Getting in Gear: Taiwan and India

First transfer from Taiwan is done! $1,363 US as an advance on our upcoming projects.  I owe The Rocker a beer when I get to Taiwan for saving my ass.  Taiwan Productions will also wire me $1,250 US for the airplane ticket to Taiwan as soon as I figure out what a “SWIFT number” is.  In the meantime, they’re working on my papers to get an agreement from the Foreign Labor’s Office, which will take 7-10 days, so I may need to wait even longer before leaving Japan.  And so it continues…

But, that said, The Rocker is bringing me to a video conference project in India for a December 1st-7th festival that will hopefully pay 500$ and the Canadian Embassy and a travel grant resulted in $5,000 to cover travel and lodging costs.  The embassy figures airfare at $3,000 and hotel at $1,000 and per diems $150 per person but The Rocker already found return flights for 859.67 including a one-night stopover in Bangkok.  He’s proposing a $3,000/$2,000 split of the grant and that we each hold on to any money that we can save.  His feeling is that we can easily stay below $1,000 each and that if other costs are incurred it may be possible to get specific grants to use for those purposes.  This level of support is a lot better than I was expecting – I thought it was going to be a pittance, but this is not bad at all.

The embassy really wants us to promote Canada at the festival, maybe by giving a talk on innovation in circus and a lecture  and demo at a school.

Evidently, The Rocker has some old contacts in Thailand, so he is already working to leverage that into another week of conferences and workshops.  He assures me that “India will blow your mind, opposite of Japan, talking major league dirt and filth, but a cultural blast!!” I am still not sure what it is I will be doing there, but what the hell, it’s in INDIA!

I’m realizing that we need to create a website for some of our projects, but right now, I am balancing between Tokyo, Korea, India, Singapore, Taiwan, and Australia and trying to figure out how to keep feeding myself when so much of my money just goes into travel costs.

Last Night in the Refugee Camp

Dscn1991At 5:30PM tomorrow, I will be evicted from the apartment that The Political Scientist, The Model, and myself dubbed the “Refugee Camp.”  It is a terrible apartment – no hot water, poor insulation, and internet access goes down for weeks at a time.  It’s located nearly 40 minutes from the nearest train station near the Tokyo city limits.  Rent was almost $1,200 a month for two, so I had to live there in secret.Dscn2003  When the doorbell rang, I had to leap into the closet in case it was the landlord.

Times were hard for all  of us.  None of us had valid work visas but we were determined to find a way to stay in Japan.  We risked deportation, eviction, and bankrupcy together and managed to keep smiling.

I remember how excited my roommates were to get a taste of an exotic American-style thanksgiving.  I remember when we invited our Japanese friends over for our candlelit Lithuanian-style 12-course Christmas-eve dinner complete with traditional games and gift exchanges.

We talked together over litres of fine wines, beer, 999, vodka, and strange Taiwanese liquor to celebrate each other’s successes or to take the edge off disappointments.  We shared everything we owned, and I don’t remeber ever hearing a single harsh word exchanged.

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The Political Scientist left on June 21st, and The Model followed all too soon after on July 22nd.  I’ve been living here alone for a week, cleaning up memories of a year spent with two beautiful, brilliant roommates.

This is the way things go.  The apartment is a shell without my comrades-in-arms.  Empty.  I’m glad to leave it now.

Tonight I am drinking the last can of our Lithuanian beer and thinking of my friends.  Utenos Gold.  Auksinis.  Tradicinis Lietuviskas Alus.  Everything is quiet and I feel alone.Cimg4845_2

A Farewell Reunion

Just got back from our Saturday reunion party with The Politician and The Author!  The Politician had been too busy with work and leaving and soubetsukai that the game plan was pretty simple:  We met at 5pm at Asakusa station. We got a coffee and hugged each other for about 15 minutes and then walked over to the apartment of one of The Journalist’s friends where we ate and drank a little while watching the biggest hanabi in Tokyo from her roof or her window.  We were inspired.   After the fireworks end, we went to the train station and to try to beat the rush of half of Kanto trying to crowd on to the Ginza line. Even though the fireworks were supposed to end at 9 and Shibuya is only 40 minutes away, we planned on arriving at 11pm. Since we’d never had a chance to get drunk on a train, we thought this would be the ideal opportunity.

We told all of our fun / interesting / cool friends to meet at the Starbucks Coffee at the Hachiko exit of Shibuya at 11pm. Until this point, it had been our small group but from there, we went to do a big group karaoke for just one hour because this is something The Politician just cannot do in the US and something we will all miss about Japan. The Author wanted to enjoy Tokyo on a small budget after bloody expensive London, so the night will flowed in the way that drunken stupidity flows. Yoyogi park, dancing in Shibuya – like the great kamikaze pilots, we knew that we would likely all crash and burn at some point in the night, but thankfully none of us got arrested or into fights.

Everything went off perfectly tonight and I even managed to meet a new friend from the UK on the subway ride to Shibuya .  I remember vaguely arguing about the validity of quantum physics with her last night.  Jesus.  And this happened:

Tonight was drunk and messy and funny, which is a good last image to have of each other, but tomorrow we’ll have a more relaxed dinner in Iidabashi to say our last farewells!

The Wake

I have been tearing up roots for the last five days.  It takes a lot of work to move out, especially in Japan, and more so when you are the last of three roommates to leave.  Compounding the situation are the garbage collection laws and the detailed moving-out checklist provided by our landlord.

Nice timing: the toilet backed up yesterday.

I love Japanese toilets because they are sanitary and promote flexible quadriceps, but they are sorely mismatched to modern plunger design.

Some recent observations in the Tokyo wilderness:

  1. The toads are out.  Some are squished on the roads.  I rescue the others by hiding them under bushes.
  2. The spiders are out.  I saw one spider fight another who tried to take a shortcut across the first one’s web.  Sixteen legs were all tangled up in each other and I saw a lot of fangs gnashing.  I watched for a while, but then I left.  When I came home that night, the dessicated corpse of the loser was on the ground.  It didn’t look like a spider any more.
  3. The spiders are out (2).  A large, yellow spider has spun a web attached to many bikes in our bike lot.  It sits there all day and I think that his web is very well-made, epecially the little zigzags that resemble flower markings to UV-sensitive insects.  When this spider catches an insect, he wraps it up and drinks from it slowly and thoughtfully like a tourist drinking pina colada out of a coconut shell.  When I biked home tonight, there was a small lizard just under the web.  The spider was much larger than the lizard, and the lizard was much larger than the spider’s usual prey.  All-in-all, I thought that it was pretty fortunate for the lizard that modern reptiles can not fly.  Too bad for the spider, though.

Eyes on Vilnius

All indications suggest that I will be free from Nov 7 to Nov 30 so this would not be a bad time for me to go to see my favorite Political Scientist in Lithuania assuming that:

1) I earn around 9000 CAD for the Taiwan Festival.

2) I earn around 2000 CAD net for the Festival that takes place in December.

3) I find a way to cover airfare, food, and lodging for Lithuania (e.g. I can not lose money on the trip) either through work or through living with The Political Scientist

4) No other work comes up in that time period.

The Political Scientist is coming up with her perfect study plan to integrate her past experience in international relations, her desire to study EU politics, and studying in the US.  If that wasn’t hard enough, she needs to say why she wants to study at a specific university.   In the meantime, she applied for a job at the Swedish embassy as an “assistant for coordination of external and internal relations at the embassy.”

She was thinking of studying the US-Japan relationship at the beginning of Meiji or WWII, but I think this would be better suited for a history program, not the UN-type work she is looking for.  If instead she can find out what UN jobs require, she could use this as a basis of a research plan.

What is interesting about her is her languages and her experiences working in intercultural contexts.  Tying together EU, Japan, and US with those skills should not be too hard.  There is shit affecting all of these areas, e.g.  Japan’s proposed natural gas pipeline from Russia, she just needs to find them.  As long as she doesn’t let herself be put off by the boring economics, her job will be to discover the political muscles and arteries underneath it all.

For the universities, I imagine that it is absolutely crucial that she get in touch with specific professors that she would like to study with and back up her desire to work with them with specifics showing familiarity with their field of research.  Professors have a lot of pull in these sorts of decisions, I imagine.

In other news: Lithuania is second in the EU for the most amount of alcohol consumed per person – 17 liters of pure alcohol per person per year; only Hungary beats them at 18.

Auditions and Budget Costs

Auditions began in Taipei, but they’re waiting until I’m there to make final casting decisions.  The technical department keeps trying to cut set-up and rehearsal time and we’re still trying to find studio space.

Budget cuts are brutal, but The Rocker sees things this way: “in Montreal, I wanted to put our musicians on an army truck, but the cost of rental was more than the fees of the musicians, which didn’t make sense, so cut the truck.”  If you can find a creative solution without expensive gadgets or rigging it is better all-around and rehearsal and set up will be easier too.  For example, we’re trying to find a cool way to use the existing rigging for the outdoor stage as part of the stage, like having people to climb down from the top of it.