31 May 2006

Interesting questions

I got this forward by email. I decided to post it here rather than simply forward it on. Enjoy...

And if you're jobless, do post corresponding answers. That would be more entertaining
  1. Why does your gynecologist leave the room when you undress?
  2. If a person owns a piece of land, do they own it all the way down to the center of the earth?
  3. Why can't woman put their mascara on with their mouth closed?
  4. Why is it called alcoholics anonymous when the first thing you do is stand up and say "hi, my name's Bob. I'm an alcoholic"?
  5. If you mated a Bulldog with a Shih-tsu would you get a Bullshit?
  6. Why are they called stairs inside but steps outside?
  7. Why is there a light in the fridge but not in the freezer?
  8. Why does mineral water that has trickled through mountains for centurieshave a use by date?
  9. Why do toasters always have a setting on them which burns your toast to a horrible crisp no one would eat?
  10. Who was the first person to look at a cow and say "I think I'll squeeze these dangly things here and drink what comes out"?
  11. What do people in China call their good plates?
  12. If the professor on Gilligan's Island can make a radio out of a coconut, why can't he fix a hole in a boat?
  13. Why does Goofy stand on two legs when Pluto remains on four? They're both dogs.
  14. What do you call male ballerinas?
  15. Can blind people see their dreams and do they dream?
  16. If Wile E coyote has enough money to buy all that Acme crap why doesn't he buy his dinner?
  17. Why is a person who handles money called a broker?
  18. If quizzes are quizzical, what are tests?
  19. If corn oil is made from corn and vegetable oil is made from vegetables. What is baby oil made from?
  20. If a man is walking in a forest and no women is there to hear him is he still wrong?
  21. Why is it that when someone tells you that there's billions of stars in the universe, you believe them. But if they tell you there's wet paint somewhere you have to touch it?
  22. Why do you call it an asteroid when its outside the hemisphere, yet call it hemorrhoid when its in your ass?
  23. Did you ever notice that if you blow in a dogs face it goes mad, yet when you take him on a car ride he sticks his head straight out the window?

30 May 2006

I protest....

I am really bugged today. And here are my list of protests and pet peeves:

X Men 3 releases in the 2nd week of September. A release almost 15 weeks after the premiere doesn't make any sense, does it? Apparently where there's merchandising in connection with the movie, the Japanese release is scheduled at a later date. But this time lag sucks... Big time!

Getting my driving license translated to Japanese is proving to be a big headache. I called the office of one of the translating agencies, and not a soul there could speak English. Now do I trust them with the job of translating my documents when they can't understand a simple question like 'is this the translation service?' or 'do you speak English?'... I think not.

So my next option was to call er... (better I don't name names, no saying what trouble that could create in case I need something from there at a later date) .. A certain body of diplomatic representatives from my country.. And it was a waste. The dude who finally answered my queries had all the answers. "Yes of course it can be done, please send us the original and a copy attested by (er.... no names again) ... those we report to back home. You don't have an attested copy? Then no, it can't be done.... But maybe it can be done for an extra fee... But ma'am you will not be issued any receipt for the extra fees paid...." ... For a second, I should admit, I was quite stumped... then I realised exactly what was implied.... (&*^%*&#@%#*#&%!!!!) Why do these people make things so complicated? I asked around, and turns out this is the only mission that charges at all for these services to their nationals. And to think we need to depend on these @#%%&!$ in any crisis....
(And if for some reason I wanted to get the attestation done, it could be done in one of two ways. One, I submit the required papers in the local administrative offices and wait till eternity for it to get done and get back to me, if ever. Two, take it from point to point myself. involving at least 2 trips each to the state and national capitals! And going route 2 again implies fees sans receipts.. )

Despite my efforts I still can't get the hang of hiragana and katakana (the basic Japanese scripts).

The postman told me that our mail takes longer to get to us because the address etc is in English... takes longer to decipher.

Last but not the least... the salespeople at big local supermarket cant understand the words soda-bi-carb or bicarbonate of soda!

22 May 2006

A slice of India...

Over the weekend, SS-san from the International Forum arranged with NM-san, who runs an Elder Day-care center, that I would give a demonstration on 'wearing Indian clothes'. So Aditi and I, dressed in our traditional best went to the center to show them what Indian clothes were all about. Yunohama, where the center is located, has to be the smallest town that I've ever seen. Before I even realised we had entered the town, I was told that this was the other end!

I really had a lovely afternoon there. There was a birthday party for three of the ladies there. They turned 75, 91 and 98! This was a birthday treat for them. I think they had a better time with Aditi running around than the actual sari thingie. Aditi, I know for a fact had a whale of a time running around and wrapping all and sundry around her little finger. She was at her charming best. Everyone was greeted with a konichiwa... O genki desu ka? And I certainly didn't need NM-san to interpret the 'awwwwwwwws'. That is a kind of universal language, what?

For the first part of the demo the ladies were slightly bashful, and it was decided that the old dears who were a year older today would play dress-up first. And did they enjoy it!!!! Especially the 99 year young at heart! After the rest of the old dears saw that their friends were having a whale of a time, everyone wanted to play dress up and have their pics taken. Some 20 odd of them wore saris and had their pics taken.

And then was the birthday party. Aditi insisted on singing 'Happy Birthday' at the top of her voice! Awwwwwwww again.

Then one grandmother bashfully asked me if I would visit her niece who ran a nursery nearby. So off we went to the nursery. The kids were so curious about Aditi and me in our desi outfits. One precocious little one stopped and asked me 'Anata wa gaijin desu ka?' (are you a foreigner?)... I couldn't help but burst out laughing and explain to the little tyke that I was from India. That was a good icebreaker as any. So here I was surrounded by kids who had such a repertoire of questions. Where was I from? Why was I dressed like that? Did I know English? Have I seen an elephant? (God knows where that one came from) Why am I in Japan? Wow... they really were curious. Finally it was time for us to leave and we got a really enthusiastic goodbye from the entire bunch!

So we headed back to the elder care place to collect our stuff. There the admin staff asked if they could wear saris and have their pics taken too. So there we were for another 45 mins while the younger generation played at dressing-up.

Even as I type, Aditi asks if we can go there again. I ask her why... "because they will call me kawai desu (how cute)"

She does have her priorities.

We certainly have been invited back again for any other 'Indian' activity. I am thinking of a movie session. How does Sholay sound? Perfect cross-cultural bridge?

Some more pics of Aditi

Pictures of Aditi taken at Preethi and Sriram's place just before we left Singapore.

Sriram has amazing patience with a camera...patiently shoots pic after pic till he gets the right shot!

Sriram, thanks a million!

Some more pics of Aditi

21 May 2006

The DaVinci Bored

Oops.. that should read 'The DaVinci Code'.. but DaVinci Bore is an equally good title for that disaster of a movie.

The book wasn't all that great to start with. I do admit that Dan Brown did have an intriguing plotline, but he did totally kill it with totally inane and trite prose. His presentation of it totally sucked. Arun and I recently read a book called 'The Historian '. The main reason we bought that book was that it was only one of two English books available at a large bookstore here! We did make the salesman's day by buying out his entire stock of English books! I digress... The plotline wasn't really gripping or anything, but the author's style of prose was lovely. It kept the reader totally gripped. I wonder how she would have written a story like the DaVinci Code.

Back to the movie... what on earth was wrong with Tom Hanks?? His portrayal of Robert Langdon was terrible! My theory is that he read the book, signed up when he was offered the role, got totally depressed when he read the screenplay, and being the thorough professional he is, finished the movie anyway, so what if he played the role like an automaton!

After watching this disaster of a movie, I can fully understand why the Catholic church is up in arms against it. I can't find any similarity between the portrayal of the Opus Dei Bishop in the book and the one in the movie. I don't know what Ron Howard wanted to prove, but he totally killed a decent plotline with a very bad screenplay.

And the cinematography was weird to say the least. Some of the weird superimposition of images from the past are rather annoying... and I thought, pointless. Arun says he liked this superimposition bit... but then he also likes cricket... different tastes...

Sir Ian McKellen's performance was one saving grace. A real thespian to the core. But then he is a real 'Brit' and doesn't sound pompous!

If any of you really want to watch the movie, I'd suggest you wait for it to make its debut on HBO. Not worth the price of a ticket.

Why did we even bother? We haven't watched a movie in close to three months!!! Withdrawal!

The popcorn in the theater was another redeeming feature!!!!

17 May 2006


... it happened!!! I finally found a nursery where Aditi can go three mornings a week.

I still don't know the name of the place, but I really liked the look of it. Decent sized well lit and ventilaled rooms, kid friendly colors, very sweet teachers (so what if none of them speak one single word of English) and most important (from Aditi's PoV) a fish-tank! Priorities, priorities....

She starts on monday... Giving me time to go to Japanese classes one or two mornings each week. I really want to stop saying wakarimasen everytime I am asked something!

16 May 2006

A nice weekend

Our dear friend AS-san took us out for a lovely drive this weekend. We went to see violet fields, a bungee jump point, a few farmers' markets and I finally got her to help me go detergent shopping..... And I cooked for a sushi masterchef!

Arun, of course, is starting to get bored with our trips to see the various blooms of spring. The bungee season opens in June sometime, once all the snow has cleared. AS says that when people sign up for the bungee, they are weighed, and their weights are stamped on their hands, and people are called in groups of 'weight'. Apparently that's the reason it isn't all that popular with the women around here..... (this calls for serious ' Delete Posterior' before I would want to try it)

The highlight of my weekend was.... SUSHI!!! AS brought over a friend of hers for lunch. W-san, a really trendy grandfather, is a chef. He runs his own Sushi restaurant. He brought us a lovely selection of vegetarian Sushi. And it was really awesome. After eating seaweed a couple of times in Singy, I was a little skeptical about whether I would be able to stomach sushi or not... but W's stuff was awesome. He's assured us that anytime we go to his restaurant, he'll make something vegetarian specially for us..... That's an offer we aren't going to refuse.

And I made aloo-parathas for a sushi master!!!! He simply loved my Palak Paneer. I have promised him some really spicy food next time. Maybe biriyani???

And detergent shopping??? Yes... something as mundane as that... Every product on the supermarket shelves is labelled in Nihongo (and in laymans terms, incomprehensible squiggles) and I have a really tough time trying to get a salesperson to understand that I want detergent without bleach or safe for wools and delicates, etc. So I finally gave up and dragged AS to a supermarket (much to her amusement) to explain what squiggles I need to look for.

Now I know the kanji squiggle for color. And God help me... the bleach squiggle looks quite similar!!!! Time to buy clothes in monochrome if i cant get detergents figured out very soon! Or better still when the stuff is over, carry the container to the supermarket, point and ask for more of the same...

05 May 2006

Tsuruoka updates

I've posted some pics of Tsuruoka .

The set labeled 'Hanami 2006' are pics of the Cherry Blossom season. Also some pics of the view from my window.

The place is pretty as a picture. And the people are really sweet. Quite cultured! They go out of their way to help us out....

Of course, the first few days we were here, people actually used to stare at us as we passed by. Their curiosity is quite sweet. People do stop and ask us where we are from and how long we've been here. After that, out standard response to anything they ask us is usually Wakarimasen (I don't understand)... that's as far as our Japanese goes.

Aditi of course has got into the swing of things. Any oldie who stops and talks to her is treated to a greeting with an accompanying bow... awwwwwwww.... As soon as she says her name in Japanese, there's another awwwwww... and then there's her Domo Arigato, with a properly deep bow... and then the biggest awwwwww of all...

She does have a small fan club going here. The oldies are especially thrilled when she parrots out the really formal greetings. And then it's back to Wakarimasen when the next question comes.

I'm working on learning the Japanese script. It's not as logical as the Hindi/Kannada scripts, so that's giving me regular headaches! I go to classes once a week. But these days I play hooky whenever the weathers good. We just cycle down to the park and enjoy the sunshine for what its worth!

I think I've posted lots for today. More when I get around to it again.

How I wish......

This never fails to crack me up. My phone here has this option in the text edit menu. It actually says "DELETE POSTERIOR"...

Wouldn't it be lu-verly??

I want to buy a pair of jeans in a smaller size. So just 'delete posterior'. Hmmm nice, but maybe drop another size.. 'delete posterior' .. I'm sure there are others out here who share these sentiments.... sigh... if only....

After a while I figured it out. When you select 'delete posterior', you want the clear button to delete the previous characters in the text you keyed in, rather that the default setting of deleting the current/highlighted character.

If only I could delete some posterior that easily.....

A land of strange contrasts....

Even after having lived in Tsuruoka for over a month, some of the culture shocks haven't eased. The economic shocks are much lesser now (the prices here scared me silly initially) but some of the systems still leave me rather dazed.

For all its technological advances, Japan truly marches to the beat of some medieval drummer.

For example, security measures in a small apartment in a nice neighbourhood... the planning is awesome without any wasted space. And when anyone rings the doorbell, that activates a security camera, so I can see who rings, and if its someone who wants donations send them away without opening the door.

The basic washing machine we bought has so many awesome controls (none of which I can operate for the simple reason that it's all in Japanese) and program options.

When we first came here, we were so impressed by the (of all things) loos here. The control panels on them are awesome. The guest house where we stayed for the first ten days had this totally awesome powder-room with a control panel with 31 buttons. I could set the temperature of the potty seat. And if A left it up as usual, I just pressed a button to let it down. I could set the temperature of the water in the bidet, the pressure and the direction too. Then there was the air temperature settings, and air pressure. And the volume settings of the flush!!!!!

Then we come to the paperwork, and that's when the frustration starts.

I get my health insurance card. And naturally its in a bunch of incomprehensible (as yet) squiggles. Hey, I see some numbers.... and they look familiar. Ok.. that's my date of birth. But they got that wrong... the month and day are alright, but the year is way off target. So there we go to AS-san (our hand-holder-in-chief) and point out the error to her. She checks and tells us that it's correct. Huh... uh... actually I was born in 75, and my Insurance card reads 50.

So that's when we get our first jolt. You see, out here they borrow only the day and month from the Gregorian calendar. The year is the year of that era. Era?? Yes, era. The year of what emperor's reign. So I was born in the 50th year of the Showa emperor's reign and Arun in the 46th. Aditi's was born in the 15th year of the current emperor's reign. So her year of birth is Heisei 15. The current year is Heisei 18.

This gets quite confusing when one goes to buy a used car. We saw this car we liked, and under the Japanese symbol for year was the number 8. Brilliant as we were we assumed that it was a 8 year old car. Of course not. The year of manufacture was Heisei 8. We missed that one little character somewhere... so it was back to square one of the great car hunt.

The banks too use some thoroughly antiquated systems. First shock we got when we went to open an account: 'joint account?? Nan desu ka? (what's that?) Sigh.... Checkbook? Nan desu ka? .. and here we gave up, and just said whatever and got on with the procedure.

And here's the kicker, one doesn't use a signature on bank and other financial instruments. One uses a chop, with name carved in Kanji (or katakana in case of foreigners like us)... And God help you if you ever lose the chop. Replacing it is as simple as brain transplant.

And did I mention that ATM's close around sunset, and Credit Cards are not used except at very large stores and hotels?

The worst are the looks I get when I tell anyone I am a vegetarian. Almost a look of utter pity.

Now I know what 'Stranger in a strange land' really means. When in Rome one does as the Romans do.

These Romans are crazy.....

A very long weekend

In this corner of the world, National Day, Constitution Day and Childrens Day happen on successive days. Of course there was the Emperor's (not this one, the last one) Birthday too last week. So it's been one long stretch of holidays. And the weather being what it is was rather inclement.

So here we are. Three days of being stuck indoors. Why didn't we go out somewhere?? Because we, strangers that we are to the system, forgot to draw cash before the onset of the holidays. So off I went to the ATM to draw cash and head to the next town to watch a movie. I got to the ATM, and couldn't get in. I tried the door, it wouldn't slide open. I took out my ATM card and waved it under the sensors (what that could've done to help, I still don't know), stood back a step and then tried the door... basically tried all weird things to get it to open.

Finally, a lady who was walking by took pity on me and told me that it was a holiday and that the ATM was closed. I wasn't sure that I'd heard her right, and my Nihongo still doesn't extend to asking intelligent questions. So we decided to cycle to the bank itself and try the ATM there. On our way we passed 2 other ATMs and none of them would let us in. By this time we had a very bad feeling. We got to the bank, and there was this very nice notice in very formal Japanese. All we understood that the 3rd-5th were marked in red, and here too we couldn't enter the ATM. Which implies that when the bank doesn't work, neither does the ATM. And this being Japan, credit cards are next to useless.

Lessons learned in life: In Tsuruoka, not only do the ATMs close by 9pm, they are closed on all public holidays and have reduced working hours over the weekends.

Someone really has to explain the concept of an ATM to the banks here. Isn't ATM supposed to be about AnyTime Money??

I've marked the next long holiday, and plan to be ready before the ATM's shut down for their siesta!