Tuesday, 9 December 2008


Though I do consider myself to be quite easily led in many ways, I have come to the conclusion that this is a good thing. Having moved city or even country at least once a year since starting university, I have had various friends over the years, very few of which have been like me. Each of these people have shaped my behavior and values to some degree. I have also noticed that my lifestyle is quite different depending upon whom I am surrounded by. There is some value in consistency, however this is definitely overrated.

Though my first year in Japan was not significantly different to my student life in the UK, due to being surrounded by Brits, it altered me in subtle ways which have helped me subsequently. My ability to eat almost any food without a second thought, along with the confidence to bathe in a communal environment, are both thanks to living in Japan.

Discussing moral standards is an interesting exercise in any environment, but particularly with those from other countries. Being somewhat of an extrovert, I am usually the first to tell some mildly self-depreciating tale of excess, resulting in a questionable outcome. However, my upbringing has installed a comprehensive editing system to ensure all details are carefully disguised by euphemism so as to almost render the story indecipherable to those not sharing my values. I envy those who can discuss intimate details about their personal lives in plain language, without flinching and worrying about being judged.

True friends will not judge, or at least if they do, they will try to alter their world view in order to accommodate new ideas. However, this concept relies on forming friendships with those values are already fairly close to your own. Meeting new people requires a lot of subtle testing of the water, but would it be better simply to go all out from the beginning? This would ensure that anyone you are likely to offend would be eliminated in one foul swoop, however it would also potentially alienate unnecessarily and reinforce stereotypes.

Friday, 7 November 2008

South Africa

The trip had been booked at a time when money and seemingly time were no object, and I had been asked to the wedding of an ex, to which I felt a strange obligation to attend. Running up to the trip, I realised that i had neither the time, money nor inclination to go, and I was being told by my friends to cancel the trip, but not wanting to offend anyone, or waste the money I had already spent, I decided to try and make the most of a slightly awkward situation. My usually impeccable organisational skills had not been deployed, so I took off from London Heathrow with just a phone number of the people who would help me get to Jo'burg from the airport.

Luckily the day I left, I had discovered, by pure chance, that there were a couple of my South African friends in Jo'burg for at least some of the time I was going to be there. This helped my state of mind immensely, even if I wasn't going to be able to meet up with them, I had a back up plan. On meeting Scott and Leanna, at the airport, I was relieved to find that they were extremely good fun and easy going, making the journey, and subsequently most of the day, far less awkward than I had anticipated.

We were only in Jo'burg for a day, in my case a few hours, before leaving for the wedding. I headed up to Pretoria to stay with Raoul's parents, which pleased me immensely, as I would be able to turn on my parent charming powers, and because I would not then have to sleep on the couch. With not a minute to spare for seeing the sights, we went to the liquor store to pick up drinks for more than 100 people. Despite being dressed in a skirt and sandals, I promptly loaded up the yute and earned back the brownie points that were deducted when I swore quite comprehensively on discovering the price of property in South Africa.

From the liquor store, we headed up to Mokopane, where the wedding was to be held at a hunting lodge on a game farm which doubled as a factory for milk products, which seemed a rather curious combination to me. The place was beautiful, right on the edge of a lake, with mountains in the distance, and several small huts to stay in. The one disadvantage being, that the bathrooms were in a seperate block, and my irrational fear of dying at the hands of giant insects would therefore be tested several times a day.