Thursday, 31 January 2008

(Ir)responsible Person

Having spent the better part of the past two days working on translations for the museum, and facing spending the next two weeks working on a massive translation contract for another museum, my brain is about to come dribbling out of my ears. I am having trouble linking coherent thoughts one after another, especially when said thoughts involve anything above basic ideas in a single language.

I am currently procrastinating and avoiding two words in particular. They are not terribly scary words, and I understand what they mean in Japanese, the trouble is that when I try to translate them into English they come out meaning the same thing. In Japanese the words are tantōsha and sekininsha. My favourite Japanese online dictionary gives the exact same English translation for them, “responsible party.” Whether or not you speak/read Japanese, you may realize that both end in –sha, which is a suffix for a person. My trusty electronic dictionary doesn’t have the entire word, but defines sekinin as “responsibility, blame, fault, liability,” and the verb tantō as to “take charge of, work, cover.” I found an English language help site with a question by somebody evidently suffering from the same problem as me. (I’m not the only one – yay!) I didn’t find it much help, however, as I am still struggling on how to apply these two titles to two separate individuals involved with the setting up of a museum exhibit. The first term is the lower ranked position, and is basically the person who is in charge of doing the work, while the second term is the higher ranked position, and the person who is responsible for the work (not necessarily the actual doing). In some of the cases the two people are actually one and the same, but not all of the time. I suppose this would be easier if I had a museum-related vocabulary in English! Sigh…

Any ideas? Right now I’m using “Manager” and “Representative” but I don’t like those choices (hence the procrastination while I ostensibly think up better terms but really just procrastinate…) Suggestions please!

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Seriously Addictive!

When I write an essay or have to do a lot of readings I will break it up into pieces. Once I've accomplished one piece I give myself a reward - something small like one round of a computer game. My current reward is to read a few minutes worth of back posts of my new favourite blog, that of the Yarn Harlot (Hello, my name is Sarah and I have a problem...). Seeing pretty pictures of somebodyelse's knitting is having a seriously disturbing affect on my brain because on my way home from Brownies today (we went to the house of one of the other leaders and cooked - stew, grilled rice balls, and desert - good fun! See...

Okay, so it is a picture of rice balls. Not terribly exciting, I realize. The ones on the left are have salty konbu (a type of seaweed) and the ones on the right are cheese and itty bitty fishes (yes, cheese, and boy were they yummy after being grilled!!) I have plenty of cute photos of the girls making the rice balls and chopping vegetables, but as those of you in Guiding know, there are issues about photographs with girls in them. I don't know about the rules for GS Japan, so thought I should play it safe. I am fairly certain that I don't need written permission from the rice ball's parents for the use of the picture.)

Anyways... where was I? Oh yes, I was walking home from Brownies and obsessing about yarn. I know that one cannot buy good quality yarn at the dollar store, but that was the only store on my way home and I was desperate (I told you I'm not sane). I figured I'd look and see horrid colours in cheap bad yarn and then just wait until mid-February when I have enough time to hunt down a yarn store to provide me with something to finish off my green scarf and maybe make another scarf or two for friends. I was in for a nice surprise, however, as I was reminded once again that Japanese dollar stores (100 yen stores actually) can have some pretty nice stuff. Sure they have a bunch of junk I wouldn't even pay 100 yen for, but they also have some nice stuff. And nice yarn they did have. I'm sure it is cheap and not actually nice yarn, but it is pretty and it is soft and I like it! I bought some blue variegated yarn that varies in weight too, from really thin to really chunky. Having reminded myself that I do know how to knit (very very very simple things) I'm not following the pattern I have, just trying something out. I haven't done very much (I do have another essay to finish and a major translation to work on so I have to discipline myself) but, I am happy with it so far! My friend was complaining just last week that she doesn't have a thick warm scarf and, if I use knitting a few rows as my reward for the book report I need to write and the translations that need to be done, well then I might even be able get the scarf done before the end of winter!

So without further ado, this is the side with the texture...

and this is the plain side, with a close-up of the yarn itself...

Now I have to get back to reading the book for my book report... sigh...

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Procrastination and Writer's Block

I remember in high school when a good friend and I joked that we could be Olympic medalists at procrastination - if we could get around to making the sport recognized. Little did I know that I had yet to perfect the art. Not that this is a skill I am proud to have, but the first step is recognition, right?!

So here I am. It is 4 am on a Saturday morning and I am trying to finish an essay. I've procrastinated well so the essay (and one other that hasn't even been started yet) is a week past due. Never mind the 80+ pages of translations that I am about 10 pages into a first draft of that are due in 3 weeks. Sigh... The only thing between me and my ever-so inviting bed right now is a conclusion. You see I promised myself I would finish the essay today. Actually I was supposed to meet with my tutor this afternoon for her to read over the final product (this was after originally agreeing to meet yesterday), but a head-splitting headache complete with light-induced nausea (which probably makes it a migraine now that I think about it) sidelined me for the entire afternoon/evening yesterday and so I got behind. Combine that with my exceptional procrastination skills and an essay that ballooned from about 3 pages into 8, and I'm left staring at one line under the heading "Conclusion" and wishing that the characters, if left alone, would multiply and the conclusion would write itself... Having had no luck with that line of wishing with my MA thesis I am doubtful but haven't given up hope quite yet! Since staring at the single sentence wasn't having much of an effect either, I figured I'd try writing something else and get my creative juices flowing... either that or I was just justifying some fun procrastination!

Speaking of which... Having heard about the Canadian Blog Awards I stumbled upon a funny and just generally really neat blog called the Yarn Harlot. Looking at the pictures of her creations has prompted me to take a few pictures of my own. Although in no ways anywhere near the same league, I am pretty proud of them. Living and studying in a foreign language I find I get brain overload on a fairly regular basis. One way I deal with it is to use my hands and make something while I watch a bit of mindless English language TV via the internet. As many of you know I can be quite independent and this manifests itself as an intense dislike for following patterns. When cooking I am much happier randomly putting things together and the same with other projects. While this quite often leads itself to things that... welll... just don't quite turn out right, it does also get me thinking in different ways. So here goes with a few of the things I've made recently...

My scarf:

The first is the first knitting project I have done in probably 15 years. My grandma would be proud to know, however, that I hadn't forgotten (I may be the only person to have ever actually forgotten how to ride a bike, but I haven't forgotten how to knit), and this scarf proves it! It wasn't until I cast off, however, that I realized I should have left some wool to make a fringe, however, so now I have to go and find myself some other wool to add on some fringe and, since it'll likely have to be a different colour, I'm probably going to have to figure out some way of working it into the scarf too... This latter project gives me the chance to make it up myself instead of following the pattern. Yes, this very straightforward scarf was made to a pattern. Yes, I know I could have made it 20 years ago WITHOUT the pattern, but as I said I haven't knit in nearly that long and besides the whole thing was a (wonderful) Christmas gift that reminded me just how much I enjoy knitting! (Thanks ever so much Cathy!!!) I will definitely have to do another knitting project soon. After reading a few too many Yarn Harlot posts I was contemplating socks, but then I regained my sanity and decided I had better stick with scarves for a bit - a couple of friends here were far too impressed and complimentary of my scarf, they may find themselves owners of scarves sometime in the spring when they no longer need them!

And my belts:

My next two projects were me taking the bracelet making skills I gained at summer camp and putting them to a use that I would actually wear. I wasn't sure how they would turn out but was pleasantly surprised. They were more work than I had initially imagined, however, and quite quickly realized I'd have to wear gloves while knotting them or face loosing the skin on my fingers! But at the end of it I have two very unique belts that make me happy!

Anyhow... It is now almost 5 am and I should check to see if my conclusion has written itself so I can go to bed!

Monday, 21 January 2008

Jiggedy Jig

While I was able to enjoy myself in between the mini-crisis that disrupted my Christmas holidays in Canada, it was good to get back to Japan and everything here. I had to hit the ground running as January is proving to be a busy month. I started off by writing a paper. It wasn't terribly long, only 14 pages including pictures, it was still a challenge to write, especially since my mind was still in English mode after my time in Canada! Then I had to write a mini-final exam. After that I was very excited to celebrate with my senpai (a Japanese term for somebody more senior to you, in this case a student above me) the handing-in of her MA thesis, and go away for a couple of days of soaking in a hot spring with my advisor and a group of students. We ate very well and soaked away our winter chills in the warm water and some very heated discussion.

Back in Tokyo I had plenty awaiting me. I worked a regular day at the museum, refiling old photographs. One of the things the curators are doing is upgrading the storage practices of many of the archival materials. This process has two steps: 1) creating new and improved document cards with a copy of and detailed information about the photograph; and 2) removing all of the photos from their previous somewhat questionable storage, and placing them in numbered specialized folders in archival boxes. After this relaxing day I then spent two much longer and more challenging days providing simultaneous translation for meetings with representatives from a museum in China and a museum in the United States. The three institutions are working on a collaborative exhibit to be held in the summer-fall of 2009 in all three countries. The actual process of providing translation to and from English was exhausting (and had my shoulders and stomach in knots) but being able to attend the meetings was incredible. I learned a lot about the process of planning a collaborative exhibit, and about differences in museum practices between countries, and a thousand other things that you just don't get in a classroom! While I have little confidence in my translation abilities, apparently those on both sides of my translating were satisfied enough to invite me to do the translating again at the next meetings in May. The best part, however, is that the next meetings are being hosted by the American institution, so that means an oversees business trip! The details are far from finalized, especially since as going will mean missing a week of classes right in the middle of term, but my advisor has agreed that going would be a very worthwhile experience and I am very excited! The director of the American museum is also a professor of museum studies and has offered to arrange for me to meet some of his students and learn about museum studies in the US. This, as well as special guided tours of museums in the area, are a unique opportunity to learn about my new field outside of Japan. yay! yay! yay!

One of the first projects I was involved with at the museum, over two years ago, was an exhibit that was about to open, the second half of a collaborative exhibit with a museum in the US. I was involved in a few steps of the project, and came to really like the American curator. I was, therefore, really excited to learn that she and the others I had met would be back again this month. They too were apparently excited to see that I was still there, and were even more happy to learn that I was no longer an English teacher, but was a student in museum studies. This got me to thinking about my time at the museum, can it really be nearly 2 1/2 years already? I thought back to the summer of 2005, when I was getting ready to head to Japan. I had a working-holiday visa and a friend had lined up an internship with a small museum in Tokyo. I was excited, but as my departure date drew nearer and nearer I became more and more nervous. What the heck did I think I was doing? How could I ever imagine that I would be able to fit in and work in a Japanese museum?! It was a crazy idea! I wanted to curl up in my bed under the covers and hide. I think I even did do that for a little while... What got me out from under the covers and onto the plane was the desire not to let anybody around me down. I arrived in Tokyo and was still terrified. I remember my first trip to the museum I was so nervous that I don't think I understood or took in one single thing anybody said to me! Luckily, however, that feeling passed. Now, no matter what else is going on, I leave the train station in the morning and start walking to the museum and a huge grin comes across my face. It isn't perfect - who/where is?! But on the whole the people I work with are great, there are always new and different things for me to do, and the best thing is the supportive atmosphere where even a strange foreigner like myself can follow her dreams!

Crashing Tree

I just realized that I did not take any photos of the tree on Boxing Day - with all the decorations and presents underneath (since I didn't get my bags until Christmas day I didn't wrap presents until late Christmas night, and we didn't get around to opening anything until the evening of Boxing Day). I do, however, have some amusing pictures of decorating the tree the first time, and then the aftermath of the crash... Enjoy...

We had to snip off the top of the tree so that the star would sit properly. And my father wonders where I got my ham-it-up-for-the-camera gene when I was a little girl!!!

Having almost finished decorating our tree, my father and I sat back, sipping our egg nog and admiring our work. We were trying to decide where to place the last few decorations when the tree leaned suddenly. I yelped and my dad jumped out of the chair. He was too slow, however, and I screamed as the tree crashed to the carpet and dad was left holding his hands out uselessly grabbing air. This was the scene once we had gotten the tree back standing up. Water from the stand, intact and shattered ornaments, and needles all over the carpet... Oh, and did I mention that my dad's vacuum cleaner is broken?!

Dad surveying the damage and attempting to mop up 4 litres of water with a towel. We later resorted to a hair dryer aimed at the carpet. Neither worked particularly well. Sigh...

Monday, 7 January 2008

Flights of Bad Luck

I figured I should wait until I had returned to Japan safely, with all of my bags returned to me before I posted this, just in case I jinxed myself with more bad luck. Many of you have heard parts of this tale, but I thought I should put it down here just the same...

I flew from Tokyo two weeks ago, with stops in San Francisco and Vancouver en route home to Prince George. San Fran was absolute madness with most flights delayed and absolutely nobody at the gates to help or answer questions. My flight to Vancouver was 3 hours delayed which meant that the nice long stopover that was supposed to give me enough time to have dinner with my relatives disappeared completely. I arrived but hadn't cleared customs when my PG flight, the last of the day, departed (on-time, for a change!). On the bright side, I still got my dinner (and breakfast too!) with my relatives in Vancouver and managed to get out standby on the first flight the next morning, December 23rd. Unfortunately my bags didn't make it to PG on the same flight, but I was assured that they would be put on a flight as soon as possible and delivered to the house. With the pre-Christmas rush and all the presents everybody was taking, however, the little planes were running up against a weight limit. Finally on Christmas Eve we got a call that one of my bags had arrived in PG. The man I spoke to said that while they didn't normally, they would be making a special late night run, delivering my bag (perhaps the other would be on the last flight of the night) in the early hours of the morning.

Christmas Eve dad and I had gotten our tree set up and almost fully decorated when it crashed - tipping over and sending needles and glass ball shards in a wide arc. We managed to get the tree back up and most of the mess cleaned up and dad went to bed at 3 am. I stayed up, hoping that my bags would be delivered. Remember at this point that I had no Christmas presents to put under the tree, and only whatever clean clothing I had left at my dad's. By 6:30 am I figured that my bags would not be delivered and went to bed. Dad was woken up at 7:30 by a phone call telling him that my bags had arrived and would shortly be delivered to the house. The lady calling had no clue that we had gotten calls the night beforehand, that we had been promised my bags the night beforehand, or that I had called and left a message at 6:30. My bags were delivered a couple of hours later and I got up at 10 to unpack them. When I unzipped my suitcase, however, I discovered that my clothes and presents were soaking wet. The bag likely sat out on the runway in Vancouver for the entire time and got rained on. Luckily nothing was irrevocably damaged, but I had to wait still longer for clean clothes!

Thus ended the first half of my journey. While the first half was undeniably the most harrowing, the second half was no cakewalk.

I flew back down to Vancouver on the 3rd and spent a few days with my relatives, returning to Tokyo on the 5th/6th via Seattle. Since the two flights were with different carriers while they could tag my bags all the way through, I could only check in for the first leg, and then check in at the gate in Seattle. My flight to Seattle was only an hour delayed, and I didn't have to leave the secure area at the SeaTac airport, but following some bad directions and my own stupidity I got on the wrong shuttle and ended up at the very opposite end of the airport and had to retrace my steps and take three separate shuttles to get to the gate, 30 minutes before departure. The overbooked flight was already taking volunteers to give up their seats but the harried and exceedingly rude gate crew got me on the flight. Having barely made the transfer myself I was not surprised to learn that my bags did not make it, having to wait a full day for the next flight to Tokyo. I had been planning on having my bags delivered as I did not want to have to lug them on and off the trains and bus I took to get back to the dorm, so having the airline deliver them was a cheaper alternative, but that still meant I had to wait nearly 48 hours to be reunited with my bags.

Thankfully, however, all of that is now behind me and I'm not planning an international flight for a good number of months yet! That isn't to say, of course, that I didn't have a good time in Canada, and that I wouldn't do it again in a heartbeat! But, as I settled into my middle seat in the crowded plane, I vowed to fly direct to Vancouver from now on!