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Today In CA

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Szkandelous.archive.august1_5

8/05/01

Okay, sorry about the lag guys. The site hasn’t actually been uploaded yet, but I've finally got enough time and energy to consider updating the website so I'm taking the initiative. Um, yeah… so everything you read that's dated before this has been cleverly reconstructed from a complex process of looking at pictures, staring at the wall and clubbing baby seals.

Anyway, so today, in light of my previous attempts at withdrawing my money from Citibank, I decided to stay home and work on the website. I was obliged to go out to eat with a couple of guys who live here (gaijin), but first we got into a marathon bout of "puzzle fighter". We went to this place that was like a Japanese interpretation of Berkeley’s Campus Cafe. Check this out, for about $4 I got a cheeseburger and fries, and for a dollar (100 yen actually) I added on the "durinku baa" which grants free refills as well as the ability to have coffee, coke, slurpee, or any other non-alcoholic beverage for under a dollar, sweet! Then we went to this arcade that had a ton of arcade games, type of the dead, and of course pachinko. My friend lent me 500 yen to play arcade games, but, being a dork, I accidentally got 500 yen worth of pachinko tokens instead of change. Thus I got my first taste of gambling. It was lame. Then we went to this video game store. I played "Devil May Cry" where I proceeded to fall into this big fish tank and get attacked by gigantic flying skulls. I also saw the preview for Shenmue 2, which was boiling hot.

Anyway, on the way there we came across some grand Engrish, but I didn't have my camera at the time and had to run back after running home, so I hope you appreciate this. It's a video and CD rental store, which is neat since CD's are about $30 out here. Also, I came across this, and was immediately reminded of San Jose (awww).

All the international students got this red bean pancake dessert thing as a gift from the landlady today, which was sweet of her. I'm thankful because I wasn't planning on having dinner tonight.

8/04/01

Today I was supposed to go take a tour of Tokyo with my class, but, do to my monetary problems, had to cancel. I feel bad because they told us not to cancel if you sign up, and here I go, the first trip, canceling. I told someone who went on the trip to tell the school I couldn't go because I was having an "emergency". You will soon see how ironic this actually was.

I woke up at 7:30 and called Citibank in the United States (sooooo many long distance charges). Anyway, they initially said that nothing was wrong (ha!), but after some probing I finally got out of them that my pin number needed to be changed, so they're sending me a new one. In the meantime they said I could go to Citibank in Shinjuku and get "emergency cash", so I woke up this guy and convinced him he wanted to go with me (pay for me to go) to Shinjuku. He agreed on the condition that I go with him to Akihabara afterwards. So we went to Shinjuku and went to that godforsaken Citibank and what happen? All your yen, are belong to us. Actually, though the person working there (same lady) understood what I was trying to say, she said she couldn't do anything because it was a Saturday and to come back on Monday between 10 and 3. It's a good thing they have "emergency cash" because I don't know what I would do if it wasn't there and I needed money in an emergency, bastards.

So then my friend bought me lunch at this ramen shop. I had "oni-goma" ramen which was spicy and good. Its the first real thing I've had at a restaurant here. The name has something to do with devils, but I can't tell you what because I don't have enough money to buy a battery for my pocket translator. Next door I found this. It appears to be fairly accurate advertising.

Next we went to Akihabara to buy the guy an alarm clock. Akihabara is the center of the consumer electronics market in Tokyo, as well as a testing ground for new electronic devices in development worldwide. The guy's own words were that I was "like a kid in a candy store". Anyway, never before has a mini-disk player seemed so inviting, and there are proliferations of cd/mp3 players, one of which will be mine, oh yes. While we were there, I took this picture, just to show that I can take pictures of more than just the 'grish.

Afterwards we went back to Shinjuku to look for the Symphonic FF8 soundtrack. Then we returned home for dinner and Baldur's Gate. I'm not sure if I like the game.

8/03/01

Today sucks, kinda. We had this huge placement test for the intensive language program. It started at 9:40 but I showed up early because the group I was with left really early and then I went to go try the ATM at the Post Office (this is actually the main place for ATM stuff in Japan, since its the most versatile versa-teller, ha ha ha) and lost the group I had traveled with. It didn't work and said that I had exceeded the number of pin entries on the card. Anyway, the test lasted until 3:00, with an hour break. The first part wasn't so bad because it was basic grammar, but the intermediate/advanced test was several levels higher than the basic test, and, well, it shoryuken-ed me. By the end, I felt that I understood less Japanese as a result of just taking the test, which was bad because after lunch I had the oral test. We went out for lunch at a ramen shop where I had rice (I hate you rice, for you are a symbol of my poverty), and then, as I had foretold, I could not communicate with the person who was testing my speaking ability.

So then I went back to Shinjuku, for another attempt at finding Citibank. This time, I decided to start straight off with asking the visitor information lady and she directed me to the right place. Amen. So I got there right at 3:30, but they claimed they were already closed (of course, there was this big removable wall separating the bank with the ATMs, but come on, I need money). Luckily, they reopened at 5:00 (why?) so I decided that I would, again, wander around Shinjuku. This time though, I knew where I was at and, therefore, could enjoy the hour and a half before the bank opened again. First, I went down this indoor mall area owned by Kinokunya (like the one at Mitsuwa Market in San Jose, or in Japan Town, SF). There was this DVD store which had more American titles than Japanese. At this store, I learned the poverty in which Jordan lives, look! The Sherlock Holmes DVD is there for perspective. There are many, many special Japanese DVD's. Then I went to a video game store (insert sound of chorus/light from heavens) which, it turns out, was actually an all purpose toy store (change music to "Thus Spoke Zarathustra"). Everything really is very Japanese here, its not just a show for those in foreign countries. They have these vending machines that sell robot action figures, how cool is that? Like, if you ever were in some sort of post apocalyptic America and needed a mech, fast, you could just go up, stick in 100 bottle caps, and bam, Gundam. I went looking for Evangelion models, but, alas, there were none to be found. I did, however, find this huge model.

Next I went to this electronics place called Sakuraya, (which is actually a chain so profitable as to have two stores within walking distance of Shinjuku station). They have nearly anything you could think of that is electronic, but in a suitably cool and futuristic, decidedly un-Fry's-like way. It's way cooler than User's Side. There I found the stairway to heaven (you can't see it in the picture, but there's actually a picture of a powerbook at the top. What is modem TA anyway?) as well as the reason why it's still 127 yen to the dollar.

At this point, it was 5:00 so I went back to Citibank, where the lady working the counter told me that there was absolutely nothing they could do, despite the fact that they were my bank and had all my money. She then told me to try the ATM just one more time, and you'll never guess what happened. I wasted 2 minutes of my life. So then I asked her if I could just get money out of my account, like a withdrawal from a human teller (you know, the thing that the B to the A charges you for in the US), she said "no". WTF.

Dejected, I went home and beat my kids like the salary men that surround me.

8/02/01

In Japan, there are these drink vending machines selling all sorts of good tasting drinks with weird names. They are everywhere. Like randomly on the side of the sidewalk, or inside of every building. And they have beer in them sometimes too, despite being all right out in public. This is my first observation of Japan.

My second is that it's awfully hot and humid here. Especially since I have to walk everywhere. I'm glad that my room has air conditioning. Oh yeah, there's also these really loud locust-things in the trees everywhere. You don't see them unless you look, but you here them everywhere. Other observations: taped announcements and advertisement are everywhere, people really are shorter here, and it’s really disturbing that everyone drives on the opposite side of the road.

So today was to be the day that I got "orientated" for Japan (I'm not sure if this means what it did for Jacob's friend). I woke up at 5 in the morning do to jet lag, but sat in bed until 6 when the showers opened. The showers are weird here, and I'm not entirely sure about the proper way to use them. As far as I can tell, you sit on a bucket in this big room, naked, in front of a mirror, and push this pedal which turns on and off the water while you apply soap. I could only infer this was the correct method from catching glimpses of what the other nihon-jin were doing next to me (No really, I don't want to be orientated). Then I had breakfast and went for a walk around the neighborhood to find a much-needed bank. Nothing was open at 7 in the morning, so I was unable to get money to buy slippers and other such necessity of Japan life. I'm sad. Anyway, I found this, which was my first experience with Engrish in its homeland, as well as this, which seems like it would have gone out of buisiness in a country whose cuisine is dedicated to fish. There's also a Wendy's and a Denny's somewhere around here, but I didn't have my camera to take a picture of them.

So we went to a whole slew of orientations at the Japanese Language Institute, and I went the whole day without lunch because I could not both afford both the cost of lunch and the cost of the train ride back home. Near JLI, I found this restaurant,but alas, could not eat there. So afterward a guy in my class and I decided to go to Shinjuku since there was allegedly a Citibank in the area. Of course, we got off at the wrong stop, and then he had to go home to meet his baggage, so I was now left alone in the middle of Tokyo with about $10 in my pocket to get home. At this point I was kinda scared, though not exactly of the town because, for some reason, it's safe to walk in Japan at night. It was really quite pleasant except for the fear of spending the night on the streets of Shinjuku. So, I got back on the train and went to the real Shinjuku station, but no one knew where Citibank was. This includes the people who where repairing the streets nearby as well as people advertising for various shops in the area and a policeman. One lady, when asked where Citibank was, asked if I wanted to go inside her shop and get a massage, she was not being helpful. In the end, the final score was:

Propositions for sex: 3
Citibanks: 0

I must have walked for a total of five hours. I hate you Citibank. Anyway, on the way back, I found a cell phone advertisement with the guy from "Amai Seikatsu". I loved that show.

8/01/01

Za biggu dei. I tried to put up this website, but it was getting really late and I was making absolutely no headway and thus I decided that I would finish packing and went to bed at 4am. I woke up at 7 (I think) and immediately got ready for the flight. The restaurants at the airport must have had it out for me because the orange juice I had was thick and rancid and the coffee strong and very bitter. As a result, I was queasy the bulk of the flight. There was a minor crisis about where to apply for my visa, but we called the EAP office and they straightened it out. My bags were both two heavy, so we had to purchase a third box from the airline for $100 to hold all of my books. Mind you, this was already after I was forced to take out all my CD's and put them in my carry on, which was also quite heavy. We took some pictures before I got on the plane. You can find those in the gallery since there's too many to link to from this page.

A week before my flight I was told what airline I would be on, but became scared when I didn't recognize the company and couldn't find a listing in the phonebook or a location at SFO when I checked the yellow pages (this, of course, in addition to my lack of visa and lack of financial aid information, both of which I needed to sign). However, I checked online and discovered that, in fact, they were an airline I had heard of, and did exist at SFO. I even had a chance of riding the Pikachu plane (which I didn't, but here's a picture of the plane I did ride on). Everything was okay until I found this on their website.

Luckily, I did not have to ride on the wing in traditional Japanese clothing, but then again, I didn't fly business either. I sat near the wing of the plane and no one sat next to me, so I essentially had a couch to myself. When I began feeling comfortable again I turned on the sheetto-terebi, but sensed that something was wrong when I saw this during the news. When it came time for the weather, I found this. If you can explain what is going on here, maybe you should have come to Japan instead of me. Anyway, I decided to pass some time with an old friend, but the controller wasn't working properly and I ended up watching this awful movie with Keano Reeves named "Sweet November".

I arrived at Narita airport at around 3:00pm Japan time about a day after I left San Francisco. I found my baggage really easily and made it through both customs and immigration without getting deported despite my anxiety to the contrary. My first act in Japan would be to change the $200 my mother had given me for the trip into 23000 yen and to withdrawal several thousand more yen out of my Citibank account to survive on for the next few weeks. This proved more difficult than I had imagined, and most certainly more difficult than entering a country which uses a drastically different language and writing system without a visa and more electronics in your suitcase than quite possibly is allowed to travel through the port. I could exchange the cash okay, but when I went to the ATM machine, mind you, it was a Citibank ATM machine too... a Citibank ATM machine which was designed specifically so that people with bank accounts from different banks all over the world could exchange their money in different denominations from different financial institutions, it would not give me money from my Citibank account. I watched several people from countries such as France, Japan, and even the US successfully withdraw money, but it would not allow me. Luckily, I had the money from my mother, but, since my mother had requested that I take a cab to the dorm because my luggage was too heavy to carry, and since my luggage actually was too heavy to carry, I decided to take a cab which ended up costing me 20000 of my 23000 yen.

The cab driver was nice, and, since it was a flat rate to go from the airport to my dorm, I didn't mind that he got lost trying to find it. It was rush hour, so he took this rural route that was quite charming but ultimately misleading. He even stopped at a convenience store and bought me some Japanese iced green tea so that I could experience something Japanese. I was quite thankful because, although I actually ate well on the plane, I hadn't had much to drink that wasn't coffee or soda. I asked him if he watched movies, and he said that many people in Japan disagreed with the film Pearl Harbor (which is being advertised quite strongly here), to which I said that most Americans also disagreed with the film. He had a thick accent, and so it was very hard for me to make out his Japanese. Eventually, I made it to my dorm. I share it with about 15 international students and a bunch of Japanese students and workers.

My room is larger than my old room at Ridge house. I don't live in a set of drawers, so ha!

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