Another day

First of all, my deepest thanks to everyone for their words of support on my last post. I really and deeply appreciate it.
Waiting for a train while watching a cold winter sunset…
Things are slowly moving on here in the House of Panda. Today marked the inevitable return to work for me, my oh-too-short panda holiday having sadly come to an end. I returned to the office to find the teacher that sits next to me sporting an incredibly goofy mustache. Electing to exercise discretion, I chose to say nothing, until finally, he prompted:
“Well? What do you think?” Thinking I could perhaps still sneak my way out of this, I played dumb.
“Think about …?”
“You know! My mustache!”
Now I would like to take this moment to say a few words about facial hair, men, and the ethnic divides that exist between those two worlds. I come from a mixture of chinese and panamanian ancestry, an unusual combination that has unfortunately conspired to make me both short and wide. It has also enabled me to grow the most bizarre type of mustache imaginable – a combination of the sparse “latino mustache” (you know the type) and a fu manchu trailing on down the sides. These days I try and keep that upper lip as closely shaven as possible, for reasons that should be painfully obvious if you just tried to mentally picture my last sentence. So believe me when I tell you I know what type of facial hair does and doesn’t look good on a man.
Dredging up angst ridden memories of my teenage years for a moment (desparately wishing that someday that stupid ‘stache would do something besides make me look like a mexican gangster disciple or a F.O.B. chinese peasant) I have come to the conclusions that there are just some ethnicities which shouldn’t try to grow facial hair, or if they do, should do so within certain limitations. While I could devote an entire post to the scary world of facial hair faux pas, for now I will just limit my discussion to two very specific cases.
I’ll give Mr. Shimuzu something – he’s nothing if not bluntly honest…!
I am of the firm belief that Chinese men shouldn’t try to grow mustaches. I used to work in a research laboratory (which shall go unnamed as I may need them to give me good references in the future *laughs*) which was primarily staffed by Chinese researchers, including the PI (primary investigator – aka the professor ). To be blunt, I have never seen so many mustaches comprised of so few hairs before in my life. Chinese guys in general aren’t very hairy, and more often than not, their upper lip is like a balding man who refuses to accept his lot in life – desparately trying to cover waaay too much surface area with waaay too few whiskers. It was like “hair” ….. lip lip lip lip… “hair” …. lip lip lip lip “hair” …. lip oh wait, that’s all the lip.
Sad to say, this is not an isolated phenomenon amongst Chinese researchers (which could plausibly be explained as an unusual mass accident in the lab or something, especially if they’re horrible scientists like me and often stand too close to open flames / unwittingly touch carcinogens without wearing gloves / rub their hands all over their faces afterwards, etc.) Unfortunately, many of my uncles are guilty of the same offense. I’m not sure if it’s a stubborn refusal to accept the fact that we are not of the same hairy breed as our european/germanic counterparts, a total and complete lack of fashion awareness, or perhaps a catastrophic shortage of razors in certain parts of the world, but for whatever reason, I have yet to meet a Chinese man who can sport a ‘stache with decent cover rate.
A-HAHHAHAHAHA..!!! *catches breath* HAHAHAHAHAHA ..!!! Egami = my new hero.
However, there exists an even darker side to the Chinese mustache, a deep, dark horrifying monstrosity which I alluded to above. The Fu Manchu . So frightening and shocking is this elusive beast that I was unable to find one single example of it captured on camera (presumably the photographers all ran away screaming in terror). Since there may still be a few of you out there in this world whose mothers never told them bedtime stories of how bad children were kidnapped at night by boogeymen living in their closests and whisked away to a strange world where they will be forced to wear fu manchu’s for the rest of their lives, I present to you the only image I could find of this chilling spectre, as sported by the genre’s originator himself – Confucious:
Look upon it in fear and tremble….
Mercifully, this ill-advised foray into the world of “creative facial hair display” (along with other unimaginable affronts such as the infamous “Texas Handle-bar mustache”, etc.) is rarely spotted now a days, presumably because most men want to eventually meet women who will perhaps consider settling down and reproducing with them, and they have realized that looking like a furry catfish has been glued to your face is not the best way to go about achieving this goal.
But remember how I said I had TWO examples I wanted to talk about? And how I just said “rarely” but not “never” spotted now a days? Well, it turns out that Japanese men and Chinese men sometimes have the same type of facial hair patterns.
yes, that’s right.
Tthe teacher next to me is sporting a Fu Manchu. And he just asked me what I think of his mustache. Now how would you handle this?
Trying to figure out how best to remain on friendly terms with him but yet let him know that his particular choice in facial hair hasn’t been “in” since the late Zhou dynasty (1045 – 256 BC, for those of you wondering also known as the Iron Age…!), I sort of clear my throat, trying to buy a couple of precious seconds.
“Well…. it… uh…. certainly… uhhh … looks like it took a long time to grow!” (ahh, good answer panda! good answer!)
He beams proudly. “Thanks!! I’ve been working on it for 2 weeks now!”
I laugh nervously… “heh… heh… uhh… yeah, well, you know, it shows!” I debated leaving it at that, but I couldn’t in all good conscience, leave this man walking around with this racoon taped to his upper lip thinking it’s cool without at least making a cursory effort to persuade him otherwise.
“but, ahh.. uhh.. you know what would be even cooler!?” I open.
“what’s that?”
“ahh.. umm… if you, like, umm… shaved the side parts…?” His eyes narrow suspciously.
“what?! That’s the best part!!” he retorts. What can I say? I wanted to give up, but didn’t. It wasn’t yet a full blown case of the ‘manchu stache’ – there was still hope as long as I nipped it in its proto-manchu stage. I solidered on.
“yes, well, that’s true… but, uhh.. if you shaved it, you know what? I think it’d make you look younger!!” I stammer out. His eyes brighten considerably.
“really!? You really think so!?” he asks.
“yes. yes I do. Much younger. I’m sure all the women won’t be able to take their eyes off you!”
And that was Panda’s good deed for the day as we we left it at that, with me desperately trying not to look to my right for the rest of the day. I’m somewhat hesitant to go to work tomorrow to see if he (please please please oh god please please) followed my advice and shaved that furry marmosat off of his face. If not, I don’t know how much longer I can survive without cracking up… * laughs*
Night falls on an empty railway station…
Actually, as you can see, this has been a really wacky Japan day for me. There was Mr. Fu Manchu today in the office, and then those those articles you can see above that I found on the Japantoday website. I laughed so hard I cried when I read Yoshifumi’s New Year’s Resolution – “I would like to go to Peru and have an Indiana Jones-like adventure in the Machu Pichu”…!!!! oh my god, you can’t make this stuff up!!! *starts rolling on the ground in laughter* All I can say is “rock on, brother..!!” (and here I was wasting my resolutions on stuff like “I would like to improve my Japanese” or “I would like to be a better teacher”…!)
However, it’s gets even wackier. A few days ago I went with Kento and Moby to a nearby electronics store to go drool over some random shiney gadgets (it’s like porn for the geeky set…). We spied the usual assortment of beeping flashing silver boxes, super cute colorful kawaii objects with inexplicable functions and impossibly small techno toys that do everything but wash your dishes. ( yes, I’m looking at you costoso!! *laughs*). But we also ran across …. this…:
RIDE EM’ COWBOY…!!! (ignore me looking like a dork – security was watching…)
I have no idea what the hell this is. Opinions fielded included “your own personal in-home mechanical bull”, “a possible cure for sex- starved housewives” (there werea couple of girls riding it and they looked miiiighty happy…) and “the rocking chair of the future”. To describe it, since I know the video quality above is quite grainy (sorry, it had to be taken on the sly since security was eyeing us like hawks), it’s like a… uhh, saddle…? with stirrups for your feet to go in, a handle for you to hang onto (like the pommel on a horse saddle)… and the whole thing moves and rocks and oscillates bizarrely.
We didn’t actually spend that much time looking at the brochures (rather, just sort of staring at the machine in confusion), but I seem to recall that it was being touted as having something vaguely to do with dieting. I have no idea how or why that would even possibly be part of a diet regimen, but whatever it is, it’s one of those wacky things you will only find in Japan. I debated getting one to entertain myself through the long, lonely winter nights, but decided against it, as explaining to my successor what thats doing in the apartment would undoubtedly be a long and awkward affair.
For those of you who have never seen a Japanese cellphone before, I’d like to mention a neat little function they have. If you mess around with the menus enough (depending on your model) you can usually find a little screen which will tell you long you’ve talked for on the phone, how much money you’ve spent on calls up to that point, etc.
Only had this for 6 months and I already want to get a new (shinier!) cell phone…
Sorry for the crappy picture above (I couldn’t get a clear shot of the screen, as it was too bright), but I was intrigued to discover that since my last reset (three months ago) I have talked for a total of 25 hours, 2 mins and 44 seconds – and spent a total of 53110 yen…(and yes, for those of you wondering, that’s a hell of a lot of money!!!). That’s to say that I have wasted over an entire day of my life in the past three months on the phone. Wow. And that’s not even counting the times my friends called me to talk…! (In Japan, only your outgoing calls are tabulated; incoming calls are only charged to the person calling you). So in reality, I’ve probably wasted more like 2 days or more on the phone in the last three months…. Truely frightening.
Well, anyway, that’s that. Tomorrow’s yet another one of those 13 hour days, so I best be off to prepare some lesson plans for the students. *sigh* A teacher’s work is never done.
The plan is, when I go to Europe this spring, I’m going to run into Alizee and we’ll fall in love and elope. Hey!! It just happened with Britney Spears…! So you never know… I might have a chance! (^_^)/
So on that note, I hope everyone has a good day. Those of us in Japan have next monday off (coming of age day), so I find myself unbelievably already looking forward to the long weekend ahead. Goodness, I’ve been back to work for all of a day, and already I’m searching for vacations!
Now listening to: “Alizee – Jai Pas 20″
(*sigh* i’m in love with this girl…)
Those of you so interested can download her newest video: HERE (right click and select “save target as”)
It’s in Quicktime format (.mov) and is about 17 MB, so those of you not on broadband connections might want to skip it ;) This video will stay up as long as I have server space/ bandwidth available, so grab it while you can!
9:25 am

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