For your reference, that amount is ¥2700 or £18.

Now, depending on the country, doing your shopping for that much might be a real easy job, but in Tokyo, it ain`t easy.

You`ve gotta be a pokemon master to do this. You gotta know the best spots in the best places and best dealers, and you gotta be the fastest and the smoothest and the most patient.
You`re like an old african bushman who can`t rely on his strength or speed anymore, all you`ve got is a brain with a lot of space and every trick in the book.
That space is for new tricks. You`re never too old.

Personally, I`ve not lived in real poverty or been in a truly desperate situation, and that has been due to three factors: a loving and supportive family, my education and youth, and the persistent mercy of God that follows me every day.
But, there have been a number of times where, due to my own belligerence or lack of foresight, I have had to live on a tight budget.

The first time was when I had my bank account cleared out on my second week in South Africa, and I had another 2 1/2 months to go! That`s another story.
My latter experiences with little money have been here in Japan.

I brought savings with me to Japan, but here most jobs pay on a monthly basis, and I began my job partly into the pay cycle, so it would be almost two months before I received the first paycheck.

I didn`t save enough money for this, and by the time I realised I was running low, I had to live like Captain Cheapo Mc`No-dough.
I budgeted out my remaining funds, after deducting rent, and it came to ¥2700 a week, which is ¥386 a day (or $4.60).

Around this time, I had to become a real forager, a huntsmen for edible goods in my immediate vicinity. As it turns out, there was very little wild, edible, things around the town I was in (Arimatsu-cho), but, after plenty of foraging, I began to find the good deals.

Now, the first thing you look for in any new supermarket/store is the gram to yen ratio. You don`t want to buy anything with a gram to yen ratio less than 1.5, meaning you dont want to buy any item that gives you less than 1.5grams, of whatever substance it is, for 1 yen.
In a western country, this means carbohydrates, some vegetables/fruits, chicken and sometimes bacon/nuts.
In Japan it means roughly the same, except the primary carbs and vegetables are different.

Now, once you work out the gram to yen ratio of any given item in a supermarket, you have a value which will enable you to detect a good deal when you see one, and leap on it like a lion on a baby zebra, or a baby zebra on some kind of african fruit that it enjoys, or an african fruit on sustenance/water from the tree its hanging onto, or water on hygroscopic materials.

In my experience, the best deals emerge at the most antisocial hours, like rare forest creatures or exotic snakes, finally slithering out of the shopping aisles, baking in the early morning sun or rummaging around late at night.
Yep, most supermarkets have a fresh food section with ready made meals and other fresh produce, which must be sold! There`s no choice!
So, late at night, if you wait late enough, they reduce the price substantially. This can be a good short term fix, but its not a long term solution, and it might not always fulfil the rule of the 1.5 ratio.
In the early morning, you can find great deals on fruit and vegetables.
Most fruit/vegetables will be out of your price range, so I`ll just give you a rundown on what I first survived on:

Rice – usually a ratio of above 3
Rice is gonna be a staple for you, which is natural considering this is Japan, also the price is fairly similar across the whole country.
Protip: in Japan, often when you buy items in bulk they are NOT cheaper. If you are buying an item, and there is the same item in a packet of 10 next to it, work out the price of the single item in comparison to the pack, and often the price will be exactly the same, or sometimes even more expensive!! It`s ridiculous. But with rice, it is often (marginally) cheaper to buy a 10kg bag, which is the biggest.

Specific Vegetables – ratio of 2 or more
these are carrots, beansprouts, mushrooms, and sometimes other greenery.
Tomatos and capsicum are great, but often pricey and they don`t last long. Dream about them for when you`re a rich man again, or one day, or when you get to heaven. P.s – frozen vegetables can also be a great deal. Keep your eyes peeled.

Chicken – ratio of 2 or more

If you find a good supermarket, then you can find 1kg of chicken for 500yen. I currently have found a place that sells 2kg for 800yen. Basically PURE GOLD. If I put these into smaller containers, I could become a full time seller of packets of chicken tenders, making millions! But instead I`ll continue drawing blood from rocks by teaching English.

Peanuts – ratio of 1.5 or more

These saved my life. Because the peanuts were already salted, so I didn`t need to buy salt. You can find 200g bags of peanuts at all the 100Yen stores. Gold!

Tofu – ratio of 2 or more

I heard you like eating chalk flavour jelly! Me too! Get em here in Japan anytime! Eat em anytime! Preparation not needed! Tofu sandwich! Tofu dessert with Tofu sauce! Yes!

p.s – Tofu is flavourless mass. But it has protein and will also keep you alive.

Eggs – ratio of around 3.5

Let me tell you something about your ancestors, they all ate eggs. If you want to become an ancestor someday too, then you should eat eggs.

That`s right. The food of kings and dignitaries across the globe is available to you, and it also has one of the highest gram to yen ratios of any food in Japan. You can get a pack of ten eggs for 200 yen, and if you find a good place, then they will be ten large eggs. More gold! No need to go mining anymore!

Bananas – ratio of around 2

You can buy a bag of five or six for about 200 yen. No need to mention the good things, everybody knows bananas are good.

Fresh Noodles – ratio of around 4.5

What? Noodles? What am I gonna do with those? Is that what I hear you say?

Well, in Japan people sometimes eat noodles. Crazy right? Crazy! You can buy a 180gram serve of udon noodles for 40yen! That`s even crazier!! Giving it the best gram to yen ratio among all the other foods. Also, only buy fresh noodles, not the packets of instant noodles. The fresh noodles are healthier and heavier, often with wholemeal options, and many of them still come with packets of tasty flavouring. You just freeze the ones you don`t need.

What not to buy:

  • Coffee, Tea, Milk, Cereal, Spreads, Confectionary, anything with a ratio less than 1.

Now, that satisfies your basic needs. After you`ve bought those things, you will surprisingly have a little bit of money to play with.

I suggest you spend that little bit of money, especially in the first week, on flavour related things. In particular, flavour related things that have health benefits. This means garlic, ginger, tuna (a meat and a flavour! Gold!), miso soup (you can buy a big box of miso paste for about 300 or 400 yen and it lasts frickin ages), chilli, etc.

After the first few weeks of eating flavourless things, I quickly found out that edible without tasty, can sometimes mean inedible.

 

Anyway, those are my pro-tips.

I could have asked my family for money or my friends for a loan, but this was an invaluable experience that taught me how to budget, and how to cook with fresh food.

I recommend trying it, before it comes upon you.

If you want to know more or have questions, feel free to message me.

God bless,

 

Jamesssssssssssssssssssssss woooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

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Japan tales

Posted: April 29, 2017 in Does not fit anywhere

Starting this week, I`ve decided to be a little more proactive with writing things down. I`ve been in Japan now for a little while, and every week I accrue a number of stories.

I often tell these stories to the people I meet in real life, but very rarely do I pass them on to those who are not within 500 meters of my house.

So, I will begin today.

I live in a big share house in a suburb of Tokyo, called Nakano. Currently I live with about 30+ people, and we all sleep in the same room, in big boxes. Sometimes I feel like I`m being shipped off somewhere like a big bundle of bananas or an exotic animal.

In Japan I probably am a kind of exotic animal.

Anyway, it`s not as bad as it sounds. You can`t see each other, you get your own box, and a kind-of futon/mattress type of thing inside it which is pretty comfy. The only lack of privacy is that you can hear each other quite clearly. This means karaoke practice after 11pm is totally out of the question.

For a little while, this noise intrusion was a slight problem for me.

On either side of my box, two people had the sniffles. No big deal right? But in Japan, they have this funny idea that blowing your nose is very rude, but sniffing repeatedly, and doing anything to avoid blowing your nose, is A-OK. So these two guys would sniff and sniff and snort all frickin night for about a week. It was getting to the point where I considered murdering one of them.

Fast forward to now, everyone is alive and happy.

My house is pretty cool. Its a cheap place to live, because of the number of people, but it has a very spacious living area/kitchen, and the best part is a the big roof you can climb up on and see the Tokyo skyline. Apparently it used to be a Yakuza headquarters, so there are chandeliers, and these great big Chinese statues everywhere, too heavy to move or lift, really big statues.

Today I decided to go climb a mountain, which is one of my favourite things to do in Japan. I went to a place called Takao, and climbed some of the local peaks.

The place is supposedly home to these bird-demon-men called Tengu. They are a form of lower demon in Buddhist mythology.

It was an enjoyable hike and the view was gorgeous. But on the way down I walked a different path, down the other side of the mountain, coming out quite far away from the train station.

I found a little temple, which had been burnt down recently, and a variety of dilapidated and abandoned buildings. Even the larger, functioning, buildings seemed sparsely populated.

That is the harsh reality of life in parts of Japan. A rapidly decreasing population and an exodus of rural Japanese to the main city hubs, main prisons, cell blocks of choking smog and straight, square cement. Moving on up into cell tower 45B, getting slotted into their own special box. At night time the little box fills with sleeping gas, then wakes em with a shock exactly 6 hours later. The life of luxury. Robot toilet seats that warm your arse and clean it too.

Anyway, I`m walking down this other side of the mountain, and by this point I`m quite accustomed to coming across these ghostly buildings, all erected in the boom of the 70`s and 80`s now falling into decay. It fills me with a strange, sad feeling.

It has something to do with the swift passage of time, something to do with the fleeting nature of all things in this life, and something to do with being alone. It isn`t a feeling that makes anybody feel good, but when it happens, you savour it. You feel as though it is necessary, despite it`s sadness.

For a moment, you become close to the essence of life; to what is real.

Thats all for me. I`m a little drunk now, so my words will soon become gibberish. If you have any burning questions about Japan, questions that burst from your heart to the forefront of your mind, ready to pierce another human mind, then feel free to send them to me.

Love. Forever and always.

OTpjfeb

A poor, lonely, desperate Englishman, with nought but a dry bowl of rice and one chopstick has somehow survived a horrifying encounter with a ‘regular Japanese insect’. Unbeknownst to many foreigners coming to Japan, the monsters that appear in Godzilla movies of the 1950’s, 60’s and so on, are all based on factual encounters, and many of those inspirational creatures are still alive today.

I kid you not, the bugs here are pretty insano.

I like bugs, I have always liked bugs, and everybody goes on and on about how bad the bugs must be in Australia, and how scary they must be and so on, but here in Japan the bugs are so big that when you approach, you can literally see them turning their head around to look at you. Like a cat or a bird.
You sometimes see them in a field playing rugby or football, or digging holes or mugging/eating old people.

That is an exaggeration, but, it’s not too far from how I felt after first encountering one of them. The hot, subtropical environment of Japan, plus the varying degrees of radiation poisoning and pollution make this place the ideal incubator for giant mutated creatures. I don’t think Americans have realised that by using nuclear weapons to end a war, they have condemned the whole world to a far worse fate.

I was walking around a lake on my way to work, (a large-ish body of water) a pretty good lake too, filled with big fat carp and loads of turtles and ducks, and as I made it about halfway around, through the undergrowth to a clearing, a massive black thing flew past me. My immediate reaction was ‘WTF IS THAT’. I then tried to follow the creature. It was foraging around tree trunks, obviously not interested in me. When I got a better look, it seemed to be some kind of jet black bee or wasp. I’m not sure which. I was filled with a kind of wary fascination.

After that encounter, there have been more than a few occasions where I’ve stepped out of my front door into the blistering heat, only to leap back into the house at the sight of some small helicopter whirring around my tiny front garden. It’s always a surprise when there’s a helicopter in your garden, you know?
And like, the helicopter is still on. And nobody is going to get out, and the helicopter might not land anywhere and it might attack you too. It’s a very fast, erratic helicopter.
I realise all those things very quickly, and it is always a big surprise.

‘Woah there!’ I exclaim,’what are you doing in my garden?’
That’s how I react, except with more swearing, and more frantic searching for weaponry.

That black bee was just the first of many varying kids of massive beetles and wasps and bees and spiders and mantis’ and bugs that I would encounter. It is clear to me that Pokemon could not have been imagined in any other country. Even hundreds of years ago, a rudimentary version of Pokemon might have been a reality in rural Japan. You probably couldn’t get them to fight without one of them dying though. I can only imagine the fascination of the first explorers here!

As it stands, my bestiary is growing on a daily basis, but, I fear I will never complete it. Every foray into this dangerous new world is another roll of the dice.

One of the big bad guys here in Japan is called the Oosuzumebachi, which literally translates to ‘Giant Sparrow Bee’, or Giant Japanese Hornet, and it lives up to it’s name. Every year these big bastards kill 40-50 people in Japan. I’ve included a photo. Now you know what nightmare’s are made of.

James

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Japantown

Posted: May 20, 2016 in Real life stories about reality
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Japan, or as the locals say, Japah; the place where I expected to find the craziest bunch of crazies that ever walked the big blue earth.

Turns out they’re not so crazy after all, but they do do some weird things.

I’ve been here for a while now, not sure how long. The first week was difficult. I quickly found that my usual preparations for visiting a new country were, on this occasion, woefully inadequate.
Without even knowing it, my travels had lulled me into a false sense of security, thinking, surely every being here on earth knows English by now. What a fool I was!
The places I’ve explored, they were merely former British colonies! Practically my own back garden.
I was not prepared for a place that does not use the Latin Alphabet, does not understand me or my noises or provide much assistance in doing so.
It’s taken me until the age of 28 to truly empathise with foreigners in my own country. I cannot tell you how isolating and lonely and frustrating it is to start a language from scratch, a language which shares no similarities with your own mother tongue.

After being dropped off at my place of residence by my new employer, with no japanese mobile phone number and no smart phone (in hindsight, not a smart decision), I was left to fend for myself, a task I have never found particularly difficult.

So, after a night of rest, I began my quest. The first thing I found was that my house was hidden away in back streets, and in fact, everywhere in japan is hidden away in back streets, even the cities and big buildings and trains, all in a muddled back street (unsurprisingly perfect for ninjas), and my house was difficult to find. It had taken my employer and me over two hours to find the place.

The reason for this was that the street numbers here make no sense whatsoever. The ward (like a suburb) I live in is separated into large square-looking areas, which have a given name, then within that area the houses are given seemingly random numbers, which do not relate to the house next door to it or the street. They seem totally random. There do not seem to be any street names, except for main roads. So, I was worried to stray too far from my house, fearing that I would not be able to find my way back. But, I had to get food, and on top of that, I found that there were no adaptors available for australian plugs that have three prongs. Some australian devices have two prongs, and there are adaptors for those, but my laptop charger for example, had three, and so I had no means of contacting anyone or finding anything or looking at google maps.

So, I picked a direction and started walking. I was tempted to leave a breadcrumb trail, but had no bread at the time. I walked for hours looking for a place to buy a map or a dictionary or a computer shop, (not knowing that there was a massive shopping centre 5 minutes from my house in the opposite direction). Eventually I found a place to buy a map, but all the names on the map and in the directory were in japanese script, and so, the map was useless. It took me the first week to find out where the hell my house was on the map of Nagoya. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I became lost many times and have had great difficulties due to not being able to read anything around me. It truly is crippling not being able to read.

Going to the supermarket for the first time was like going to a tropical zoo. I knew only a few phrases in Japanese, and one of them was ‘kore wa nan desu ka?’ which means, ‘what is this?’ I must have said that twenty times on my first visit to the supermarket.
Even now my supermarket trips take me atleast an hour as I try to figure out what the hell things are and whether I can or should eat them.

I live in a town called Arimatsu, which, as far as I can tell, does not get many foreigners. I figured this out rather quickly, due to the gawking stares and gazes of wonderment. I’ve had some rather extreme reactions though. I’ve had two occasions now where a person has seen me and fled, presumably for their dear lives. I’m sure it wasn’t the Godzilla t-shirt I was wearing. I’ve also had students who have burst into tears upon realising that I was their new teacher, and/or refused to enter the classroom.
I’ve actually got one class who have cried for the last four weeks straight. Every time they line up for my lesson they start to tear up. I’m really not strict or mean or anything, I’m just huge and white and terrifying!

You don’t have to spend much time in Japan to see the effects of the hundreds of years of isolation. For a long time the military leader of Japan, the Shogun, made it illegal to leave Japan, or for foreigners to enter (punishable by death), and this law only ended in the 1800’s at the intervention of the American navy.

One unpleasant experience I have had recently was at an onsen, or public bath. It’s quite normal here to go to the public bath on a regular basis, and my housemate was excited to bring me on my first try.

You strip off completely naked and get into a bath with a bunch of other dudes.

Me and my housemate, Dae Ho, went outside to the hot bath area, and I had two japanese guys sat on either side of me, not even trying to hide their awkward staring, and one nine or ten year old boy stood at the edge of the water staring down into my crotch. Previously I had been under the impression that everything down there was rather normal, but apparently not.
It was very uncomfortable, so I just had to close my eyes and pretend they weren’t there. Maybe I should have jumped up and down and shown them the dance of my people.

People in Japan are very polite, and will often try to help, and when you do meet a Japanese person who can speak some English they are always super keen to speak with you. The people are so polite that you can often find yourself having bowing/thankyou matches with shop staff, just seeing who can out-bow the other one. It’s a little ridiculous. Sometimes it is quite nice though, like, even people in cars will often bow to you while driving past you, and they often give way to pedestrians/cyclists. In fact, I’ve liked every Japanese person I’ve met here. But, you never forget that you’re a foreigner.

There is so much more to say, but I don’t get paid to stay up late writing long blog entries, so it will have to wait til next time. If you have any questions in particular, or anything you’d like to know, feel free to ask me and I’ll address it in the next entry.

Sayonara

Being fully sick

Posted: February 26, 2016 in Does not fit anywhere

I’ve been taking antibiotics now for three days. Effectively making me super strong, super fast, super smart and super powerful. It began like this:

I didn’t know what was wrong, nobody I knew had a big clue, so I went to see the man that knows these things; Doctor Han.
The doc is an insane WorldWar II scientist, locked up for his crazy but brilliant ideas. His work on supernatural and alternative forms of creating the ultimate super soldier led to the creation of skittles (the sweets), lego and the discovery of water. He now works at Manningham Surgery as a GP.
I went to see him, and listened to some of his mental ideas.
He reckoned I was sick.

He gave me some secret codes to give to the pharmacist, and showed me the secret wink, and the secret handshake; all of which would be needed if I wanted the cure.
He told me how long I had left to live; about 22 thousand days, same as normal. But he told me if I didn’t take the cure, then it could all go up in smoke. All those dreams of eating ten bags of maltesers in a row, of choking out a blue whale with an old Roman chariot, of shaking hands with the King of Atlantis under the sea, they would all go up in smoke. I couldn’t let that happen.

So I set out to the forgotten monastery in the realm of the damned, which happened to be one floor up from the
GP clinic, also known as the pharmacy.
When I got there the place was filled with the dead and dying. Some with only about 5 thousand days left, some with about 30 thousand, all on their way out. A dirty looking, but physically very clean, pharmacist asked me if I needed any help. When I showed him the passcodes, and did the wink and the handshake, he was aghast.
But then he smiled an evil smile, led me over to what I thought was a plain wall, he yelled something in Gaelic and the wall exploded. I followed him down into a dungeon of clanking chains, wheels and cogs, all spinning and grinding, when finally we came upon a chest, glowing red with devious intent.
The chest was the size of a car, but with the pharmacist heaved it open with inhuman strength. He told me to gaze inside.

At first all I could see was my reflection in dark water, but as I gazed a packet of antibiotics slowly rose to the surface.
‘Take it’ he said.
The packet had writing all over, none of which I could understand.
‘You must take one three times a day, eight hours apart, with or without food’.
I nodded.
‘Are you on any other medication?’.
I nodded.
‘Now…GO’.

Upon leaving Manningham Surgery I was filled with intrigue. I held the packet close and made the journey home, but on the way, I was sure I could hear voices in my head; calling me, daring me to rip open the packet, and claim my true power.

Three days later and I’m feeling pretty good.

Long story short is my mum got pneumonia, then I got the flu, and just as I stopped having the flu, I got a bit o’good ol’pneumonia too. My doctor is called Wenruo Han. He’s the bomb diggety. Pretty sure if he could go fight people’s illnesses hand to hand, inside their bodies, as a super powered white blood cell kung fu master, then he would.

I tell you what the funny thing is, he literally just called me 2 seconds ago as I am in the middle of writing this. Telling me about getting a checkup done and asking about symptoms and stuff. He’s a good doctor.

I hope you are healthy today too!

James

Flat

Posted: December 18, 2015 in Does not fit anywhere

Today I feel as flat as a pancake, as flat as a poorly drawn circle on paper. Like a long garment after being ironed.
You’ll have to excuse me if I sound depressing or down, because that is what I am.
About a month ago I damaged my upper back somehow, tweaked the vertebrae in-between my shoulder blades, but it was rather minor, and not all that noticeable. I figured it would just go away, so like a brainless ox I continued to go to the gym (a wholly futile exercise) and work as a labourer/removalist without ceasing.
Needless to say, the day after I went to the gym I could barely get out of bed, nor could I turn my head sideways or up/down. I took a few days off work and a week off of the gym, until the pain was minor again.
I had another visit to the gym, taking it easy this time, but the next day the pain was worse than before.
To cut a long story short I’ve been attending a physiotherapist and am still unable to return to manual work.

In fact, the physiotherapist has forced me to consider that perhaps I am not best suited to manual labour/removalist work. It is something I have always pretended not to know, as if it weren’t a fact. I am tall and slim, making me prone to injury and putting greater strain on my back than a shorter/thicker person. It’s pretty damn obvious really. I should have known, at how clumsy I have always been, that perhaps I should not be moving delicate things for a living. It is borderline stupid. I can only describe my attitude as blind, belligerent and destructive.
A complete reluctance to work at something I am naturally gifted in. Namely, writing. Of course you may disagree, and are welcome to.
It is like I woke up one day and decided that manual labour is the only way to prove you are a man (to the ever present mob of ethereal witnessess, the council of great dead men, vikings and generals, who watch from the skies to judge the worthy and the weak), so I should work until I am the only one left.
I did enjoy it though. I like working really hard, as fast as I can, and beating the clock. But to be honest, manual labour is not at all difficult. I would find it much easier to dig a moat than sit down and write a blog entry like this.

My spectral evil twin, armed with grim abilities and powers beyond the realm of the living, faces me at every turn. Hiding as a part of me, when in fact depression is an intruder, not welcome to dwell and grow, like a parasite, on failures, fears and regrets.

Before I moved to Australia I was confident in my writing, but at some point that confidence was replaced with doubt, and that doubt grew to become a great wall, towering over me, telling me that what I write will never be good, will never amount to anything, will never be finished.
I hope this does not come across as a request for some kind of affirmation, I am just thinking aloud.

I do not know what will happen now.
I long to be back in South Africa at the orphanage I stayed with. Every day not spent with the children there is a loss.
I even contacted virgin airlines and asked if they would sneak me out there with suitcases full of presents, just for christmas day.

I hope you have a Christmas that counts, don’t waste your time on things that don’t matter.

Jaaaammmmesss

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I’ve been in South Africa now for around two months, but haven’t written a single word about it, so I’ll share some thoughts about the last place I visited.

In summary: I’ve been volunteering at an orphanage in South Africa, ran by an old school friend, lived on a lion park for a few weeks, sat in the bones of a dead whale, been cut to pieces in knife self-defence classes, and had all my money stolen.

Recently, myself and my good friend Harrison Nash visited a place called Nieu Bethesda, to do outreach work with the local community there. It is around four hours drive north of Port Elizabeth, into what is known as the Great Karoo (an arid semi-desert plateau), and is about as close to an old western town as you can get.
The local gang in the township even ride around on horses.

As we drove there, the big trailer we were taking broke and snapped off, leaving me and Harrison by the trailer, and the rest of the team setting off to find assistance. It was just long enough to find a few scorpions.
All the roads pass through grooves in the mountains, which dominate the landscape. The Karoo has very few trees, some low lying shrubs and loads of different cactus, yet it is surprisingly colourful.
Despite an annual rainfall of 39mm, the land is teeming with life; big fat lizards scurrying everywhere, snakes of all varieties, leopards, baboons, rodents, small predators and wildcats, springboks and other game.
After spending the first day there getting settled, I set off to conquer one of the peaks nearby.
I’m sure the place already has a name, but after my venture, I have decided to rename it ‘Snake Mountain’. I’ve included some photos so you’ll have a better idea:

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When I say it was like an old western town, this is what I mean: there were no street lights in the town, no means of paying for things except by cash or trade, and the town was split between the 60-70 permanent residents, on one side of the river, and the 1000 or so coloured people living in the township/informal settlement on the other side. The town was even complete with a strong breeze, and big gusts of dust sweeping through.

The mountains really were incredible to look at, and very enticing for a person such as myself. So one morning I left before dawn to make it up one that had caught my attention. I had been warned about baboons, and advised that they would approach a person walking alone, so I had plenty of time during my walk to contemplate how I would handle such a confrontation. Ofcourse, in my head, I always figured I could just beat one up if it came down to it, but having never seen them up close, I got myself a massive stick, and decided I could use my rucksack as a shield and try to find a hole/cave to defend helm’s deep.

Anyway, I got to the base of the mountain in just over an hour, but it was surrounded with thick cactus and I was not wearing a cactus-proof outfit. So I eventually managed to weave my way through, following the path of some sheep. The climb itself was not challenging, but the last 30m was steep, and complete with an intimidating sudden drop and stiff breeze. As I made my way up, I was deliberately trying to catch a glance of where I was putting my hands (to avoid snakes), and I got a glimpse of my first very dangerous snake here. Coiled up, 20cm from where I was about to slap my hand down, was a Rinkhal, which is a highly venomous spitting snake, similar to a cobra. It was jet black, with two white stripes behind its head. The snake seemed nonchalant.

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I was under the impression that due to the time of year, snakes such as this would be very hard to find, but this guy was part of the Nieu Bethesda welcoming committee, and dedicated to his job.
I gulped and moved on, making it to the peak, and keeping a mental note of the space where I’d seen the snake. The view was incredible, and definitely worth it. I didn’t have a camera on me, but even if I did, I’m sure I would’ve taken a rubbish photo.

Upon my descent, two big black eagles rose on the hot air in front of me, about 7 meters in front of where I was. I couldn’t tell if they were waiting to see if I fall, so they could get a free meal, but it was breathtaking nonetheless. On the way down I disturbed a few other snakes, a baby puff adder and a grass snake. I decided not to tempt fate, and started walking back home.

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The children in the town were full of life, and willing to play any game I could think of. In comparison to children in Australia or England, these kids were content to play the simplest of games. Even running for no reason whatsoever, not even being chased, just running around like crazy people. I didn’t see any men, and just assumed they were working or drinking. One game that they really enjoyed playing was a kind of monster game.
Basically, you are allocated a particular animal, and you must behave like that animal, and go and catch the other children. There were only a few animals I could say in Afrikaans, these would be – baboon (bobbejaan), crocodile (crocodil), hippo, leo (lion) and hond (dog). It usually ended up with all the children chasing me, or me chasing all of them.

There’s not enough time to say everything that’s happened, so I’ll have to write a few more things like this, especially about the kids I’ve spend the most time with, here in Port Elizabeth. God has been good throughout it all.

I look forward to telling you some more.

Suzuki

A few years ago I bought a motorbike. A 250cc Suzuki Intruder, 160kg, not the most amazing motorbike in the universe, nor the biggest or loudest, but it looked pretty cool, in jet black and chrome.

I learnt how to ride on that bike. At first I was too scared to even go on main roads, I stuck to side streets and the block of houses in which mine was located. It took some days before I resolved to bite the bullet and go for a long ride, which for me was an hour or so. I used to drive to a place called Chirnside Park to see my friend Michael. He was always working, so its not like I even did much when I got there, but it was the journey that I craved; the mission. My confidence began to skyrocket. Afterall, I’d been riding for over a week and hadn’t even crashed or stalled once. Needless to say, my winning streak was short lived and I made a right fool of myself more than a few times.

I remember once, I was sat at the traffic lights waiting for a green arrow to turn right, on a steep hill. The arrow turned green, and I stalled, by the time I realised what had happened and started the engine again, the arrow had turned red. I looked around and waved at the other cars waiting, trying to demonstrate my apologies with various head bobs and hand movements. The driver immediately behind waved an ‘it’s okay/no worries’ and smiled.
So, waiting for the arrow to turn green again, and would you believe it, I stalled a second time. This time I got the engine going and got through just before the arrow turned red, leaving those cars stuck there. Poor shmucks. It was then that I realised I had been sat in second gear the whole time, so it’s no wonder I kept stalling.

I’ve since had plenty of bumps, crashes, hits and knocks, and as you can see, if you meet me in real life, none of them have proven fatal. In fact, both myself and my bike survived with minimal scars and few broken parts. This has mostly not been the case for the things on the other end.

The motorbike I bought back then was a dream to me, it was a key to freedom, it was a transportation device to another dimension, where my throne glides above the roads, above all the clunking metal boxes packed into every street, the heaving, grunting, bumbling squares, chugging around like little fat trains.

Now, my bike is a lot more than that. The glamour and pride of riding is meaningless to me, the chrome is scratched and faded, the exhaust pipes are rusted, the dream is mishapen and battered. I no longer identify with other bike riders. The dick measuring has ended. I ride alone, where nooone drives, where noone is, where noone see’s.

I used to want to get a bigger bike, something louder and heavier and faster. so I could fare better with the dick measuring, so I could sit alongside other bikers and snort. But this bike will always be the sledge hammer used to destroy my dungeon prison.
The only reason I’d change hands now, is because there are other prisoners.

On that note, I intend to place an ad on gumtree for the bike. You’ll probably think, after what I’ve said, that the bike is not roadworthy, but it still runs surprisingly well, and I intend to fix it up as good as can be for the next worthy adventurer.

The ad will talk of how great the bike is, how shiny it is and how it runs and starts and goes.

But there is a secret which I will not disclose in the ad.

Beneath the thin layer of black paint is no peace, no calm, there is a war machine, that drips with the blood of clumping cars, signs, traffic lights, barriers and any other foolish obstacle.

This is a secret I learnt, and it is a secret that the next worthy adventurer will learn as well. Until one day, the bike will transform into a fiery incarnation of destruction. A true transformer, whose sole purpose is to obliterate careless, texting drivers and selfish rich royalty.

Anyway, on another note, please watch out for motorbikes. My bike is bulletproof, but most riders are not. If you don’t check your blindspot, then one day you might finally get me good.

I wrote this while listening to: Queensrÿche: Operation Mindcrime Full Album

Breaking things when angry

Posted: December 27, 2014 in Does not fit anywhere

I’ve been pacing around my house now for roughly half an hour. Primarily looking for something to smash.

My feet are propped up on a table with an axe shaped hole in the middle of it. A pretty good hole if I say so myself. The trouble with living in a block of flats is that you can only do a limited amount of damage before the other tenants become concerned, call the police or knock politely on the door. I do not want such attention.

So the hole in my table and a few bits of wear and tear about the house are all there is to see.

I went outside for a little while too, went looking for things that will eventually break, but could always do with a helping hand. Like rotten tree stumps or hard waste or decomposing bodies. I found none of these, but my quest is not yet over.

I went through all my belongings, looking for a sizeable item that I really would not need in the near future. Before I came to a conclusion, I decided to sit and write instead.

Sometimes, when angry, human beings are prone to various physical or verbal outbursts. These can be directed at other human beings, or at inanimate objects, or at themselves. They can also be directed at rather obscure enemies like time and space. At the moment I am pretty angry, but I’ve had time to cool off. What I would really like to happen, is this:

I awake on my couch five minutes from now, looking around I can see the sun lowering itself slowly into bed and hear the dusk birds tuck each other in. I also notice that I am in fact a grizzly bear with enormous forearms and a great shaggy head.
Pacing out my door and down the flight of stairs, I can hear the Chinese family eating their meal, and hear the budding pianist slave away next door. Then, to my surprise, outside my front door there is a neat line up of parked cars.

They are all very expensive cars, and all desperately calling out to be utterly obliterated. Not only am I a grizzly bear, but my claws are like mini lightsabers, glowing and buzzing. To the right of these cars is a stack of armaments including bazookas, miniguns, grenades, shotguns and various automatic weapons. I then spend the rest of the day and most of the night living in a place of fiery destruction.

Having written these things down, I don’t feel so angry anymore. It probably is better to channel your emotions into something useful.

Who are you?

Posted: December 4, 2014 in Does not fit anywhere

That is quite a simple question.

It is much easier to answer that question about someone else. For example, who is James Bond or who is Britney Spears? Most people have an answer to those.

It’s easier to describe one of your friends or someone else because you only see one side of them, you only see one of their faces. But if you’re the person on the inside, and you know that you have many faces, it is much harder to reconcile them all into one being/entity. All your faces chatter and collaborate, and you wonder if they all stem from the real you, or if the real you is a shattered and messy collection of equally valid James Bonds. Like you’re a drunk person whose stumbled onto a highway and been splattered across every lane. Then every person who meets you is an ant that’s come across a bit of your guts.

Have you met James Bond? Why yes, he’s a liver, he’s got bile in him and lots of lobules.

What about you? Have you met James Bond? Yes ofcourse, I know him, he’s a heart all filled with muscle and blood.

When life starts you’ve pretty much got it all together, you’re just walking to the shops. Then at some point, you get hit by a car, and the world is like the most insane highway you’ve ever imagined, with oblivious cops and tanks storming along the road and on the pavement and into your house and through shopping malls in indestructible vehicles, smashing and crushing men, women and children alike. You start off as just one person, all together, but as life goes on you keep getting splattered all over the place, and it’s so hard to put yourself back together.

When I look in the mirror, I don’t recognise the person there, and I find it hard to match that person with my thoughts and actions. Like when you listen to yourself in a recording, and you just can’t believe that voice is yours.

Who are you really?

I am convinced that question cannot be answered using your own isolated thought process. You need some kind of external stimuli, someone on the outside who can match the thing you see and the things you feel and think.

There are all these ants in my house. They keep coming back into my house after I ask them to leave. At first I am polite, and I do not force anything, but then I become quite unreasonable. I am ashamed to say my fingers often smell of ant guts.

If it is very hot outside, and they are hanging around the tap in the kitchen, then I will be lenient. Ants need to drink too, and I’ve got all this water I’m not using. So that’s fair enough. But, when it looks like they’re setting up camp, and they become entitled, and start putting their flags up on packets of food, that’s when we have little disagreements.

I leave the bodies of their slain lying around as a warning post; ‘Danger!’ ‘Enormous falling fingers!’

To be frank, I really don’t know if they’re heeding the warnings.