this was an exaggeration and meant as a joke. But when I do go to restaurants, I wouldn't order either soup or a salad as the meal - especially for an evening meal. On a cold day a thick soup with crusty bread at lunch does appeal.

Over the years I have sometimes taken soup to work for lunch. These I quite enjoyed - filling, hearty and healthy. Last year I started a new job, and I was in the office for about 5 weeks before I was sent home to work remotely. (And I'm now less than two months from having not set foot in my office for a year.) Despite the short time I was there, one of my colleagues would tease me about having soup for lunch. Is it soup again, Steve?  What a surprise.

I do love cooking, and I'm pretty dab with a recipe. I'm proud of my curries and pizzas, and I've been known to journey into other cuisines with great results. But I'm a recipe follower. I can't do the whole chef thing and make it up as I go along.

Since working from home, I have started making soups. And recently I've even been adventurous enough to "wing it" from time to time. I confess, though, I often call on assistance to make sure I'm not going to destroy anything.  (Do you think I can add this tin of tuna to this pea and ham soup?)

I make enough for the week, not that we have it every single day, but it is warming in winter and healthy. All part of my master plan to not stack on weight during a time when sitting at my desk for extended hours.

And I'm not snacking either.

So me, I'm the thin guy over here, finishing my soup and having a mandarin for afternoon tea.