Sunday, November 30, 2003

I've always said that Japanese children are very well behaved... and that I very rarely see whining, snivelling, screaming offspring. Well, now I know where they have been hiding... CostCo. Argh! Went out there today to pick up some things and it was a total madhouse. About halfway thru shopping I realized that I wasn't feeling well again, and that maybe I should have stayed in bed for another day. Oh well. Finally got home and feel much better now that there is peace and quiet.
Cooking up some chicken and writing my x-mas cards. Tomorrow I send home the money that will pay off my visa and I am debt free!!!!!!! Whehoo!!! For the first time in my life I will be debt free. I've had a balance on credit cards, loans and/or mortgage for the past 14 years. This is a fantastic feeling!

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Today I lazed around in bed all day and it was wonderful :) I got up to take my medicine and jumped on the net a couple of times but other than that my sick butt was resting. Reading, sleeping, watching some tv, sleeping, Play Station, sleeping. Great. I am starting to feel much better too. Sleep and good drugs :)

Friday, November 28, 2003

So I came down with a nasty throat infection last night :( Had to call in sick today - not happy about this - today and tomorrow's hours count for about 20% of my pay this month!! In other words, my pay just fell by 20% *sigh*
Went to the doctor this morning. Was at the point where I didn't want to get out of bed, but also knew that if I didn't get meds it would just get worse. Went to a clinic in Shibuya with an English speaking doctor. Why is it that EVERY ear-nose-throat doctor I have ever seen in Japan looks like he is 12 years old??!! This does not inspire trust on my part. And they like wear every instrument possible on their head - when was the last time you saw a doctor with: a mask, a miner's headlight, a mirror, and a stethoscope? He gave me a big stack of drugs though. Then he made me go sit at "the contraption".
For some reason all ENT offices have this ancient box that pumps a medicated steam. For some reason this box is about 3 feet wide, 3 feet tall and 6 feet long. Not quite sure what the stuff that is pumped out is exactly... or why it needs a machine that big to make it. You basically put your mouth around a tube and suck it in. Only the stuff tastes just foul. It is really aweful. I ended up having a coughing fit. I just couldn't do it. I would breathe in and then cough my lungs out. The nurses were laughing at me :(
Then there is the big issue about powder. Japanese people love medicine in powder form. I can't take it cuz I gag. Basically you throw it on the back of your tongue and swallow for that full taste sensation. Blech. So I always have to fight with the pharmacist. The powder is better sayeth they. Not if I throw it up everytime sayeth I. They eventually relent and give me pills.... while laughing at me.
I love being everyone's entertainment. Geesh.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Had a horrible thought this evening... during the world trip, I'll be without regular internet access for more than a year!!! I'm suffering withdrawal already!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

And the best Scotch is . . . Japanese, says Canada panel
Considering that Japanese versions of hard liquor are mostly crap, this surpises the heck out of me. Sake, shochu = good. Anything made by Suntory = hang over from hell.

Monday, November 24, 2003

New 7 Wonders - Project

Click this link and vote for what you think the new list should be!

Sunday, November 23, 2003

I'm very excited - there is a new grocery store that opened near my house (Food Express). It is clean and has nice displays and all the prices are put up on digital remote electronic tags. Very cool. I was surprised to find that it isn't that much more expensive than the other store in that area.
I hit the other store tonight because of it's "Renewal Open". That's Jap-lish for "Renovations Completed". It looks much better than before. More spacious, brighter and cleaner. Of course they have totally rearranged the layout and I have no idea where anything is anymore. That's rather irritating. But the bigger 100 yen store makes up for it :) :) :) Gotta love 100 yen stores.
Looks like the first imported strawberries are in too... which means I can add some to my oatmeal. Cinnamon was getting a tad boring. I love sliced strawberries in my oatmeal. Yummy yum yum!

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Finished reading Silk Road by Rail today. Ok, now I want to do the whole route. Esepcially after talking to a couple of my colleagues who have done the western China part. They said it was incredible. Decisions decisions. Now I'm in process of reading a book on the Trans-Siberian ... after that I will probably want to do a route from Beijing to Moscow on the silk route and then back to Beijing via Siberia *lol* By the time I finish reading all the travel books I'll want to go everywhere!

Friday, November 21, 2003

Today's rant - stupidity. Watching the news tonight and the big story is the danger of strollers on the trains. Now in Tokyo, there is a nice warning bell after which you have about 5 seconds to get onto the train. Despite the fact that many trains come once every three minutes, this bell is a signal to run like mad from halfway down the stairs to the platform and leap onto the train between the closing doors. Enter women with strollers. Bell rings. Mothers run, pushing stollers, rushing to get on the train. Doors close on strollers. Train pulls away taking baby with it. HELLOOOOOOO???????? I mean how stupid can you be. I certainly wouldn't risk having doors close on my child. Are these people brainless?

So, JR (the railway company) has done test and determined that the warning system that prevents the train from running doesn't work for strollers. It will stop the train only if something greater than 2 or 3 cm is caught in the doors. The frame of a stroller (the stroller gets caught with one wheel inside and the rest outside) is less than 2 cm in many cases. JR is now inserting hard rubber pieces into the lower portion of the door so that the sensors will detect something less than 2 or 3 cm. They have to alter like 8000 trains... all of which have 11 or more cars... which have 6 doors each.

I think it is great that JR is doing something to prevent this. Smacking these women upside the head might also be useful. Geesh.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

So I finished reading Lonely Planet's Guide to China.... all 1000+ pages of it. And have determined that China is a much vaster country than first imagined when the average train speed is like 25 km / hour. So the China part of the tour will have to be curtailed. Other than Beijing and Xian (terracotta warriors are there) and a few day trips on the side, I think we'll skip the western portion and just fly to Central Asia - it will cost the same as week or two of travel.
Next on the reading list is The Silk Road by Rail.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

For some reason all of Tokyo put up their x-mas decorations today. Not sure why Wednesday the 19th of all days was designated by everyone as *the* day. Possibly cuz it is now only 5 weeks to Christmas????

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

So as you could tell yesterday from the HUGE list of countries we wanted to visit, we needed to do some narrowing down. So, the question of the day is:
If you had 6 months to live an unlimited funds at your disposal, which 10 countries or places would you want to see before you die?
Now this is actually much harder than it seems! After really thinking about this I could only come up with 8! Hiroshi had the same problem! Here's our top 8...
Liz - Beijing, Tibet, Greece, Brazil, Italy, Tanzania/Kenya, Maldives, Morocco
Hiroshi - Azerbaijan, Barcelona, Chile, Morocco, Norway, Sweden, Turkey, Netherlands
I brougth home a brochure for Hiroshi on Maldives and now he really wants to go there too! So now we just have to see if the dots connect :)

Monday, November 17, 2003

So the big news of the day is.... Hiroshi and I are going to a world tour in 2005. We were thinking about working in Spain for a year (and may still do that) and the backup plan in case Hiroshi couldn't get a job (I can always teach English) was to just hang out in Spain for a couple months. Well, if we're going to do that, why not Italy... and Greece... and and and. So I thought, if we saved like mad for the next year, we could do a 9 month tour of the world... and still have a fair chunk of relocation money (money to reestablish ourselves somewhere - Spain or Canada). Anyway, I am incredibly excited about this. I will be able to see all of the places I've always wanted to! I won't be able to do a 6 month African safari which was my dream tour, but it is pretty impossible now anyway because of all the darn civil unrest there.

Anyway, here is the RTW (Round the World) destinations list. Right now we are just in the process of getting our wish list out - thinking about where we want to go. We'll cull this according to time, budget and safety (e.g. Middle East?).
Asia: Korea (Seoul), Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam (Hanoi, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh by train), Malaysia (Kuala Lumper, Brunei), China (Beijing, Xian, Shanghai), Mongolia, Tibet, Nepal, India (Agra, New Delhi, Bangalore, Kochi), Sri Lanka, Maldives
Australia and Pacific: Australia (Cairns, Sydney, Melbourne, Tasmania), New Zealand (Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland), New Caledonia, Fiji, Tahiti
Middle East: United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan (do the Stans on the Silk Road by rail)
Africa: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco
South America: Brazil (Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo), Argentina (Buenos Aires), Chile (Tiera del Feugo, Santiago, northern area), Peru (Lima, Cuzco)
North America: Mexico (Yucatan), Cuba - other cities can be done later in life
Europe: Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg), Finalnd, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, Czech, (Prague), Spain (1-2 months), Italy (1 month), Greece (Athens, Corfu), Turkey

Did we miss anything? LOL If you've ever been to these places give us a review or a must see list! If you think of a place that would be good to add to the wish list, drop a comment for that too!

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Went to see the Matrix tonight with Hiroshi for date night. Now, I knew it wouldn't have a plot - I mean, it is part 3. Part 3 of any movie sucks. Well, with the exception of Star Wars maybe, and technically that is part 6. I was expecting cool special effects and I was quite happy... especially cuz we saw it on an IMAX screen! Very, very, very cool. Wish I had of seen the other ones on IMAX too. Not 3D, but the size just adds so much more to it!
Mainichi Interactive - Top News

Ok, now if this isn't the height of stupidity. There are enough real accidents - suicides and deaths of people who fall on the tracks or are assisting others who have fallen on the tracks. How many missing brain cells do you have if you lie down on the tracks as a joke. These people should be charged with idiocy. Honestly.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Watched 7 Samurai tonight. I had forgotten what a great movie that is. It is also a lot more meaningful now that I have lived in Japan for ages. Actually, I could even understand some of it in the Japanese. The whining snivelling women were a bit much I admit (how irritating) but the 7 samurai characters are great. If you haven't seen this movie, check it out! Akira Kurosawa directs.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Oh, I forgot to mention the very cool earthquake yesterday night - 6.4 on the Richter, and 4 on the Japanese scale. I like them there.... just enough to shake things up a bit, but not enough to make you freak out. There can be as many of those as the earth wants. The more of them there are, the less likely the big one will hit in catastrophic magnitude and bury me under 10 feet of rubble. At least, that's my theory ;)

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Ugh, I'm getting the flu :( I taught one class this morning and then came home to bed... and slept all day! Hopefully that will kick it out of my system. I have only been to the gym once this week, and my eating has been crappy. I'd like to say I'm half on track, but honestly, I can't. Comfort foods. I did manage to ignore Hiroshi who was talking about ordering in pizza and other bad for me foods. Anyway, off to bed now.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Had a good day diet wise - I ate only authorized food and I went to the gym! Today was abs and low cardio. I know, I took the easy route. But it was a start! Tomorrow is HIIT and chest/back. Meals for today:
1. apple and c/c
2. tandoori chicken on mixed greens with yogurt/basil dressing and oatmeal
3. banana protein pancakes
4. raspberry almond protein pancakes
5. eggs, julienned potato ("fried" in a t-fal), daikon (Japanese radish)
Not all six meals but I got in all my cals and scored 89.75% on PFA. Its the darn sugars in the fruit! And I need to get more fiber.... think I need to get some metamucil!
It's sooooooo cold today :-( I'm not happy. I had to get my winter coat out. That bites. I'm freezing my butt of in my apartment too - think we need to get out the gas heater. *sigh* Winter is coming.
Hiroshi is trying to grow a beard. He's moving from scraggly bum look towards the artiste look. Figure nows a great time to see what he looks like with one. Kinda cute, but I like that clean shaven look and feel :)

Sunday, November 09, 2003

I taught Hiroshi how to make pancakes this morning. Donnie brought maple syrup and pancake mix, so we had that for breakie. This was a big cooking achievement for Hiroshi... he can now measure out one cup of mix, add in 3/4 cup of water, mix it together and then cook it. He needs remedial flipping practice though. I swear, he's helpless.
Went to Outback Steakhouse for dinner. I LOVE their baked potatoes! Yummy! We just split the steak and ask for an extra potato and it works out great. That was our date night - nothing is playing at the theater. Well Matrix Revolutions, but it is premium seating only, and I'm not paying 30 bucks each for tickets. We'll wait until it moves to the normal theaters there.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Today was a long day at work... too many hours. Came home and just zonked. Yosuke (Hiroshi's friend) came over around 11 pm for an hour. Other than that, nothing is new.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

I'm so tired. I've been sleeping so much lately. Don't know if I'm trying to fight off the flu or making up for lost sleep last week. My joints are all achey though, so it leads me to believe I'm fighting off getting sick.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Haven't put the futons away from mom and Donnie's visit yet. We've been sleeping in them! There is so much more room having a single futon each than sharing the double futon. The comforters are really poofy too! We like the futon itself better though... but it is so nice to have so much space!

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Mom and Donnie left today. Had a really nice visit and it was great to have visitors. Now I have to go back to work - blech!

Monday, November 03, 2003

Today was raining which isn't so great for sight-seeing; however, it does mean that there were fewer people. We went to Kamakura to see the Great Budda and Hase Dera temple. Personally I like Daibutsu (Great Budda) - I find it very peaceful. Mom and Donnie were expecting him to be bigger though. Hiroshi went up inside him and was upset because "he's heartless". Daibutsu is 750 years old. The statue has been exposed to the elements for 500 years - it is in surprisingly good condition. It used to be in a temple but a tsunami came and washed the temple away (must have been a huge tsunami). Budda however stayed.
Then we went to Hase Dera temple. It is really nice. There is a nice garden at the entrance and then quite a few temples. One of the first things you see when you walk up to the temple area is Jizou. These are small statues that represent babies lost through miscarriage of abortion. It is actually quite sad because there are hundreds of them. Women come and dress them so they stay warm.
When we got to the main temple area, mom was all excited because there was a cemetary. There are several temples there. We rubbed the statue of Daikokuten who is the god of fortune. Mom lit candles in front of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. The statue is said to be 1200 years old. Then we walked around the sutra ... basically you push on a wooden post sticking out of the library which is circular and centered on a pole. Hard to describe. Anyway, walking once around is supposed to impart all of the knowledge of reading the sutras themselves. Then we went to the little restaurant and had tea to warm up. And took pictures of the ocean before leaving. At that point we were really tired, so got back on the train to go home.
For dinner we had katsu, or pork cutlet. Very filling. Then we came home and relaxed and mom and Donnie packed all of their stuff. It fit! Not sure how mom got her bamboo hat into her suitcase, but it worked!

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Today was a beautiful day. It was designated as shopping day. We bummed around a bit in the morning and didn't get going until almost noon. We went to Shibuya to go to the 100 yen store. When we got there Prime Minister Koizumi was speaking just outside the station (elections are on the 9th). That was kinda cool. I think mom and Donnie were worried about an assassination attempt or something... there wasn't much security. One of them said that it was amazing that in a country of how many billion people that they saw the Prime Minister... and yet in Canada you never do.
Shibuya was surprisingly quiet. I thought it would be packed. We wandered up to the 100 yen store (like the dollar store) only to find that it is closed!!!!!!!! I can't believe it!! That 100 yen store was awesome. *sigh* So we headed out to Harajuku and soon figured out why Shibuya was so quiet - everyone had gone to Harajuku instead!
At first we wandered thru Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine). It was a perfect time to go. November is shichi-go-san (7-5-3). Basically 3 and 7 year old girls and 5 year old boys get dressed up in traditional clothing and go to shrine. They are absolutely adorable! We saw lots of cute kids and a wedding - got some pics of the traditional wedding clothing.
After wandering thru the shrine grounds we went shopping. We went to Oriental Bazaar which is a huge souvenir shop. Mom and Donnie went to task and bought a ton of stuff. The store is great - it has pretty much everything. The only thing we couldn't find was playing cards. I couldn't believe it. There were some, but $13 is a bit steep.
After we finished shopping we went back to my station and met up with Hiroshi (he had another day without English) and went to Gyu-Kaku which is a Korean bar-b-q restaurant. We ate so much! We were stuffed. We had a lovely spinach salad with sesame dressing, a ton of meat, some scallops, and veggies. Then we waddled home.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Woke up to a beautiful view out the window of our room - the window perfectly framed the leaves outside. Will be posting the pics of this in my photoblog eventually. We went down to breakfast and had more yummy food. Tomoko was our server again. We had fish that we grilled on a little hibachi. Standard salad, rice and miso (Japanese eat salad for breakfast). There was also a mochi soup (mochi is rice that is pounded into a dough) which was really good, and a box of stuff. There were 6 dishes in the box - tofu, tororo which is ground mountain potato ( hate this stuff cuz it looks like sperm), root veggies (lotus, mountain potato, bamboo root etc), black seaweed, and two things that I forget! *lol*
After breakfast we headed down to the onsen again. The 24 hour room had a plain bath with windows looking out at the trees, a cold bath, a sauna and another rotemburo (outside bath)! We went outside and relaxed. It feels a bit more riske in broad daylight.
Then we checked out. We were supposed to checkout at 10, but I thought it was 11, so we were a bit late. Ooops! Guess that explains why people were trying to clean the baths. We got the bus outside of the hotel and had a very twisty ride back to Kinugawa Onsen. The views were beautiful again, but I couldn't get any pics cuz it was hard enough just staying in the seat!
We arrived about 15 minute before the train left for Tokyo which was great. Just enough time to go to the washroom and line up to grab a seat. We took the cheap train back to Tokyo. A pair of girls were nice enough to change seats so that the four of us could sit together.
Once we were back in Tokyo we gave Hiroshi our bags and he went home for an English break. We wandered around Asakusa. There were tons of people there! Mom was in shopping mode -she went into every bag store possible. We tried some Japanese treats. Found some an (sweet bean paste) things that mom and Donnie liked. They were freshly made and still hot. After wandering around the temples and stores for a while, we went to Starbucks and had a coffee and a rest.
Then we went to meet some of my students. We were having a reunion from a seminar I taught back in September. We went out to the Farm Grill which is a buffet restaurant (western food) with all-you-can-drink. My students were rather shy and quiet at first, but after they had a drink they started gabbing. They were fascinated with Donnie's farm. As Japanese they are very softspoken and mom was having a hard time hearing them. I told the person beside me that she couldn't hear cuz she was old, only mom heard and she threw a shrimp shell at me!! (No mom, I'm not going to let you live that down)
After dinner we went to karaoke. Two of my students had had t-shirts made welcoming mom and Donnie. That was really nice. They also gave them silk bags as a gift. Mom and Donnie didn't sing, but we all had a lot of fun. And we didn't make it an all-nighter... we were home in bed by midnight :)