Monday, August 29, 2005

Augsust 29, 2005

I got back from Osaka yesterday and I'm still recovering. Osaka was...hmm, how shall I put it? Well, as my pal Ed would say, it was GAY! It was my second time visiting Osaka in less than a year and a half, and my initial opinion remains the same: dirty, smoggy, a mess of concrete and steel, cold (in spirit), rude people and little personality...think Toronto. It's a big city and I think I've captured it in these shots... (Ok, it's nice to look at, but not my kinda place).

The highlight of the trip was definitely hanging out with Montreal Mel and her friend Luc. It was so nice to be with someone! And she's a funny girl to boot. We, along with a couple of US girls, had dinner at an excellent Mexican restaurant then had a couple of beers at an Irish pub. We parted ways at PURE, an all night club, where I proceeded to get happy at the all you can drink club. Bailey's was the poison for the evening...I met a couple of cool American boys, who were incidentally visiting from S. Korea. I spent the majority of the night with them, until this big, black Mandingo mutherfucker was all up in my grill trying to "buy" me a drink! I said "I was waiting for some loser to say that to me..." No shame, no shame.

On Saturday, Mel and I went shopping where, among other things, I bought 2 magazines that came to a staggering total of 2300 yen!! That's equivalent to around 26$ CAD!!! I'm waiting for my orders from Amazon, so I was a tad desperate...For the record, I bought Vanity Fair and Time because I knew that I would read them from cover to cover...I guess you could call it an investment!

This here is a picture of Mel that I love: she took a bite out of a strange looking dessert and proclaimed that "it tastes like Japan." She summed up our collective experience in one succinct sentence...

Anyhoo, I won't be going back to Osaka anytime soon, but I am looking forward to my trip to Tokyo in a few weeks. Gotta get hooked up!!!

I will begin teaching next week, so I will actually do what I came here for. On Thursday, I have to give my introduction in both English and Japanese. Expect a post soon after.

Until then, my thoughts are with you, especially a sweet bundle of joy...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

August 25, 2005

I am having a low energy day today, but for good reason - one of my best friends had a baby yesterday!!! I was so excited, I felt like throwing up. I bought a phone card and called Montreal to speak with another bf, who is also expecting, and got the low down. I then called the new mommy and it felt like I was back home. By the time I got off the phone at 11:30 p.m., I was too wired to sleep. I took a shower and got online to cruise the net. Went to bed around 1 a.m. Yeesh.

This morning was pretty brutal and even more so because I hadn't eaten for the last 12 hours in preparation for my FULL BODY PHYSICAL EXAMINATION!!! Last week, T. and T-sensei had to explain to me in Japanese and English that I was expected to provide not one, but two stool samples. I've never had to do such a thing and it was one of the most uncomfortable conversations I've ever experienced. But, in true Japanese form, an informative and brightly coloured pamphlet was included in the exam kit. Ain't this somethin':

Anyway, I was subjected to a surprisingly pain-free blood test, hearing and eye exams, blood pressure test, lung check, some kind of test where they put things all over my body, and had my weight and height checked (I haven't gained a pound - YAY). In the end, it was more of a slight pain in my ass than anything else, and hey, I got to experience something few JETs will.

Back in the teacher's room, I struggled to keep my eyes open and my wits about me. I asked to order a bento, then everyone else did, and we had a very pleasant lunch together. Sometime around 2 pm, a lady came to the room and asked to speak to me. We had a private tete-a-tete and she basically asked if I could be her and her friend's English tutor. She mentioned something about fruits and veggies and food and I have to assume that she was talking about payment for the lessons. I said sure and then she mentioned that her friend is 77 years old. Oy! I said sure, not a problem (I sincerely hope) and asked that in addition to the hour of English tutoring, we spend 30 minutes speaking Japanese. She agreed and we shook on it. It's really funny how anyone and everyone will just hit me up for conversation (she was the second lady today who talked to me out of the blue), when in Montreal we all go about our business without hardly looking people in the face. It's a nice change and one that I'm really embracing.

When I got home, I decided to go out for a walk and found the waterfalls shown at the top of this post. Sigh. I am so not a nature girl, but I love my surroundings.

Yesterday I hung out with my pred., D. Such a lovely man. Took me shopping (I think we spent 2 hours at Kahma), had dinner at a really good Indian resto (nan, sweet, sweet nan), made me laugh and gave me some advice and insights into my new world, and drove me back home. Will definitely hook up with him again soon. Before we went to eat, I caught sight of this phenomenom that seems distinct to Japan:

D. seemed to be a bit nervous that I was taking the picture, but I couldn't stop laughing! Just imagine what would happen if there was a car accident - stuffed animals everywhere!

Anyway, not much new with me. I'm going to Osaka tomorrow so I will share the details soon. Til then, hang tight!

One more pic for you: This is the route I take to the JHS every second day: I really take the time to stop and smell the roses (and keep a lookout for monkeys...)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

August 23, 2003

I do believe that I may be coming down from my initial Japan euphoria. Last night, before an indiaka match, it just hit me that I live in the country. In the middle of Japan. In Asia. Far, far away from my friends. In a country where I don't speak the language. Or can read the signs. I knew that this day was coming and when it finally came, I was more or less prepared. But I nearly broke down when an older woman touched my face, maybe because she wanted to make sure that my skin colour didn't come off. Ooooh, I was so close to crying. But, I got up and played the game. I wasn't on top of it, but I did feel better at the end. And I did sleep well after taking a nice, long shower and talking to a local friend. When episodes like this occur, I just have to fully embrace it, work through it, distract myself and move on. I'm happy that I'm mature enough handle this properly.

I had a good weekend though. Ed, the dashing Scotsman, came over and we had dinner and watched a couple of movies, including Monty Python and the Holy Grail. So not what I expected and a bit disappointed, but the company was good. We woke up the next morning and just lounged until we had lunch. I walked him to the train station and come home to get ready for a concert in the park. It was a lot better than I expected and got a delicious bento out of it.

On Sunday, I hooked up with Shouichi, a young Japanese man I met at badminton. When we first met, he asked if I wanted to bake choco-chip cookies with him. I said sure on a whim, then got increasingly nervous as the countdown to b-day began. But I worried for nothing because it was a really fun day and he got to practice English while I practiced Japanese. We had dinner with his parents, his sister and his nephew and this is a pic of Shouichi looking so proud of our handiwork (the flash surprised the shit out of him - can you tell??):

I'm at school now and the term begins next week. I must admit that I'm nervous. I don't have a plan, and anyone who knows me knows that I'm a serious planner. Will get on that ASAP. But in the meantime, I'm thinking about Osaka this weekend where I will hook up with MTL Mel. Can't wait for our mini-reunion, the shopping and hopefully, a bit of sightseeing. It's always good to have something to look forward to...

Oooh, and we got paid on Friday. I fired off some cash home and am thinking about what I'm going to buy. I need some things for the apato, but I'm thinking that an ipod and a Coach handbag is in the imminent future. WHAT???!!!? So what if I'm in inaka in Japan and no one will blink if I'm rockin' a Coach purse, but I've wanted one for years...(JUSTIFY,JUSTIFY,JUSTIFY) Will definitely keep you posted on THAT. And also thinking about China in December...And Tokyo next month - hmmm, maybe a nice perm and a bikini wax...Ahhhh. That would be so nice - not during the wax mind you, but after. Mmmmm...

Ok, drooling on keyboard. Updatacha lata!

Monday, August 15, 2005

August 15, 2005

I went to my first bondori (local festival) yesterday and I was dressed in a yukata. I thought I looked pretty damn good, thanks for asking. There was the usually shrine hoisting, food stuffs and fireworks, and I participated in the dancing. I got so many compliments and good wishes that my heart nearly burst. I met some of my future students there and had a blast. The night was capped off with a skin scorching dip in the nearby onsen (hot springs) and I slept like a baby. Ooh, the love, the love...

Sunday, August 14, 2005

August 14, 2005

Boring workshops. Inside jokes. Flirting. More boring workshops. Food and sake, sake, sake. Endless conversations. Naked public bath. Drinking. Public drunkeness. Swear words. Laughter. Drunken debauchery. More workshops. Email info exchanges. Swimming in the rain. Fighting over BBQd meat and veggies. People who can't hold their liquor. Dancing and sweating. Skinny dipping. Public nakedness. Silly conversations. All you can drink. Sleep deprevation. Knowing glances. Gifu Orientation/Horado-cho Camp 2005.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

August 10, 2005

It is 3:42 p.m. and my apartment is so hot. I have the afternoon off today and Kawamura-san and I went to Motosu Board of Education, and picked up Jeff from Australia, to get my gaikokujin/gaijin (alien registration) card. I’m an official resident! Yay for me.

Yesterday was a good day. Kawamura-san and I broke out of work early to go to the nearest mall, Apita, to get me a phone and so she could pick up a skirt. The skirt is for the wedding of a former Neo ALT who will be getting married (to a Japanese woman – of course) in Kyshu in August. We found a cute phone, complete with answering machine, and bought a couple of things at the grocery store. Though I am comfortable with my physical surroundings, I am uncomfortable with the food situation. I paid 417 yen for a small box of cereal:

I promised myself that I wouldn’t skimp on the food, but it hurts when I go to the grocery store!

Anyway, played badminton last night and met some new people, including one hottie Japanese man, who, I swear, looked Latino, but was speaking super quick Japanese. He was flirting hard core, but I understood the gist of it.

So hot, so tired. Gotta get some rest – I have to go to a conference tomorrow and then a welcome camp on Friday. Will update soon.

Monday, August 08, 2005

August 8, 2005

What a weekend!!! Had so much fun over the past few days – totally reminded me of my party days at Ottawa U. After putting out an APB for a place to stay in Gifu-shi so that I could enjoy the festivities, my girl Christina hooked me up with her comfy sofa bed for the weekend. When I arrived on Friday, we did a bit of shopping, ate at a “Chinese” restaurant, drank some alcohol and talked and talked and talked. On Saturday, we made our way to the Gifu JR station to hook up with other JETs to go on a walking tour of the city. After nearly an hour of waiting for stragglers, we were off. Walked the streets while we got to know each other. Met a couple of cool girls from Canada, one from B.C. and the other from Thunder Bay (Canada gurls rock!), and conversated with some peachy boys from all over the world. After a couple of hours and a food break, we made our way to the fireworks where we met up with even more Jets, and I think there may have been 40 of us in total.

After the fireworks, we walked like what seemed like days to Bar Leon, a Peruvian bar near the JR station. Along the way, there were jokes with a suave Scotsman, laughs with an awesome Canuck, and deep convos with a sweet Texan (“Chris – when referring to women’s undergarments, do you say panties or underwear???”) At the bar, I downed several T&Ts (Tequila and Tonics) in rapid succession and proceeded to show them Japayooky girls a thing or three on the dance floor. Without getting into too much detail, I had tons of fun, danced a lot, made some friends and laughed my ass off (for the unrated version, email me).

The original plan for the evening was to take the last JR train back to Christina’s place and call it an early night. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and around 2 a.m., me, Christina, Chris and Ed piled into a cab and went to her apartment. I woke up the next morning with a wicked hangover, but an allover good feeling. Mmmmm. So much fun.

As I was making my way home yesterday, 2 foxes crossed my path and wigged me out. I was too slow with the digi cam, and unfortunately, they got away. Just happy that they weren’t bears!

Anyway, this will be an easy breezy week as I only have to work for 3 days (2 of them are half days), and then I’m off to an overnight conference and then immediately after, a sleep away camp. **Sigh** It sure is hard to be a JET right now.

I just got back from picking up a few things from the grocery store, including cereal (wish me luck!), and I passed by the gas station so that I could get oil put on my brakes. After a game of charades and wild gesticulation, I got what I wanted, and now my brakes don’t squeal when I’m going down a hill at 60 km an hour. Another day, another mini-victory.

One last thought – Junichiro Koizumi, the Japanese Prime Minister, is one good looking mama jama.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

August 2, 2005

Today was a good day, thanks in large part to the internet. I spent nearly 2 hours on it today, because really, there’s only so much of nothing that I can do! Got a little sad when I read that Aya had her 30th birthday at the Ritz. I think the homesickness is creeping in, but I’m keeping busy. I played a game called indiaka last night. It is similar to volleyball except the ball looks like a mini oval volleyball with a shuttlecock attached to it. It took me a little while to get the serves and volleys right, but then it just started to flow. And boy, was it a workout! I have sweat like that for a long while! Tonight, it’s badminton, which I haven’t played in oh, about 13 years! Regardless of that, it’s all about the bonding with the schoolteachers and neighbors and getting out of the apartment.

The Japanese language seems to be coming along for me. My ear has started to pick up things and my vocab is growing. I met the “Gas Man” today, and I was able to understand some of what he said. I’ll probably have longer conversations soon! YAY for me.

I also rode the train yesterday so I’ll be an independent woman soon. Actually, I will be this weekend when I travel to the prefecture’s major city, Gifu City for a walking tour and to see the fireworks. Due to the wild animal situation here (monkeys and tigers and bears, OH MY!), I’ve decided that if I can’t make it back to my apartment before nightfall, I’m sleeping out. I’ve already made a few friends with some Gifu people, so I’m not worried.

I have a little crush going on with a City Hall dude. He’s Japanese, super thin, somewhat effeminate and oh so helpful. So not my type, but I’ve chalked it up to needing to have a little fun. (He will be mine! Muuahhahhaa! [Evil laugh]). There are a couple of potentials on the island, but they’d probably be too complicated, so I’m not going there. Yet.

Here’s a picture of the elementary school kids swimming today. I wanted to rip off my skirt and jump in with them! I think it’s too early to scare them, though! ENJOY!

My dear lovelies, can you believe I’m actually doing this? I’m so proud of me.