Wednesday, February 28, 2007

踊り ~ A Night of Japanese Culture

parasol rear view
Originally uploaded by corisan.
Last night at the UofA's Timms Center, the University of Alberta and the Prince Takamado Centre hosted the Japanese Odori Dancers.

Click here for more info about the upcoming Calgary performance.

Monday, February 26, 2007

*editor's comments*

In response to an email I received this morning, I was reminded that my last update missed one important point:

My year in Japan, despite the trials and tribulations, was still one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The chance to live out my dream of visiting Japan.. the opportunity to meet and make friends from all around the world.. I have no regrets.

I still love everyone I met, in spite of how my year ended, and I will have memories from 千葉大学国際交流 for the rest of my life. You each have a special place in my heart and my memories, and I know that we will see each other again one day.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

an update on me...

It seems there is something in the air that's causing people to write updates about their lives... and this is as good an excuse as any to write one about mine.

As most of you know, I found out a few months ago that I would have to return to school for one last semester. As frustrated as I've been, this has turned out to be a positive time in my life, despite a few colourful setbacks.

Being back at university has given me a chance to reconnect with friends that I had lost touch with while in Japan. After the pain and sadness I endured during my year in Japan, it has been such a relief to feel welcomed and appreciated again. I know I put too much stock in the people I met last year, but is has helped me to be thankful for the friends and family I can share my life with again.

Classes and homework have also given me some permanent distractions from thinking about the events of last year. I wish it was enough to save me from what I've become, but I still feel like I'm just a shell of the person I once was. I hope that the time I'm spending in University, and surrounded with people from my past, will help me to slowly become the person I once was, the person I want to be again.

To make this possible, I've made some changes in my life. First and foremost, I forgave Claudia. This wasn't easy, but I burned her letter and let go of the pain it caused me. Next, I have opened myself up to contact with people that I hope will in turn forgive me and re-accept me into their lives. (yes, this means I will start answering emails and spend time chatting again)

Third, and most importantly, I have decided to start living my life again. I am actually eager to graduate now. I want to finish university, and figure out what I want to do as a career. I have bought a new condo, in Calgary, which I will take possession of in May. This means that when I move back home, I will actually have a place to go, and will once again feel like I belong somewhere.

I know this is only the beginning, and I'm sure there will be times that I will be ready to give up, but I have to try. I know I need to be able to count on myself. I want to live and to love and to be free.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


My 9 days in Hawaii were filled with moments and memories that I will cherish for a long time.. I've spent so much of my life living away from my family that the times I get to spend one on one with someone as special to me as my Babi, are precious. Most of these.. well.. a lot of what happened, well, it's private; stories that are best saved for personal reflection and times in the future when I can share them with those I love rather than the prying eyes of (not-so-anonymous) Internet surfers.

What I can share, are some of the highlights which include my favorite moments...

beach side promenade

Day 2, I woke up to my Babi lying quietly beside me. We had decided to share the king size bed - both of us happy to have someone warm to snuggle up next to. She sliced me a papaya while I washed the sleepiness out of my eyes, and then I feasted on the exotic fruit while watching the ocean waves lap against the beach. As the sun rose higher in the sky, we headed out from our Hotel and around the block to explore the jungle that is the Hawaiian Hilton Village. Shops and Boutiques lined the pathway as we crossed the vast hotel lobby, and at the familiar sights, memories from long ago flooding back. After I snapped a picture of a stone frog nestled among a manicured garden, Babi led me to the surprise of my week - a penguin habitat. I watched in awe as the zoo keepers had the little birds perform random stunts and then we carried on our walk, over the pool deck and onto the beach side promenade. I let Babi lead while I took in the sights - the ocean glistening ahead of me, couples practicing Tai-Chi on the beach, and people from all walks of life making their way to and fro along the Hawaiian Boardwalk. Our morning walk ended on the far side of a black stone bridge that stretched from the white sands of Waikiki Beach and cut into the banks of the Pacific. There, Babi stood a few feet ahead of me, stretched her arms up above her head and then returning them back down to her sides. With her eyes closed, she spoke to the ocean. As she meditated and prayed for her family, I almost felt like an intruder, but when she turned around to face me, I saw what I knew would be an image I will always remember. When I think of my Babi, I hope this will be how I remember her - with an inner peace that radiated from the smile stretching across her face.

climbing Diamond Head
A few years back, on vacation with Dad and Stephen, we took a break from Babi-sitting and went out to explore the wonders that Hawaii has to offer. Dad had rented a car, and we circled the island of Oahu. I remember visiting the beautiful North Shore, snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, and practically collapsing with exhaustion only a few hundred feet up the climb to the Diamond Head Crater Look-Out. In my own defense, the day the 3 of us went to climb the mountain, I was afflicted with one of my many colds, and between my chest congestion and flat lining energy levels, it was almost a miracle that I was able to turn back and make it to the car all by myself. Since that time, I've often looked through my Hawaii scrap book, and wished that I could have been there to share in the view that photographs can barely represent.

This year, I made up my mind to retrace the steps of that day, so many years ago. On my own, I took a bus that drove me across Waikiki to the base of Diamond Head Crater. I eagerly marched my way up along the road which brought me to the entrance to Diamond Head National Park.

I remember glancing at the parking lot where I'd spent my last visit to the mountain, but I was determined that I wouldn't see it again until I'd conquered the trail. I didn't have a cold this time around, and I don't think that Diamond Head is at any remarkably high altitude, but there were times when I still had to fight back a mild panic as I felt the air getting thinner. (I guess my asthma, as much as I like to ignore it, still gets me from time to time) But I didn't quit. There were times when I looked up to see what appeared to be an unending trail winding back and forth up the mountain side. But I didn't quit. There were 3 staircases that left me puffing for air and made my knees burn worse than I've ever felt. But I didn't quit. And at the top of the last staircase, with the sun so bright that I had to squint, I was faced with the choice of turning back or squeezing myself through the tiny crevice that served as the doorway to the outside world where I would finally see the view that had begun this hike. But I didn't quit.

I didn't quit, and my reward was an unbelievably breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean, Waikiki Beach, and the tropical landscape of Oahu.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Photo Albums from Paradise

Scenes from the Vancouver Airport

Welcome to Paradise

A Morning Walk Along Waikiki Beach

Diamond Head

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Passport Woes

I really thought that by this time yesterday I would be boarded on an airplane taxiing down the tarmac on its way to Vancouver. From there, I would be whisked through customs and soon thereafter soaring over the Pacific en route to Paradise. Everything was running on schedule: Stephen was awake 2 hours before I expected him to be, I was packed and ready to roll a half hour early, and even Karma (the family dog) was being docile and cuddly for a change. Most of my TV downloads had finished (I figured I’d want something to keep me entertained at the airport between flights), and though I hadn’t gotten ahold of Mom yet, I’d left a message hoping she’d get through to me before I left on vacation.

Stephen was going to drive me to the airport before he started his errands for the day. Because he woke up so early, we stopped at Dad’s hotel for lunch, and a chance to say goodbye. From there, the drive to the airport saw my excitement rising, and Stephen and I going through a last minute checklist.
S: suntan lotion?
C: check
S: ID?
C: check
S: money for the Vancouver airport?
C: uhh.. oops. Can you loan me 20$ ‘til I get home next week?
S: yup, no problem. You’ve got everything for Babi?
C: Her chicken soup powder – check. Salad dressing – check. Wool (she knits) – check. I even have my orders from Dad, Marnie & the Japanese department at school. Do you need anything from Hawaii? I mean it’s been like 4 weeks since Dad was there, after all.
S: (laughing) no, thanks, I’m fine.
We parked the car, and headed up to the departures level. I approached the self check-in machine while Steve ran to the ATM to get me a $20. I struggled for a few minutes trying to figure out my reservation code. “W4FNI0” (mental thought process: is that the letter i? or the number 1…? And the 0.. a letter? Number? Grrrrr, this is frustrating.). I finally got the code in, and the machine smugly informed me that there is no self check-in for international flights. Rolling my eyes, I headed off to the ridiculously long line-up, and saw the notice that would leave me ashen-faced and with heart palpitations.

As of January 23, 2007, all US and foreign visitors entering the United States will only be allowed access with valid passports.

Stephen came up, and immediately asked me what was wrong. I pointed out the sign, and barely above a whisper explained that I didn’t have my passport with me. I didn’t even know where it was!! Wide eyed, he stared as though I’d said something in a foreign language, and then immediately jumped into action. Approaching one of the West Jet employees, he inquired into possibilities for getting through customs without my Passport. I stood dumbly while the woman explained that it would be impossible to continue past Vancouver without it. Sometimes, and she stressed the SOMEtimes, they will let people enter the gate with only a driver’s licence and a birth certificate, but there was no guarantee that the Custom’s Agent would let me through, and in that case, I would get no refund on my ticket.

I was floored. In 25 years of visiting my grandmother in Hawaii, I’ve once and only once needed a passport to enter the country? When was this? Last year, of course, when I flew in from Tokyo. As a Canadian Citizen, I’ve always been able to fly into the US using only my driver’s license and birth certificate.

Since I’ve had no TV and virtually no Internet access for such a long time, I had no idea of the policy changes to US customs. Nobody thought to verify that I had my passport with me, and I never even bothered to find it before rushing home to Calgary on Thursday. I was staring at Stephen, who was in almost as much shock as I was, when the Agent talking to us suggested I cut in front of the line and speak with the ticketing agent directly.

Miraculously, (well, Stephen says it was karma) I managed to end up at the counter of the on shift supervisor. She was the nicest and most friendly airline employee I have ever encountered. I promised her, that under no circumstances would I repeat the following exchange, so if anyone asks, you didn’t hear it from me.

Out of what can only be described as pity, the West Jet Ticket Agent maneuvered her computer system into changing my flight to the next day, Saturday, at 4pm. As if that wasn’t gracious enough, she also managed to do so with only the teeniest surcharge, rather than charging me for a whole new flight, which she would normally have to do under those circumstances. She explained to me that since I would now be flying on the weekend, and especially under the current weather conditions (insane flurries and snow drifts), I should be at the airport AT LEAST 2 hours early, if not more. I agreed, thankfully, paid the surcharge, and then followed Stephen back outside to the car.

You can imagine the next few minutes, as we avoided each other’s eyes and I tried to think of a way to explain what had just happened to Mom, Dad, and of course, Babi, who was expecting me in Hawaii that night. I figured that I had no choice but to drive up to Edmonton, grab my passport, and make it back into Calgary before my flight the following day. We got ahold of Dad, who took it upon himself to let Babi know, and I decided to head home to search for my passport before heading up to Edmonton. I was 99% sure it wasn’t in Calgary, but it made more sense to me to double check before heading out on a 6 hour drive.

The next few hours… well.. they are a bit of a blur. I was stressed out, upset with myself, feeling like the biggest imbecile on the face of the planet, and completely helpless. I had no car, no idea where my passport was, and no way to deal with anything while Dad was at work, Stephen was at an appointment, and my life was once again, on hold. While I searched my room, Dad called, and we talked about possible ideas. He was extremely concerned at the idea of driving to Edmonton and back by myself with the winter driving conditions, and offered to drive me himself. I wasn’t happy with that idea because I knew he had to work the next morning, and it wasn’t fair to make him drive all the way to Edmonton and back, especially without knowing for sure that my passport was there. He mentioned that he knew someone in Edmonton who would be driving back to Calgary the next morning, and wondered if there was a way someone else could check my room and find my passport for me… I wasn’t convinced this was possible, but decided it was worth a shot. While Dad tried to get ahold of Gail, his friend, I started calling my place in Edmonton to see if I could get ahold of AJ.

2 hours later, when I was ready to give up and catch a bus back to Edm, I finally got ahold of AJ. He’d just finished class and was on his way home, and I explained my stupidity and what was going on. He agreed to call when he got home, and I would walk him through the few possible places in my room that I might have left my passport. I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for his call. Dad, in the meantime, hadn’t been able to get ahold of Gail, but had another brainstorm. My Aunt was on her way to Edmonton at that very moment, and her bus would be arriving within the hour. My cousin, Marnie, would be driving to the bus depot to pick her mother up, and Dad figured, if we could get the passport to Marnie, she would be able to send it home to me via the bus. It was a viable theory, and I ran it by AJ who agreed to help by driving my passport to Marnie’s, if he could find it. I explained to him where my back pack was, and he checked it, with no luck. I had him go through my purse, which I’d left behind in my haste on Thursday, but it wasn’t there. I had no idea where else to suggest, and I had practically given up. I thanked him for his help, and for trying to rescue my vacation, but that I would probably have to drive in and search myself because I had no idea where else to suggest he look over the phone. He apologized, and told me to call if I had any brainstorms. I hung up and began searching through my room again. Stephen, worried about me, asked if there was anything he could do to help. I asked him to call West Jet and explain the situation, and ask if there was any way I could travel to Hawaii without my passport. He left my room to use the phone, and not even a minute later, I heard him shouting to come to the phone. I couldn’t understand what the problem was – I mean, who’s ever heard of an airline agent answering a customer service call that quickly? But, Stephen explained, he was dialing West Jet when the other line rang. He thought it might be Dad and let it go through to voice mail, but when it rang again 20 seconds later, he answered it to find AJ on the line explaining that he had found my passport!!!

AJ, my roommate, my landlord, my hero, hadn’t given up, and he, with the help of my other roommate, Tessa, found my passport in a box under my purse. I must have moved it back in January when I moved in, thinking it should go somewhere safe. Without any hesitation, AJ asked for Marnie’s phone number, and he agreed to drive the passport over ASAP. I thanked him profusely, and after hanging up, sat down in relief, and realized that this was only phase one.

I waited a few minutes, and then tried calling Marnie myself. When I heard a woman answer the phone, I assumed it was her and instantly began thanking her for her help. The woman stopped me to explain that she wasn’t Marnie, but that Marnie was on her way home, and my roommate had just called, and was also on his way. She didn’t really know what was going on, but understood that he was dropping off my passport for Marnie, and when Marnie got home, she would give me a call. I thanked her, hung up, and waited to see how this would all end up.

10 minutes later, when I had begun to panic again, Marnie called to say she was home, had my passport, and wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do with it. I explained what had happened at the airport, and that since my flight was postponed to the next day, I wanted her to send my passport up on the bus when she went to pick up her Mom. She agreed, and promised to call back after the passport was safely en route. It was an hour later when she finally called back, but only because it had taken nearly that long for her to get the bus driver alone to talk for a moment. The policy of the bus company is to not be responsible for any courier parcels or packages, and they absolutely refused to transport my passport for me. Marnie managed to talk the bus driver into doing me a favour privately, and he was so nice about it, he even refused to accept a tip for helping me. She took his name and phone number, promised that I would be there in person to pick it up when he arrived at the Calgary depot, and then quickly explained the transaction details to me. Again, I thanked her, and settled back to wait until 9:30 when I would finally hold my passport in my own 2 hands.

Long story short…er… I was at the depot on time, the bus driver matched my face to the picture in my passport, and now, it is 3:45, I’m sitting at the gate in the Calgary airport typing this while I wait for my boarding call. I am finally on my way to Hawaii, only a short 24 hours late, and in no time, I will be lying by the pool drinking mojito’s and visiting with my grandmother.

And I will never, ever, ever, go to the airport without my passport, ever again.
(Part II - Vancouver Airport.)

Just to add to my travel discourse, I wound myself through the Vancouver airport labyrinth, managed to decode the mysterious custom's declaration form, and talk my way past the custom's agent. He seemed suspicious that I had stamps and stickers in my passport (yes, my INFAMOUS passport) already, and had me explain when I had last been in the states and why. I wasn't sure what he wanted me to say. . . I had flown in to Honolulu last February, spent 2 weeks and flown back to Japan, but I had also flown home from Japan through San Francisco back in September. I mentioned both and the man seemed satisfied. Then again, the lady at the metal detectors decided that the under wire in my bra might be a threat against national security and felt the need to pat me down, front, back, and both sides. I wasn't expecting to get felt up this vacation, and especially not in a public airport. Ick, ick, and double ick.

I then walked the long long long way to my gate. Gate E82, possibly the furthest one in the terminal, and decided to visit the check-in counter to ask if there would be a meal on the flight. Imagine my surprise when I saw a flashing notice across the television screens announcing that my flight, scheduled to leave Vancouver at 6:30 would now be departing 2 hours late.

Gritting my teeth, I decided that somewhere in my karmic history, I must have done something to deserve the trials and tribulations that I am going through just to go on vacation this week. I tried calling home from a payphone, but I refused to spend the $2.50 to call Calgary long distance. Collect wouldn't work, supposedly because Dad connects through Shaw and not Telus, so finally I pulled out my beloved computer, paid for a 24 hr subscription to the Telus Wireless, and found Stephen on MSN. I had him relay the info to Dad, who called Babi and gave her the good news. From there, I decided to spend my 2 hour wait in the airport blogging and trying to finish up one of my papers. I may as well do it here at the airport and spend my time in Hawaii suntanning on the beach!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Allow me to introduce: the UofA's newest Canadian!

all pictures copyrighted by Jiennie

Saturday, February 03, 2007


Europe's Premier Creative Award Winner
click here to view

a photo log

My first thought?
Why am I recieving a box of Canadian cereal from Japan? LOL.




Engrish, oh how I miss you.