Friday, 29 February 2008


The translation is done.

Well, perhaps not completely, but near enough, and I am having a bit of trouble readjusting to PT (post-translation) life. Perhaps, however, that is just the exhaustion speaking. I woke up Wednesday morning and went out to the museum to finish up the translations of the last two galleries. 38 hours later I napped a bit on the train on my way home. Yes, 38 hours later. Plenty of coffee got one gallery done and about half of the remaining gallery. At that point, however, coffee and Japanese energy drinks ceased to affect me. My body demanded sleep and food. Those who have seen me bouncing and barely able to sit still after a simple caffeinated beverage will understand just how I exhausted had to have been at that point! I napped on the multiple trains home and got some food into my stomach. Once I got home I managed nearly 2 hours in bed before I got up again to do a final edit. Good thing it was a final too, because no sooner had I sent it off than it was taken to the recording studio! I collapsed into bed and spent the next six hours sleeping fitfully, repeatedly waking up in a cold sweat gripped with fear and stress, convinced I had more corrections and editing to do and had forgotten which part I was supposed to be reading. Apparently my sleeping self is having trouble letting go. Sigh. I may get to reassure my unconscious by doing a little more touch-up editing and a few style changes over the weekend in preparation for the last bit of recording on Monday. But then I really will have to step back and let my baby go out into the world on its own.

(You can bet I'll be at the museum an hour before it opens the day the new audio guide is up and running, I can't wait to hear what it sounds like!)

I did get a report on how the day at the recording studio went. There were worries at the stat that the foreigner doing the recordings would have trouble with pronunciating Japanese terms or names, but there seems to be no problems there thankfully. As far as the text itself... Well, I'm sure it will come as no surprise to most of you that while the perfectionist in me critiques my own work pretty severely, I absolutely hate to have those faults (personally recognized or not) commented on by others and have issues with responding to said criticisms. Sigh. It is something I am trying to work on... So anyways, opinion on the text... Some of the text is too long for audio guide sound bites. This is about content, not style, and since this is a translation from a Japanese original, I am off the hook for that one. phew. Unfortunately, however, (brace yourselves, I know I did) there is a style problem. Apparently the native English speaker hired to do the English recordings, an expert with 19 years of recording and related experience, was stumped by some of my text. She had to whip out a dictionary to check a few words. Along the way I was teased by a non-native English speaker for using "big words," but I didn't take the criticism seriously, feeling confident that I was using language that was understandable but suitable to a museum setting. Apparently not. Out comes the thesaurus and thus begins a search for simpler words. I suppose I can take that type of criticism! I blame it on having academic parents and an ivy league degree! Besides that issue, however, apparently all involved were very impressed and satisfied with the quality of the work. I'm glad. My baby is out there in the world and, while not perfect, is at least proving to be acceptable.

Now comes the question of what next?! This translation has taken a lot of time and effort. Over the last month in particular, with any non-translation activity (including sleep) only happening on a very limited and restricted basis. Now that my baby is out in the world I'm left trying to remember the busy variety that usually fills my days. Once I've caught up on my sleep a bit, however, I'm going to have to get back up to speed again pretty quickly. I'm working tomorrow, Brownies on Sunday, and my cousin arrives for his first trip to Japan on Monday. And I really must do something about the dust creatures threatening to take over my room, my bangs that have been hanging in my eyes for weeks and now have curl from where they hit my glasses, oh and a little matter about an essay 5 weeks overdue... Somehow I don't think I'm going to have any problem moving on!

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Scaves Free to Good Homes

I've been bitten by the knitting bug in a big way, see?

I went to a yarn store and...

Umm... yeah...

I have been productive, I've completed three projects... knitted scarves just in time for spring!


This was my first knitting project in 15 years. I ran out of yarn so bought some in a contrasting colour and improvised a crocheted border. Having a whole bunch of yarn left over, I decided to make a matching toque!

I think it looks much better on the recipient

Isn't she beeeeee-utiful?!


This was made from yarn I bought at the dollar store! (I later found the exact same yarn for sale at the yarn store in bigger and more expensive balls)

It made its way to Montreal, but was apparently rather homesick for the warmer climates of Japan...

At last report, however, the scarf and toque had been promised a trip to see the Grand Canyon and were settling in well.



A few years ago I bought a scarf that I absolutely love. Recently, however, I've been getting annoyed by its length. I unravelled a couple dozen rows and and redid the fringe. It is now the perfect length and I used the left over yarn to make myself a matching toque!

Um, so taking pictures of yourself in the mirror is harder than it seems!

I have three projects currently on needles - a cable scarf, a semi-lace scarf, and a beautiful self-striping Noro scarf. No photos yet, I don't want to spoil the surprise for the recipients (who may or may not be reading this). The first two have challenged me to go beyond basic knitting just a little, and I am enjoying the challenge, but I think I will stay with scarves for a little while yet. After all, I am sure there are more of you who would provide a good home for a hand-knit scarf, right?

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Blasts from the Past

I came across a number of mass emails I sent out to friends and family back when I was in Japan the first time and have uploaded selections. They are uploaded under their original dates (1998-1999). Stay tuned for selections from later trips to Japan as well as from my time in India.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Lessons from a Translation

Top ten things I’ve learnt while working on a rather long (and still ongoing) museum translation contract:

10) No amount of lemon zinger tea is too much when you have an electric water pot and a cold.

9) No matter what hours I keep there are always two other people cooking in the kitchen when I want to use an element, somebody leaving their room just as I’m going to bed, and never anybody in the shower room at the same time as me.

8) I enjoy (and miss) cooking but am disgusted by the kitchen I share with 35 other individuals.

7) Getting out of my room once a day is a good thing!

6) My room has a beautiful view of the sunrise. (This surprises and delights me but I am still unlikely to see it unless I have yet to go to bed!)

5) Knitting is calming - but only when you don't make mistakes and have to rip back half the project!

4) Late night messenger chats with friends in Canada are sanity savers!

3) Online translation programs are useless but Wikipedia and online dictionaries are lifesavers.

2) Japanese history is really tough to explain in English!

and, the number one thing I've (re)learned is:

1) Despite the long hours, deadlines that loom impossibly, and the stress that goes with all of that, I absolutely love working in museums!

Sunday, 3 February 2008


February 3 in Japan is Setsubun. While the word setsubun literally means "seasonal division," it normally refers to the divide between winter and spring, according to the lunar calendar. Traditionally this would have been the new year, and so the celebration of Setsubun is related to chasing away the evils of the previous year and inviting in good for the year to come. A sort of spiritual spring cleaning. The evils are physical evil spirits, represented as red-skinned horned devils.

The human defense against these evil spirits?

Soy beans! This time of year they are sold in sets, often with masks so that people can pretend to be the evil spirit (being scared out of the house) and the good spirit (being welcomed in).

Thus properly attired, people will throw the beans around the house and out of windows and doors. As they throw they recite "oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi," which means "devils go out, good luck come in!"

Then each person is supposed to eat the number of beans (not ones that have been thrown about the house) that corresponds to their age.

My Japanese friends are always surprised when I tell them that I too throw beans about my apartment and eat the requisite number. They find my following Japanese traditions amusing, but I figure I can use all the good luck I can get! Although I must admit to throwing my beans strategically - one year I got a little carried away and was still finding beans under the bed and in hidden corners for months!

For those of you who aren't in Japan but want to participate anyways, try your hand at this online game!

Friday, 1 February 2008

To Eat or Not to Eat

I've never thought of myself as a picky eater. When I was a little kid my family travelled a fair amount and I was raised to try new things. My elder cousins have often told me that they used to dread their little cousin Sarah coming for a visit because that was when their mother would force them to eat all the icky green vegetables I was downing. I remember another family member, who will remain nameless for their protection, dunking each of their noodles into a glass of water to wash off the "green stuff" before they would eat the "plain pasta" ordered at a nice Italian restaurant. As a Brownie leader I've spent hours planning and re-planning meals with multiple options so that no parents could complain we had starved their child (aka the girl who turned her nose up at every single item we placed in front of her) at camp.

I won't eat anything and everything - for example I couldn't bring myself to try the Philippino delicacy of balut when I was there. (Balut is duck eggs with half-grown embryos inside, that have been partially cooked. When you slurp one down you get half-grown feathers, beak, etc...) But I don't turn my nose up at many average meals. Sure, I don't eat tomatoes, but that doesn't count as it isn't about not liking them but about what eating them does to my digestive system! I don't like pineapple, almond paste, coconut, raisins and sea urchin sushi. Not a bad list, right? A strange one, I'll admit, but not overly long, right?

Well, my first overnight with my new Brownie troop in Tokyo last summer was the first indication that maybe I wasn't so far away from being a picky eater. The menu for dinner? Curry rice (with tomatoes in the curry stock), with annin tofu for desert. I had been warned ahead of time about the curry, so had brought myself some soup. But the desert... an almond paste flavoured desert topped with fruit, in this case pineapple. Ugh. I ate it, but UGH!!! For breakfast? Raisin buns. I am not kidding. At this point I figured that the universe was making fun of me, trying to fit as many of my food dislikes into an 18 hour time period as possible. When annin tofu came up again as desert for a more recent Brownie event (this time I manage to avoid both the pineapple and the extra almond paste sauce, making the desert almost edible!), I began thinking about my apparent pickiness.

It occurred to me that it wasn't so much that I was picky, but that nobody else was. I realized that not once at any of the events I've eaten at with my Brownies has any of them refused to eat something. When we made the rice balls last week, a couple of the girls wrinkled their noses at the idea of cheese in a rice ball. But once they were made the girls all tried them and pronounced them delicious. This is likely due in some measure to the fact that elementary students in Japan eat a school-provided lunch every day, not a cafeteria lunch where they choose their food, but a set (and balanced) meal. Every day a few students from each class will dress up in a white apron jacket and hat and collect the food from a central location (schools in the bigger cities will have their food delivered by a service, but in more remote locations the food is made on the premises). The same students will then serve the food into equal portions for the number of students in the class. Not eating something is not an option. Does this simply force Japanese children not to be picky eaters, meaning that they will clean their plates without complaint whether they actually like what they are eating or not?

I have heard a number of Japanese friends say "when I was a child I didn't have likes and dislikes, but now I don't like..." Is this just that they are finally admiting that there are foods they like and don't like, and choosing to not eat them? I would have said the opposite about myself, I think that (with the exception of raisins, which I apparently used to like) I have come to dislike fewer foods as I have gotten older.

Oh, and yes, I am procrastinating from more translations! Sigh...