Sunday, December 16, 2007

12/17/07 Oh, The Weather Outside is Frightful

This month has been cold. I wish I could give you a concrete temperature, but I am pretty isolated from the media here and haven't seen a weather report of any kind in months. Its not freezing, which is merciful. The way this country deals with the cold is continuously amusing.

A line that I have commonly heard is that "Japan is the most technologically advanced country in the world". On that point, I am going to have to respectfully disagree. You see, Japan is super advanced in the world of consumer electronics, robotics, and automobiles, but it seems to be a bit behind in other areas. First of all, central heating seems to be almost nonexistant. When I casually commented on the chilliness of my apartment to my coworkers, they all started mentioning ways that they keep warm, especially in their beds at night. A common response is the kotatsu, the little table with a heater on the underside that keeps your legs warm. That's great, except that it sort of restricts my movement to a small square on the floor in one room.

The other heat making device in my apartment is a couple of gas heaters. No, not natural gas, liquid gas. So I am supposed to go out to a gas station and fill up a couple of these gas cans at a local gas station. Then, I use a hand pump to move the liquid from the cans to the heaters, which really stinks the place up. Then, I turn on the little guys and bathe in the glorious heat. But, wait, they have an automatic timed cutoff. Oh, that's because if you leave these heaters on too long, the fume build-up will kill you. So no all-night warmth for you.

I wasn't real excited about either of these options, so I went out and bought a couple electric heaters. I can move them around and leave them on all night without having to worry about waking up dead. One of them even has a steamer function, so I can pour in water and it will humidify the house. It's very handy, as the dryness of the winter can bother me sometimes. I haven't gotten an electric bill since I started using these little guys though, so I am preparing myself for the shock. I guess that will be some added warmth.

The heating situation at school is interesting as well. The offices and the teacher's room are generally well heated, to begin with. They seem to have some version of the kerosene heaters in use. When I enter schools hallways, though, is when the insanity starts. Open windows. This building has virtually no insulation that I can detect. The walls are impressively thin, and windows are everywhere. Sometimes so many of them are open that there is a considerable amount of wind in the hallways. In the halls, I wear pretty much the same clothing that I wear on my commute to work. The classrooms themselves have their own heaters, so they are a bit better. Still, though, open windows abound. Often both the windows to the wind-tunnel halls and the outside world are wide open. Beats me.

I often see the students carrying around those little sand packs that chemically produce heat when you shake them. Few things are more pathetic than watching one of these poor kids try to shake a bit more heat out of one at the end of the day. Luckily I have my love of teaching to keep me warm.


This weekend was a nice break. For some reason this last week has been especially long. Getting to work on time is a daily struggle. I have to fight the desire to stay in my warm bed just a bit longer. Maybe the saddest part of my day is when I open the shower door and watch all the lovely steam get sucked out by the room.

Monday starts off the last full week before winter break, so I expect the kids will be as excited as I am. By this time next week, Angelica will be in Japan, so I have been trying to clean the apartment up a bit. Several of my friends are going home for the holidays, and a couple others are going on little trips in the country, so it will be a while before we can all chat together again.

Here's my main crew. English Mike, Clarence from Springfield, and Australian Tung. We are passing time in a popular way these days, waiting for the next train.


The Simpsons Movie was released to theaters in Japan just a few days ago, and I have seen the odd promotional poster here and there. I was grabbing a donut tonight and saw something wonderful. Simpsons themed donuts, in their iconic bright red and yellow glory! I bought one of each. As I ate them, a bit of self-reflection snuck in. I remember seeing the film in Springfield just before I left for Japan, not 5 months ago. I am living quite a different life now.

Mmmm, cartoonishly bright colored donuts.

Here's my Mr. Donut bag. The Simpsons is spelled out in Japanese phonetic characters, which sound more like this: Za Shimpusonzu

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