Robbie and I drove down from Mito to Tsukuba on Thursday after work. We were heading down for the Interactive Forum, a competition that I wouldn't wish even upon my worst enemies to participate in.
After a year of living in Ibaraki I had never been to Tsukuba, the second biggest city in the prefecture. Tsukuba is largely a university town, with many foreign students, a lot of modern architecture and actually good restaurants... so, it felt pretty out of place to the rest of the prefecture. I also realised that those who were placed in Tsukuba got a very deal. The Tsukuba express takes 45 minutes to get into Ueno, Tokyo. Much better than my usual 2 hour bus ride.
-Thursday night was an unexpected treat. We went on a mini bar crawl (and by that I mean 2 bars) with Josh Grover and one of the new Tsukuba JETs Jeremy (which might be pronounced as 'Derek', but at this point in life who can really tell?). Rachel (New Zealander, fake tits) came with a random Italian dude and we all had a pretty nice time. We left at around 1, got some rest and were up bright and early to judge the competition.
- Friday: the day of the competition. The 'Interactive Forum' is the strangest English language themed event I've ever witnessed. The 'interactions' are as far from a natural English conversation as you could possibly get. Groups of three junior high school students being forced to fake an enthusiastic conversation about... whatever, with a 5 minute time limit, and being watched by two judges. Then the students with the highest scores had to have another 'conversation' on a stage in front of a team of parents/teachers and judges. You could smell the nerves.
- the worst/most cringe part of the day was a group karaoke session in which everyone at the competition had to sing the most annoying song of this year, frozen's "let it go".
Let me just point out that it has taken me a year to discover the best hang over cure in Japan. Pocari Sweat. Love that stuff...now that I've gotten used to its weird medicinal taste.
I ended up staying in Tsukuba that night, after cancelling plans to go to Tokyo. This was certainly the best decision I had made all week. A great posse gathered for what turned out to be an exceptionally fun, ridiculous night at a local student bar. We danced all night with Eastern-Europeans, we met the Polish version of Robbie, and a beautiful yet clearly mental Polish PHD student tried to kidnap me on the back of her mamachari. We just so happened to pass a combini where a hungry, yet sobouring John Dicks was leaving and I encouraged her to pull over to say hi.
We ended up in the mini-van of the bar-owner back to Josh's. What customer service. A strange guy who had stuck with us since the Interactive forum, whom none of us really knew, yet could collectively tell was very strange, with an indistinguishable air of desperation had stayed with us the whole night. Although it was no earlier than 4am that we passed out on the futons that we had oh so smartly laid out beforehand - When I woke desperate for a glass of water a couple hours later he had already disappeared. Naturally I checked to see if my ipad mini was still there. It was.
The next day I took the train back to northern Ibaraki with Tommy. I then went round to his to stay the night, we were supposed to stay up all night gossiping and watching movies, but I was out cold by 10.
On Sunday we filmed each other doing the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, and then went for a meal at Denny's.