Archive for January, 2012

When You’re Strange

January 22nd, 2012 No comments

Some nights are weirder than others. I got a text from Trey last night inviting me to a little party at his place which I went to at 10:30. It was mostly students from Josai and a couple of his Japanese friends. It was a good time, but a detailed description is both unnecessary and inappropriate.

Morten, the guy with whom I flirted with those Japanese girls on New Years’ Eve, was there, and I got to hear the rest of the story: that guy who stepped in to take my place when I decided I wasn’t too into the girl I was talking to apparently had some success with her. Good for him. But I had a very nice talk with Morten and got to know him better. He’s a good guy.

I also did my fair share of chatting with girls, and it helped raise my confidence a notch. I actually even brought one back to my place, a really nice Hungarian girl, but it went as far as my doorstep and she decided she’d rather sleep in her own bed so I walked her home. Not that it would have gone anywhere anyway. She probably would have been a little surprised when I just set up the couch for her and plopped down in my bed to pass out. I was not ready to break any barriers last night.

But all in all it was a good experience and I’m glad it happened. My future with women seems slightly less hopeless than it did a day ago, but I’ve still got a long way to go.

Categories: Personal Tags: , , ,

How I Spent My Winter Vacation

January 21st, 2012 No comments

Mt. Fuji is much smaller than most people think.

This was the first normal week of school since the winter break, and it was a busy one. I found out last Friday to my great disappointment that this week my only teaching task would be to prompt the students to write about their winter vacation. That was the lesson for the first, second, and third-graders, so I’d have to do the same thing 18 times. My instruction was to talk about my winter vacation, then have the students write about theirs. That’s it. A less fun class-period could not be imagined.

Naturally, I’d have to do something to make it bearable, so I came up with a plan. The actual story of my actual winter vacation, while interesting enough to me to write pages and pages about in a journal, would be extremely dull when condensed to middle-school language-lesson-form, so I decided to toss in some fiction. And since naturally any presentation requires pictures, I’d need to somehow depict these fictional scenes from my imaginary winter vacation in visual form.

So on Sunday I downloaded a trial-run of Photoshop and got to work on my project. I took a bunch of pictures of myself with the timer function of my camera, often having to do it at least a dozen times before I got it right, then proceeded to Photoshop myself into images I found online. This was no easy task, as I’ve never used Photoshop before and found it to be a much less intuitive program than I’d assumed. I had to actually read help files and sort through online tutorial videos just to figure out how to properly cut, resize, and paste images from one picture onto another. And even once I had it figured out, there was a great deal of trial and error and the touching-up of minute details just to get something decent. The whole process took between four and five hours (with a lunch break included) but in the end I finally had something I was satisfied with.

Some might consider this a useless endeavor, too much time spent on something completely unnecessary. The JTEs were only expecting me to talk about my winter vacation, and I could have easily just gone up there, read a short paragraph, and spent the next 45 minutes walking around correcting students who typically finish these writing prompts in less than 20. But I have a reputation to maintain, damn it, and when Kairu-sensei comes to class the students are expecting something fun to happen and fun is what they were going to get.

The hours spent on the task turned out to be completely worth it. As I went about the story of my winter vacation and brought the pictures around the class to give each student a closer look, it was delightful to watch all their eager faces (nearly all of them anyway) transform into a smile and outright laughter from most. Here are the pictures along with what I basically said about each of them. I kept it very simple for the first-graders and threw in more details with the second- and third-graders.

I had a lot of fun on my winter vacation.

On Christmas, I helped Santa Claus deliver presents to boys and girls around the world. It was very exciting.

Me and my good friend Santa. Me and Santa up close.

After Christmas, I took a Shinkansen to Kyoto and saw many things, like the Golden Temple.

You recognize this one.In Kyoto I met friends and we went sight-seeing.

You recognize this one too.

When I came back from Kyoto I stopped at Mount Fuji, and I climbed up Mount Fuji. Mount Fuji is very small—I was surprised.

Close-up of the full image above. The original photo, the hardest to get right.

On New Years’ Eve I went to a big party in Tokyo. There was a count-down, we all said “Happy New Year!” and danced all night long.

The least terrible photo I could find from the night.

But I had to get up very early in the morning, because Tokyo was under attack by a giant robot. I had to defend Tokyo from the robot.

[These pictures are from the anime series “Neon Genesis Evangelion” which Mike from Interac recommended I watch because it is supposedly very philosophical. I’m 10 out of 26 episodes into it and it still hasn’t gotten philosophical but I’m surprised to find myself enjoying it anyway. It’s an old show so I didn’t know how many students would recognize it, but almost all of them did and this image went over extremely well.]

Angel attack! I will defeat it.

It was very scary, but I defeated the robot. I got to visit Prime Minister Noda and he said, “Thank you, Kairu-san, for saving Tokyo.” [This image got the biggest laugh, as apparently the photo of Obama’s handshake with Noda upon which I superimposed my face is now a famous picture in Japan.]

Why are my hands so dark?

After all that I was very tired, so I stayed home and played video games. [While the students were amused to recognize the game I was pretending to play as Mario Kart, none of them seemed to think it silly that I was wearing a suit at home.]

No photoshopping necessary here.

The students took notes as I made the speech, which they had plenty of time to do as I walked around the room showing the pictures. When I was done I split them into teams and played the same game I had them play for my introduction lesson, where they get a point for everything they remember about my speech. “Kyoto” would be a point, “Noda” would be a point, and so on. Once they started struggling to come up with more things, I’d begin counting down from 5 and stop them if I got to 0 but reset the count-down if they shouted another word in the mean-time. I was extremely generous, even giving them points for repeating words I said like “exciting” or “very small” (regarding Mt. Fuji). The scores ranged anywhere from 9 points to 36. Teams build on each others’ answers so each team usually gets a few more than the previous team, usually in the midst of the count-down which keeps things exciting for everyone. The final team to go almost always wins, but everyone has fun anyway.

Then there’s the major let-down as the game ends and they all have to put their desk back in place and set about the task of writing about their own winter vacation. I walk around and gently correct the students as they do this, and learn a bit about Japanese New Years’ traditions in the process.

They usually go to a shrine or a temple and ring the bells and pray. They eat “New Year dishes” which include mochi, apparently some kind of rice-cake. They send New Years’ cards to just about everybody they know (it’s by far the busiest time of year for the Japanese post office). And their families give them o-toshidama, which literally means “year coins” but nowadays is always paper bills, anywhere from 1000 to 10,000 yen. So Japanese kids always start the year off with a boat-load of cash. I’m a little jealous, but I can’t complain too much because I’m pretty sure we get more for Christmas.

Many third-graders wrote that when they went to temple on New Years’ Day they prayed to pass the high school entrance exams, which were this week from Tuesday to Thursday (during which the third-grade classes were half-empty). It’s interesting that in Japan, not only is high-school not mandatory, but you have to actually pass an entrance exam to get in. And while I would think such exams would be a piece of cake because I heard that something like 90% of Japanese kids go to high school, it would appear that they’re kind of a big deal because so many kids wrote that they spent their entire winter vacation studying for them, not to mention praying to pass (though I’m not sure whom their praying to, and I’m not sure they know either).

Mrs. S- used her entire third-grade class-periods on Monday to help them prepare for the English section, so she postponed the winter vacation lesson until this upcoming Monday. After going through it sixteen times I’m pretty sick of it by now but I’ve got to do it two more times. But it could be worse—I could have just followed the JTEs’ instructions exactly.

Categories: Personal Tags: , , ,

Back to School, Back to Work

January 12th, 2012 No comments

I’m back at school now and back to the standard routine. Tuesday was the first day of school but it wasn’t a normal day. It was only a half-day for students, and as far as I can tell no actual classes were held. I had no lessons to teach, and all I did was attend the opening ceremony in the school gym, which was similar to the opening ceremony on the first day of school in September, only a million times less stressful because I didn’t have to do anything. I just stood in the back and greeted the students who acknowledged me as they entered. It was nice to see everyone again at the same time. I missed them over the long holiday.

The ceremony itself lasted for only about an hour, and consisted of the singing of the school song, a speech by the principal and one by a student whom I assume is the third-grade class president, and the presentation of posters made by each class in the school. There was a lot of bowing involved.

It’s been a very light schedule for the rest of the week, consisting of only two classes yesterday, one today, and one tomorrow. I’m doing a lesson on comparatives for the second-grade classes, two of which I already covered in the last week of school before the holiday. But I changed the lesson quite significantly as the ideas I’d taken from the Interac lesson-plan book for the first two classes didn’t work well at all. The book suggested we have each row of students line up from tallest to shortest and oldest to youngest and teach “taller” and “shorter” and “younger” and “older” that way. They’re supposed to use language like, “Are you older than me?” when they do it, but that’s woefully unrealistic. And even though they cheat by using Japanese, it still takes them far longer to do it than it’s worth.

So I revamped the plan and made the entire lesson a game from beginning to end, splitting the class into two teams and pitting them against each other. Even the greetings were a game, as I’d have one team ask the other team each of the five questions, “How are you?”, “How’s the weather?” etc. and award 10 points to the team that spoke more enthusiastically and 5 points to the less enthusiastic team (or 0 if they were truly awful). Usually one side would dominate so I’d have to cheat a little.

Then it was on to comparatives. I’d write “Which team is_____?” on the board and then a word like “fast”. They’d have to fill in the blank: “Which team is faster?” and then I’d have them all stand up, count to three, and see which team could seat themselves back down faster. If Team A was the winner I’d write “A is faster than B” on the board, have everyone repeat it, and give Team A 10 points and Team B 5. I’d repeat this process for a number of adjectives including “loud” and “big” the latter of which I simply had each team count how many students were in their team. I’d then write the word “excited” and introduce the fact that sometimes we have to use the word “more” instead of just adding –er. When I’d get to “Which team is more beautiful?” the students would laugh, wondering how I was going to determine that, but I just had each team count the number of girls and whichever side had more would be the “more beautiful” team. I did the same for “handsome”. Finally I went through three emotions: happy, sad, and angry, and had each team make faces to act like those emotions and give the win to the more convincing side (or the side that needed more points).

That was supposed to be the “warm-up” phase but it was more like a presentation phase. The next phase was the original presentation phase, where I’d put up two flashcards like the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty and ask the students to vote on which they thought was taller (surprisingly, the vast majority of them know it’s the Eiffel Tower), then write a sentence with missing words: “The Eiffel Tower is _____ ____ the Statue of Liberty” and ask a volunteer from one team to come up and fill in the blanks. If no one volunteered I’d start counting down from five and if I reached zero I’d give the chance to the other team. If even they didn’t volunteer (which only happened once) I’d start subtracting points. In the end, I’d always get a volunteer and they’d always get it right and I’d praise them with a new word I just learned: subarashi, which means “superb!” The students seem to like that a lot.

Interesting tid-bit: I’d have the students vote on which is more delicious—sushi or hamburgers—and hamburgers would usually win. They also think science is more interesting than math, and puppies are cuter than babies.

Finally, I went to the most fun part of the lesson which was the “Which person is____?” round and ask for a volunteer from each team for words like taller, shorter, older, and younger and see which team had the taller person, which team had the older person, and so on. But I really enjoyed “smarter” for which I’d put up a math problem on the board and get two volunteers to come solve it (16 x 12 = 192), and if one person made a mistake he’d have the misfortune of getting a sentence written on the board about how the person from the other team is smarter than him. Finally, the best round and the one the kids really get into was “Which person is stronger?” and I’d have each team send their strongest boy to compete in an arm-wrestling match with the other.

I made up a whole practice worksheet too but all of the above takes plenty of time and lasts right up to the end of the period, so I just give the worksheet for the JTEs to have the students do the next time they meet with the class.

It feels great to be teaching again and I’m looking forward to next week when I’ll hopefully get to see the first and third-graders as well.

In other news, I had an interesting experience yesterday afternoon when I came home from school and discovered to my dismay that I had no running water. The toilet flushed but the tank didn’t refill, and no water was coming from the kitchen sink or the shower. I couldn’t call the company that owns my building because they don’t speak English, so I called Kono at the Interac Chiba office and explained my problem to her. She made the necessary phone calls and determined that as we expected my water had been shut off because I hadn’t paid the bill. I still had those bills but I hadn’t paid them because they have no bar-code. Normally to pay a bill you take it to a convenience store and they scan the barcode and you pay it right there, but when I tried to pay this kind of bill they pointed out the lack of barcode to me and explained something I couldn’t understand. Sometimes you get things that look like bills in the mail but which are actually just statements of how much of some utility you’ve been using and the bill is to come later, but apparently that wasn’t the case with these.

I was worried I’d have to wait until tomorrow to be able to flush the toilet or even run the sink, and that I’d have to go into work without a shower. But Kono said that if I just paid the bill for September they’d turn my water back on right away, and not only that but someone from the water company could be there within thirty minutes. I could hardly believe the convenience, and fifteen minutes later someone indeed came to my door, took my payment, and about twenty seconds later I heard my toilet tank start to refill itself.

So that’s MAJOR points for Japan in my book. In America I don’t think you could get that kind of issue resolved nearly so quickly, and I doubt you could in Germany either. If the electric company or water company shuts you off for lack of payment, you’re usually screwed for a day or two, and there’s no way in hell they would actually send someone to you to take your payment. You’d have to go to their building and probably fill out a bunch of forms. In Japan they take care of it for you within a half-hour, and you don’t have to do anything but make a phone call and answer your door. Subarashi!

Categories: Personal Tags: , , ,

The 2012 Election is Over

January 5th, 2012 No comments


The Iowa caucuses were last night, and after months and months of exciting horse-race politics in which nearly every single Republican candidate surged to front-runner status and then fell back again, the winner was the guy everybody originally thought would win.

Mitt Romney came in first place ahead of Rick Santorum by just 8 votes. The narrow margin made the night as dramatic as the rest of the race has been so far, but like the entire presidential electoral process in general, it was mostly inconsequential. Santorum only did so well because his popularity happened to peak at just the right time, but like every other alternative-to-Romney candidate in the field, his numbers will plummet once people start paying more attention to him.

And so as early as January 5, with only one primary contest finished and ten months to go before the general election, I can boldly pronounce who the winner of the 2012 election will be: Wall Street, and the rest of Corporate America.

It’s all over, folks. The corporate plutocracy that owns the media and our politicians now has this one in the bag. They already own Barack Obama, and they’ve owned Mitt Romney for quite some time. Both of these guys have demonstrated that they will do whatever the big corporations want them to do, with a few minor exceptions Obama has to make for political reasons (e.g. the consumer financial protection bureau).

The choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is a choice between two different brands of the same product. It’s like being offered Pepsi or Coke when what you really want is orange juice. (Or more accurately, it’s like a choice between Coca-Cola and Royal Crown Cola, both of which are owned by the same company.)

The powerful financial interests which make up the establishment would call the shots no matter who gets elected, be it Obama, Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, or almost any of the others. There are only three candidates in the entire race who would not be beholden to them: 1- Rocky Anderson, who is a third-party candidate and therefore has no chance, 2- Buddy Roemer (a.k.a. “who is that?”) and 3- Ron Paul.

Yes, the last best chance for real change in 2012 was a Ron Paul victory in Iowa. He was the only real threat to the establishment, but they were able to snuff it out in Iowa. Unfortunately, he was too easy of a target.

Don’t get me wrong—there’s a lot to dislike about Ron Paul. Those racist newsletters are a disastrous reflection on his character and his obvious lies to pretend he knew nothing about them made it clear that he’s not quite as honest as he seems. His die-hard libertarianism, if fully implemented, would be a disaster of epic proportions.

But he’s not running for dictator. He’s running for president, and the president does not have nearly the kind of power it would require for him to implement his entire agenda. He would try to eliminate the department of commerce, of education, of energy, the EPA, and so on, but Congress wouldn’t let him. There would be bipartisan opposition to all extremist legislation he proposes, and while a few Republicans would take his side in some fights, the vast majority are owned by the establishment and the establishment would make defeating him their top priority.

On the other hand, there are certain things the president has the power to do all on his own without approval from Congress. He could and would stand against the military industrial complex and get our troops out of Afghanistan immediately, saving billions of dollars of the national budget currently being wasted. He could end the war on drugs, freeing up law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes and deal a death-blow to the cartels. Finally, he could aggressively go after and prosecute every single one of those Wall Street bankers who committed the fraud that crashed the economy and then walked away with millions in taxpayer-funded bonuses.

But this is all a fantasy. Ron Paul would never win the Republican nomination, though I think he’d probably stand the best chance of beating Barack Obama because unlike any other Republican he actually appeals to liberals for the reasons stated above. No progressive is going to vote for Romney, but plenty would be tempted to vote for Ron Paul.

At the very least, a Ron Paul nomination would turn the establishment media on its head. The mainstream media, owned by the same corporations that own the government, would throw everything they have at Paul including, possibly, rational arguments over policy! There would be a real debate over things like the proper extent of the role of government in people’s lives, and conservatives would look at his extreme views and be forced to acknowledge that it should at least play some role. There would be a real discussion over the efficacy of the war on drugs, and if enough people look at the statistics it might finally tip the scales against prohibition, an obviously failed and counter-productive policy. Finally, we’d have a real debate over the wars, and with the Democratic candidate in favor of them and the Republican candidate against, people would have to consider their own opinion instead of just accepting the default position of their team.

But the best thing about the imaginary Paul vs. Obama scenario is that Fox News and the rest of the conservative corporate media would take Obama’s side. After all, he’s a part of the establishment and Paul is not. It serves their purposes to be against Obama now because they are still hoping for a more corporate-friendly president, but if Paul were to be the Republican nominee all that nonsense about Obama being a socialist left-wing radical would go straight out the window and the likes of O’Reilly and Hannity would be talking night after night about how Obama has actually been governing pretty much like a moderate Republican.

Sadly, none of that will happen now, so the establishment can rest easy. There will be no real change this year. The middle-class continues to be squeezed and squeezed but the tipping point has not yet been reached and that slowly roasting kettle will not boil over. In 2011 many people finally took to the streets in a genuine rebellion against the establishment, but that political energy will be absorbed by the election as people eventually accept a candidate and line up behind them. Instead of fighting for real change, most of these people will be fighting to re-elect Obama for the sole reason that they believe Romney will be far worse. But in reality, it will make almost no difference.

The American presidential electoral process used to have the potential to bring about change, but ever since the government has been completely absorbed by the corporations and all of the candidates bought by the same interests, it’s become little more than a sideshow—a useful distraction for the politically-active to direct their energy away from actually fighting for real issues. It’s only January, but the election is already over. The 1% win. The rest of us lose.

2012 Begins in Tokyo

January 1st, 2012 No comments

Roppongi, Tokyo

A wild New Years’ Eve party was hoped for and a wild New Years’ Eve party was delivered. While we didn’t end up going Ageha—the place with the acrobats—because admission was too expensive, we did end up at a club that turned out to be quite good. There’s really no need to go into much detail about the night. It was just a plain and simple good time filled with friends, drinking, and dancing, as the pictures will show.

Pre-game The night began with a small “pre-game” party at Trey’s apartment with Trey’s friends Victor and Andre, Andre’s fiancé, and Cinty, the Hungarian girl. After getting warmed up there for about an hour and a half, we ventured out and took the bus into Tokyo. Andre and his fiancé are not drinkers so they opted not to come with us.

When we got to Tokyo we had to navigate through the subway system to get to where we were going, a place called Muse in the area known as Roppongi. Trey was in charge of leading the way, and while he made a few Cinty, Trey, Victormistakes he sternly told us “not to question the leader”. I joked that this is also his policy when it comes to Obama. Trey was happy to take on the role of Obama for the night.

While on our way to the club we ran into a group of four Josai students, one of whom I recognized as Ollie, the guy I met at the Family Music Festival at Sanmunobori park a couple months ago. We were both amazed at the coincidence of bumping into each other again, and for a moment it seemed that he and his friends would be joining our group for the night. But while Trey and the others stopped into McDonald’s to fill their stomachs before the night of heavy drinking (I’d eaten earlier so I only got water), they went off in search of an ATM and we never saw them again.

When we got to the club it was just after 11:00 and the place looked virtually empty. Our first impression was that we’d made a terrible mistake and this place totally sucked. Trey kept turning to me and saying “don’t look at me like that!” as the parallel to Obama was clear to both of us. He had promised so much and raised my expectations so high, and now it appeared as though he’d failed to deliver.

But the place was filling up incredibly quickly, and more people we know were on the way. After ordering some Jack and coke with our first drink-ticket (entry was 4000 yen for men and 2000 for women, but everyone got two drink-tickets) we headed to the dance floor and decided to just make the best of the situation. We almost decided to leave and go to Ageha and screw the price, but we knew it was too late and if we left now we’d probably be standing in a line outside during the count-down.

Noise-makers To my pleasant surprise, Jack, Lily, and the French guys whom I’d told to meet us there arrived just in time for midnight, with ten minutes to spare. One of the workers at the club came around and handed a shot and a noise-making thingy to everyone in the club in preparation for the count-down.

The DJ stopped the music with just a minute to spare, and the whole place—now completely jam-packed—erupted with a count-down from juu to ichi, and with a loud cheer and the sound of popping noisemakers 2011 officially came to an end and 2012 got started.

The scene at midnight.

There were three floors to this place altogether and after the midnight count-down we decided to head downstairs to the lowest floor where we’d remain for the rest of the night. There we did more drinking and dancing until some of us found our way to a nice little seating-area in the back where we’d sit and chat whenever we were tired of dancing.

I bumped into Stephen at one of the bars about fifteen minutes after midnight, knowing he’d intended to come but sad that he hadn’t been there for midnight. So with him, Jack and the French crowd, Trey, Victor and Cinty, and a few other ALTs and Josai students I’d never met before, we were a pretty decent crowd. Ben couldn’t be there because he’s back in the states now and I’m not sure where Fred is, but other than that it was about as good a crowd as I could have asked for. We didn’t get to see acrobats or the sunrise over Tokyo bay, but the people are much more important than the place.

Dance... ...whoah that looks crazy...!

Even before midnight started, Trey and Victor were trying to get me to join them in their hunt for Japanese girls to work game on, but I was not in that state of mind at all. I felt bad because Victor kept asking me to come and help back him up, but at that point all I wanted to do was just relax and enjoy myself and not get my mind all jammed up with thoughts of my perpetual sexual inadequacy.

But later in the night, one of the guys I’d just met—a guy from Finland named Morten—told me to go up to two Japanese girls who were sitting at a nearby table and give them a message in Japanese for him. I had no reservations at that point so I just went up and said “Sumimasen, my friend wanted me to tell you…um…” I forgot the Japanese phrase so I quickly ran back over to him and got it again, then attempted to say it for the girls who found the whole thing quite amusing and helped me get the pronunciation right. Suddenly I’m engaged in a chat with these girls and I ask to sit down and they gladly let me. Morten comes over and talks in Japanese with the girl on the left who doesn’t speak good English, and I have a nice conversation with the girl on the right whose English is good enough for small-talk. She seems genuinely interested in me and the whole thing is very encouraging, but while she was definitely attractive I just felt no desire for her and didn’t want to go too far down a path that I had no intention of going all the way down, so I gave up my seat and another guy moved in and picked up where I left off. I felt slightly annoyed with myself for giving up what was probably my first real chance of picking up a girl in Japan (or any country for that matter) but I’m okay with the fact that I didn’t. I’m not the kind of guy who goes for something just because it appears doable.

At another point I found myself wandering around in search of the elusive bathroom, and I couldn’t find it on the ground floor so I ended up using the one upstairs on the second floor. I stopped at the second-floor bar on my way back down to get some water and a beer, and was just completely dumbstruck by the bartendress who got me my drink. She was easily, hands-down, the cutest person to ever serve me a drink and I could not help but stick around and admire her gorgeous face for awhile. Not only was she as beautiful as they come, but she was a fantastic bartendress, always completely aware of everyone at her bar and getting everyone served as rapidly as possible. That gorgeous smile was obviously a mask worn as part of her job but she wore it skillfully. It never once left her face the entire time she was working. We exchanged glances a few times and eventually I did start talking to her, complimenting her on her bartending skills, but she just told me in Japanese that she doesn’t understand English. I knew it was a hopeless cause anyway. That girl must get hit on at least eight hundred times a night. I was just one more schmoe in a million.

Luckily the whole women-aspect of things was not dominating my mind the whole night. I was able to just sit downstairs and enjoy the company of the others for most of the time, though of course much of the conversation had to do with women. But there was plenty of fun to be had too, most memorably with a Japanese guy who’d wandered onto our couch and gone to sleep while none of us had been sitting there. We all got plenty of good pictures from that situation, though I suppose it makes us assholes.

"This is my friend. It's his birthday." Chillin with our Japanese pal.

Not a peep.

At about 5:00 the club workers were very efficient in getting everyone out the door, and soon enough we were back out in the freezing cold Tokyo streets, which were as jam-packed and Burger may not be actual size. full of people at 5:00 in the morning as Shibuya was at 5:00 in the evening. By now everyone was hungry again and the McDonald’s was right there, so in we went and sadly McDonald’s became my first meal of 2012. But it was also my first time eating at McDonald’s in Japan and it was shockingly good, both the taste and the quality of my fish-sandwich and chicken tenders far superior to how I remember them tasting in America and even in Germany. Of course being drunk probably helped with that.

Jack and Lily and those guys had hostel reservations for the night, and I think Stephen did too, so the four of us who’d come from Togane together Heading home. said goodbye to them at the McDonald’s and we began the long and frustrating journey home. Because the busses don’t start until 8:00 and it was just before 7:00 when we got back to Tokyo station, we knew we’d get back sooner if we took the train. We all trusted Trey to lead the way again, and again he managed to get us there with just a few minor errors.

We had to transfer three times but due to mistakes we ended up changing trains about 4 or 5 times, but that’s to be expected when you’re attempting to navigate the Japanese railway system after 12 straight hours of drinking. But I’d been doing a pretty good job of pacing myself the whole time and drinking lots of water, so I had no sign of an encroaching hangover and just felt more exhausted than anything. I was extremely glad when I finally got back to my apartment at 9:00 and curled up in bed, though I was only able to sleep until 12:00. At least that meant I was able to call home before 2012 began in America, and at 2:00 p.m. here I watched the ball drop in Times Square on an online livestream.

So that was New Years’ Eve 2011-12. It was vastly different from the Marxist-Leninist-German-Turkish New Years’ Eve party of 2010-11, but both were enjoyable in their own way. As I keep writing, 2011 was a hell of a year, possibly the best of my life, and while I did get worried for a moment it did end up going out with an appropriate bang. I don’t imagine it’s possible for 2012 to top 2011, but you never know what could happen…