Jonas's travels: Sapporo, January
Atrocious spelling ahead!
Since I use a laptop (weird keyboard layout and really small keys) with Japanese keyboard layout (even weirder than normal), many typing mistakes are made. If you feel the need to impress me with your proof reading skills, feel free to send e-mails to the address printed further down.
New Years day (20060101)
Not so hot (20060102)
Another tradition for New Years is going shopping, since there is a big sale in every store (Sweden is the same, though the sale is between Christmas and New Years instead). There was a hanko with my name to found (four from the top, three from the right).
Japanese clothes (20060104)
Tolkande trupp (20060104)
Central Japan (20060104)
After visiting the signpost above I got a bad cold and returned to my hotel where I watched the Swedish royal family on TV and vomited a lot. Since this did not make for good pictures, I removed them... The day after I did a half hearted try to do some sightseeing in Akihabara, but I was too sick to enjoy it. I rescheduled my return flight and went back to Sapporo early instead. Though the rescheduled flight was delayed quite a lot. (It has been pointed out to me that I missed the obvious pun with influenza and being called pigeon in the times of bird flu being in the news all the time. I blame the fever.)
Still hot (20060106)
My sly competitors took the chance of challenging the feverish and sleep starved Scrabble champion to a game tonight. By being equally sly and treating everyone to strange Japanese food under the guise of it being omiyage (gifts from when you have been traveling) I managed to even the board and keep the title.
The benefits of being sick (20060107)
Today I received a proposal for free food by e-mail to my phone. Naturally while I was in the shower (all e-mails from this sender arrive when I'm in the shower, probably there is a camera or other system showing my showering habits). I was treated to Japanese traditional food for getting well quickly from colds and similar illnesses. By a rare stroke of nice timing, I have fallen ill on the one day of the year that you are supposed to eat this anyway, if I understand correctly. The food seems to be more or less rice boiled in too much water (similar to my own cooking back home, actually) with some vegetables. I like it, though it remains to be seen if I make a miraculous recovery (though I was already feeling more or less OK before eating).
Business as usual (20060107)
In the hope of me still suffering from the effects of the (bird) flu, there was another challenge for the crown of the Scrabble king today. A real live British citizen had been called in to help change the title holder. There was also some peculiar strategies in use, such as playing mostly low scoring words but blocking most good opportunities for a certain other player (me), while others were concentrating on raking in high scoring words. But still... One of the more peculiar side shows during the (often long) waiting for other people to actually play was the covert attempts at photographing one of the contestants underwear, which he evidently was showing from time to time.
Weird shopping (20060108)
Today we played Scrabble with the modification that you can spend at most two minutes every time it's your turn. This made the game very tense. Having played too much badminton too near the flu recuperation (at least it feels like that now...) coupled with only getting vowels, also made the score board very tense. In the end Sweden had one single point more than the closest competitor... There was also a somewhat noisy (though not more than normal for these people) birthday celebration at the next table, coupled with some sort of (probably fake) marriage ceremony (maybe). Quite possibly I am now married according to some rules, who knows... but the "ceremony" seemed suspiciously short. It also seems like my "maybe wife" (back row, bluish shirt) is already asking for a divorce (though not in a language I am fluent, of which there is of course largely a huge lack here). On the good side: likes beating people physically (common interests!) and claims to know Kung Fu, is often rude to other people and shows other humorous talents too (i.e.funny), speaks excellent Chinese, Japanese and has prettier pronunciation of English than I do (though rarely uses it), seems and claims to be excellent at cleaning, seems to not be very much more skilled at dancing than me (good, so I don't look like an idiot (to forestall expected comments from cold hearted "friends": as if it could be avoided)). Less good: the cooking seems frightening, lives in a dormitory (i.e. is most likely not enormously rich, the maybe most important factor in finding a wife, the main purpose of course being avoiding having a job), lives on the floor of "very noisy people" (i.e. is in all likelihood very noisy most of the time), and perhaps most damning of all, seems quite weak in a snow ball fight.
Cheese fondue (20060109)>
Today was a national holiday, which was celebrated by home made cheese fondue and being challenged to Scrabble again. Having only played a little badminton today, and having eaten food recently, games 15 and 16 went quite smoothly (the new "max 2 minutes" rule makes it possible to play many games in one night). Being the only one who did not drink whine with the cheese fondue also helped, I believe.
Work work work (20060111)
Lately I have been doing a discouraging amount of what I would call work. And I haven't really managed to produce anything worthwhile anyway. At least today the seventeenth Scrabble game took of. While I didn't really perform very well, I ended up with an OK score anyway, mostly because I managed to triple my Q.
Scrabble snacks (20060113)
I seem to be stuck doing mostly the same things all the time (an annoyingly large amount of what might be called work). Today was the 19th Scrabble game, which looked like it would be the first with a non-Swedish winner. I managed to take back the over 30 point lead with a 41 point word as my second to last. Too close for comfort.
Bread again (20060115)
I have received letters from my "fans" complaining of the recent lack of photos of "bread". Not being one to disappoint my fans, here is todays lunch. A somewhat surprising mix of bread, soba noodles, fried chicken and mashed potato croquette... And speaking of fans, I can now be seen in the latest episode of the "Riket Stormaktstid" TV show on Swedish TV. Episode 9 contains a trailer for episode 10, and I am in the trailer. Episode 10 must of course be viewed by everyone, since I am in it. (The content will probably be removed from the web site of Swedish TV relatively soon, so if you can, by all means download and store for later enjoyment.)
Evening entertainment (20060115)
Today there was cooking of Indian food, which was very good, and playing of Scrabble games 20 and 21 (with the usual outcome). Point of interest, today three bonus words (using all 7 letters gives a 50 point bonus) appeared, the first of which it saddens me to say was not mine. Bonus words have never appeared in our games before, though from time to time all seven letters can be used as one word, but there is nowhere to put that word. Very frustrating.
Nothing much happening (20060117)
Study study study (20060120)
Recently, I have been to a lot of language learning opportunities. Doesn't really seem to help me much, though. But my Scrabble scores have improved with all the training I get. Still lose bigtime if I try to play on the net though.
Study study study (20060121)
When I complain about loosing a lot of weight despite only eating chocolate and restaurant food, people are rarely sympathetic. Two common responses are: "I've been on a diet for quite some time and cannot loose weight! I don't think you have a serious problem. Stop telling me about loosing weight by eating chocolate!" and "You lost weight? You still look like a fat slob to me." I have departed on a brave new journey towards more body weight (which is a good thing when you are fencing, old style, like I used to do in Sweden): restaurants will have been abandoned in favor of all-you-can-eat restaurants, followed by either ice cream or chocolate. Let's see if I cannot break this evil trend now! If it was possible to do less exercise, I would cut down on that too.
Snow disappearing (20060122)
Today it was hot enough for me to go shopping in short sleeves. This may not mean much, according to some people I know, but the snow is disappearing too, so it must be hot. This is a picture of how little remains.
Diet problems (20060122)
People persist in giving me food to eat. This is of course very nice, since it is very tasty. It does pose some problems with following my recently established ice cream and chocolate diet, though. I guess I'll just have to go to a restaurant too, afterwards. Though I don't think I can eat much more... If I had a conscience it might also pose a problem, since it is hard for me to offer something in return. I try to get people to go to restaurants with me, but usually fail.
Fortune and fame (20060122)
As most people probably know, after all, who doesn't watch Swedish TV, I am now super famous. This is probably why people offered me dinner tonight. The summer of 2005 I worked for one and a half day for the TV show "Riket: Stormaktstid", teaching fencing in the 16th century style (first three pictures) and also doing some stunt man work (last picture). I also recorded the slashing sound of swords, well slashing, through the air. For this I received a salary that is way way higher than my salary at the university. And I got some ice cream too. On the other hand, my allergy kicked in quite hard, and a steel sword was broken by repeatedly being beaten over my hand, which made the hand a bit sore. All in all, it was very fun (it's not every day you get to walk around in high heeled boots wearing what looks suspiciously much like a woman's blouse), though the final competition parts had very little to do with realistic fencing (mainly because realistic fencing tends to kill the loser, which was evidently not allowed in this program). Now, of course, fan mail is pouring in like never before, and girls are going crazy (I didn't even know it was possible to watch Swedish TV here).
More free food (20060124)
Yesterday I was treated to home cooked food again. Today there was a party at the engineering faculty. Parties tend to consist mostly of eating way too much food (for instance "lamp"s). Another tradition is an endless row of speeches, which today was a fine example of. All exchange students (over 50) had to give a short speech, as did many any other people.
More Scrabble (20060125)
One lunch and five dinners (20060126)
Today was a good day to gain weight, with a very nice lunch (which I was treated to), a dinner at a restaurant (paid for by myself, though) followed by another dinner (treated to home cooking), trying the taste of yet another home cooked dinner, going to a start of the new year party to eat some more (paid almost nothing there, probably much less than my real share), and finally eating some fruits and unpopular candy while trying to help out with some computer things. The second photo shows some of the food from the party, which I didn't know what it was. This produced an explanation consisting of the Japanese name for this thing, which didn't help. When I mentioned this, it was described as "vegetables". Very helpful. Especially since at least half of it is quite evidently fish roe... When coming back home, the fire alarm went of. It was caused by someone taking a shower with the door open, so we did not have to evacuate, but we had to wait awhile for the elevator to be reactivated.
Yet another failure (20060127)
Today was the day I had finally managed to book in a chance for me to treat one of these people who usually give me lots of free food to dinner at a restaurant. (Finding a time when other people are not either working or studying is much harder here than in Sweden, where none of my acquaintances seem to ever do anything useful or important. But on the other hand, surprisingly enough you have to actually pay money to go to university here, the opposite of the situation in Sweden.) This totally back fired though. My understanding of what I tried to say in a previous conversation was more or less "I play badminton until eight or nine or so, how about after that?", an "after" which I would interpret as a reasonable ten minutes for shower and changing to appropriate (shorts and t-shirt in the snow make people stare, I've noticed) clothes. I.e. a reasonable time to leave for food would be somewhere between 20.30 and 21.30, depending on what the actual situation for the involved parties turned out to be on the day this was to happen. This was evidently not the impression of other people partaking in the conversation. This made a room full of other people either look at me with angry faces or laugh at me (though the laughing is not that uncommon in general, unfortunately) slightly after nine today. After some confused (from my side at least) discussion the conclusion seems to be that someone was mistaken (in all likelihood me, which in all likelihood everyone else also thinks) regarding the decided time. This was followed by a lot of Chinese flying through the air, none of which I understand. So, in the end the dinner was business as usual, i.e. the company consisted of me alone. This of course is how I usually eat, whether in Sweden or in Japan, but I have been informed that this is considered what would probably be translated roughly as "pitiful". This is unfortunately not the first time this kind of time confusion has involved me. Nor does it seem likely to be the last. Some might argue that this would be one of many good reasons to actually study some Japanese, but I think that would be over reacting.
More food (20060128)
Having spent my Saturday mostly sleeping and then finishing up some research papers, I was of to a Thai food party. It was very good. There was also some strange drink with a weird looking peach in, that I did not drink.
Another day in the sign of the food (20060129)
Today was yet another day of food. It started with some interesting bread as a combined breakfast and lunch. It continued with me receiving large amounts of food (some of which is shown in photos two and three) to cook for myself from a few English gentlemen who were moving out today. Having precisely nothing at all to use for cooking, I offered to treat anyone to Swedish food if they let me borrow utensils. Despite disclosing what my brother thinks of my cooking I found someone willing to take this deal. Later, quite a few people were curious enough to try the food. The general opinion seems to be that the polite thing to say is "tastes good". After this there was a general agreement that it actually needed much more salt, among other things, followed by a discussion regarding possible reasons for Swedish people eating food with no flavor... (Of course, I have found many Japanese dishes that have pretty much no flavor too, which doesn't stop Japanese people from eating them.) The opinion that "it is best not to watch the food being prepared, too" was also voiced. At least I got to eat some peanut related things in exchange. I then did the washing up, which is quite boring. It doesn't help that in Japan you have to wash the garbage too. This differs from how we deal with garbage in Sweden...
Last food of January (20060130)
The last food of the month was bought at a Soup Curry place, where for unthinkable reasons you can order extra natto on top of your soup. There was also a very pink thing, vaguely classified as bread, which was just too pink not to eat.
... continued (20060131)
Today saw the somewhat surprising change of Tuesday lunch restaurant to a nice Chinese restaurant. Some Chinese acquaintances had earlier told me that mabou doufuu is some of the best Chinese food they know. It had been said to very spice, but this was not. I finished the day by trying supagettii miitou sousu, basically what I had tried to make myself but everyone said was, among other things, not salty enough. This was more or less the same, though cooked by a Japanese. So I liked it.
Complaints should likely be sent to Jonas. If you would like to have a high resolution copy of one of these images (or some other you suspect I have), please feel free to let me know.