Silly Grins

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Shake it...

till even.

This next bit is autobiographic. Like a few others, but even more so. About Japan.  But first, indulge:

So, I was there (or 'here'), as an ALT, in the middle of nowhere. The kind of nowhere anyone with a little more brains and motivation wants to be from.

This 'nowhere' is like that flick, An Officer and a Gentlemen...except the officers were with the JSDF.

One guy drank so much, he passed out while waiting for the water in his bathtub to heat up. Lucky for him, his friends heard the metal around the water heater bucking at the contracting and expanding of the metal and came in to give the poor guy a hand.

No, these bathtubs were not on-demand. There were a lot like the Phin filters. You gotta wait, especially when it's below freezing and the water needs to be heated up first. Old-school hardware from the 1970's. That wait usually took an hour.

I should know since I lived in a place with the same set up. And to think, I was one of the lucky folks in town. Even without insulation.

As an assistant language teacher (hence the ALT acronym), I had a local supervisor nick-named Colonel Saito.  And when it came time for us to take that three-hour drive to go to the 'big city' for a 'training' conference, he somehow got volunteered to do it. His English was good. And he liked to talk. A lot.

An amicable guy. Really. He'd spent six months in London in an intensive-English course where he'd actually kept his oath with fellow countrymen not to speak Japanese. AT ALL. Until they were done with the programme. For that, I am thankful. Sort of.

However, when we went to the big city and it was up to him to decide where we were to choose to have lunch, he always chose the same bland fuckin' place.  He'd eaten there years ago when he was a kid, so the default was to head to the familiar on the rare occasion that he got away from his home-village. Which, aside from the six month stint in London and a few years in university, was virtually nil.

After maybe six months, hell, it could have been eight... after I'd been in country for a time, when I had my first chance to get back to a 'bigger city', I immediately went to a dodgy, hole-in-the-wall place next to the only import shop in town. The 'import shop' was about the size of a tightly packed closet. And they were selling fat jars of tom-yum paste, actual coffee beans...basically anything with flavor.

"How the hell had Colonel Saito missed this place?!" I thought.

He always seemed eager to get home and unwilling to try anything new.

Well, it was in that skanky, hole-in-the-wall place that served Southeast Asian anything (and tacos?) that I had my first experience with Vietnamese coffee.

And this evening was also another first experience. Waipod Phetsuphan.

My next goal in life is getting a  Phin filter...Ding Ding Dong.

For further information, the following video has been provided for educational purposes:



  1. Vietnamese coffee? Always seemed dangerously close to an ice-cream to me. Then again, just adding sugar and milk makes coffee seem dangerously close to ice-cream to me. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

    I wonder if we all have our own, individual, pre-defined capacities for novelty and adventure, which remain fixed over a lifetime. I've met a few people similar to your colonel. Obviously you'll settle down a bit as you get older, but these guys always seem to have spent their novelty allowance in single, youthful spurge, so there's nothing left for the rest of their lives.

    Shame, really.


    1. Col. Saito's attitude was baffling sometimes.

      The sugar was optional at the place where I first had this great gift from the universe. Sweetness, of any kind, simply does not belong in my Java abyss. However, cream, or a bit of milk, is forgivable.

      If there is a pre-defined capacity for novelty, I have not found mine. In terms of being settled down, I'm chained...for now.

  2. After the first video I was thinking...damn I like that tune and I read more and you linked right to it..very cool!!
    V-pop might be alright but Jpop sure the fuck is not.

    If it's got caffeine and simulates a high if drunk completely at once then I'm in ;)

    1. Ding Ding Dong...Reservoir Dogs worthy, if you ask me.

      Next time I have a cup of the bliss, I'll definitely make the event public; it will get blogged. Right now, I'm looking at Phin filters.

  3. damn, I seem to do the whole going to the same place every time I go to "insert city name here". And I try to make my life interesting. I don't think doing and/or saying stupid things on purpose is enough anymore for making life interesting.

    1. a change of scenery to the point of stepping out of 'default' for a while works wonders to restore that vital freshness that feels oh, so good.

      Personally, I try not to say or do stupid things on purpose for practical reasons. There's enough trouble going around as it is to try and stir up more, just for the sake it. And I'm bound to do something that starts off dumb and fun anyway.

      Even if you don't think your life is interesting, I think your developing perspective definitely is, evidence being your photos and what you've written about the process so far.

      If you're gonna make mistakes, may they be enjoyable.


  4. I watched the first video and decided I need to give Vietnamese coffee a try as well as find out where the Ding Ding Dong comes from. You are awesome for linking the actual song, I will have to share it with my sister. She has a thing for Vietnamese dramas which I am both compelled to watch but repulsed all the same. Have you watched Tears of the Black Tiger? You should and thanks for the info on the coffee, I will have to try it the next time I dare to have caffeine.

    1. Was wondering the same thing about the song first time I saw the video too. After writing the post and looking around a little more, turns out there is a similar post with the coffee video and then a video for Ding Ding Dong (but from the Sound of Siam YouTube mix).

      Anyway, the Vietnamese dramas...any dramas, would be hard for me to watch (unless it's Dae Jang Geum).

      Tears of the Black Tiger? Can't say I have.

  5. I've always said that if a westerner wants to feel like he/she's living life, come to Japan and compare yourself to most people here who like bland food and bland lifestyles... way too many Col. Saito types who think a good night out is yakitori and beer with the co-workers after a 14-hour work day...

    1. A lot of the times, I suspect people here tend to lead double lives. My belief that, at work, people try to present themselves as bland as possible, but when the sun goes down, the Mr. Hydes go wild...wanting to believe this is perhaps wishful thinking on my part.

      Even the workaholics I know in the US are living their lives.