Wednesday, September 27, 2006

comments, lies and long-distance rates

So it seems my novelty has worn off. Or maybe my material ain't as interesting! But comments and e-mail response to this 'lil blog seem to have fallen off somewhat (though curiously I seem to get the same number of visitors each day, according to the counter. Perhaps it's "Next Blog" button clickers? Hello strangers!)

Of course it's perfectly understandable. My interest in snapping photos almost everywhere I go will also eventually wane I'm sure. In the meantime, I got a good laugh recently when a person I e-mailed to check if they were still alive responded with a fib and a lie. The fib was that they'd been posting comments, wasn't I able to see them? In fact the person in question hadn't commented in a month! The lie was that he/she had not been getting time on their computer because someone else in the house was always using it.

Now I personally have a thing against lying. Not because I'm particularly honest but mostly because I've got a high level of common sense, or perhaps wisdom, or likely a combo of the two. See you rarely get away with lies, right? Don't they always seem to go awry, and the person you lied to usually finds out and then it's just a big icky mess?

Anyway, I'm not going to make a big mess, in fact I'm laughing about a case in point: I did find out that this person has begun dating online recently. Perhaps they should have realized that the little bird was likely to tell me so and that I'd deduce that e-flirting was really what was taking up computer time! Guess I'll have to make a Skype call to find out if any interesting prospects have been e-snared!

Oh human nature can be so fascinating, no? Any comments liars and non-liars out there?

But speaking of honesty, in all truth, I mainly wanted to post just to use the catchy title I came up with when thinking about the situation! Like it?

Monday, September 25, 2006

sunsets 'r us

Just wanted to post mostly to point out that I uploaded some new pix of Odaiba, a man-made island just off the Tokyo waterfront that is a wonderland of parks/entertainment areas and truly stunning architecture.

Most of the photos were shot at sunset because we only arrived there around mid-afternoon yesterday since our morning was spent voluteering at a Terry Fox walk/run. Aran and I held the start rope, which was fine for the 10 km because they were all adults (though some were quite tall so at GO I had to stretch my arm way up and stand on my tippy toes to lift the rope high enough). But my arm nearly fell off for the 5 km because there were a lot of kids at the front who thought it was fun to push up against the rope!

Anyway, it was a long morning because we had to wait for all the last straggling walkers since we also found ourselves with cheering duties, pointing the returnees to the finish line at the end of the marathon. It was actually pretty fun! The turnout was marvelous, we apparently hit 1,000. That could possibly be thanks to the absolutely gorgeous weather we've been enjoying. Clear blue sky, highs in the mid 20s C with a nice cool wind and cool nights.

The other main event of our weekend was the earthquake centre visit on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately I don't have pictures of us in the simulator, which would've been blurry anyhow: our group was treated to a level 7 and it was quite eyeopening. As was the 3D movie we saw that showed you life in Tokyo during and after a serious quake. I was a wack of nerves after all the falling bricks, poles and live wires. Our friends' 6-year-old son couldn't watch and was taken out crying.

But all in all I was glad to go there and have a better idea what kind of sh*t could happen. Could might maybe but probably not.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

fun facts/observations

  • When it's sunny, many women carry sun parasols, which look like regular umbrellas but are often frillier

  • Most beauty salons that do hair & makeup have English signs announcing that they do, except they never say "make up", just "make"! I will eventually find out why because I'm very curious about it (it probably has something to do with the kanji)

  • Though many Tokyoites seem to imbibe on a frequent basis, partaking in the common practice of going out after work for drinks with employers/fellow employees, the law is absolute zero tolerance for driving. So your goose is cooked if the breathalyzer detects ANY alcohol

  • I'm not so sure that law applies to bicyclists, since I've seen a few drunken ones

  • Speaking of cyclists, I've seen many sending text mssgs with their cell phones WHILE riding their bikes on busy sidewalks! Of course there're even more people who text while they walk (so they're not watching where they're going). Texting is way bigger here than talking on a cell. You don't see people talking on cells very often

  • And speaking of things that people don't seem to often do, you very-very rarely see a Japanese person eating or drinking on the street. Caf├ęs are everywhere but NO ONE carries a takeout coffee while walking. Could explain why the streets are so clean

  • Small dogs abound, as do fancy shops that sell clothing & accessories for them. Sadly, far too many people actually dress their dogs. I saw a pug today wearing camouflage overalls

  • Speaking of mini-mutts, I think they're big on cross-breeding here, particularly with pomeranians and chihuahuas and I often see something that looks like a cross between a sausage-dog and a cockerspaniel. A cocker-sausage I guess you'd call it

  • A popular (and very cute), medium-sized native Japanese breed is the Shiba Inu

  • Ok, back to people. Lots and lots of twenty & thirty-something male kaishain ("company men" or office workers) wear their dark suits with skinny pant legs, skinny ties, pointy shoes and spiky hair. Very cool

  • Monday, September 18, 2006

    much to say & unpack

    I just posted some new photos but it's late so I'll keep this short. We received our sea shipment yesterday (Saturday), in other words most of our boxes. Needless to say our place is upside down! We didn't get to do much unpacking though because our social calendar is starting to get busy these days. After the movers left, we actually had to run out for groceries to make a couple of dishes for a potluck supper we were invited to last night.

    And between the mid-afternoon cooking and the dinner, we had tickets to the Latin Beat film festival at 4 p.m. Both the Mexican film (called DramaMex) and the party (hosted by an embassy couple who live on our compound) were great. Aran was quite taken with the view from their master bathroom. Apparently a man can gaze at Tokyo Tower while he pees.

    So today (Sunday), despite being slightly hungover, we should have done some serious unpacking but ding-dong, another new friend from the compound came calling to see if we wanted to go out exploring. And since we adore him and love wandering, we were an easy sell. Grabbed the camera, put on some comfy shoes, and off we went.

    We actually went to two different areas. The first being an area filled with second-hand bookstores and the other a popular neighbourhood that includes a theatre district, market, and huge temple (pagoda and all), to name a few.

    And then A & I had to run downtown to make it to another Latin Beat flick (Peruvian this time) which blew my mind, called Madeinusa. We just finished a late dinner and now I must say oyasuminasai (good night).

    Friday, September 15, 2006

    enjoying a visit

    From autumn that is. The high today was only 23C, with no humidity! It cooled off a few days ago during a rainy spell but though the rain quit yesterday around lunch, the humidity has not come back. It's so nice to have the AC off and the windows open! But it will get hot again on Sunday according to the forecast. I don't mind, I just hope the high humidity is gone for good. October is apparently like September back home so I guess that makes it still August.

    So I have no new pictures, partly because of the rain (it was really pouring so I didn't go out walking unless I had to) and partly because last night I forgot my damn camera when we went out for an after-dinner walk. It was already dark so that's probably why I didn't think to take the camera. It's getting dark so early now, the sun sets around 6 so by 7 it's fully dark.

    But I digress, as usual! We walked north, to see the west side of a neighbourhood we once briefly visited shortly after arriving, Arakicho (it's actually part of Yotsuya). It's not one of the hot neighbourhoods like Shinjuku or Roppongi so I guess that's why it took us so long to check it out. But we are now anxious to go back, particularly on a Saturday night.

    See we found a couple of absolutely adorable little sidestreets that are more like the winding back alleys of a Spanish casco veijo (old town) and are filled with one cute tiny bar or restaurant after another. We'll have to drag one of Alain's Japanese-speaking colleagues from the embassy along because the restaurants there are the types of small, family-run places that are filled with regulars from the neighbourhood. The exact type of place we've never visited because they aren't likely to have English or picture menus.

    We'll also have to go back during the day as well so I can get a few shots of this hospital that is architecturally very funky and beautiful.

    Okay well I have to run and go Farrah-flip my hair and put some blue eyeshadow on: the embassy happy hour tonight is a Disco Dance Party to launch their United Way campaign.

    Tuesday, September 12, 2006

    new fav things

    living thing: tiny house plants, there's plenty of room in this pad for many, many more

    pottery thing: this new dish, which I got at the grocery store for $3

    song: "All Alone" by Gorillaz, their whole new album is pretty awesome actually

    store: Muji, like Ikea gets the zen thing and adds some basic clothing

    building: the Tokyo International Forum's architecture had me gawking up like a goofy gaijin geek

    beverage: iced green tea, I bought the fancy kind (matcha) and polyphenols and assorted miracle properties aside, it's delicious

    fruit: fat, juicy, sweet Japanese figs

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    the friend-making scene

    So I've been seeing a lot of B recently. We had met briefly at a fireworks display several weeks ago and since then our men had been trying to set us up. She finally phoned me mid-week last week and we had a long, pleasant chat. We ended the call by arranging our first date for a coffee the following day.

    Since then we've spoken on the phone several times and on Friday we got together again for a coffee and some walking & shopping. She and her guy ended up inviting us over for dinner that night. And on Saturday we saw them at an inter-embassy BBQ, though we didn't hang out very much since there were so many people and a lot of mingling (though not so much inter-embassy inter-mingling) going on. I think I should phone her today to show her that I'm still interested.

    But A and I also want to keep playing the field. Two weeks ago we thought we were falling for another couple with whom we shared a very stimulating evening at an awesome (and very authentic) Spanish tapas bar. A and I are both crazy about both of them but we're not so sure they feel the same way. Last week, A told her how much we enjoyed ourselves in an effort to spur along a next date. She responded that they too had a great time but that was as far as she went. And then the other day I saw him at a lecture we were both attending and he did not acknowledge my presence! I was slightly crushed.

    As you can see, the thrown together thing can cause a strange social vibe! Though I may be slightly exaggerating the similarities to dating, there really is a sort of "let's test them out, but not commit to anything" thing happening between the various couples of our generation. It's odd but kind of funny and pretty understandable since we're all going to have to live in the same fishbowl for four years, so you've got to kind of be careful who you get chummy with, in case you end up regretting it.

    PS: No new photos since we didn't feel like adventuring this weekend because it was too damn hot.

    Thursday, September 07, 2006

    a slight tremble

    Just felt a little tremble as I sat here at the desk, about to look up a job lead, given to me by a potential new friend*. It was slight but I got up anyway, muttering, "What again?" and propped the front door open with my shoe. I was calmer this time, perhaps due to experience or maybe because it wasn't as strong, so I stood near rather than diving under the kitchen table, waiting to see what would happen next.

    Despite my newfound bravado, I was thankful that nothing did. I checked the web and it was only 2 on the Japanese intensity scale here in Tokyo, a 3 at its epicentre in Chiba Prefecture, an area around the other side of Tokyo Bay a couple of hours from here by car I think. Pretty soon I'll be an old hand at this earthquake thing.

    *(I'll post about our friend-making experiences soon).

    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    a chawenging ranguage

    Oh the joys of learning a new language! Fascination meets frustration, obsession transforms into hopelessness and then cycles around again.

    Yesterday's Japanese class had me and my classmate quite frustrated because we've gone from learning how to count to 100 a few weeks ago, to how to tell time, then days of the month and yesterday to talking prices, for which we were introduced to thousands and up (since C$1 = 106 yen).

    What's the big deal you ask? Well, to put it briefly, numbers in Japanese are a huge mountain to climb, especially for the mathematically challenged, such as myself. For example, the name for X number of minutes is not necessarily the same as for that number! For example, the number one is ichi but one minute is ip (with -pun for minutes, so ip-pun) and the numeral 6 is rokku but six minutes become rop-pun. And then there are dates; for most days of the month you have to learn yet another number! The 1st, rather than having ichi or ip as a root is tsuitachi, and the 6th has nothing to do with rokku or rop-pun but is muika! Arrggghhh!

    And this, my friends is just the tip of the iceberg. Anything from 10,000 to 100,000,000 are counted by ten thousands (eg. 10,000,000 is sen man, which translates literally as one thousand ten thousands). There's no million of course. I personally hold no hope of ever being able to say numbers over 10,000 (ichi-man, or one ten-thousand). Alas, it's not like I'll have those amounts to worry about in my day-to-day life.

    Now the next chunk of the iceberg to swallow, perhaps with the help of its vodka form, will be learning the different counters. You see depending on whether you're counting something small like eggs or sushi, something long like a pencil or bottle, or something thin (paper, plates), etc., there are different ways to count! Again, using 1 as an example, it's ikka for one egg, hitori for one person, ichi-mai for one sheet of paper, etc., etc. So wish me luck with numbers...

    Aside from the dreaded numerals, this week I promised myself I would finish memorizing the basic hiragana alphabet (the 50-odd characters used mainly for pronunciation). I'm anxious to learn this because signs and things are often written in these characters -- for the benefit children and gaijin like me, I suppose -- instead of (or as well as) in kanji, the chinese symbol-based characters, of which there are thousands.

    So I'll be taking my trusty hiragana flashcards with me wherever I go. Like when I sat in the park yesterday evening to study and ended up sparking the interest of a couple of friendly workermen who had just finished their snack break, which apparently included some alcohol, on a bench nearby. I didn't understand anything they tried to tell me except that they didn't quite approve of my shuffling of the deck; they apparently thought I should keep my flashcards in order at all times (a, i, u, e, o; ka, ki, ku, ke, ko, etc.)!

    Anyway, it will all hopefully start to fall into place in a few months from now. I'm just impatient: I want to speak Japanese NOW not in 2 years from now! In the meantime, my politically incorrect revenge for all the diffculties is in the giggles I get when I remember how funny it can be when a Japanese person tries to pronounce the L sound. Thanks to a helpful English-speaking salesgirl who recently extolled the virtues of rambskin.

    Sunday, September 03, 2006

    smog's eye view

    Well I'm too wiped to actually make much sense so posting now ain't a great idea but I just wanted to point out that I uploaded lots of new photos yesterday shot during some solo wandering (and clandestine photo snapping of people on the street) I did around our neighbourhood. And I just uploaded a bunch more because today A dragged me all over Yokohama, a port city that's a 40 minute train ride away. Many of today's pix were taken from the top of Japan's tallest building

    Anyway, I think we walked for something like 6 hours, and me with a migraine hangover. I had my 4 or 5th migraine in as many weeks yesterday. Don't know what's triggering them, I was doing well in the past few years and had probably had that many in the last year combined. I think it's probably allergy-related. Unfortunately something here (smog maybe, though it's not as bad as you would think, maybe mould, it's so humid) irritates my eyes and also affects my nose a bit. Oh well, it's better than the nasty itchy eardrums, nose and throat my hayfever back home would be giving me about now.

    So enough exhausted rambling about that! Time to hit the shower. I'm not smelling so nice after all that walking in strong summer sunshine. Yeah, it's still hot here, today was around 30 I think.

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