Saturday, December 30, 2006

bits 'n bites

the last few days I've surrendered completely to a life of slothful relaxation. between reading, writing and cuddling with Karma, I've filled my time with movies, both new and old. Some of the ones I would recommend? well...
And these are the movies that are still on my "to do" list. Any comments?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

an educational update

Well... after 3 months of waiting and waiting and waiting, I finally have some news from the University. First, they asked me to send copies of all my class syllabi, and examples of my course work. Then, after emails back and forth for a week, my faculty advisor has decided that she will grant me credit for work equivalent to 5 UofA classes. [this means that in order to graduate, I need to complete 1 more semester.] And, I found this out on Monday.

Today is now Thursday. The last 3 days have been a whirlwind of phone calls, emails, stress, breakdowns, and many unanswered questions. I explained to my advisor that while I waited for her decision, I made the choice to sell my condo, and that I now live in Calgary, with my family. She understood that moving back to Edmonton for a semester would be practically impossible, and agreed to make an exception in my case. If I could get permission from the University of Calgary to attend as a visiting student, and I was able to find the very specific courses that I still needed in order to graduate, she would approve them and let me finish my degree from home.

I spent hours pouring over the University of Calgary calendar, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't find 5 classes that met the requirements my advisor set out for me. Frustrated, and forced with the option of not graduating, I made the decision to give up the next 4 months of my life, and move back to Edmonton and finish my degree.

I enrolled in the classes I needed (and got approval from my advisor that these are the courses I need to graduate), and then spent days trying to find a place to live. I knew I wouldn't be able to afford much.. especially since I won't even move to Edmonton until Jan. 7th, the day before classes start. I'll look for part time work once I'm there, but until then, I'm not making any money.

Finally, I found an ad for a room for rent. It is furnished, and sharing with a guy and a girl. We'll share the living spaces, but the room is private, and it's something that I can afford.

So, from January through April, I will be back in Edmonton. Back at the University of Alberta. And back in a life I thought I'd outgrown and said goodbye to so many times before.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Happy Hanukkah To Me

It's almost time for Hanukkah, and this year, I've decided to take a step back. Instead of spending my time describing the gift exchange rituals that have become part of Hanukkah tradition, I'm going to turn things around and talk about Christmas for a while. This year, I guess I'm a lot more critical than I've been in the past, but after the opportunity to spend a winter in a country where Christmas doesn't consume lives for a month at a time, I've been spoiled.

I should explain.. Christmas does exist in Japan. BUT, it exists for a couple of days, and is then forgotten as quickly as it appeared. There are no Christmas carols consuming the radio stations. There are no Christmas decorations in public places like restaurants or store fronts. Christmas is not even a national holiday. In Japan, Christmas is celebrated by Christians, and the rest.. well, the rest just go on with their lives happily oblivious.

In Canada, however, and throughout most of the world I suppose, Christmas has become synonymous with overbearing and gaudy decorations, and what I refer to as religious ignorance. Ironically, the ignorance is at the hands of those that are the least religious Christians, from what I can see. It's the ones that feel their rights at Christmas Time far outnumber the rights of the rest of us. The ones that get my blood boiling over because of their blind belief that every person in this world participates in the mockery that is Christmas.

And I ask you. What *is* Christmas, anyways? I never understood how the holiday grew from celebrating the birth of Christ to the consumer glutton-fest it has become. How exactly does smothering a chopped down tree with lights and buying each other gifts honour and commemorate the man that was supposedly the son of God?

Anyways, the following is a letter I wrote earlier this week after being upset by some comments made by the radio personalities. They were upset that there had been a request made in Seattle that the airport display not only their Christmas Trees, but share in celebrating other holidays that take place during this season. For more info, check out this article from CNN. For the record, I had no issue with their being upset, and frankly agreed that the airport completely over-reacted & acted defensively rather than recognizing the non-Christian populace of Seattle. But the radio show's response to the situation was to belittle the non-Christians for "speaking up" rather than just "rolling over" and letting the Christians have their fun.

As entitled to each of you are to your own feelings and thoughts regarding the month of December and the implications that has on Calgary, every non-Christian listener tuned into your radio station should have an equal right to that freedom of thought.

If you're unhappy with a decision made by someone in the community, then by all means, say so. But when you go beyond that and begin questioning the opinions and rights of your non-Christian listener-ship, do you realize the implications of your actions? Perhaps there are topics and issues that are more sensitive than you initially assumed. Can you not try to understand how difficult and frustrating the winter season can be a non-Christian? From the moment the Thanksgiving decorations come down, they are replaced by flashy (sometimes gaudy) and blatant evidence of Christmas - only ONE of the many holidays that occur at this time of year.

You may believe that Christmas trees do not represent anything religious. And you're entitled to that opinion. But as far as I'm concerned, the fact remains that the Christmas tree, and Christmas lights, and the nativity scene all share one very significant detail: they all represent Christmas, which by its very nature celebrates the birth of Christ, a very religious figure.

Christmas is a time of year when other religions and other systems of beliefs are cast to the side. It's not fun spending a month every year feeling like a lower class member of society. A month when my rights and my opinions no longer matter to radio personalities, TV anchors, and members of government that place their own religious identity above the religious freedom that I, as a Canadian citizen, should be entitled to.

Wars have been waged throughout history by groups fighting both for and against religious freedoms. Perhaps in this day and age, when one religious group is being told by so many others that their religious expression is offensive and out of place, growing defiant and defensive is not the answer? I think that every Canadian should find a solution that lets us function as a community - not one that forces each religious group into a defensive corner.

Monday, December 11, 2006

karma

It was another slow morning at work in October when I sent off an email to happy bunny at my other office. I mentioned how bored I was and that my head might start spinning Exorcist-style, and she did me the favour of requesting my presence at her office. With the okay from Mr. Mann's personal assistant, I finished up what was on my desk and headed out into the craziness that is downtown Calgary on a Tuesday. Given the option of bussing it up Centre St. to the North office, or grabbing the train south, I decided on the latter and squeezed myself into the shelter on the train platform to avoid the cold wind that was trying to tickle its way down my spine.

Seconds after I found shelter from the cold, a distraught looking woman came into the shelter aimed straight for me. I caught a glimpse of the other ppl waiting to catch the train before turning my head to aknowledge the woman asking me to teach her how to use the train. (For those of you who may not remember, as a rule, I do not pay for the train, so you can imagine the irony I felt at having this request directed my way. remember?)


I made the quick decision to help the lady despite my personal feelings about paying for the use of public transit. I took her to the machine, and because my hands were full, explained to her how to push the little yellow button, and then feed her money into the coin slot. When she had paid, we waited together for her ticket to print out, and then as I was ready to turn back to the shelter, she asked me if I could also help her get to Chinook, the mall she was heading to. I explained that she would want to get onto the South-bound train and ride to Chinook station. It is really very simple, but she still seemed a little unsure of herself, so I volunteered to ride with her (since I would be travelling past Chinook anyways). She was extremely grateful, and explained that she was from a little town in Saskatchewan, and she was in town with her husband who was here on business. She'd never ridden the train before, and "didn't know how she would have done it without me". I made small talk, asking what her husband does, and when the train arrived, led her in to sit down in the first available vestibule.

She immediately pulled her ticket out of her pocket, and searched confusedly for someone to show it to. I explained that in Calgary, the tickets are only checked randomly by LRT cops, and that she should just hold on to it in case they come by. She seemed unsatisfied with my explanation; she really beleived that someone had to check her ticket or else she was doing something 'wrong'. Well, she was in luck. Not even 3 minutes after we'd sat down, she looked up in surprise and called out to a man walking our way.

My heart jumped into my throat as I turned and saw an LRT cop walking our way. I tried to look stoic and keep a smile on my face as I watched, awestruck. The woman I was riding the LRT with, the woman from a small town in Saskatchewan who was in town only for a few days, the woman who was about to watch me get an LRT education that I've managed to avoid for 4 years now, stood up and embraced the LRT cop. She was practically gushing as she explained to him that I was teacher her how to ride the LRT, and my heart stopped a beat when he turned to me. I knew what was coming, and I couldn't think of any excuse for not having a ticket on me - especially under the circumstances, and then wouldn't you know, the lady across from me turned and introduced the LRT cop as the son of her very best friend, from that little town in Saskatchewan. I looked from her to him in wonder, as he smiled and introduced himself. And then, as luck would have it, they spent 5 minutes or so catching up before he followed a girl off the train at the next station to check her ticket.

He never asked for my ticket (although the woman across from me happily showed hers to him when he first walked up to our seats), and so it was a giddy sense of triumph that I waved farewell to my new friend as the train left her on the platform at Chinook station.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

so long Edmonton

 Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sold!

Just shy of 3 weeks, and my condo is sold. Possession date? December 9th, which means I have this upcoming weekend to pack everything up and move everything out. Probably wouldn't be so tough if it was warmer than -30 outside, but whadya gonna do.






Sunday, November 19, 2006

"Bond, James my-pecs-are-too-big-for-my-body Bond."

And a big round of applause goes out to Daniel Craig for the ugliest man-chest I've seen on the big screen in forever. Would you please put your shirt back on? You really aren't all that, despite what Judy Dench and the wimpy Brunette might think.


** SPOILER WARNING **


The new James Bond.. an attempt at re-telling the story from the beginning relied on old cliches and not-so-witty banter to fill 2.5 hours. The basic premise? How did James become the tailored-suit-wearing-martini-drinking-saucy-remark-quipping poster boy for the British operatives that we all know so well. We watch him fall for the "first" Bond Girl, who before being unmasked as the first double-crossing Bond Girl, manages to transform him from the scrappy cold hearted field agent into the man who fits the previously mentioned 007 description. In the mean time? The movie fails to delve into the character's background, nor does his motivation become clear. The relationship that Bond shares with M is filled in a bit, but even that became caustic and demeaning when they portray M as an almost motherly character who's role is to chastise Bond for his childlike qualities and urge him to grow into the "man" that is James Bond 007.

The car was sexy, but lacking any special features or toys. The spy equipment - all but non-existent. Bugs; both tracking and listening; were the extent of cool gadgets making their way onto the screen, and while I can understand why they might have been kept out of a story taking place at the beginning of Bond's career, the movie makes reference to 9-11 as an event of the past, and consequently sets itself in a time period that should have Bond overflowing with gizmos and spy paraphernalia. And finally, the story itself. Dry, difficult to follow, and barely enough to keep the action forthcoming. The result? The newest Bond suffers from so many angles, I can suggest nothing simple than to STAY AWAY.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

uh oh

I am so disturbed by the fact that Steve left my room 10 minutes ago to take a shower... and not even 1 minute later I heard him having a conversation with someone that went something like this...

... what do you think?
I don't know, smell it yourself.
Smell it?
Yes, smell it!...

EEEeeewwwwwwwwwww. Some things are just better left unsaid.

Monday, November 06, 2006

a strangely vulnerable moment in time

i'm still trying to let go of things that hurt me so badly in Japan last year. the further I drift away from that time in my life, the deeper I feel myself pulled back in. I know that by now closure is hopeless, but i'm not strong enough to move on without it.

the unanswered email broke my heart. i wish i could understand why the friendship I wanted so badly could never be.

the unreciprocated goodbye.. sadly I still wait for something. i believe in him too much to give up completely. the occasional visit to see what i'm blogging tells me there's still something there, even if he refuses to admit it.

the friendships that dissolved the day I left home.. well, they leave me feeling melancholic. there is nobody to blame, just life to be realized. some relationships can only survive face to face, and others require effort that I haven't been able to devote to them. and others again, that I know are still there, waiting until I am ready to re-embrace those people that hold a special place in my heart.

~~

I spoke to Natasya today. Actually physically listened to her voice crossing over the thousands of miles of telephone wires. I could have sent an email, I could have waited until we came across each other on MSN. But I didn't want to wait. I needed to hear her, to speak with her, to allow myself a moment of vulnerability when all the memories from last year could come rushing back. I needed to know if I have reached the point where I can dissasociate her from all the pain I lived through last year. It is unfair of me to still hold on to it. I know that, but what can I do? If it was as easy as just "letting go", then I would, but that was something I never learnt to do. In the mean time, it eats away at my heart everytime I want to reach out to the person that holds the key to so many crossed emotions in my soul. I want to rebuild my friendship with Natasya, but I can't do that as long as I think of her as a bridge to other people in our lives. I know the time will come when that thought fades, and Natasya, I'm sorry that it is taking me so long. I just can't move forward until I find a way to do without dragging the past along for the ride.

sigh

was this even coherent? I'm so tired these days, and trying so hard to stay busy and unfocused on things I'd rather forget. wish I could say more, but sometimes there just aren't enough words...

UNFAIR

Today's Weather Forecast (pout)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

an impending nailbiter

Well, it's done. went up to Edm with dad for one of the last times. met with my neighbor, signed papers, and on Thursday, my condo will be up on the net (& real estate boards) for sale. now we just sit back, wait & see. Wish me luck!

still haven't heard from school. hoping for the best, 'cause I'm pretty much relocating to Calgary semi-permanently now. hope Richard and I find a way to visit; it's not easy being away from my best friend for so long, but at least we've gotten to visit a bit and talk more often now that I'm at least in the same country.

Monday, October 30, 2006

feelin' like some word association

I'll start with something obvious, and see where I end up...

halloween. witch. salem. stake. dracula. the count. one two three. strikes. baseball. yankees. NYC. central park. killer squirrels. acorns. the giving tree. life cycle. mortality. existence. resistance. persistence. achievement. dream. land of nod. Mercutio. Shakespeare. English. Buckingham Palace. tea time. crumpets. curds and whey. nursery rhyme. mother goose. mother nature. nurture.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

condo remodelling

I feel so rebellious, writing this while I’m at work, but I’ve worked my tail off for the last few days and I need a break. Saturday morning, after a quick breakfast, Dad and I hit the road. The road from Calgary to Edmonton is so straight and uneventful, that it becomes a challenge to stay awake and alert while making the trip north or south, and generally, I hate to do it alone, which is why Dad came up with me this time. We took his new car which comes equipped with the GPS navigator that impressed me so much last year in Japan. We entered my address into the system and waited until it had plotted our course north to see what lay ahead. The route was a straight line. Literally. We zoomed out to over 16x and still what lay ahead of us was a line heading straight into the horizon.

I was tired, but not sleepy enough to nap on the drive, so I just stared out the window watching the scenery pass by. It really amazes me how different things still seem to me sometimes. I remember sitting on the train in Japan watching buildings and power lines and bill boards screaming past the windows. It was so rare to see a plot of land that wasn't developed in some way, especially between the big cities, but here in Alberta, despite the mountains peaking in the distance, the land is so flat, and bare, and boring. Field after field after field. Sure there's the occasional farm or tree parked along the highway, but the highlight of our drive is usually a few cows or horses straying near the side of the road. But even that has become so common that the livestock barely raise an eyebrow.

By the time we reached Red Deer (half way, and the only place large enough to be worth stopping in) Dad's stomache was growling so we grabbed a light breakfast at Tim Hortons before continuing our trip. We made it into Edmonton around 4 and began our shopping excursion at WalMart. A few weeks back, Dad heard from an associate of his that there was a company in Calgary that rented out furnished condos to Oil & Gas Executives that were in the city for long term stays and didn't want to be in a hotel. We were curious if they handled any condos in Edmonton, and after calling to speak with the manager of the company, we were told that they were interested in expanding to include Edmonton in their management portfolio, but there were a few items that needed to be in the condo before they would consider it. He then forwarded the list to us via email, and the short list turned out to span 2 columns over 2 pages, and unfortunately for me, there were a number of items that I couldn't immediately check off as I went through it. Thus, the trip to Edmonton.

Before the man heads up to Edmonton this coming week, Dad and I rushed up for the weekend to buy, assemble, and clean all of the missing items on my list. Some of them seemed logical to me, such as white linen sets and towels, laundry soap, toilet paper, etc. Some of them.. well... not so much. I mean, how many of these long-term executives want to spend their nights off sitting at home baking muffins? A muffin tin, pizza pan, roaster w/lid, a cheese grater, and both the auto-shut off coffee maker and auto-shut off kettle seemed a bit excessive to me.

Anyways, the biggest change for my condo was that after 3 years, I said goodbye to the makeshift table I'd inherited from Lauren, and a trip to Ikea brought a new glass table and 6 chairs into my home. Dad and I worked late into the night on Saturday assembling the set, but now that it is finished and in place, it looks fabulous with the rest of my furniture. The glass helps keep the eating area feel open and spacious, while the rod iron legs of the table and chairs brings a sense of continuity with the light fixtures from the bedroom and living room, and forms a sense of harmony. With the table and chairs in place, I set the table and moved some art around to enhance the new look for the kitchen, and by the time we left for Calgary on Sunday afternoon, the place looked awesome. So much so, that I really regret taking a job in Calgary. I miss my home, my condo, my life in Edmonton. It is great having friends all over the world that I can talk to and correspond with in both English and Japanese, but there is still something special about the friends that live nearby with whom you can go out for lunch, catch a movie, stop by and visit at work (and vice versa) and just generally hang out with every now and then.

And as much as I miss these things about my life in Edmonton, I'm faced with a decision to make. The property manager I mentioned above is going up north sometime later this week. If he is interested in my condo, I can let him rent it out for me for a decent amount of $, or I can bite the bullet and say goodbye, and list my condo for sale. My neighbor, the realtor, seems to think that now is the time to sell. Richard wants me to sell. Dad wants me to sell, and Stephen, in his own words, thinks I should sell 250%. Mom seemed to identify more with my struggle to make a decision, because she went through this herself just last year, and yet with more time and more details, I'm sure even she would want me to sell. I in turn want to sell, sometimes. And other times, I think I should hold onto my condo because to me it is so much more than a piece of property; it's home.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

transitions

so many thoughts running through my mind

can't find the answers

don't know where I should end up; where I'll want to be


do I follow my head? or my heart.

Monday, October 16, 2006

peanuts and crackerjacks

good grief charlie brown

8 hrs a day, 5 days a week, with a couple of stat holidays in the mix, and they expect me to fill this time with the teensiest bit of data entry and filing? I was taking my time today, trying to double check what I was doing to make sure there were no first-day-errors, and 3 times the woman training me told me not to rush (I wasn't), and that I didn't have to finish everything in one day. Huh? What kind of work ethic do they expect me to come to work with??

I came home and after a brief catnap, decided that my newfound goal in life is to learn to work slower. I'm going to think of my day at work like a game of baseball. The slowest and most boring sport I can think of.. it will motivate me to pace myself, and limit the amount of work I get done by thinking of each hour as a seperate inning. My work station comes with a decent PC and internet, so I keep an eye out for the other team (superiours) while I steal bases (hours surfing the net). By the end of the day, my 7th inning stretch will be a nice leisurely visit to the staff room where the fridge is full of cold beverages and there are drawers brimming with chooclate bars. And then off to wrap things up and finish the game, and hopefully without any overtime. If I'm lucky, some days might even be called on account of rain!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

another hockey night in Canada

SCOOOORRRRREEEEEEE is all I heard coming out of the family room as I stood at the kitchen sink cleaning up after a minor water-bottle-snafu. Unbelievably, after a pitiful first period, the Flames had managed a defensive goal in the 2 minutes I was out away from the TV. Giordano, the 7th (ie pinch) defensemen for the Calgary team snuck past the Maple Leaf defensemen to slip the puck into the goal. Then, within 5 minutes, the Flames miraculously grabbed the lead with 2 more goals, including a short-handed by Lombardi, and Giordano's 2nd ever NHL goal. The rookie defenseman is so getting a raise after tonight's game.

As the 2nd period nears its end, the Flames lead is dissolved by an unlikely goal while Kiprosoff lied tangled in his defensemen almost a meter in front of the net. Urged on by their momentum, the Leafs gun a 4th goal reclaiming their lead, and the final period of play promises a surge of action, goals, and penalties.

Friday, October 13, 2006

friday the 13th

that's it. nothing else, just felt like mentioning it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

re: transcripts :: 証明書成績について

質問:
吉野先生、

アルバタ大学のパルさー・コリーです。ご面倒ですが、先学年の成績証明書について尋ねていいでしょうか。およそいつ千葉大学から成績がもらえますか。

お忙しいところをお邪魔しました。

コリー
返事:
コリーさん

こんにちは。その後お元気ですか。
こちらは、日本語コースが今日から始まります。

成績証明書についてですが、まだ届いていないのですね。お困りでしょう。
私ではわからないので、留学生課の人に返事をしてくれるように頼みました。今週中に返事がなかったら、また私に連絡してください。


吉野

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

an update of sorts

let's see... I've been giving in to the loneliness of living in Calgary by isolating myself from friends online. For some reason, I spend most of my time on MSN/AIM/etc invisible, not knowing how to talk to people from the past without anyone in my life in the present. There are times when I've found myself frustrated with my current situation, but I feel so stuck in it, that I can't figure a way out. Until Chiba U sends my transcripts, my university career is frozen in a giant undeterminant mess. Will I graduate? Do I need to enroll in another class or two? Do I need to be in Edmonton for any of the credit transfer process, or should I get started on moving my home and my life back to Calgary?

Everybody here (ie family) keeps asking me what is going on, as though I have some secret knowledge that I'm keeping from them. It only makes me feel more helpless and the frustration level rises, and I want to see them even less, which makes the depression worse. Getting out of bed is a struggle, returning phone calls and emails, nearly impossible. The urge to write has even diminished to the point where I sometimes stare at a blank screen for hours not knowing how to express what is going through my mind, and at the same time, wondering why that matters since writing is something that I do for myself for pleasure and a bit of therapy.

I think I've found a job. I don't really want it, and it is certainly nothing exciting, but with Stephen starting work today, and the thought of being stuck at home all day long with his dog and a big empty house is extremely depressing. I sent off a couple resumes back when I had an incling of wanting to work, and of the calls I got back, I think an office position with one of the banks (ATB) is the most promising. I went for the interview last week, and they've called me back in for a 2nd, which virtually means they are offering me the job. The 2nd interview is on Friday, which means I need to decide by then if I'm going to take the position or not. I'm broke, and the money would be nice... but this isn't a career or anything like that.

Blah. 4 days to decide.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Battle of Alberta

The Flames Home Opener began with an introduction to the team, a trophy for Kip, and a banner raising to commemorate the strength of the team last season. The game wasn't the best I've ever seen, but the dome was packed, tbe fans riled up, and the 3 periods included 3 goals and some unbelievable saves. There were times when the Flames couldn't catch a pass to save their lives, but their penalty kills were awesome.

Flames Home Opener
Oct 6, 2006 - 27 Photos


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Finally, we can be together again.

After a 2 year absense, Hockey has finally come back into my life. It was devastating when the strike hit during my last year in Edmonton. No more hockey meant no more life-size ice play on my big screen TV, and no more teasing Stephen everytime the Flames got their asses kicked, which in the past happened WAY more than he liked to admit. (ha ha, Carter too I'm betting)

The winter felt longer, the school year more gruelling, and it was only the thought of a year in Japan that kept me going (ok, I might be exaggerating a teeeensy little bit...). In an attempt to get my hockey addiction satisfied, I tried watching a couple of the university games, but their skill levels just weren't what I'd been hoping for. And their audience? Unenthusiastic. No loyal fans in their team jerseys, nobody screaming at the referees, and perhaps the most shocking of all, no food vendors walking up and down the stairs between playtime.

Then, after the strike was resolved and with the new season ahead, I left for Japan, a county that while I love for so many reasons, does not share my passion for the sport of Hockey. I knew there were a number of places where I could have joined fellow Canadians to catch a few games now and then.. I was even invited a couple of times to Shibuya's Canadian Bar - the Maple Leaf - to catch the playoff games that were being aired despite the little soccer thing happening in Germany at the same time. But, at the time, I felt it would be better to wait. Better to wait for a time when I could get into the game and the enthusiasm of the audience and my friends and be the hockey fan I know I am in my heart.

There was a time when year after year, I labelled myself as a Vancouver Canucks fan. I knew the players, the team stats, and even toyed with the idea of getting myself a Jersey a couple of times. In the pre-strike days, I watched my favorite player retire, I tried to make sense of what happened with Bertuzzi, and I waited to see my team bounce back from the slump they'd fallen into. But now, after 2 years of absense and uninvolvement with the game, I find myself staring at a team roster full of names that I don't recognize. All the players that I once respected and cheered for are spread out across divisions and teams that seem so foreign t0 me, that I no longer know where my loyalties lie.

And so, this Saturday night at 8:05 MST, I will be surrounded by cheering fans as the Calgary Flames take on the Edmonton Oilers for the Flames' first home game of the season. There will be a banner raising to celebrate that the team came in 3rd in their division in 2005-2006, and the goalie will be awarded a trophy for his incredible skill and talent that placed him 1st amongst fellow goaltenders and 2nd overall in the league. I will cheer alongside my neighbors, and I will applaud the goalie I have endearingly called "Kip", and I will cross over to the other side as I re-label myself a Flames Fan.


#34 - Miikka Kiprusoff
goalie extraordinaire

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Woo Hoo!

I just got a call from my neighbor back in Edmonton. He's been helping me by playing landlord for my condo and he was calling to tell me that my tenant is gone and I'm free to finally move home whenever I want!!!!!!!! This doesn't mean I'm moving anytime soon, but at least I know that when I do, my place is ready for me. Yay Yay Yay!

humbug

nobody else is blogging anymore.. and people I never expected keep checking mine for updates.. it's bizarre really, why someone like Finland, who lived down the hall from me for a year but never said a word to me if she could help it, checks my blog more than anyone else. Out of curiosity, I checked hers just to see what she's been thinking, and after searching for my name in all of the archives, this is what I've come up with. (smirk)
Nov 21/05: then when i finished with classes, i went with Cori and Claudia to have some ramen...that was really expensive! Plus, i just can’t deal with those people…I don’t know what to say to them, and I feel like Cori doesn’t even like me that much…I mean, we live on the same floor, but we never associate with each other…which is perfectly fine with me, I don’t really like her that much either…
Mm hmm, I remember this night. Both Claudia and I thought it was bizarre when Finland invited herself to eat with us, but even more strange that after almost 2 months in Japan she'd never eaten ramen (Chinese noodle soup) . I guess I must have made a real nuisance of myself when I kept phoning to give her directions, waited outside in the cold, and did my best to come up with conversation while we were eating. I'm so sorry that she invited herself to "deal" with us, but honestly, was it my fault that she was miserably unsociable?

May 1 (her birthday): Haa...so everyone in class gongratulated me. ^^) Oh and I even got an email from Cori in the morning! (she doesn't like me & the feeling is mutual)
Um.. my little birthday email was important enough to mention on her blog? Must have been a lonely lonely birthday. As for how I feel or who I like, I didn't realize I felt that way, but who am I to argue with you Finland? And you say this feeling is mutual.. so why do you check my blog so often?
-whatever-

back to me. so little is happening these days that I don't have much to write about. Instead, I've been going back to fill in missing entries.. so much happened in such a short time, I couldn't keep up with it in Japan. I guess now is my chance, before the memories fade.

And just before I head off to dreamland, a quick hello to some unexpected visitors. Germany, hey, thanks for stopping by. You know you're not welcome, but I know you're never going to change. Missouri, thanks again for the phone call, even if it was for bad news. Sometimes reconnecting like that really helps ground us. Thailand, 久しぶり、空港から何か聞かなかった事は気持ち悪くなったん。それから、私立ちの関係あまりわかんない。説明してください。Austria, there are no words left. I said my goodbye, and you chose not to do the same. Either be the friend you once claimed to be and find a way to talk to me again, or disappear and let the pain end.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

se7en

I suppose that at one point in our lives, we each succumb to one of the seven deadly sins, but I wonder... am I limited to only one?

Greed
Am I greedy? The question pops up every now and then.. but I'm not sure I'm objective enough to judge.
Envy
Jealousy is something that seems to ooze from my pores as I make my way through life.. sometimes it rages its ugliness in much larger quantities than others, but it always seems to be bubbling, just under the surface, ready to come out. Most recently, I find myself green at the news that Kristine & Jose are going clubbing tonight in Roppongi. I can't help it - I want to be there with 2 of my friends from different wakes of life, living it up in Tokyo. I want to be the one they each call on to drink and dance into the early hours of the night, in Roppongi, Shibuya, anywhere. Sometimes, life is just not fair. 仕方ない. Besides, I know they both love me, and one day I'll be back in Japan being spoiled with sleepover parties in Saitama and private concerts in Inage.
Sloth
I've been home 2 weeks and spent the entire time on a bizarre schedule of sleeping, eating, watching TV and playing on the internet. Sure, every now and then I make time for Nintendo, or to sit back with a good book, but really, has there ever been any doubt?
Lust
Hmmmm... I think a "no comment" would be safest option here.. or I could mention that tonight while watching a movie with Stephen, the word "yummy" might have slipped out when Matthew McConaughey showed up tanned and half naked on screen. Stephen's reaction? a somewhat startled "I've never heard you say anything like that before!". To be fair, I suppose not many have.. I know Richard for one would be esctatic if I would sit around and talk boys with him. S'probably a good thing he doesn't read my blog.
Gluttony
Have I mentioned how much I miss my midnight combenie runs?
Wrath
I don't angry very regularely.. pissed off, sure, but full fledged wrath? Rare.
Pride
Who me? Nah... I'm the humblest person I know. Wouldn't you agree?

Friday, September 29, 2006

so you think you know movies?

Well, now is your chance to prove it.


On the Hollywood Stock Exchange, you get to buy and sell shares in your favorite actors and movies, and try to out-do all the other movie buffs out there that think they know what will be a hit, and what will flop. Stephen told me about it back when we were all still in Japan, but after coming back home and being around all the movie hype and hollywood drama again, I find the website and the chance to try and predict the "stock market" a better use of my time that reading random profiles on mixi. Besides, the chance to earn more "money" than my kid brother is motivation enough to check the stocks on an almost daily basis.

If you think you know something about hollywood and think you can invest the 2 million fake dollars they'll start you out with wisely, sign up! it's free, it's fun, and it's easy.

And besides, if you give me credit when you sign up (my login ID: corisan), I get s'more fake cash. Tee hee.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

my brain is on standby

There is a cruel twist of fate at work right now.. and I'm feeling trapped. So many happy memories and past heartaches are still with me, holding me back from moving forwards with my life. I wonder why I haven't learned yet not to put faith in people.. I am always inevitably let down, either by my own hyper-expectations, or by the reality that eventually makes itself known to me. Sometimes the reality is better than the illusion. A truth that develops into a sincerity that warms my heart and gives me strength. Other times, it takes on an ugliness that looms and leaves me to watch things that I've grown to love slowly fade away.

I've tried to be honest, with myself, and with all of you who take the time either out of concern or curiousity to read what I have to say, but that too has come to bite me in the @$. I've been attacked for my words, and my feelings torn apart. There are so many people I wish I could reach, and yet their silence and empty words of the past haunt me as I close my eyes at night.

How peculiar that I've come home, to a place that should feel safe and inviting, and give me the support I need to move onto the next phase of my life... and yet here I am, struggling to regain a sense of normality and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead of me. My brain keeps telling me what I should do, but my mind continually holds me back. My broken heart is not ready to let go; holding onto daydreams and imaginary scenarios that can never come true.

Who am I? What does my future hold?

How can I move forward when my thoughts and my heart are trapped in a distorted memory of the past. And when will I be free?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

lots happening - not much time to write, but..

Hatim, Jose, Eugenie, Mi Ran, Eun Jung!!

きれいな葉書がもらった、ありがとう!!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

oh Mary...

I'm sorry.

I didn't know, and now that I do, I'm sorry I let you down.

Life is so cruel sometimes...all the times I couldn't be there for you, you still found a way to be there for me, and now, even in your absense, I find strength in re-reading your letters.

I wish things could be different. I wish you had been happier. I wish there was something more to say.

Goodbye, my wifey, goodbye.

Llama.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

TV; the boob tube at its finest

Wow. I think I've watched more TV since getting home than I did for the entire year I was in Japan. And not the downloaded TV shows that I grew so fond of back in Edmonton, but the full fledged original programming on the big screen complete with teasers for upcoming shows, panic inducing news updates and an array of product commercials. It really is like an accident you pass on the highway --> I can't turn away.

Dad & Stephen have always had this habit of not being able to sit in the family room without the TV on, and there was a time when I could tune out the background noise and have a conversation overtop of it. Now, I try but the lights and noise and craziness coming out of the box is too distracting. My eyes are drawn to it, my ears unable to distinguish between all the voices and sounds coming at me. Sometimes, I find myself watching for hours with no idea what I've seen because with the combination of my jetlag and my newfound fasination for the chaos of the television, I can't be bothered to try and wrap my head around anything that requires more attention.

Then again, when I talk about the shows with Stephen, the new fall line-up sounds like there will be some really intriguing ones to test out. If I will watch them or regain my disinterest in TV remains to be decided, but for now, as long as Simpsons continues to be aired, I'll be happy.

Birthdays, Birthdays, Birthdays


Oh, the agony. My wallets - yes, both of them - are in pain! What is normally an expensive time of year for me, was especially tight this year, what with coming back from Japan and Dad's 50th. I know he didn't want us to make a fuss over it, but Stephen and I both agreed that we wanted to do something special. We weren't sure what that something special would be, but trying to find something to commemorate the big day was on our to-do list after I got home. We searched and searched, and finally decided on a massage chair, which we ordered to be delivered sometime in October.

I also needed to find time between my erratic sleep schedule and my shopping excursions with Squidge to find something for his birthday too. He surprised me this year with a karaoke machine, one of the things I was looking forward to the most when I was coming home, and I wanted to find a gift for him that he could be equally excited about. Also, I wanted to find something that would remind him of the year I spent in Japan, not because I'm worried that he or I would forget about it, but because being there was such an incredible experience, I wanted to find a way to share some of that with my brother. I decided on a set of Samurai Swords. I couldn't bring them back from Japan, for obvious border complications, so I bought some online for him. They won't be here for his birthday, but I can at least show him a picture and I should be here when they arrive. Dad's & Stephen's birthdays are on the 18th of September, but it looks like both of their gifts will be late this year. Oh well, good things are worth waiting for, right?

Finally, Mom's birthday was a few weeks ago, at the end of August. Steve and I usually try to do something together, and this year was no exception. He waited until I was back in Calgary, and we went out together to pick up her gift. We wanted her to have a night out with a friend, to relax and have some fun, so we got her a gift certificate for one of her favorite restaurants and 2 passes for the movies, to enjoy when she wants to get out one night this autumn.

After buying the 3 birthday gifts, and spending a ridiculous amount of $ shipping home the last of my things from Japan, I am not pretty much broke. No money, no job prospects, but no bills to speak of. This is always an expensive time of year, but I got through it relatively easily, and it's only a matter of time until I'm back on my feet, figuratively, of course.

I just hope everyone likes their gifts :-)

Jetlag: The continuing saga

Jetlag is killing me. I'm up all night, and sleepy all day, but since getting home, there have been so many things to do that my tired days are filled with errands and responsibilities. I'm barely getting any sleep, and without the supportive comments and emails I'm getting from friends all over the world, I'm not sure how I would keep my mood up under these conditions. God knows that sleep deprivation is my #1 cause of grumpiness & unproductiveness, so yikes!! This better pass soon, I need to catch some Zzzzz's.

Part in parcel with my jetlag-induced-insomnia are the unsatisfied midnight cravings for Playstation in Hatim's room and the combenie ice cream selections. I have my Nintendo again (the original, grey box, 8-bit), and it is still my absolute favorite gaming system, but there was just something comfortable in the familiarity of Hatim's Game Center that I don't have anymore. I guess because after the floods in our basement last-last summer, and my leaving literally 1 week after my room was finished, I never got to be a part of putting the rest of the rooms together, and they feel so alien to me. I never thought I'd feel so out of place in one of the 2 homes I grew up in, but there it is. I feel so displaced - am I home? am I a guest? is there a word for something in between?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

first day back

The flight home was so long and so drawn out that by the time I made it home, I was a basket case. I remember bits and pieces of my walk through the 2nd round of customs. While things had been a breeze on the American side, for some reason, the Canadian custom's inspector was not impressed with the way I'd filled out my form. He insisted that after a year away, I must be bringing stuff from Japan with me and I therefore had to declare it and pay the taxes. I explained that I had bought souvenirs, but sent them through the post office and would pay any appropriate taxes when I picked them up next week (or whenever they arrive) but this just seemed to upset him more. Finally, I agreed to write down that I'd purchased my digi-cam and my keitai in Japan, but since the value of both were under the 1000$ max I am allowed to bring into the country, he let me through without having to pay anything.

My luggage was one of the last to come down the revolving ramp. I guess because I'd checked it in so early in San Francisco, it had been tagged, put aside, and ended up last to be loaded onto the plane. As a result, it was the first to come off, and placed at the bottom of the pile. By the time I walked through the final set of doors and into the terminal, I was probably the last person. On the other side, Mom, Dad and Stephen stood waiting for me beside a half-wall that formed a hallway within the bigger room. When Mom saw me, she rushed around to my side of the mini-wall-thing for a hug. I could tell she could barely keep her tears in, and she just kept saying something about how long it had been. Dad hugged me next, over the wall, and seemed relaxed about seeing me again. Stephen, in true "little brother" fashion, sat on the wall and looked up at me with a slurpee attached to his lips. The brat didn't get up or hug me or anything. He just sort of waited to see what I'd say, and of course, after craving a slurpee for nearly 12 months, I focused on that.
Me: Nice slurpee.
Stephen: Isn't it? Want some?
Me: Nope, I just want to sleep.
Stephen: (smug grin) Some things never change, welcome home!
Hee, the brat! From there, I too was on the brink of tears, although for me it was because of how tired I was. I asked if we could go, and we walked to the car. The drive home was a blur of lights and buildings that looked so familliar but felt like they were out of a dream. Everything seemed so normal except that I felt so strange. I don't know if we talked or anything... I was so exhausted and heartbroken to not be in Japan anymore, all I wanted was a bed and my computer and the privacy to finally let the tears and sobbing out that I'd been holding in since saying goodbye to Natasya & Pu at Narita. When we got home, Mom said goodbye and left for her place. Dad watched for a few minutes while I got re-acquainted with Karma, their dog, and then he went to bed. Stephen brought my suitcases in for me, and then we went downstairs (his room and the guest room are both in the basement) and we visited for a bit. Finally, I was alone and hungry for the first time in days, but I was too tired to go upstairs and search for something to eat.

The next thing I remember is Stephen standing in the doorway telling me to wake up. I couldn't understand why until I was awake enough to hear him say it was 5 pm, and we had Friday Night Dinner (this is a weekly tradition in my family) at Babi's house. I'd slept 13 hours or so, but I was still so tired and confused that I think I started crying and called Mom to ask about the dinner. She didn't know much (Babi is Dad's mom, so my Mom isn't really involved in the weekly dinners) but tried to calm me down and tried to make arrangements to see me. I couldn't promise anything, especially since all I wanted was to shrivel up under the covers and sleep for an eternity. Instead, I managed to shower and get dressed, make my way upstairs and get into the car for the 2 minute drive to Babi's.

The meal was a gong show. Honestly, they always have been, but with my state of mind at the time, it seemed like something from a sitcom. The entire family (well, Dad's side of the family) was there. Me, Stephen and Dad. Of course Babi (my grandmother 83), and her other son and his wife, Sam & Esther (Uncle 59 & Aunt 58). Their 3 daughters were there, Marnie (32), Mara (31) and Becca (26), and Marnie had Jonah, her 1 year old son with her, and this was the 2nd time I've ever seen him. (The first was when he was 7 days old last September - feel free to look it up in the archives.) People kept coming and going, conversations kept bouncing around the table, and my head felt like it was swimming in some sort of twisted dimension.

The only moment I remember clearly from dinner was when Marnie had Jonah sitting in his high chair next to her at the table. To keep him happy and occupied while she was helping clear dishes, Sam, Jonah's grandfather, gave him Marnie's spoon to play with. Jonah seemed determined to find a way to fit the soup spoon into his mouth, despite the fact that his mouth is still so small that it is literally impossible. When our chicken soup was served, with my favorite noodles for me, and matzah balls for everyone else, Marnie tried giving Jonah the colourful baby spoon she'd brought for him, and taking her soup spoon back for herself. Instantly, the baby was in tears. His screams brought me out of my daze long enough to remember the episode and I watched as Marnie helplessly returned her spoon to settle him down. The rest of the meal progressed with Jonah trying to spoon food into his mouth, food which would inevitably fall back onto the tray and be finger fed to him by either Marnie or Sam on either side. Marnie had to eat with the baby spoon while the rest of us were too stunned to say anything.

I wasn't really prepared for the transition in my oldest cousin. Before I left for Japan she was an aggressive lawyer for a high end firm in Edmonton. She was one of those people that seemed to always set goals for herself, achieve them, and move on to the next one. She was highly successful, outspoken to a fault, and always in complete control in practically every situation. To see her as a parent giving in to the smallest whim of the baby sitting beside her.. to watch her eating her meal from the plastic spoon designed for a 1 year old.. was shocking, to say the least. I wasn't coherent enough to talk to her and ask about Jonah or what the last year has been like for her, or to talk to anyone else about their lives either, but I think the change in my oldest cousin would be the biggest change I've noticed since coming home. I guess because I wasn't here to see the progression of career woman into mother.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

so, what are you doing with the rest of your life?

...if I knew the answer to that, things would be a lot easier right now...

possible ideas? suggestions? advice?
  • translation (but I don't think my language skills are high enough for this yet)
  • freelance journalist/writer (who would really want to pay me for my writing?)
  • something in the travel/tourism industry (but this means back to school for a year or 2)
  • leech on society (wait... I think this might be what I am right now)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

culture shock

Beginning the moment I stepped onto the plane, I could feel the change in the air. I found my seat, happy that I managed to upgrade to United's Economy Plus, which means a little bit more leg room. On top of my upgrade, I managed to get the "front row" seats, which meant no seat in front of me, and almost twice the legroom. Awesome, right? Actually yes, it was awesome. I spent the flight trying out dozens of different positions with the freedom to stretch my legs out at will, cross them, uncross them, rest them on my bag, lean them high up on the wall, etc. However, despite the unexpected freedom for my lower extremities, the rest of me had to try to cope with the somewhat large American sitting beside me. Now, for me to call someone large hopefully gives you an idea of what I mean? This man was so hefty that his toes were more robust than my thumb. I know this because they bulged so clearly within his socks that I actually felt slightly nauseated at times during the flight. My neighbor decided that he would lay claim to the armrest between us - which I'm sure is a common source of frustration on flights - but my problem wasn't in having a place to put my arm. Instead, if you remember, there were no seats in front of us, which meant that my table tray was located inside the arm rest. In order for me to pull it out at meal times, or put it away, I had to ask the man to please excuse me while I interupted him and his massive arm that were in my way. 失礼だ!

After the plane landed, I waited patiently in customs hoping to get through early enough to catch the 11:30 flight home. No such luck. Again, I found myself surprised at the littlest thing. When I approached the customs counter, the agent began with the usual niceties, "Good morning, how are you doing today, maam?" I didn't think it was anything important when I replied, "Fine thanks, and yourself?" but he actually took notice that I'd asked, thanked me, and waved me through with only a passing glance at my passport. After all of the crazy security measures I have been hearing about pre-departure last night, simply being pleasant at customs is enough to get through that quickly and painlessly? Huh?

These are some of the other tiny details I've already noticed back on this side of the Pacific. I wonder if things will be the same at home, or if these are uniquely American traits..
  • screaming children. everywhere.
  • super-size beverages (man, it was a mistake to order the large mocha)
  • disorganization - people here do not want to line up in a nice orderly fashion, not when they can push and try to sneak their way further up in line
  • space. there is so much space that even now while I write this, the closest table is over a metre away from me
  • no vending machines. what will I do if I get thirsty in this country? assuming I ever finish this mocha ...
  • security security security. Okay, I realize I'm in an airport and it is not representational of what life is like outside the doors of this building, but coming from Narita, I can still say there is probably a 10:1 ration of people in security uniforms. Granted, I've seen most of them either riding around on bikes chatting with each other, or standing in line for their own giant mochas... but still, lots of badges and walkie-talkies
  • PDAs. Public Displays of Affection, if you can call mauling someone's face off while you paw at their ass, affection.
  • no keitais! nobody here uses their cell phones

view from above




Wednesday, September 13, 2006

last night in Japan

well.. my private dinner with Katya tonight turned into something slightly different. Although the plan was to meet the 2 of us, go to our usual restaurant, eat, chat, and laugh the way we used to when she lived in Inage, things changed, and I did my best to adapt to them.

Last night, Amed called and asked if he could come by to say goodbye. Natasya and I got home around 9, and I caught up on some emails while I waited for Amed to show up. The dinner I bought on the way home sat on my desk, but I never ate it.. my appetite just wouldn't come back.. I was really unhappy to be back in the dorms, without Hatim and Jose around they just felt so empty.

At 10:30 or so, a knock at my door turned out to be Daniel, who came in and visited for a bit until Amed showed up. The 3 of us had a few laughs, a few serious moments, and they guys even went to combenie and back bringing me a bag of chips which I'd requested to try and urge my stomach back to life. I mentioned the long day I had ahead of me, and how lonely the dorms felt, and Dan decided he was going to be around for dinner with me. I didn't really know what to say, or if he was really serious or not, so I just sort of said okay and left it at that. With the previously mentioned long day ahead of me, and the guys each having their own respective jobs to go to the next morning, we parted ways around 2 and I quickly fell asleep.

When I woke up this morning, it was to a very late email from Pu saying that she'd been at work all day yesterday, and again today (despite her earlier promises to help me with errands all day...). She wanted me to wait for her for dinner, not knowing about my earlier plans with Katya.

Today, when I was in Francisco's room drying off, he asked me if he could join me for dinner tonight. He wasn't going to eat, since he'd been cooking all day and had a ton of food in his room, but he wanted to sit and spend time together before I left. Again, I couldn't say no.


Andrew (Endoru) who didn't come to my actual 'farewell' dinner last week, and who has mentioned in a few comments already that he wanted to come by today to say goodbye, sent an email asking me about dinner.

Without much choice, I let Daniel, Francisco, Pu and Andrew know that I was leaving for the restaurant at 7, and wondered how the night would turn out with such a unique group of people.

When I went down at 7, I met Dan and Nico who was apparently also joining us for dinner. Francisco came out and the 4 of us walked to the restaurant, where Pu and Katya were already waiting. As we sat down at our table, Pu looked out the window and said she saw Natasya walking by herself. I guess she emailed down and invited her up, because the next thing I knew Natasya was at the table sitting down next to me. I didn't mind, but was just surprised.. with the Nikko trip, and her help this morning with my insurance paper questions, we'd spent more time together this week than nearly the entire semester.

Menus went around, we picked what we wanted, and put through our order. Everyone was having fun, laughing and enjoying themselves. I gave Katya the very special gift I had prepared for her (a jar of single yens which are equivalent to pennies), and everyone cracked up laughing, most of all, Katya herself. And then suddenly, my stomach dropped when Claudia showed up at the door to our room. What she was doing there, how she could even know about it, I had no idea. I was in tears instantly. I could barely breath. I was scared and upset, and wanted to leave but didn't want to make a scene. I wanted to scream and shout, but didn't want to ruin the night for everyone else. I pulled my legs up against my chest trying to feel warm and safe, but all I could do was stare at the table biting my tongue so hard trying to keep the tears from streaming down my face. I couldn't believe she was there. That she had the audacity to show up and ruin yet one more night of my time in Japan. Who the hell did she think she was? And why did it take so freaking long for her to leave? Everyone sitting at that table knows how badly she's hurt me. I don't understand how she could come and sit there and terrorize me with her presence like that, and nobody said anything. I couldn't tell her to leave, and none of my friends could see how she was affecting me enough to step in and do it for me?

I'll never understand. Never.

In my current state, I couldn't eat, I couldn't drink.. I could barely function long enough to ask Natasya to cancel my order. The waiter seemed confused, but agreed to cancel it and I just sat silently in shock as other dishes were brought to the table. Nobody seemed to know what to say or do while we sat there. Through my tears, I kept telling people to eat, and to please not let me ruin their time, since I continue to do my best to be absolutely NOTHING like Claudia. They still didn't seem to go back to normal, until finally, after nearly 20 minutes, Claudia finally left.

At that point, they still didn't know what to do or say, so I fought the stabbing in my heart and forced myself to talk and joke around with people so that they would at least go back to normal. During this time, I found out that Pu had INTENTIONALLY invited Claudia. I cannot understand. I thought she was my friend. I thought she cared about me. But I keep getting hurt because I can't seem to learn how important it is to stop trusting my heart. I obviously cannot honestly tell when someone cares about me, and I keep believing when people treat me as a friend when they really could care less. Pu of all people.. I thought she was so sweet and innocent, I thought she was different. I thought that when she told me over and over that I was one of the 3 people she considered a true friend here in Japan, that she meant it. But after everything.. after all the tears and nights talking about how I needed her to stop trying to force Claudia back into my life.. she pulls this stunt.

The rest of the night is sort of a blur. When everyone finished eating, I posed for a whole bunch of pictures that Andrew has promised to put up on his blog and also email me. I still wanted my time with Katya to be special, and I suggested we make a quick visit to the game center for one last stint at the racing game, where she kicked my ass. From there, Daniel led the way to a cafe he insisted had really good parfaits, and Katya said goodbye to me at the station. She checked her schedule and thought we might be able to have lunch tomorrow, but just in case, I hugged her and said goodbye thinking it was the end.

The cafe did in fact have gigantically huge parfaits, and a new waited that caused a bit of a commotion when he served Daniel, Natasya, Andrew and Pu their giant sundaes. He waited until they all had their food before informing us that since there were 5 people at the table, we needed to order 5 separate things. I was still unable to eat anything, with my stomach screaming from within at even the thought of food. Nobody really knew what to say, and I told them to tell the guy that I hadn't decided yet. The poor waiter couldn't very well accuse me of lying, so he left the table, and thus progressed the 20 minute discussion about whether I should have to order something or not. While they all ate their ice creams and talked about it, Mom called and we talked for a bit. It was nice to vent about Claudia so soon after she hurt me, but hopefully it will be for the last time and I won't need to vent again any time soon.

After they finally finished their desserts, we returned back to the dorm, and Pu left to her room for a shower. She said she would come meet me when she finished. Natasya and Andrew came up with me, and Dan rode home to get a jacket and a back pack for some of the stuff he was planning to scavenge from my room. I divided my last few possessions amongst the 3 of them, and when I got an email from Kai asking where I was, I finally told them all it was time to go. I grabbed his souvenir from Nikko, that I'd painstakingly searched out while Natasya and I visited practically every souvenir shop in the city, and went across the field to his building.

Our visit was as awkward and yet casual as every other time I've gone over to visit him. It always feels like he needs to put on a show for me, and I try to sit watching the pictures he sets up on his computer wondering how long to wait before being able to just talk. The pictures make it easier, he explains where they are, or stories that go along with the pictures, and that leads us into actual conversations. I like the pictures, of course, it's always fun looking at where other people have traveled, and sometimes its a way of being a part of someone's life when you can't be there in person. But tonight, I wanted to talk, and I managed to bring the conversation around to things unrelated to the pictures. I was enjoying our time, knowing it was the last, but happy to be there none the less, when a knock came at the door.

Pu's Thai friend, the one that has been supposed to come and pick up my microwave for over 2 weeks now, was standing at the door looking for me. Pu, instead of coming to meet me like she'd said she would, instead, told her friend where I was, and suddenly, without any choice, I was ripped out of Kai's room, and my last chance to be a part of his life, and sent trudging back across the field with two Thai girls in tow. They took the microwave, which I was happy to finally be rid of, and I was left to sit in my room alone wondering what had just happened. I know that when I left, I asked Kai if I should come back or just say goodbye, and since he was waiting for his email from Claudia about some movie they were watching together, he decided to just say goodbye then. With the briefest of hugs, and a non-committal comment about maybe emailing me one day, another goodbye had snuck itself into my life.

Oh, and one final vent for the night? On my way up to get the microwave, guess who's voice I heard drifting out of Claudia's room. That's right, instead of meeting with me and spending my last night together, Pu would rather be there, doing god knows what. I sent her an email telling her I was home, and asking her if she wanted to meet, but the only answer I got was an hour later saying a simple goodnight and she'd see me tomorrow. I asked her if that was seriously all I was going to hear from her tonight, and she poured out some nonsense about how it wasn't important to spend my last night together because as friends we could meet anytime.

Sure, I got the same song and dance in an email from Richie.

In the end, I'm sitting here alone, and their consciences are clear. Yippee.

oh, and for the record? I never did eat anything for my last dinner in Japan. What a legacy.

last day errands

I've never lived in another country before, and never had to deal with all the errands that accumulate before going home. Some of them are obvious - packing, etc., but there are some that would never have occurred to me before. When I woke up this morning, it was with a list of all the things I needed to do. Not all are unpleasant, and a few nice surprises have even found their way onto my schedule today. And yet it seems as though as I cross things off the list, they just get replaced with other things I never expected to come up today.

My day began with opening my 2 ridiculously large suitcases to finish packing as many pieces of clothing into them as I could manage without the zippers bulging. Surprisingly, I managed to fit everything except a few miscellaneous t-shirts and some shoes into them, and I think I will have everything I need with me when I get home tomorrow. What's left in my room now is only my school books, hundreds of pieces of paper to go through, and stuff that as much as I want to, I will not be bringing home with me. All of my kitchen supplies (pots, pans, glasses, cutlery, tupperware, cooking utensils, etc) are in a box already packed and labelled for Kristine. I will be sending it with the post office to Saitama, where she lives now, because frankly, the box is too big and overbearing to make her suffer through transporting it herself on the train. My bedding will go to Natasya. I decided that when I come back to Japan, her home is the most likely place I will crash at, and so I want to make sure she has extra pillows and futon for me when I get there. On top of that, I will toss in all of my hangers and random laundry clips from my room, because what she can't use herself, she will distribute out to new students in October. Daniel has laid claim to things like my garbage baskets, wall hooks, and if Pu's friend doesn't pick it up by tonight, my microwave. For Andrew, I have a pile of garbage bags that he will doubtlessly be thrilled to get for free. And finally, my last day's worth of odds and ends will go into my carry on with my computer, camera, and anything else I find.

With my suitcases stuffed and my drawers empty, my room feels remarkably familliar to me, and today has been filled with a strange sense of nostalgia for last year in October when I sat in a room with similarly empty walls and shelves, wondering how the year would turn out.

After packing, I decided I needed to get out and get some other things done. I went to the office and paid my last month's rent, my water bill, and arranged for my final room check tomorrow morning at 11. This means I will have to have everything packed and out of my room before then so I can clean it, but I want to get things done early because I will be having lunch with Pu and then off to one last bowling match with Dan and Amed before leaving for the airport with Natasya around 3. The office people told me that someone from the U of A actually arrived in Japan today, and I was surprised. I had no idea there was anyone coming to Chiba Dai, but since this person has never made any attempt to contact me for info/advice/whatever, I don't feel too bad about not leaving stuff for them. Besides, nobody ever left anything for me, so meh.

On my way to the ward office (municipal building where I would be paying and cancelling my insurance) I stopped by Natasya's room to exchange pictures from our Nikko trip. While the files were transferring, I got an email from Desy asking me if I was around, and I called her on my way down from Tasya's room. She wanted to go for lunch, so we agreed to meet at the ward office, ironically down the street from her friend's apartment, where she'd been staying recently. About this time, I was crossing the field, and Francisco called out to me from his room. He met up with me at the front door of his building, and lent me his bicycle for the afternoon. (Woohoo!!) I grabbed his bike and headed out, making my last attempt at riding a bike in the rain while huddling under an umbrella perched over me as I tried to steer with my left hand.

At the ward office, I went directly to the last window where I'd previously payed my insurance. Instead of accepting my money, the lady requested that I first cancel the insurance policy, and then pay out the balance that I owed them. I walked across the building to the far window and explained that I was leaving the country tomorrow and wanted to cancel. They sent me to a 3rd window, where I got the form I needed and finished the cancellation application. Everything went surprisingly smoothly, and I returned back to the original window and paid my 6500 yen (approx 65$) fee. Desy was waiting inside the building for me, and we decided to eat Tako Yaki for our last meal together. (Again, I was hit with nostalgia as I remembered our first meal at the Tako Yaki restaurant back in October. Desy, me, and a group of other foreign students headed there for lunch during our orientation, and it was my first official meal as a 留学生 versus tourist with Dad.) Lunch was nice, and afterwards, we headed across the street to take purikura.

After lunch, I stopped by Francisco's room to drop off his bike key, but seeing me standing there drenched despite the umbrella I tried to use to protect myself from the rain, he insisted I come inside and warm up before heading home. I dried off and looked through the spanish map of Tokyo he had out on his bed before heading back out into the rain. Instead up coming up to my room, I went back out to Maruetsu where I went up to the 3rd floor 100 yen shop, Daiso, to find more boxes to finish packing. There, while one of the employees went running to the back to get me some empty boxes, I ran into Mey who I didn't think I'd have a chance to visit before leaving. Together, we decided to take some purikura of our own, and used the machines nearby. They actually cost 1/2 the price of the machines we usually use at the game center, but we quickly learned why when our decorating time was limited to 1 minute. The pictures came out cute none the less, and Mey also said she is going to try and come to the airport tomorrow.

When I finally got home, I realized it was 3:30 and I wouldn't have time to have the post office come pick up my boxes today. I started packing anyways, hoping that I would finish by the time I left for dinner tonight, but got sidetracked looking through all my papers and blogging while I was packing. I tried finding the phone number for the post office, but had no luck. I emailed Natasya, but she didn't have any idea what the number was either. I'm running out of time, but hopefully when I call in the morning (and by me, I mean Pu) they will be able to come ASAP. Otherwise, Pu will have to do it for me after I go.

At 6 pm sharp, my phone rang and I gave the Electric Man the number code to get into the building. He took 5 minutes figuring out my final electricity bill, and I handed over another precious 10000 yen bill. My funds are dwindling down to next to nothing, but since I'm heading home, I suppose that's the way it should be. I still have a few 100$'s worth, but I think I'll convert it back to CDN $ at the airport tomorrow after cancelling my keitai account and checking in. If I'd had more time before leaving, and been less lazy I suppose, I would have also stopped by the bank and gone through the experience of cancelling my account.. not so much because I need to do that before leaving, but just to see what kind of chaos would ensue. For now, I've paid up my rent, water, electricity and insurance bills today. Tomorrow when I cancel my keitai, I don't think there will be any more errands left unfinished, although I never know what to expect with this country.

And finally, as I head out to dinner where I will spend some long overdue time with Katya, and a few stragglers who want to join us, I can't help but feel this is really goodbye. My last night with her, my last dinner in Inage, and my last night in Japan. For now, of course, but now is what is filling my thoughts and my heart. I'm not sad, although I'm not exactly happy. I don't know what is in store for me back home, but hopefully at least a few days of peace and time to reflect on myself and my time in Japan.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I never believed this moment would come.

But it did. And I can't stop crying.

It's not the goodbyes that hurt, it's the feeling of losing someone. I remember when I moved home from Toronto.. it was the same thing. I cried the entire flight back, knowing somehow that despite emails and msn and all the times I would go back to visit, things would never be the same.

How can I find the strength to go on without Jose's laugh and his hugs - the only thing that could lift me up all the times I was down. What will I do without Hatim and his room - my haven - to escape to everytime the walls in my room were closing in on me. As much as it drove me crazy, I don't want to face a day in the dorms without Eugenie's screams echoing through the hallway. And Mi Ran.. no more massages, no more cute little emails, no more knocks on my door for random hugs.

That group of people that welcomed me in when everybody else shut me out, said goodbye to me about 15 minutes ago. They did it with flair and with style, and it broke my heart to stand in the doorway and watch them leave, but I couldn't bear to cry in front of them. There were so many things I couldn't say, so many times I couldn't express how much it meant to me to be a part of that. To be accepted for who I am, and appreciated for it. I can't believe this was the end. I can't believe it's over.

love hotels and pachinko: a farewell I'll never forget

Tomorrow I leave for Nikko, and after getting back Tuesday night, I'll really only have time for running errands, finishing my packing, and leaving for the airport. Before time runs out, I made plans with some of the more important people in my life, giving us a chance to spend some quality time together before saying goodbye. I mentioned to a few people last night that I would be busy all day with a few dates, and they laughed that I was worse than Laila who had 3 dates in 3 days before she left. (I had 3 planned for today!)

Date #1
First was Richie. He couldn't make it last Friday to my impromptu farewell dinner, and since he spends every second of his life busy in Tokyo, its not easy to get together. We emailed back and forth a few times while I was in Kyoto, and agreed to meet up Sunday morning. His last email said he'd head out here at 10 am, and so I got up this morning to be ready for 10, just in case he was early. At 11:30, when I still hadn't heard from him, I sent a 2nd message (the first at 10 to see if he was on his way), thinking he was running late, but kidding about being stood up. Then again, it turns out my 2nd message woke him up, and he had no intention of coming to Inage to say goodbye. In fact, he made it obvious that he has no idea what is going on in my life by asking if I'd be home Tuesday morning, to which I reminded him that I would be in Nikko, and typed out "Goodbye Richie."

He never replied.

Some goodbye huh? Maybe I should have got that divorce after all... I'll have to talk to my lawyer (Amed) one last time before leaving.

Date #2
This date was unplanned, and for a good reason. I didn't want my last meal with Hatim to begin unlike any other, and so it was with a grin on my face that I knocked on his door feeling mischievous about waking him up to eat. He didn't seem too dissapointed that I'd come by, but it still took him nearly 30 minutes to get out of bed and jog over to the combenie to pick up some breakfast. (I'd brought mine with me). I had a really nice time, just talking and laughing together. It's rare that I get to spend time with him alone lately, and it was special to have that time, even if it was with a foreboding sense that this was the end.

Date #3
Last week when I put my impromptu dinner together, I didn't invite Kai.. mainly because I'm still not ready to say goodbye to him. Instead, a few nights later when I was in Hatim's room (as usual) with Kristine (who'd come to visit!) and the rest of Hatim's harem, a bunch of the guys were standing around outside. Kai was there, and he must have heard from Dan and Amed that I was leaving soon because he came to Hatim's window to say goodbye. I asked him to come inside and we chatted for a bit. We decided to meet up today, Sunday, to spend some time together and share pictures from all the traveling we'd been doing since school ended. I'd emailed him again yesterday to confirm, and he let me know he'd be free all afternoon until 5 when he was heading to Tokyo.

After lunch with Hatim I said goodbye and headed over to Kai's room. Before I could get far, Hatim came running after me in the hallway and slid into a hug to say goodbye. It was adorable, and heart breaking at the same time, but I reminded him that we would see each other later on tonight, and he left it as a 'just in case'.

As I crossed the field between Kai's and my buildings, I saw that his curtains were drawn, and there were no lights inside. I knocked, but wasn't too surprised when there was no answer. I was dissapointed, but not too surprised.. after all, he'd been at a 飲み会 the night before, and I know he's one of the few people that need sleep as much as I do to function normally. I retreated back to Hatim's room and sent Kai a quick msg to find me when he was up. His reply came nearly an hour later.. he told me I should have gone in and woken him up (?) but instead, he came to Hatim's room to say goodbye to me. We figured out that I still had some time left on Wednesday, and agreed to try one last time to get together, because he had to leave right away for Tokyo and I still wanted to see him before I leave. I'm crossing my fingers.. but not getting my hopes up. For someone who is so laid back and spends so much time relaxing in his room, it is strangely difficult to find a time to meet up.

And this brings me to Date #4
An unforgettable night, with an unforgettable friend. I mean who else besides Jose would both indulge my ridiculous desire to visit a love hotel in Shibuya (as friends) and make his own bizarre request to try Pachinko in the same outing? When 6 o'clock rolled around and we met outside the dorms, I knew I was in for a night to remember. With conversation never a problem between us, the train ride passed quickly - too quickly, in fact - and we decided to continue our chat over dinner before beginning our Shibuya exploits. I decided on Royal Host, a family style restaurant with a huge selection of western, asian and Japanese style dishes. They even had tacos on the menu, which neither of us dared try in Japan, but happily took pictures of for posterity's sake. While looking through the menu, we both announced that we wanted to try one of the sinfully decadent desserts, but after our meal, we were both anxious to find Shibuya's kinkiest hotel room, and skipped out on the ice cream sundaes we had eyed earlier.

I should pause for a minute to explain Japan's love hotels. As with every other country in the world (most likely...) there are a certain number of hotels that cater to guests that want to rent rooms by the hour. In Japan, these hotels, rather than being hidden away in seedy neighborhoods or on out-of-the-way rest stops, the hotels are clustered together in some of the most happening areas of Tokyo, Osaka, and other cities. They are designed to offer discrete entrance by couples (and occassionally single women looking for a place to relax for a few hours during a busy day/night in the big city). Anonymity is kept up inside as well, through a combination of picture walls displaying the available rooms, automated cash/key dispensers, and occassionally a tiny hole in an otherwise blackened window behind which a clerk handles the money/key exchange.
As Jose and I headed up the hill in Shibuya, we had no problem finding the entrance to Hotel Hill. Surprisingly to both of us, the area was extremely well lit, large, and packed full of nearly 50 hotels that neither of us had ever seen before amongst our numerous visits to Shibuya. Beginning with the first one we came across, we eagerly entered hoping to find the room we were looking for. Instead, what we found was a dissapointing display of pictures (consider it a room menu) that showed relatively normal rooms - if only slightly larger than the average rooms I've seen in previous hotel experiences across Japan. In fact, across the 50 hotels we visited, most of the rooms had horribly outdated decorations, such as floral or paisley patters across the walls and bedspreads. Some included sofas, or TVs. There were rooms with playstations, rooms with mini-bars, and rooms with crazy underwater scenes done up in lights on the ceilings. But none of the rooms featured revolving beds, spanking horses, or anything even remotely shocking. We searched and searched.. I even tried asking one of the ladies behind the black windows, although by the way she giggled and got embarassed about my asking for a dungeon-style room, I'm inclined to think they don't exist anywhere in Tokyo.

Nearly 2 hours later, and both amused and dissapointed by the hotels we'd come across, Jose and I headed back towards the station. We'd tried our best, but eventually had to give up or else pay for a room that we wouldn't have been happy with. Since we still had enough time before the last train home, Jose chose a pachinko parlour, and we braved the noise and cigarette smoke as we headed inside.

There's really not much I can say. Pachinko has got to be the single most boring thing I have ever experienced. Worse than slot machines, worse than economics classes, worse than anything I can currently imagine. It's possible that sharing in the bonding experience of visiting a pachinko parlour will tie me and Jose's lives together forever, but only because of how completely foolish we both felt afterwards for having put 1000 yen each into the machines, and sitting there for the 5 minutes it took to watch silver ball after tiny silver ball ricochet off the little pegs inside the machine and tumble into the large opening beneath. I wish I could tell you what the point of the game is - but I'm afraid there is no point. Between the pegs there is one tiny hole that is supposedly what you 'aim' for, although aim is a poor choice of words. The only control we had over the tiny balls was the speed with which we released them. By turning a knob, we had the option of 'slow' or 'fast' momentum. The rest was up to fate, sort of reminiscent with the Plinko Game that Stephen and I used to get excited over watching on The Price is Right. We knew it then, and I knew it at Pachinko - the player has no control, and only luck will bring any sort of rewards.

After Pachinko, neither Jose nor I could believe we'd wasted our time and money going. We cannot understand how anyone can get addicted to the game, or why there are Pachinko Parlours lining the streets next to every JR station across Japan, each packed with cigarette-smoking, mind-numblingly braindead addicts. I think we were both slightly embarassed for having gone, and yet comforted with the knowledge that we will never have to endure an experience like that again.