Saturday, 26 June 2010

Check your knees!

The past two weekends I've helped out with various conferences and haven't had much time to relax or spend time with U. So the other night I went out to visit him (he lives just under an hour out of Tokyo). This makes my morning commute to work longer but actually easier as it has less transfers and if I get to the station with enough time to spare I can sit the entire way.

While many people sleep, the other day I got nearly an hour of work done on my current knitting project, an almost-finished colourful interlac shawl. The woman beside me was equally industrious – spending the entire time doing her make-up. For somebody who has a make-up routine that can be done in about 5 minutes, the length of the process unfolding beside me was boggling. She spent the first at least 20 minutes doing basework – putting various cremes and lotions onto her face. I lost count of just how many, and how many little bottles she used. While I’m fairly sure she didn’t have a rather large shawl-in-process taking up most of her purse, I’m still not sure how she managed to get everything into her purse. I think it was some sort of black hole or clown car for all the small pouches she kept on bringing out! Having finished the foundation of her face she went on to spend 5 minutes admiring her face in the mirror while smoothing and patting and twirling her hair with her fingers. Then came time for her to address her eyes – the eyelashes got crimped and curled before liner and colour were added. This was followed by another 5 minutes of mirror gazing and hair-patting.

She had just pulled out another little pouch and was about to start on the next step when my stop came, so I didn’t get to see the finished product. As I got off and dodged other passengers, however, I couldn’t help but think to myself that no matter how much attention and time she spent on her face, the overall affect would be ruined by the fact that she hadn't bothered to spend even a minute to check her outfit when she put it on in the morning. There was a glaringly large run in her stocking right at her knee...

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Thursday already?!

Seriously, its Thursday already? wow. Its been a busy week for me. After attending a Girl Scout meeting most of Saturday and helping out with a museum studies conference all day Sunday, my work week started again and I worked a regular Monday and Tuesday, before meeting my advisor and the first international guest for his upcoming international symposium for a dinner meeting on Tuesday and then playing tour guide allllll day on Wednesday. Today I was back at the museum again and tomorrow I am tour guiding again before the symposium starts and I spend the entire weekend with that.

So this Thursday, while I'm loving being helpful and useful (my advisor and all the guests have been very appreciative to have a native English speaker/translator/local guide) I'm tired and looking forward to having a couple of days off - next weekend, when U has promised me a soak in an onsen (after I go car shopping with him - his old car started making worrying noises and will cost way more than it is worth to fix).

So plenty to look forward to!

Oh, and one more thing I'm loving this Thursday - dish soap! It turns out that pouring dish soap on a cockroach found in your sink will work just as well to immobilize and kill it as the leading roach-be-dead spray, with a lot less nasty chemicals all over your sink and dirty dishes!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

WordFUL Wednesday

A number of times over the past few weeks I've wanted to take pictures of a certain scene but for one reason or another I didn't or couldn't. So my descriptions will have to do instead. I know a picture is worth a thousand words, but does that mean I have to write a thousand words to equal a picture?


One morning I left for work in the rain. I was cursing my choice of footwear as I could tell my feet would be soaked by the time I got to work. Across the street I could see a woman much better prepared for the weather - rainboots, waterproof pants, raincoat (with the hood pulled tight and only half of her face showing), large umbrella (a little overkill given her full-body getup), and hose...

Wait a second! HOSE?! whaa?!

It was pouring rain, this lady was all decked out in rain gear and yet she appeared to be randomly washing the sidewalk.

I didn't know whethei to worry that she might be cleaning up some toxic substance or be annoyed at her pointless waste of water!


Taking the train home after work I often find myself standing at the doors, looking through the glass at the city as it speeds by. Sort of like the movie 'Shall We Dance?' (I pass a dance studio too)

The otherday I saw a little old lady immaculately dressed in a kimono - sitting by herself in McDonalds.


Saturday, 12 June 2010

No Ear-Whigs, but a whole lot of Lib-Ears

Another prime minister has stepped down in Japan, something like the 6th in 5 years?? His replacement, Kan, is gathering a fair bit of news attention. One day last week the lunch-time news was all about the new first lady. She seems to be a politically savvy and smart woman, deeply involved with her husband’s political career and a great improvement over her predecessor (although since Mrs. Hatoyama had no qualms telling international media she believed she had been abducted by aliens, there wasn’t much room for going anywhere but up!). Then another day was about Kan and his new cabinet. Since the actual announcement had come the previous day the lunch hour “news” program had to come up with a new angle to the story and brought in a panel of “talents” and a specialist. The talents were the usual mix of ditzy and serious but their specialist stole the show.

A popular political pundit? Nope.

A serious scholar? Nope.

A n eccentric ex-politician? Nope.

An ear-reader. Yup.

Hold on.... a wha??

Yeah... they had an ear-reader, like a palm-reader, only of ears. Their shape, the size and thickness of the lobe, any bumps or bulges, you name it, she gave it meaning.

There are apparently a dozen or so set ear shapes such as “inverted moon” and “diamond” and “half-moon” and the most common with 60% of the Japanese population having “triangle” ears.

Ex-prime minister Hatoyama’s ears apparently show him to be unable to accept responsibility for his actions, and the little bulge at the end of his very small lobes (denoting a lack of intelligence) means that he holds on tightly to money and uses it very selfishly on himself. Apparently overall his ears are well suited to a comedian. In contrast new prime minister Kan has much more promising ears, heralding better times ahead for Japan.

The ear shapes of the entire cabinet were unveiled, as were the shape of the ears of the half a dozen talents on the program’s panel. As usual one guy was completely blasted – he’s a lawyer and talent, but his ears apparently show him to be completely unreliable and always telling lies. The poor guy shakes his head and looks embarrassed while the rest of the panel laugh and tease. Then the woman sitting next to the lawyer is told that her ears show she has a big heart and is generous and kind. She clutches the flounce on her dress above her heart in rapture and gives what she thinks is a *generous* smile as the panel again laugh and tease.


With news programs like these, is it any wonder that I tend to get my daily news fix with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation podcasts?!

(although I will admit to spending an embarrassing amount of time in the bathroom contorting in front of the mirror after lunch trying to figure out what shape my ears are and what that means about me)

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Quickie TILT

This week has been busy, I'm busy all weekend and next week and weekend too, so this is going to be a short Things I love Thursday list... here goes...

- ONSEN! I spent last weekend with my advisor, a group of school friends, and U at my advisor's weekend place in the onsen town of Ito. The building where my advisor has his apartment used to be partly a hotel, and has great big baths in the basement. No outdoor baths or anything terribly impressive, just good hot onsen - BLISS!

- friends - I hadn't seen most of this group of friends since I graduated. Most of them have already graduated and gone on to other things, so it was great to have everybody back together again (one girl came from Hiroshima!) and to be able to relax and have fun (without one of us having the pressure of a thesis to write hanging over our heads). U has met a couple of the girls in the group before, but it was his first time meeting my advisor and a few others. Since the rest of us are girls he got to share a room with my advisor. Despite all that, however, U had a great time and in the car on the way home told me how lucky I am to have such a great group of friends and an advisor - and how happy he was to have joined us.

- sashimi - when we weren't soaking in the onsen we were eating (and drinking...). Ito being on the coast has good seafood - really good seafood. Dinner on Saturday and lunch the next day were both amazing fresh sashimi and absolutely delicious.

- unexpected kindnesses - on the way home U and I stopped at a smallish temple we wanted to check out and got chatting with the wife of the priest as he stamped our books for us. She was so impressed that "young people" were visiting the temple that she brought out tea and sweets for us and chatted with us. I'm sure she was equally impressed that a foreigner was there, chatting with her in Japanese, but she never let on and didn't treat me any differently at all. It didn't even occur to me until afterwards, but when I realized I was very impressed. She made us both feel perfectly comfortable and we came away feeling as rested spiritually as we did physically after the onsen.

Monday, 7 June 2010

the Value of a Passport

EDIT: Apparently my problem is that I can't understand the Canadian Enbassy website as the 4700 yen is only if you need them to sign your form - which they can do when you walk in to hand in the forms, no appointment neccessary. Sigh! Well at least I saved 4700 yen, right? And when its ready they'll mail it to me, so all I have to do is take it to Immigration and my ward office! Yay!


I'm a proud Canadian (born and raised, and although I'm also proud of the dual British citizenship I inherited from my mum I've never really thought of myself as anything but - and I'll save for another time my worries for what that means about any kids I might have in Japan)

Anyways, proud Canadian that I am I've recently been questioning the value of a Canadian passport - not its moral or symbolic worth, but its actual monetary worth. Don't worry, I'm not about to try and sell mine on the black market - not that it would get me much as it expires in mid-July.

That's the problem, I need a new passport and renewing my Canadian passport has proved MUCH more expensive than I had expected.

- passport fee 9300 yen- photographs (the extra-spiffy-with-all-the-bells-and-whistles-including-cd set so I could get the required full white backdrop not offered anywhere else) 3000 yen
- guarantor proxy form (since I don't know any doctors or lawyers or mayors in Japan) 4700 yen
- notarization of the proxy form (on the mistaken assumption that it'd be cheaper and easier than taking the day of to have it done at the embassy - it was most definitely NEITHER!) 11500 yen
- morning off work to submit the forms in person 3600 yen
- day off work to pick up my new passport, take it to immigration to transfer my visa and get a reentry permit, and update my info at the ward office 10800 yen
plus about 3000 yen for all the train fares to get me everywhere and home again

Although to be fair I should minus the 800 yen I would have spent on lunch but for the notary's need to check everything three times and the fact I was already 10 minutes over my lunch hour.

Just for comparison - renewing my British passport was a breeze (walked in the office, took 700 yen photos at the machine, filled out what I could on the form, gave them my old passport, and paid my fee. Oh, and the real kicker? My British passport is good for 10 years but I'll have to go through all the fun for my Canadian passport in just 5 years! (I've put the word out I'm looking for official friends, one of the guys at work has promised to take me drinking with a bunch of lawyers he knows, and my sempai has agreed to go for coffee with me and her high school friend who became a dentist, so hopefully I'll have plenty of people to sign my form 5 years from now.)

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Lists - and a TILT list too...

I’m a list maker. I make lists regularly and religiously. Shopping lists, to do lists, just about any kind of list. It helps me remember what I need to do for the short term and long term. Often times just writing it down is all I need to do, but I love the feeling of crossing things off my list and the satisfaction of having accomplished something.

So recently as I’ve been reading different blogs and seeing people’s “101 things in 1001 days” lists I figured that sounded like the perfect thing for me. I started the other day, jotting down a few things I wanted to do, and the more I thought about it the more things I started to add.

Then two things happened.

Number 1 – I realized that my list seemed pretty familiar to me. I took a look at the long-term to do list I have and realized why – the two were almost exactly the same. The only thing different was that my long-term goals list does not have a deadline.


Number 2 – I had a conversation with one of my bosses at work. She’s an amazing woman and has been incredibly supportive of me since I started at the museum. She values my skills highly and is very honest and frank with me, something I appreciate deeply. In our conversation she asked me point blank what I want to do and then started poking holes in my response – holes that I already knew were there but was ignoring for various reasons. She didn’t leave it at that, however, as she had an alternate idea, a different path to lead to where I had said I want to go. Her suggestion was one I had long dismissed, but the more we talked about it and the more I thought about it the more sense it made. It is much more likely to lead me to where I want to be, is just as interesting and challenging and rewarding – if not more. It really should have occurred to me sooner, but it didn’t and her suggesting it – and more importantly my realization/reaction to it completely and utterly threw me for a loop. I felt like I had been walking down a path in an underground tunnel, with my eyes ahead on what appeared to be the goal when suddenly a light came on out of nowhere and there was another tunnel that I hadn’t realized was there, but was less damp and narrow and dark…

I’m still only just wrapping my head around the new idea and what that would mean for the next few years of my life, but it made me realize that planning two plus years ahead isn’t necessarily something that makes sense for me right now. Since I already have a long-term to do list I don’t see why giving myself the pressure of a limited (if long) time frame to complete it in. Instead I’m going to regularly reevaluate my long term goals, making sure that I am chipping away at them while also adding or subtracting things as seems fit.

After all I am very very happy with where I am right now, but I couldn’t have imagined it 4 years ago as I was putting together the paperwork for my scholarship application, or 5 years ago as my year in India was ending!

Oh, and as for another list – here’s a few things I’m loving this Thursday:

- U – okay okay okay, so that’s a given I suppose, but he’s been amazing recently. He listened to my (likely rather incoherent) recounting of my conversation with my boss, and was immediately supportive of the idea, just as he had been of the idea it had replaced. He was quick to point out the benefits he saw and allay the fears that I had. He is incredibly supportive of me and my dreams, pushing me even more than I do myself.

- uneventful commuting – I am SO going to jinx myself with this, but after accidents/weather delays/etc screwed up my commute multiple days every week for a few weeks, and I wrote a post complaining about it, I’ve had a good couple of weeks of problem-free commutes. Sure, I still have to get pretty friendly with the other commuters, but I have have had room to breath and no elbows digging into me – all very good things!

- summer food – last week a co-worker and I went for hiyashi chuka (chilled Chinese noodles – chilled yellow ramen noodles topped with julienned omelet, cucumber, mushroom, pork, and a few other toppings with either a soy sauce or sesame based dressing poured over top. While I’m not really a big ramen fan, I’ve surprised myself with my love of hiyashi chuka (I think its all the “stuff” on top) and it is a great summer meal! I’ve also made myself a few salads for dinner recently and love playing around with ingredients – cheese and Caesar dressing or dried cranberries and cashews with balsamic vinaigrette or calamari with a spicy dressing or tofu and sesame dressing or caramelized purple onions and pine nuts or... By mixing up the dressings and toppings I can stick with the same leaves (leaf lettuce or romaine or spinach or…) and basic veggies for a couple nights and finish them up without feeling that I’ve eaten the same thing three nights in a row!