Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Politeness, Grown-ups and...Excuse Me?

Hey gang!  Here I am!  I have been hiding somewhat...some folks may refer to this particular state of being as "employed".  I just let myself get in a rut where blogging took a backseat to all kinds of other stuff.  Like work.  And moving.  Finding a place to live.  Buying a car.  Meeting up with old friends and making new ones.

And I thus abandoned my blog for far too long.  Shame on me!  (I'm back, little Bloggy-blog, don't worry, I didn't really leave!)

Annnyyyhooo....was thinking about what to write today, when a discussion between my husband and I over the supper table (yeah, that's right, supper, none of these fancy-ass, big-feeling words like dinner.  La tee frikkin da!) inspired me.

Something I think we have taken for granted and just don't seem to think about because I know I hadn't really noticed and I am sure most of us don't.

Being polite.

I don't just mean being "not rude"...I mean going the extra mile to utter an extra two or three extra syllables that takes what you are saying all the way from merely "going through the motions" to actual politeness.

He has mentioned it to me a few times in the past, that people here sometimes just don't seem really friendly or polite; kind of like they don't really care about other people or who they are talking to.  I nodded in agreement, but in truth, I really thought he was being too sensitive and more or less shrugged it off.  How on earth could he think that?  We are super friendly around here!

I did, on occasion, try to explain it away by trying to convince him that people not going that extra mile to say "Thank you" or "Excuse me" as part of a sentence they were already uttering, was just an oversight and that they are not actually being rude.  And for the most part, no, they are not being rude.  Not even a little bit.

I thought he was being silly and just didn't catch it or failed to notice when people were actually being polite.  Then, I realized he notices this often and I am not listening to him or taking him seriously.  So, recently, I started to pay attention, because he just has to be wrong about that.  Canadians are really nice.  Especially we East Coasters.

Aren't we??

Well...yeah...we are nice people, but we don't always show it, especially in the eyes of someone who comes from a place where politeness is valued pretty highly.

He once came home from a walk, completely perplexed because some middle-aged woman in a car, slowed down and asked, "Have you seen a black dog?".  Not "Excuse me, have you seen a black dog?" or "Hi, have you seen a black dog?" (although still creepy when some rando pulls up in a car, no matter what sex, age or size...they had better keep a safe distance, thankyouverymuch).

When he replied, "Sorry, I have not.", she simply said, "Ok." and drove off.  No simple "thank you", not even an "Oh my." or "Oh dear." that would have shown she was distraught and worried.  He just couldn't understand why someone wouldn't bother throwing in at least one nice word when asking for information from a stranger.

Yes, she was probably upset and wasn't thinking, as I explained to him - however, this is (sadly), sort of the norm with exchanges between people these days, even when not under stress or upset about something.

It happened to both of us the other day (with some rando in a car!  Of course.  I think I am seeing a pattern here.)  A car full of adults pulled up alongside me in a parking lot and the young woman in the passenger seat asked, "Do you guys know where the dog park is?"  I thought for a second and replied, "No, sorry, I don't."  She just said, "Ok", and they drove away.  (I don't recall a dog anywhere in the vehicle...interesting.  Or maybe creepy.)

It hit me right then and there...at first, it didn't bother me at all that she didn't say "excuse me", "thank you", or even "thanks anyway".  After all, she wasn't actually being rude and she did sound nice.  But that was my "aha" moment.  I suddenly realized that she couldn't even be bothered with a split second "thank you" or "excuse me".

There are lots of other examples, now that I have actually started paying attention, but I won't get into them here...because I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer it's a blog, not an epic.

The biggest thing my husband noticed was the age difference in who is polite and who is not.  He has had lots of good experiences with people being polite:  people saying "thank you" when he holds a door for them; people saying excuse me when reaching in front of him (sometimes even just somewhat close to him) for something on the shelf at the grocery store; people saying "please" or "do you mind..." when asking for something.  What he noticed is that almost every single time, it is someone in their teens or younger, who has the consideration to show simple politeness to others...even when it was just something he overheard in public.

It almost seems that once we hit adulthood, we unconsciously have decided we have the right to let go or slack off with regard to what words we use with other people.  There have been a few adults who have been polite (and it always surprises him when they are); but for the most part, adults of all ages, seem to be the worst culprits with being, well...lazy, when it comes to words that show simple courtesy to those around them.

Some folks just take it for granted that others are on the same page as them, so don't make the effort; thereby displaying the same lack of courtesy they would possibly complain about if the tables were turned.  An extra two or three syllables take very little effort (i.e. none).

It is not about being old-fashioned...because it is we grown-ups who seem to be the guilty party, not the kids. We got lazy.  Perhaps recipients of rudeness, be it the apathetic kind or the intentional kind, should have the right to scold and slap offenders upside the head it is time to revisit the things we knew when we were little.

Mind your manners.
Remember to always use "Please" and "Thank you".
If you want to be understood, use your words.
And most of all, treat others the way you would want to be treated.

Weren't most of us raised that way?

Just some philosophical ramblings about some little things that could make a nice difference to someone's day...maybe even yours!  (^_^)

Thanks for listening...err...reading!  lol

Monday, April 15, 2013

Kindergarten - Best Teaching Job I Ever Had

Some of the best years I ever had were the years that I taught at a kindergarten...or preschool...whatever you want to call it.  And perhaps it was only two and a half years, but I loved it!

My kids were brilliant.  I saw my kids because I got really attached to my students during my first year working there.  Some of my friends asked if I now no longer wanted kids after having a class of 15 of them running around.  My reply was, "Of course I still want kids!!  Just not 15 of my own all in one go!!!!"

I learned a lot from them...probably just as much if not more than they learned from me.

It was amazing to see their little brains soak up so much knowledge that it boggled my mind.  They were between three and five.  Their reading levels and math skills were so good, it humbled me.  There is so much taught now at such a young age...sometimes I worried about stressing them out but they were just so hungry to know more and more all the time that they blew me away with how much they could accomplish.

I taught them sarcasm and where to draw the line without taking it too far, of course.  I taught them to to share and try to get along.  I taught them how to put on a bandaid by themselves without touching the white gauzy part.  I taught them how to read, write and do 'rithmatic.  I taught them that they need to pull their pants up after using the toilet instead of shuffling back to playroom with their pants around their ankles...I figured that was a pretty important life lesson.  I taught them that sometimes, they cannot have everything their way.  I taught them how to sing, dance and be themselves...or at least tried to.

But their lessons were far better.

They taught me that

  • if you don't yet know the words to describe your symptoms when sick, it is perfectly acceptable to cough in the teacher's face to answer her when she asks you to show her how you are sick.
  • "grapes" are a perfectly acceptable choice when asked what they dream of being when they grow up.
  • when I fall off my bike and show up at school the next day with scrapes that completely match one of my students who also fell off his bike, it is pretty cool because now you have something totally in common.
  • the short vowel sound of "u" does not just begin words like "umbrella" and "up", it also begins words that I never taught them, like "underpants" and that after such a revelation, forget even attempting to teach because you and your kids are giggling like mad for about 10 minutes.
  • in math, 2 stars plus 4 stars do not necessarily equal 6 stars.  The correct answer is more accurately stated in a wide-eyed and serious manner as, "Soooooooo many!"
  • no matter how determined you are to protect them from harm and that none of them will get even a tiny scratch while you are in charge of them, that you are completely naive in this hope and they will find a way to get a scratch, a bruise, cut their finger...they are kids.  It is what they do and it is how they learn to be careful
  • mostly, while you are a teacher and supposed to be objective, you can get so attached to your students that first year, that you almost don't even want to bother continuing as a teacher because saying goodbye at the end of the school year was so heartbreaking!  
That is one of my best jobs ever.  What were some of yours?


Yeah, I know, I talk about it a lot.  But it was my life for most of a decade.  Very recently.  So, it is still on my mind.  I can't help it...it is going to bubble up because I was there for so long and it had such an impact on me.

Plus, a very good friend of mine who is still there and had been there for farrrr longer than I was, is finally leaving Japan herself.  She started posting on Facebook about things she is going to miss when she goes.  So, that inspired me to post my own list of things that I do miss about life there.  Listed, of course, in no particular order...

  • Ramen.  Really good ramen, with a great broth.
  • Fried Rice - soooo much better there.  And not coated with soya sauce.  Love it!
Even better...ramen AND fried rice!  Heaven.
  • Trains - I really, really miss getting around on the trains there.  Where I am living now, I know that a bus goes by once an hour at a stop that does not seem to be marked, so I have yet to figure out where the heck that is.  Where I lived before, well you couldn't miss the station...train stations are kind of obvious.  But I remember we thought our local train line was inconvenient because the train only ran every 15 minutes!
  • Cherry Blossoms - nothing says lovin' life like getting tipsy under a cherry blossom tree.  Best time of year in Japan, hands down.  The trees start to bloom, tarps suddenly cover the ground, protecting picnickers from getting dirty as they sit there for hours eating and drinking.  There is some getting up and walking around, talking to complete strangers like you have been the best of friends since childhood...there could even be an attractive stranger sit down and sing to you and your friend who then offer him a beer and some food!  And not to mention, you could be attending one of these cherry blossom parties and meet the man you are going to marry!!!

  • Microwave ovens - Brilliant!  They have settings for microwave, grill, and oven.  I could bake stuff in them, heat stuff up and make toast.  Why on earth don't we have those here?
  • Taxis - I love the taxis in Japan.  Drivers are always wearing a black suit and often are even wearing white gloves.  The cars are always so clean and you don't have to open or close the car door!  There is a mechanism that opens and closes the door for you...and the driver doesn't even have to get out to do it.  
  • Izakayas - So much better when the norm is to order food that everyone shares than to have your own plate.  The all-you-can-drink and all-you-can-eat deals rock at these places too!
  • The Post Office - Every one I have been in had really nice, helpful staff.  The overall service is great too!  Whether the post office or a courier, if they deliver to your place and you are not home, they will leave you a slip...you get the choice of going to pick up the item, setting up a time for the driver to come back or if you don't call at all, they will come again anyway the next day.  Then there was the struggle we were having with moving overseas, having no car and wondering how we were going to get our boxes to the post office to mail them.  Turns out that for free, they will come to your house with a set of scales, weigh it all, you pay them and off your stuff goes!!!  I reeeallly miss that.
  • No Tipping - Best service I had anywhere ever...always nice, always with a smile, super prompt and polite...and they don't have extra incentive to do it!  So different from here:  good service is hit or miss and tips are pretty much obligatory...even if you server is surly.  
  • Japanese curry - Not really sure how to describe it....I guess I could say that it looks pretty much like beef stew but doesn't taste like it.  Someone once described it to me as the Japanese version of the British version of Indian curry.  I don't know if that is accurate or not.  All I know is I like all kinds of curry, including Japanese, but that is the one kind I cannot get around here.
  • Festivals - There are festivals for nearly everything here.  Every time I turn around, there is another festival for something.  I love it!
No festival is complete without food!

That was all I could think of off the top of my head, folks!

Issues. Issues Are Dragging Me Down!

I have gotten so behind in this challenge!  Arrrrrrg!  So many issues pulling me back.

Between job hunting and apartment hunting and dodging the "discouragement monster", I have gotten soft.  And I don't like it.  When I have too much time and not enough responsibility, I lose it...my brain slowly turns to Jell-O, once cell at a time.  But things are starting to look up so I am feeling the fire in my belly again!  And have to get caught up on my posts!

So my big issues are, no job, which means no (or very little) responsibility for me, which means slack days.  I thrive on pressure and juggling jobs, tasks, etc.  I can't wait to get that feeling back!

Searching for an apartment.  It is tough.  Even if I do find a great place, something is missing, like a balcony or affordable rent or a fan in the windowless bathroom...lol!!

But really, those are not bad issues to have.  While I cannot wait to have lots going on in my life again, or to have a place to call my own, I am truly blessed that these are the issues I have.  I am not without family and friends to support me if I need it.  I am one lucky girl!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hospitals and Health Checks

When it comes to "H" the word that popped into my head first, for some reason, was health.  A few years ago, I posted a story in response to a friend asking if folks had a good, funny hospital story.  Which I did, of course!  Because this experience was just so typically something that would happen to me and still makes me laugh, I just had to repost it:


Yes, that is correct, comedy and health, together at last...or in my case, life as usual.

My friend recently asked people to share their funny hospital stories. Since I don't actually have any other kind, I contributed one. I will now share it with you.

Funny hospital story? Yeah, I have one. Summer, 2008, I went for my health check that is supposed to be mandatory for work. I couldn't go on the day all the other staff were getting them, so I went alone on another day. The nurse who was helping me fill out the form could barely speak any English but she explained all the procedures that had to be ticked off on the form. She got to a box and said it was for a stomach xray. I cringed and thought about all the horror stories I had heard about drinking barium, then nodded with despair and resignation. I was sent to a locker room with a nightie and told to get naked and put that on. Then head back to waiting room. Again, the cringe. I sat there (with the army of other nightie wearing people), now shaking with nerves knowing I was barely covered, holding the vials I was to present to the nurse so she had somewhere to put my blood after she stabs me, plus the added pressure of the upcoming barium drink. It should be noted that my blood pressure, while still in the normal range, was slightly elevated compared to usual (I like to play with the blood pressure machine at my local Co-op and at my gym, that is how I know what my usual blood pressure is).

I go through the several queues that seemed a little too much like factory production lines, for the various tests we all had to have. Finally, after being poked, prodded, weighed, measured and tested...I am led down a hall...alone, no one else there, no queues, and am ushered into a room and given a tablet. But it was white. Not blue or red, so I guess that was ok. It was a soda tablet. I swallowed that, was given a cup of water, and started burping instantly. The nurse smiled at me, I smiled back, burping sweet sweet bicarbonate goodness. I shrugged and thought, "Huh. I guess it is done differently now. Thank goodness!" I turn to go into the next room for the xray, but the nurse stops me and holds out one more cup. I looked at it, looked at her, looked at the cup, took a deep breath then drank the dreaded barium. Wasn't too bad. Chalky and bland but not the horror cocktail I heard would make me want to insta-vomit. Oh, if only I had known what lie ahead...

Then, I went in, was instructed to stand against this metal slab thing in the middle of the room. I do. The doctor and his assistant who were speaking to me from what looked like the control room of a music studio or of a mad scientist's lair (they were behind a glass window talking to me into a mic that broadcast into the speakers of my room). He told me to hold onto the handles on each side then relax. I did. At which point, (he must have thrown some evil-guy switch from a 60s spy movie, when I wasn't looking), the metal slab began to tilt backward! It tilted until it was horizontal and I was laying looking up at the ceiling. The xray machine was above my body as well. I thought I was the subject of some mad experiment...and may well have been...I will never know for sure. The doc kept telling me to hold my breath and move to the left, then turn onto my left side, then on my back then on my right side, then on my back but slightly to the right. And all the while the table kept moving and tipping slightly to the correct angles for the xray; at one point I was even tipped a little upside down. I guess that was their way of getting the barium to slosh around to coat all of my stomach. At this point I was gripping the handles for dear life, terrified he was going to tip me off the table on my head. I couldn't understand the Japanese for "right" or "left" or "just a little bit" anymore, I was taking a deep breath then forgetting to, I scooched over to the right when I was supposed to be laying on my left side...and I kid you not, the doctor and nurse, in their sick, demented control room, were literally in tears, laughing. I looked over at the window to see the nurse doubled over laughing and the doc was trying his hardest to control himself as by this point he could barely talk over the microphone anymore, such was his glee.

They finally put the table upright and let me out. I weaved and stumbled my way back to the locker room to attempt to swath myself in some dignity again...that being my clothes.

I told the story to my coworkers the next day and they were hysterical. When they finally regained the ability to speak again, one of them said, "But Andi, why did you get a stomach xray?" I looked at her like she was nuts and told her that I had to, the nurse told me. My coworker was saying, from what seemed like somewhere far away, because the wheels were starting to turn in my head, "People don't usually get that until they are 40 or over." I started to say that is not fair, why would they make me do that...and as the words were coming out of my mouth, I was having a flashback to the nurse's face and her intonation when she mentioned the stomach xray. Then a light in my head lit up and realization was striking me. It was true, I didn't have to have the xray because the nurse had been ASKING me if I wanted one. It was optional!! And of course, I was saying my thoughts out loud, and when my coworkers realized what I was saying, they were hysterical all over again.

Grace...or Lack Thereof...

That was a nickname given to me years ago due to my lack thereof.  I was the most graceless, clumsy person I ever knew.  Let me regale you with examples of my grace...

  • There was the time when I was 10 and riding my bicycle.  You know when look down at the pavement and even if you are going slow, it looks like you are going really fast?  Well, I was doing that.  Until everything in my line of vision was blue.  And I was no longer moving forward.  That is when I picked myself up off of the trunk of the parked car I had just crashed into.  My bike tire was bent sideways,  and I could not ride it home.  I felt no pain, only super embarrassment even though a quick check around revealed that there was not even a scratch on the car and no one had seen my moment of humiliation.  When I got home, I caught a glimpse of myself in the hall mirror and stopped in shock.  My mouth was all bloody and part of my front tooth was missing (my jagged tooth had cut up my lips and I was so upset, I hadn't felt a thing).  I sported that triangular tooth look for several days before I could get into the dentist for a cap.  I really mastered the close-mouthed smile those days, let me tell you!

  • As kids, when sledding, we used to do what we termed "hot-dogging".  It meant you went down the hill on your toboggan or sled, standing up and holding the rope.  I loved doing this.  Until the fateful day that my foot slipped off and under the wet toboggan.  Yes, I successfully ran over my own foot.  And twisted the daylights out of my ankle.  My youngest brother ran home at top speed to get my mother because I could not walk.  When he got there, he was so out of breath, all he could get out were words like "Andrea", "park", "can't get up", "can't move", "laying...ground".  You can imagine my mother's relief when, after throwing my brother in the car and speeding down to the park, she saw that it was just yet another routine trip to the hospital for one of her accident-prone children.

  • Skiing...the first time I took a crack at it, I was 17.  I spent most of the day on the bunny hill.  When I got the courage up to go on a real hill, it took about half an hour before I actually successfully was able to figure out how to use the T-bar and stop falling off of it!  I got about halfway up the hill, told my friend that this was high enough for me and we jumped off.  I started skiing.  My friend went ahead of me.  I started after her.  I was a superstar!  I was doing so well!!  I couldn't believe how easy it was at this point and that I had finally mastered it.  Unfortunately, the second that my brain told me how great I was doing, was the very second that I lost it.  Completely.  I lost my balance and fell down on my butt...on my skis.  Now I was skiing downhill, sitting.  And going completely straight down the hill.  I am pretty sure I broke the sound barrier.  My friend was already at the bottom and turned around to see a cloud of snow with pink in the middle, flying down the hill.  I flew past the lodge before I miraculously managed to stop.  People gathered around to help me up.  When folks were asking out loud "Where are her friends?", my friend joined in with them, wondering where my friends were, completely denying all knowledge of any connection with me whatsoever.  I have never gone near a set of skis since.

  • Remember my broken tooth?  Well, years later, I walked up to a friend's house as we were going somewhere together and she was driving.  She was already in the car and hadn't seen me approach.  I leaned down and stared at her through the car window, hoping to scare her when she turned around.  She remembered something in the house and decided to go in to get it...and didn't turn her head toward the car window at all when she reached to open the car door.  Idiot that I am, got smashed in the face when she opened the door...and out popped the cap from my tooth.  Yay!  More days with the jagged witch tooth in the front of my mouth!

  • When living with my roommate a few years later, I had the defining moment of my Grace-ness.  Her cousin and his friend had come up to visit us for the weekend.  Being the fine young things we all were, we were getting ready to go out and party hard.  We were playing perfect hostesses to our guests and as I got up to cross the room and get something from the kitchen, I somehow managed to trip over my own two feet and did a face plant right in front of everyone.  Now, my roommate had a gorgeous white cat who happened to be just inches away from my face when I fell and who just stared at me like she couldn't believe she had to share an apartment with an oaf such as myself.  I didn't even blink an eye, I just reached out to the cat, saying, "Hi kitty!", as though that crash had actually been on purpose. But there was just no covering that up.  In fact, I thought I was going to have to call 911...not for me...for them, because they were laughing so hard, I was sure someone was going to pass out!  It was at that moment that my friend's cousin dubbed me "Gracie".

  • Flash forward past a few more years and a few more (ok, several) mishaps.  It was my first year in Japan and I was on my lunch break from work.  I was taking a stroll just to stretch my legs, walking down a crowded street.  Once again, my own two feet betrayed me and I went down.  I jumped back up so quickly, my fall was almost undetectable to the naked eye...unless you noticed my knee where my panyhose had ripped and blood was running down my leg.  I wanted to die of embarrassment.  I just kept walking like nothing had happened, when I realized a little elderly Japanese lady was walking alongside me, asking if I was ok.  I smiled in humiliation and mumbled that I was, and she held my arm, made me stop, stuck her hand in her purse and pulled out a fistful of bandages for my wound, patted me on the arm and went her way, leaving me staring after her in extreme gratitude.  Ah, there is good in the world!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Friends as Family

Living far away from home, as a stranger in a strange land, you quickly gravitate toward and become friends with other foreigners because you are all fumbling your way through this new life and it helps if you do so together.  Then there are the friends who are born and bred in this country you chose to be your home for a while; they are the ones that help guide you through everything and take you under their wing.  All these friends quickly become your family.

That being said, here comes another list.  This time I am listing many of the incredible memories made and moments shared that will last a lifetime for me.  These helped forge bonds that will never be broken, no matter where the winds blow us or whether we even get the chance to see each other again in person (but we will always have Paris Skype!); our hearts will forever be inextricably linked.  Like family...because we are and always will be.

I could never list every single event or memory from my time away (because they are just too numerous to put in one article and also because some of them should not be published...ever!) but in the memories I do list, I am sure my friends will recognize themselves as part of them!

I will never forget:

  • Just one more drink before last train...then three drinks later, realizing you got roped into staying out all night again, shrugging, drinking more then stopping at the conveni on the way home for nasty food that tasted oh-so-good at 3am after the bar.
  • Watching bootlegged copies of films that were in English, and were needlessly subtitled in English.  It is important to note that in no way shape or form, did said subtitles in English actually match what was being said in the film, in English.
  • Water gun fights all the way home from the conveni because buying those water guns was the best idea ever...at 3am, after the bar.
  • Learning that saying "Cheers!" in Italian, in public in Japan, is not the best idea ever.
  • Seeing Tokyo through the eyes of friends who have been there for a while.  These friends decide that staying in a business hotel with a coin-operated TV (coins needed only for certain channels) was the best way to experience bad wax museums, giant orbs, and tacky tourist spots, of course.
  • Developing an extreme aversion to ever hearing or saying "Watcha gonna do on the weekend?" (Referencing someone with an odd crush on me, who was constantly leaning against the doorframe of my classroom and asking me that...every. time. he. saw. me.)
  • Discovering the joy and beauty that is being allowed to drink in public: in a park, next to a river, on the train, walking down the street....
  • Using nothing more than hand gestures to successfully purchase electronics and being really super amazingly proud of that.
  • Finding a 24 hour supermarket...at 3am after the bar.  Because drunk in the wee hours is best for making grocery purchases.
  • Staying with a friend overnight because I had to "bomb" my apartment for cockroaches in the spring.
  • ¥100 tuna, pasta, or corned beef (uh..."new" corned beef...I won't tell you what it actually was, but cattle were not involved) when out of groceries just before payday.
  • Moving to Kobe.  A port city.  Meeting lovely, lovely sailors.  Mostly British with broad shoulders.  Or Scottish with a long, curly ponytail.  "You in town long sailor?  No??  Gooooood!"
  • Finding a creepy note in my door, thinking I have a stalker wearing burgundy waiting for me downstairs, only to discover it was a cleverly crafted note leading me to a new bicycle for my birthday!  Some friends are just too generous!
  • A never-ending supply of friends at my bedside to give me love and support each day in the hospital after my surgery.  Individuals who contacted my family, who showed up just so someone was there after my nap and who collectively gifted me with 28 novels by the time the week was up!  My atrophied muscles thought that was awesome!
  • Staying with a friend who helped me recuperate both physically and mentally as I was mid-move from my apartment when I ended up in hospital.
  • Gaining a friend who was party hostess extraordinaire, which led to me meeting my husband.
  • Texting a friend next to me about the guy at the party who became my husband.
  • Dirty dancing with bookcases.  And/or brass railings in Irish bars.  (Don't ask!)
  • Wine and cheese with my best friends, followed by wine, gossip, wine, music, wine, more gossip and wine, on the weekends.
  • Outings with the girls to buffets at the Hilton (Wine buffet!  What more could one ever wish for?!), dinners at Baan Thai, German Christmas Market, and Spa World!
  • Watching some friends marry, some of them start families, some stay in the country and in many cases, leave the country.
  • So of course, many friends left bit by bit for other adventures.  Then I finally left for my own adventures; which meant leaving other friends behind, lots of tears and hugs and love to last a lifetime...and a huge family scattered all over the world.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Earthquakes and Eloquence

Having lived in Japan for the better part of a decade, I experienced a fair few earthquakes.  Most of them in the first year I was there. 

I lived in Saitama, which is right next to Tokyo.  If I understood all the explanations about earthquakes correctly, there are no fault lines where I was living but there were some all around us...which means we felt all the quakes in the area.  If it happened north of us, areas south of us might feel it a little bit or not at all.  If it happened south of us, areas north of us might not feel much of the effects if at all...you get the picture. 
Taadaaa!  Saitama!
Basically, we felt quakes a lot.  Strong enough to make you stop and notice...about every two to three weeks.

I think I became pretty fascinated with them.  As did most of us who had no experience with them back home.  Within seconds of feeling one, the texts between us were flying around fast and furious.

And being the graceful, poised person that I am, I always handled my earthquake experiences with ease. 

Like the very first time I felt one while I was completely alone.  It was about 3am and I was wide awake with a miserable cold; coughing and hacking so hard that sleep was just not going to be happening.  I was laying on my belly, praying for sleep when suddenly, there was a bit of vibration.  Then my whole apartment was shaking back and forth.  Now, you need to understand that my bed was in a loft.  I had to climb up a ladder to the loft...in other words, I slept on a shelf.  A big solid shelf way up in the air.  And when my world was shaking back and forth, I felt a fear so pure and so instinctual, all logical thought left my brain.  I managed to raise myself up as far as being on my hands and knees and I wasn't fast enough to beat the ice that rushed through my veins and froze me in place.  I just stayed there...on my shelf...on all fours...at 3am...and screamed.  All I could think was about how impossible it looked to get down my ladder.  I was later cheerfully informed by a coworker, "Don't worry, if it was that bad, it would throw you out of your loft.  You wouldn't have to worry about climbing down the ladder."  Awesome.  That was good to know.

Eloquent poise
I did eventually join the ranks of the other, more experienced "gaijin" in learning to ignore a quake and keep teaching, sleep through one at night and look at folks in complete surprise the next morning when they tell me about it, and finally, exchange stories about where we were and what we did not stop doing when we felt one hit.  I will let your imagination fill in those blanks as to what some folks said they were up to at the time...whatever you think, you are probably right.

So as you can see, I was clearly the picture of level-headedness and calm confidence in the face of new situations.  Fortunately for me, I had not lived in Japan when an extreme quake hit.  What I experienced was really nothing.  And that suits me just fine!

Friday, April 5, 2013

D...Oh the Places I Would Go...

I usually write my thoughts and observations about life in general.  But this time, I thought I would make a list.  Just for fun and to challenge visitors to add to it!  I love to travel and have not done so in over two and a half years...and I am pretty sure I am wilting away emotionally because of it.  So here is my list of places I would like to visit...that start with "D", along with the reasons why I would like to.  Add your own in the comments!  Let's see how creative everyone can be with this!

  • Daejeon - in Korea, just because I had lived so long in Japan but never made it across that wee pond to see it.

  • Dai - it is in Japan and I didn't know of it!  Now I have to go back.
  • Dover - have to have those white English cliffs on my bucket list!
  • Dundee - I have wanted to see Scotland ever since I was little.
  • Dunedin - the one in New Zealand.  Why?  Because...New Zealand, guys!!  And don't forget, New Zealand is where the All Blacks are....helllloooo!!  Rowr.  (What can I say?  I have a thing for rugby.......players!)

  • Denmark - gotcha there, didn't I?  You thought I was all about just the cities, didn't you?
  • Diamond Head - Hawaii...what's not to love?!!

  • Dominican Republic - Mmm...surf, sand and alcohol...
  • Dubai - I have friends living in the UAE and they looove that city!
  • Dieppe - has a lot of historical significance and one of the cities in the tri-city area I come from is its namesake.

So there you have it, my list of 10 places that start with "D", in no particular order, of places I would like to go!  How about yours?

Cheer...as in Leading...Crazy Stuff!

About a month ago, I met up with a long, lost childhood friend.  We had gone to school together all the way from grade 1 to high school graduation.  And that was the last time we saw each other.  Years went by, she moved, I moved, she started a family, I left the country.  I came back and soon discovered that both she and I were living in Ontario.  She was coming to my city for the weekend with her daughter who is one heck of an athlete and was in a huge competition that weekend.  One of the many sports she competes in is cheerleading.

Yeah, yeah, go ahead and roll your eyes folks, I know you don't think "athlete" and "sports" belong in the same sentence as "cheerleading".  That is because you have not seen what I saw that weekend!

These kids are fierce!!  This is a sport that is not officially recognized as a sport, apparently.  I am sorry but if bowling and golf are considered sports and this form of team extreme gymnastics/acrobatics is not, there is something seriously wrong in the world!

I was a cheerleader in high school.  The kind that got the crowd going and cheering for their team.  Not the same thing at all as what I watched that weekend.  These were not school teams...not by a long shot!  These were kids who put in hours of blood sweat and tears pushing and fighting their way as a team, to the top.  Literally.

They train.  Hard.  Harder than a lot of athletes I know in other sports.  They could be classed right up there with professional hockey players, I am sure, with what they give to this sport.  And they are not getting paid.  Anything.

When I watched that competition, I couldn't believe the discipline, the toning, the trust in fellow teammates and the injuries!!  Wow.  In competition, there were bodies flying through the air and caught flawlessly.  There were flips and splits and complex choreography that was mind-blowing.  All of it timed perfectly and some of it looking like it might be pretty dangerous if anyone's timing was off.  And in between sets, there were kids walking around with both ankles strapped from sprains, elbows in braces, ice packs on necks, shoulders and legs, not to mention the bruises on practically every limb I saw!

During the competition, we watched a girl land not so perfectly but get right up like nothing happened and complete the set with blood running down the side of her face, smiling and not missing a beat until they were done and she was carried off (I would love to see a pro footie/soccer player ever have that staying power!).  I watched another girl only use one hand when in formation with her teammates lifting another girl in the air...she continued like that, with a big smile, until the end when teammates and coaches swooped in (so smoothly I actually thought it was part of the formation for when they were leaving the mats) and carried her off in their arms and that is when I realized she had dislocated a shoulder partway through the performance....but kept going anyway!  I know several full-grown athletic, physically strong men who would whimper at a hangnail and not have half the gumption this slender teenaged girl had!

My friend's daughter was able to show me several bruises on her arms and legs that she often doesn't recall getting...that is just the way it goes in cheerleading.  She is quite an accomplished athlete; she does cheerleading, soccer and some other sports that I cannot recall.  She feels quite strongly that cheerleading is just as tough and sometimes tougher than some of her other sports activities.  I was pretty amazed at how hard she trains her body for cheerleading.  She really blew me away when she told me one of the things she does at home to train for cheerleading is to do a handstand, against the wall for stability, then lower herself down (still in a handstand) and raise herself back up.  Basically, vertical pushups!!  What?????!!!!  Pushups...in a handstand....crrrazy!

I guess it is pretty obvious that, after seeing that competition, I feel pretty passionate about it as a sport.  It just seems insane many don't consider it to be one.  Those people need to go see what it really is all about.  Even 30 minutes of watching this would leave one's jaw on the floor in awe.

What do you folks think?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Big Brother

So, I have to admit, that after years of scoffing at it, avoiding it and generally thinking it was ridiculous, I have gotten hooked on Big Brother.  This year, I decided to give it a chance since we came out with a Canadian version.  And there are three Maritimers on there!  Woot!

And when I say that I am hooked, I really mean it!  Right down to watching the live feeds.  A sad, sad state of affairs, I know.  But if I am going to be a junkie for something, I guess a TV show is not the worst addiction that exists.  Right?

I try to justify it by saying it is a very interesting experiment in social dynamics and human interactions.  Because it is, really.  Think about it...lock a bunch of adult strangers up in a confined space for far too long and record what happens; the social dance of groups coming together, friendships forged then drifting apart and re-forming.  The politeness giving way to familiarity and comfort with speaking one's mind to others that were previously at arm's length.  The slight resemblance to "Lord of the Flies" when deciding who should go, who should stay, talking others into agreement on this decision.  It is very interesting from that point of view. 

I love to watch but depending on how evictions go, I might not watch the whole thing to the end.  Because, Andrew, guys!!!!  Yeah, I have a wicked crush on him.  I guess it is because he seems like the kind of guy my gang would be out drinking with and because he is probably age-appropriate for me.  LOL!

What else is interesting is the hard-core Big Brother U.S. fans who watch and compare the two.  They complain that the Canadian one is not this or that compared to the U.S. version.  Well, duh!  Ya think?  We are not American and shouldn't be striving to be exactly the same, just as the American one shouldn't strive to be exactly the same as the Aussie version or any other version.  Our own flavour is the right flavour and we should develop that. 

I am just glad that we finally got on board and have a Big Brother show.  Er...no...scratch that...I am not!  It has turned me into a fan of the show and I hate admitting that!  Aaaaaahhhhh!

I will continue watching as long as Andrew is in the house, so that doesn't actually make me a fan of that type of UNreality show...does it???

Monday, April 1, 2013


Yeah, real original, right?  I am banking on the idea that everyone else will think that it is lame to use April for our “A” entry!  Then I will be original!  No need to be awestruck at my subtle genius.  (I have heard it is so subtle, it is usually not even noticeable...) 

I had to choose this because it marks a new beginning for me.  It is time to start over with a new job in a new place.   I had been living in Japan for a little under eight years and wanted to come home to be near my family for a change.  I move back to Canada then five months later take a job in another province and was there for more than two years.  So, other than those five short months, I had not been living home for 10 years!  It was time.
So, I am back.  Jobless and homeless but here I am!  I always land on my feet, so I have no worries!  I am determined, driven and flexibly stubborn.  Yeah, I just made that up...because it's true.  I am stubborn because I don’t want to settle for less than being happy in life and flexible because there are so many things that make me happy that I am open to travelling down many different roads to get there!   I also have an amazing support system, including great friends who are letting me live with them while I search for a new nest for my husband and I.   And I am hitting the pavement hard for both homes and paycheques!  I am pretty excited.  I feel like I could do anything!

I have been a million things up until now.  I have been a teacher, a mentor, a trainer, a voice actor, a writer/proofreader, a coach...ok, so that is not quite a million, but close enough!  Uh...new math?  Sometimes I get discouraged and feel as though this means I have no focus, but 95% of the time, I love the fact that it actually means I can do just about anything!
April also is pretty significant to me because that is the month that I met my husband.  On the 3rd, to be exact, in 2005.  In Japan.  This will always be my favourite time of year!  That is when all the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, people are out drinking, eating, having fun, socializing with strangers and as it was in my case, possibly meeting the love of their life!  So what if I am not physically there.  I am in my head and heart and will definitely be back for it at some point!

So April, bring it!  I am ready for you!  Clean slate, new start, a world of possibilities and of course, an awesome blogging challenge!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snow Apocalypse, The Aftermath, And The Death of Romance

There was a storm here yesterday.  Of epic proportions.  Or so the news was saying.  It was actually going to be far more epic in the area I am originally from, on the East Coast.  But everywhere, people are stocking up like it is the zombie apocalypse and the news is making it sound like December 21st has finally arrived, albeit a little late.

Really, it is just an old school winter making an appearance.  A sort of "Hey there, Global Warming.  remember me?  I'm baaaack..."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Poltergeists, Rainbows and Take-Out

Last night we watched a documentary on poltergeists, focusing on Mary Ellen Spook.  It was pretty cool and exciting to see it on TV like that.  I had done a search for information on her on Google as recently as last year but could not find a thing.  After watching the show, I decided to see if anything had changed on the internet...and there were heaps of results!

For those not in the know, a quick synopsis:

Her name was Mary Ellen MacDonald and she was a young girl living with her adopted parents in Caledonia Mills, not far from *Antigonowhere Antigonish, in Nova Scotia.  (*Said with the utmost affection!)  She was the victim of spirits that did naughty things like, make things fly around the room, make writing appear on walls out of nowhere and start fires (one night saw 38 little fires start all over the house, all night long, for no apparent reason).  It all seemed to be connected to her and back in the day, was famously reported...to the point that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself came to observe what all the fuss was about.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been fascinated by her story.  But less so with the stories of the other poltergeists explored in the documentary.  I am a wimp.  I hate horror movies and ghosts.  They spoke with an expert in England about a famous, violent poltergeist case there.  On the screen, they show a picture of a girl fully dressed but asleep, floating above her bed, which instantly turned my blood to ice, gave me goosebumps, made me stop breathing and cover my eyes.  What?  You think it is Photoshop?  This photo was from back in the 70s.  You know, back when Photoshop was a place you went to buy rolls of film.  Period.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hippy Islands, Bunkers and Burnt Toast

So, new year, new blog post time!

The holidays are now behind us and I am thrilled that 2013 is here.  We made it.  All the documentary channels that previously aired shows with tons of experts saying that the Mayan calendar clearly proves that the world was going to end because the calendar didn't go any further, are now airing shows with tons of experts explaining that the Mayan calendar only ever said that a new era was beginning and it was all cyclical; once the next huge chunk of centuries goes by, yet another era will be upon the world.
Yeah, I did!

Let's not forget those documentaries showcasing all those wicked cool underground bunkers and communities that were being built for the rich and terrified.  What I would really like to see are a whole slew of documentaries with an in-depth look at what all those people are going to do now that they have given up a kajillion dollars for no reason at all.  Those developers weren't stupid, there would have been clauses saying that if the world didn't end, don't even think about coming after us for a refund because we will be in the tropics enjoying our earnings and you can now no longer afford to come down here after us anyway.  Or could it be that the people who bought into those bunkers, moved in before December 21st, have no idea that nothing happened and are still living down there, only to emerge in 30 or 40 years?