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Joseph's Online Diary Sep-Dec 2001


(but seeks to reassure friends that he's still a "normal", friendly, human being)

Saturday 1st December 2001

Some may have heard me say in the past that "I will never succumb to leading a normal life, working 9-5 in a suit in the city". Yes, I have been known to utter those words, and yet right here, right now, you find me writing from deep in the heart of Tokyo's dark skyscraper district. My black suit is heavy on my shoulders and my tie is wringing the very life force out of me as the stiff collar of my shirt bites into my aching neck.

Well, it's not quite that bad, in fact I've really quite enjoyed my first week at OBC, the Overseas Broadcasting Corporation. Don't be misled by the name though: Do we operate overseas? No. Do we broadcast? No. Are we a corporation? No. In fact, OBC is simply a correspondance course operator, and I am one of those much respected professors who spends hours toiling over the essays that have been sent in. I have approximately 300 students who are based in every corner of Japan. Most are in their last year of university and have been signed up to by their future employers such as Fuji or Mitsubishi. Consequently, the vast majority are not at all keen students - this has it's advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage is that their essays are often very short, making them easy to correct. The disadvantage is that when asking them questions over the phone (the course includes six 5-minute calls) it can be like trying to draw blood from a stone. Another disadvantage is that you have to read the same story 40 times a day for two weeks. I am beginning to feel that I AM Mr Sato who has "a wife and a daughter and a son and is 45 years old and likes to go scuba diving and..."

The office atmosphere is great, and my Australian boss Darryl is probably the most easy-going manager that I've ever worked for. The hours enable me to continue working two nights a week at my private english school in Shibuya which I must say I am thoroughly enjoying. The themes I choose for lessons are many and varied; last night it was Mad Cow Disease, tonight it's Marriage by Pregnancy. My students are generally very enthusiastic and appreciate my "I'm just one of you" attitude.

I understand that there won't be any christmas for me this year. Despite the abundance of cheap tack in the shops to celebrate the festive season, there is no holiday and no official recognition of the christian festival. We do, however, have six days off over the new year, which I will spend with Kae south of Nagoya at her folks place. She tells me that the general custom is to drink a lot which I can't say I object to.

Anyhow, my lunchbreak is fast slipping away, and there are plenty of tales of Mr Sato and his Wife, Kimiko (she's a nurse you know), awaiting my red pen.

Until next time!



Wednesday 14th November 2001

I have heard people say that the best way to see a capital city is by topless double-decker bus. Some may argue that the Subway is a great way to get around, however, in my opinion the ONLY way to get a true feel for the city is to navigate it by bicycle.

Steering clear of all major roads, this morning I set out on my girlfriends tiny bike (the one with the Mickey Mouse bell) from my lodgings in Koenji, western-central Tokyo. Destination: nowhere. It wasn't long before I was hopelessly lost in the deserted pot-plant lined alleyways. With only a few cats to ask directions from, I continued undaunted. Emerging from a particularly small street I was bemused by the sudden appearance of proper road markings and traffic lights all around me - the road was clearly too small for cars. I spent ten minutes cycling in this area, becoming increasingly confused and bemused as to why this little network of lanes kept on doubling back on itself. I was also wondering why all the young families were staring at me (much more so than usual)... and then it dawned on me: I was in a private park built for teaching children about road safety - boy did I feel silly!

Using the sun and the distant skscrapers of Shinjuku as a guide, I turned south. I love these narrow streets. The sounds of the city are a long way away amongst the higgldy-piggldy houses that make up Tokyo's downtown areas. The small pedestrianised shopping precincts found in many of these areas are often quite similar: there's a flower shop, a stationary store, a fruit and veg shop, a tiny Post Office, a convenience store, a couple of "fashion" clothes stores and a second hand shop (selling everything from plastic sumo wrestlers to fishing rods and refrigerators).There will also be a rice shop. In these dimly lit sheds an old man will be sitting on a few sacks, ready to weigh out your purchase on his ancient scales. There are also many small shops, often no more than a front room with a little display stand where the wall should be, here traditional Japanese desserts made from mochi (rice) are sold.

Emerging from one of these streets I almost cycled straight into a rock. What on earth was a rock doing in the middle of the road?... Wait a minute, that's no rock - that's a tortoise!

Cha-Cha the tortoise
Cha-Cha and the children

'Cha-Cha' is a 21 kilo tortoise. His owner wasn't sure where he originally came from, but was very enthusiastic about what a happy tortoise he was. Although I could not carry out an interview with Cha-Cha himself (due to the language barrier you understand) I could easily ascertain that he was in fact a very fit tortoise; his speed was simply staggering. My look of amazement was soon shared by a group of schoolchildren on their way to the local park who were both excited and frightened by the sight of such a huge beast!

Following my encounter with Cha-Cha I pedalled on south, until i finally bumped into Tokyo's major epicentre of modern trends, Shibuya. Here the promise of a delicious hot chocolate at Starbucks has got the better of me. I sit by a window overlooking the masses: amongst the many shirt and ties move some wild hair styles, camera crews and... is that someone dressed as a horse?...



Thursday 8th November 2001

Joseph is now a Kaishain!

The latest profession to be added to my list is that of Office Worker in Tokyo's skyscraper district of Shinjuko. Having finally realised that I cannot carry on spending money as I have been without either working or selling my body for medical experimentation, on Monday I ventured out to buy the paper to and sign up to a few job agencies. Tuesday I recieved a call asking me to attend an interview at the offices of the Overseas Broadcasting Centre Ltd., Wednesday I got the job, this morning I signed the four month contract. It's just perfect. Fifteen minites from bed to desk, Monday - Friday 9am - 5.30pm (I cannot remember having ever done that before so it will make a nice change) - this fits in with my private life too. One of the best benefits is the wage; it easily surpasses any that I've had before, enabling me to save for next years trip to Australia (at least that's the current plan). The job starts on November 15th.


Monday 5th November 2001

I must admit to not being the greatest fan of museums, but there was one in Tokyo that I just could not afford to miss. Last Friday we made a special trip downtown in order to pay homage to the Meguro Parasitological Museum, that's right, the only museum in the world devoted to parasites. The highlights for me included the 8.8m tapeworm that one poor man had the misfortune to play host to (he found it's head sticking out when going to the toilet one day), and a lovely photo of a man who had an infection in his testicles - his scrotum almost scrapes the ground! Click here if you want to see the truly astounding photo - but be warned that it is not too pleasant! Anyhow, moving swiftly on...

This weekend Kae and I voyaged to the town of Nikko, nestled amongst the tree lined mountains three hours to the north of Tokyo. Nikko is especially popular at this time of year due to the "Kouyou" (autumn colour), which is absolutely breathtaking due to the staggering number of maples that go through a rapid change in appearance. Such is the beauty of the trees right across Japan that every night on the national news, time is given over to "leaf forcast" in addition to the more usual weather forcast. As it was, this weekend was perfect timing. The vivid oranges and crimson reds never ceased to raise crys of "kirei!" (beautiful!) from any passers by, including ourselves.

Maple leaves
Classic self-timer technique
Nikko is also known as "monkey town", due to the large population of wild monkeys that live in the surrounding mountains. As it was, Kae and I only spotted one, but I was shocked by how big it was! I've never seen wild monkeys before, so this one seemed huge, about the size of a 90litre rucksack! The monkey spotting occured not long after we'd set out upon a five hour hike along a lakeside, into a bamboo forest that stretched as far as the eye could see (where we also spotted a woodpecker, another first for me!), and on across a volcanic marshland. I was really taken aback by the staggering diversity of the Japanes landscape, and even more surprised by the complete lack of concrete that usually coats any area of otherwise outstanding natural beauty on these islands! Our path across the marsh was laid down before us in the form of over 6km of wooden planks - two boards, each approximately half-a-metre across, fixed to wooden stilts that were sunk into the bog below. It was not at all smelly and there was not an alligator in sight. Rather, it was a peaceful refuge for birds and a few hikers eager to escape the rush of the cities and the noise of organised tour groups.

As the day wore on so the weather turned and the torrential rain began. Having reached what we thought was our final destination, a small spa town in the middle of nowhere, we were told that in fact we still had 3km to go, and this involved a seemingly never-ending climb up a flight of ancient moss-covered stone steps that zig-zagged their way up alongside a huge waterfall! Our relief when we finally did reach the onsen (natural hot spring) was immense. Not only could we finally see how many pages of our Lonely Planet guide books had blended into one another whilst sitting in our dissolvable rucksacks, but also we were able to strip off our drenched clothes and plunge into the boiling hot (milky-green) waters to relax our tired muscles.

Having been to onsens and public baths last year I now never fail to observe the unwritten, unspoken rules that surround these places. BEFORE entering the "bath" one must wash oneself from head to toe with shampoo, soap and water. To enter the pool before doing so is simply not to be tolerated: last year I found myself wondering why everybody fled the moment I stepped into the volcanic waters having just emerged from the locker room. Were foreigner's willies really so different after all?

Onsens differ wildly from place to place. For example, on the saturday after our hike the spa we soaked in looked like it was constructed many centuries ago, with its peeling pink paint and loose mosaic tiles. The water, judging by consitency and colour, was not filtered in any way, but simply splashed out of the wall and into the pool straight out of the depths below. It was fantastic though, really refreshing and relaxing. Today we visited a somewhat newer complex, which in addition to the main soak tub had a sauna, bubblepooland outdoor pool; this was built from natural stone, surrounded by boulders and flanked by maple trees in their autumnal bloom. I really enjoy onsens and public baths, as in addition to leaving you feeling refreshed, clean and relaxed they also give you a great sense of freedom in that no-one gives a hoot about modesty...



Thursday 1st November 2001

I'm starting to really like living in Koenji, Tokyo. Having been up a mountain for 18 months I'm surprised to hear myself say that, especially considering Kae's apartment is on a main road! Yesterday I spent a couple of hours meandering around the back streets of Suginami-ku (the city within Tokyo that contains the town of koenji!). I really enjoyed myself, getting completely lost on the deserted roads that are lined with houses old and new. It's quite remarkable just how green it is around here. Despite the astounding restrictions on space, every building is surrounded by trees and flowers, all growing out of pots that are placed on any free surface. Pot plants are actually one of the major hazards when cycling around these areas, as they line both sides of the pavements. You wouldn't see that in England - they'd all be stolen within 24 hours! Cycling on the road is simply not done, as it's far too dangerous. When I first arrived I couldn't believe how many cyclists there were attempting to run me over as I walked. Now I'm a cyclist I can't believe how many pedestrians there are getting in my way! The bike I'm using has a built in anti-speeding device, i.e. it only has one gear, and I think I must look like quite a pansy on it. It's so small my knees almost bang my chin, but the brakes are fantastic: they don't actually slow me down, but they do make such a loud squeak when used that everyone gets out of my way... clever huh?

A couple of characters that I met on my trip can be seen below. Unfortunately Mr Polly Parrot wasn't too talkative, although I think that's just because he's learnt Japanese and not English. HHmmm, that's given me an idea, I could become a TEFLP teacher (Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Parrots), I bet there aren't too many of them in Tokyo and there's bound to be a demand.

Another surprising sight was a lifesize bat with big teeth and a confused 3-year-old inside. At the time of its appearance I'd quite forgotten that it was Halloween, and thought it extremely odd for a mother to do such a thing to her child. When I cycled past them originally she was just zipping him up. His expression was one of anguish, stress and confusion. I wonder whether HE knew that it was halloween; perhaps the mother owns a costume shop and can't afford a school uniform.

till next time,

ja, mata.



Sunday 28th October 2001

Hello from the land where at 5pm on a daily basis a melody is played across all corners of the city, telling the children that it's time to go back home to their parents...

Yes, this is Tokyo, the big city, or rather, the big collection of about 26 cities all linked by subway and train lines. Thankfully we live in a relatively old town, Koenji, which is a little kinder to the senses with its second-hand shops and little alleyways, plus a good dose of kind old ladies who compliment you on your extremely bad Nihongo (Japanese). We even have a European supermarket which I think is the illegitimate child of the English company "Sainsbury's", the only difference being their motto here is not "Making Life Taste Better", it's "Making Life Taste More Expensive".

It is remarkable how much Tokyo changes in character within the space of a few stops on the subway - only 13 minutes from our local station lies Shinjuku. I would now like to claim that I have almost mastered the basics of one of the world's largest railway stations, having been able to park a bicycle on the west side, take a thirty minute walk to the east and then actually FIND the bike again. This was despite the fact that it had been moved twenty metres and had an "Illegally Parked Bicycle" warning attached to the handlebars (next time they'll impound it and I'll have to pay a fine of £30/$45 to have it released. What they don't know is that the new Mickey Mouse bell (see my photo album) is actually a very strong magnet that is activated by my watch which is powerful enough to lift the bike sky high out of any police pound and return it to our doorstep).

Sorry... imagination getting the better of me there. That's the effect of being surrounded by some amazing gadgets. I'm still getting over the shock of being able to view this website on my phone's display. I mean, I thought I'd bought a cheap (£16/$24) bit of plastic, but no, not only does this thing serve as a fully functioning email & web browsing device, it also lets you build up a picture of every person in your phone book by selecting different hair styles, noses, eyes and mouth from a huge in-phone catalogue. Every time you check their entry in your phone book you get a full colour picture of them. I guess what with so many business cards changing hands it's easy to forget what your friends look like. One step better of course are the immensley popular "J-Phones" with their built in camera's and mini TV screens. I think if you manage to locate the secret switch you can also use them to clip your toenails.

So WHAT am I doing?

Well, having been here for over three weeks now I guess I should have it all planned out etc etc. However, at heart I'm relatively lazy and so instead I have concentrated on spending most of my money. I can happily say that I have succeeded on that score. Due to this it was only a few days ago that I decided that maybe I ought to find a job. (I'd been considering going to live up a mountain, but had second thoughts...) I'd been trying to persuade myself that as I have no training or qualifications related to teaching English (indeed no degree of any sort which many employers insist upon) it would be impossible for me to have any chance of venturing into this field. Despite my opposition, I managed to get the first job that I enquired about, being paid £17/$25 per hour to teach a group of students in their twenties the fundamentals of English conversation, and how to divide three large packs of crisps (that's "chips" to some of you) and two bars of chocolate between nine. I must admit to being completely stressed out by it all. Having never taught before (let's face it, I had to do it sometime with two siblings and one parent in/having been in the trade), I don't have a clue how to go about it. My first lesson was so stressful that I think the crisps and choclate ended up being divided by one (myself). I spent an entire day preparing for the second lesson. It was to be a completely new group of eight students, so I set about taking the material I'd used for the first lesson and adding a little more structure to it. I felt sick when, as Friday's class began, I had only two students sitting in front of me (my material wouldn't work with two!) - one of whom had been in my first lesson in any case. Once again I struggled through it, although I am told by my employer that the students thought it was great. As I write this I am just putting off thinking about my next class!

I shall probably remain in Tokyo for some time. I am happy living here.. everything is going just fine. I intend to use my time here in the city to learn Japanese and save up enough money to travel around Japan next year, and also perhaps obtain a Working Holiday Visa for Australia; I understand that I can apply whilst over here which is handy.

Having been pounced upon by a representative of a local Buddhist sect, I recently attended one of their Sunday morning gatherings. HHhmmm, what did I make of it all? Overall, I was dissapointed. Sure, the community was very friendly and welcoming, eager to listen to my stories and offer wisdom, but I found it just didn't hold enough for me to find it of interest. I felt that the unconcious tie that made the community so strong was the need that people feel to BELONG. To be a part of a community in order to gain strength and believe that at the end of the day Everything Will Be Alright. Well, I just don't feel that need. A small quote from their general information leaflet: "We hope that all participants will be helped through the wisdom of Buddhism to awaken to a truly happy life..." Don't get me wrong, I am not knocking Buddhism as I would not knock any religion of which I know nothing. However, I do not appreciate in any way phrases such as that that suggest that one will be miserable unless one joins the group in question. Currently, I am very happy with my community of supportive friends and family around the world.

I remain suspicious of the funding for this particular organisation. Any relatively small business that can afford the kinds of buildings seen in my photo album must have a secret! (check out the one out of Star Trek).

It has to be said though, the egg sandwiches were absolutely fantastic and went down a treat.

Anyhow, I've babbled enough for today.

Take care,

Joseph in Tokyo.


Tuesday 9th October 2001

A cancelled flight, jetlag and an invitation to join a lady in a Tokyo Taxi.

Konnichiwa! Hello there. With the state of today's air industry I thought it wise to let you know that I actually managed to get to Tokyo (despite the cancellation of my flight.) Having heaved myself out of bed at 5am in order to drop my hire car off in London (I thoroughly recommend and make my 11am AEROFLOT (the Russian Airline) flight, I arrived at Heathrow in quite a daze. It was a while before I found out what was going on with my flight as in front of me in the information desk queue was a scared, tired Russian lady. Her story was quite simple yet surprising - the kind of thing that only happens in books and films. She had spent all of her life's savings on a return ticket for London. Upon arrival she was to be met by her new London-based Russian employers who were to provide everything for her - it had all been agreed previously over the telephone.

So now here she was in Heathrow Airport, unable to speak a word of English, and with no sign of her employers, completely lost. Changing what little money she did have she gave them a call, only to be told that there was no job for her and that she wasn't to dare phone them again. When told the story the clerk said that there was nothing she could do but charge an additional US$800 in order for the ticket to be changed to that day. When faced with hysterics phone calls were rapidly made, with the promise that "we will do something, this is England, we will do something."

When my turn came and I was told that my flight had been cancelled I didn't feel too hard done by, especially when informed that instead of a two-leg trip via Moscow I'd now be travelling British Airways direct to Tokyo Narita. It was a comfortable flight bringing back memories of my first journey there with the beautiful views of the mountains of Siberia, not to mention the long stretch of beach that marks the East coast of Asia. Despite the great view from seat 30A I don't see how British Airways can justify the 300% ticket price increase (over Aeroflot) although it is hard to resist those complimentary sexy socks and ant-sized toothbrush.

Having managed to give some English chap (who seemed to think that he was my tour guide) the slip at immigration, I was met by my friend Kae - a good job too as in that semi-conscious state I was barely able to speak my own language, let alone Japanese. It's strange being back in Tokyo, a place that is a collection of small cities rather than one large one. I'm very fortunate in that I can stay with Kae in the west of the city centre. Having this "safe house" enables me to chill out and settle down (or rather get geared up) to the rythmn of this huge metropolopolis. The jet lag has pretty much prevented me from doing anything so far. The eight-hour difference really does my head in. My sleep pattern is currently divided into three main sections, each lasting about five hours and spaced out over the course of the whole 24 hour day (yes, that's right, they have 24-hour days over here too.). Thankfully Kae is equally jetlagged having returned from a European trip a day before me. I'm surprised that it isn't "all coming back to me" now I'm here. No, instead I feel like I'm starting from scratch, having to ask the most ridiculously simple questions regarding social etiquette and so on. Having said that, I am enjoying being able to understand a lot more of what people say. We're not talking about deep discussions here, more like 'what people say when they buy some food in a shop' and real playschool stuff like that. I have begun to learn the simplest of the three Japanese scripts (alphabets), Hiragana. Hiragana consists of approximately 50 basic symbols each representing a syllable and is used in conjunction with the Chinese "Kanji" characters - it is also the first of the three scripts to be taught at school. Today I learnt the 5 basics, "a" ï" "u" "e" "o". Perhaps that will do for the next year.

I ventured out onto the streets of Shinjuku (another of the mini-cities that makes up Tokyo) this afternoon, which features the busiest railway station in the world (over 3 million people pass through it on a daily basis). With over 60 exits/entrances to choose from I'm surprised I managed to find my way back home again - but I did - and it was then that I was accosted by a Japanese lady asking me if I was interested in Japanese culture. Hhmmm. I always get suspicious when people ask me things like that, and so I am naturally inclined to say "YES!" to find out what kind of silly situation I can get myself into. After all, you never know until you try it. As it turns out I don't think this will be too dangerous, I mean this isn't Istanbul after all.

"Do you have some free time?" she asked, before dragging me into a nearby tea shop. I made sure she didn't drop a pill into my cup as she tried to distract me with 3 sets of photos. They featured a festival that was celebrated a few days ago by a local branch of the International Buddhist Convention, "Rissho Kosei-kai" (for whom I assume she is "recruiting"), although it actually seemed more like the American Buddhist Convention judging by the number of Stars and Stripes and gaijin around! Anyhow, the outcome of our meeting is that I'm going to share a taxi with her on Sunday and she'll take me to the local "Rissho Kosei-kai" Headquarters. I'm intrigued to see what's going to happen. Having enjoyed organised religion in the past (not!) in the form of the Morman Church I feel quite allergic to any forceful attempts to make me believe in anything that takes place in large expensive buildings - they give me the willies! Kae tells me of some religious sects in Tokyo that have been known to take people into their arms and never let them go! Will report back next week on whether this is a genuine form of Buddhism of which I know nothing anyhow or some great plan for someone to get rich. I tend to remember those bizarre miraculous healings that take place on huge televised broadcasts from America's mid-west. Either way it will be interesting as I would love to gain an insight into Buddhism in Japan. I shouldn't be so doubtful of people's motives should I. I'm so evil!

Anyhow, I must turn my attention to food. Anything except Octopus will do me. Oh, if you're in the uk and reading this, and have the lottery results for sat06Oct2001, can you please check my numbers: 01 05 11 29 30 32 . Apparently I'm not entered in Lottery Extra whatever that may be. 20% of winnings go to whoever provides me with the good news first!

Love Joseph


Wednesday 3rd October 2001

3 days to go! I don't really believe it and I probably won't until I'm in Tokyo being shoved into a train by white gloved "pushers" on the Yamanote line! These three weeks have flown by, and overall have been great fun. I have really enjoyed seeing my friends again, some of whom (such as Aniela Zylinski) I have not seen since I left college! It was also really good to catch up on all the gossip in Devon, plus seeing my old chums in Bristol - and of course my brother Stephen, sister Emma (seeing Jessie later this week) and the 'oldies' who continue to work like crazy on what has become an outstandingly amazing garden.

Anyhow, having spent hundreds of hours on the computer this week uploading all my photos I must get off this thing! I don't know when I'll next have access, but wherever it is it will be in Japan. Take care everytone and thankyou for your support and care.

with love, joseph.


Sunday 30th September 2001

Boy am I tired! Drove down to Bristol yesterday to see my sister Emma who is the class two teacher at the Bristol Waldorf School. It's weird to see my sister being a teacher, I mean, I'm very proud of her because it's a very tough job, and she's doing really great in caring for her children whilst also being very popular with the pupil, parent and teacher bodies.

Yesterday we had a terribly decadent day. A stroll into Bristol town centre was soon interrupted by a pair of street performers. At the beginning of their act I was sure I'd seen them before, performing before the Queen when she came to visit Hereford many years ago. However, by the end of their act I was pretty sure that these wern't the same two men: they were now doing handstands on high metal frames whilst breathing fire and clenching lit sparklers tightly between their buttocks. Quite impressive actually... Perhaps most amusing of all was their constant banter, much of which is not repeatable here.

On the spur of the moment we decided to go and see a musical - Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. I must say it was absolutely awful, but was saved by the enthusiasm of a chap sitting right in front of me who couldn't keep still and sang along (out of tune) throughtout the performance. We'd seen him earlier in the day singing outside the thatre, trying to raise cash for his ticket. I reckon he attended every performance as he could sing a hell of a lot better than those on stage. Shame I couldn't see a thing due to his huge wild mop of hair. That evening we went out to Cribbs Cuseway, a shopping/cinema/restaurant mall. Having been told that the wait for a table in the restaurants would be up to 90 minites, we opted to buy copious amounts of popcorn and sweets in the cinema, where we later saw the "remake" of Planet of the Apes. Personally I prefer the original although the leading lady was not to be turned down...

Today, having stuffed ourselves with chocolate ice cream (Ben & Jerry's) Emma and I said our goodbyes. I won't see her again for a long time, but that's ok, the world can be seen as a small place and it is this feeling that leads me to seldom miss people (although there are notable exceptions). Next stop was the Zylinski/ Morris household (it is Morris isn't it Matt?). I've known Aniela for many years, and it was absolutely lovely to meet her fiance Matthew. Aniela is the first member of my year at school to get married and I think that they are an absolutly lovely couple. I'd marry both of them if it were legally possible. Aniela had even baked a cake in preperation for my brief visit. THANKYOU BOTH! and I wish you all the best for your wedding on November 24th and for the many many happy years ahead that I'm sure you will enjoy together.

After a brief visit to see Jo once more (actually I was just busting for a pee) I headed home in the wind and rain, thinking how today Autumn began in Herefordshire. Changing seasons always make me think of years gone by... so fast... I wonder what this Autumn will bring.

joseph x


Thursday 27th September 2001

Time flys when you're having fun! Hello again everyone, this time from Orcop Hill, England. I made it home via Luzern, Zurich and Kent. My thanks to the Baur, Arnet and Brand families for putting up with me on the way and extending their hospitality to me, I truly appreciate it. The past week has been a mad time hopping from place to place visiting folks left, right and center. Thankfully I have a great car at my disposal which means that I can see loads of folks who live out in the sticks and that I would never usually see. Everyone has been extremely kind and welcoming - I thank each and every one of you that made time to see me. First major stop after a few days darting around Herefordshire was in Bristol where Kirk is at Uni. Catherine Westoby drove up from Southampton where she is studying medicine, and together with many of Jo's friends we had a mad weekend spending most of the time drinking - as students do! Also saw the film Moulin Rouge, which personally I really quite liked despite the lack of a storyline. Those Hollywood romances always get me... (sigh)...

Sunday afternoon, Hangover waning, it was back in the car and 2 hours south to Totnes, Devon, where I signed up for a game of Risk with my Brother Stephen, his lovely Lady Louise, Sean/ Shaun the game winner and Michael who had very strange tactics. If I hadn't lost I swear I would have won... Monday I met Christine my Scottish Bag lady friend and a whole host of ex-colleagues as I visited all of my former employers in Devon. Tuesday saw another game of Risk which I also lost through no fault of my own, it's just that everyone else was better at it than me. Met up with the ex-Nortel lot the following night to exchange stories and remember the, er, "good" old times! Hhhmmm.... It's a real holiday for me, visitimg England for a few weeks. Writing the above, I realise that nothing exciting has happened since I left London and returned home a couple of weeks ago. That's a great relief as until now at something totally crazy has happened at least once or twice a week. (No broken bones yet!)

A few people have asked me where in the world would I like to live if I ever do settle down. Alas, I do not feel I can really answer at the moment as my travelling experience is extremely limited, the number of countries I have been to for a significant period of time does not even reach five. However, I do feel quite sure that it will not be England. The UK being a "Superpower", the society I was brought up in led me to believe that the lifestyle enjoyed by Brits was one of the best in the world. Now I think otherwise. I see a nation of image concious people who are easily manipulated by an immensely powerful press that eats into every part of daily life. Although many of my friends (coming from a Steiner background) do not buy into that, I have still felt surrounded by a repressed society for each of the 13 days that I have been here. Hhmm.. England is not for me, at least not in this stage of my life.

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