Sunday, June 25, 2006

Not much to say except...

Life amazes me a lot these days. These little babies were tiny, scawny, ugly things a few short weeks ago. Now they are large and strong and ready to leave the nest. In fact, two were gone on Friday. Amazing, and a little sad...but truly wonderful to me.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Randomness on a sunny Tuesday afternoon...

I just finished a couple of really good classes at the elementary school and I really, really, really, really love my kids. This job isn't thrilling, but interacting with the students is what really does it for me. The elementary kids get SO excited about the stuff they are learning, which makes me happy and forces me to keep giving them my all. I can so do without the bureaucracy, the stupid, inefficient meetings (yesterday I was held captive at one for over 3 hours), and long hours of twiddling my thumbs. But the sweet kids really do it for me. Especially when they are jumping all over me telling me how good I smell, how cool my hair feels and asking questions in rapid fire Japanese that I have no answers to. I heart them so much.

In other news, I received my certificate in beginner's Japanese. Let me tell you, it was a struggle at times, but I'm happy that I didn't quit and accomplished my goal. The last test was a killer and I thought for sure I failed, but I actually did a lot better than I expected. Good for me.

You all know that I'm rocking my natural hair, and everyone around me, including the Japanese people I see everyday, have been really supportive. Yeah, initially it was a shock, but I think my hair is growing quite nicely and I feel quite confident in how I look. Anyways, some of the kids started calling me Kaki Afuro right off the bat, which I didn't mind because that's what I have - a mini Afro. But then it got ugly when someone said "Monkey Afuro" which led to some ill feelings on my part. I didn't beat up anyone, but I told the perps to stop, and they did for a while, but every now and then, someone would say it. Lately, it's been a couple of 5th grade girls, who should really know better because the third graders have stopped it. So last week, when they said it, during a pair exercise in class, I told them how bad it made me feel to hear them say that. With my limited Japanese, I told them that their words hurt my heart and gave me bad feelings. They understood perfectly. Now they are just back to simulating that I got an electrical shock when screwing in my lightbulb, but at least the nasty words have stopped.

Good news for all of you who care about my esthetique needs...I found a lady of Middle Eastern descent who waxes body hair, with natural honey wax, in Osaka. Yeah, that's 2 hours away from me, and a 5050 yen round trip, but I gotta take care of myself! Tokyo is the only other place that I know of near me that does waxing, but the fare is about 4 times as much as the fare to Osaka, so guess where I'm going? I have an appointment this Saturday, but I think I'll postpone it because I didn't realize that, um, how to put this politely...I'll be riding the red train.. God, euphemisms are so retarted sometimes. I'm getting my period, people! There!

Gotta gripe for a moment - I love kushokku, school lunch, because it's usually yummy and different from the stuff I make for myself. But it absolutely slays me when we get potatos, bread and noodles on the same menu. My ass can't take it! Enriched carbs aren't my friends!

That's all I got for now. Latah.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Trying out this meditation business...

I'm not really one for yoga, or seperating the mind and body or sitting still for too long. I get distracted then I start making up lists in my head or asking myself questions like "Did I leave the iron on?" and "What should I have for dinner?" But I read an article in this month's O Magazine that gave me pause for thought. Oprah interviewed Hugh Jackman of X-Men fame and it seems that he's a really deep guy. He went to a school for philosophical thinking, he meditates to centre himself and he seems to have his shit together without sounding like a know-it-all. I mean, I don't know the guy, but that didn't stop me from hearing his message. By stilling ourselves and taking a couple of minutes to connect with the most important person in the world (ourselves), we can be better. I aim to be a better daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, teacher and person. I ulitmately hope to be a wonderful wife and mother. While I currently try really, really hard to be all those things, what I'm aiming for right now is to get some clarity for what I want to do with my life.

This has been a needle in my brain for the past 10 years, pretty much around the time I left the Health Sciences program at John Abbott to pursue studies in the creative/communication arts. After giving up my dream of becoming a doctor (I simply do not have a brain for chemistry or physics - it's too finite, too strict), I've sort have been just floating. I consistently do well in every field I tackle : government relations and communication, public relations, marketing, and educational administration, but I have yet to find that passion at work. I've always believed it's important to find that connection with work, to be fully engaged for the 8 hours a day that we are there, but I've come to think that perhaps I just don't have a passion for anything work-related. What stokes my fires are traveling, reading, doing domestic things and caring for my family. I think I'm seeing work as more of a means to my ends: work to make money to travel and working to obtain benefits that will serve me and my family.

I've thought about moving in to a career in community development, international affairs, or in education as a teacher, and while these prospects excite me for a (short) while, the flame is not sustained and is extinguished. So now I'm trying to close the gap between what I want to do and what I should do.

At the Tokyo Re-contracting conference, I attended a workshop for women to address issues facing us in Japan. At one point, someone said that she was disappointed that when she asked her students what they wanted to do in life, most of her female students responded that they wanted to be a mother and a wife. While the room erupted into tsk-tsks and pompous laughter, I sat very still and asked myself "well, what's wrong with that?" What is wrong about wanting to make life better for those closest to you? Granted, I'm not the Leave It to Beaver type, but really, are we as feminists, male or female, too hardened, too selfish, too cynical to admit that there is nothing wrong with the woman who chooses to stay home and be of service to her family?

Admittedly, when I was younger, I thought climbing the corporate ladder, getting that big paycheque and corner office, and living to work was what every woman should aspire for. But now, my ideas and myself have changed. I'm not saying that I'm going to chuck it all and stay home baking all day while dressed in a mu-mu. That's not me. But I can't look down on anyone who chooses to.

So, during my time of stillness when I meditate, or some definition of the word, I aim to get over the guilt I feel for not wanting that crazy impressive career with the long hours, the stingy recognition and the soul-sapping bureaucracy. I aim to feel better about thinking about my future career as a series of interesting jobs that I applied for because I knew they'd keep me stimulated and happy. I aim to use each job as a way to make myself and my family more comfotable without sacrificing my health, my mental well-being and my skin (stress causes wrinkles you know - yeah, I'm thinking about the big things). I aim to have no regrets so that when I'm on my death bed, I could feel fulfilled and contented.

This may be a tall order, but I think that it will pay off. One thing that I've learned over the years is that I can do anything.

Sorry if this is all jumbled. Just your usual Friday afternoon thoughts...(spurred on by a discussion with my JTE)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Fun times in da city...

I recently went to the JET Re-contracting conference in Tokyo and aside for the blah blah blahs of the workshops, it was quite fun. I got to hang out with Petra, seen here trying to lick a giant ice cream with a couple of random cracked out Japanese girls. We did a fair bit of shopping (mostly of the window variety) and I bought a couple of sensibly priced pieces from American Apparrel (shot out to the MTL) and a Coach purse. WHAAAA? That's right. I got my sweet little number at a MILITARY BASE for a bargain bin price. On top of that, I also got a DVD player for a steal. This mega store is for military personnel and their families, but it definately pays to have connections. Ahhh, the purse is really lovely. Salmon coloured, suede, beautiful and mine. I don't need to purchase anything for a long, long, long time. I am satiated...

While in Tokyo, a bunch of us went out for delicious Indian to properly celebrate the birthdays of Dave and I. It was a good turnout and tons of laughs.

This past Saturday, I went to the "famous" Gifu Ukai. I'm feeling under the weather today and don't really feel like providing a detailed description of the whole affair so check this out: In a huge nutshell, these fisherman train these specific birds to catch sweetfish. Or rather, they train them to be bulimic. See, the fishermen tie a rope around the middle of the bird, preventing them from swallowing the fish.

The fisherman then massages the bird around the neck, forcing it to throw up the fish. Appetizing, no? While we didn't eat any of this sweetfish (I hear the emperor feasts on Gifu's very own on special ocassions), the experience was a feast for the eyes. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a very good shot (I'm having severe pixel envy right now), but I like the one of the 6 boats lining up, their fires guiding their way.

Other than that, it's getting pretty hot here. The rainy season has officially started though it was very beautiful today. July, August and September are shaping up to be very busy and time is just flying. Soon, it will be a year since I

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Really, I could make a killing…

If I got my act together and got off my ass, I could make millions of yen making sure these kinds of English language atrocities never happen. What the hell is this supposed to say? You can find this everywhere in Japan: t-shirts, shop names, advertisements, foodstuffs, anywhere and everywhere. See, I’d set up this little business where I’d offer my English language expertise (well, what's left of it right now) to businesses. For a reasonable fee, I’d consult them on all things English to ensure they wouldn’t look stupid and English readers wouldn’t be subjected to such drivel. Let’s take ASSE chocolate, for example. Yes, this is a real product. See, if I was working for this company and they came to me pitching this name, I’d make it very clear just what ASS(E) means in the rest of the world and expressly demonstrate it’s usage. Till then, I’ll snap the really messed up ones that either amuse or irk me.

It’s been a nice couple of days here in Neo. The sun is nice and hot and it really feels like summer again. Yesterday I went to Tokino Elementary School to watch a demonstration of an English class for training purposes. The class was alright and I learned a couple of things I’ve already started to implement, but it was more fun to talk to the super curious students and be bitchy with Ed. The real learning occurred on the way to and from the school. I was accompanied by Noritake-san, a 29-year-old teacher (the second dude from the right) who is posted at my schools. He’s really young, sweet and good-humoured. And as I found out yesterday, he’s also really, really candid. He told me quite a few things about his personal life that I won’t mention here because it doesn’t seem right. But the most interesting thing he told me was about how Japanese people talk a lot of talk, but seldom walk the walk. Of course, not every Japanese person is like this, but plenty of them are. I'm sure the will is there, but I guess that rampant workaholicism gets in the way. Ahh, it's too hot to state my case. If you wanna state yours, go ahead.

I had plenty to say, but right now my brain is fuzzy from the heat. Must get home and nap. Later.