Wednesday, November 29, 2006

yeah, philosophy

I just realized that last week I was pooh-poohing A's espousing after he read some philosopher's essay on how to be happy, and then today I found myself thinking, it's really too bad she can't just dig what she's got. (Which basically matches the guy's theory, though of course his sounded more academic, something like, "In order to attain happiness, one must desire what one already possesses."). Anyway, the she in that thought was a new friend who is finding it difficult to adjust to life here, principally because she has yet to find a job. But she says it's not about the money, it's about her self-worth. In some sense I feel for her, I've had my moments too. Hers just seem too frequent. It's like she's making herself miserable for nothing. She will get a job. So what if there's a 6-month hole in her CV? She moved to Japan, people will understand.

Then this evening we bumped into another newbie who miffed me when she claimed that Tokyo should be reclassified as having 1 or 2 degrees of "Hardship" (gov't speak for you get a bonus in line with the level of difficulty of the country you're posted in). One justification she gave for this was that when she wants to eat out she can't explain to the restaurant staff that she wants her meat well done. Can you believe that? If you can't communicate your needs that's YOUR problem. I mean grab a dictionary and look it up! Learn a little thing or two. Grrr!

Diplomats my ass anyway. Seriously, there are some real cases here. We've only been here 4 months and I'm already digusted. [Bulk of the paragraph censored by paranoid partner.] In fact, I seem to be sickened to the point of feeling some anger, possibly as a taxpayer. Sorry, I didn't mean to be a drag!

Monday, November 27, 2006

fished out

The ryokan was stunning, as you'll see from the pix, and the food (breakfast & dinner was included) was amazing but honestly I think I've had my fill of fish for awhile.

And I will say that I am anxious to try onsens again when I don't have a migraine. That's because I can vouch for the hotspring bath's effectiveness on the circulatory system, not only because my normally pasty complexion has taken on a nice glow after my three brief dips this weekend, but also because the slight migraine I had on Friday just kept pounding harder every time I boiled myself a little in the ryokan's onsen pool!

I'll probably write more about our trip tomorrow after I finish uploading the photos (yes, there's actually more than the 40 or so I just uploaded, sorry, I've become a photo fiend, what can I say?).

PS: Thanks for the crossed fingies but I had a nay e-mail from the HR lady for that job I was dreaming of getting at Nikkei. C'est la vie...

Monday, November 20, 2006

dreaming of pancakes

I'm just on my way to bed though it's only 9:30. Thing is that I've finally gone back to the gym after not having worked out much in the past 2 months because of all my sickness. Don't want to jinx myself (I seem to be getting stupidsticious in my old age) but my stomach hasn't acted up in about 2 weeks.

Anyhow if I wake up with a big appetite tomorrow morning s'alright because Chef Nolan (the ambassador's cook, a talented 20-something dude with spiky hair) is manning the griddle for a charity pancake breakfast we're heading to at the big cheese's house. I'm stoked not just for the food but because it'll be my first time inside the OR as they call it (official residence) and I have been pretty curious about that since we live right next door and all.

But Aran's likely to eat twice as many flapjacks as me because he just started swimming lessons tonight. The poor sports addict has hired the embassy kids' swimming instructor to teach him how to get a good work-out in the pool since he's still sidelined from anything that involves running/sprinting due to his "hockey hernia" (that he got playing soccer) that seems to never want to heal.

PS: I had my interview at Nikkei, the financial news conglomerate, today and I think it went okay (they seemed more nervous than me) so please cross fingies and toes too because I think I would love the job...

PPS: Hang in, I'll have a ton of new photos next weekend because we're going on another trip. This time we're heading to the Izu Peninsula and will be staying at a ryokan, hiking along the cliffs and maybe visiting an onsen (hot spring bath).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

tiny tsunami

So there was not much of a tsunami finally. A couple of places in northern Japan saw waves of 40 cm/16" but received no damage. Thanks for your concern, those of you who heard about the big undersea earthquake off the Kurile Islands above Japan and contacted me. I thought I'd give an update and some links for anyone who trolls my blog while I'm asleep (everyone who reads it basically!) and who might worry if they hear such warnings again in the future.

Firstly, here's a link to a map that shows the regions of Japan so that you can situate Tokyo in its region, which is Kanto. Hokkaido, the region targeted in yesterday's tsunami warning, is quite far north of here as you'll see.

There's also the Japan Meteorological Agency's website if you want info on tsunami warnings or recent earthquakes. However, it's not real user friendly if you don't know Japan very well. The best way to tell if anything is affecting us is to check the recent earthquakes (main) map for a red X in our region. A trick to help you locate us is to look for Tokyo Bay (here's a closeup from a little quake nearby last Monday). You can also look at the list of recent quakes but that's where it can be tricky because they're listed by sub-region names so it's harder to recognize things that affect Tokyo.

And you don't have to worry at all if the dots (indicating seismic intensity) are white, blue or green, which they usually are so please don't worry!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


It looks like I jinxed the weather by bragging in my last post about how it was still 20C here. It dropped a bit a few days ago and just tonight Aran & I got soaked by a sudden downpour. I hope Premier Campbell, who just arrived last night, wasn't hoping for a night out strolling the sites. But it's not that we're going to have a frost quite yet. I've got to snap a shot of these popular hedges that have recently started flowering with bright fushia blooms.

Speaking of jinx, I also just found out I didn't get the real job at the embassy I interviewed for a couple of weeks ago (not this temp thing I'm doing). Anyway there's so much b.s. at the embassy with never-ending gossip & quasi-scandals that I'm not sure I'd really want to work there! Hopefully I'll have better luck with the position I just tested for this afternoon because man I would love doing that! (Copyediting for a business news wire). Crossing your fingies please...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday fashion and food notes

boots w/skirts everywhere
No real reason for this short post, I was just inspired by this evening's trip along our nearby busy mainstreet to the grocery store.

New favourite snack foods: Satsuma (mandarine) flavoured popcorn and curry flavoured puffs (the latter are made by Fritos and have a consistency like Cheetos).

Sad veg observation: I'm very bummed because I think edamame season is over, they're getting much harder to find. I'm seriously addicted to the green yummies. If you're unfamiliar with them, edamame are fresh soybean pods which you boil lightly in salted water and then you eat 'em by putting the whole pod in your mouth and popping the beans out (the pods are too chewy to eat).

Surrounded by 'style': Though it's still 20C here, I'm already very sick of the knee-high, usually high-heeled, boots that 2 out of 3 women have been wearing with skirts and shorts since September.

Trend-going-wrong alert: And though the temperature is reminiscent of spring, I dread what I think is the next big trend: I saw many women in beige knee-length trench coats. Ick.

PS: The reason women are more often victims of my fashion critique is because most men are clad 6 days out of 7 (Tokyoites tend to work Saturdays) in dark business suits.

Okay I'm going to eat my grocery store take-out of sashimi and tempura now. It was a tough week readujsting to being stuck in an office, so TGIF!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

just bacon

So yes, I started the job. Watashi wa taishikan de shigoto o shimasu (or, "I work at the embassy." And have finally started to learn action verbs!) And thanks for the well wishes folks but if I need luck with anything it will be surviving the boredom. Actually I see alternating boredom and high stress in the immediate future thanks to my little contract. I will be helping assemble document packages such as welcome kits and briefing books for delegations that come here for meetings. Seriously, it's going to get pretty busy I think because next week the premier of BC is coming and so are a few other smaller delegations. Pretty mundane stuff but ka-ching, it'll be nice to bring home some extra bacon bits!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

void counting

counter void
Was just a quiet long weekend in Tokyo, Friday being "culture day" or something so Alain was off. I wasn't feeling so wonderful, my damn stomach flu keeps recurring and the doc at the clinic Thursday basically said, c'est la vie.

Friday was filled with mundane chores like laundry and curtain-cutting (for the living/diningroom) then we ate supper out and rented a movie. Yesterday we cycled to a huge "western" grocery store south of here so I could get some filo dough to make spanikopita this week (had a craving) and then I made a gateau au chocolate fondant for the dinner we were invited to last night where I ate the best couscous I ever tasted. Today we went for a long walk to Azabu Juban, a cute neighbourhood not far from the Roppongi Hills fancy shopping/apartment tower area that includes lots of great public art like the huge Void Counter digital display pictured here.

And tomorrow is my first day at work so I'll find out exactly what I'll be doing because all I know is that I'll be helping the unit that prepares for large meetings/visits. I'll be working for half of one of our favourite embassy couples so that's cool, I already know I like my boss! I'll also find out my schedule (all I know is 18.75 hrs a week), hope it's not always mornings!

Friday, November 03, 2006

i swear they're teradactyls

I've long since developed a strong dislike of Tokyo crows. They're louder (especially around sunrise the stupid bastards) and I think bigger than Canadian crows with bigger toucan-y like beaks. Anyway they're way more abundant than in Montreal or Ottawa, at least on our compound, maybe because of all the trees in the park next to the embassy & the ambassador's garden. Around here they tend to swoop at you when you least expect it. I used to think it was just accidental but my friend K just told me this morning that she saw two of them eat a little bird the other day. They plucked all its feathers off and shared everything but its wings & neck. So now I'm wondering about the swoops...

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