Monday, March 31, 2003

11:35am Sydney time.

Wow. Well, here I am. I'm actually in a place called TurraMurra, just north of downtown Sydney. "TurraMurra" is an aboriginal word for "high hill". It's quite hilly here. And lush. Looking out the window, I feel like I'm in the middle of the jungle. Actually, I almost feel it more here than I did when I was actually IN the jungle (Peru, fall 2001). I can hear exotic birds outside the window, even.

Check out the weather. It's quite humid and cloudy today. Tomorrow and the rest of the week promises to be much better. Yay! But it's so humid, my fingers feel like they are sticking to the keyboard.

It took about nine hours to get to Sydney from Narita Airport. It was an overnight flight and of course I slept like a baby (read: I don't think I slept at all) so I'm feeling fantastic (if by that I mean ridiculously tired). However, coming in for the landing, I was treated to one of the most amazing displays of Earth's beauty. As the sun rose (out my window - which was a REAL window seat this time) I could see it peek through the cloud covering. It was like we were under the water instead of flying above it. The sun's rays filtering through the waves of clouds, dappling and reflecting the watery floor below. My heart hurt looking at it, knowing I would never have enough words or talent to describe it, nor ever see anything like it again. And then it was gone and there was Australia.

Jan Plain picked me up from the airport at 8:30am and drove me out here to the Plain's beautiful home. I have my own room and have been left with the computer and various instructions/directions so that I can organize myself today while they're at work.

I've also been in touch with Sonal, a friend of Tony's, who also lives in Sydney (in Gosford). I'll be getting together with her later this week, I think.

Thank god for wonderful people!

Things to do today/tomorrow:
- search for work (online, temp agencies)
- get a bank account
- get my working holiday visa (I've been approved, I just have to go get the stamp or whatever)
- look into cell phones ("mobiles" they call them)
- thank my dad for getting me a tax return (I'm clearly an idiot; I thought I would have to pay)
- find some longer-term accommodations (no wants to hang out with ME for more than a week!)
- update my site

So, basically, get new life in two days. Right then.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

11:45am Monday, Tokyo time.

I'm messaging Chris (Tempermental) right now. Isn't that weird? It's Sunday night for him. I feel so close to home.

It's brought to mind a couple of interesting facts about Japan.

They have a lot of useless jobs here.

There are people who direct traffic into and within parking lots, even though there are traffic lights, and everything is completely automated such that those jobs are redundant. They have greeters in every store who's job it is to say "Welcome!" and possibly chase you to wrap your umbrella in plastic on rainy days. They always have way too many people working in every store. There are people in the transit system who just squish people into the trains at rush hour. I have not experienced this myself, as I don't travel at rush hour. However, these white-gloved people remain even after rush hour to stand around and motion people into the train doors when they open. Ya, well, I can SEE that they're open. I don't need someone telling me to enter. They say the Japanese economy is going down the toilet; I guess these inefficiencies are part of the reason why.

For example, at Dave's English school (a small school with only 1 or 2 teachers there at any time), they always have 3 people hanging around who are "administrative" who stand around and then rush every customer when they enter to take their coat, say "WELCOME!" and a string of 20 other pleasantries and get them coffee. Dave and the other English teacher just look up and say "hi".

That's another thing. The pleasantries. When Hiroshi (our free English student guide) took us to the Samurai house in Kyoto with all the hidden staircases and trick doors and sneaky secrets, the Japanese tour guide would talk for 10 minutes and then we would get a 10-second English explanation from Hiroshi. It takes so much longer to say everything in Japanese as they pepper everything with "excuse me" and "please" and "thank you for listening" and "I beg of you to notice"... it's ridiculous. All with fake plastic smiles. Very sweet and polite and formal. "Arigato" (meaning "thank you") is said so much it means nothing.

There are also manners to be observed on the trains. You are not supposed to talk on your cell phone, for example. I've only seen one Geijin (foreigner) talking on the train. Everyone else, however, has their cell phones out to check their email. They ALL have phones with email access/video screens. They have quite advanced cell phone technology. And EVERYONE has the most current model. I see 10-year-olds with their cell phones and wheels on their shoes, talking and wheeling around. I've seen them checking their mail on the trains. Not kidding. Everyone checks their mail on the train.

But not all their technology is advanced. For example, their bank tellers don't even have computers. Most banks don't offer online banking. So strange. Apparently, Dave's set up here is not normal for Japan. He doesn't even have the high-speed access that we have through Rogers at home. It just wasn't available here. So, their advanced technology is very focussed in certain areas. And very poor in all other areas. It's a very cash-based society, I have learned. I absolutely HAVE to carry cash, although I hardly ever do in Cda. Bank cards here don't have a magnetic strip. So you can't pay direct. It's rare that people pay with credit cards; apparently they won't even accept foreign Visa cards sometimes. Only Japanese Visas. And yet children walk around with cell phones in their back pocket.

Dave tells me that their parents pay for the phones. Parents also pay for their education and even their first houses! There are many 30-year-olds, however, that continue to live at home rent-free with their parents. Their mom cooks and cleans for them. The "children" have full time jobs and earn a good salary and yet pay and do nothing. (I hope my dad is reading this. I'm kidding, I wouldn't WANT to live that way.)

Aside from lots of weird "Engrish" (poorly translated English that makes no sense and is probably just decorative) I have found that while they like to think they are very westernized, they have a long way to go. I wish that they would not try so hard to be westernized. It would make Japan much more interesting and culturally rich if they would focus on being themselves.

After visiting many tourist areas, I've noticed that they seem to focus on the surface of things. They don't explain the history much. When asked "why" something was done or "why" it was/is important, they are confounded. They don't seem to understand my question. It seems truly foreign to question this way. They seem content to know facts without going beyond the surface and understanding underlying concepts. They know what the tea ceremony IS and they know where it was performed and when. They are unable to tell me why it was important or how it became such a traditional ceremony or what it means. It's disappointing as I really want to understand. But they seem obsessed with the outward appearance of things; the status symbols, the price of things. That is not my kind of society. I suppose the same could be said of western society. Maybe it's just me that doesn't fit in with that.

And that's Japan according to me.
1:10am Tokyo time.

Trying to update my site with all my Kyoto photos. I'm having a fight with Photoshop. Guh.

Apparently, I also had a fight with Blogger, as I lost one of my posts 2 days ago. I'll paraphrase:

Dave looked Hot-City because he was wearing the jeans I helped him pick out. I love boys clothes shopping. Too bad some boys don't let me take them; they don't know what they're missing; I'm a genius. I talked about Dave's unfortunate DB problem when we were on the train the other night. He had burps that smelled so badly, I thought I was going to be sick. He started blowing them at the guy who was asleep in the seat beside him. Actually, come to think of it, he was probably dead from the horrible stench. (That last bit was for my brothers and Jen.)

I thanked all the wonderful friends who have emailed me. The Internet makes me feel so much closer to everyone. Getting email makes it feel like they're right around the corner from me. It warms my heart. Getting all mushy and misty eyed like to cool person I am.

Then I had to get going; there's a whole city of bad footwear out there to enjoy!

Tomorrow night, 9pm Tokyo time, I'm off to Ozzie Land!

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Last night we saw Die Another Day and I should tell you that Rick Yune is my new boyfriend. Too bad he is so young (22!). I suddenly feel old when someone that yummy is five years younger than me.

We also got our photos developed from Kyoto so I will be updating my "Travel" section with those as soon as I have time.

Today, Dave and I are off to an outdoor museum of the Edo period. As soon as I can get my ass away from the computer and into the shower. I find it odd that they don't have a DOOR to their bathroom. Likely just a ploy ;)

Friday, March 28, 2003

1am, Tokyo.

Kyoto was amazing. Three rolls of film in three days.

Tonight, we ate at a yakitori restaurant. Below are some of the delicacies that I will not be sampling while in Japan. Unless someone gets me really drunk. (Which is not likely, since Dave doesn't drink and someone else isn't writing me at all, nevermind getting me their friends' contact info in Tokyo so that I can maybe go out one night.)

- chicken gizzard
- ox-tongue
- chicken cartilage
- ox stomach with soy bean paste
- quail's egg

Did Kyoto's Daimonji-yama climb today. It's the main site of the Daimonji Yaki fire festival. They set the Chinese character, dai (meaning "great") on fire on August 16th (my sister Jen and Madonna's birthdays, coincidentally). You can see the character in the middle of this bare patch on the face of the mountain. Not a bad climb. At least it was some exercise; I've been feeling like a lazy bum lately.

Now we're back at "home" in Chiba (a suburb of Tokyo where Dave lives). Trying to figure out what we're going to do for the next 2 days until I leave. Can't believe I have to leave soon. Dave has been fantastic. It's been so good to hang out with him again. I'm sure he'll be happy for me to leave. I'm probably getting on his nerves by now. Who really wants me around them ALL the time?? He's been a good sport though.

Thursday, March 27, 2003


Must be off this computer soon. Free Internet access at the hotel but limited. The keyboard is a Japanese one and I keep hitting the wrong keys dammit.

I miss people already. very sad. trying NOT to miss people so much and just enjoy. however, kyoto is amazing! dave and I are having a lot of fun. we walked all over the city already. many temples and a samurai mansion with trap door and hidden staircases. very cool. we had a personal travel guide student with us today, hiroshi. maybe he will read my site: I gave him my site address. He was great!

Last night we stayed at a ryokan, which is a japanese traditional-style hotel with an onsen (public bath). The ryokan was very nice. The soak in the bath was very relaxing after a full day of walking. And very hot. We were all embarassed because we could not read the japanese that told us which bath was for women and which was for men. Potentially a very embarassing moment if we chose wrong and I ended up naked in the tub with old japanese men. Ew. Thankfully, a nice woman helped us out. I am surprised how few peope speak english. Oh well. We try to get by on Dave's limited English. After the bath, we had a traditional Japanese meal in our tatami room, seated on the floor. It was an amazing dinner. Everyone bows so much, I don't know what to do.

We changed hotels for tonight though. Cheaper. And tonight, Dave and I ate ice cream with chopsticks in front of the TV. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

My back is killing me. Seriously. But I will survive. Tomorrow we go back to Tokyo around 7pm.

More updates when I get back to Dave's.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

11:10pm Tokyo time.

Getting ready to go to Kyoto tomorrow. We'll be there for 2 nights, 3 days. Should be fun.

I'm tired. Seriously. I thought I was going to fall over on the train ride home tonight. Jet lag still lags a little. Not excited about that. Was tired at 8pm when we were eating cheesecake in Tokyo. Goodness.

Let me tell you about what I've noticed so far:

- bad, bad fashion. BAD. I feel like I'm in the 70s/80s. I thought that maybe it was just that the people we saw had bought their clothes at BiWay in the 80s. But no. We went to a sort of mall called "I'm New 109" (I don't know WHY it was called that, but they have funny Engrish names for things to make them sound cool). There was high energy dance music blaring from every store (each store had different music playing, but you could hear it all from the "hall"), with unfortunate oddly-attired sales women and young girls looking at the clothes in stores called things like "loveboat drug store" (which is not a drug store at all). It was clearly a high-fashion "mall", but I was astounded by how profoundly UGLY everything was. I suppose that's my own bias talking. I'm big on black. They're into white, double-breasted jackets, big-buckle belts, cowboy boots....

- horrible footwear. I thought I was going to cry over some of it. White, pointy, stupid high heels. And they can't WALK in them. Pidgeon-toed, knock-kneed, bow-legged. These people have messed up legs/feet. I've never seen such horrible, UGLY shoes. And the school girls wear weird white leggings/leg-warmers.

- it was raining today, so everyone had umbrellas. Every store has a plastic bag dispenser specifically designed to wrap your umbrella so that you don't get water on their floors. And if you forget to wrap your umbrella up (as we frequently did), they run after you with the plastic bag and do it for you. Ridiculous. What a waste of resources.

- Dave and I are the tallest everywhere we go. While this is not unusual for 6-foot-4-inch-tall Dave, it's weird for me.

- Dave's students took about 50 photos of me. I felt like a movie star.

- I hardly feel like I'm in Japan. I speak English with Dave all day. There are tonnes of English stores around (GAP, Starbucks, Haagen Daz...) I'm glad that I have Dave around. He says he doesn't know much Japanese, but I'd be lost on the transit system without him.

Tomorrow, Dave and I have to wake up at 6:30AM. So I guess I should get to bed.
I'll try to keep my journal while I'm away so that I can post it all when I return.

Finally, I'd like to report that I packed like an IDIOT!!! How is it possible that I'm such a horrendous packer? Seriously, I don't know what I was thinking.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Dave is currently making me some stir fry. Can everyone shout "thanks Dave!" right now?


Still sick. And tired. OK, 14-hour flights are officially not my favourite. I wrote about 100 pages in my journal and saw 4 movies, slept probably less hours than that. It's 8:30pm here, but feels like 6:30am the next day. Dave says the later I can stay up, the better. He's so excited that I'm here. It's so good to see him!

Tomorrow we're going to Guyotoku to teach Dave's English Conversation Club. He says they won't believe that we're just friends. They'll continually ask how long we've been going out and when we're getting married.

Have just met Dave's roommate, Darren, from Melbourne. Nice guy.

Discovered that people here frequently wear these masks everywhere to protect themselves and those around them from colds. I feel like there's some outbreak that no one told me about. Creepy! Otherwise, everything is normal, except for all the signs in Engrish.

Drop me a line while you can; Dave has Internet access, so I'll be able to respond.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Still sick.

I don't have time to be sick! I still have to pack, move, figure out my laptop, send out all those last minute emails, pass off my contract work.

I've decided that my dad will have to finish my taxes. NO TIME. Tony convinced me of this last night when I had dinner with him, Brian and Scott at Rain. Amazing dinner. They are ridiculous and totally took my mind off of everything.

I won't be able to launch ALL the sections of my site, either. Well, my millions AND MILLIONS of fans will have to wait for those updates.

2 more sleeps.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

I am sick.

Why do the gods punish me??

Last night, went to my last DINE meeting (a women's dinner club, with members like Tree). And I told my stories, as usual. But I started listening to myself. I think I've become a MAN.

Now, I'm thinking maybe the gods are punishing me because I've got too much testosterone. Well, I'd like to let them know that I'm having ENOUGH problems with the raging hormones, thanks.

So stop it.

3 more sleeps.
Relaunched the site today. Yippee! I'm not "happy" with it, but I never will be so that's just something I will have to live with.

Now it is time to go to bed as I'm so tired I don't feel attached to my own body. That's what you get for never sleeping. Damn boys being so cute and web sites being so interesting to make and life-long dreams being so hard to plan! It's all messing with my sleep. Well, plenty of time to sleep on the plane. 4 more sleeps....

Monday, March 03, 2003

Clearly, my body enjoys being in pain. Maybe it could STOP THAT!

Also, I have discovered that tall men are incredibly sexy. I want to eat them all up.

Finally, I have decided that I am desperately in need of chinese food. Can I even remember the last time I went for yum-cha? The fates have conspired to keep me from it! I'm going this weekend with the ShanghaiMosquito, and no one can stop me. Also, I have half a mind to buy some cha siu at the butcher and make some wonton soup. TAKE THAT! I guess this is what happens when you don't have a chinese boyfriend. How do people LIVE like this?