a The Transit Lounge: August 2004

Back in the Day: I had a quarter life crisis, headed to Osaka, Japan for the unknown–only to discover that a passport plane ride are not necessarily a ticket to escape. Some Years Later: Settled back in Oz, the man of my dreams ended up in Tokyo for work–which is how a passport and plane ride showed me home is where the heart is. And Now: Well as luck would have it, we are about to embark on Japan Mark 3, with a baby in tow and another on the way...

Monday, August 23

Smoke and a Pancake?

Picture this:

You are going out for dinner with around 15 mates, heading to a lovely yakiniku place to feast on chunks of beef, self-cooked over an open flame at your table. As you are shown to your table, you order a round of drinks for everyone. With nibblies on the way, everybody sits down. And as they do so, 15 packets of cigarettes simultaneously come out of pockets and are flicked carelessly onto the table, along with a range of lighting devices too. Couldn't happen anywhere else but in Japan, especially the part when you all stop eating midway through the entree for a smoko break - and there is even no need to leave the table....I mean why would you? After all, the beer and chu-his can't be taken out of the restaurant!

You can smoke everywhere in Japan. McDonalds, the train station, the local supermarket, you name it, you can smoke. Maybe with the last example I am over exaggerating a little, although I am sure if I did no-one would look twice (but that could just be because of the "crazy gaijin" factor and they would probably be too scared to stop me).

This is a country where smokers' have rights and non-smokers have...hmm...well they have their homes and had better hope that their flatmate doesn't spark up. With cigarettes at less than $3.00 a pack, and more readily available than bread, via vending machines not simply on every corner but usually in groups of 3 or4 bringing the total of cancer sticks waiting for consumption at over 100 different brands and flavours , it is no wonder smoking has become Japan's national pastime - and if it isn't yours when you first come here, then it soon will be. I can definitely attest to that, and it is a habit I will definitely leave in this country too.

In fact, wherever you go in Smoke Friendly Nipponland, the odour of stale and dead cigarettes follows you around, embedding itself in everything from your clothes, to your hair, to your normality. It is so entrenched in your smell receptors that when you have those rare occasions to find yourself in a place without this smell, as happened to me last week, it is sometimes difficult to put your finger on what isn't right. I was in an eating/market complex in the centre of town, that had been designed to recreate the old streets of Osaka at the turn 20th century. As I reached into my handbag for a Marlboro Light to contemplate this, I became aware that there was not an ashtray in sight. The first thought that came to mind was "What? They didn't smoke 100 years ago?" And this almost made sense to me, considering Japan had isolated itself from the rest of the world for so long, and at this point in history, the opening of the ports was still fairly recent.

In shock, I approached the counter of the nearest sashimi stall and in a halting voice enquired "Haizara onegasi ishimasu?" (ashtray please?), expecting that I would be turned down as the sushi chef stared at me almost incredulously for having asked. Since he didn't say anything I asked again, this time holding up the cigarette packet in my hands while flashing him a huge smile. This time he responded, and I was mightily relieved when he reached under the counter and produced an ashtray! As I puffed away on my newly cigarette, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Upon having a short conversation with the chef, it turns out that this particular complex is extremely well ventilated. Apparently developers had wanted to avoid the problems normally associated with smoking indoors, especially seeing as this setting is supposedly an outdoor one. Banning smoking wasn't even an option. I got it hand it to them, the Japanese are extremely adept at resolving problems when faced with them.

So as long as the Japanese government refuses to admit that smoking causes a myriad of health problems, there are no restrictions on tobacco advertising, no health warnings anywhere and no extra efforts made to generally educate the public on the effects of smoking, smoking is definitely here to stay.

As one friend put it so eloquently during his 4-week visit last January, just before he sparked one up, "If you can't beat 'em join 'em." And would you believe it? He is actually a non-smoker.

Sunday, August 22

The Fashion of a Japanese Summer


And for those of you wondering what a yukata is, take a closer look. I even have chopsticks in my hair. Posted by Hello

And For Something Completely Off The Topic

Well I have been writing a piece for this site about the smokers of Japan, which is almost finished, but that had to take a side step.

Once again after a 2 hour phone call to DJV back home, I am feeling on top of things. So I have finally signed up for a travel course I have been procrastinating about doing for the past 18 months. Yep, 18 months. Thanks V. At the moment, I wish I was in your living room, Team Neptune or not!

Fingers crossed it will make me focus and behave myself. It's about time I stopped thinking about stuff and just got on with it.

Had a great party last night at Freeza - The Yukata Party (see pic above). But more about that later. Time for me to face Mondayitis head on and get to bed.

Thank god I made a conscious decision when I got back from my last trip to Oz to stop paying my phone bills.

Sunday, August 15

Stiz

"Did you bring Granny with you?" Liz, Airport, August 11

"You can have ciggies in McDonald's! This is great!" Michelle, McDonald's, August 04.

"Fark, we farken swear a lot." Stiz together again, Home, Friday 13 August

"I'm going to marry my air conditioner. Do you want to as well?" Liz, in bed under the air con, Thursday 12 August

"I'm just a gigolo....I'm so sad and lonely." - Peter, Jumbo Karaoke, Wed 11 August

Liz: "Hmm, there's something wrong here. No ashtrays and I can't smell cigarette smoke - I think we have managed to find the once place in Japan you can't smoke in." Liz, Ebisucho, Friday 13 August
Michelle: "Shall we ask anyway?"

"Yuan me?" - Michelle, Freeza, Friday 13 August

"Yuanna piece of me?" - Liz, Friday 13 August

"You teasing me?" - Yuan....

"But she's a nice girl though." - Peter, constantly...

Liz: "Finishing at 3.30 - am considering going home to sleep but we both know that won't happen." August 15
Pete: "That's cool, I understand if you can't make it."
Liz: "Yeah I'm on my way."

See ya soon Stella xo

Thursday, August 12

Just

I really dislike these moments of the night/morning, whatever you judge it to be....the witching hour as I call it....when I don't feel anything. Im neither tired nor awake. Im neither happy nor sad. Im neither wasted nor straight - Im simply just. Just here, just existing or something. There's no emotion, but there's no emptiness either. It's at times like these I could be dealt the worst of blows or the highest of highs and not react to it in anyway. Weird.

Tuesday, August 10

Stiz 04

The Stiz Tour of 04 officially begins tomorrow afternoon.

That's right old friends Stella and Iz will be reunited for 2 weeks of crazy times and general madness - well in between Iz's insane workload that has suddenly quadrupled in the last 24 hours. I am about to flip out.

I don't handle stress too well, and I have gone from spending 2 days at the beach with Michelle this weekend amongst other organised crime, to now working 14 days straight with no break until Friday week. Dont think the bar work can factor into this equation at all, so there goes my living money for next week. And I dont get paid overtime for this stint either (which, when it comes down to it, I can fully appreciate, seeing as I get so much time off during the norm anyway).

Core blimey. Yeah my job is a piece of piss most months, then when the rest of Japan goes on holiday (yep O-Bon is upon us), our school gets an insane intake of students. Yes folks, as usual, the majority of the native population here would rather study with foreign strangers during their break than spend time with their families. And this isn't just mindless speculation, but what come straight out of the mouths of the students here. Sad but true, especially seeing that O-bon is a traditional holiday, when one is supposed to go back to their home town and families to pray for their dead ancestors.

It is just bad timing for Stiz I guess. Up until yesterday, our schedule was looking manageable, with a few creative shift swaps on behalf of Peter and me.

Breathe and relax - I dont do enough of that.

Sunday, August 8

Beber & Tamra - "Travelling On"

"Could you have been the one I wanted and your life could have sank but I have travelled this life alone. If only I'd have found you sooner maybe you'd have found me saner now I'm lost in the unknown. I want to fly away with you. I want to fly away with you. If I had crosses to bear then I'll accept being there and it was all for you. But if the damage is great and maybe you were too late then I will just keep drifting through. Travelling on and travelling on until my life is gone. Travelling on and travelling on until my life is gone. If you want me then take me maybe you could break me like noone could. Then there's you... but then there's you... You...you... I want to fly away with you and I want to fly into your sky Travelling on, travelling on, Travelling on, travelling on..."

This song... The sun was shining and it was warm for an October morning but there was a gentle breeze. It was so relaxing, sitting there, basking in the sun. It happened. We finally talked. We talked about it all. It was the first time we talked - and it ended up being the only time. For a few hours we were actually on the same page, reading together. Then the wind caught his page, and blew him a few chapters back, into his past, while I stayed on the same page.

And that was that.

Sometimes I think I am still stuck on the same page. I keep reading it over and over again.

It's also a really farken good tune. Simple.

Porcelain

A smile hides a lot. So does a wisecrack and a laugh, although it does not clear the fog in my mind. It is a lot better than what it was 12 months, 6 months and even just over 2 months ago, now I am able to rationalise my thought processes and understand that the way I think of myself isn't necessarily true in reality. Even so, this is difficult in itself - there are still days when I don't want to go outside, I just want to lie in my bed all day and forget about the world beyond my front door. The mere thought of having interaction with other people makes me feel sick, which is weird for someone that gets asked a lot about why they find it easy to talk to people they don't know and how they make friends easily. That is my method of not having to deal with myself - I have this theory that if I don't go outside, then people can't see me and there will be no opportunity for them to judge me the way I judge myself. Some days, I find it so hard not to cry, and I really can't stop the tears, like last Monday,. A lot of the time, a great deal of into no shattering in front of other people. Funny, because people, especially here in Japan, always comment on my smile, that I smile a lot, and it makes them feel good. It is kind of ironic to me. I don't really know why I feel like this , although it is the most likely explanation for the strange illnesses I get. I have a big fear of talking to those close to me. I don't know why I can't, I just don't like the idea of someone knowing my secrets, or knowing what upsets me. As a result, I find my behaviour towards my family so hostile sometimes. I can't help it, I know it hurts them, and I hate it when I act that way but I can't get through it any other way. My mum always said she suspected I bottle things up until I physically and mentally couldn't cope and that would then manifest itself in a physical ailment - which would then force me to take time out from my life to recover. And then the process would start again. Ask anybody that knows me, they will tell you I get the most interesting diseases/medical problems for no apparent reason - I've had everything from a weird strain of meningitis to ross river fever to diabetes (which was proclaimed a medical miracle when it disappeared a few weeks later) and many bouts of severe asthma just to name some. My mum is totally right. I have one friend in Melbourne who is aware that I am at odds with myself at times. But this is a viscious cycle in itself, well to me in a warped way. You see, he won't give up on me. And that absolutely kills me because he is not someone to devote his time to lost causes or things he does not feel passionately about. So I think to myself "He obviously thinks I am worth it but I can't see why..." I don't want to disappoint him. He puts up with hysterical emails and teary phonecalls. Kinda silly that I need someone in another hemisphere to hold my hand and convince me I won't fall apart during my 2 hour work day. Even as patient as he is, I still hold back because why should he be burdened with my own insecurities when he has his business and uni and life to run. Today I realised just how lucky I am to have him in my life. I only in passing mentioned a travel writing course I had wanted to do on the phone a couple of days ago, but could not remember the name. He had gone to the trouble of finding it out, and emailing me the details and I now understand that he goes to a lot of trouble to take some of the stress out of my life. He also puts up with my down right rude behaviour during times when I am feeling all out rotten. I dont know how he does it. Sometimes I am so nasty but he ignores it and still pushes on with me. I wonder how he can keep giving, what does he get out of our friendship apart from a highly strung, rude bitch? A day like today is okay, when I can view myself objectively and I can see that my reasoning is irrational. Only, it doesn't mean I will feel this way when I wake up tomorrow which is the point I guess. The good thing about being in Japan, I have only myself to rely on in most senses. I think it is better for me here for the time being - I mean I haven't even had a stupid cold since I got here, in almost 12 months! I can't ever recall a time in my life being so illness free. I have had only one sick day since being here, when I lost my voice and couldn't speak to the students, compared with back home. I think calling in sick was my job. Being here has forced me to confront things instead of just pushing them to the back of my mind where they would cause me more harm in the future. I know I have a long, long way to go. But at least I am aware of it now.

To Tunes and Friendships

Thank you James for the triple play.

Who turned the heat up? Who is that hot dj??

Secondly...
Pete and Troy - It's just like the old days...with Potsy, Ralph Malph and The Fonze.
Here's to the A-Team....and a 4DK with Mr Motown when the time is right - cause that's what I'm talking about.
Who needs Mr. Drummond when we have each other, right? The 2 of u are mine.
Group hugs and a whole lotta love - just don't fuck up.

Sunday, August 1

The Z-A of My Sexless Life

In our pre-bar work Friday night dinner ritual just gone, as we ate our way through my local Izakaya, I opened my mouth and asked Pete, who some might say was the inspiration for my Foreigner Fever piece, the question I should never have asked.

"What is wrong with me? Why don't I have a lovelife here in Japan??"

Pete, not known for his diplomacy, shot back with "Do you want the A-Z or the Z-A?"

So naturally I asked for the Z to A. And this is what he had to say.

Z is for Zoolander. That's what you get for choosing a guy that doesn't even live in the same country as you.

Y is for yachts. People ride in them, and when was the last time you went sailing?

X is for xylaphone. You don't know what to do with the instrument when you are holding it.

W - you don't have two Ws tattooed on each side of your ass.

V - Deja-V!

U because it is all about you.

T, a drink with jam and bread.

S cause you can't spell sex Liz.

R coz Rosie"s getting all the sex in this country for the both of us.

Q - you can quash any idea that I (as in Pete, remember this was him talking) am having sex with Michelle when she gets here.

P, well your name ain't Peter.

O - OOOOOOOOHHHHHHHH

N, no woman no cry.

M - Mrs Palmer and her 5 daughters want a holiday.

L, coz u lost all seriousness.

K - well you don't spell C*rl*s with a K.

J, just a minute.

I - there's no I in team and there's no I in 'where's my sex?'....is there?

H - coz preparation h is good on the whole.

G, god it's hot in here.

F - fuck anybody lately?

E - well e may help....or hinder.

D, we all know God spelled backwards is dog.

C, you c*nt say that can you?

B - bong and a blinze?

A - afterall that we still have no idea why Liz ain't getting any.

Well at least he made me laugh!

* Couple of notes from Pete:

1. To avoid confusion, know that Rosie and Pete are the same person. He doesn't want anybody thinking somebody else is getting all the action.

2. The first 6 were spontaneous, the rest he needed help on. Could have had something to do with the numerous chu-his we had consumed.