Accents, eh.

So being Canadian, there are a few things we generally have come to recognize. We get overcharged for air travel, telephone, internet, and cable, we generally get treated better than Americans when we travel the world, the Littlest Hobo theme, and we have a horrific time in creating (not producing), quality television. Canada has a fantastic television producing industry. That I could never decry.

When we think about accents, in general, it’s usually hard to recognize that we all have our own accent. It’s kind of like when our physical appearance or personality changes over time, we have difficulty recognizing it. No, we don’t say “aboot,” but our “u” is different than say our American counterparts. True story.
So tonight was watching one of my favourite Canadian productions, Forever Knight. For those of you who are not aware, this show aired for three seasons between 1992 and 1996. To save me from re-summarizing:

Nick Knight is an 800-year-old vampire working as a homicide detective on the graveyard shift in modern-day Toronto, a result of his feeling guilt for centuries of killing others and seeking redemption for his acts. Most of his colleagues are unaware of Nick’s true identity as a vampire. Only his friend, city medical examiner Natalie Lambert, knows about Nick’s identity as a vampire. One advantage to having a vampire working on the police force is the ability for Nick to use his superhuman characteristics, including enhanced senses and mind control, to help him bring criminals to justice. Nick’s quest for redemption becomes more complicated when fellow vampires arrive in Toronto and throw obstacles in front of him as he strives to reach his ultimate goal — becoming human once again.

Wikipedia.org

If you’re fascinated with this pre-Twilight vampire series which features awesome Canadian melodrama, YouTube is always your friend.
So to the main point. I was watching the episode entitled “Hearts of Darkness” from the third and final season, only half paying attention to the dialogue, when I heard it. The accent. Detective Tracy Vetter (Lisa Ryder) was spewing off about something, and all I heard was her prairie accent coming out. It was there… so hard.

Minus a few week stint last summer, I’ve been away from Canada since August 2017. I’ve been inundated with accents from every major English speaking nation. English, Irish, Welsh, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and South Africa, plus accents from mid-eastern nations as well as accents from English speaking vegabands who can’t really call any nation “home.” As such, maybe my ear has become more attuned the the various inflections and tones that we all spew in accordance to where we are from. The “u” and ending “r” sounds are very strong in Canada (but not all of Canada.. west coast is different and varies somewhat as you get towards the east). Regardless, our accent is there, and it can be quite strong. So now, what I want you all to do is to all become completely self conscious about it.

It’s Groundhog Day!

Why the movie Groundhog Day argues against stalker-ism and isn’t as creepy as some may argue.

So, as a friendly reminder to all of you, on what is likely another frigid day for you, today is Groundhog Day.  I’m sure none of you have forgotten, as you were all desperately seeing an end to your annual tundric nightmare.  You are wishing vehemently to the pagan groundhog god to bid an early end to you snow covered wastelands.  Idolatry.  Shame on you.  Hippocratic me.  I see no problem with this.

Which has become my custom for every February 2, I have again watched the aptly named movie “Groundhog Day.”  If you fail to recall (which derides even greater shame if you do not), the plot revolves around Phil (Bill Murray), an ego-centric narcissist weatherman reliving the same day, February 2, over and over again, where (spoilers) at the end he becomes a much better man and gets the girl.  I know.  I was shocked, too.

I didn’t need to be reminded that Groundhog Day was coming, as it probably comes a close third to Halloween for me.  I did make it an even greater point to watch the movie this year after I had read an article this morning about a Netflix series called “You.”  As part of my I have far too much free time so I’m going to go through all the articles from Google News routine, I came across this article from the Guardian regarding the series.  The author argues that the tropes often used in romcoms are somewhat misogynist by showing how if the roles were reversed, it becomes a psycho-crazy woman instead of the romantic male.  My inner SJW agrees with the authors viewpoint.  This is why I had to BE SURE that I watched Groundhog Day this year.  The author mentions Groundhog Day in the piece to help illustrate their viewpoint.  And really, if you watch the movie, they aren’t wrong.  Phil does try and seduce Rita by learning everything he can about her, reliving the same day after day after day.  Let’s face it.  The whole notion, by today’s standards, is 100% stalker and super creepy.  But something that is missed by pointing out the creep factor of Phil’s endeavors, is that as much as he tried, he never did actually earn Rita’s love and respect.  His stalking ways ended in failure EVERY SINGLE TIME.  He may have come close, but he was never able to seal the deal. 
In the article, the author points out how the male pursuit is often considered romantic while the female pursuit is considered psycho.  I don’t disagree.  What I do disagree with is the author’s using Groundhog Day to try and support their argument.  His stalker tendencies never earned the respect of his love interest.  What earned her respect was the man that he eventually became.  Phil realized that he was a jerk and knew that he needed to change.  He had been given an opportunity to become the best person he could possibly be and he became that person.  It was only then that he earned the love and respect of his love interest Rita which eventually broke him of his curse. 

In today’s realm of social media, finding all you need to know about a person through a search engine and services is pretty easy.  I would likely call you a liar if you tried to tell me that you’ve never name searched anyone.  In a way, name searching is a way of protecting ourselves and I do not advise against it.  The internet offers a way of breaking through people’s exterior and seeing what they are all about—which can save us a whole lot of (butt) hurt in the end.  Groundhog Day tries to show that despite all the stalking (reminder that it was pre-internet), it isn’t what you learn about a person that makes them like/love you.  It tries to show that it is the person that you are that will determine what people think of or feel for you, while also showing that stalking will not help you achieve the affections of whom you are chasing.  As such, in this authors opinion, Groundhog Day still holds up as a great movie and should not be condemned in the same way that songs like “Baby, it’s cold outside” have.  Just like that song, there’s a lot more being said than what is seen on the surface layer. 

Vs. Battle – Japanese Transit

Or How the Whole of Japan Will Make Sure You Get There

TL:DR
Japanese Transit requires a decoder ring and the Japanese are super polite and helpful.

With most people I know suffering through the first deep freeze of the winter, I am reminded that it was cold in Tokyo and that I have more things to share.
Before anyone calls out wuss, I might remind you that while it doesn’t freeze here in Guangzhou, there’s no respite from the cold either. If it’s cold out there, it’s cold in here (in my apartment). Maybe it was concrete or maybe it was the wind, but despite the positive single-digit temperatures, it felt a lot colder than I think it should have. However, we were all travellers and we had things to see! Like a hot bowl of ramen. We parted the wind like– no. We didn’t part the wind. It blasted us with all its arctic ferocity which only made the ramen that much better.

After our meal, we continued our blistery stroll to the nearest light rail station. When we all arrived in Tokyo, I assumed I would be able to pick up a transit card anywhere, and figured I’d be able to get one at any transit station. I also figured I’d get cash from an ATM. At this moment, it wasn’t easy to do either of those things. My friends and I searched the station for someone that offered cards for sale but found nothing but ticket dispensers and recharge stations. Similarly, there were no ATMs that would accept international cards. Luckily my friend was prepared and purchased a ticket for me. He and his fam had cards from their previous trip, which they picked up at kiosks at the airport.

So somewhat defeated, we made our way to Hondo-ji temple in the Matsudo area. It was only two or three stops from our station and was easy to find (Google Maps FTW). I’m assuming that some of you are at least vaguely aware of Japan’s love affair with vending machines. They are everywhere. I won’t say they are on every street corner, but there’s always one close by. Depending on the area, you will find a range of different beverages available. I will state now that I didn’t see any of the weird or taboo machines that you may have heard of (like the one for used panties). But within a couple of minutes of anywhere, guaranteed you’d be able to score yourself a can of hot coffee, or any other type of soft beverage. In the more late night oriented districts, tall cans of Asahi Special Dry or Sapporo Beer could also be found. Hondo-ji only had soft beverages, and the can of hot coffee that was purchased for me was more than welcomed. It served as warmth for my hands for a few moments before I cracked it open.

After the temple, we made our way back, stopping at a Lawsons Station (a rival convenience store to 7-Eleven, which are also everywhere) as well as a bank. Finally money. Again, we searched for a place for transit cards but still nothing. The only thing that ran through my mind was how can a country SO reliant on transit not have these cards in every store? Purchasing my own ticket this time, we arrived back to our point of departure. It was decided that it was too far and too cold to walk home by half of our party. Taxi’s are ridiculously expensive, so it would be by bus that we would return to our AirBnB. Google and whatever apps my companions were using were useless in determining what bus to take, and where to get on. We tried asking some people outside, but communication wasn’t happening. One person led us to Koban, a police-box, where an officer and receptionist helped us out. The officer went so far as to walk us back to the bus-stop and wish us luck on our journey home. Eventually, our bus came, and we got on.
And started moving.
In the wrong direction.
A retired looking gentleman sitting at the rear of the bus overheard our conversation and in near perfect English (SHOCK) offered to help us out. We not only were travelling in the wrong direction, but we were also using the wrong bus system. We were to get on a much larger bus and wait at a different stop a few steps away. He brought our plight to the attention of the bus driver, explaining our situation to him on our behalf. At the next stop, the bus driver guided us out of the bus following right behind, foregoing our payment (you pay by a per-stop/distance system) and showed us exactly where we needed to stand for the return bus. We all gracefully bowed and arigato-s were exchanged. Sure enough, the return bus came along, we boarded back to the station and got on the right bus the next time around.

Upon returning home, I looked up where the hell I was supposed to get a transit card. I was looking at retailers the entire time I was at every station I had been at. The card charging machines are also dispensers. They will spit out a new card for ¥500, plus whatever amount you put on it. Later that night we took in the sights and many, many sounds of Akihabara (the geek mecca of Japan). After successfully using the charging machines to procure my transit card, we stared up the transit maps on the walls. Looking at hieroglyphs would have been easier to decipher than the maps. Trying to make sense of what we were seeing, and what Google had to say, was like trying to put the square shape through the circle hole. Again, we asked for help from a random commuter. In utmost politeness and courtesy, the brought us to the correct gate and told us how many stops, before going in a completely different direction.

This willingness to help repeated numerous times throughout our week-long trip. It was never an answer of “over there,” but a detour being made by the one helping us, offering us as much help that they can give stopping short of going with us the entire way–at least almost. That’s a different story. Canadians are generally know for being the friendly and polite ones. Sorry my fellow Canucks– we need to step our game.

Next time, Sapporo and the heated toilet seats. Best. Band. Ever.

Dear George – .theet ruoy hsurB

Dear George,

I tried something new today.  We all have our patterns in our lives.  Our morning routines.  How we turn the pages in a book.  The way we kiss our loved ones good night.  On this eve, after my shower, I added my pea sized amount of toothpast to my toothbrush and began the motions of brush bristles against my tooth enamal.  What was different this time, and what did unwittingly at first, was to start brushing the my bottom teeth first.  First the front, then towards the molars on my right.  Once I was cogniscent of this change, I continued on the thread basically completed my entire dental routine in reverse.  Something that normally took zero thought had suddenly become a minor mental effort.  And as simple as a task this may have been, the discomfort of changing what has basically become a lifelong routine has left me questioning everything else about life.  Why is this small ripple causing a tsunami?  I don’t get it.  I know tomorrow, when I absent mindly return to my normal motions everything will feel as right as rain, but for now, I am left feeling lost and confused.  I dare not try and change anything else, lest I become crippled with disorientation.

From the lines,

-R

TheBlogcast – Episode 15 (repost) – October 30, 2009

There was a live release by Matthew Good a few years back where he comments how part of being an artist is the permanent record of one’s own idiocy.  He was commenting on one of his own tracks and some of its lyrics and how moronic they were.  I listened to the opening of this episode and I truly felt embarrassed.  I am not the same guy now that I was back in 2009.  I actually considered not re-posting this episode, but I felt that it was important that I did.  To me, it demonstrates that people can and do change.  I do apologize for the cold opening of this episode.  Take comfort in knowing I’m not the same man.

The gatherers.

I want you, the reader, to consider something.  Have you ever questioned, or even wished, that immigrants would learn how to join into Canadian/American society instead of congregating together within their own cultural/ethnic groupings? I’ve been guilty of this transgression.  I’ve also seen many of your Facebook feeds, so don’t try and deny that you have as well.  Hell, some of you are would openly stand behind these thoughts instead of doing the polite Canadian thing and just think about it to yourself.  At least you’re honest about it.

Now that is all said, I want you passing that judgment on to me and pretty much 99% of the expats that I meet here in China.  The majority of us English speaking white folk only hang out other English speaking white folk (there is a large disparity between white and non-white English speakers, but that’s a whole different topic).  Sure, we may befriend a couple of locals, but even when we do we are speaking English instead of learning the local language.  The hypocritical nature of us expats teachers probably doesn’t even occur to us.
So now that we’ve made it clear that I am guilty of this crime, I can also honestly comment on why it happens.  The reason is quite simple really.  In order to avoid the loneliness of being the other, we seek others on the outside of the majority.  The human species is lazy by nature and seeking out others who are similar is far easier than trying to join the majority.  Even if we do speak the same language of the majority, we are also the physical minority– a minority that stats out in a visually homogenous country such as China.  Regardless of speaking abilities, expats will always be the other here.

Applying this to Canada, I am almost certain that the process is the same there.  Children and grandchildren will adapt as first and second generation Canadians, while the landed immigrants will do the hard work of trying to establish themselves economically.
One of the benefits of being a traveler is that it opens the eyes and presents opportunities to alter pre-conceived notions and biases.  It’s these kinds of thoughts that pass through my head when I have a ten-day staycation.

The leap frog of 12 years.

TheWife™ and I had an excuse to escape her hometown for a couple of days when an old classmate of hers announced that she would be in Newold City for a couple of days.  This presented us with a chance to hang out at the School U campus and hopefully find out where we would be living.

Alice and Howard also live on Campus, and naturally, we also spent some time with them as well.  Howard has lived in Newold City for about eight years.  During that time, he’s witnessed the city change dramatically. I couldn’t help but reflect on how backward Newold was back in 2003, and how they seem to have leapfrogged Canada over the span of 14 years– at least in the acceptance and usage of personal tech.  When I arrived in Newold in 2003, many people here were afraid of the technology that was beginning to surround them.  In particular, and to what suited me just fine, the locals avoided ATMs like the plague. Teller windows would be crowded (queueing still wasn’t a thing here) while the solitary bank machine would sulk in its loneliness and despair, knowing that it was a tool without a use.  Except for me. And any other foreigners in the area.
When we began coming for visits every couple of years, we witnessed the adoption of personal devices into day-to-day commerce.  Waitstaff would be using tablets or smart phones to take orders.  Reverse cameras in vehicles seemed to become standard at a much faster pace than back home.  With the introduction of large screen smart phones, more and more people were dropping laptop and desktop computers as they had become an added expense that wasn’t needed.  Today, mobile payments are everywhere.  Alipay seems to have won the hearts of major government and industry, while WeChat wallet serves small business and other smaller enterprises.  I can’t speak for the U.S., but Apple Pay is probably the largest of the mobile payment platforms, although I’d argue that individual corporate apps such as the Starbucks app probably have far more traction.

Unfortunately, social graces have a difficult time keeping up with technological advances.  There has certainly been some progress, but it will likely be a generation or two before it catches up.

Second book in the series.

The early morning sun is shining on the deck outside my mother’s rear patio doors.  It’s Sunday morning and all three of us are quiet, TheWife™, TheMom™, and myself.  TW gazes on taps away on her phone, likely sending messages back and forth to her sister using WeChat, and TM is probably falling through the click-bait rabbit holes.  I am sitting in front of my laptop, clacking at its keyboard and sipping away at my weekend morning coffee treat.  It’s the same routine that we have gone through every weekend since I arrived back in June.  The only difference is that in 17 hours, TW and I will be on my flight to Newold City (my new pseudonym for where I’m living–check the Cast and Errata page for a list of other pseudonyms I am using) via Guangzhou.

Of course, by the time you read this, I will have already been in the air for presumably six hours or more, flying for a total of fifteen hours and twenty minutes for the first leg.

So it’s finally here.  Any sense of anxiety I had is pretty much gone, which to me is indicative that I’m ready.  It’s a long list that I really don’t want to create new names for, so instead I will give a blanket, yet earnest thank you to everyone who took time out of their daily lives over the past seven weeks (SEVEN WEEKS!?!) to spend time with TheWife™ and I.

Preparing for Book Two!

I know, given our penchant for vagabonding, that being our nearest and dearest requires extra effort and while maybe not heartbreak, a certain sense of melancholy every time we show up and then leave again.  This is not lost on us, and for these efforts, I am truly grateful.
I was out with Lyle (see Cast) yesterday, discussing this very topic.  And while it sucks being away from each other, it is also demonstrative of the strength of the bonds that have developed between us.  During college, after we completed the taping of our last class project, I was feeling a little down knowing that this may be the last time I would see these people as we were now free to go out into the world.  I expressed these thoughts to a classmate of mine.  He had a different perspective which has carried with me ever since.  He said, “Andy, those who really truly matter will always continue to be in contact with you.”  He was right, of course.  And to me, these people who have been with me over these past 15-20 years are my family.  Whether biological or not, these bonds are far more important to me than any blood that runs through our veins.

Thank you, with all the love and appreciation that you rightfully deserve.

With that, I think it’s time to cap off this chapter.  For that matter, I think I’ll leave this as a cliffhanger for my first book.  Book Two: Version 2.0 begins…

The countdown is on.

So I suppose this is the point where I’m supposed to acknowledge that with my departure date arriving in less than a week that nerves are starting to waiver a bit.  I hate to disappoint.. so I indeed will acknowledge that there’s a certain sense of anxiety lying beneath my calm, yet excited exterior.  How could I not be feeling–something?  Regardless of the fact that I have done this before doesn’t make this new experience “old hat” or completely familiar.  I’ve gone back into the troves of blog archives from a site that has not existed for more than a decade (RUHome, anyone?).  Reading through a post after my arrival articulates what I felt at the time fairly well:

For the record, I’m still not feeling much of anything about my current situation. It’s been like this for days now. I’m just continuing to roll with the punches as they’re brought forward. For some reason, all this just seems like a normal day to me and I can’t figure out for the life of me why this is.

There is a significant difference to this trip, in that I have had much more time to prepare.  My now longtime friend at the time had been doing all the legwork in finding us a teaching placement where we could both go together for mutual support, and in mid-February she announced that she had found a place and we were to be there in slightly over two weeks.  It was a complete whirlwind and as a result, the whole situation didn’t sink in until long after I had arrived.  This time around, I have had plenty of time to think about everything.  Most of my whirlwinds for round two happened in June as I struggled to collect, notarize, and authenticate all my documents before I left British Columbia–leaving me with a LOT of time to think about things.  Fortunately, most of that thinking hasn’t happened until the past day or two.

Interestingly, I am not really sure what it is that I’m feeling anxiety about.  It’s just there.  The whole “OMG, I’m moving to China in x days” kind of anxiety.  I know what I’m getting into– well– mostly.  I have my wife as a Mandarin speaking security blanket, but I still find myself apprehensive this time around.   Maybe its the anxiety I should have felt 14 years ago that is finally catching up with me.

 

A missed connection in the subconscious.

What time does my connection leave?

If dreams are a representation of the subconscious, then apparently I’m worried about missing my connecting flight when I go to China.  While I won’t get into the dream details, I thought it interesting to point out that for the past two days, my dreams have had to do with my upcoming new adventures.  I don’t think I’m worried about it– at least not consciously.

I’ve realized that while I have a pseudonym for the school I’m teaching at, SchoolU, I’m missing one for the city in which I’ll be living.  A part of me wonders if I should even bother trying to keep it anonymous.  Especially if at some point I start posting pictures here (which will inevitably happen).  I guess it makes sense as I don’t really need any students or faculty reading this here collection of my words.  It probably wouldn’t take much to find this space via search engine.  I just tried using the mainland’s primary search engine and could find this site if I used the title, but realistically speaking, how many people will know?  Further, I searched my authorial pseudonym, and it was not on the first page.  Despite this discovery, I think I’ll still refrain from using the city’s name.  Call me paranoid.

If anyone has any suggestions for a name, I’d love to hear it.

Although it’s not going to start it quite yet, after being inspired by Ed Pratt’s unicycling adventure across China, I think I’m going to add a vlogging component to my experiences.  The first time around, I made a couple videos of comedic value, but little substance.  I’m older now, and.. older, but having a video perspective of my adventures that are less filtered than they would be if I had written them, could prove interesting.  But we’ll see.  I still have time.