Sunday, July 30, 2006

Don't take your keitai swimming!

It occurred to me today, as Jose stood outside my door telling me a story about how he tried to take his cell phone swimming, that the keitai is really an integral part of the Japanese lifestyle. Beyond the standard features, such as being able to make and receive calls, schedule and calendar features, and of course text messaging/emails, keitai are jam packed with so much more.

Just to list a few...
  • Unlike the pesky clocks back home, Japan has reached an era free from power outages and dying batteries. Keitai's are equipped to remember 5 separate alarm times, which can all be set to different rings and volumes. Most importantly, even when a keitai's battery dies, there is a storage of back-up power that comes into play to make sure the alarms still go off.
  • In this day and age, when even digital cameras have a thousand options and settings, sometimes the convenience and simplicity of my keitai's "point and shoot" camera makes it my first choice. That, and you can take pictures of unsuspecting people without their even realizing, whereas trying to snap a picture of the comical Engrish written across someone's ass with your digi-cam tends to "stand out" a bit, even in Japan. (see below)
  • What can I say, my keitai has tetris, and I couldn't be happier. 100 yen to download it and unlimited hours of entertainment when I was stuck on the train, in class, waiting for someone/something, etc. I imagine there are many other games to be downloaded, but why bother? Tetris is a thing of beauty. And, as I've recently found out, both the game and the music are Russian! And Katya can sing it!
  • Ah, the internet. When you're standing in the train station trying to figure out how to get home, it is as simple as opening your keitai's web browser to the train look-up schedule, typing in your departure and arrival destinations, and then following the step by step directions you can get in either English or Japanese. Going traveling? No problem, weather look-up is just as simple - open the web browser, click on the link to weather (again in English or Japanese) and receive up to date forecasts.
  • GPS, had I ever learned how to use it, would have come in very very handy whenever I found myself disoriented in Tokyo. Just like the GPS in a car's dashboard (which for the record, over half of the cars in Japan have and use on a daily basis), each keitai has the same GPS tracking device.
  • Perhaps the biggest surprise and biggest advantage that I've been able to discover yet, is the easability of using my keitai as a kanji look-up tool. Sometimes, when I just can't remember the strokes of a character, or if I'm trying to write a kanji I haven't learned yet, I just type it into my keitai and the kanji pops up for me to copy. There are online dictionaries that can be accessed via the cell phone and kanji can be copy/pasted into the search bar. This of course doesn't replace the necessity for electronic dictionaries, but still really enhances the convenience and speed of kanji lookup in an exam situation, for example.
  • The bar-code reader at first seemed like a useless feature to have in every keitai, but imagine the convenience of only holding your keitai up to corner of an add for a few seconds if you want to remember some information. No searching through your bags for a pen, no need trying to remember where you put those notes you jotted down the week before. Just a quick scan with the keitai, and the info page that is designed especially for Keitai, is saved in your browser's history. Voila, easy as pie.
  • SD cards & Bluetooth (a wireless connection software) make it simple and free to transfer data (such as photos, address book entries and personal memos) to and from the keitai. You can also use Bluetooth to transfer info between 2 cell phones, which saves a lot of time and money when exchanging info.
  • And the keitai is the ultimate accessory - an accessory with a complete selection of secondary accessories, such as protective cases, dangly straps and numerous decoratable surfaces. Being able to download ringtones is only the beginning. Every souvenir shop in Japan is saturated with a section devoted to cell phone straps, cases, and other varied accessories.
  • If you forget it as you rush out the door late one morning, the result is a culmination of that feeling you get when you forget your watch in the morning, only it's worse because you are also cut off from the world - you never know what important emails might be waiting for you back home. And you are out of luck if you've forgotten it on the day when you see a Japanese woman parading by with natural odour printed across the rear of her high fashion skirt, just as a (ahem) random example.
And finally, the point of this entire blog, is that with all of the above mentioned conveniences and uses for keitai in Japan, the role they play in every day lives in incomparable with the cell phones back home. I can't imagine hearing the following story back home, or anywhere else for that matter - and perhaps I'm wrong, but I firmly believe that this could only happen in Japan, and could only happen to a keitai.

Jose: Hey, I just came by to tell you my keitai's dead.

Cori: Dead? I noticed that I couldn't send you a msg all day, and I thought that was a bit odd.

Jose: Well I fucked it up. Since 3 or so, it hasn't worked.

Cori: What happened?

Jose: I went to the pool. When I got up today I saw how nice it was outside and called Nico and Javier to go swimming at Inage pool. When we got there, I was so excited to go swimming that I pulled off my shirt and jumped in. After swimming 2 laps around the pool, I got out and felt a familiar vibrating in my pocket.

Cori: Vibrating? Uh oh.

Jose: Yep. Forgot to take out my keitai, and when the battery gets wet - it vibrates.

Cori: Shit. So now what?

Jose: For tonight, no emails or phone calls, and then tomorrow I'm going to get a new phone.

Cori: I guess you'll try no to take the next one swimming?

Jose: No, it's okay, because they have one that's waterproof!

Cori: D'oh!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

終わり~ & I can taste the freedom

I just finished my last exam, and what a relief. It was really nothing too difficult - just a 10 minute conversation between me and Yoshino-sensei about what I do in my free time. Part of the exam was asking her questions as well, which made the 10 minutes go by really quickly. But, before hand, of course, I let the stress build up, and I almost didn't make it - letting myself sleep until 10 and then running late on my way to school. Yada!

My other exams ended on Wednesday. 4 exams in 2 days, and afterwards, I slept nearly 20 hours just getting past the stress and sleep deprivation that goes hand-in-hand with finals. Katya described me (during my late night last minute cramming sessions) as 'unhappy', although I don't remember feeling that way.. more like, disappointment in myself for leaving so much of the grammer review until too late, and then feeling like I haven't improved at all, which is of course, impossible. After a year in Japan, I know my language skills have developed. I can now hear the difference between an "Intermediate Level I" and "Intermediate Level II", which before hand, were completely indistinguishable to me. I take this as a sign that somewhere along the lines, I've developed more of an ear for the language, even if I still spend a lot of time in my day to day life using English. I suppose there are ways to avoid it, but at the same time, I don't see much of an advantage to forsaking my ability to express myself in any way possible, which sometimes means writing in English. I've tried keeping journals in Japanese, but spend so much time trying to find the right words or grammer forms, that I end up feeling more frustratation than accomplishment in the whole experience.

Anyways, class time is almost over, it's time for lunch, and for celebrating, and then of course, back to work while I write my 2 final essays. Economics is going to be looking at a Japanese industry's specialized training program, and how they can turn this into a new overseas investment opportunity. Politics will be something to do with Yasukuni Shrine, and the recent news that Hirohito was opposed to the Class A War Criminals being enshrined there. With the upcoming election in September, and Koizumi stepping down, Yasukuni and the War Time related China/Korea/Japan conflict are becoming a highly mediacized issue.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Weekend with Pu

I woke up on Saturday to the sound of my keitai vibrating on the pillow next to me. I cracked open one eye while I reached for it, momentarily contemplating a ritual murder/suicide, and then suppressed the feeling when I saw it was 2 PM. Sitting up, I groaned inwardly knowing I'd wasted a valuable study day on some equally valuable sleep. The missed call was from Mom, and while listening to the voicemail message she left, it occurred to me that her voice was very 懐かしい. I tried to remember when the last time we'd actually spoken was, but couldn't remember. We've both been so busy.. but now that the Stampede and her school year are both finished, I'll probably hear more from her - when I'm awake to answer the phone, that is.

Rolling back over, I made myself comfortable and answered a few emails while I watched a new episode of the Simpsons which I'd finished downloading a few days before. In the midst of the episode, Mom called back, and we talked for a while. Afterwards, I put the show back on, and not even 5 minutes later, there was a knock at my door. I asked who it was, heard Pu, and invited her in. Making room on the bed, we chatted for a bit, and then she reminded me that we had to leave at 6:30 for her friend Tim's party. I'd met Tim a few times already, he is an English teacher from England who has been working in Japan for the same amount of time that Pu & I have been studying here. We met Tim through Bingo, a mutual friend, and Tim invited us to Shin-Urayasu for the weekend. Since it was already 4:30 when Pu came to visit, I quickly got out of bed, showered and then got another hour of studying done before rushing down to meet her on time.

The train ride was simple enough, but along the way, we discovered that Pu's keitai battery was dead. This meant that when we arrived in Shin-Urayasu, we had no way of contacting Tim to tell him we were there. I had never exchanged contact info with Tim, and therefore didn't have his email address on my keitai. As it turns out, at some point in the last month, Pu was demonstrating her keitai's abilities, and transferred my contact info to Tim's phone using Bluetooth (a wireless connection software). This was irrelevant at the time, but came in handy later on as Tim eventually reached us by calling me phone when he couldn't get through to Pu's. Unfortunately, this was after over 45 minutes of trying various unsuccessful ways to re-charge Pu's battery (including buying a battery-operated-charger at a combenie, and plugging her keitai into the new charger she'd bought the day before, neither of which worked!), and walking halfway to Tim's apartment before finding out he was actually waiting for us at the eki!

After finally finding each other, we sat down in Doutor for a coffee, and Tim suggested that Pu try taking her battery out and putting it back in. She did, and just for good measure, rubbed it up and down her sleeve before putting it back in. Miraculously, the Magic Thai Massage, as I named it, worked and the battery came back to life.

After coffee, we met up with Tim's work colleagues, and had dinner and drinks at an Izakaya. From there, we went to Karaoke! It was a really different experience, because Tim and his friends are all from the UK, and therefore exposed to a slightly different array of music. I knew all the songs that they put into the machine, but they were songs that 'we' have never sung before. 楽しかった。Because Shin-Urayasu is a much more posh area than Inage, the Karaoke was more expensive, and we couldn't stay all night. Instead, at 2:30, our time finished, and Pu, Tim and I headed back to Tim's apartment.

The apartment, which is attached to his English school, included a large World Map, which led us to a late night discussion about Canadian Politics, World History, and other related items. This lasted until nearly 4, when Pu, frustrated with not being able to follow the conversation, decided it was bedtime, and told us so. We quickly agreed and said our respective "good nights". I lied down in my futon next to Pu, amused that she'd already fallen asleep, and pulled out my keitai to send a random message to Hatim. Before I could even begin to type it though, my phone rang vibrated and I opened my own random message, from Jose. He sent me the lyrics to an Elton John song "Blue Eyes" that has been stuck in his head for over a week now. We hadn't talked since the study snack the night before.. he had no idea I was up, or that I'd been at karaoke all night.. and the message seemed all the more surreal.

Sunday morning, I woke up to an empty futon next to me, and strange noises coming from the nearby kitchen. Pu and Tim had both woken up early - long before our alarm clocks went off at 11. They were putting together some sort of soup for breakfast, and planning a macaroni & stinky cheese entree. I ate my soup quickly, getting as far away from the cheese odor as possible. After their culinary escapade, the three of us headed back to the eki, and went to Funabashi, where we were meeting friends of both Tim and Pu. Today, unbeknownst to me, was the Funabashi Matsuri (festival), and Pu's friend (a Japanese woman who actually volunteers somewhere in Chiba as a Japanese teacher for foreigners) had arranged for us to participate in the festival!!

Tim, Cori & PuWe got to wear the festival Ha-pi, help carry the Mikoshi (portable shrines), and join in the chanting as the festival took place. Along with Pu's friend, Funagi-sensei, there were 2 men who were in charge of one team that helped carry the Mikoshi who spent the day with us, and they took turns explaining various parts of the ceremonies and celebrations to us. Pu and I took turns translating for Tim who doesn't speak any Japanese, and interrupting them to have them take our pictures. Funagi-sensei, despite her connections with these men who she referred to simply as the Bossu-san, also had her first chance to participate in carrying the Mikoshi.
Cori & Pu carrying the MikoshiI may look really happy in these pictures - and I was - but I have to say, the Mikoshi are UNBELIEVABLY heavy! The Bossu-san explained to us that the taller you are, the heavier the burden, and of course this makes sense when you think the weight is distributed across the 30 or so people carrying the shrine. Everyone holds the shrine via giant wooden pillars, and as a result, the taller people (like Me!) have to carry the weight on their shoulders, while the shorter people (Pu!) can carry as much as or little as they'd like using their arms. Besides the simple weight of the Mikoshi, it is important to constantly lift the Shrine up and down and from side to side, jostling the Kami (gods) inside and reminding them to bring good luck and happy fortune to the Japanese. This means that the shrine is bounced up and down randomly, and my poor shoulder was bumped and banged so many times, that it is now (over 10 hours later) still sore and developing an ugly bruise. Besides the capillary trauma, I had an incredible time sharing in the Matsuri experience! I can't believe that as foreigners we were allowed to join in something that lies so much at the heart of the Japanese, and I'm sure this is a day I will remember for the rest of my life.

Thank you Pu! This was one of the best weekends of my life! I love you!!

Group Photo with the Mikoshi


Hanging in Mid-Air

Friday, July 21, 2006

made in china

Package From HomeI can't say I wasn't expecting something, but I was still surprised when I opened my care package from Kristine to discover the ダイソ box I had sent her 色々なお土産 home in. Inside, she had filled it with yummy goodies, a pretty charm, a colourful card full of eloquent-ities, and an array of Canadiana. No more being mistaken as an American for me, I think I'll affix one of the puffy stamps to my forehead and see what happens. That or just eat my smarties and be smug in the knowledge that they are a quatrillion times better than M&Ms, and I only know that as a proud member of the un-American population. Made In ChinaAs an added bonus, most of the Canadian goodies that Kristine sent me included the ironic news that despite being "(Souvenir du) Canada Souvenir", they were Made in China. What is our world coming to? The Tories take power of the government and the whole Proud-To-Be-Canadian Motto goes to shit? I mean, I assume that somewhere in the smoldering forests of British Columbia, or high up in the mountain villages of Alberta, somebody's grandmother is working her hands to the bone sewing mini maple leaf emblems onto various clothing items, such as socks, toques, maybe mittens, while her husband tries to sell them on the side of the road. But do they stand a chance when competing the cheap foreign labour markets? Then again, as I type this on my proudly purchased Japanese Toshiba Notebook, I felt the need to flip it over and low-and-behold, it too is Made In China! ヤダ!

Ahem - Now, if you'll just let me take a moment to step down off my soapbox, I'll continue.

After receiving my package from Kristine on Friday, I spent the night in my room enjoying my chocolates, cookies, and new JPop (admittedly, it seems strange that I'm in Japan getting JPop CDs from Canada!) until my belly ached and my guilt took over. At that point, I packed everything back into the now infamous box that has travelled halfway around the world and back, and settled in to some overdue studying.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before I was ready for a break, so I headed down to the combenie to pick up a sandwich. On my way, I sent a quick message to Jose & Natasya who were busy studying for their Master's Exam which is coming up in August. Jose answered with the following message,
"I want lobster and Natasya wants cavier with a bottle of Chardonnay!... or maybe some chips!"
(Have I mentioned how much I LOVE the fact that there is someone else here with my sense of humour?) I grabbed them some chips & a bottle of each of their favorite beverages, and snuck up to their meeting room for a much needed study break. We chatted for a bit, mainly about the complex math stuff they were working on, and after letting Jose talk me into staying for nearly 20 minutes, I returned home and went back to studying until I fell asleep on top of my History notes.

thank you

Yesterday, someone - a friend - did something very special for me, and this is my thank you. Back in January, I heard some bad news. News that changed me in a way I hadn't expected, and probably wasn't prepared for. It changed the way I looked at my time in Japan, and this change was something that scared a lot of people, including myself. As a result, I decided to keep the news to myself. I locked it up deep inside, and tried to live my life despite the news, rather than share it with the people in Japan and force the issue to the surface. I thought I could handle it on my own. I thought, honestly, after what had happened with my 'friends' after Spring Break, that I had no choice.

But yesterday, everything changed. In fact, things have been changing quite a lot recently. For some reason, what I thought I had locked up deep inside, decided to come out. It has been haunting my thoughts, my moods, my time by myself and my time with friends. Besides interfering with classes and studying, this was interfering in my life, and I started to breakdown. Not in the sense of an emotional breakdown, but the wall I had tried to put up inside began to come down. I started by admitting to some of my closer 知り合い that there was something wrong, but that I didn't want to talk about it. One particularely bad day, I couldn't keep from crying and needed someone to hold me. I found Pu (Patcharin) in her room, eager to help me in whatever way I needed. She was willing to listen when I wanted to talk, and not when I couldn't. She was the first person I "let in", and while it was a relief to share what I'd been hiding inside for so long, I felt guilty for unloading on her, in my broken Japanese, and I wasn't sure how clearly she could understand what I was going through since we come from such different worlds.

Finally, on Thursday, yesterday, I was invited out for lunch and the talk I so desperately needed. My friend listened to me as I tried to gloss over what has been happening recently in my life, and he used his words and questions to prod away at me until I finally told him what I had been hiding. He was patient. He was understanding. He didn't turn it around into a comparison or contrasting with experiences in his own life - he just let me talk it through, asking him for advice, and coming up with my own now that I had finally voiced some of the complexities that were floating through my head.

As I fought back the tears that inevitably rolled down my face, he was gratious enough to ignore them, letting me continue, and knowing me for the emotional person I am. I took his strength, and his love, and was able to make some of the decisions I've been battling with as a result of my January news. I decided to make some additional changes in my life - as a way of creating a safer, and more comfortable environment for my remaining time in Japan, which as was decided this morning, is until September 14th.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

the end is near, I can feel it

I'm so tired that I could barely bike home today - or maybe that was because my bicycle was mad at me for abandoning it all week and has now developed a horrible screeching sound every time the tires spin. This along with the already strange noises coming from the chain, and it really is just a matter of time before my bike collapses under me.

Please, oh please, just let it be After next week & all of my exams.


and just a passing thought.. but why are there people living in the dorms that would rather read about what's happening in my life (via my blog at 4:30 in the morning, for example) rather than just talking to me? I continue to be baffled by what I can only assume are cultural differences.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

4 minutes and 5 seconds of magic

Coldplay Live - Twisted Logic Tour - Tokyo Budoukan 7.18.2006

a true dilemma

it's 4:19. i'm hungry. i've exhausted my supply of rice crackers and cheerios within reach, but I don't want to get out of bed.

what to do?

Coldplay: Twisted Logic Tour 7.18.06

I always think a really good sign for a concert is that after it's over and you get home, you want nothing more than to sit back in a really comfortable spot and listen to their CDs all night long. Which is exactly what I did last night, and all morning after I woke up. (hee). I don't know what it is, but something about Chris Martin's voice really takes me to another place and it feels like an escape from life and responsibility and 用事. Going to the concert just enhanced that feeling for me, because seeing them live.. seeing how the music affected so many other people in the same way, was just electric.

Even Desy. Quiet, reserved little Desy was screaming and singing along, having the time of her life and it was so amazing to share the experience with her.

The concert itself was so much fun. The band was having fun with their first Tokyo performance - taking pictures of the audience, trying to include a little bit of Japanese, and just other random shenanigans. There was one point where they sang 'Yellow', the song that made them famous, and they had giant yellow balloons fall from the roof throughout the 武道館. It was .. well, it just brought the whole arena to life when the fans were laughing and pushing them back up into the air as they fell. Inside the balloons were thousands of pieces of gold confetti. When the balloons popped, which only a few of them did, the confetti floated down capturing the lights and glittering as they fell. Chris Martin popped one on purpose on stage, dancing in the confetti and getting a LOUD scream from the fans. It was awesome.
They of course played all the songs from the new album, which was what they were promoting, but they also included most of their big hits from the past. They played for an hour and a half, and even their encore included 3 songs, ending with Fix You.

I wish I could go back tonight. I wish I could see them again!! But, for now, I'll just have to listen to their music, watch my videos, and hope that one day soon, I'll feel as connected to the people I love as I did to a room full of strangers last night.

Monday, July 17, 2006

late night mystification

This feels odd, but I’ve been reading a book called “Learning to Bow” and it’s been making me feel really uncomfortable. The premise is a man’s experiences as he spends a year teaching English in Japan. He includes historical tidbits, personal anecdotes, and of course his own reflections on Japan in general. But somehow.. the way he does it brings feelings of general uneasiness to me. I haven’t found anything explicit that I take offence to, or any obvious exaggerations or false portrayal of Japanese life, but there’s just something..

I can’t decide if I want to finish the book.. I don’t like to leave things unread. Especially if I am going to form any sort of judgement, I feel it is important to read it in its entirety, but at the same time, I don’t want to continue with a book that keeps nagging at me. Plus, as a gift, I feel it is important to get through the book that someone chose for me. 気が気でない。

Sunday, July 16, 2006

the latest from home

Steve Aug14-18 baby says:
i'm going to see m.c. hammer tonight

Cori ^-^ 木曜の文章:2 to go. Eeep. says:
are you serious?

Steve Aug14-18 baby says:

yeah, i got some tickets last week on a pub crawl

Cori ^-^ 木曜の文章:2 to go. Eeep. says:

wow... I thought he was dead. or at least his music career.

Steve Aug14-18 baby says:

lol, apparantly he's starting to come back

Steve Aug14-18 baby says:
i don't personally believe it, but i'll go see him

Cori ^-^ 木曜の文章:2 to go. Eeep. says:
can you do the hammer dance? lol

Steve Aug14-18 baby says:
lol. no

Cori ^-^ 木曜の文章:2 to go. Eeep. says:
too bad.. that would be AWESOME

Steve Aug14-18 baby says:


Cori ^-^ 木曜の文章:2 to go. Eeep. says:

btw, I'm putting this on my blog. It's too good to miss - I'm going to see Coldplay, and you're going to MC Hammer. Damn


I can't remember if I've mentioned this before or not, but I really really dislike my Thursday composition class. The concept is fine - learn some new grammar, use it in class and then write a composition incorporating it for the following week. But somehow, the topics of these compositions really get under my skin and make it nearly impossible for me to sit down and do my homework on time. Also, getting to school for Thursday morning classes is also a challenge, which means that even if I write the essays, there's a chance I won't make it to school to hand them in. But I digress.

In Japan, or at least in my experiences, there is a belief that homework should be handed in. Period. This does not necessarily mean it has to be in on time, and in fact, our class has been told on more than one occasion that as long as we hand it in before the final due date.. well, you get the picture.

So, with this in mind, and my composition text book haunting me from the depths of paper-chaos on my desk, I decided to get my act together and get some homework finished. It is now 1 am, Sunday night. I have written 8 of the 10 papers for my Thursday class, given myself a proverbial pat on the back, and decided to show off a bit. I can guarantee that my grammar is far from perfect, but frankly, my eyes are glossed over from the amount of searching through my dictionary and grammar books, and my brain hurts from trying to come up with intelligent things to say on the various topics, and I no longer care. For those of you who can't read the Japanese, consider yourself lucky, and just admire the pretty kanji that dance all over the page.






入る大学以来、私の日々の生命は変わっていた。 例えば、クラスの終日の毎日を使うかわりに、私は今クラスの45時間ただ、そして宿題か勉強する他の時間を過ごす。さらに、私が大学学生であるので、私の宿題で規則的な出席そして渡すことは私の自身の責任である。このような理由で、私は全力を尽すことを試みるが他の事が私の生命の優先順位を取る時がある。

卒業の後で、私は何が起こるか知らない。 うまく行けば私は私がそれを忘れていないように私が私の日本語を使用してもいい仕事を見つけられる。 また、私は私に世界中からの人々に会う機会を与える仕事を頂く。



これから私たちがしなければならないことは、私達の個々の無駄を分類し、リサイクルすることは必要になる。日本では、日本人と外国人のためにリサイクルプログラムに非常に簡単作るガイドに続くため。 そのために、リサイクルしない理由がない。


高齢化が進むとともに、日本は退職者の支持の挑戦に直面する。高齢化問題はまた財政の重荷を作成する。 これは労働力の責任になる。それらは両方を自身支え、高齢者を支えるために懸命に働かなければならない。労働力に関して、工業が増え続けているからこそ、それは容易でない。 これは労働力の工業生産と重荷間の相関関係のためにそうなったものである。


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Meet Bobu-chan.

This dog is taking matters into his own 'hands'.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Para bailar La Bamba - literally!

Jose & Katya show us their moves!

Long Lost Karaoke

It's been so long, what can I say? After nearly a month of singing alone in my room or humming along with my ipod as I roamed the streets of Chiba, we finally made it to U-Style for a night to be remembered. Starting off with fireworks in celebration of Tanabata and including highlights such as Anthony's Michael Jackson impersonation and Katya's take on Latin dancing, it was a memorable return to my favorite Inage activity.

I'll Be There

Anthony's Falsetto

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Feliz Cumpleaños Jose

For Jose's birthday, he wanted to go to Makuhari to Out Back for dinner. I guess its taking him some time to get used to Japanese food and he really misses meat from back home. They have Outback in Costa Rica and he's been dreaming about their baby back ribs. In fact, before his birthday he talked about them for days! Anyways, since the party was mostly just casual coversation over dinner, the photos are definately more fun than a blow-by-blow description.


Anthony, Jose, Heike and Javier

Hatim, Spanish Jon and Jose

Nico, Jose, Arlen, Claudia & Francisco

Jose, Eugenie & Me

Nico Kissing an Alligator

These are the ribs that Jose had been dreaming (and drooling) about.

The OutBack staff asked us to group together for this picture. They took one with the restaurant's camera also, and then after we'd paid and left the restaurant, one of the waitresses came running after us to give Jose a card that they'd made using a print out of the photo. And this was after they gave him the birthday cake as a present already! いいなあ!

rainy season

I've tried to avoid writing about the rainy season, because I wanted to wait until it was over and reflect on the entire experience, but it seems that the end is in sight earlier than expected. The weather forecast for the next week includes occasional boughts of light rain, but the downpoars seem to have dissipated into a constant thick humidity that makes me feel as though I'm wading through a sauna every time I leave the comfort of my air conditioned room.

I remember back in September when Dad & I came, that the humidity made my hair frizz up beyond anything manageable, and we were both sweating profusely nearly everytime we exerted the slightest amount of energy. But I can already tell that summer time will be exponentially worse. How so? Well, I have reached the point where I actually hesitate before taking a shower in the mornings for fear of adding to the humidity in my room. (and this is with my air conditioner permanently set to "dry") The humidity is unavoidable, every time I open my window for fresh air, it bursts through the tiny opening along with the stifling heat. When I leave my room for any sort of miniscule errard - laundry, groceries, etc., the memory of the comfort of my room is forgotten before I can even return.

Bike riding, walking, climbing stairs. These are the things I fear now more than almost anything. The exertion it requires to even walk across the street, combined with the heat in the air, raises my body temperature so quickly that I cannot keep the sweat from escaping out of my pores. I'm constantly exhausted now - the heat and humidity is taking such a toll on my body that I nap almost every afternoon after class, and still am told by nearly everyone I encounter that I look tired. Even back home I used to have difficulties dealing with the dry heat of Calgary & Edmonton. I remember craving the comfort of air conditioned restaurants, long drives with the windows down, and if need be, countless showers to refresh myself and cool down my unforgiving skin. Since I now no longer have these guilty pleasures, I am trying to find new ways to adapt this environment, albeit barely successfully.

Monday, July 03, 2006


our tickets came!! WOOHOO!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

picnic in the rain

Sunday morning, I woke up to an array of messages on my keitai from Amed who'd been trying to reach me. He wanted to warn me that our plans were changing, and instead of meeting at 12:30 like originally planned, he and Vera would be at the dorms 30 minutes early and he wanted to leave for the picnic at 12 PM sharp. I still had an hour or so to get ready, but I called to let him know I'd be on time. I don't know why I bothered, because at 12:15 I was sitting downstairs still waiting for them to show up, and for Hatim to make it out of bed. We didn't end up leaving the dorms until close to 1, and then we stopped at the 99 store for picnic supplies. By the time we caught the train, we were an hour behind schedule!

It didn't really matter, because we were just meeting up with some of Vera's friends (or rather, an army of her friends) who were gathering together to welcome her back to Japan. Vera is a Chinese Australian who had been studying in Japan for 5 years. She moved back to Sydney in October, back when I was just arriving. Amed met her through some mutual friends when he was in Australia preparing to move their for his research work. They hit it off really well and so now that she'd back in Japan, are dating. He was meeting all of her friends, and wanted me & Hatim there I guess for moral support.

So, when we got to the park, I realized by this familliar sight that I'd been there before. I had no idea when Amed told me ' Koen' that it was the same park as Odaiba. It wouldn't have changed anything if I'd known, but still, it was sort of comforting to see a familliar place knowing that I'd be surrounded by a whole group of new people. Unfortunately, and although you can't really tell in the pictures, the sky was all cloudy and looked like it was going to rain all day long. Since I always like to be prepared, I wandered over to the combenie and bought myself a verrrrrrrrry expensive new umbrella. Hatim joined me and picked one up for himself too, and although it ended up being so windy that day we couldn't even use them, they did give us the chance to encounter this Engrish gem.

I think my favorite is that "any other acts that might be convenient to persons" are prohibited, and this was hung on a post directly in front of the CONVENIENCE STORE. LOL!

When we met up with Vera's friends who were waiting for us inside the park, we decided to try and find a place to get out of the wind & rain. (although it might have been more of a spray from the ocean than actual rain...). Amed found a building called Crystal View. It was a 4 story building built entirely out of glass that gave an unimpeded view of the ocean and the park. I wish I'd taken the time to go up and see what everything looked like, but instead, we grouped in the basement level (with an unimpeded view of cement walls) and sat there for the duration of the afternoon. Vera's friends were so diverse, coming from places all over the world and somehow different than all the places my group of friends are from. I met one girl, Pepee, from Barcelona, who I hit it off with really well. We exchanged email addresses and she's invited me to a huge Karaoke party in Shibuya on the 15th.

It was nice to get out and be with new people. It was a treat to be back in such a beautiful and 'nature-ish' place for a while, even if the weather prevented me from enjoying it for a long time. I still managed to get a picture with blue skies and a view of the ocean. I can't wait for summer - when school is finished and the rain has stopped. I want to be outside!!!