As an expat you get to partake in a ritual that others know nothing about, returning as a foreigner to your homeland.

After living a few years away from your homeland you will find that your country has moved on while your concept of the mother country has remained the same in your head, a virtual time capsule to be crushed upon your return. Part of this reverse culture shock is the obvious new buildings, or new trains, planes and auto-mobiles that have transformed your old stomping grounds. The other aspect of reverse shock is the evolving culture that people who actually live at home don’t actually see that only an expat can pick out. I’m pushing 10 years outside of my country, not all of it in Japan, and I’m always amazed at how my homeland has changed.

Tattoos

In my years away it’s amazing just how many people are inked up. Every 30 something and down have tattoos now. Not just unicorns and Irish clovers but full on planned designs that cover entire arms, shoulders and backs.

No trampstamps or unicorns here

A lot of it is beautifully done mind you and I see lots of Japanese influence which is of course ironic considering just how much tattoos are hated in Japan. (Read: Japan gave up its tattoo culture to become more western)

Guido Explosion

For something to appear on the popular culture radar when you live in another country and don’t have access to local TV, newspapers from your country it has to be big and have a serious following. I heard people reference Jersey Shore, the so called new reality TV explosion, for sometime.

I knew it was big, but I didn’t know just how big. There are pumped up meat heads all around that could seamlessly join the cast of Jersey Shore at any time and I’m visiting the West Coast as far from any sort of Italian population as you can get.

Evolution of music

I know it’s just the nature of music to evolve, that things were underground, then become mainstream but its different for someone, like me, that has been out of town. People who have lived in the west are like the proverbial frogs in boiling water that don’t jump out because the water slowly heated up without it noticing. Yet I am the frog who rather than sitting in water that has slowly had the temperature turned up was instead thrown into the boiling bubbling mass. When I left electronic music was viewed with fear and disdain. People talked about how it would usher in a new wave of drug plagues but now it is totally mainstream with the booming bass beating from every store, TV commercial and bar with all the fist pumping that goes with it.

I can’t handle western food

I don’t really keep track what goes into my mouth, I just eat whatever is in front of me. I do know that I’m not eating 100% Japanese food but in Japan rice has definitely become a big stable. I’m not sure if my problem is that or portion size but whatever it is there is a war going on in my digestive tract. Some sort of chemical gas battle that makes me a bloatly mess that expunges gas like a Zeppelin. Then there is the exit flow that alternates from several day droughts to flows so powerful that I have new understanding for what GaijinAss went through when he joined the Marines. (Read: My adventures in joining the Marines)

Junkies

Maybe its just my little west coast enclave but there are junkies EVERYWHERE! I’m sure Japan has heroin, meth addicts but you never see them or they are some how able to function and avoid becoming the horribly scabby, skinny sketch bags that inhabit seemingly every corner, watching you with their flickering eyes.

Militarized Junkie Zombies

They were always there when I lived at home but I guess I had just learned to ignore them, and their pleas for some change for a meal/fix. Once a while back I took back home a Japanese friend with me and she remarked how they looked like zombies which in a word perfectly captured their shuffle, appearance, and demeanour … zombies indeed. (Read:The Walking Dead cop out)

The Meth Effect

In hand with the junkies are the lengths that society has been forced to adapt to Meth. Now when you walk through the over the counter section of the supermarket/pharmacy whole shelves have been placed behind protective glass or now have metal sheets that hid cough syrup behind a sign telling you to ask a pharmacist to unlock the door and the formerly innocent products that it contained and that are now building blocks for endless energy in a pipe.

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One thing that that frustrates me about the Walking Dead TV show is the constant debate on whether or not  it’s worth it to continue living.  Many of the plot arcs revolve around if they should keep trying to survive in a world that is so cruel or find a creative way to end it all. I get the idea, but it’s one that I think is pretty unique to our First World, western societies’ culture of excess. That we can’t imagine living without our iPads and foamy lattes and would rather off our selves at the first moment we had to do without. Humanity is better than that and Apocalypse writers often gloss over our will to survive.

We don’t have to look far to find real life examples. The Kony 2012 viral video has recently brought the horrors of the Christian terrorist group the Lord’s Resistance Army operating out of central Africa. With the LRA there are some examples of true horror not the fictional kind found in Walking Dead. Victims of Kony’s army have had children ripped out of mother’s arms, children kidnapped, killed or just disappeared, children forced to kill their parents and of course enough senseless murder to flood Uganda in blood but in Walking Dead the violence is written off because it was carried out by faceless, mindless zombies.  In Uganda, Kony’s fighters are real, thinking people that were beating babies and slaughtering innocents in the “Lord’s” name. Yet in the LRA zone of operation there is no drive by people to kill themselves or commit mass suicides.  All the people living under the LRA reign of terror want to do is survive.

Looking at another war torn conflict is the fractious civil war that ripped apart Liberia, a country on the coast of West Africa. In Walking Dead the killers of the living, the zombies, are quickly liquidated by a head shot but in now peaceful Liberia the killers, the rapists and the cannibals have moved back into society right next to those they raped, ate and pillaged.

While on the Daily Show, Nobel Prize winner, Leymah Gbowee encapsulated this when describing a story of a co-worker who lived through the war. This women describes how her son was killed in the war and the daughter left to a refugee camp.  10 years later she finds the daughter again and finds out that she has married a man in the camp and they have two children. When the mother sees a picture she discovers to her horror that the man her daughter married is the murderer of her son.  The lost daughter living in the refugee camp had married her brother’s killer.

This is what real life victims have to deal with yet they survive, they live. Where as in Walking Dead they at least get to have a satisfying bullet to the brain of a zombie to end their feeling of being wronged yet at every turn, every episode, they debate wanting to off themselves because the world is too hard.  I think living next to someone who killed your family and tried to kill you would be way more traumatic!

Stop your whining Walking Dead survivors!

Grow up people, in a fictional zombie filled universe!

And eat your peas! Children in Somalia are starving!

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Season Two of Walking Dead is over and once again I regret watching a series that hasn’t finished or been cancelled, as now I have to wait till FALL!! FALL 2012 before I find out what happens next.

For those living under a rock Walking Dead is a TV drama following a group of survivors as they trudge through the Zombie Apocalypse. I’ve talked before about the appeal of living through an Apocalypse (Read: I want the “big” earthquake to hit) and Zombie Apocalypse is probably one of the best two Apocalypses to live through losing only to some sort of plague event. These two end of the world scenarios trump nuclear winter, or an asteroid hit because our lives’ amenities are left relatively intact … you know besides those pesky zombies or bacteria death zones.

Walking Dead takes up after a slow zombie (Compared to fast zombies like in 28 Days Later) infection has overrun the world, or at least the East Coast of America. According to zombie fan boys this is possible because our modern military is defenseless against the zombie hordes due to modern warfare’s dependence on shock and awe, both of which are ignored by the mindless zombie and are thus rendered useless.  The military is just over run like Katrina over ran NOLA.

In the slow zombie universe you can survive by following basic rules, wonderfully spelled out in 2009’s Zombieland:

If you can’t watch that clip the rules mentioned are beware of bathrooms (enclosed spaces, one exit), always double tap a zombie, wear a seatbelt and most important, maintain good CARDIO! Slow zombies can be outrun which was proven again and again in the TV show Walking Dead. But watching Walking Dead I’ve created my own rules and successful strategies. First of all in addition to cardio there should be:

1- Stick together! Haven’t people watched Scream? Those that get separated, get eaten.
2- Fortify! When the ancient Roman armies used to camp every night they would create a temporary fort to protect against barbarian hordes, same rules apply to zombie hordes. The first thing they should have done after arriving at the farm was erect either a log wall around the farmhouse or some sort of secure fence perimeter.
3 – Get a Sword or crossbow!  Guns only last so long so adopt phalanx fighting abilities. This was just touched on in the series but behind a good defensive barrier all one would need to do is create a hole small enough for a zombie to stick his head through and then the defenders cut it off. Next mindless zombie sticks his head through repeat step A. In walking dead Shane was doing this in the bus and given time he would have defeated that small group of zombies.  But when you are mobile you can’t always have a good fortification so in typical phalanx fighting style create your own fort via raised shields. In the zombie universe this could be achieved by wearing and using riot police gear combined with makeshift spears or swords. A team of 10 dressed in riot gear (even football padding would work) and armed with swords or pikes would be zombie killing machines.

4- Finally, Get Zombie Camouflage!   They did this, kind of, in season one to get out of the city but a much better example is one of the last images in the series finale:

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