Sunday, 21 October 2007

Oh Canada - Oh Meiji!

I may live in Japan and my friends may often comment that given my likes and mannerisms I must have been Japanese in a previous life, but I can tell you that I am definitely Canadian in this life! I've had a couple of (good) reminders of this over the past few weeks.

A few weeks back I attended the Tokyo Canadian Club's annual Thanksgiving dinner. A somewhat strange Japanese guy aside, the dinner was good fun. We ate turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes... the whole works! A Japanese friend who came with me wasn't quite sure about sweet cranberry on savoury turkey, but she enjoyed the meal (as you can see in this photo) and it turns out that most of the rest of my Japanese friends were disappointed I didn't invite them too. I'm going to have to make a reservation for 10+ people next year as it seems that having told friends about the traditional Thanksgiving dinner I've apparently fostered a huge following!

I've also inspired interest in another Canadian tradition - hockey. While I have been listening to as many Vancouver Canucks games as possible over the internet I miss actually watching games, especially in person. I found out in the spring that Meiji University has a mens ice hockey team but only recently discovered that that team is in the top Tokyo college league, having won the league championship 33 of the last 69 times, including the past three years running. Perhaps not the level I'm used to watching, but then again my 'Nucks haven't been playing at that level recently either! So, I dragged along a Japanese friend who had never watched a hockey game before, and headed out to a small and rather cold arena to show our school spirit. We had a great time! The game was fast paced and with the exception of a lack of effort on the part of the Meiji team in the first half of the third period (which was the reason the game ended in a tie instead of a win for the purple and gold) mostly well-played. The soundtrack included all of my favourites, especially 'Cotton Eyed Joe' and I had a great time explaining the vital role of the zamboni. There were a few differences - after the game ended and the two teams had lined up on the blue lines and bowed at each other they lined up in front of each section of the stands and bowed to their fans; the opposing team's goalie didn't bang his stick on the ice to advertise the end of a penalty, instead the announcer came over the PA system to let all in the arena know that (insert name and number here) was being released back onto the ice. Oh, and after 2 hours of sitting in a freezing arena I've never enjoyed hot can coffee or heated toilet seats more! The friend I took to the hockey game and the Thanksgiving dinner is the same person and is certainly getting her does of Canadiana! It appears that I've converted her into a hockey fan too, she bought herself a program and promised to read up on the rules for the next game!

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

New and Improved Museum!

The scaffolding has come down and the museum is preparing to open again in a few short weeks. Today was my first day in the newly redone basement. Its all going to take a little time to get used to as all the rooms are slightly different sizes and a partial new floor (with low ceilings) has been inserted too. The new floor makes floor numbering rather confusing. The internal phone list starts with the basement (B1) and lists the extra floor as the first floor, making the old first floor (the main floor) the second floor and what was the second floor (the exhibition space) the third floor. The basement could also be considered the main floor as you enter it straigt from ground level through the back entrance, but the main entrance through the front is also at ground level. Now if we just adopted British floor numbering it would all make sense as the new floor could become the ground floor (which it isn't) and the old ground floor/first floor being simply the first floor, and the exhibition space remaining the second floor. Phew...

What made today such a great day, however, was not the fresh new paint on the walls or the larger kitchenette, but the work I did. After having spent a number of months simply translating from English to Japanese or Japanese to English, I got to do something slightly different today. I'm assisting one of the curators with two projects, one is a new bilingual pamphlet with both writing and images that we are going to create based on the exhibits. I was told that this time instead of a straight translation they want something that is going to be easy to understand so I'm being given a fair amount of independance to decide what sort of language and how much of the information to use. This is exciting not only because the work itself is challenging and interesting, but also because the project relates directly to my proposed thesis topic - that of the services offered for foreigners by Japanese museums. Both the director and the curator I am working with realize this project's links to my thesis and are eager to have me be more involved! Yay!! The director also mentioned that for my research purposes we'd have to figure out some way of getting feedback on the pamphlet once it is created! (He also once again commented about how he'd like to be able to hire me as an assistant curator once I graduate!) I love the fact that the people at the museum, the director especially, are so supportive of me and what I am doing!

I've been needing a bit of that support recently as term started off with a bang (the entrance exams) and has not slowed down and in addition to getting sick (I'm feeling much better now, thanks!!) I've also been feeling frustrated with seemingly useless things I've been having to do and just how much extra work I have to put into things because of the language barrier. Its a roller coaster, with its ups (today) and its downs (yesterday - I joked about quitting everything to move to Vancouver and open my very own chocolate shop but was convinced to stay in Tokyo for the time being due to Vancouver's lack of high quality frozen green tea drinks). Despite the fact that I hate actual roller coasters (ever since I was tricked into riding in the very front of one at the tender age of 5) I love this particular ride - most of the time!

Saturday, 6 October 2007

I'm okay, really I am!

As you may know I hate hospitals, they put me on edge. I am not terribly fond of going to the doctor either. So going to a Japanese hospital for the first time was a big step for me, but one that was bound to have to happen sooner or later. Well, that day has come... Thankfully one of my friends offered to take me to a hospital she goes to, which made it all possible.

First of all, let me explain that in the Japanese health care system if you are sick you go to either a clinic or a hospital. These vary in size and may end up being not much different from the North American family doctor, but there is no concept here of a family doctor.

My friend (who took altogether too much delight in a rather subdued and anything but sure of herself version of me) took me to what a hospital that would compare to a very very small hospital back home. The staff there were kind, and the doctor very kindly worked hard to do the check-up in English. It took him a good few minutes to come up with the word "fever" (I don't have one) and in the meantime I was imagining all sorts of things he was trying to ask me. Since we both knew that overall my language skills were better than his, by asking me all the questions in English he was trying hard to make me feel a bit more at ease. I'm not sure I'm ever going to feel fully comfortable in any hospital but this particular doctor and the rest of the staff made an effort for which I am very grateful.
Oh, and just so you don't worry I am fine. I've been given antibiotics and should make a full recovery in under 5 days - which is a good thing, term may have only started a few weeks ago but already I've got a pile of reports to write and presentations to prepare! I'm also determined to feel up for the Canadian Thanksgiving dinner I've signed up for tomorrow night - turkey!!!

Thursday, 4 October 2007

India in Japan

Last week a friend forwarded to me photographs of the son of a friend of hers in India. When we left India the announcement that a baby was expected had only just made so I was expecting photographs of some chubby little thing in diapers. The little boy in the pictures, however, looked much older than that and I was forced to remind myself that we were in India 3 years ago!

On the weekend I joined two other friends from my time in India and a few of their friends at the annual Indian festival in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park. There were food stalls that smelt a whole lot better than India but unfortunately the curies, biriyani, lassis and chai on sale just didn't quite measure up (the mango juice, however, was divine!). There was a stage with musical presentations from classical to modern - the crowd (us included) enthusiastically dancing along with the Bollywood dancers. And there were stalls selling dry goods, clothing, jewelery, embroidered bags, bedcovers... The alleyways in between the stalls were much too wide and the cool and rainy weather didn't quite fit, but it still felt a whole lot like Laxmi Road!