Wednesday, December 31, 2003

So it is the last day of the year which makes me think 'what did I accomplish this year'? And the sad revelation is not much. Well, I did finally pay off all my debt (and ended the year with US$700 in my RTW account) which I am very proud of. Wow, I actually have savings! Not much but it is definitely better than that old 'please pay x by this date'. This year marked a full year (Sept 2002) since Hiroshi and I quit smoking, and we don't ever plan to start again! On a negative note I managed to re-gain all the weight I had lost in 2002. That is obviously not a proud accomplishment. I think Hiroshi gained 2 kg this year... which he can well afford to gain anyway. This year I had a few health scares, but luckily everything came back fine and, to think positively, I now have several base-line medical tests for future reference (e.g. mammogram). I look to 2004 to improve my overall health (see resolutions on the 1st).

We finally went on our honeymoon this year - oh to be back in Thailand! We're looking forward to going back in the spring... Hiroshi won the free business class ticket, so we just have to choose a hotel and decide who gets to actually sit in business class. LOL I didn't make it back to Canada this year, but hope to in the summer with Hiroshi so he can see that it isn't freezing all year round.

I *finally* had visitors after 4 years in Japan. Dad came over at the beginning of May and Mom (Rose) and aunt Donnie came over at the end of October. It was really nice to finally share my life here... but it took you guys long enough to come over! ;D While I had two visits from family, two good friends left. Both Jo and Shar moved on to other things - Jo back to Canada and Shar to Germany with boyfriend Neil. Miss you guys!

Work-wise I was quite hectic this year. I think my job function will be changing in the new year which will be nice. Despite being crazy, I was quite happy to make money this year - 2002 was pretty lean. And despite all my complaints and whining I like working crazy hours - so hopefully I'll stay busy this year too. :)

Overall 2003 was a great year! Love and best wishes to everyone for 2004!

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Yahoo! News - FBI Issues Alert Against Almanac Carriers
The almanac ... super handy even to terrorists. Umm... is it just me or is this a bit paranoid? I mean, I can just see some poor farmer walking down the street only to find himself suddenly surrounded by the SWAT team.

Monday, December 29, 2003

This is a really good blog.... Erik is currently travelling in South America (Peru specifically). He updates everyday (unlike every other travel blog I have found) and has pics and fun stories. Check it out!

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Oh Happy Birthday to Hiroshi yesterday. He is now 35. And suffering from PMA - pain in my ass - syndrome. Holy cats has he ever been a bear the last few days. Honestly. Don't know if it is his birthday, end of the year or what, but man has he been in a foul mood. Hopefully he'll snap out of it cuz I'm about ready to snap myself... he's heading off to MILs without me though so maybe by the time I get down there he'll be his normal happy self. I hope so!

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Tokyo DisneySea
is awesome. Hiroshi and I got up early and headed out shortly after 8. The park opened at 9 so we thought that'd be lots of time. By the time we got there it was actually quarter after nine... and then we discovered we had to take the monorail to Disney Sea. Disney World is right at the station, but Disney Sea is a fair bit away. And you have to fork over 200 yen a person to take the monorail! Wow!

Anyway we finally got to the park around 9:30 and bought our tickets. Then we made the mad rush to the Indiana Jones ride, picking up fast tickets for the weather ride on the way. Fast tickets allow you to just walk right on the ride without waiting - you can only get one at a time though. Anyway, we go to the Indiana Jones ride and the line up was supposedly 80 minutes long. We're like, oh man, it is going to be a day of waiting. Actually the line wasn't too bad cuz there were interesting things to look at. And even better, the wait was really only 40 minutes long. The ride was only so-so... but it is Disney so that is expected.

Disney Sea only has 12 attractions (not including the kid part). That includes the steam boat ride, the electric railway and the gondolas. Most of the experience here is just walking around. The park is done beautifully - the scenery is wonderful. We saw so many birds! Hiroshi said some of them were quite rare to see too. In addition to the great ambiance there are also tons of shows to see. Granted they aren't Broadway, but something to entertain you while you sit down for a while... speaking of which there were places to sit down all over the park! The one thing any tourist will instantly notice about Tokyo is that there are no benches to sit on anywhere. So this was a nice treat. Especially because the weather was absolutely perfect!

Anyway, after the Indiana Jones ride we wandered back to do the weather ride... it is kinda like the Star Wars ride at Disney except Star Wars is much better. Maybe because we were sitting at the very back. Then we went to see a dance show which was pretty good and grabbed some lunch after. We had Mexican food. It was reasonably priced which was nice. Granted there are a ton of expensive options in the park too, but I was pleased. For the whole day we spent 8000 (about US$90) on food including 2 beers each. So lunch, dinner and snacks. For two people that's not bad in my book - especially at a theme park! We just missed the mariachi band at lunch but it was great to sit outside. Imagine - December 24 and sitting outside with just a sweatshirt and no jacket. It was lovely!

After lunch we wandered around some more and Hiroshi started to complain about sore feet. It was actually kinda funny. There was a show in the lake in the center of the park at 2:30, so I figured we should go find a ledge to sit on around 1:30. That meant we had to sit there for 45 minutes after we had found a place. No problem for me - I felt like I was sitting in a plaza in Italy :) Hiroshi the one-drink-wonder promptly fell asleep on my shoulder LOL He missed the whole show! Mickey and Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Chip and Dale on their own decorated boats, and skidoos made up to look like dolphins. Sucks to be him. ;)

Then we decided to get coffee to wake up (and some cake!) and grabbed a table outside a cafe. At this point we noticed all the women were looking rather peeved.... ALL of the men were falling asleep! All afternoon walking thru the park we saw men everywhere having a little nap on their gf's shoulder. Pretty funny.

In the afternoon we hit the rest of the rides except the Journey to the Center of the Earth one... the waiting time was over 3 hours!! We hit the gondolas right at sunset so it was nice and romantic :) Then we went into the Spanish galleon and kinda conked out at the table inside. It actually worked out pretty well because there was another show on the lake at 6:30 so we had a perfect view! The show was cool - it was Mickey doing the Fantasia thing directing fountains with lights and firecrackers to symphony music. And we were close enough to the Journey ride to run there (with everyone else) right after the show finished. The 'time to wait' sign was flipping thru numbers like crazy when we got there. It ended up being an hour and what a long hour it was!

We finally made it to the front of the line and we got the front of the car. The thing started and we were going by all these cutesy things and I'm like, we waited an hour for this??? Then suddenly we were whipping around in total darkness - way better than Space Mountain cuz in Space Mountain you can still see things cuz it isn't completely dark (not to mention it derailed last month but lets not go there). And then all of a sudden you burst out thru an opening at the top of the mountain in the center of the park and it looks like there is NOTHING there! It was GREAT! This was the best ride in the whole park. I definitely recommend doing it at night. In the day time, you'd be able to see where you exit the tunnel, but at night the darkness just continues until you are actually out of the tunnel and it is a big surprise. Definitely worth the wait.

After that we grabbed some pasta and another beer and missed the fireworks. Fought thru some people in the gift shops and didn't find anything we wanted. We did see some absolutely adorable little shoes that we got for Kai (friends Yasu and Eriko's son). Couldn't resist. They were soooo cute. Then made our way back home. By the time we got back it was after 11. The day though was perfect! Really nice to walk around, the right amount of romance without being cheesey, and not so busy as all my students warned me. Christmas Eve is "couple" day and Disney Sea is the Disney place for couples, and Japanese people love Disney. I was worried it was going to be really packed, especially since the weather was so good. It wasn't bad at all.

So I'm really happy that I finally got there! I've only been bugging Hiroshi to go for the past 2 years LOL

Friday, December 26, 2003

Ok, I know I'm supposed to tell you about DisneySea... but I just woke up. So maybe later. What I didn't tell you before was that I finished the India book. Lots of things to see in India... might have to spend 2 months there. :) Most of the things I'm interested in are located in the norhtern part so that isn't too bad in terms of travelling. There is a rumour that there is a ferry service that has started to Sri Lanka which would be cool - cuz then we could go there too... and there are convenient flights to Maldives from there! :)
Hiroshi is a bit unsure about India. I'm a bit worried about all the touts. But I think it will be awesome. Not to sure about a boat trip down the Ganges though... I really don't want to see half-cremated bodies. That's just gross. But then, that's India. I definitely want to see a cow that has been painted purple though. That's fun! And a Bollywood movie. Doesn't matter if it is in Hindi or English - apparently the plot isn't much to worry about anyway.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas! Ok, I know I haven't given you all the fantastic details about DisneySea, but fear not - that is my project for tomorrow (along with uploading pics to my photoblog and doing some cleaning). Today was pretty much a lazy do nothing x-mas. I never did put up the tree. In a way it was a bit depressing, but it doesn't feel like x-mas here... maybe in February. And I just couldn't bring myself to lug out the tree (ok, I know it is only 1 foot tall) only to put it back again. Yes, I'm lazy.

Carrying on with the lazy theme I decided not to cook today either.... like you can cook any semblance of an x-mas dinner when you don't have an oven anyway. So I hit the pre-made food counter at the supermarket this morning and bought some honey potatos, fried chicken (the roasted chicken was too expensive), and a whole bunch of cheese and crackers and stuff. We had the cheese along with strawberries and some champagne and orange juice. Lovely. After all that hard work, we had a little nap. Then it was dinner time which was unexciting. The thing about cheese is when you aren't used to it it creates horrible nasty smelling gas. Hiroshi and I are trying to out-do each other - peee-yeeeeww

Oh, and went back to the $6 a piece cake store and got the strawberry torte. Looked really yummy but was a sad disappointment compared to the orange one. So that was my x-mas. Miss you all (family and friends!) and hope that you guys had a fantastic holiday. Was wishing I was in Canada to celebrate with you!

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Went to DisneySea today - it was awesome! My feet are killing and I'm zonked :) We were up late playing games online and only had about 4 hours sleep before we had to get up this morning... were out the door at 8 and just got back now. Will write more tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Went to visit friends Yasu and Eriko tonight for an end of the year dinner. Got to see Kai (their son) who is getting more and more adorable by the second. He's starting to come into a personality and get his own facial features instead of the squooshed round baby face. Very very very cute. I'll put pics up in a few days!

Monday, December 22, 2003

The DivaCup Menstrual Solution
Men just ignore this post. You don't really want to know.
Women - what do you think? It looks like a viable alternative to carting around feminine hygeine products around the world. However what to do when the water supply is questionable? Sure you can boil up some water, but somehow I don't see having this thing sitting on the table in our hotel room going over all that well with Hiroshi. 1 year guarantee on it ... opinions please!

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Today I did nothing. I slept, I woke up and chatted on the net, I slept some more, I went out to dinner with Hiroshi, we went to Starbucks and I slept some more. That was weird - I was zonked! It has been a really long time since I have been so tired that I was unable to open my eyes - I wanted to be awake, but my eyes refused to open. Darn those comfy Starbucks couches!
Hiroshi went and bought us some yummy cake. We walked past a cake store and saw these masterpieces of food ... for $6 a piece! But oh how heavenly they were!! We had this chocolate orange thing. It was chocolate crust with a layer of chocolate then topped with pieces of tangerine or other sweet orange (small pieces), then had some whipped orange flavoured cream on top of that with some fresh strawberries and big wedge of chocolate peanut butter wafer kinda thing. Heaven. Luckily $6 a piece cake is not really in our budget or that place would end up being a weekly stop!

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Sad, sad day... found out that Farm Grill is closing at the end of the year. Farm Grill is this great place where you can eat Western food in buffet style. And they have the all you can drink option. Sigh. They were great for get-togethers and for Thanksgiving and X-mas dinner and stuff.

Friday, December 19, 2003

I'm almost finished working for the year. I just have a couple classes every other day or so for the next week... sweet!! I can sleep in and relax! But teaching once a day ensures I at least haul my butt out of bed. I teach 4 hours tomorrow (Sat), then 2 on Monday, 2 on Tuesday (which is a holiday), 3 on Thursday (yes I know it is xmas) and then possibly a couple hours on Sunday the 8th. Working the holidays was my choice - if I don't take my vacation days I lose them, so I've rescheduled some classes for the holidays so I can take my vacation days. I'm looking forward to only 7 in-class hours though.... compared to the normal 35 it is pure bliss!

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Very weird and freaky thing happened the other night on the way home. I have never had a problem walking by myself late at night anywhere in Tokyo - one of the things I love about this country. If you forget your change in the ticket machine at the train station the next person in line will grab it - and proceed to run after you to give it back. Does that happen anywhere else in the world??? Certainly not in Canada.
Anyway, I'm walking home from teh station and this Landrover pulls up along beside me. Not necessarily weird at this point. Then the man rolls down the window and asks if I want to go for coffee. I told him I had to go home, but thanks - figure it is just some Japanese guy who wants to speak English. He pulls forward.. only to stop and put the car in reverse to pull up beside me again. Then he proceeds to 'follow' me at super slow pace. Rolls down the window, says "why don't you come for coffee with me". I again say no. He proceeds to follow me. I'm not very happy with this. So I pop into the convenience store.
Stalker boy stops the car across the street and was watching me in the store. So I pretended to be busily shopping and he eventually left. I was a bit freaked. I called Hiroshi and talked to him all the way home cuz I was worried that he'd come back.
First time ever that I have felt uncomfortable in this country.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Made hamburger and mashed potato for dinner tonight. Not all that exciting, but the fact that I cooked is. And the amazing thing is, I didn't burn the potatoes!! Whenever I boil them I always burn them on the bottom. First time I made them in my T-fal pot. Very happy about that cuz mashed potatoes taste good :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Some of my classes met for the last time this year, so I decided to do a Santa Quiz with some of them... it was a sad, sad experience. Japanese people have no idea about Santa. They all love Christmas, but don't quite grasp the whole culture behind it. Here are some sample questions and answers:
1. Who makes all the toys?
- his wife
- Toys R Us
- the Chinese
2. How many reindeer pull the sleigh?
- 1
- 4
- 6
3. What is special about Rudolph?
- he flies
4. What are three things that families put on a table for Santa?
- socks
- orange juice
- chicken
5. Where does Santa park his sleigh?
- on the street
- in a parking lot
6. What does Santa say when he laughs?
- buwahahaha
7. What does Santa give to bad boys and girls?
- nothing
- a text book
- a bible
8. Where does he live?
- Finland
- Turkey
- Sweden

Ok, now I was shocked at the answers to number 8, because well, he lives at the North Pole and Canada lays claim to it (it is equidistant from Canada and Denmark (Iceland) though). Well turns out Santa's gone all scientific. Since there is no land at the North Pole, he can't live there. So apparently his permanent home is in Korvatunturi Finland. There's lots of reindeer food there. Turkey also was cause for a snicker; however, turns out Santa originated there. Sweden is probably confusion over Nordic countries. I still say he lives at the North Pole, Canada though!
Even Hiroshi didn't know the answers to most of the questions. I think I need to immerse him a bit more in western culture!

Monday, December 15, 2003

I'm having a super strong diet Coke craving and we don't have any... *sigh* It's too cold to go to the store too :( Spent today playing Crash Bandecoot on PlayStation. I'm addicted. I foresee what I will be doing for the whole x-mas/new year holiday...

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Oh a side note about Nemo. Never even thought about it, so I'm quite lucky. Nemo = children's movie. Children => can't read subtitles. Children's movies in Japan = dubbed into Japanese. Luckily it was all in English with Japanese subtitles! Maybe cuz it was the late show. Didn't even think to ask before we bought the tickets!
Canada deems P2P downloading legal | CNET
Boy I'm glad to be Canadian. Not only can we download music legally, but we can tick off the States at the same time. :) (I aplogize to my American friends, but as a Canadian it is my patriotic duty to feel proud when we get a spine and do something other than what the US tells us to do)
Thanks Jason for forwarding this link.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

So went to see Finding Nemo tonight. Very cute. The animation is great. Hiroshi fell asleep - that's pretty normal for him. He needs blow up / kill people action.
Went to the convenience store on the way home... Coke has a Nemo promotion. Buy a Coke product and you get a Nemo trinket for your cell phone or key chain. Hey, maybe I can collect them all. I already have two! LOL

Friday, December 12, 2003

Went to see Kill Bill tonight. Note to self - in Japan, they won' t dub the Japanese into English. Grrr. They removed all the English subtitles for the Japanese parts... so I didn't understand a good 30% of what was said. Oh well. It was still good. Loved the squirting blood. Hiroshi said it was weird. But it started at 9 which means we got tickets for 30% off. And I also got a members card which gives us another 10% off or so. So that was pretty cool. Tomorrow we're thinking of going to go see Nemo. There's a show at 9:30 ... kinda like two shows over two days for slightly more than the price of one.
Also went out to Outback for dinner. Damn their baked potatos are good. Once again, I am wishing I had an oven - every time I go there I want to be able to make baked potatos at home. Microwaved ones just aren't the same.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Today was absolutely freezing :( In fact I had thoughts of putting up the Christmas tree.... I know I know. I'm normally the first one with it up. This year it doesn't seem like the season yet, despite being only two weeks away. At least I got all my cards mailed out!

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Today I saw a bunch of very cute kids. They were a group in day care - all of them were probably 3 or 4. They had paired off and were running down a walkway holding hands with their partners. And they all had on their bright yellow caps (so they are easier to see I guess). Gosh kids are cute!

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Had a lovely lunch today with my students - one of them owns a restaurant so we went there. Very delicious :) Luckily my evening classes cancelled so I can go to sleep - why am I so tired lately? Ah well, grab the sleep while I can. And I have to clean off all my crap from the kitchen table - it has extended itself fully across my side! I hate how it does that. It like grows or something.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Not much is new for today. Yes, I'm at a loss for words! Gotta go check out fark and see if there are any interesting news bits to link in :)

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Went to see Last Samurai tonight. Good show - didn't feel like the three hours that it was. Simplistic story but nice message. Couple of reality breaks that I noted... there were an aweful lot of palm trees in the mountain village that is supposedly snowed in for the winter. Living in modern Tokyo, I am stared at practically every day - and yet when Tom Cruise is brought into the village, which has surely never seen a white man before, no one is gaping at him. And for this one I had to suppress a snicker... I'd estimate that 25% of Japanese men would no longer fit into samurai armour - that stuff is small! There is no way that Tom Cruise would. Unless it belonged to some giant gargantuan one...
Loved the use of cherry blossoms. Seeing the samurai face masks actually on someone brings new dimensions to their coolness. Liked how the cast was actually Japanese and not random Asians. Liked how Japanese were portrayed.
What's the Western view on this one? I may have a different understanding having lived in Japan for so long.

Friday, December 05, 2003

All the stores are playing Christmas music. It is really bizarre to walk into a convenience store and hear Dolly Parton or someone belting out the Christmas classics. Remember, Japan is a non-Christian country. It seems way too early for x-mas tunes despite it being only 20 days away. Today was the first day it got under 10 degress (about 50F). Doesn't feel holiday like at all. I'm even thinking of working the 25th.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

So finished the book on East Africa. Have decided to just go to Tanzania. Kenya is marginally cheaper but then we have to go through Nairobbery (Nairobi) and might get blown up in a Terrorist attack. So Tanzania it is. And it has the Serengeti.

I'm still at a total loss as to how on earth the accomodation can be so expensive. I mean the average annual incom is under $400US a year. What gives???!! That 175 bucks is for a luxury tent - it isn't even a real hotel. Talk about totally gouging people. I have no problems paying fair price, but that is ridiculous even by Japanese standards - and Japan is one of the most expensive places in the world.

Picked up some lovely travel brochures tonight on Spain and Maldives. I like looking at the pictures! I'm going to make a collage out of them after I finish research all the places we want to go - kinda a preview of the trip :)

Tomorrow's travel planning tasks: check out all those over-the-water beach huts in Maldives (are they horribly expensive??) and start reading the Central Asia book. I wanna get all the goods on Uzbekistan!

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

I finished the Spain book and have decided that Granada is a good base - it seems to be central to lots of cool things. When the time comes, we'll try to rent an apartment for a month and then we can do day trips and stuff. We'll also stay in Barcelona for a month too - doing the apartment thing there too if possible.
So now I've moved on to the Eastern Africa book. Who knew, but Eastern Africa is expensive!!! In addition to the $25 - $50 per person per DAY fee to enter the national parks, BUDGET accomodation starts around $175 a night. BUDGET????!! Of course there is always tenting it, but I'm not to sure I want to camp out with the lions if you know what I mean... and Hiroshi has refused this option. So looks like we'll just cough up the dough and do it - I mean, we're never going to get the chance to go again, so might as well. Geesh. Now I understand why safari companies were quoting a couple thousand dollars for a week's trek.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

I love Amazon... you order books, they send you an e-mail telling you your order has been filled and shipped and it will arrive in 2 days.... and as you delete the e-mail there is a knock at the door and the books have arrived already! Always have great service!

Monday, December 01, 2003

FREEDOM!!!!!!!! Whehoo - I am officially debt free!! It feels great! Now I can start stashing away the dough for the trip around the world. Very happy. Also got all my x-mas cards sent out today. Hiroshi wanted to sign his own name but I had to explain who everyone was. I've come to the conclusion that my family is just weird (sorry, but you are).