WEEK 2

Our second week in Japan was quite good. We finally figured out how the trains work (there are at least three different railways here) and can get around town quite easily. We discovered some cool fast food chains (Mos Burger and Mister Donut) and the interesting drinks you can get from the hundreds of vending machines around the city. My favourites are Dekavita C (like Red Bull) and Boss Coffee Au Lait (very sweet and creamy). I don't like Bikkle, which is a 375ml bottle of Yakult flavoured drink.

We finished our three days of training and did a few days teaching. It seems like a pretty easy job, especially because we're only working 5pm - 9pm Monday to Friday. The students are well behaved and very quiet. My first lesson was called Voice, which is a general discussion session. I had 10 silent students staring at me the whole time. Lucky I'm the queen of talking crap!

We've only been teaching for a few days but already find that our speech is changing. Everyone at Nova uses specific phrasing and hand gestures to communicate, and it's quite hard to switch off at the end of the day. The teachers who have been there for more than six months have developed a strange international accent. I'm a bit worried that it could happen to us too.

We had our first taste of Japanese nightlife on the weekend. We were introduced to a friend of a friend who's been here for four months, and he took us out in Shinsaibashi (the Lonely Planet guide compares Shinsaibashi nightlife to the scenery in Blade Runner). Our evening started at 6pm. Kesh and I had a few drinks at home before going out at 11pm. The first stop was Murphy's (Osaka's first Irish bar), followed by Cinquecento (a funky bar where everything is 500yen - that's $6.40 in AUS dollars). Next stop was the Playpen, a seedy underground nightclub with lots of passed out ex-pats. I also tried my first takoyaki (fried squid balls - the equivalent to kebabs after nightclubbing). Our last stop of the night was Sam and Dave's, a scary place full of shady characters and crazy bartenders. One of them jumped up on the bar and sprayed an oxygen fire extinguisher over the crowd. It was the only place in Japan so far where Kesh and I have felt a little unsafe.

The trains stop between midnight and 6am (and the taxis are very expensive), so we didn't get home until 7am. I think we slept until almost 4pm that afternoon and then had to get over our hangovers before going back out at 7.30. This time we met up with people from work and went to Esaka and a place called the Coconut Club. After a few hours of drinking, we moved on to a karaoke bar, but not before some of the guys decided they had to prove their manhood with an arm wrestle on their stomachs on the sidewalk. Japanese locals crowded around to cheer them on.

Karaoke was fun. It cost about $25 for around 4 hours of singing and unlimited drinks. The karaoke machine had this strange thing where after each song, it would show a picture of a half naked woman, and depending on how well you sang, it would reveal more of her body. The best score was 98% for I Will Survive. (It was a group effort.)

The few days after that were pretty quiet. We really only worked and slept. Oh, and we had to open a bank account for work and chose to do it during the typhoon. By the time we got home that day we felt as if we'd been walking through one big shower.

Random Observation

It is hard to buy good cheese in Japan. You can usually only buy processed cheese similar to Kraft slices or grated mozarella. In large supermarkets, you might be lucky enough to find camembert.