Thursday, January 31, 2008

Next stop...

afternoon train
Originally uploaded by anyram
and it's off to a new blog...
Click your heels together three times, then click your mouse and follow the link.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

six months on...

First things first.

Happy new year to everyone. It's the year of the rat, so happy nibbling on things and scurrying about.

Seeing as I don't live in Japan anymore, it seems a bit strange to be posting to a blog about my Japanese life. But due to popular demand (reported by telephone via a third party -- people, this is the internets! Popular demand is supposed to come via witty comments direct to the blog! Or at least an email!), I've decided to come back to ye olde blog, end my Japanese adventures and move on to more recent developments. Like how I've forgotten all the Japanese I ever learned. It's hard to keep up on it when you're busy re-learning another language. Especially without anyone to practice with. It's a lot easier to practice French here in French-speaking Canada. There are barely any English-speakers here, let alone nihongo speakers!
It's strange to think that six months ago, I was saying goodbye to my friends in Japan and my life there. Some days, it feels a million billion light years away. Did I ever live there? Did I really do that? I must have! I have the pictures to prove it. And a surprising number of Japanese language textbooks.
Other days, it feels closer.
I guess it's all part of the great cycles of culture shock and reverse culture shock. Let me tell you, putting them both together was not the greatest idea in the world. But I'm here now, and making the best of it. Some things are great, some things suck donkey balls (hint: they start with an "un-" and end with "-employment").
I was going to wrap up this blog with some kind of great meditation on what I learned in my two years overseas, how it changed me, blah, blah, blah...
Suffice it to say that I went, I did, I lived, and life continues.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I'm baaaaaaack...

And it seems I have been here for a while... I'm having a hard time a) believing I'm back in Canada, b) that I've already been here a week and c) that I'll be moving to Quebec (more specifically Trois-Rivieres) in less than a week.

So yeah. It's been a bit of a whirlwind tour here. I flew into Vancouver last week with my sister*, met up with my boyfriend, and we all drove to Victoria to get my things out of storage. We were in Victoria for all of a day moving, so if I missed meeting up with people -- well, that's what happened. We were busy.

Hoping to get a good start on the day, we caught the 6am ferry back to the mainland (getting up at 4am to do so!) and started the trek over the mountains. We made it as far as Revelstoke before we were too tired to go any further.

We did make it to Calgary eventually, just in time to drive north to Edmonton for my cousin's wedding. It was lovely, though a bit of a headtrip seeing so much family at once. I was really glad that it worked out that I was able to go to the wedding and see some people before I move away again.

So, the last few days in Calgary have been spent mostly at the dentist it feels like. That's not really true. I also took the boy to Drumheller to see the dinosaurs.

* But not really with her. I flew directly to Vancouver while the sister flew via London. England. Nothing says fun like a 12 hour flight followed by a 9 hour flight.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

meet the sister

Yay! My sister is here to visit! Yay!

Tonight it's off to meet the old men in my town at my goodbye party with the dudes. I love that when I had a conflict for this evening, they were like "yeah, you should see if you can change your thing". When they heard the sister would be coming, they immediately shifted the party so that she could come too.

In other news, things are slowly getting finished. I shipped a bunch of boxes yesterday, sorted sending money home, cancelling bills, booking hotels for the trek home... Now all that's left is actually packing the suitcases and the endless goodbyes... Tonight is one, tomorrow another one with the teachers, and again next Wednesday. If my liver makes it, I'll be overjoyed.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

neither typhoon nor rain nor poor sense of direction nor earthquake ...

... could stop an excellent weekend in Nagoya and Kyoto.

I flew down to Nagoya on Friday (a city I went to as a junior high student) to meet up with my little sister, who is returning from a European tour by way of Japan. Not the most direct route, but certainly an interesting one.

We spent the evening eating miso katsu (pork cutlet in miso sauce), watching a movie and catching up. It was a good, albeit quiet evening.

The next day we set off for Inuyama (犬山, literally dog mountain), a castle town featuring the oldest castle in Japan and just a little ways out of Nagoya. The town itself seemed kind of run down, which wasn't helped by the torrential downpour that followed us all day. Lucky us had managed to coincide with one of the strongest typhoons to make landfall in the last 50 years. So it poured the whole day. On the plus side, it kept most of the other tourists away. I was a little worried about that, seeing as this weekend was a long weekend.

The castle was lovely though, even in the rain. Conveniently, Inuyama is also an onsen town. So to warm up and relax after all the rain, we soaked in what turned out to be a very swanky onsen. We wrapped up with another Japan top three, and saw one of the most famous tea houses in Japan, Joan. It would have been a nicer stroll without all the rain, but whatever.

We made our way back into the city to find the Aichi Prefectural Gym to watch some sumo action. We only got a little lost, which extra sucked in the rain. I'm telling you, this was a serious typhoon. But we did make it.
And it was awesome. If a picture says a thousand words, here's three thousand for you.

Not knowing much about what was going on didn't hamper us too much. The energy generated by the crowd was exciting and we had a great time.
We caught the shinkansen into Kyoto, narrowly missing closures due to the typhoon. In all, we were pretty lucky. One thing we hadn't anticipated was half of Kyoto being closed to traffic due to the Gion Matsuri. We had caught a cab to get to our hotel, because I didn't want to get lost in the rain and have to wander around lugging our bags through the storm. That didn't work though, as most of the roads were closed to traffic for Gion festivities. So we got dropped... somewere, and ended up wandering around looking for the place we were staying. It was an experience. Not helping was the worlds smallest sign on the place we stayed. Which turned out to be awesome. I booked us into what is basically a family run series of apartments throughout Kyoto. So basically, we were staying in a private apartment in the middle of Kyoto. And in the middle of the Gion Festival -- one of the largest and oldest in Japan.
The next day it had stopped raining -- the typhoon had blown itself out to sea, but we took it fairly easy, visiting Kiyomizu-dera (one of my favorite temples) and shopping in the markets near our apartment. In the evening, the party was in full swing. On our way home, we watched as the streets were flooded with people. Several major roads were shut to car traffic, and the streets were packed. It was incredible to see. After some chill out time, we went out into the streets to enjoy Japanese festival food: barbequed squid, meat on sticks, takoyaki (octopus balls), okonomiyaki ("It looks like a pizza, but tastes different") and beer. Eat your heart out Stampede!
Despite being two days before the main festival, Gion was packed with people, no doubt making up for being rained out the previous night. The main feature is the floats, which are massive and ornate, complete with musicians performing traditional music from the tops. We wandered around, looking at floats until late.
The next day it was back to Hokkaido for me, via shinkansen, train, plane, and bus. I ended up missing the big festival here in my own town, which was too bad. Ah well. I also missed out on the big earthquake -- we were further south, and I didn't feel anything.
The sister arrives here in inaka on Thurday, in time for several farewell parties, and to help me clean my apartment before I go. Whee!