Monday, June 23, 2008

yellow sky and some green things

Haven't posted in quite awhile because life's just been rolling along with no major inspiring events of which to speak. My best Tokyo pal moved back to Canada last week, so I guess I'm kind of down.

And the icky rainy season weather doesn't help the blues, since the sun ain't shined in awhile. In fact this afternoon, as G and I returned home from a walky, there were nasty looking purple clouds brewing on top of the regular medium-gray ones and the combo created an eerie yellow light over our neighbourhood. Shortly thereafter, with us having just entered the apt, the rain began again (it poured all afternoon yesterday).

Speaking of my inu, which I know you want me to do, this aft I purposely took her to this particular park where I knew a certain boy dog would likely be. And as luck would have it, we did run into Atom, an adorable 14-month-old little shiba who is positively enamoured with my whitey-girl. They get on like playful bear cubs, wrestling when on leash and running huge wide circles (Grace in the lead), when off leash. And when Miz G bores of the game and turns away, Atom watches her wistfully, trying to recapture her attention. But G-dog also adores Atom's human since he tends to have a pocketful of salmon jerky with which he is very liberal.

Well, enough with the pup talk. I realize I lied in my first sentence when I said that nothing inspiring is up with me. In fact I'm excited to be working with the UNU media studio again. The new project I'm helping out with is a webzine that'll be launching in the next few weeks. It'll be about how it is ever more clear, in this age of skyrocketing oil prices & food crises, that we need to find better ways to do things on this planet. It'll examine where tune-ups are needed, from the tiny choices we make daily, to bigger political/economic questions. I'm very excited.

And on the little choices front, I'm always looking for new ways to have less impact but have found that the choice of products out there doesn't make it easy, particularly in Japan, packaging and consumption capital. However, perhaps things are changing. Just the other day I was thrilled to discover a toilet paper brand that is made entirely from milk cartons! And then today I received a gift in the mail from my sister in Vancouver that inspired more hope in me: a kitchen cutting board made from 100% recycled plastic. Maybe at long last, more companies are finally seeing the (green!) light and realizing that we want products that we won't feel guilty buying.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

just noodles, hold the bread & cheese

Whipping up a quick Thai green curry (packaged curry paste, fresh veg with tofu and crab) for dinner, I realized that Thai cuisine is somewhat more accessible than Japanese in that the elements are usually predictable or at least identifiable: rice or noodles, veggies, chicken or fish, egg.

Sure, Thai folk do sometimes eat other meat or throw in some tofu. Yes, they often load in the chili peppers and other exotic seasonings like lemongrass. However, there's no nattou (fermented soy beans), or myriad other things that farang (Thai for gaijin/foreigner) are not accustomed to eating, like raw fish, unfamiliar mountain vegetables, or mystery pickles of various vibrant and dull colours.

This is not to say that I think Thai food is better. I personally love both. Thai food is so tasty and colorful. And Japanese cuisine encompasses so many types of unique and delectable things. My sister's visit here just made me realize that you have to be a little brave (yay to her for that sashimi she ate) and you may learn to love the unfamiliar.

One thing for certain, those looking to loose weight would do well on either a diet of Thai or Japanese foods only. I hate to admit, to anyone who struggles with such things, that I shed a few pounds in Thailand without needing nor intending to loose weight.

When I realized my pants were looser (we don't have a scale), I originally thought it was because: a) I had been pretty sick, and coughing like I did must burn some calories; and b) my appetite tends to wane in extreme heat. However, on further reflection (whilst eating a bagel this morning), I realized that I didn't have one slice of bread or bit of cheese for the whole 10 days. Nor did I eat dessert or chocolate more than once or twice. All the while lugging suitcases down docks, onto trains, walking killer stairs and hills, swimming like all the other fish.

Anyway, foodie that I am, and living in the quality eats capital of the world (even the French restaurants here got more Michelin Guide stars than Paris, not to mention the bakeries), I'm sure to recapture my lost few inches soon. But word to the wise: noodles and rice suffice, she said, just prior to indulging in a piece of the tarte au sirop d'érable concocted by a Québécoise pal.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

sunshine and sharks

I've just finished uploading my pix from Ko Tao and I only wish the memories of tropical heat could warm my cold feet. The weather in Tokyo's been rainy and colder than normal since I returned on the weekend.

So, as you'll see from the photos, Ko Tao was the perfect choice for those of us who don't relish a touristy party island atmosphere. Ko Tao is refreshingly not overrun, with some very secluded spots where in low season you truly feel like you got away from it all. From everything but geckos and butterflies that is.

As for the aquatic life, I snorkeled my brains out, despite being pretty sick with a hacking cough from the second nasty flu I got in the past few months. I was at my sickest on our travel day, which was flying 6 hours from here to Bangkok, a two-hour bus ride from airport to train station, an overnight train to Chumphon, a couple of hours wait for the ferry, and finally a 90 minute ferry ride to the island.

Healthy it wouldn't have been so bad, really. A condensed voyage is sometimes best: leave your house one morning at 7 a.m. and arrive on a paradisiacal Thai island the next at 9 a.m.!

Anyhow, I saw reef sharks (small and not dangerous, but sharky-looking nonetheless), many, many sorts of fish and a decent variety of coral too.

The sleeper train back to Bangkok afterwards was kind of fun, though I didn't sleep despite us having a private room this time. (On the way there they had cancelled our reservation because we arrived too late so we had to "sleep" in the open 2nd class sleeper area, separated from the aisle by only a curtain. Since I was coughing so much, I felt terrible about keeping others awake so I spent most of that voyage in the bathroom car area.)

The most interesting part was probably waiting for the train at the very busy Chumphon station. Many trains pass through this open air station and it was so fascinating to watch the local food commerce people chatting between trains, then prepping and jumping on each train to sell soups, snacks, fresh veggies.

But I think I'll end with that slice of the trip, more to come probably (maybe about two-legged sharks in Bangkok). It's past bedtime and unfortunately I'm working full time this week since my boss is off in Hokkaido in preparation for next month's G-8. A summit which Aran is incidentally dreading since he's got to go for two weeks of very intense work.

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