Monday, December 26, 2005

The weather outside is frightful

This has been my fist white Christmas in many years. Strangely enough though the weather occupied itself all day by raining. Kind of dismal. There's not much left of the snow.
I keep thinking about all the stuff that I did in my last few weeks in Japan, and there are still posts that I am planning to write detailing some highlights of that. For instance, the Christmas party with my Nakayoshi class, my night on the town with the nakayoshi teacher and my JTE, the Christmas service at my church, and then way back in the day I went to Kyoto with Kenny and my Pastor's wife... All things that I would like to share with you. And I shall, when things calm down a bit.
I don't think that I've experienced very much culture shock, but one thing that was mind boggling upon re-entry to this country-- not five minutes after exiting customs in Pearson International, I found myself to be extremely thirsty. I grabbed my bags, found my Brian, and together we searched the halls for a vending machine. We walked around inside for a good ten minutes without any luck. This might not seem strange to most of you but you Japan folk will understand my shock at this. When Kenny brought me to the airport last week, I was a little thirsty and so while she waited in line with my bags, I roamed the halls of Kansai International to find a drink. The first five vending machines that I passed had very dismal choices-- I was looking for something with a high percentage of fruit juice. Two minutes after I left her and some seven vending machines later I was back with my juice. It's still a little strange, when we went boxing day shopping today I got really thirsty and again, no vending machine in sight. Ahh!
Anyhow, I don't think that I've experienced much culture shock, and I'm not doing too badly with jetlag, although I'm not back to normal. I've been taking naps every day (those of you who know me well know that that's not at all normal) and waking up at least once in the middle of the night for the past week.
Brian, Nick, Laura and I spent three days in Quebec at Mt Tremblant last week. Despite the strike, we got some boarding done and had a lot of fun. I've been in Sarnia since Friday with Brian's family, which is quite fun...finally, I've met all the siblings! Tomorrow afternoon we head out to Belleville and do the Christmas thing there, which I am super excited about. !! My dear Mary Elizabeth Grace is moving to Alberta on me on the weekend, so I hope to spend a bit of time with her before we part ways again.
I'm not feeling very writer-ish today so I'm sorry if you aren't a fan of the detail-listing blog posts. I'll credit two minutes to the end of your day.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Japan: 3am December 18th
San Francisco: 9am December 17th
Hamilton: 1pm December 17th

Location: SanFransisco Airport, Gate 88, en route to Chicago

It's cloudy and rainy here. And I'm a little sleepy. So far, my trip has been a bit of an adventure, both positive and negative.

I woke up early this morning. was it really only this morning? 6am, I was wide awake. I was up and in the shower by 7:30am, when I shaved my legs for the first time read this carefully... 4 months. It feels rather remarkably strange to have smooth legs once again! I figure I don't need the added warmth back in Canada-- the land of heated apartments and heated schools and heated cars. Anyhow. I finished packing my stuff and was left with garbage and leftover stuff all over the room. Melanie came over to collect the things that she agreed to buy, and gladly accepted the contents of my freezer as well. Kenny arrived at 10:20, unexpectedly early. She helped me bring down several loads of garbage and we tracked down the guy who was supposed to buy my couch, kotatsu and Microwave/oven.... half an hour to my departure, we couldn't find his phone number and despite email communication the previous week and a reminder the night before he had still not shown his face. We tracked him down eventually and helped him bring over the couch and microwave, which warmed us up (or tired us out) nicely before we made the trek to the airport with all my luggage.
Somewhere around 12:45 we locked the door to my apartment and dropped the key into the mailbox. Sigh. No more 722-401. We made it to the airport without much hassle. Unfortunately I can't say the same for my check-in process. My bags were pulled aside before I even checked in and the inspector split the zipper on the first pocket he tried to open. It wasn’t opening properly so he just reefed on it and when the zipper split a bit, he just pried the rest open. Thanks. I wasn't happy. He unpacked half of the bag that took me hours to pack, and just shoved the stuff back in and smushed it when it didn't work properly. The next bag went much better; there was no ripping of my zippers. They taped up my first suitcase and sent me on my way.
I was not a happy camper. Just ask Kenny. I spent a few minutes more with her before bidding her farewell for the next 7 months, which was harder than you can imagine. Surprisingly I had no trouble going through security and was delighted to discover that I was seated in the front row of Economy-- meaning I had all the leg room I wanted! I was seated next to a young man from the Bronx who is in the US Military, stationed in Okinawa. Poor guy was just married last year and had two weeks with his wife before he had to ship back out to Okinawa, and hasn't seen her since. He's spending the next 30 days with her. I got my own tv screen that pulled up from my arm rest, and had a million choices of movies. Well, 9, but really, that's not bad.

Japan: 4:39am December 18
SanFransisco: 11:39am December 17
Hamilton: 2:39pm December 17

Location: Flight UA830 en route to Chicago

Throughout the flight, I watched Must Love Dogs, Christmas with the Kranks and Kindergarten Cop. They served us fine and tasty meals, Supper and Breakfast (we ate breakfast at 1am Japan time) plus a few snacks and lots of drinks. On the whole it was a much more comfortable ride than any of my flights with Air Canada have been, although I still have to say that Monarch Air still takes the cake. (well actually they gave us cake… cheese cake…) I managed to doze for an hour to two hours, I don’t really know, which is impressive if you know my lack of ability to sleep on planes (or basically, sleep sitting up). We arrived into Frisco half an hour early, headed through customs and I only had one person in front of me through immigration! That’s the fastest I’ve ever gotten through immigration in a country, only 4 minutes! My bags came through no more scathed than they had been when I sent them away, and I proceeded to re-check them, go through security once more (free and clear yet again! Twice in a row! Let’s see if we can make it a third!) and waited for the boarding of my plane.
I’m now aboard the plane and it’s a little strange to be in a Boeing 747 again, they’re so tiny compared to the Trans-Atlantic and Trans-pacific planes! My flight was half an hour late leaving the gate but they are predicting an arrival as scheduled so that’s wonderful. Then will begin the last stage of my journey.

Japan: 10:35am December 18
Chicago: 7:35pm December 17
Toronto: 8:35pm December 17

Location: UA1110, Over Lake Ontario

I am now onboard flight 1110 en route to Pearson Int Airport. After half an hour of waiting in the Airport and an hour and twenty minutes waiting aboard the plane, we are finally in the air. I should have been to Toronto by now, if we had’ve left on time, but now I shall be half an hour late. Which really isn’t a huge deal, but it seems like it when I’ll finally be *home*.
A really nice guy sat next to me just after I got settled into my seat—He goes to a rather large Christian University in …..I forget already. The Southern States…. Anyhow, he’s a sophomore and is heading back to Edmonton after spending a few days with his girlfriend in Minneapolis. He had a rough day today, he got on his plane to head home at noon, and after they taxied for a bit it was decided that something in the plane was broken. So they sat for an hour and then made everyone get off the plane. They were going to send everyone to Winnipeg in the morning, but he wanted to get moving so he ran around and got a flight to Toronto and is hoping to get a flight straight to Edmonton from there. Poor boy.
Oh, and another girl on the plane was supposed to be on a flight to Toronto this morning but she slept through the boarding, even though she was in the departure area. She didn’t get a flight until this one.
So. Assuming that my flight will be uneventful and that my luggage will arrive safely in Toronto, it will have been a very (long) and successful day.
If you’re reading this right now, assume that I made it home to Hamilton safely.

Friday, December 16, 2005

One more sleep!!!

(and a crapload of packing)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I've said it before.....

Some of you have heard me mention once or twice my theory on snow and myself. Snow avoids me. When I'm at school in Hamilton, it snows in Belleville. As soon as I go home to Belleville, there's a big storm in Hamilton. Just look at all the snow you Hamiltonians have gotten so far this year! Well, prepare for a thaw, for I am heading back to your city on Saturday. Take a close look at the forecast above, which is for the city of Kobe, Japan (my city). Look at what happens to the weather on Sunday. Is it mere coincidence that the first time that snow is forecasted in Kobe this season is the first day that I've left the country?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Happy Birthday to Brian!

What a cute boy. He's over halfway to 50 now! Old man. I'm so lucky to have him to come home to on Saturday! You're my superhero, Brian!

And Happy almost-birthday to Bun. I wish I could be there again this year to celebrate your birthdays! ;)

Friday, December 09, 2005

In the Christmas spirit? Have a short attention span?

Then check this out. Sure it doesn't hold a candle to this, but I'd say it's worth a look-see nonetheless.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Every now and again there comes a time...

...when there are several movies that I'd really like to see in the theatres. Granted, the rest of the time there's nothing remotely interesting.... but when there's one movie I want to see, there's usually several more. Here are my movie wishes this month, in no particular order:

Memoirs of a Geisha

This movie is about the women in the Gion district of Kyoto in Japan. The story follows a young Japanese girl from a fishing village as she is sold to a Geisha house in the Gion district at only 9 years of age. She matures into one of the most famous Geisha in history. For those of you who are unaware, Geisha are not prostitutes, they're masters of fine arts such as fan dancing and singing - entertainers of high quality.
The movie is set in Kyoto, although I'm told that it wasn't filmed there, it was filmed in parts of Tokyo. Boo for that, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of familiar streets!

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I could go and see this movie whilst I'm here but spending $20 on one ticket doesn't really appeal to me. I read this book during stints of free time at school, they had the english copy in their library. I never did finish the last 15 pages. From what I hear I might not even notice because so much has been changed and adapted to fit a suitible theatre length.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I've been suspicious of this movie since they started talking about their plans to make the series into feature length films. The 1988 BBC Version was one thing, but common, I can only imagine what sort of "special touches" Disney will give this allegory. I wish I had a source for this, but I remember talking in my Lewis and Tolkien course with some classmates and Dr Loney raisesd the point that in a letter to a friend regarding the makings of his books into cartoons, he said that he would never let Disney touch his books because they would impose vulgarities that would taint the whole message of Narnia. Hmmm....

Pride and Prejudice
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I'm a sucker for this movie. I love the 5 hour BBC mini-series, I get a kick out of Bridget Jones' Diary (mostly because Collin Firth plays the character of Darcy in both films), and to top it off, I love the novels that Jane Austen wrote. I did two papers on her in High School, and I would have at Redeemer if it had've been an option. I have to see how this holds up to what I've read and seen thus far.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Another work week done....

As my Tuesday rolls to a close, so does (technically) my work week. I still have to go to school for Wednesday and Thursday, but I have no classes. How fantastic? Actually I'd rather have classes than sit in the staffroom trying to keep myself busy for 8 hours, but I'd gladly give up my Wednesday classes to fiddle, so I'm happy. Wednesdays are my worst days of the week, where I have a whole afternoon of evil little ni nenseis. There are some -- very few -- good ones in those classes, but of course they aren't the ones seeking attention. Bah. Anyhow, due to very sad circumstances (My Ni Nensei's father had a stroke and is having surgery) I don't have to do those classes tomorrow. On Thursday my san nensei students have High school entrance tests so their classes are cancelled. And on Friday I have a conference at the Board of Ed, a fun day filled with teaching seminars. Yippie! So, after only two days of teaching for the week I'm finished. Now I only have each class once more before I finish at the school. Five days of work left. Next week Saturday night I'll be back in Hamilton. Somehow the reality of that hasn't hit me yet. Odd.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

In the air there's a feeling of Christmas

This weekend I travelled out to Takarazuka once more and caught the tail-end of the Christmas gathering before heading out to Kyoto on Saturday morning to meet Kenny for some Christmas Shopping. It was a very Christmas-y weekend. Here's some glimpses of the hints of Christmas we came across....

Sorry, I know it's a little blurry.... but check out the work uniforms that they have to wear! Ouch.

The huge tree in the Kyoto train station....

Elvis gets into the Japanese Christmas spirit of things...

Kyoto gets dressed up and into the Christmas spirit.

In other news, it hailed here today for about 20 minutes this afternoon. It was very very cold. On the way home from Church, I saw snow on the mountains....
While we were in Kyoto we stopped in at a Foriegn foods store and in honour of SinterKlaas I purchased spiced Gouda cheese, pumpernickel bread, and Stroopwaffels. Mmmm.... hooray for dutch foods!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

You know you're a minority when....

I was walking to school this morning from the subway and a business man in a suit stopped me (we walk past eachother every morning, he's going down the hill, I'm going up...)...
"Excuse me, Teacher Jennifer? I have these pamphlets for a Festival in Nara. I wanted you to know about it so that you can go, it's the 870th anniversary of this festival. Please tell your friends to go with you, it will be good for you!"
He proceeded to tell me the dates of this festival (which conflict with my return flight home, darn-it-all) and the different events and sub-festivals that will be held.... I've never spoken to this man before and he certainly hasn't been in the staffroom at our school... Every day when I leave the school, as I walk back down the hill to the trainstation there's a few old ladies who bid me "Sayonara." Seems logical, right? Except that in Japan it's the custom to say "Konichiwa" when passing someone on the street, not "goodbye." These folks all know exactly who I am, where I'm going to and where I'm coming from. How strange is that? I can only imagine what it must be like to live in a small town in this country!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A few things of interest....

I have recently rediscovered the joy of computer games... no, I'm not talking about something silly like Age of Empires 19 or something like that. I'm talking about the good old tried-trusted-and-true games... one specifically, "Lemmings". I spent many hours in my childhood on the family Commadore Amiga 2000 trying to rescue the poor creatures from their underground death-traps, though when worst came to worst it was also good entertainment pressing that mushroom button.... 5...4...3...2...1... 'oh no!!' ...."For your sake, I hope you nuked that level!" Ah, good times. They're so cute, the little things. I'd recommend trying it out if you've got a bit of spare time.

Right now I'm listening to the fabulous sounds of Michael W Smith's first Christmas album, simply entitled Christmas. (Don't even bother with the second one, unless you want to be assaulted by such sounds not even fit for an elevator... It's bad. Really bad. I've never been so embarassed of my purchase within 10 seconds of placing it in the CD player before.) We had a tape of this recording that lived in our kitchen stereo from November until January first... It was around everytime dishes were done, meals were cooked or Christmas goodies were baked. I love it.

Kenny suggested toninght that maybe I should consider working with mentally challenged students at some point in the future because my special needs class is my favourite class of the whole week... she might have a point. It requires more thought.

It's almost December!! Due to the fact that the weather resembles that of mid-to-late October Ontario weather at the moment, I have trouble sometimes believing the aforementioned fact. I'm almost willing to bet that there are more Christmas decorations plastering the stores and public spaces of this country than there are in Ontario, but still... It's amazing how much the weather grips your senses. Occassionally the sky becomes a dense grey and that crisp smokey smell filles my nostrils as I breathe in, and I think "Hey! It's almost winter!" But, unfortunately, I don't have an oven or anything like it to make good stuff in. I long for the days of high school when I used to get home from school and start making Christmas-y things just to make the house smell good.... I don't have that option here. And I don't have anyone to feed, even if I did. I'd probably give myself diabetes, eating so much chocolate and sugar all by myself. Probably best that I don't have an oven.

I miss Christmas shopping with my sister. No fair. Evan gets to have all the fun this year. I miss living in the same city as her. It was fun, way back in first year when we only lived 20 minutes apart... Friday night movie/pizza/icecream/girls nights.... But now she's a mommy living in her own house in Orono and we probably won't be living in the same city again... at least not for a long time. And that makes me sad. I like bumming around with her and watching movies and baking and stuff. Boo.

This will be my first Christmas ever not being home in Belleville for the actual Day.... and that's kinda strange. I'll miss it. And it will be my first Christmas in 9 years without my puppy. I'll miss her greatly. BUT. It shall be my first time spending Christmas with Evan, not to mention the fact that it'll be my first time having a double Christmas with Brian!

I hope there's snow at Christmas so I can go make a snowman. Did you know that Japanese children draw snowmen with only two balls as opposed to our Ontarian 3? Betcha didn't. At least about 98% of my 145 first year Japanese children drew two balls.... I've always wanted to make snowmen as creative as Calvin.
Someday, maybe.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

What's up

So, as I wrote earlier in the week, I had a meeting with my supervisor at the Board of Education. The purpose of this meeting was to announce my intent of resignation as of the end of December. However, unlike companies in North America, Japanese comapnies must "accept" your resignation, which was why I was so nervous about the said meeting. All went well, and my supervisor's supervisor approved my resignation and as of December 17th, I shall be calling Ontario home once more. Some of you are aware of the reasons for my resignation, some of you don't know and I suspect will create rumours, and others still I shall tell personally in the next few weeks.
Anyhow, that said, in three weeks today I shall be on a plane back home! I'm very much looking forward to this, though I shall miss my dear kenny and the boys and the Snoeks, I shall miss going on trips and looking at bamboo, and I shall miss my students, though I would be changing students anyhow in January.
This past week was my vacation week. On tuesday afternoon after my meeting with my supervisor, I took the train up to Fukuchiyama to spend some much needed time with my Kenny. We chatted, ate pizza, went shopping, walked in the beautiful weather, and enjoyed understanding eachother. On Thursday morning I got on the train and went down south to visit the Snoeks in Himeji-- and I've fallen in love with their apartment. I suppose that some of you have seen the pictures of their apartment on their blog, but trust me here-- the apartment is much MUCH smaller than it looks... But I love it. If I had an apartment to myself, I'd love one like theirs, though perhaps with a slightly bigger kitchen and bathroom.... I think I just like the idea of the loft that they have. It's cool. I want one.
We went to Mt Shosha on Friday, took the rope car up and walked around for quite a bit of time, saw many different Buddhist temples and shrines all over the mountain. We saw part of the mountain where "The Last Samurai" was filmed, which I think that I shall be watching tonight to see if I can spot where it was that it was filmed... I'd love to show you pictures but I didn't bring my camera with me, so I'll have to wait for some pics from Rod and Bec.
I returned home this morning to find a box from my boy waiting for me by my bed... Shortly after opening, I was dining on the fine dish of Kraft Dinner, wearing Brian's hoodie and listening to a recording by the BNL of the music in the Stratford Production of "As You Like It."
This afternoon I went to a Christmas concert with one of the other members of the PTA Chorus from my school, our director sang in this concert. Unfortunately I left my programme in the pew so I can't include all the details, though it started with a Christmas mass by a well known composer, progressed to six different versions of Ave Maria, switched to a fun performance of carols performed on handbells, and then went on to serenade us with six different "Christmas Carols for Choirs" by the one and only John Rutter (My thoughts were with dear Anton during those songs... I had the pleasure of sitting next to Jacqueline in choir for a year, during which I was lectured every practice on Anton's....dislike for Rutter...) The concert concluded with a carol sing-along, which I thought was fabulous... I can't for the life of me sing any christmas carols in Japanese, so I sang away in English while all of my neighbours were looking at me kinda funny.... It struck me, though, how strange it was that in a nation where less than 1% claims Christianity as their religion so many people know and sing carols like "O Holy Night," "O Come all Ye Faithful," "Angels We Have Heard on High" and so on. I mean, it's not like the West where Christianity was at one point the majority of the population. It has never been a big thing here... which makes me sad, because that means that the Christmas songs are truly nothing more than Western Commercialism, meant to bring those warm fuzzies of shopping to mind... sigh
On the more amusing side though, I found two rather delightful spelling errors in the concert programme--
1) the Hand bell choir played a delightful rendition of "Angels We Have Heard on Higt" and
2) One of the last songs that the choir sang told of "Gabriel's Massage". It must have been a really good one if they're still singing about it after all these years.... I could use a massage like that.
Oh yeah. I also returned home to find that when returning from Bec and Rod's this morning, I left Brian's birthday present on the subway. Boo. That made me unhappy. Now I have to go out and buy it again.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Prayer please

Hey, so I've got an appointment for a meeting with my supervisor at the Education Centre tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday afternoon) at 5pm, I'm pretty nervous about it so I'd appreciate the prayers. Thanks a bunch.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A bit of an update

So I suppose that it's time for a bit of an update on what's actually going on in my life here. The quick answer is "not much." Literally. But I'll expand on that a bit.
Yesterday and today, I had some classes which were very affirming. Sounds good, yes? Well, it really depends on what they're affirming... And these classes were definitely affirming the fact that I shouldn't be a teacher, because I really have no patience for (and to be quite honest) I really don't like students who sit at their desks throwing things around the classroom, distract all of the other students in the class, talk out of turn, stare at me defiantly as they proceed to knock everything off of their desk and spend the next ten minutes noisily cleaning it up, or insist on speaking only in Japanese so that I can't understand what they're saying about me (unfortunately you can't disguise my name in Japanese) or what they're saying about the student they're making fun of. It's one thing if there's only one or two students in each class doing this.... yesterday I had an entire classroom behaving in such manners, and today I had four classes in which there were at least six of these students each. I've decided that of the two genders, I can handle defiant boys much better than the girls-- the girls have sass that I have yet to see anywhere else in life. Anywho, suffice it to say that when I got back to my desk at the end of the day I quickly got out my work calendar and calculated that I have 16 days of teaching left until I go back home for Christmas vacation-- and it made me happy, oh so very happy... I have my first and second year classes three more times each, and my third year classes twice more.
Tomorrow I have my classroom observation and then an interview afterwards, and I'm actually more nervous about the interview than the class. I got to choose the class that gets observed, so these kids are ones that I really like and that will readily volunteer for any question. The interview on the other hand is something that I can't prepare for because I have no idea what it will consist of.
Every day (except for Fridays) I eat lunch with the Special Needs class, which consists of three people: Tanaka Sensei, ki-chan and chi-chan (nick names, I don't know what their full names are). Every day, Chi-chan comes up to me with a big smile and says, "Jenny-faa, tomorrow lunch, OK?" Yesterday, I thought maybe I would try something new. During lunch, I asked her to bring me a piece of paper and pencil. I wrote on it, "Let's eat lunch together tomorrow!" And had her repeat it several times. (She's a grade 9 student working at the educational level of perhaps a grade four student) To my surprise, when we sat down for lunch today, she said, "Jenny-faa!!"
"Yes, Chi-chan?"
"Let's eat lunch togeza tomorrow!"
I was so proud of her, she didn't even read the sheet! I don't know that she'll still remember the sentance after a week off of school next week, but I was proud none-the-less.
Every day at lunch, Tanaka sensei feeds me miso soup, a Japanese soup that tends to be eaten for breakfast, lunch and supper here. It's rather nice, even if I don't always enjoy it (it seems to be a salty base and then a stew of whatever veggies might be lying around), it always warms me up. Today, Tanaka Sensei asked if I eat tofu, and I replied that I do. Next thing I know, a half of a package of tofu is sitting in a bowl in front of me, with two centimetres of fish flakes on top. Mm-mm! She didn't fry the tofu, she didn't spice it... just plain tofu. A big bowl of it. So I ate it. It's so mushy and flavourless (though that just let the taste of the fish flakes seep through even more)... Not a fan.
It's getting very cold here. I'm not nearly as cold as Kenny, she's farther north and more in the mountains than I am, but I'm still cold. The high today was 12 degrees. Once you're finished thinking, wow, that sounds downright warm compared to this Ontario weather!, please let me explain why 12 degrees is so chilly. What's the first thing that happens in Ontario in the fall when the weather hits 15 degrees and the autumn clouds come rolling around and the wind picks up a bit of a nip? The furnace goes on. Windows are closed. The warmth is kept inside and you only have to face the chilliness when you go out to your car or make the trek from the dorm to the shcool. Not so here in Japan. No buildings of any shape, size or function come equipped with furnace systems. Or heating systems of any sort, for that matter. And for some strange reason, windows and doors are kept wide open. Thus today when it was 12 degrees, cloudy and windy outside, we were experiencing pretty much the same weather inside my school. I wore a tank top, a long sleeved shirt and a hoodie and still I was cold. I drank three mugs of tea throughout the day to thaw out my hands and warm up my insides.
At home I've finally turned on my Kotatsu, my heated table. I sit on my floor cushions and the lower half of my body is in a little heated tent. The top of the table lifts off so as to make it possible to place a blanket over the table without negating the use of the table top while enjoying the warmth. It does keep my toes warm, but my nose has been rather chilly for some time. I contemplated buying a space heater but decided against it. I think that my kotatsu will suffice for now. Last night the temperature hit 8 degrees, which made my apartment a little chilly this morning, but by the 17th of December, the average low at night is 3 degrees. Brr. One thing I'm not looking forward to about that date.
On a happier note, next week is exams for my students so I'm taking some vacation and going to visit kenny on Tuesday night and Wednesday, and then on thursday, friday and Saturday morning, I'll head off to the Snoek Residence. On the 26th at 2pm, I get to attend a Christmas concert in which my PTA choir director will be singing! By the time I return to school on November 28th, I shall be finishing the last few days of November and welcoming the month of December along. Yay for December!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Somehow I thought that by going through I might reach Canada...

...but turns out it was a portal to the land of 1,001 golden (coloured) statues of Kannon, the Buddhist version of Vishnu... Though if you think of it it's kind of a creepy place... in one single room (it's the longest wooden building in Japan) there are 40,040 arms of Kannon (she has hundreds of arms, unlike Vishnu who has maybe eight?)... Each statue only had 40 arms though, cause it would have been a bit tedious to carve out hundreds of arms on 1001 statues. Anyhow, suffice it to say, I definitely stepped through the wrong portal. I'll keep my eye out for the right one.

Friday, November 11, 2005

I give

I've tried to stay away from this for as long as possible, this list of things I love... Why? Because I was a reluctant blogger in the first place, and I distinctly remember not wishing to do anything that would specifically categorize me as one of those bloggers. My blog served a purpose as a travel log, not to chronicle my every thought. Well, now it does both. I still don't like the idea of doing it just because everyone else is doing or has done it. And I suppose at this point, I'm not. I had this assignment in first year philosophy, writing down all of the things that I loved... I don't think that I put much effort into it. (Sometimes I wish I could do my first year of Redeemer over) This is my list... It's long, I just wrote until I ran out of steam (it's 1am)....
Here's to the man who started it and those who recently inspired me to sit down and think about it.

That being said, I'm not a fan of numbering lists such as these because I'm prone to want to put them in order of importance.... and that's so hard to do because how do you rank things that you love? So I shall use the alphabet. That is much less stressful for me. Not as much pressure... yep, I'm a goof.

a. The God who's been with me ever since I was a wee little lass hiding under my covers from the thunderstorms inside and outside the house...
b. Brian vanOosten
c. Memories
d. My fabulously strong mother
e. My family
f. Christmas
g. Christmas music
h. Christmas trees
i. Crowded malls at Christmas
j. ....all things Christmas
k. Sitting in a dark room at night, watching the ground get covered with freshly
fallen snow.
m. My dearly departed dog
n. Friends from High school
o. Friends near and far
p. Friends that I wish that I knew better and that I had more time to spend with...
q. Chocolate
r. Cookie Dough Ice Cream
s. Oxford
t. The whole of the British Isles
u. Naan bread
v. Hamburgers
w. Candle light services
x. Sacred songs sung accapella
y. Pictures of people I love and good memories
z. A scrapbooking page well done
aa. The Day family
bb. The Lasher Family
cc. Learning to snowboard
dd. Singing
ee. Realizing that I've just learned something by figuring it out all on my own
ff. Toboganning
gg. Making and eating home-made pizza, crust and all
hh. Making people happy with baked goods
ii. Trips to Stratford
jj. Having dibs on one of the heated seats in The Nerdmobile
kk. videos of my niece and nephew
ll. pictures of my growing little favourite youngest nephew
mm. A good game of Settlers
nn. Having a glass of wine with friends
oo. Going off-roading while hiking around Webster's Falls
pp. Camping at Presque'ille
qq. Huddling around a campfire with friends as the night cools down
rr. Sitting on the beach at night, watching the stars and hearing the waves crash
ss. Pachabel's Canon in D (Sorry, it's cliche but there are powerful memories attached)
tt. Dressing up and going somewhere fancy
uu. The Soundtrack to The Red Violin
vv. The Double Bass, the Cello and the violin
ww. Les Miserables, both the novel and musical
xx. Going to the theatre
yy. Being part of the theatre
zz. The world of Musicals
aaa. Kraft Dinner
bbb. Massages
ccc. Being remembered
ddd. Solo Piano pieces
eee. getting snail mail
fff. Doing kart-wheels on bushy green grass
ggg. Getting sucked into a good book
hhh. Finally turning my lights off at 5am because I couldn't sleep if I didn't know how my book ended...
iii. Falling into bed when I'm physically exhausted
jjj. Peppermint tea
kkk. Feeling smart every now and again
lll. Brian's Pink sweater
mmm. A really and truly honest friendship
nnn. Being spoiled for a day
ooo. Spoiling someone else for a day
ppp. Chatham and all the dear people that I know in the proximity
qqq. Dr Bowen, Dr Loney and Professor Cook
rrr. A clever poem
sss. Old movies
ttt. The smell of Bounce fabric softener
uuu. Hugs
vvv. My duvet
www. Reminiscing
xxx. Gotta leave this one blank... :P
yyy. A room full of candles
zzz. people who make me giggle
aaaa. French Fries and Mayonaise
bbbb. Going for Drives with Brian
cccc. Staying up late when us siblings are all together
dddd. Rainy Days
eeee. Playing Monopoly on rainy days
ffff. Stomping in slush
gggg. The thin ice that forms on puddles in the spring
hhhh. Surprising people
iiii. Confirmation
jjjj. Fiction books that actually make me want to change the world (or at least myself)
kkkk. Algonquin Park
llll. Ontario
mmmm. Big old houses in the old sections of downtowns
nnnn. Cheap apartments in big old houses in the old section of Hamilton (know of any?)
oooo. Finally getting something that hasn't made sense to me for five years
pppp. The sense of accomplishment after working so very hard at something that I thought I couldn't do
qqqq. Getting lost in a city where English is the primary language
rrrr. Music music music
ssss. Making fun plans with friends
tttt. Having funner spur of the moment activities
uuuu. Declaring words into existence because I'm an English Major
vvvv. Making people smile when they're not expecting it
wwww. Hot showers and freshly laundered warm pjs
xxxx. First CRC
yyyy. Children
zzzz. Knowing that a child will remember me
aaaaa. Finding a new song that I love

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A confession

Sometimes I'm really tired and all I want to do is sleep but I procrastinate so much that it ends up being hours until I actually end up in bed. And I don't even have anything to do.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Bah! That's all I have to say today. Bah.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Who's that I see peeking out from behind the bushes?

Ahah! I knew it! Sneeky fellow....

Kenny gets into the Christmas spirit....

OOH! Look at all the pretty lights!

As you can tell, although Japan does not "do Christmas," they certainly get into the spirit of things. November 6th, and already my city is decorated beyond what I ever imagined seeing in Japan... Sigh... I love Christmas.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Reformation Day

This past sunday, October 30th, was celebrated as Reformation day here in Japan. Kenny joined me at my church, and as it is a Reformed church, we sang "A Mighty Fortress is our God" by Mr Luther, though we sang it in Japanese. There was a baptism of a thirty-year-old woman, which was really exciting, and during the offering, a couple sang an arrangement of "A mighty fortress" in German, it was spectacular.
The sermon dealt with Romans 1:16-17.

16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Ken Sensei talked about the difficulties that particularly the Japanese have with expanding the church: the desire to blend and the pressure to conform. He said that in the past one hundred years, the church in Japan has not managed to expand because most Japanese Christians find it hard to be unashamed of their differences, and those who aren't Christians are rarely willing to embrace something that will label them as an "outsider" or independant thinker. The Christian population of Japan is less than 1%, as it has been for many years.

This made me think about the attitude that we have towards our Christian Herritage in the Western society and culture. We live in a time and a place that encourages individuality and independant thinking. Those who act differently, who dress differently and who live their lives differently are not always embraced but are generally described as "brave," "confident" or "daring," all of which are commonly looked upon as positive traits. We are given the go-ahead by our culture to be different and we plead shyness and pretend that what we have is something to be ashamed about. We in the West know nothing of what the "pressure to conform" really means. We have freedoms that we don't even realize: we decide what we will bring to work for lunch, we decide what colour our hair will be, we decide what we will do with our Sundays, we decide where we will go for vacation... All of these freedoms are ones that I never thought to consider before I joined this Japanese society. My co-workers (and to some extent, I) have these decisions made for them by whomever is higher up on the chain of command at work. There are proper dress codes, there are proper lunch menus, there are proper places to go and there are proper ways to think-- Christianity is not one of those ways to think. I think that sometimes we in the West wish that we had this excuse to hide our Faith- do we fear that others will see us as "typical" or "normal" in our abnormal society? We have the freedom to move, so why do we stand there with our feet nailed to the ground?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Unashamed and naked, in a garden that has never seen the rain.
Rulers of a kingdom, full of joy, never marred by any pain.
The morning all around them, seems to celebrate the life they'd just begun.
And in the majesty of innocence, the king and queen come walking in the sun.

But the master of deception, now begins with his dissection of the word.
And with all his craft and subtlety, the serpent twists the simple truth they'd heard.
While hanging in the balance is a world that has been placed at their command.
And all their unborn children die as both of them bow down to Satan's hand.

And just before the evening, in the cool of the day.
They hear the voice of God as He is walking.
And they can't abide his presence, so they try to hide away;
But still they hear the sound as He is calling...

"Adam........Adam..........Where are you?"
"Adam........Adam..........Where are you?"

In the stifling heat of summer now, the gardener and his wife are in the field.
And it seems that thorns and thistle's, are the only crop his struggles ever yield.
He eats his meals in sorrow, 'till he sinks into the dust from whence he came.
But all down through the ages, he can hear his maker calling out his name...

"Adam........Adam..........Where are you?"
"Adam........Adam..........Where are you?"

Though the curse has long been broken, Adam's sons are still the prisoners of their fears.
Rushing helter-skelter to destruction, with their fingers in their ears.
While the Fathers voice is calling with an urgency I've never heard before.
To come in from the darkness now, before it's time to finally close the doors..........

"Adam........Adam..........Where are you?"
"Adam........Adam..........Where are you?"
"Adam........Adam..........I LOVE YOU!

Those of you who are either vanBredas or Kennys will know that these are the lyrics to a Don Francisco song written quite some time ago... I have, as of yet, run across few others who are familiar with the croonings and guitar rifts of this man.
When I was little, I listened to this man's songs all the time... I had several entire albums memorised. This song in particular had my caught my attention and sympathies, though. I remember sitting by the stereo system on the floor with my head tilted in towards the speakers, feeling so bad for this man who lost his dog, and shivering with sympathy for this poor dog named Adam. Yeah, I knew the Bible story. For some reason though, even though I was scared to death of dogs, that was how this particular song touched me. Read it again with a dog in mind....

Monday, October 31, 2005

One of these things is not like the other....

One of these things just doesn't belong: can you tell me which one is not like the others by the time I finish this song?

Our school festival was on this past Saturday, and I took part in it with the PTA chorus. We sang three Japanese songs, very popular ones, mostly from TV Dramas (soap operas). I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to having a choir director again who speaks the same language as me. There's no overestimating how much of a difference it makes.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

These are a few of my favourite things...

I don't use the web version of Gmail very often but when I do, it makes me so happy to see that every two minutes the email that I am writing is autosaved.... isn't that fantastic? I don't know how many times I've threatened to throw my computer out the window because I just lost the email that I had typed three times over.... We all know that feeling. And Gmail has finally decided to do something about it.

Japan has many national holidays. I have had very few five day work weeks, and this week because I was at school on Saturday for school festival, I don't have to be there today. And then Thursday is a holiday. And then November 23 is a holiday. Yippie!

Friday, October 28, 2005

From the mouths of babes....

My San-nensei students had to write a speech this week on "My Favourite Thing." And the I had to re-write them. Before any editing took place, however, these were some of my personal favourites.....

I like game.
Why when game happy.
I fand game card game.
Then is hate game.
But exciting good expect.
Thank you.


My favorite thing is tennis.
I was in tennis club.
My racket is "Muscle Power 7200"
I am sometimes done tennis in America to watch TV.
It is interesting to tennis watch in America.
When the watch is played in America, it is always midnight in Japan.
I want to watch the one on TV in the afternoon in Japan.
Then everyone plays tennis much more.
Thank you.


I like to play time.
When I'm playing, I feel happy.
After I played, I get a sad felling.
Because I want to playing some more.
It is important for me to play time.
I can't live without playing time
I can't give in to anybody on this playing time.


I like confectionary very much, because it is delicious.
I want to eat a lot of confectionary.
I don't want to be fat.
I like a lot of confectionaries, so I can't choose the best one.
Thank you.


It may be said a favorite and does not understand it, but there is a hobby?
My hobby is to read a book and listen to music. And I play the piano well. I am relaxed very much when I listen to music. I think that it is a hobby to feel that I am happy. What is your hobby? It is a hobby to feel that you are happy. Please try to look for it if there is not it. Surely I should be found.


I like money.
I like saving money.
I have a lot of money in the bank.
Money makes me happy.
When I was three years old I teared a hundred-yen bill.
So my parents were angry.
Money is very useful.
It is important to saving money.
We don't live without money.
I don't won't waste money as much as I can.
Thank you.


That's all for today, folks. But don't you worry! I've got another post of them ready and waiting.... It occurs to me that this English is almost better than the Jengrish that we see in stores or on clothes.... I bet the translators get their kids to do the work....

Thursday, October 27, 2005

'Cause it looked just like a dream...

While I was sleeping away last night I was diagnosed with chronic heart disease and was told that my heart would fail me within the week. It wouldn't hurt, they said, my heart would just stop beating at some point and they were sorry, but there was nothing they could do. So I went along with my business and I'm sure that I told other people too but I distinctly remember walking up to Dan and interrupting him whilst he was in the middle of a serious business conversation and flat out said, "Dan, I'm going to die in a week." And then I walked away.
Then the phone rang and I picked it up and I heard a cheery voice saying, "Hi, this is Tracy from Roger's Wireless, will you speak with Ahmrad?" It then occurred to me that I wasn't sleeping anymore... I promplty said, "No, I won't. I'm living in Japan right now, and it's actually the middle of the night. You just woke me up." "Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry! I'll call back another time." It would be fine with me if she never called back. It really would. Anyhow I hung up the phone and within 45 min I was back to sleep.
The next thing I knew I was sitting at my desk already in the staffroom at school, and when I looked over at the front of the staffroom I was sorely disappointed- my Kyoto Sensei was gone for the day, so Kocho Sensei was sitting in his place. We don't talk very much, him and I. As I was doing lesson prep for the day I began to hear the faint strumming of a banjo, incredibly akin to that that begins a certain song sung by Kermit the Frog... I realized that the song was coming from the PA system, and that it was indeed "Rainbow connections." I started singing along...
"Have you been half asleep, and have you heard voices? I've heard them calling my name..."
I hear another voice join me, but this voice is doing an imitation of Kermmie: it's my Kocho Sensei...
"Is this the sweet song that calls to young lovers? The voice might be one and the same.... I've heard it too many times to ignore it, I know they're wrong, wait and see: some day we'll find it, the rainbow connection: the Lovers, the Dreamers and me. La-dee-da-dee-dee-da-doo...."
And then, out of nowhere, comes this infernal beeping...


Time to get up.

Is it any wonder I feel like I hardly slept when I get up every morning? Just so you know, this amount of activity in my night is not an abnormal occurance.

And yes, there was actually a phonecall from Rogers Wireless. I've left the continent and still, still I can't escape telemarketers!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I'd just like to say

that there's only 53 more days until I come home for Christmas. There's only seven more monday mornings that I have to face until I wake up on a monday morning in the (hopefully) snowy city of Hamilton! How happy is that?

In the meantime, on November 3rd there's another National holiday so I think I'm going to head to my church that day and help out with a neighbourhood kids day. On November 5th Laura and I will be heading to Kyoto to check out the Imperial palace with some folks from my church. I don't really have any plans after that yet, but it's so exciting to think that November 5th is already next week! That means that it's my dear brother David's birthday soon. And just for the record it was my dear sister's birthday yesterday, Happy 26th Birthday Mar! November 17th my supervisor is coming to observe a class, and then I have to have a meeting with him and his assistant. And then, o happy day, we have exams. And another national holiday. Which means little to zero work that has to be done by me at school, so I might take a few days of holiday. And after that we'll be starting in on the last week in November/first week in December already! When I look at it from this perspective it doesn't seem like a long time. When I look at it from the day to day perspective it seems like eons. I want to see my boy and my family.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Foreverything else, there's mastercard.

Sometimes.... sometimes... sometimes I have a very hard time getting my thoughts onto the screen in any way that makes sense and that doesn't sound pathetic. So many times, the experiences I have here aren't documented simply because I can't find the words to communicate them.

I'm at the Parish Pagoda right now, home of the three dashing Redeemer Alumni. Instead of driving myself crazy again this weekend I elected to come straight here after work yesterday and drive the boys crazy for the weekend. It has been fun thus far, and my stay will end tormorrow morning when I go catch the train for church. It's super fun just to hang out with folks and have other people in the apartment that you can interact with, make comments to about fun and stupid things, and just generally have a good time with.
I'm fabulously happy for my dear Kenny who seems to be having a heck of a time out in Fukuchiyama, but I gotta say I'm a bit jealous of her too-good-to-be-true experiences... Well, I know they are true, I'm not doubting her one bit. But my school staff is so different from hers.... Any teachers at my school other than the English teachers either ignore me or tell me (in their very limited English) that I should please answer the phone when I'm the closest one to it... when they know darn well that I can't speak or understand Japanese. Oy vay, talk about feeling useless and frustrated.
On Tuesday, I had one third year class in the afternoon. That was it for the day. The class consisted of me stationed at the front of the classroon and the students coming up to me, one by one, each reading the same travel dialogue with me...

Customer: I would like __________ tickets for ____________, please.
Clerk: One way or round trip?
Customer: _______________, please.
Clerk: How long will you stay in ______________?
Customer: ________________.
Clerk: That'll be $ ______, please.
Customer: Okay, here you go. What time does the next _____________ leave?
Clerk: __________.
Customer: Thank you.
Clerk: You're welcome.

(You wanna know the sad thing? I just wrote that out from memory. I don't have a copy of it here.) The dialogue was homework from the previous week: they had to fill in all the blanks with appropriate answers such as how many tickets, to what country, how long they will stay, how much it will cost, what mode of transportation they will use to get there... So at least the dialogue wasn't the *exact* same from student to student. But still, there were 35 students in the class, so I got good and tired of it by the end of the 50-minute class. To my great amusement, I had four of these exact same classes yesterday.... with 35 students in each class.... hmm... let's see.... 35x4... what is that, 130? One Hundred and thirty of the exact same conversations.... or practically the exact same conversations....
One funny one, I think the kid watches too many Master Card commercials...

Customer: I would like _____4_____ tickets for ___Australia____, please.
Clerk: One way or round trip?
Customer: ___One way____, please.
Clerk: How long will you stay in __Australia__?
Customer: ___Forever__.
Clerk: That'll be $ _priceless___, please.

I thought it was kinda cute. I laughed.
Anyhow, I think we're going to watch a movie or something now.... buh bye!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

It passeth

Eternal Sunshine

I just came back from viewing "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," and I freely admit that it has tired me out. If there has ever been a movie fashioned in such a post-modern way, this is it. I suppose that it's somewhat reminiscent of Memento in that way, you have to piece the puzzle together as you watch it in order to obtain any story line.
However, and you are more than welcome to correct me if I'm wrong, I admitted long long ago that Philosophy is not my area of specialization, I'm not sure if the actual theme of the movie is really post-modern at all. From what I remember of Contemporary Fiction, the idea is that we write our own history- there is no overarching history, each person has the control and the right to form their own story. Eternal Sunshine dangles the option of changing the world, changing your story and re-writing it in the true post-modern fashion. And then what do they do? They snatch it back up and say "Fate is fate, buddy. You can't escape it. Destiny. Predestination. Call it what you will. You can run but you can't hide!" Ok, so I'm paraphrasing here. I really hate outright spoiling movies for people, so I am going to refrain for the time beign from actually developping and explaining this idea, and perhaps if you haven't seen the movie then I've just really confused you. Perhaps if you have seen the movie I've still confused you, or maybe you agree or disagree. I think I need to watch it again. But it just strikes me as somewhat oxymoronic, given the presentation and the content. But are presentation and content different things? I don't even want to think about that right now. It's time for me to go to bed.

Monday, October 17, 2005

It approacheth

I love my Brian

I think that I have the most fantastic boyfriend in the world. Though Michelle, I must say, yours is quite a catch too. He featured quite prominently in events this afternoon. Tomorrow marks October 18th on the calendar, which marks the 10 month anniversary of Brian and I dating. Yay! To my complete surprise and delight, when I returned home from school today, there was Jrod in my apartment building waiting for me... When we went inside, he presented me with a beautiful bunch of ten roses from my Brian. Awww. I'm spoiled!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

1 more post before bed:

On a scale of 1-10, how strange is it that I just found out about an earthquake here in Japan, just north of Tokyo, by listening to the CBC Radio One news online? I find that this radio station has actually been the source for almost all of my Japan news-- like when we were due to have a typhoon and all that...
I wonder how many people have heard of or remember the acappella group "Rhythm and News." They popped into my head for some reason tonight but I have been able to find very little trace of their existence via the all knowing search engine. It's a shame. I liked their music. I think I'd like to get ahold of the stuff they recorded. Did they only record one album? I don't remember.


I feel vaguely disconnected from my fantastic friends in Ontario... I was perusing blogs again today, and something hit me: there are very few bloggers in our little circle who actually make use of their blogs on anything that might be considered a semi-regular basis. Now I realize that most people have a little bit more (ok, a lot more) of a life than I do at present, so there are many other more exciting things that they can be doing instead. It's just an observation.

I have to go back to school tomorrow. It was a nice three day weekend. I don't remember what I'm doing tomorrow, I hope the lesson plans are done already. Church was good today, but it was a little interesting having a sermon preached on that ever-controversial topic of homosexuality translated from Japanese to English. I'm sure it was a very interesting sermon but when it was translated to English it just became a list of facts. On the plus side, we sang two fantastic songs in church.... Unfortunately there was no one to exchange amused glances with as we sang the song that is featured so prominantly in a Mr Bean sketch... But I did feel very special as we sang "O Sacred Head Now Wounded," as I had pointed out to Pastor Ken when I was at their place for dinner that it was one of my favourite hynms.... Pastor Ken said that he'd work it into a service sometime for me. It's like getting a song dedicated to you on the radio... heehee. Anyhow, now I have a copy of "O Sacred Head" in Japanese. I think we should sing it in Japanese at First. :)

Saturday, October 15, 2005

I'm bored

I wanna go home and wake people up. I was excited to have a weekend that allowed me to sleep in instead of getting up early to visit people or having to get up early because I was already visiting people. But I ran out of things to do today. I even went for a walk in the pouring rain. I'm sure my neighbours thought I was crazy. Crazy Gaijin But after surfing blogs, writing a few emails and watching random old newsclips from CBC, I'm bored out of my tree and I feel like annoying someone. If Sam were here I'd be on the floor right now untying his shoes and pulling them really tight, as I so often did in England. If Brian was here I'd mess up his hair and tease him about his growing mullet until he stopped looking at his computer and agreed to play Settlers with me. If anyone was here... oh the things I can think of right now to annoy people. Wow, I really am a youngest child. Here's a bit of advice for you: don't ever let your youngest child get too bored or you'll have to face the annoying repercussions. Consider this fair warning.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Oh what a night

I wonder if there are other people in this world who dream as much as I do in any given night. This is a summary of last night's dream (I have to list the facts, because everything else is starting to get lost in my head already...)
-Brian and I were looking to buy a house in Grand Rapids, but out in the country
-The house that we decided on sometimes had white siding and at other times had red brick walls
-there was a room about two feet wide over the garage door
-I had already sewn curtains for the windows
-Marya ane Eric were to be our neighbours
-Marya had cleaned the walls in the kitchen but in doing so got mudstains on the wall... so she called Global and ordered a map of how to get the mudstains off
-The house was right around the corner from Grace Christian Fellowship, Gary's church that I went to several times in second year
-Rebecca Welfare and some others (who remain faceless in my head) all squeezed into Brian's car with us as we drove the countryside looking for something (I don't know what)

So that's the dream. I have strange dreams every night here in Japan-- I know that I had dreams often in Canada, but I swear they are increasing in frequency now. They say that every dream that you remember, and every shift in the dream represents a brief moment when your sleep was interrupted and you woke up. Thus, a night with four random dreams that I remember indicates that I woke up four times. Maybe it's all the noise in this neighbourhood. I'm in the "suburbs" of Kobe, but I live in a five floor apartment building: on one side of the building (right outside my front door) is the highway and a parking lot; on the other side of my building (right under my balcony) is another huge parkinglot which might as well be a highway with the amount of cars that come and go in the middle of the night. The firetrucks and police cars use the highway to get from one 'burb to the next, and the sirens they use aren't any regular north american sirens-- no, they're ear-piercing wails of sirens that bounce off of the apartment buildings and get reflected right in through my balcony door. I assure you, living in down-town hamilton is infinitely more quiet than this place! Upper Wellington was even more quiet-- even with the fire station down the street and the uncanny attraction for accidents that our stoplights had. Oy vay.
In conclusion, I think that it's actually rather mean to wish a person 'sweet dreams,' cause you're pretty much sentancing him or her to a night of sleep interruption.

****Post Script: I almost forgot to mention one of the most unbearable forms of noise pollution: Vans driving up and down the winding streets of a neighbourhood (or just parking in one spot, for that matter) shouting political or advertising slogans and campaigns out of huge sound systems strapped to the top of the vehicles... and when I say shouting, I mean shouting. There is a van somewhere in the vancinity at this moment and I would hazard a guess that it's a good 15 min walk away. Make it SHUT UP!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

More pictures

Click here to see more thanksgiving pictures. Aptly enough you can find them listed under "Canadian Thanksgiving in Himeji" cause well, it was Canadian Thanksgiving and we were certainly in Himeji.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What have I got to be thankful for?

Everything. It's been a fantastic year. The most amazing gentleman in the world sought me out and I could not be more thankful for him. I graduated from a great university without getting sick of the schooling part at all. I have awesome friends the world over and beyond. I received the opportunity to travel to Japan and try my hand at teaching ESL. And in Japan, I have Canadian friends living so close that a bunch of us got to get together yesterday to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving!

Wanna see pics of me? There's not a doubt in my mind that my dear Kenny will grace you with some unfortunate pics at some point or another...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Burned, underdone, crude..

It's been raining all day today. This fact was made most obvious to me when I had finished washing my clothes in the bathroom tub and it occurred to me that I had no place to hang them but outside. So outside they went, and luckily only the clothes on the out-most line became more wet than they had been before they went out. The rest dripped water until I had an inch of wetness on my porch (you have to remember that I don't own a washing machine, which means that due to the lack of 'spin cycle' the clothes are hung up absolutely drenched). It stopped raining long enough for me to run out and get some groceries, but the clothes aren't anywhere near dry. They're not dripping anymore, but they just might require another two days of hanging in this weather. Oh how I long for the day when I shall once more have access to a washing machine and dryer.
I decided at the store today that I would invest in some cereal.... At my grocery store, I had few choices other than Kellogs, which is fine by me, I like the way Kellogs does cereal. I ended up with a box of "Corn Frosties" and "(something in kanji) buran" -- equivalents to Frosted Flakes and All Bran. Mmm, and I got a small container of "Lady Borden Ice Cream Cookie" -- as good as Reid's Cookies and Cream ice cream, I'd have to say. It's my first container of ice cream in this country. Costs an arm and a leg, but somethings are worth it. English Muffins! I found English Muffins! There's only four in a pack, but they're pretty big. I bought them too. What a day for food. Mmmmmm.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Nonsensical English

The Mysterious Key Granny exisits Somewhere!!
by Yusuke Teshima

Mysterious Key Granny explained the lyrics of "Jinjiro-Ge" an Indian song.
What do you think of that?
Here is a song that goes as follows:

Father, Mother,
Asakusa Go,
It is the cow,
Panarama See.

Children in the Taisho era used to enjoy singing this song merrily.
Even though it sounds nonsense, it was said to be English song.
"Jinjiro-Ge" is one of their nonsensical sort of songs.
Fortunately my sixty-five years old mother memorized the lyrics of this "Jinjiro-Ge" and my children took it down the musical notation.
To tell the truth, I also became a latchkey husband last year. I went home without taking our house key and there was no body at home. I had such a terrible time walking up and down the stairs of the Danchi, our housing development apartment, waiting for my wife to come back. From this experience I got some idea of how the boy in this story feels.
I hope the Mysterious Key Granny exisits somewhere!

From one of the few English books in our school library....

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Following the herd...

At the risk of looking silly after posting this, I googled "Mooe Music".... turns out that there is a famous Polish violinist with the last name of Mooe... however, I know for a fact that this is indeed a typo. Why? Because I am pleased to announce that I know enough katakana to read "Muu-do" at the bottom. Kind of disappointing, actually-- you know how they have cats and dogs singing to christmas music? I thought that maybe the cows now got their turn... I'd buy a cd of that moosic.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

School 'n' stuff

Tomorrow I teach my second very own lesson. I'm teaching the second years (8th graders) about Canadian Thanksgiving. I'm learning that there really isn't a 'Canadian' reason for thanksgiving... The Loyalists just brought it with them when they came to Canada. So I'm also teaching about American Thanksgiving.
Looking at my academic calendar, I noticed that I only have five five-day weeks left this semester. That means that half of the remaining weeks this term are three or four-day weeks. Not bad, eh?
We get next Monday off due to a national holiday, and then at the end of the weeks the students have midterms already. I will be recording my voice for listening comprehension tests for English midterms at some point between tomorrow and next Thursday.
I confirmed the booking of my ticket home for Christmas yesterday, so that was pretty exciting. December 17's the day!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

New quote from our very own Kenny

"I don't know why everyone's so obsessed with peace!"

Friday, September 30, 2005

To every thing there is a season

I've said it before and I'll say it again: one of my favourite experiences to have is to be walking to or from somewhere and think: the season is changing! As I stepped out of school this afternoon the sun was casting down its rays upon Myohoji giving a deep golden tint to everything it touched. It is the late summer sun, large and warm, though not hot. The custodial staff at school are clearing many of the flower pots from the gardens and the smell of dying leaves is tinging the air, which is itself already just a bit crisper. I think back to last Thanksgiving, a weekend that saw many of us head to the haven called Gilmore... I think back to countless years of Thanksgiving walks through Presqu'ille or the Frink centre with my family.... I am happy that I am in a country where I can still experience this change in nature. It is a gentle and yet needed reminder that time is indeed passing and God's faithfulness remains.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Thre rest of the story: as promised

As I sit here on the floor at my computer, I have a glass of Kobe Blueberry Wine at my side and a pillow on my feet, warming my toes. Warming, you say? Isn't it already warm enough there in the land of 38 degree days? One would think that might be the case, but gone are the days of 38 degrees, and arrived are the days of 26 degrees and nights of 18 degrees. Goosebumps in 18 degree weather? It's certainly possible. Consider the fact that in the past month, the temperature has dropped 20 degrees. I'd like to see you maintain your proper body temperature in 18 degree weather when it became acclimated to 38 degree weather. At any rate, I wore a 3/4 sleeve sweater to work today. And it was needed.
I've been informed by those to whom I talk with regulary on the phone that my account of my time here via blog and my account of my time here via conversation have been two seperate versions of the story. And tonight I seek to make ammends to that.
First off: have I been lying in either of my versions of my experience? No, I certainly haven't. I believe that it is more of a case of 'selective portrayal.' Some of this has been done purposefully, as this is a public blog and I am very aware of the fact that anyone in my company here in Japan that should search my name would find this site rather instantly and I prefer to have my private life private from my employers.
As many of you know, August was very exciting because I was in a new country and I did such things as hook up with Tina Koopmans in kyoto and go to traditional festivals. However, it was also extremely hard on me because I was left with a month of empty days on my hands. What to fill them with? Going to school, though required, certainly wasn't fulfilling as I found myself sitting at my desk in the empty staffroom, drumming my fingers on the surface in front of me. My evenings were equally dull. I developed a harsh heat rash that lasted for two weeks and made the heat and humidity seem all that much more potent and unbearable. I found a church to go to, but while the congregation was heart-warmingly welcoming to me on Sundays, I had no contact with any of them throughout the week, with the exception of the pastor and his wife.
September came along and life seemed to be looking up. My job would soon begin and my Redeemer friends would arrive-- the days would be busier and I would have more extra-curricular activity to look forward to. My days did get a bit busier, there were more students around the halls, but I still only taught two hours a day. The Redeemer folk are great to visit, but when I get home my apartment is empty and dark.
I could stretch this out and make it much more drawn out but I won't, there are some things I'd rather not share with the entire population of blog readers. If I know you well enough that you think I would tell you the rest of the story, ask someone who you think will know and they'll fill you in.
As it is, I must say that I am glad that I'm here. There are so many positive things that have come about because of this adventure. I am, however, looking forward to flying home for Christmas.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Thre rest of the story: the good, the bad and the ugly

will be coming soon, I keep getting distracted by shiny things whenever I try to blog. Ooh look, something shiny!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

3 months

and it will be Christmas Eve. Sigh. I broke down today and listened to a few Christmas songs. I think that it's such a shame that people relegate that music to such a short season of the year, a lot of it really is quality stuff!

Some memories from last year....

Brian promised me that we'd make olibollen and croquetten when I come home. I'm so excited!!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Email from a student...

I got an email on my phone this afternoon from one of my students, I had taken my picture with four san-nensei girls and emailed it to them.... This was a response from one:

HELLO☆picture Thank you. Today is very tired.I give you my favorit picture.This picture is travel time.present for you.Good bye. Looking forward to seeing you again. have a good weekend!

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

The past week

Another week has come and gone, and so has my first visit to the house of the Redeemer Men in Japan. Last Friday night I had the second of my third enkais, this one was with the Ichi-nensei staff (first year teachers). I had Kobe Beef for the second week in a row- and it's fantastic! We sat in our own little room at this restaurant, on the floor on cushions-- but the floor was hollowed out under the table so it was like sitting on a bench. Anyhow, the food. Cast iron platters of thinly sliced raw beef was presented to us. On the tables in front of us we had two cast iron pots of boiling water (there were elements built into the table) in which we were to "shoop, shoop, shoop" the beef. Think fondue. But instead of little spears, you're using chopsticks. And instead frying the meat in oil, you're boiling it in water. Once there was a bit of white on the meat, the idea was to dip it in sauce of some sort and then enjoy! It was another fantastic dining experience. Such good food, too!

On Saturday morning I got up bright and early and missed my first train so I was a bit late in reaching the boys, but I did indeed make it all the way to Takarazuka and met up with Kenny and Nate at the train station. The other two boys met us at the door as we entered into their beautiful apartment, and a fantastic weekend ensued. Movies were watched, euchre was played, and the 100yen store was explored. And much talk was had.

Monday morning, the three boys and Kenny and I jumped on the train and headed to Osaka-- the boys to begin their training and Kenny and I to try and score tickets to the Cirque de Soleil. Which we did. And it was amazing. I don't think that I'd have ever gone in Canada, but as we were saying, it's a lot easier to spend money to go to these things when you're not in Canada. If you've never seen Cirque, I recommend you seek it out and go to a performance, even if it is in Canada! It's more than worth the money.

This week, school has been filled with yet more practicing for sports day. Tuesday afternoon was practice, All day Wednesday was practice, and this afternoon was set-up. All day tomorrow will be devoted to Sports Day and the clean up there-of. I have to run in a relay race. I dislike running. I'm supposed to not run as fast as I can cause we're racing against the students, but they're such crazy runners that even if I ran my fastest I couldn't beat them. Once sports day is finished, we have two weeks of normal classes before practicing for School Festival that will take place in late October. I was looking at my schedule and I have only 9 Mondays on which I have to be at school teaching before I come back for Christmas. That's really not a lot, because I only have my Monday classes once a week, so I only have the first year students 9 more times. I'm trying to plan lessons for the next two ni-nensei classes that I have, and the second lesson is going to be for Thanksgiving. I can't believe that I'm already planning for a thanksgiving lesson! Oy. Then again, this is also the last weekend in September. I've been gone from Ontario almost two months. And it feels like it.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Well ain't that the cat's meow....

I'm almost sorry to direct your attention to this. I'm sorry, Dan, I know this will make you sad. It was just too bizarre to let it slip by unnoticed...

I'm lovin' it

I'm ashamed to admit it, but tonight I made my weekly visit to McDonalds. Yep, I go to McDonalds once a week here in this eastern country. If I might defend myself, the food tastes better than it does in Canada, and they put a pepper mayonaise on the crispy chicken burgers. And you can get 2 crispy chicken burgers for a mere Y200. It's a pretty cheap meal in this country. And fresh. They make it when you order it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

How many countries is your blog viewed from?

I just thought it was cool.

Gone with the wind

So it's been a windy day today, at it seems as if these sandy school yards are perhaps not such a good idea. As I watched from my desk at lunch, I saw half of the school yard picked up and tossed around by the wind as if it was nothing but a feather. I thought it was quite unkind. As if the wind had read my thoughts earlier, as I stepped out of the school to make my way home this afternoon I felt as though I just had a hand full of sand and dust thrown at my head. I looked around and sure enough, I saw a guilty look in the wind. I feel as though I should take a shower right now and get all of this grime off of myself, but that would be procrastinating-- it's half way through this week and I have yet to update last weekend.

Partying with the JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English)
On Friday afternoon I came back from school around 5pm only to head out the door again by 6. I was headed to "Ito", a teppanyaki restaurant in Sannomiya. Costly, but was it ever worth it! We had our own private room and our own private chef who proceded to cook our entire meal on the grill in front of us. He was better than a dancing bear. He threw around knives, lit alcohol on fire, and grilled the best steak that I've ever had in my life (although it could have also been fantastic because it was the infamous Kobe Beef). If you want entertainment for supper, go out and find a teppanyaki restaraunt! (be prepared to pay for the entertainment... pay dearly...) Down side: he fried everything. Even my lettuce. Greasy warm lettuce is really not all it's cracked up to be... kinda slimey..

Go west young (wo)man
Early Saturday morning I hopped on the subway and caught a transfer train which brought me to Himeji, the city of those wonderful folks such as Josh Baxter and Rod and Bec Snoek! It was *so* good to see the little redhead and her husband again-- words really can't describe how good it was... Apparently Bec was pretty excited, too, by the looks of it!

Kenny and I spent the day at the Snoek residence (absolutely beautiful place) relaxing, catching up with the couple and playing Dominoes- mexican train. I miss playing games! In the evening we went out for a liesurly supper with Mr Baxter and afterwards walked around the outskirts of Himeji Castle.
Early sunday afternoon (spent the morning just lazing around) we headed out the castle for the afternoon and this time gained admission as well as an English-speaking tour guide, who was fabulous. We learned the history and the stories of the castle and roamed the beautiful grounds, both Kenny and I wishing that we lived in a town that had such a beautiful castle that we could visit every weekend.

A good time was had by all.

As of today....

There are right now three new resident aliens in our midst-- Mr Nate Martin, Mr Jared Wilms and Mr Rob Joustra. And I get to see them on Saturday!!!! The should have arrived in Osaka this afternoon and I can only presume that they shall be settling into their new place this evening... gambate to those folks with the jet lag, I look forward to seeing you bright and early Saturday morning! I'll bring breakfast though, k? I have discovered that they are not far away from me and also that they are not expensive to reach. I take the subway into Sannomiya, our Kobe city centre, and from there take the Hanku line to their train station. All for $6!! And 60 minutes! Boyz, I am hereby announcing my intent to crash your apartment some days after school...
I think that it should be another great weekend.