Up the Mountain

I’d like to share my fascination with a German colleague (who does not live in Japan) who has been climbing Mt. Fuji ten times by now. I kid you not.
And I’ll be using his “hobby” to justify mine, hahaha 😉
So, during the months of July and August, when Mt. Fuji is mostly snow free, the mountain suffers “open season” and hordes of people are climbing it. You can climb Mt. Fuji in other months as well, but then you face snow on the top and also, the mountain huts are not open. There are several mountain huts between the 6th to 9th stations, but they only operate during those two months and if you go outside of the season, you have to do real “alpine” climbing without “help”.
So that colleague is finding some business trip “excuse” every year, comes to Japan, stays over a weekend and climbs Mt. Fuji. Usually he is taking other colleagues with him, who are more or less enthused by the prospect, but who don’t dare to decline, because the Mt. Fuji fan is high up the pecking order.

I have tried to do the Mt. Fuji climb as well, some fifteen or so years ago and it was a horror trip! 😉 There was brilliant weather in Tokyo on the day of my climb, 35 degrees Celsius, sunshine, but when the bus arrived at the fifth station at 2500 meters, where the end of the road is, there was a mighty thunderstorm. It rained cats and dogs, it was windy, it was bloody cold.
The most popular way to climb the beast is to arrive there at 22:00 in the evening, climb up during the night, be for sunrise at the top and then climb down again.
I struggled up the mountain in the dark in rain and sometimes I had the feeling the wind would blow me off the slope to an untimely death. I slipped somewhere on the wet rocks and hurt my knee and gave up at the 8th station, which is at around 3000 meters and climbed back down after the sun rose (I had a magnificent sunrise above the clouds too after waiting a few hours at the mountain hut and the weather getting better).
Apart from the physical strain – you are not alone while climbing. In July and August there is a queue up the mountain. You cannot walk your own pace, you are trapped in the path with hundreds of others in front of you and behind you.
Where is the fun in that? Once it’s quite interesting, but why do you have to do that ten times??? Every year??? There are plenty of beautiful mountains in the European Alps just around the corner for the German colleague, why climb Mt. Fuji with thousands of others once a year? It totally escapes me what is interesting and fascinating about that.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Mt. Fuji, but I decided that it’s a wonderful mountain to look at because of its symmetry, you don’t need to climb the guy! Once maybe, yeah, but not ten times! 😉

Nevertheless, looking at the Mt. Fuji fan, I feel very comfortable about my own “madness”: flying around the world to see heavy metal bands, hahaha. Sometimes I have that short, brief, insignificant thought that I’m crazy hanging out in rain and vicious knee-deep mud for three days to see bands, but when I hear/see this story of the dude who flies half around the world to climb Mt. Fuji every year, I feel very sane, normal and unweird! Thanks, Sir, for making me feel good about myself. And, Oh yes, I depart for Wacken in five days! Yeah! 😉


At work I recently encountered another example for why I prefer living and working in Japan rather than living and working in Europe. In the company I work for we have a highly regulated workshop where the staff can give feedback to the manager who is supervising them. The staff fill out a questionnaire anonymously and the result is displayed via a point system. The manager fills out the same questionnaire in a self-assessment. His/her result is compared to the result of the staff people and focus points are jointly agreed between staff and manager. Then the manager leaves the room, and the staff discuss what the manager could improve concerning the focus points in question and presents them to him/her at the end of the workshop in form of suggestions that the he/she is supposed to listen to. The manager does not have to commit to picking up those focus points but most managers going through this process do so in the end.

I moderated such a workshop for one of our managers last week and thought it went pretty well. After the workshop was done I asked one of the participants, a Japanese guy in his fifties, what he thought about this workshop and his first and spontaneous comment was, “man we’re working in a good company. In Japanese companies such a feedback of the staff to the manager does not happen, at least not that I would’ve heard.” Five minutes later I asked a 35-year-old European expat the same question (who earns more than the mid fifties Japanese colleague) and got the answer, “well, the result was a bit meager for spending four hours on it.”
My spontaneous gut-feeling reaction hearing this was: you spoiled ungrateful brat!

I’m living too long in Japan now maybe, but I totally agree to the Japanese colleague who said, man, we’re working in a good company.
Yes, we are. It is not a matter of course that a company offers such a feedback opportunity, paid, during working time.
I think the attitude of the European colleague totally sucks. (The person is not German but from another European country). Europeans live in luxury and yet they are complaining, complaining, complaining. It’s always “but”… Instead of being grateful to be given the opportunity for feedback, that high earning expat whines about the result. And then, you were participating in creating that result, if you had wanted more result, you should have contributed to it!

I think that the “western” individualism is also a factor in the constant complaining about everything. “Westerners” have the tendency to look more for personal gain. The much more group oriented “Easterners” have often a more positive attitude towards the things happening around them and appreciate more what they have. What a difference – what does the Japanese colleague see: a good company. What does the spoiled expat see: we “wasted” four hours on something that is supposed to improve social interaction.
Needless to say, which attitude towards life and work I prefer.
Of course there is a lot of stuff that need improvement in Japan also, but man, Westerners: stop complaining about stuff that is in principle positive and work on your attitude.

In the Name of Detox

I was on a short business trip to Germany last month and while buying some supplies and also during common lunches/dinners with colleagues it struck me that the German eating habits are very different from Japan. Among the German colleagues there was a vegetarian, a vegan, someone who eats no carbs, someone who has gluten problems.
I’m not judging, I’m just stating facts when I say that among my Japanese friends and colleagues, there simply is no one who is a vegan, a vegetarian, eats only carbs or has gluten problems. Despite that Japanese people are generally slimmer than Germans and live longer too. So what’s going on here?
I mentioned that to a French colleague at an after-work dinner recently (who lived in China and Japan the last ten years) and he brought another interesting aspect into the story with the statement: “Yes! What happened to sex, drugs and Rock’n’Roll? Now it’s “organic”, “detox”, and “xx intolerance” – How boring have we become!”
I had a good laugh at that and I heartily agree 😉

Coming to think of it, I don’t think there is a “no carbs” or a vegan among my heavy metal buddies 😉
Of course we can all do what we please and eat what we want, but lots of this “no carbs”, detox and whatever is in my humble opinion nothing but a marketing thing. In Japan we have tons of food marketing, but I have the feeling it’s “healthier”, since it focuses mostly on seasonally available products, and not so super much on trendy pseudo-health stuff. There is the mango or citrus ice cream in summer, the chestnut ice cream in autumn, the red beans ice cream in winter, the berry mix ice cream in spring and so forth, point is that it’s all ice cream and not so much business is made with the stuff being for example lactose or whatever free.
I dearly hope that Japan doesn’t pick up on the “health” trip too much, since I am convinced that humans became the dominant species of the planet because they can eat bloody anything.
Modern man has loads of allergies, myself included, if we keep on “sterilizing” our food and get ever pickier, it’ll only get worse, not better. Further, sex, drugs and Rock’n’Roll might not be the healthiest lifestyle but at least it’s fun and maybe the “no carbs” and “detox” etc. fanatics need a bit more of that? Just speculating of course 😉

The Dumbness of the Masses

I’d like to pick up a bit at where I left off last week. I wrote about that moment of bondage and trust between an international group of people at the company I work for. What happened there during that business trip to Germany let me think about group intelligence and behavior. There are plenty of theories out there about group intelligence going in either direction – a group can be smarter than an individual, as well as, a group can be dumber than the individual. In my opinion it depends largely on the size of the group whether it’s smarter or dumber. In the company I work for it shows again and again that a smaller group of maybe 20 people can be smarter than the individual, but as soon as the group gets larger than let’s say 50 people, the tendency is towards dumber.
The small group of twenty that I wrote about last week excelled and got smarter than the individuals in it. We added to each other’s intelligence with our different experiences and backgrounds. But when we stood in front of the two, three hundred for or presentation, we looked dumbness in the face: the blunt stare of the herd animal in the crowd who relies on what the fellows around it do. There are some, let me call them, protestors who leave and don’t wanna have anything to do with what’s going on, but the majority looks at you with that numb stare of safety in the crowd. A thousand individuals might be smart, but the same thousand in a crowd are stupid especially if they are under some political influence. Look at the masses of people nowadays who follow asshole political leaders. Even if there is an individual intelligence that that leader is bullshit, the individual opinion drowns in peer pressure and conformity. As soon as you can hide in a group, the morale and intelligence level of the individual can sink dramatically.

The large crowd is not only dumb it is also rude.
I sit in an open plan office with 60 people, at the coffee corner everyone “hopes” that someone else will clean up the coffee machine once a week (we don’t have a “system” of who cleans it (yet)). We put candy and chocolate into the coffee corner after we return from business trips or holidays (that’s tradition in Japan). They are gone in an instant, the ravenous crowd grabs up the goodies in fear of not getting their share. Everyone hopes that the next person will empty the shredder and stuffs the last bits of paper into the full bucket until it nearly explodes. If you can hide in a large group where nobody will find out that you behaved “badly”, people do behave badly.
Unfortunately I don’t know a cure for this and the constant appeal at individual responsibility and effort is tiring. I wish we could do without “military” discipline and punishments, but unfortunately humankind doesn’t seem that evolved just yet…

That Thing About Trust

I’ve been on a business trip last week to the headquarters in Germany and attended a three day workshop of the business unit I now work for. The German boss of the unit called for “volunteers” half a year ago to work on “soft” topics like leadership, collaboration, strategy deployment and communication. It’s an interesting group from all over the world. We have members from the US, Mexico, Germany, Hungary, India, China and I’m the representative of Japan. We also have a lady from Cuba in the German team and another Chinese colleague in the German team as well, so it’s not even weird that the representative from Japan office is not Japanese.
We struggled through our workshop and came to a point where we realized that all this talk about better communication and collaboration etc. does not really mean anything, because there is an underlying issue beneath the surface and that’s lack of trust. We don’t trust the management and the management doesn’t trust us and the working level doesn’t trust each other either. So we better start with building trust, but how… we were supposed to present our results at something that we call a “town hall” meeting, meaning the management “gives info” to a few hundred people.

The first hour of the town hall meeting was boring top-down stuff about figures and business situations. The big boss who supports us said, you better stay for the presentation of the “soft stuff” group. Despite that several people left after the facts and figures were done. Then we presented out progress, more people left, then we dared it and “froze”, asking “do you think this will change anything”. People looked confused. We had a deliberate painful moment of silence and finally one of our guys said, “Is this it? Is that all? What about trust?”

We were all very dramatic about it. One of our colleagues then told a story about trust, trying to get people thinking. More people left with shaking heads. We had placed cards with questions under the chairs of people asking stuff like, “Do you trust your colleagues?” “How can we collaborate globally if we don’t even collaborate locally?” and things like that. We asked the remaining folk to discuss these questions. A few did, a few looked bluntly at the cards and talked about I don’t know what.
I hope we managed to reach a few people in the audience. No matter what, at least the twenty of us from the team had a nice “dramatic” and also “human” moment. I don’t think we’ll change too much, but at least that little team has a nice bond now. It really didn’t matter anymore where we come from and at least the few of us are beyond borders, nationalities and prejudices. It’s cool that something like that can happen in a big company and it’s cool that a few rare guys are around who allow something like that to happen (the big boss in Germany). So, all in all it was a tough but also a good week.

Writing Update

I’ve not announced a writing update in an age! So here is one. 🙂 I’m in the last stages of review for my fourth Dome of Souls novel before I will hand it over to a proofreader. Meaning the beast will come out before the end of the year, I hope. My alter ego (I’m also writing books under a pseudonym) is in the same stage with the (maybe) last installation of a trilogy. Theoretically there would be room for another part of the story, but for the moment it’s done. But back to Regina. So the fourth Dome of Souls novel: Remember when the sacked Keepers of Jeronimo left for the freshly found New Earth without telling the revolutionists back home where it is?
We are making a jump into the future again and a thousand years after the fall of Jeronimo, the Earthlings are finding their lost brothers on New Earth. However, what they find is not exactly what they imagined they would. Evil grin.

I must say I struggled a bit through the writing of this beast, since it represented the challenge of two cultures clashing and how to portray those, which is an aspect absent from the three earlier Dome of Souls novels where everything happened within one culture which was in the process of changing itself from within. The culture clash this time was of course interesting and a new aspect, but I did fight with how to, in my opinion, “correctly” portray such a culture clash. It is however a nice preparation for the fifth book, which will (finally) take us to Bahrein. I’m greatly looking forward to writing that beast and since it’s quite detailed in my mind (at least to a much larger extent than number four was when I started), I think the writing process will be quite fast and smooth for the Bahreinian one, though you never know. I guess I can start working on that beast in autumn.

Other than that there are two stand-alone novels slumbering. One has been shopped around agents already without a result, the other is ready to be shopped around with agents, but I’m not finding the patience and energy to write the agent advertising package for that one.
Both stand-alones have the disadvantage of being rather short, just 65,000 words, and most publishers want stuff that’s longer than 70,000 words. Ridiculous that a story can be judged by something like this, but…
I’ll try to send one off to a few publishers, the other to a few agents and after a while give up and bring them out myself again. Though I’m undecided yet whether they’ll be under my name or the pseudonym.
So, I’m busy as usual and my pseudonym has gotten a few fans on whatpadd, just five people or so, but nevertheless it feels good to get encouragement from people who don’t know me personally 😉
And thus the never-ending writing journey continues!

That Thing About Collaboration

In a company there are buzzwords going around once in a while, one year it’s “we need to take care of our efficiency” and everybody is talking that topic to death, next year it’s better quality, the year after its strategy and so forth. This year it’s collaboration in the area I work at. We have “collaboration days” events in the engineering area, a month later in sales, since March some initiative on a division-wide global level, trying to get 7000 people to collaborate over all continents… good luck with that!
When I look at the tiny section of 90 people where I’m working at at the moment in Japan – not even we manage to collaborate.
I don’t want to blame my male colleagues but collaboration does not seem to be their thing really, because, let’s face it, there is a constant game going on in the background of who gets promoted and gets a “career” and who doesn’t. Alliances are formed and shift, people are sidelined. For a while it’s the German expats against the Japanese local staff, then a mixed gang against another mixed gang and so forth.

It would be fun to watch if I wasn’t half a part of the silly game. I’m an outsider in the game simply because I’m a woman, and man, am I happy about that, pun intended. When I see my male colleagues at their pissing contests, I’m glad I’m not really a part of the game anyway.
I don’t think women work like that. Don’t get me wrong, the ladies can be super mean to each other but we are mean in a different way, lol.
Last week there so much of “my dick is longer than yours” going on at the office, it was fascinating. It’s exhausting and does not help the matters at hand. A bunch of alpha animals fighting for the best spot is surely not the best model of collaboration. Concepts like collaboration globally and “we are all nice to each other and respect each other” are nice, but in my humble opinion an illusion, since in the end we are all still animals and act much less rational than we think we do, which shows itself in those unnerving alpha male pissing contests… that was a little corporate working life report for a change. Cheers!

Suomi Feast 2018

It’s been a while since I went to the Suomi Feast. In the past it was called Loud and Metal Attack. I don’t know when the name changed.
One way or the other, it’s a mini heavy metal festival with Finnish bands (also sponsored by the Finnish embassy in Japan ;-)) and this year we had six of them with the headliner being Turisas.
The opening act in the cozy 800 people venue Shinjuku Blaze right in the middle of the nightly amusement center Kabukicho, was Noumena, a death metal act with a clear female vocal and a rough male vocal.

Next up was Mors Subita, the hardest and most death metal act of the evening. They had a great sound but the growling vocal was a bit too high for my taste 😉

Frosttide was more akin to folk metal. I must admit that I don’t remember much about them, sorry! 😉
S-Tool was easier to remember, since they are old school heavy metal and reminded very much of the 80ties. Some of their members seem to have migrated from Poisonblack to S-Tool. It was cool to see these 50+ guys rocking hard (at least they looked like 50+ ;-))

Then something interesting, Beast in Black, a lovely, intentionally over-dramatic power metal act. They even had a ballad and made us get out our iPhones for lights. They were great fun to watch, but again I had a bit of trouble with the too high vocals, I definitely prefer baritone or bass!

Then it was Turisas’ turn. I think I saw them for the first time in 2013 or something like that and it was nice to see them again. Even though I have not kept up with them, I knew most of the songs they played, which surprised me, nothing much new in 5 years? Or did they play the old stuff on purpose for the Japan fans? I especially like the electronic violin of Turisas, that’s an instrument you see quite rarely with a heavy metal band.

Even though there was not a “favorite” band playing at this year’s Suomi Feast, I had a great time and it was very relaxing to hear some live metal. Just was the doctor ordered 😉

New Caledonian Diary – Part 4: Lookouts and Maitre Island

On my last day in New Caledonia I rode a local bus again to the last stop before a presumed look-out point. Nothing much was marked and I just followed instinct walking up a mountain road for a bit. Then finally I came across a sign telling me I was on the right way. I took the off-road trail and much like at the Isle of Pines the trail soon lost itself more or less entirely, but since it couldn’t be far, I walked on and indeed managed to get onto the top of what is called Ouen Toro. There is a small military base there, which is off limits and two Australian cannons from WW2 times are right before the fenced off military area. The spot gives a great view over the atoll and also Noumea. It was well worth the hike.

After climbing down from the mountain, I went back to the taxi boat, because there was a second island it sometimes goes to, further out beyond the Duck island, called Ilot Matire. The taxi boat only goes there once per hour, if at all. The high speed ride there was less than funny, because the surf was quite strong and the boat was swaying badly but I arrived after all. The island is much bigger than the Duck island and sports a luxury hotel with real houses on the island and also right above the water. The island is only a hundred meters wide but quite long and on its sea-side it has a fantastic beach, which, for the most part, I had entirely to myself. I encountered a sea snake wriggling up the beach towards the hotel, unaware that they are apparently very poisonous, and happily shot pictures of it instead of running away 😉
As soon as the sun hides behind clouds the pretty beach turns a bit ghastly and it made me aware that this “paradise” is actually a damn harsh paradise. There is nothing but the sea, sand and a few trees and in times of old the local people lived off nothing but fishing and coconuts.
I greatly enjoyed the visit to the island though and to see that beach is well worth the scary boat ride. The ride back wasn’t less scary and bumpy and I have to admit, I was glad to be back on Grand Terre.

All in all New Caledonia is of great natural beauty and well worth a visit. It’s remote location lets only a limited amount of tourists find their way to the islands and leaves the atoll intact. With a car, a boat, or more money, I would have seen even more beautiful harsh nature, but even the few corners I could go to were more than impressive. I’m not in the habit of going anywhere twice, but in New Caledonia’s case let me say: never say never again 😉

New Caledonian Diary – Part 3: Ducks and Culture

On my fourth day in New Caledonia, I walked around the beaches of Anse Vata and Lemon Bay again, then took a taxi boat to the tiny Duck Island right across from the Anse Vata Bay. The taxi boat there goes every fifteen minutes and the short ride is loud (thanks to the monstrous outboard engine of the boat) and fun. The tiny island has a lovely beach, and a bar and a restaurant in the middle. That day saw the more typical weather for the region and the time of year, rain showers every few hours. It was like that every day except for the day of my arrival and the day on the Isle of pines. Lucky me!

The showers are usually not long, just fifteen minutes or so, but they can be quite intense. During one of the showers I stayed under the roof of the bar and chatted with Australian cruise people. Three elderly guys, one wearing a captains hat, who looked like they have a constantly high level of alcohol in them 😉 The dude with the captains hat said his boat was the Lollipop 😉 they were on a ten day cruise and had visited one of the the Loyalty islands first, then Isle of Pines, now Noumea, before going back to Sydney.
While there are no ducks on the island, there were plenty of seagulls who were also nesting and a part of the island is fenced off. You can walk around the island in a ten minute stroll. It’s a lovely little spot and fun to get there via taxi boat.

Day five of my stay was a culture day.
I wanted to visit the Jean-Marie Tjibaou culture center and that day seemed good for it because of not so nice weather with many clouds and those occasional showers. But, how to get there… there is a public bus system in Noumea and I decided to try that out. To get to the culture center I had to take a bus to the city, then change to another. Funnily the buses reminded me of the buses in Los Angeles, where the only people who ride buses are either too old to drive a car, too young to drive a car or to poor to own a car… in contrast to Los Angeles though, the buses felt safer and more civilized. But the divide between rich French and not so rich locals was saddening. The culture center was the last stop of the route and I was the last passenger to get off. The museum did not have many visitors… which is too bad, because it is very beautiful. I wonder why they needed an Italian architect for the building and not a local one, but nevertheless, he did a great job, the building is amazing.

The culture center has art displays from local artists, a library, some tribal houses and a photography display with photos from Noumea in the 1880ties. The museum is named after the local Jean-Marie Tjibaou, who fought for New Caledonia’s independence from France and was assassinated by another (even more radical?) local. I heard next year or so there will be another referendum deciding about the question of independence from France.

New Caledonian Diary – Part 2: Isle of Pines

On my second day, a Sunday, the weather wasn’t as glorious as on day one and several showers interrupted things. I wandered along the Lemon Bay and the neighboring bay called Anse Vata, and visited the small but excellent aquarium showing the local fish world. A lovely slow day at wonderful beaches. Those two beaches are the main beaches of Noumea and luckily my hotel was at one of them. I don’t think my stay would have been as nice, had I stayed in a hotel downtown.

The biggest adventure came on day three. I wanted to go by boat but that was even more expensive and the boat sailed only once per week in contrast to several flights a day to the Isle of Pines, south-east of Noumea.
It’s mostly famous for something called the Piscine Naturelle, a natural pool surrounded by pine trees where you can see fish like in an aquarium only that it’s live and real.
The twenty minute flight there was fantastic, with aerial views as stunning as out of a picture book. The mighty atoll around Grand Terre with its many tiny islands looks almost unreal.

The airport of Isle of Pines is of course tiny and I had a small problem after arrival, being: how to get around? There are only 2500 people living on the island and there is no public transport. I asked for a taxi at the airport information desk and after a 15 minute wait, a guy called Mayu picked me up. The rest of the people on the plane were picked up by hotel shuttles.
Mayu drove me through forest without a single settlement to the end of the road trying to speak French to me and we hobbled along with my broken French and his broken English until he dropped me off, pointing to the right, go there. All right. I expected at least some tourists like me but there was not a single soul around, except for a lady collecting 200 Pacific Francs of toll. The start of the Piscine Naturelle is already amazing and it was super hot and super lonely.

I changed into my reef walker shoes and started splashing. After a few meters you kind of get desensibilized against stepping on star fish… hya! They are every few centimeters. Interestingly they are the same kind as 7000 km to the north. I saw plenty of them on Amami Oshima in Japan too. Millions of smaller and bigger crabs also walk around and indeed there are fish in the pool wherever you look.
I was born in Europe where people don’t really know how intense the sun can be. I got used to the sun in Japan, which is several degrees more intense than in Europe, but nothing in comparison to New Caledonia. You gotta be careful about that sun down there, man. The light is so harsh, it makes things look blacker than they are on photos. I walked around very clothed, but got sunburnt at every exposed bit, despite sun cream. Although it’s rather sun allergy than burning.
When the water got too deep, I continued on a trampled land path until the real Piscine Naturelle which is absolutely breathtaking. Steel blue sky, very green trees, white sand, very blue water. It’s one of the most beautiful places I have seen so far.

There were a few people there, but not a crowd and there was no problem to get a quiet moment with nature. Despite going into the water only for 30 centimeters depth due to clothing, you can see all sorts of fish. Deeper in the pool it must be truly like an aquarium, but considering my skin conditions, I was content with what I got. I walked down a dried river bed, or rather sea arm, which floods during high tide, feeding the pool, to the open ocean. Also that coast is stunningly beautiful.

There is a restaurant at the beach and around the corner in a small Bay is the vicinity of the Le Meridian Isle of Pines hotel where I ditched the reef walkers and got back into normal shoes. One day when I’m old 😉 I might stay in that hotel for a few days and do nothing but walk to the Piscine Naturelle and back 😉
I walked back to the place where Mayu dropped me off and this time headed into the jungle, the goal was ch another Bay on foot. But… there are holes in the ground all over the place, small holes at first but venturing further into the jungle the holes got bigger and bigger. Further, the path became less and less obvious. Then I got a look into a fist sized hole and saw this….

that part of the crab is fist sized, the rest of the crab… uh. There are thousands of holes! When the way seemed to all but disappear, I got scared of getting lost and being attacked by monster crabs! And thus decided to return. The crabs are a form of coconut crab and can get pretty damn big. I don’t think they attack humans, but I don’t want to have to walk through a few hundred of them!
After wandering around more the inner part of the Piscine Naturelle and watching the tide come in, it was time to return to the airport. I ordered a taxi at the front desk of the Meridian hotel and got a ride back with the driver asking me in good English whether New Caledonia is more expensive than Japan. Yes, it is! Back at the airport I was the first passenger and wandered around there a bit at utterly lonely roads, then flew back to Noumea.

Usually I am not in the habit of going anywhere twice, but maybe I will return to the Isle of Pines, since Piscine Naturelle is worth more than one visit and there are other nature points to see on the island, which I haven’t been to yet.

New Caledonian Diary – Part 1: Noumea

I think to remember that I got aware of the existence of New Caledonia for the first time around 2003, when I made my first trip to Australia. Some totally relaxed French people in light summer clothes were boarding a flight to a place called Noumea and I never heard of that place before or knew where it was. A quick Internet search revealed the island of New Caledonia and since I reportedly have a strong interest in Pacific Islands you’ve never heard of, I vowed to go there one day. It took a few years to realize the plan but now it happened.
The flight from Tokyo to Noumea takes eight hours and a bit. I arrived at about 23:00 and had ordered an airport shuttle bus. That bus drove a long while through a thoroughly dark countryside before arriving in Noumea. The La Tontouta airport is an astonishing 47 km from Noumea. New Caledonia is also probably one of the biggest islands you’ve never heard of. From Noumea at the south to the most northern town of Poum it is a whopping 425 km. New Caledonia has literally thousands of islands. The Grand Terre, which is the main island, north of it the main three Loyalty islands and the Isle of Pines to the south-west, plus thousands of tiny islands around the big atoll region. The mini bus dropped of some five parties before it was finally my turn as the last passenger and I arrived at my hotel only at 0:30. It was a boutique hotel three minutes from the Baie des Citrons and nobody was there at this time. They arranged to have my key in a safe and emailed me the number beforehand. Luckily everything went well and I got into my room all right.
On the first morning I inspected the Lemon Bay shortly, which has a lovely beach and promenade, then walked some 45 min into “downtown”.

The weather was glorious and the sun super intense. Without my full sun gear including Japanese long sun-protection gloves, I would have been burned in ten minutes. Downtown Noumea is a bit sleepy, but has a lovely Central Park. I’m not overly surprised that there are tensions between the French, the former colony overlords, and the local Kanak people. There are many more or less homeless looking locals while there is not a single French-looking homeless person. Also local youngsters hang out in troves, making the impression they have not much money to spend or things to do. Despite the big size of the island, the population is sparse, some 270,000 it seems and about 104,000 of them are Kanak people.

A cruise ship was parked right next door and a bunch of Australians swarmed town. The cruise ship looked nice but was several leagues smaller than the Independence of the Seas, which I boarded twice so far 😉 Apparently an Australian cruise ship arrives in town more or less every day and there are many places where you can pay with Australian dollars. The local currency is, however, the fancy Pacific Franc.
On the way back to the hotel I stopped by a shopping mall and bought a bunch of groceries, since my hotel room luckily had a kitchenette. Prices are amazing in New Caledonia, a few categories more expensive than in Japan and no wonder the locals have trouble making a living. After a magnificent sunset I called it a day.

Too Much Work

I missed a couple of Saturdays’ blog entries due to too much work and not enough energy left to write for the blog. People are too busy these days. I would very much like to know what life was like before TV and Internet, when you had nothing but a newspaper to read. Also working life has become too busy with global telephone conferences where the lucky Europeans get away with having the conference during midday, but the poor East Asians have to sacrifice their evenings and the poor North Americans their early mornings.
In private life there are too many distractions and also too many obligations “to keep in touch” thanks to the modern forms of communication at our disposal.

Then I hear about a sad case of a co-worker and that puts the busy and hectic business life into perspective again and that reduces its importance and the amount of emotions invested. My colleague has two sons and the older one has a mental health problem. He is 17 but has not attended school for the past year. He dropped out of high school after the first year and has not returned to school since. I don’t know what kind of mental health problem he has, but if he was and is unable to attend any form of schooling for a year, it must be bad. Compulsory education is until the age of 16, so luckily he made that, but all in all the kid’s future looks quite bleak, since he is missing some very important years of his education. One can only hope that he gets back on track soon and finds the energy to resume learning. Even if he does not return to school, he will have to learn some trade to support himself one day. I cannot imagine what it’s like for the parents to see their kid struggle so much.
Things like that put life into perspective again and make the personal bit of stress smaller.

Especially, since in a week from now I will be on the southern hemisphere of our one and only planet because it’ll be “golden week” in Japan (an accumulation of holidays) and I booked a week of getaway to New Caledonia. I will report about my island adventures as usual 😉

Bored by Sarcasm

I am not sure whether this is a German specialty or whether it is more universal, but since I am encountering mostly Germans who practice sarcasm and irony, let me presume it is a feature mostly to be found in that species, and let me add, mostly in German males. Maybe it also comes so much to my attention, because, while irony and sarcasm does of course exist in Japan, it is however rarely used and certainly not for “sport”.
Among an astonishing number of German males whom I’m encountering in business life, sarcasm and irony are a very popular form of expression. Some guys use it in every bloody sentence. It gets immensely on my nerves. While a bit of spice in form of sarcasm does have the capacity to lighten things up; it, dears sirs, used in every sentence, becomes a nuisance and is annoying, useless and tiring.
I seriously wonder why some German males are so attracted to sarcasm. Do they think it makes them sound cool? Apparently. Is it a kind of pissing contest? Do they want to impress me? Dudes, it ain’t working, just leave out the damned sarcasm and have normal conversations with people. If you use irony, do so sparingly and strategically, then it might be funny and interesting. Otherwise, just shut up, please…

Dumb and Dumber

I suppose there are studies and papers being done on the topic by whatsoever professionals, but I don’t care, I just want to state my opinion. It is my firm belief that the number of dumb, uneducated, idiotic people in the “first” world has neither significantly increased or decreased over the past ten or twenty years. Trouble is, twenty years ago, idiots didn’t have a big platform at their disposal to voice their opinions.
If, for example, a flat earth idiocy existed twenty years ago, the educated part of the world did not know too much about it, because all the members of the club of morons could do, was maybe print leaflets and leave them at their local Mac Donald’s.
Nowadays, unfortunately, these idiots do have a global platform and that is social media, which reaches millions and millions… While social media are a great way to connect people from all over the world, unfortunately they also connect the idiots from all over the world and give them a stage. I don’t know what the cure for that could be, since in most cases, idiocy is unfortunately a quite incurable disease. I shall try my best to ignore them and shall try my best to not let them disturb my questionable and endangered peace. Cheers!