Saturday, August 19, 2006

Beer, Mutton, Gaijin Traps and Night Skies

I went to Toyama tonight for dinner with Kaz and Ai-chan, two good friends I met through NOVA 4 years ago. We went to a restaurant near the station that serves lamb yakiniku (grilled meet). We don't get together that often, so whenever we can, we try to catch up on each other's lives over a beer or two after we've all finished work for the day (or we go snowboarding...). These two are getting married in December and have asked me to make a speech because I am one of few friends that know both of them equally well. It's a big honor!

Anyway, before the mutton even came we had all started in on the nama (draught) beer like it was water -come to think of it, we were never even served water tonight, hm. It's still above 30 everyday here and beer tastes sooooo good on nights like tonight. Then the lamb came. Served raw in bite sized slices, ready to grill on the mini grill placed in front of us. By the time the actual food came we were all on our second beer. I'm not sure which tasted better...

After a while Kaz's brother and sister-in-law joined us. They live in Kanazawa, the neighboring prefecture, where they own a Jamaican restaurant!! Neither has actually been to Jamaica...but what does that matter. They were in town to see a reggae show at Mairo, a local club. Kaz hadn't told them that I was going to be at dinner so they were a little shocked at first to see me sitting at the table with Ai and Kaz, full lamb bib on (think lobster bib), chowing down while using chopsticks like I was born with them in my hand.... Ahem, however once the beer started flowing on their side of the table, they were much more at ease, and I have to say, I held my own in Japanese. Ok, I answered like, 4 questions, but I'm pretty sure I laughed in all the right places...

I was half way through my third beer (I'm telling you, it must have been water, really) when it was already time for me to catch the last train home. YIKES, I WAS DRUNK!! 2.5 beers is a definite record for me! Kirsten kept me company from Hiroshima via k-tai (cell phone) on the almost hour-long train ride home (hurry up and get back here Sista!!) and then I had the pleasure of riding a bicycle home in the dark.

Now, in most other countries, I'm sure this would not pose the same kind of threat as it does in this fine land. For you see, Japan has gaijin (foreigner) traps. These are the 3 foot deep, 2 foot wide water canals that run along almost every rural road -and lucky me, I live in rural Japan!! They have a nasty way of drawing unsuspecting folk like ALTs into their clutches -especially if said folk are on bicycles, and almost certainly if they have been consuming beverages of an alcoholic nature...

But, tonight I returned to my apartment victorious! Unscathed! I used the force and it guided me safely down the middle of the road -ok, I used my ears and made sure the sound of flowing water didn't get too loud -nonetheless there was much swerving involved, especially when I was facing oncoming traffic. They could see me, but I was momentarily blinded each time. Concentrating all my efforts on forward movement, there were times when the sound of the car engines drowned out the sound of the water and I would find myself in the tractor beam -legs brushing the vegetation that lines the banks of these bone breaking, bicycle mangling, montrosities -cranking the handlebars just in time to wobble safely back onto the pavement.

And if the cars weren't enough, I was totally distracted by the night sky tonight. While being in inaka (the countryside) means harrowing, streetlightless night wandering, it does make for amazing star gazing! All the regulars were out tonight, including the Milky Way, which I must say, is a lot easier to see in Japan than Northern Alberta. No moon, however, which compounded the blind biking scenario...

So, it's now 2:00 a.m., the beer has worn off, Burle Ives is singing Ol'Dan Tucker from my computer and I'm hungry again. I think I'll grab and snack and my astronomy book and sit by the rice paddy outside my apartment and gaze a bit more.

What am I talking about??? I'm going to bed!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Congratulations Dave & Sheri

My roommate from university got married on Saturday, I wanted to go to the wedding, but couldn't make it home this summer. Fortunately I got to meet Sheri when I was home last summer and I wholeheartedly approved!!! She's wonderful, and very lucky to have a guy like Dave at her side!

Best wishes for your future together!!!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

On being happy.

My mom sent me a cd a while back and there was a song on it called Happy Baby, by Shaye. It struck a chord with me.

Since I've lived on my own in Japan I've finally stopped looking for what will make me happy, and I live in the moment instead. I never did that before. I was always searching for something I didn't have. I dont' feel the need to do that now. I'm HAPPY! The happiest I've ever been.

My happiness comes from finally making choices for myself, being healthly, having amazing friends and understanding family, and just enough money to eat, and keep my car on the road. Anything after that is just gravy.

Yes, I still go after things I want (travel, sports gear, new hair color) but I know they are not what will define my happiness. It's the idea that I can actually choose to go after these things if I want to -it's the choice that leaves me content.

So, if this is it for me, that's just fine, I'm not looking anymore.

Here are the lyrics:

Standing in line at the grocery store
Reading magazines that say i should want more
There's an old boyfriend, he looks my way
I can't help but smile, I feel great today
Last night's clothes, no make-up, drinking my coffee from a paper cup

If this is it for me baby, that's just fine, I'm not looking anymore
For what will make me happy baby, that's just fine, I'm not looking anymore

So many places I'll never see
But here and now is where I'd rather be
Too many people searching so hard
But they never look right in their backyard
I've made mistakes, that's for sure, ain't that what your life is for?

If this is it for me baby, that's just fine, I'm not looking anymore
For what will make me happy baby, that's just fine, I'm not looking anymore

(More clothes, more cash, more things, more rings)
These lines upon my face, I'd be a fool to erase cause they show my place in this world

If this is it for me baby, that's just fine, I'm not looking anymore
For what will make me happy baby, that's just fine, I'm not looking anymore