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!