Hokkaido Kittah

Sometimes the most unexpected gesture from out of nowhere touches us the most. Still bummed over previous events, and stressed from school, more tragedy struck the House of Panda last week in the form of financial ruin last week.
Millions of pandas… pandas for me… millions of pandas, pandas for free…!
As I have alluded to in previous entries, housing in Japan is a complicated, and more importantly, expensive affair – between key money, gift money, realtor’s fees, “finder’s fees”, deposits and first month’s rent, one can easily expect to lay out anywhere from $2000-$3500 (US) upfront before even setting foot in a new apartment that more than likely, will be around the size of your university dorm room. Having just graduated from university right before wandering over to this side of the world, Panda didn’t have that much money in his meager coffers, and so borrowed a certain amount from his current employers in order to pay for all this apartment jibber jabber – a loan that ostensibly would be repaid in installments every month from his paycheck.
All of this I talked about before – as well as the fact that as Panda figured it, he was done paying back his loan last month, and thus would have some extra cash this month – to live “la vida loca”, I believe I put it.
Rewind to a week and a half ago. Panda runs over to his little staffroom cubby hole and grabs his paystub. He glances over it hurridly, only to discover – *gasp*….! They’ve withdrawn another ~$600 (US) from his paycheck for the loan…! Frazzled (for reasons that will soon become evident) Panda dashes down to the office, where the kindly office lady politely informs him she has no idea what’s going on (despite her being the one handling the pay stuff) but if I could just wait till the office manager comes back, we could all sort this out.
Sometimes as a Panda, I feel like it’s upon me to single handedly battle the forces of evil…
Long story short – the school produces a very official looking loan paper saying that I owe them an amount an extra $600 (US) above what I thought I owed them – which explains this last withdrawl from my pay check this month.
Now, my school has been nothing but kind to me – after hearing some of the horror stories other ALTs have had to endure, not a day goes by that I don’t count my blessings at having a school that has for the most part, done right by me. And while occasionally they frustrate the hell out of me (see my last post), I certainly don’t think they’re trying to cheat me…! Nonetheless, I could have sworn that I didn’t owe them that much money…!
Unfortunately, while my own records may show one thing, the official looking piece of paper covered with all sorts of official people’s hankos (name stamps) (save my own, oddly…) says another, and for whatever reason, I don’t have any official looking piece of paper like that. So I have to accept their assessment of my total debt at face value (and again, I don’t think they’re trying to cheat me, but it would be nice to have my own independent verification.. but oh well…) and give them the extra $600 from my paycheck this month.
Unfortunately, as the whole newtonian physics bit goes, for every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction. You see, anticipating having an “extra” $600 (US) this month, I had previously planned to escape with my sweet and sexay kittah friend from the north to Tokyo for a week – both of us being stressed and exhausted, we thought this to be a fantastic vacation at just the right time (spring break for mistar panda, and a pseudo-spring break from miss kittah, though more having to do with her being “in between apartments” for a week or so (again, love the realtor system here…)). So eagerly was I anticipating this much needed jaunt to somewhere with less rice fields than buildings that I already went out and spent several hundred dollars (US) on a round trip airline ticket to the big city (some of it was frequent flier miles, but it was still hella expensive).
My wasted airline tickets…
But speaking of “hella expensive”, Tokyo, being the second most expensive city in the world (having lost out to Oslo last year) will suck money out of you like there’s no tomorrow. Even simply standing on the corner and breathing air for an hour will somehow result in $15 (US) magically disappearing from your pocket. So if one is intending to go to Tokyo, even for a week, even if they already have a place to stay for free (we were planning on crashing with a friend), even if they are intending on eating cheap ass ramen for most meals and not going shopping – one will still require what we from the ghettos of Wisconsin like to refer to as “fat stacks” of “dead prez” (though I suppose in Japan it might more rightfully be “tall, orderly stacks of impeccably clean and crisp bills festooned not with dead prez but with a famous author, and two teachers (Soseki, Inazo and Fukuzawa)).
Unfortunately, not being the sort of person with aforementioned “fat stacks” o’ “dead prez” laying around my “crib”, I had intended on using the anticipated “surplus” from my check this month for my trip to Tokyo. However, upon learning that I no longer had said extra $600 laying around after the school absconded with it, I was forced to reconsider my trip on the basis of the fact that I no longer had any money. And by “reconsider” I should say, I mean, “cancel”.
Touchingly sweet gesture from a friend.
Needless to say, this was incredibly unpleasant. While Kitty was fortunately able to return her ticket and get her money back, Panda was not so fortunate, and was forced to watch his purchase turn into two incredibly worthless $400 pieces of paper (currently working off their debt in a life of indentured servitude as bookmarks). Naturally, this, and the prospect of once again spending a vacation stuck in the boringly drab concrete haven that is K-town while everyone else jaunts off for exotic locations, mixed with lingering disillusionment from events of the previous weeks conspired to make one very very depressed and dejected panda.
Anyway, imagine mistar depressed panda’s suprise when, out of nowhere, a gigantic box festooned with the world’s cutest 100 yen tape (^_^) suddenly appears at his doorstep…! Who could it be…?! Eagerly scanning over the unexpected package (whilst carefully listening for tell tale tick-tocking…!) Panda espies a return label from….. Hokkaido…!?
Ripping into the package reveals a touching letter, one postcard designed to make me feel guilty about cancelling the Tokyo trip :) and ….
panda goods. TONS AND TONS OF PANDA GOODS….!!!!!!!!!!!
A (partial list) of the Panda goodness contained!
1. DAPAN – The Inverse Panda…!!
2. A panda bean bag (kittah swears she was going to hurl this at me at the airport, hmm…)
3. A Panda vs. KUROPANDA mugcup…! (“kuropanda” – “the dark panda”)
4. A PandaZ figurine – A series of gigantic robotic pandaz that are trying to take over the world…! Latest taxonomy reports link them to the Gloomy series of pink killer bears by Mori Chack…
5. A super cute panda memo pad for jotting down essential panda facts!
6. Accompanying stickers to festoon said panda memo pad…!
and much much more…!
By the way, for those of you wondering just what the hell an “Inverse Panda” is…. watch and learn!
Sure, at first glance it *looks* like just another normal panda…
but with a little bit of fiddling (it’s like Transformers – more than meets the eye…!!!!) all of a sudden we get….
*gasp*..!! It’s DAPAN – THE INVERSE PANDA….!!!
Now as an avid collector of all things Panda, I have to admit that was a neat-as-all-hell trick…! Furthermore, I am absolutely stunned at the diverse number of panda-related goods my dear friend was able to scrounge up…! I am now convinced that Hokkaido must be a hither-to untapped goldmine of all things Panda….!!! *makes mental note to visit Hokkaido first chance he gets*
Anyway, this unexpected care package came at just the right time – just like that my life went from being a depressing mish-mash of vaguely (and unfairly directed) anti-Japan sentiments and general gloominess to happy dancing pandas on rainbow sunny days imagery. Or something like that …! (^_^)v
My panda care package was one of the sweetest things anyone has done for me in recent memory, and all the more touching because of its unexpected nature. Things like this re-affirm my much-battered belief that there are still a lot of great people out there.
Note the super cute tape from the 100 yen store…!! Mmm… strawberries…
Kitty, if you ever need someone to beat up drunk salarimen making unwanted advances on you, I’m your Panda…!
Now listening to: “Lange feat. The Morrighan – Follow me (Dumonde Remix)”
(Does anyone know the remix of this song that has these high pitched female vocals laid over the top that sing something like “a lah deedah da da daaah ah ah yeaaahh yeaahhhhh…”..? (sorry, I know I just sounded like a total idiot there…) I think I heard it on one of DJ Doboy’s remixes? Or was it on one of your mixes, Southern_Sun…?
Coming in the next updates: Long overdue site update – complete with some actually comprehensible CSS that might even stand a chance at being validated, a new Osaka Photo gallery… PLUS Mistar Panda tackles the phenomenon of the mysteriously multiplying Japanese “Point Cards”…! Stay tuned!
1:27 am

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