The last time the duck and I posted a video about one of our adventures on here, I mentioned that we were having trouble with our usual editing process. We were in a state of “meaning to look into other software and workflows” for two years. Finally, last month, when we reminisced about our delicious bento lunch, the duck and I did it; we reviewed some of our earliest video footage from a time when the duck was still whispering nocturnal messages about moving to Japan and starting a blog in my ear, and our tiny camera of choice was especially susceptible to my shaky camera work. And we finally (somewhat) familiarized ourselves with this editing software that’s been sitting on our computer, untouched, for a good year. Since we are lazy and masterful procrastinators, it took us most of this past week to finish about 80% of this video so that it would be ready today. We spread around 5% of the work over the summer and decided to save the remaining 15% for another project. You should always leave room for improvement, you know. So, today the duck and I present an edit of some footage from that fateful trip that solidified our plans to live in Japan for a while, planted the seed in our minds that we might want to try taking up jogging one last time… a few years later, started the duck’s fascination with trains, and gave us our (possibly our) first bento memory- all in less than a half week! We had a few bonus adventures after that. But for now, the duck and I are happy that we have some sort of video to share today:
After working on this for quite a bit longer than the end result suggests, the duck and I are surprised the footage wasn’t as terrible as we had remembered (or that our powerful editing software was able to salvage a lot of it). And we’re excited about next night’s absolutely restful sleep. Oh, the joys of being master procrastinators!
This is a story about something that happened last summer, at a time when I was running on a lot less sleep than usual:
It was the evening of a day I had spent running lots of errands, trying hard to not get lost on the way and to avoid bare-faced strangers who were looking for conversation. I was standing at an unfamiliar train station, blankly watching the strip of evening sky between an ugly building and the station roof change colors. I barely paid attention to the podcast I was listening to, partly because I didn’t have my coat and it was getting chilly, partly because I was thinking about whether I’d make my next appointment – with Berlin public transport being so unreliable, especially during the evening rush hour. While I was standing there, lost in thought, a train approached the platform. After a glance at the information board to confirm that it wasn’t the one I had to take, my gaze found the train windows that were passing by me at a decreasing speed until I could make out individual passengers. When I realized that they were all wearing masks, I was genuinely shocked. The thought that this train full of incognito criminals would soon open its doors and thus remove the barrier between us worried me. Only then did I remember that we were in a pandemic and that wearing a mask on public transport is mandated, which meant that all those apparent criminals were everyday heroes. As I continued to gaze at the windows that were now slowly gaining speed as they passed by me, I was shocked at how exhausted I must have been at that moment and decided to get some much-needed rest after that last appointment. I should definitely stop making fun of the duck’s numerous Christmas market and cookie daydreams after this embarrassing incident that, hopefully, didn’t show in the tiny bare section of my tired face because, yes, I had forgotten that I was wearing a mask myself. I would have been one of the criminals.
… is one of the city’s most popular attractions! For as little as €2.90 you can see for yourself what all the hype is about! If you live in Berlin chances are that you heavily rely on public transport. The public transport network here is pretty good. In fact, it’s quite similar to that in Tokyo in that there usually are several connections that get you from one place to another, though some might be substantially more convenient than others. There are not many locations within city limits that you cannot reach by bus, tram, subway or train and a brisk walk of usually less than ten minutes – on a day without outages or cancellations, that is. Sure, you might have to change several times – the duck and I sure do – but that just means more opportunities to acquaint yourself with the Berlin-exclusive public transport etiquette (that definitely needs some getting used to, especially if you come straight from Tokyo). When two years ago we would walk around with our phone on permanent silent mode (because we were constantly taking trains and not disturbing your fellow passengers is rule #1 in Tokyo), now there are hardly any days that the duck and I do not get to witness some heated interpersonal drama on the train. Sounds seem to multiply here. I still vividly remember an instance when, in Tokyo, I sat opposite a Japanese businessman whose phone started to buzz. He quietly answered it (which in itself is not a typical reaction by Japanese train etiquette standards), hand in front of his mouth, telling the caller that he is on the train while he hectically bowed in all directions to apologize for the disruption. Because that was such an unusual occurrence he had a big curious audience. Compare that to a train ride the duck and I had two weeks ago where the standard noise level of casual conversations was drowned out by a person who had a Skype chat with their toddler who was watching TV rather than talking to them, all of that with the speakers at max volume! I turned up the volume on my ear-phones, ignoring the warning that pops up whenever you exceed the ‘safe levels’, and still couldn’t understand half of what was said on the podcast I was listening to.
That’s Berlin public transport for you. Throw in the regular delays and cancellations (my favorite reason by far is wire theft, though the wire problem that initiated the duck and my Ikea odyssey last year was pretty interesting, as well) and the occasional wet seat and you have the ‘Berlin train experience’. The best part of it, at least if you ask the duck and me, is that the BVG (the main public transport company of Berlin) gladly embrace their reputation, as you can tell by some of their humorous commercials.
But all that isn’t really what this post was supposed to be about. Before getting lost in this long exposition, the duck and I actually wanted to share our latest discovery on a Berlin bus that made it truly fancy in our eyes (and I think that after reading about the image that Berlin public transport has you can understand why we were so excited): Continue reading →
No, the title does not come from sweating. I think. But, the more I think about it, it could…
See, now that we’re in the middle of winter, it’s freakishly cold outside most of the time. But that does not always hold true for your average train journey. Of course, if you are standing right at the doors you should prepare yourself for a metaphorical army of snowmen vigorously attacking you for the duration of the train’s halt at each station. If you have managed to snatch a seat, however, and the train is so crowded that you begin to literally see yourself and the other passengers as sardines in a mobile can – first of all, congratulations! You got a seat! Second of all – you’ll soon feel like a sardine that has been cooked to its buttery perfection because the heaters on the train outdo themselves in attempting to counteract the cold from outside.
As a result you will usually find yourself weighing your options: dressing lightly and freezing on the way to and at the train station (good if you spend more time on the train than outside) or wrapping yourself up and feeling toasty warm outside but like a burning toast on the train (good if you’re going to walk around outside a lot and if the trains are not too crowded so that you could potentially take off your outer layer and ignore the weirded out stares that you might get). What shall it be?
Anyway, that’s not what the title is alluding to. Instead, this post is all about the duck and my on-train entertainment:
Trains. They are still the love of our Japanese life! Since the duck and I take trains pretty regularly now, we’ve had lots of opportunities to make mistakes to learn from and to assemble a rather random set of experiences (and photos of the duck posing at train stations. What a weirdo).
In fact, we have enough individual notes on train-related ideas, observations and experiences to fill a whole feature length screenplay – for the most boring movie ever made.
Anyway, this time, let’s focus on a few of the mistakes and educational experiences the duck and I have made and had in our earlier train days:
Some weeks ago the duck and I were in Hikarigaoka and decided to go people watching there. We did not come to any conclusions but we made a video about our little journey and discoveries. After failing again to please our self-proclaimed top video music critic in our Shibuya to Shinjuku journey documentation (apparently the track is featured in every other video on Youtube) I decided to, instead, take on a good friend’s constructive criticism and give the whole video thing (yet) a(nother) makeover. What do you think?
The camera work is shakier than ever which I think gives our videos a charming touch of incapability, don’t you think?
Anyway, after having spent way too much time on narrating and editing this little collection of moving images, I’ll have my imported Sainsbury’s lemon ginger tea now and then I will not give the duck a back massage (where do all of those crazy ideas come from, duck?!).
No, the duck and I haven’t become action heroes (yet), though I would love to think that. Unfortunately, (for now) our only skills consist of powerful jumps to the side when we think we’ve seen a spider or cockroach from the corners of our eyes and fairly good food-catching reflexes if we or someone else dropped something (because food is precious). Those are quite impressive skills but unfortunately not exactly what you seek in an action hero. This post is, instead, about changing trains very fast and inconspicuously. Again, we have also not become super villains, not even regular ones (I hope), we just do not want our lost looks and confused behavior to give us away as the clueless foreigners that we are.
In a previous train post I mentioned that the duck and I always plan out our train journeys so that we end up paying the cheapest fare possible. Well, there also are other reasons that make planning out your journeys and actually looking at all the details, not just the departure and arrival times and transfer stations, important – that we had to learn the hard action-heroes-in-training-way! This is why: Continue reading →
Trains. There are lots of them in Tokyo. And by that, I mean LOTS (= so many that you can only get your point across by implying that you are shouting the exact same word you used in the previous sentence to emphasize it – because that’s how language works)! Generally speaking, that’s a great thing because a good rail system means that traveling about by using only public transportation is totally doable. However, this rather good train network, well, networks, also comes with disadvantages: primarily, the the-duck-and-I-will-get-lost-factor is instantly multiplied by ten (minimum). Well, getting lost frequently at least gives the duck more chances to pose for photos because the world really needs to know what the duck looks like, elaborately reading looking at a station map.
There are so many things to be said about the Tokyo train system, but in order to not write another exhaustive blog post about transportation, I am going to focus on only a few things that we have noticed so far (well, I tried): Continue reading →