Goodby old friends

Old hiking boots

Old hiking boots

I have purchased new hiking boots.

It is time to throw the old ones away.  I have worn them out.  The treads on the bottom are almost gone, and they are actually a little bit dangerous in the wet.

When I look back on the places these boots have taken me, and the things we have experienced together…


Several Toronto Winters….Walks on the concrete sidewalks of many cities ( Toronto, Vancouver, Tokyo, Seoul, Quito, Loja….) Hikes in the backwoods and trails of 3 different continents, down into the mouth of an inactive volcano, or hiking up the side of another.. walking at night over the continental divide, horseback riding in the andes, exploring caves,wading through streams, hiking up mountains, motorcycle rides, walking on beaches to see the sunset on one side of the Pacific, or the Sunrise on the opposite side…

There are a lot of memories in these boots.

My new boots are lighter, and the treads seem to be more high tech.  It will be interesting to see what memories they will help me create.

The day the Earth moved

On march 11th 2011 the earth shifted off the coast of Japan and  more then 20,000 people lost their lives.

It was possible that I might have been one of them.

I was living in Tokyo with a friend.  He was just starting a relationship, and he wanted the apartment for himself for some time and I was planning a trip.  My choices of destinations where the pacific coast north of Tokyo, or the mountains near Nagano to photograph snow monkeys.  I wanted to visit the sea, but I had promised my nephew’s partner I would get some snow monkey pictures for her.

So instead of being on the effected sea coast when the fault slipped and a wall of water came racing for the coast of Japan, I was very many miles from the sea.

The earthquake itself was a surreal experience for me.  I was alone in the woods, on a road that was closed for the winter.   It was the most alone I had been in Japan, and I was enjoying the solitude when the mountains around my started moaning and groaning.  I was unaware of what was happening.

When I returned to my hotel, my normally jovial hosts looked very solemn.  Through their broken English they said their had been an quake.  I remember their children where watching TV, and when it started to show pictures of the tsunami, they turned it off.

I really had no idea of what was happening, until I started the Internet in my room.  After sending an email to my parents letting them know I was alright, I tried contacting friends in Tokyo.

I had to stay an extra day in the hotel, the trains were not running.

The Tokyo I returned to was not the city I had left.  The earthquake and tsunami had knocked out so many electrical stations that there were power shortages.  Tokyo is illuminated by billboards and signs…these were turned off.  Tokyo was a dark city.

And there was the fear. For the next month there were, on average 2 or 3 quakes a day. ( for an idea of what was happening go to click on since march 11 at the top and let it run for a few minutes……)

As bad as the disaster was, everyone was concerned about the nuclear problems developing up the coast.  Everyone I talked to asked the same question…what are you going to do?

Some of my friends left Japan, some moved further south.  I stayed in Tokyo, spending most of my time huddled under blankets,( we had electric heat) reading all I could find on the Internet. I now know more about Japanese nuclear plants, and how they work then I ever thought I would need to know.

I had a bag packed, and my route(s) planned if I had to move but I felt the best place for me was where I was.

There were times I almost left ( Tokyo, not Japan) but I didn’t.

So what did I learn from this?

I have a deeper respect for the Japanese beliefs and culture.

I have a deeper distrust of the media.

I have a greater application of the power of the Internet.

And I have a better understanding of who I am.

here are some blog posts from this period.

Earthquake March 11

Why am I still here March 14

Today Wednesday Evening march 16

Taking Stock March 17th

Mercy or Art imitating life..march 15

mercy part 2 march 28th

ok what’s next..march 24th


Rules for sleeping on train

Tokyo People seem to be sleep deprived.  Anytime of the day it is possible to see someone sleeping on the trains.

These “rules” are from my observations.

If someone is light or older it is ok if they lean against you.

If they have bad breath are heavy or Snore you may give them a small poke to wake them… so they will not lean on you.

If you sleep until the end of the line the conductors will not wake you… Unless it is last train.

You should always try to sleep sitting up straight, with your head down ( so you don’t snore or look like a baby bird expecting a worm.)

You should try to wake up before your station so you do not have to rush out of the train.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Raw meat

There is a big scandal on the news right now.

Problems with raw meat has killed 4 children, hurt 7 people in total.

The meat in question is served raw, with a raw egg on top, a popular dish, in a inexpensive chain restaurant.

I don’t know all the details, but this story is very interesting to me on a couple of different levels.

People are upset with the deaths…. I am amazed at a food safety system that allows raw meat to be distributed for consumption, and most of the time it is safe.

I can see it in a higher end place, ( I would not likely eat it) but in a low end chain?
It makes me feel better about the rest of the food supply.

The other thing is how the president of the company is being shown on the news. He is just about crying while reading news releases, and answering questions at press conferences. Then he bows very low…. After the last death he knelt and bowed on the pavement in a parking lot.

I don’t know how culpable he is, but this is the attitude I would like to see in some north American CEOs… take responsibility for your companies actions

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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Only in Japan?

I was talking to a lady from Brazil today.

She was telling me the story about a Brazilian footballer who is playing in Japan

He was eating in a restaurant when the earthquake hit, and he ran out of the building, along with the other patrons, without paying his bill.

He felt that he needed to settle up his bill, so he went back the next day, only to find a line up of other patrons who had left, doing the same.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad.

New Home

I have moved into my new Home.

I love it.

I now am staying in a gaijin house that used to be a high end restaurant.  This means that the kitchen ( for Japan) is huge. The decor of house is understated elegance.

The house has 7 or 8 women, and 2 or 3 men. ( not sure about numbers, I am still meeting people, and 2 of the ladies are flygin).  Every one is very friendly.  This is what I wanted!!!! There are some houses where the residents don’t mingle, but in less then 24 hours I feel this is the right place for me! I don’t mind being awaken in the morning to the sound of laugher from other residents.

I haven’t taken any pictures yet, but when I do I will post some.  This may be a few days.  The house manager broke his leg… in an encounter with a old lady on a bike.  This means things are not as tidy as they normally are.

My room is small ( I have stayed in Hotels where the washrooms were larger) but it is clean and comfortable.

I had to go out and buy some slippers ( no shoes in the house)

I realise that I have no idea how to walk in them!

I am so used to shoes, bare feet or slippers with backs on, but I have never really used ( or liked) slippers with no backs.  I don’t know how to keep them on my feet.

When I was staying in the hotel in Shibu-Onsen, I thought the slippers were falling off my feet because they were small.

I now realise I have to hold them on with my toes…. you learn new stuff every day.

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cold and damp

It is cold and damp in Tokyo

Temperatures are, on average, 5 degrees higher then Toronto.

The problem is the rain, and damp… and that everyone (stores, cafe, schools) has turned down the heat to save energy

Kris’s place is an older building, with no insulation.
When the heater is turned off, and it is 12 outside, it quickly become 12 inside.

( as an aside, why does 12, when out side, feel warm, but the same temp inside seems cold?)

I was hoping to move into my new place early… like maybe this weekend.

I emailed my landlord, and he said it may be difficult.  The lady who has the room now… who is moving to another room in the house… is a translator for the media.

She has not been home much recently… she has been spending a lot of time up north.

I may have to spend more time at Kris’s house then I had planned.

I was thinking of going west and south… find a beach.
( I would sure like to feel some hot sand between my toes)

The problem is financial.

I have funds to keep me going for a couple of months, as long as I don’t spend extravagantly.
Until my permission to work visa comes through, I don’t see any travel, longer then day trips, in the near future. ( unless it becomes necessary for my safety)

So this means I will stay inside until the sun comes out and practice my Japanese.

わたしはグレン スペツクです。
Quick translation: nice to meet you my name is Guren Supetuku

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Today- Wednesday Evening

I just thought I would list some random thoughts about what is going on.

First, my personal safety.

I do not believe I am in danger.

This is because:

I have been following the nuke issues by reading science based reporting, not advertising based fear mongering ( fucking media is so pissing me off).

Even though I believe in my safety, I have still done risk assessment and am acting accordingly.

I am in a building that has survived many moves… it rattles but it is kinda like the old game “weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”

I have food, shelter water and heat.

If things get really bad ( nuke wise) my escape route does not include flying.  Narita airport is too close to the nukes, and the flight plan would be down wind.  I will go west and south by train.

I have my stuff ( phone, pocket router, ipad, computer) charged at all times.

I do not leave the house without most of my devices that I consider essential ( see above list) plus passport…I do not need to come back here if I am out and I need to move quickly.

I have a meet up location with friends if needed.

So I am safe.

I do feel really bad for the people who are really effected, and the fact the media is concentrating on the nukes ( which is an issue) and not the real story.

The people of Tokyo are very sad and afraid.

They have been taught all their lives to be prepared and fear Earthquakes.
They have a deep distrust of the government.. they don’t lie, but they don’t tell the truth.
They have a deep distrust of TEPCO ( owners of the nukes)… they have been shown in the past to cover things up.
All their lives they are reminded of the bad side of nukes… there are still people alive who experienced it first hand.
They feel sorry for their countrymen, but they are can’t morn because they have to deal with their own ongoing safety and fear.

Looking back on my life, I have survived ice storms, blackouts, winter storm, summer storms, hurricanes…  I will survive this as well.



Mercy or art imitating life

A couple of years ago I participated in a nue blanc (sp) all night art event.

The event I was doing was called Mercy.

The premise was what would happen after a catastrophe.

We had a fire, as well as limited amounts of hot chocolate, blankets and sausages to hand out.

Some stations just had line-ups for free stuff, but I played with it a bit.

There was not enough for everyone, so I would do things like pass a cup to someone and have them pass it on… When it was the last one for a while… Or give hot chocolate only to kids… Or to pretty girls… Or give two cups to one person and they had to figure out who to give it to.

I would give out blankets to the last person in line… Or throw them to people part way down… Or give one to someone who was just passing by, while people had been waiting for a while.

As I was doing this I would talk with people about what they felt when they got hot chocolate, but the person beside them didn’t… Or that they had been waiting for 10 minutes but I gave it to the person who just walked up.

Who chooses and why?

My thoughts on art is, if it makes you think or have an emotion, then it is art.

It was an interesting night.

I think of this now, as I am wrapped in a blanket from the event… Keeping the chill off ( conserving power) knowing that this is happening for real just 100’s of kilometers from me.

An art piece that makes you think and feel is good, not being able to change real life sucks –

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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Out and about

Shinjuku is an amazingly busy place.

Outside of the east entrance there are usually 100’s of people meeting others The video displays on Alta are blaring, the softbank display is pumping… Kinda like a fair.

Today there are 5 people standing outside the east entrance, the streets are almost deserted… It is almost quiet… The video displays are turned off

The subway ride here was different as well… The displays were not showing what time the next train would arrive.

The news today was about rolling blackouts, explosions at nuke plants, a 6 that shook and the need to conserve.

People are still smiling and laughing but there is a nervousness in the air.

I am in Shinjuku because:

A) I needed to get out
B) I have a dance class tonight
C) it is walking distance to home

If the weather was bad, or it was further away, I might not be here either – Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone