Wednesday, December 20, 2006

trains are done, 3 planes and an atomobile to go.

I'm at Narita airport. Logged on for one final post from Japan before heading back home for 2 weeks.

Hope to see many of you soon.

For those left in Japan...Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

One week

In exactly a week's time I will be settling into my aisle seat, headphones plugged into some movie that I've never heard of, waiting for the gravol to kick in...and then 24 hours later (but still at 8:00 on Wednesday night) I will be walking into my parent's house, dropping my bags in the porch and snuggling in for a long winter's nap.

Waiting for Christmas day will be nothing compared to the anticipation of next Wednesday.

Sorry for the no posting regularly lately, but December is always a crazy month, add to that a trip to the hospital, a wedding, and no internet connection at home and I think I've got grands for forgiveness.

So, a quick update if you don't mind.

Last Thursday I managed to do something that I've been wanting to do in Japan for a long time but up until now have not been able to. I can now add bouldering to my list of things done in Japan. And the best part about it is that it's right in my backyard! About a 10 minute drive from my apartment! Yay. As a New Year's resolution I will being making this a once a month thing (at least).

Friday after work I caught the train to Kyoto for Ai and Kazz's wedding. Kazz met me at Kyoto station, which is now lit up with Christmas lights and a huge tree for the season. I checked into my hotel and we headed out on the town. Ai-chan was staying with her parents that night so Kazz was all by himself. I couldn't have that!! We found a classy bar, had some great food and even better wine and spent the night talking about life and his new future. It was great.

I slept in Saturday morning and then walked over to the wedding 'place'. In Japan the have establishments set up to fully accommodate a whole wedding; from getting dressed to the ceremony (chapel or shrine), to dinner and anything beyond. The River Oriental
was just around the corner from the hotel -a 5 minute walk. I had to be there at 1:00 to have my kimono put on. I went over my speech a kazillion times in the morning and felt pretty confident. But once I was in my kimono and the ceremony was over, and the photos had been taken, I knew my time was coming...

We sat down in the dinner room (guests and co-workers sit nearest to the couple, family sits farthest). I was at the table right in front of the head table, trying to inconspicuously consume enough beer to calm me down before 'the speech'. I got up, wowed the crowd, and that was that.

The rest of the night was wonderful.

Full of speeches, tears, kimono changes (bride and groom). And then it was off to the second party- a bar downtown. I changed out of my kimono of course. I felt a bit ridiculous walking back to my hotel in it...but then I started to think, "Wow, I'm walking down a quiet, fall-colored street in Kyoto in Kimono, it doesn't get much better than this!"

The weekend was over much too quickly, but as much as I was looking forward to it, I was also looking forward to it ending so that I could move on to the next big countdown.

So here it is, one week until I depart. I have something to do every night until I leave -and I haven't even begun to think about packing yet! I will do my best to fulfill requests, but no promises. It might be just my tickets, passport and my frantic self (as a friend suggested) on the flight home. If only it were that easy!

So there's the latest.

I'll try to post photos of my Christmas classes this weekend if I can find the time.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Thanks for all the well wishes everyone. I'm feeling 100% better now!
Thank goodness because I have a wedding to attend this weekend in Kyoto!
Ai and Kazz are finally tying the knot and I'll be there in full kimono to witness the big event.

In other news, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY COUSIN IN CRIME -she knows who she is...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

...and the bad stuff

I ended up on an IV drip for 4 days last week.

Like I said, it started Sunday, after a great weekend. I didn't sleep through the night, just tossed and turned and ended up 'resting' with my head on my comforter folded up at the end of my bed - feet where my pillows are. Finally, as dawn broke and I realized I hadn't slept and the pain was not getting any better, I used a lifeline and called Sista K and asked her if she could drive me to the hospital before she went to work. Of course she did.

Sadly, now whenever I have stomach pains I instantly think I'm having a gall stone attack. One might think, "A strange reaction for someone without a gall bladder." But not for me. After having this nastily named organ removed some years ago I had a terrible attack 3 years later. The doctor said that either one had been left in my bile duct (which I still tote) or that my liver had started to produce them (oh joy).

It seems my body does not take kindly to having bits of it removed. When I was seven I had my tonsils taken out and for years afterward I had terrible sore throats that my doctor just treated as strep throat. Then I went to another doctor who told me my tonsils were swollen. My mother and I looked at each other, and then at the doctor. "But I don't have tonsils. I had them taken out when I was seven." (I still remember the pre-op talk in the play room, the screaming baby with the broken arm whom I shared a room with, the shots I endured, the trips to the popsicle freezer and the Everly Brothers record I was given as a get well gift). How could I possibly have had swollen tonsils? Her answer, "They can grow back." Good to know.

But back to the latest trip. I had to also call my co-worker from the hospital to tell her I couldn't come in to work. After she finished teaching our class on her own, she came right to the hospital and filled out all the forms and translated as much as possible for me and the doctors. I had endless tests done and they ruled out gall stones. Great! So then what the heck was this pain caused by. Seems there's a nasty virus going around, I just happed to get it good!!

The stuck me on an IV, found a room for me and said that I'd most likely be out the next morning.

...3 days later, I was still hooked up to an IV, begging to go home. Honestly, I'm glad they kept me in and were thorough about the treatment -having a fever for 3 days isn't fun and not being able to eat or drink anything for 3 days was less fun.

BUT the LEAST fun was sitting there, in a hospital room all day, and all night. They gave me a single room because apparently this bug is pretty contagious so I had no distractions besides the cleaning lady who came in everyday to wash my floors.

I was saved from boredom Tuesday by my wonderful neighbors who brought me goodies to play with and read. Johhny P brought me "Young Years", my absolute favorite children's book that he brought to Japan with him. When he unpacked that from his bag the day he arrived, I knew we would be friends forever! Well, I read it cover to cover (over 350 pages of nursery rhymes, poems, fables, children's stories and poems) in about a half a day. The second best thing he brought me was a deck of cards. Yay to my grandmother for teaching how to play a thousand different versions of solitaire.

But by Wednesday I was done with being in the hospital -but my doctors didn't agree. My co-workers came to see how I was, but that was a whole 10 minute visit and then it was back to me, myself and I. I was finally allowed to take a shower Wed night (they freed me from the IV for the night too) and I ate a bit that day, but all I wanted to do was be home. Thursday morning came and I convinced them I could eat solid food on my own (I ate just enough of the disgusting hospital food to do this and not a bite more). They gave me one last giant IV drip which took forever to finish, and then Sista K came and rescued me!

I was home Thursday afternoon, took Friday off just to be sure, and was feeling pretty normal by Saturday. It's now Sunday, exactly one week later, and I have two full weeks of work left before my holidays start. I think I can handle it!

So thanks to Sista K, Johnny P and Rob for coming to see me while I was 'incarcerated'. I'm sure I was a big ray of sunshine for you the first day you came!! What would I do without you guys? And thanks to all who sent me text messages and e-mails this past week, they were very much appreciated.

Back to work!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Happy Birthday Johnny P

There are two Johnny Ps in my life -lucky me.

To my brother John - happy 31st birthday!!

Part I, the good stuff.

Last Thursday was American Thanksgiving (and also a Labor/Thanksgiving holiday in Japan -go figure). So, as usual John did up the turkeys (what is it with Johns and turkeys??? -family joke), Josh sent out the invites, ordered the pies and brought the stickers, everyone cooked and/or bought something to share and we all met at Tanayama Familyland once again for a great feast.

was the international Colare cooking night and I was in charge once again. I made Cuban spicy black bean soup -and it was SPICY!! Most of the ALTs liked it, but I think I scared off a lot of the Japanese people! They'll never order Cuban food now...

Saturday I went golfing with 3 of my teachers. A strange combination, me and 3 married guys...The whole golf thing started the day that I went on the 'safety neighborhood' walk with my Mikkaichi students and Hirata sensei. We walked past a house with golf clubs outside and he started making comments. I told him that I enjoy golf too and before I knew it, I had been invited to play a round sometime in the future. Well, the future caught up with me on Saturday and there I was, on a $120/round, tucked up in the mountains, 18 hole golf course. It was pretty deluxe, valet service, lounge, cart service and of course a bath for after the game! I was nervous, and had only been to the driving range 2 times before playing. But I wasn't the only beginner, and played a better game than one of the other teachers! It was a brilliant cloudless fall day. The conditions couldn't have been better. I really had a great time -sports is a great way to communicate when you don't speak each other's language.

Here are some photos from the day:

I went to Toyama to shop for snowboard gear with Omi -my snowboardin
g and golf sensei. We made a few decisions about what I should buy and then went for dinner at a cute little Indian restaurant.

I drove home, watched a movie and then the fun began...

Tanayama Family Land-o Thanksgiving 2006

I've been trying to post this for a week!!

It's late, but enjoy. Thanks to Sista K for the link.

The 3rd annual thanksgiving was in Tanayama again for the 2nd time. Before the meal got started, the Nyuzen crew got together to wish people back home a "Happy Thanksgiving!"

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Big Update on it's way. I promise.

And it's a DOOZY!!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Lost in Translation

To all my Japanese and Japanese-studying friends please translate this into English:


Monday, November 20, 2006

Budding Artists

I love elementary school for many reasons - here's one:

An ever-changing art gallery!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Official Countdown Commences

OK, as of tomorrow I will be exactly one month away from my first Christmas vacation at home in 5 years. I've added a countdown indicator to my blog so you can count down the days with me. Perhaps when December hits I'll deck it with boughs of holly or something, but for now it's just simply red and green.

And just in case you think that I get to avoid the 2 month long commercial Christmas season because I'm in a country that doesn't 'celebrate' it...think again. The trees and lights and music have been in the stores since November 1. Ugh.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Random Wednesday

My alarm didn't go off for the second day in a row.

I ate mashed banana on toast for breakfast.

Today was my little school day. Maezawa Elementary School has 98 students and I taught all of them except the 15 first graders.

2nd Grade: Vegetables.
I did a vegetable chant. One would think that eggplant and perhaps green pepper would be toughies, but no, carrot and radish were the enemy today.

3rd Grade: Restaurant.
"May I help you?" "Yes, orange juice and steak please." "Here you are." "Thank you."
Students made up their own menus and then took turns waiting on each other.

4th Grade: Let's go shopping!
"May I help you?" "Pencil please. How much is it?" "It's $1." "Here you are." "Thank you." "Here you are." "Thank you."
Students set up a stationary shop and we used Maezawa Money that I made using a bunch of clip art and that I must say, looks pretty darn cool.

5th Grade: Telephone
"Ring" "Hello." "Hello. May I speak to ---?" "Speaking. Who's calling please?" "This is ---."
We used cell phones that I got from my friend Aiko who works at a cell phone shop. They were old demo phones that were outdated. Kids loved'm. We threw in "When's your birthday?" at the end of the conversation just to make the phone call legit.

6th Grade: Where do you want to go?
"Where do you want to go?" "I want to go to [insert Japanese prefecture here]"
Original and best answer of the day: "I want to go to bed!" Gotta love it.

During the day I was given fresh, homemade whole wheat bread, an apple flavored Kit-Kat, a lemon drop, homemade walnut ice-cream, 4 cups of coffee and a persimmon. Oh, and while we watched a recording of the latest school choral concert on a pull down screen in the lunch room, we ate fried chicken, black sesame seed bread, cauliflower salad and 'candy' cheese (small candy sized and shaped, individually wrapped discs of white processed cheese) for lunch.

After all of this I stayed for 2 more hours and planned next week's classes while it thundered and lighteninged outside.

Home by six, I made a concoction of rice, corn, refried beans and taco mix for dinner and sat down at my computer to play solitaire in order to flush my mind of the days events. In a move that is rare these days, I turned on the TV and the programme that was on was about 2 Canadian unicyclists who rode their bikes through Bhutan in the Himalayas. I can't make this stuff up...

And if that wasn't enough randomness for one day, I got a phone call from some teachers from Nyuzen High School who were out drinking tonight, asking me to come and join them. So, I did. 2 hours of drinking hot calpis and singing karaoke...the highlight was 'Let it Be' a debut song for me with help from a senior teacher.

Oh, Oh, Oh, just wait. One more thing. I got a text message as I was leaving for home from Sista K telling me a huge earthquake hit somewhere in Russia and there was a tsunami warning in efffect for Western Japan -I was shocked and a bit panicked -but she really meant Eastern Japan -which doesn't lessen the shock, but I don't have to panic quite yet...

I'm going to bed now in hopes of a normal Thursday (whatever that is....)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Thar's snow in them thar mount'ns

It's coming, creeping slowly down one peak at a time, spreading it's pure white goodness...

Soon it will be on our doorsteps. OK, it'll be another month, but I can see it coming!!!

I went for dinner with my friends Kaz and Ai last night -we were discussing their upcoming wedding and my role in it. I get to do the KAMPAI (toast)! Yay. I'm not sure what I'm going to say yet, but what ever it is, it'll be mostly in Japanese.

But I digress -the point is that Ai-chan (being the great friend that she is) was kind enough to tell me that she and another friend are going snowboarding THIS WEEK!!!!!!!

GAH! Nice friend, ne? She had to rub it in by telling me that Kaz bought her all new boarding gear for her b-day. GAH!

Nice friend indeed, she told me she model the new duds from ON TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN.

I told her this wasn't something she should be rubbing in - I haven't written the speech yet....

Have fun Ai-chan, but be careful. You have to walk down the aisle in 4 weeks time!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Life Is Good

I've found Bernard Callebaut Choclate in Toyama!!!

Bernard Callebaut
I met Mr. Callebaut a few years ago when I was doing swim camps in Calgary. He gave us personal tours of his shop on McLeod Trail. Yay, a new store of omiyage!!

Temiyage and Omiyage:

In order to thank somebody, e.g. for an invitation, one often presents a gift (temiyage) such as a cake, Japanese sweets or sake. Similarly, when a Japanese person returns from a trip, he or she bring home souvenirs (omiyage) to friends, co-workers and relatives.

the source for Japanese gift giving (click)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Rememberance Day

I went to Colare with Johnny P and Sista K last night and watched a movie about a POW camp in Tokushima, Japan called Camp Bando, where German POWs were kept during WWI. The movie, called "Baruto no Gakuen", was in Japanese (and German, with Japanese subtitles) and it had a lot of famous Japanese actors in it. It portrayed the lives of the German prisoners, the Japanese soldiers, and the local people who interacted in and around this camp. I haven't found a lot of information on the movie, so I don't know if the stories are actually true or just based on the events that happended there. At any rate, it was a good movie and opened my eyes to yet another piece of Japanese history.

It seemed fitting that we watched it last night on the eve of Rememberance Day. However, this timing only had significace to me, not my American friends. I hadn't realized that they didn't share the same date as we Canadians for remembering those who have served their country in times of war.

I recall Rememberance Day as always being a day to be regarded in my family. Both my parents have family members who were injured or lost during the second world war. My grandfather enlisted as a young man, but fortunately was not ever sent overseas -he is now a long standing member of the Royal Canadian Legion. And belonging to Girl Guides and Boy Scouts and Air Cadets meant that for years my family, in rain, sleet or snow, made the annual march to the cenotaph in Jubilee Park in GP to pay our respects to those who lost their lives for our country's freedom.

Our schools always held Rememberance Day poster contests -which I never won. We could also write poems and essays at this time of year, the best of which would be chosen to be published in the local newspaper. I think I have always respected this day- even as a child not fully understanding it's significance. Symbols such as the Poppy still conjure sentiment when I see people wearing them. I certainly feel a twinge of patriotism and longing for Canada on this day.

Click to read more about the Poppy

My Grandfather is the handsome one on the right.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Lest We Forget

-John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I've always had a romantic image (and wanting) of old books. I think there is something magical in a early edition, authentically bound book. Whose hands have touched it's pages, what countries, homes and libraries has is rested in, why has it remained intact after all these years?

I have a meagre collection of old books -nothing rare or expensive (yet). I like to buy books of stories I like and authors I admire, but what's more, I particularly enjoy books with interesting personal inscriptions inside the covers, or notes and messages within the pages.

Not long before coming to Japan I read a book called "The Island of Lost Maps: a True Story of Cartographic Crime" by Miles Harvey. click here for a description

A good read for nerds like me.

What prompted this post?

The following article which left me envious of the new owner.

World's first printed atlas - 1477 edition - sells for record US$3.9 million

19:16:35 EDT Oct 10, 2006
Canadian Press

LONDON (AP) - The first atlas ever printed sold for a record US$3.9 million at auction Tuesday.
The sale at Sotheby's of the 1477 edition of Claudius Ptolemy's landmark atlas established a new record for any atlas ever sold at auction.
The atlas was part of a collection sold by the family of Lord Wardington, a prolific British map and atlas collector who died last year. It is one of only two copies still in private hands.
The price paid by a private collector, who was not present at the auction, eclipsed the previous record of $2.7 million, paid for the "Doria Atlas" sold at Sotheby's in October 2005.
Ptolemy was a Greek-speaking geographer, astronomer and astrologer who lived in Roman Egypt. He authored several scientific treatises that were influential on both Islamic and European science and devised maps and atlases of the Roman Empire.
"The price for the 1477 Ptolemy atlas was extraordinary - a fitting testimony to the rarity and importance of the work - but the excitement it generated was echoed throughout the sale," said Catherine Slowther, Head of Maps and Atlases at Sotheby's.

Money well spent if you ask me. What do you think?

Am I back in Lethbridge??

I'm sitting in my apartment at the moment and the wind is HOWLING!!! And even more shocking, there was HAIL on my way home from work today.

I feel like I'm back in Lethbridge...the whole building is swaying back and forth, the windows are rattling, the water in the toilet bowl is sloshing, and I could lose the laundry rods off my balcony at any moment.

I remember the long walks to the UofL...well, long if I were going against the wind - I could cut the time in half if I when I was walking with the incessant gales that used to come howling out of the foothills.

Where did this come from? We've had perfect weather here for months now. Is it time to finally admit winter is coming?

I've thought about turning on the heater (I usually use my air conditioner's 'heat' function)...but I haven't done it yet. It's a common game among ALTs - who will be the first to pull out the kerosene heater? Who can withstand the chilly autumn mornings and frigid nights the longest? I wonder who will it be this year -I think I've already beaten Sista K. Those of us with smaller apartments have an advantage since we basically only have to worry about heating up one room. Pity the JET who has a large apartment or, heaven forbid, a house to live in during the winter months.

typical kerosene heater

I got this photo from a website which provides a great explanation of Japanese heating meathods.

click here to view the site

Monday, November 06, 2006

No More Mr. Grumpypants

I teach an adult eikaiwa (ei=english, kaiwa=conversation) class on Monday nights. I've been doing it for 3 years now. We meet in a meeting room in one of the municipal buildings downtown.

For the past 3 years there has been a man at the front desk who is THE grumpiest old man I've ever met. He rarely looks up from his TV program when I come through the door, and if he does, he doesn't say anything. I thought at first that maybe it was just my gaijin-ness (being a foreigner), but no he treats everyone the same way. He's always harsh when he speaks to the students in the class -for example if we try to turn the air conditioner or the heater on without asking permission he'll come banging on the classroom door telling us it's not time yet (there are often predetermined and somewhat arbitrary dates for when things like heaters and fans are to be used in this country, as is the idea that you don't go in the ocean before or after a certain date -regardless of the actual conditions). We also have to pay a monthly rental fee for the room and he will not allow us to start class until it's paid on the first Monday of the month...seriously. I hate to be disrespectful of my elders, but this guy is a jerk.

Well, I don't know what happened to him- maybe he retired, maybe enough people complained and he got turfed, or maybe my students' curses finally worked and the guy fell down a flight of stairs...regardless, he's gone and I couldn't be happier with his replacement. A warm and friendly old guy whom I'd gladly adopt as my grandfather. He says hello to everyone as they come in, he makes sure the room is comfortable when we begin and he's even offered to see me out to me car with an umbrella when he saw I didn't have one (my car was 10 feet away...).

Goodbye Mr. Grumpypants, and WELCOME Mr. Sunshine!!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bedside Book: Finished

I have to say I was disappointed with the end of "Larry's Party".

I don't know what I was expecting. Actually, I think I was expecting what actually happened, but I didn't want it to happen, and then it did happen, so I was disappointed.

Now I have to wait for my next Amazon order to arrive (hopefully this week) so I can finish the RING trilogy ("LOOP" finally came out in paperback). And I also ordered Richard Kearney's "The God Who May Be". Couldn't resist after listening to him on CBC's Ideas. Dad, I hope you got a chance to listen to this particular series - would love discuss it with you. And Mom, if you caught the Idea's series on Sleeping and Dreams, I'd like to know what you think.

In the mean time I've scavenged through my bookshelves and have settled on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I've read the complete works, most of them twice and some of them many many more times. Always great bedtime reading.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

21 Grams

I've had an infatuation with Sean Penn lately. I won't go into the reasons why...but I've been renting a lot of his movies. The latest is called
'21 Grams'.


Like most of his films, it's intense, a bit raw and fabulously written, cut and cast.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Bedside Book

I'm currently reading "Larry's Party" by Carol Shields, a Canadian author from Chicago.

I'm thouroghly enjoying it and am looking foward to reading more of her books when I'm finished with this one.

I started reading Jack Kerouac's "On the Road", but put it down after two attempts. I just can't get into it. Disappointing.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

my head space at the moment

A few weeks ago I had the privlege of attending the debut reading of my friend's first soon to be published novel. A wonderful experience in itself, but also the impetus for the following ramble.

After listening to Matt read from the final pages of his book, the 3 Canadians in the room- me, Matt and Owen- merged in a corner and started talking about our future plans. It started with the whole idea of what it takes to write a full novel from beginning to end. It was during this conversation that I came upon the stark realization that for the first time in probably my whole life, I don't have any long term goals.

There is not a single thing that I am striving towards at the moment (again, I'm talking long term). I'm not sure how or why this has happened. I know that in coming to Japan I have learned to live more in the present. No, let me rephrase that. I have learned to live in the present. I had never done that before. But now I feel like maybe I've swung to the opposite end of the spectrum and I live too much in the short term, immediacy of my existance.

I haven't decided yet if this is cause for concern. I'm leaning towards 'no'. I seem to be doing fine, causing no harm to myself or others this way. I don't feel like I'm spinning my wheels by staying here in Japan year after year like many people do. I find it funny when individuals come here and stay one one or two years and then insist they have to get back to "the real world".

Why can't the real world be where ever you happen to be at the time. Why does Canada have to be the real world; why does teaching here under the title of "ALT" have to be less legitimate than being in a classroom at home?

I used to make most of my decisions based on what I thought others wanted me to do, or thought I should do. I've learned to make decisions now according to what 'feels' right to me. I still stumble and make mistakes, but for the most part I'm much happier with my life now than I was in the past.

Ok, I'm straying from the topic...

Why don't I have any long term goals?

While talking to Matt and Owen one of them asked, "Well, don't you want to be in a relationship and have a family?"

I answered honestly and openly that yes, I do want those things. But I can't make that a 'goal'. I used to think that way. It used to be a 'goal' - until I realized that I have no control over who will fall in love with me and want to have children with me -and whether it will be mutual. It's a want or a desire, or even a dream, but it's not something I can take aim at.

Sure, I have lots of wants. I want to travel more, I want to be better at Japanese, I want to teach, I want to get my Masters degree, I want to have children, I want a vintage VW collection, I want to be thin...

But unlike in times past, I don't have anything marked on my life calendar. There's no "Save X amount of dollars to fix up my Thing." or "Start my Masters by 2008." I haven't a clue if I'll ever own my own house, have a 'career' - or even when my next trip abroad will be.

Part of me thinks that it's just a temporary inability to commit. Another part of me thinks that I'm just being lazy, for lack of a better word...

Yet I don't feel guilty. I don't feel bad. Rather I'm feeling a slight sense of awe about the whole thing. Where once there was a perception of linear progress to my future, I find the current view to be vacantly chaotic -or chaotically vacant, take your pick.

Wants, desires and dreams sitting just ahead of today, but nothing in any particular order or place.

Wants, desires and dreams waiting for me to cement them down to a time - to a latitude and longitude - to a single point which one day will be 'now'.

Where once this activity of choosing and putting things into their appropriate slots along my life's continuum -getting my driver's licence, graduating from high school, graduating from university - was effortless, fun, and if not somewhat predetermined, I find that at the moment I have neither the desire nor the energy needed to seek out and persue new badges to sew on my sash.

And what baffles me even further about my present state of mind is that I'm not concerned about what other people may think about this! Ha! There seems to be low levels of stress involved in this state of being. Perhaps that's just it. Without goals, there is no stress or worry of acheiving.

-Or more pointedly: failing.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Can you handle more pumpkin?

When I brought my internet-ordered pumpkin to my little school (Maezawa) last Wednesday everyone went crazy over it. I had carved a simple face on it (see previous posts), but I guess when you've never seen a Jack-o-lantern before it's a pretty cool thing. Much more effective than showing a picture or flashcard.

Well, my principal was also interested. And when he found out I got it from the internet and had paid around $20CDN for it, he looked at me and said, "You know that Nyuzen is becoming famous for pumpkins, right?"

I did know that, but when there's a language barrier (and a cultural one), it's not so easy to go knocking on people's doors asking for pumpkins. Besides, the pumpkins grown here are NOT the same as the pumpkins we use at home for Jack-o-lanterns. Their skin is much paler and the rind (rind?) is much thicker. They kind of remind me of the little gourds or 'fancy' pumpkins you can see at home, just on a bigger scale. They don't have that vibrant orange color, nor do they seem all that pumkin-like to me.

Back to the principal...he told me he knew a guy who knew a guy - and before I knew it, he was one the phone with 'the guy'. Half way through the conversation, he cups his hand over the receiver, and in perfect English leans towards me and asks, "How many?" I paused, made a quick calculation: 3 schools = 3 pumpkins. "Three," I answered, hesitantly, not really knowing what the right answer was.

He took his hand away from the receiver and told the guy, "Five."

Within the hour, a little white truck rolled up to Maezawa Elementary School and 2 guys jumped out and unloaded 5 pumpkins. They told us, somewhat apologetically, that these were the smallest they had:

So now I had two extra pumpkins...and I couldn't even lift the first 3 myself!! This is where my two favoritest neighbors came into play!! It helped that they both work at elementary and jr. high schools too, so I knew they were also teaching halloween lessons. Whew. I would have looked pretty ungrateful had I not been able to take all 5 of them. I'm not sure what Johnny did with his, but I know Sista K managed to carve one up for her school festival last weekend.

Yay for pumkins!!

p.s. I lit the little guy and put him on my balcony all night. When I got up this morning he was still burning bright!

Sumo: me through K's camera

This is Tochinonada. A fun
Maegashira to watch.

Here's me and Aminishiki, one of my faves. He's quiet, and reserved in the ring, a real gentleman.

The last of the Halloween photos

...until I teach this lesson 3 more times next Monday!

Make it stop. Halloween's not one of those lingering holidays, like Christmas or New Years. The build up is great, but once it's November 1, the ghosts and goblins get put away for another year. Make it stop!!!

Here's some of my students from the past week's lessons.

click here to see a video

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Jack-O-Lantern #2

The big day is just two sleeps away.

I've got more classes to teach and this little guy will be tagging along.

Ain't he cute?

Thanks to Mom, Marilyn and Karla for sending me stickers and other goodies. The kids love them! As do I.

I'm updating!

no really, i am.

please be patient.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I love my job

I've got stories about this day but it'll have to wait until for another day.

Oh, and


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

One week and counting...

Here's the first Jack-o-lantern I've made this year.
I'll be bringing him to most of my classes this week

-if he survives!

I ordered the pumpkin off the internet for about $20 (from costco in Japan).

Sounds expensive but it was totally worth it when I stuck my hand in for the first time to scoop out pumpkin seeds! I love this holiday.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Part II

This weekend was full of entertainment.
First of all, I went to my 6th live sumo event.
Kirsten and I jumped in her car Saturday morning and spent the day at Ariso Dome in Uozu city watching our favorite sumo wrestlers, or better yet, sumo stars. They really are celebrities, just as hockey players and ball players are back home.

This guys's waiting for the bus. No, seriously, he is.

The official name for a sumo wrestler is 'rishiki'. There are various ranks of rikishi and that rank determines the order they will fight in any given match or tournament. Lower levels go first. These are usually the younger athletes whose size and strength might dominate even some of the higher level rikishi, yet sit at the bottom while they strive to acquire the technical skills needed for sumo.

These guys are helping the Yokozuna (the highest ranked rikishi) tie a huge white cord around his waist.

Here's the result.

I have been up close to some of my favorites in the past, and this year was no exception. I still have a hard time pushing my way through a crowd to get a good photo, I see these guys first as athletes and don't want bother them by asking for a photo. However the temptation is pretty strong at times and Kirsten and I managed to get a few shots of ourselves with some of the high level rikishi.

After the sumo exhibition we went to Toyama, had a great dinner at Santoshi, an Indian restaurant I really enjoy, and then went to a live theatre production to watch my friend Lee's puppet performance.

Lee is a 4th year JET like me, and a good friend. He came to Toyama years before becoming a JET with a puppet production company and then ended up here again when he applied for the JET Programme. In his spare time he works with theatre groups to produce some amazing puppetry.

This latest endeavor involved a group of musicians and throat singers from Mongolia! Together they retold the popular children's story "Suho's White Horse".

The music on it's own was beautiful -especially the vocals. But combined with the visuals created by a wonderful variety of puppets -marionettes, shadow puppets and even life sized puppets, it was truly a wonderful evening of entertainment.

Outside the theatre a traditional Mongolian house had been erected for people to enter, view some photographs, and try a type of milk tea common to Mongolia.

So a very special congratulations to Lee for a great performance!

Next on the entertainment list was Kirsten's swim meet on Sunday. I got up and drove to Toyama to watch (with some envy) as she swam her events for the Master's Swim Meet.
Great job Sista K, I really enjoyed watching your swims.

Lastly, the icing on the cake was that my FAVORITE AUNT sent me season two of "Corner Gas". I've almost finished watching all 18 less than a week. Oh, come on, you all know they're addicting!!! Thank you M for spoiling me to death (that included the stickers and Wee Sing book too!!!)

A great weekend of entertainment, don't you think?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Feels like high school... know, you leave your homework until Sunday night? That's how this blog feels. I've been putting it off all week, and now it's Sunday night and it seems like there's too much to do in just one blog.

I've got two themes to this post, one is first aid. The other is entertainment.
Totally unrelated, I know.

Let's start with 'first aid' shall we? At the beginning of the week there was a grade 2 student who got hit in the face with a ball at my school. He came into the staff room with a scraped knee, a fat lip and bleeding gums. The school nurse was off on a school field trip with the 6th graders, so the homeroom teacher was responsible for him. She got on the phone right away and called his mother. Sounds reasonable. She then called the hospital and told them that he'd be coming in -another good idea. What she didn't do however, was TREAT THE CHILD. I sat and watched as he bled and sniffled, teachers walking by tsking and shaking their heads, "poor kid". BUT NOBODY DID ANYTHING FOR HIM!!

I turned to my Japanese Assistant Teacher and said, "Somebody needs to get that boy some ice." Her response was, "Oh, but the nurse isn't here today, and besides, they've called his mother."


I repeated my concern for his swelling lip and she shrugged and said that he'd be going to the hospital soon.


Does this seem totally lame to anyone else? The boy's lip was huge and only getting bigger. The teacher left the room so I went to the refridgerator and got an ice pack for him. I wrapped it in tissue because I didn't know where to find clean, sanitary towels or cloth. As I was handing it to him the teacher came back in and said to the boy, "Oh isn't Linea-sensei so nice, how thoughtful of her."

First aid:

Pronunciation: "f&rst-'Ad
Function: noun:
emergency care or treatment given to an ill or injured person before regular medical aid can be obtained
Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary, © 2002 Merriam-Webster, Inc.

You don't have to be trained in it to do it -it's common sense. Or so I thought. As someone who has been trained, this was a very uncomfortable situation for me and I couldn't stand by and not do anything, even though I had basically been told I shouldn't.

This led to a whole discussion with my JAT about how I have observed a total lack of training in first aid in this country. I told her how most people in North America get at least a basic level of first aid training as a requirement for many jobs -and that it's especially important for teachers or anyone who works with children. She admitted she hadn't really thought about it before.


Then Thursday when I arrived at school I was informed that a 3rd grade student from another Kurobe City elementary school had collapsed and died during a basketball practice the night before as a result of vetricullar fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm).

He had done one lap and suddenly fell over. He tried to get up, but fell over again.

Now here's the concerning part: according to my JAT, there was no coach, manager nor teacher in the gym at the time. Only parents. Of course they called the ambulance once they realized the seriousness of it. However, they didn't think to contact any of the staff at the school.

Now, nobody can predict what could have happened had a teacher been called, but perhaps had a teacher been contacted they would have been able to administer some kind of first aid while waiting for the ambulance. At least I would hope so.

I would like to point out at this time that since two similar deaths have occured in the last two years in Nyuzen Town, pretty much every school has now been equipped with
AEDs(click) (Automatic External Defibrillators). As a Nyuzen High School staff member I was given a 3 hour seminar in how to use this device, as well as a quick CPR lesson. I was astonished at my coworkers' complete lack of knowledge in first aid.

Having an AED machine in a school doesn't mean that every staff member knows how to use it, but that's part of the reason for AED machines -they are designed to be used by trained or non-trained individuals. Perhaps had the parents called a staff member, the would have been able to at least try to used the machine before the ambulance arrived. But it sounds like very little was done.

It's a horrible tragedy, and I can't help but feel that more could have been done for this child. As a parent, wouldn't you want to know what to do if your child (or any child) collapsed, started choking, or was bleeding? You don' t have to be able to set a bone or stitch a gaping wound, but shouldn't you at least know how to stop the bleeding for the time being or in more serious cases open an airway, check for breathing and circulation?

Finally as a last note on this topic, today while watching Kirsten's swim meet there was a woman who apparently had a very bad cramp or some other immobillizing condition in the last 25 of her swim. I watched from the stands as 5 or 6 people walked along the deck watching her way out in lane 5 struggle to get herself to the end of the lane. Finally when she was about 10 feet from the wall another swimmer jumped in to try and help her.

Are you thinking what I was thinking?

Where the hell was the lifeguard. Your guess is as good as mine. One of the first things I noticed when I started swimming in Japan was the complete lack of rescue equipment on deck. Nothing. They must be really adept with a flutter board...

Anyway. So, instead of this woman getting out on the side, she struggled to the end of the lane and then got out on the side. She was a larger woman and I cringed as I watched 4 people try to drag her up out of the water at the ladder. Where is the @!$%$#%ing protocol in this country? Finally she was flopped over onto the deck where now 10 people hovered over her. They brought out a mat and haphazardly yanked and dragged her over to it (instead of sliding it underneath her)....sigh.

Remind me never to get injured in this country.

It's late, I'm tired. I'll leave the entertainment part til morning...before class.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Who's missing from this photo?

After not running at all since my Triathlon (a kazillion eons ago), I joined the Toyama Relay Marathon for the 2nd year in a row. Although it was a blast, as always, it wasn't the same without Jimmy-san on the team.

Add this to the "Lessons Learned" list

Never get your hair done on Friday the 13th.

Unless you want blue hair.

No I don' t have photos...I was in too much shock.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


my lunch today

see the little chunks of gunk in's called surimi and it's nasty.

ground fish meat -it's all gelatinous and slightly gritty.

in a word: gross