Saturday, June 16, 2007

The disappearing month of May

May has come and gone, and has taken with it a visit from my family. I am still in shock over the fact that it has already happened, seeing as it seemed to take forever to actually get here.
But such is life. Either way it was an amazing month and I have about 5000 pictures to prove it. It was amazing to get to see my family again and I had soooo much fun traipsing around Japan with them! Below you will find a little sample of things done and interesting anecdotes.

I will start off slightly backwards, with the last night of my parents visit, mostly because the story behind it is hilarious.
By recommendation of my lonely planet book, we decided to get dressed up and head to the Park Hyatt for a drink. Now, if you have seen the movie 'Lost in Translation' you might like to know the Tokyo Hyatt is where it was filmed. Its pretty much the best hotel in Tokyo and the view alone leaves one feeling like they are standing on the edge of the world.
So anyways, we go in and are sitting for a while, when suddenly I notice a guy almost walk into our table. He looked surprised and ducked around us, and me, being insanely observant, thought to myself...hmm...he's kinda cute, but also kinda drunk....hehe
So no sooner does he scoot by our table, then the 2 girls sitting next to us begin to freak out. Still not thinking anything of it, we go about our business. A few minutes later a large entourage of people meander by and one the girls trys to latch onto the guy who almost walked into our table. My Dad, being ever so shy, leans over and asks "who was that??"
Well, wouldn't you know.....With Pirates 3 premiering just 2 days prior in Tokyo, ORLANDO BLOOM was staying at the Hyatt. ARGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Orlando Bloom pretty much walked into us and I didn't even notice!!!!!!

Meaghan and I were obviously quite upset at our lack of observational skills, and determined we WOULD get a picture with him before we left Tokyo.....

We were so cute that night too!!!! Its no fair..... : (

Anyways, we have moved on. Clearly he is just not good enough :P

Ok! So backing up a bit in time....

These next few pics are a sample from our visit to Kyoto...
Gorgeous as always, I think it is impossible to take a bad picture here.
This trip was interesting because we actually met a few local people who toured us around. As amazing as everything is to look as it all means so much more when you actually know the history behind it.
The first person whom we encountered was a University student names Hatsuka who was doing volunteer tours at Kiyomizudera (interestingly, this temple is in the running for one of the "new 7 wonders of the world")

After a failed attempt to spot a Geisha the last time we visited Kyoto, I was on the lookout, and sure enough, at the first temple we visited I managed to see one! We were pretty far, but given the insane shoes they have to wear I figured we would race and catch her. She was nice enough to pose for a shot with us. I have to say, they are amazing people to look at. Its a wonder how they manage to move in all the clothing they have to wear. She was absolutely beautiful though.
As our trip went on we actually spotted quite a few more geisha, each just as amazing looking. Totally made up for my miss last time!!

This next picture is from the Arashiyama area in favourite place!!! You may remember the monkey video from way back.....that was in this area as well. Its gorgeous and surrounded by water and mountains and temples.....
I'm not even going to try to describe it any should just come see it for yourself.

Ok, moving on to Tokyo. Like I said I have a ton of pictures and these are only a tiny sample to give you an idea of what we were up to...


Ok seriously the coolest sport EVER. I didn't even think it would be that interesting but we ended up staying for almost the entire thing. Its another thing that can't really be explained. In fact I still don't really know the rules, but its interesting to watch. Its all about psyching your opponent out and most of the time there isn't anything more than a staring match or salt throwing going on, but its intense.

This is the biggest paper lantern in Japan, and it is located right in the midst of Tokyo. Apparently one of the only places where modernization has yet to take a huge tole (in Tokyo). This was actually one of the most impressive temples I have seen and rivalled any that we visited in Kyoto. And being in the midst of the largest city in the world only made it all the more intriguing.

The rest of these pictures are from a little trip to Gifu castle, just 20 minutes from Ichinomiya. Ian and I had yet to visit and though the castle left a bit to be desired, the scenery more than made up for it. And being on top of a mountain just made it even cooler. Of course, that will seem only trivial in a week....

Why you say? Because next Saturday we will be going on a 19 km climb up FUJI-SAN!!!!!!!

More on that soon to come!

We aren't sure what was going on here....

Or here....

In fact I think most times we have no clue whats going on! But it makes life interesting.

Anyways there is lots more to come....more family pics, and our karaoke spree after they left!! Possibly some of the most entertaining shots yet to check back soon!!!

Miss you all!!

Lots of Love


Friday, June 15, 2007

Extree Extree: Nova Sinks, Ian Swims!!!

In Ichinomiya city today, EFL teacher Ian Matheson was relieved by his narrow escape, but not too surprised as he read the top headline in today's news:

For our less ambitious readers, I've extracted the important points:

Nova dealt penalty for deception
Nova Corp., the nation's largest English-language school chain, was ordered by the government Wednesday to partially suspend business for six months for lying to customers about its services.

Nova shares fell 10 percent to end Tuesday's trading at a 52-week low of 88 yen.

With my final pay cheque set to come through tonight at midnight, I'd say I got out JUST IN TIME.
I biked an hour and a half in the rain today. I'm dry now.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I Bike -- (text update: Ian's new job)

So, it's been awhile since we had a good ol' fashioned written post. Some of you may be wondering what my new job is like. Some of you may have not known that I have a new job.

Update #1. Ian has a new job.

Now you might be wondering "Just what does this job involve, Ian?"
Well, this job involves me travelling to student's houses to teach them fun (hopefully) English lessons. About 2/3 - 3/4 of my students are children, ranging in ages from under 1 year up to 12 years old. I teach many brother and sister sets, often with another friend or two joining the lesson. Now I will anticipate and answer some questions:

How do you get between classes? How much travel time do you have?
Currently I am still waiting on converting my Canadian driver's license to a Japanese one. Thus, I travel by bicycle to all of my classes, but occasionally take a train. The closest class is just 2 minutes from our apartment, but the furthest is a hefty 45 minute ride. I usually end up biking for around 1.5-2 hours/day, all together. So far (finger's crossed) the weather has been beautiful, so I'm quite enjoying it. However, Japan's rainy season is set to begin any day now.

Do you like the new job? Is it better than NOVA?
Yes, and yes. At Nova, all of the lesson plans are written out for you, and you don't really have time to think about the job much at all. Let's face it, if you don't have to think, and they keep sending pay-cheques, it's just too easy to not put any effort into the work. But, that's not at all a satisfying job experience. Now I have practically the opposite situation: no plan whatsoever, and it's entirely up to my creative energy to make things work. Not to mention, it pays better, I work fewer hours, and (hopefully soon) I'll have a company car (and can write off gas as a business expense). If I had to name downsides: I had really good coworkers at Nova, but now I spend most time going solo. Also, there will be days when the weather is just not fun for biking!

What kind of hours do you work?
I'm kind of an after-school tutor, and for the most part classes are between 3:30-7:30pm. The adult classes are either during the morning or early afternoon (having tea with groups of older ladies), or in the evening around 8:30-9:30pm. On days with later classes I'm home around 10pm, but once or twice a week I finish by 6pm.

What do you do with those REALLY young kids that you mentioned?
Not a whole lot. I only have one class where the kids are that young, and there's a Japanese lady teaching the class as well. I'm there to help with songs, read them stories, and so on. Also, the mothers sit in the classroom with the kids, so it's more for their benefit if anything. After that class, all other kids are in the 5-12 range.

What is it like teaching in peoples' homes? What are their homes like?
Actually, this is part of the job that is really cool. I get to see many different homes, and observe a bit of modern Japanese lifestyle. Sometimes the mothers will sit in the lessons and watch, or help the kids. Other times they bring me drinks and snacks - everyone is quite welcoming and hospitable. In modern Japan many houses/apartments are quite Westernized, with just hints of traditional Japan (a sliding door to the bedroom, for example). But there are still some beautiful, completely traditional Japanese homes. In the future, I'll try to get some pictures of some homes and gardens to display on here.

OK, that brings you up to date a bit on my new job situation. Please ask if you have any more questions.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Remember Ishigaki?

You may remember way back in April Tara and I visited a small island called Ishigaki in Okinawa prefecture. Once again it feels like a whole lot of time has passed, and a lot of things have changed. May was a blurry flurry of activity with a short trip to Tokyo, a visit by the Rafferteam (one side effect of which was that we are now housing a Meaghan) and a slightly exhausting changing of the job for myself.
I am now enjoying a 4 day weekend, and thought I'd take this opportunity to bring you the final installment of THE ISHIGAKI ISLAND ADVENTURE!!!