Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What is it about me and modes of transportation?

I forgot the part on Sunday in Montreal where, after finding out I wouldn't be able to have dinner with Mark and telling my grandmother that I'd be back home in about half an hour, I waited a full hour for the Papineau bus. Having taken the métro (subway) from downtown over to Papineau station, I decided instead of walking the 20-minute walk home to my grandmother's that I'd take the bus up Papineau. I was exhausted from all the shopping. It was 6:55 and I'd just missed the 6:54 bus. The 7:11 bus never came, nor did the 7:29 bus. The 7:48 bus was late. It was a fitting end to the weekend. ;)

Now after a day and a half at home, I am in Toronto until Friday night. Took the overnight bus last night, which was late. Whatever it is with my luck these days, I must leave Canada soon in an attempt to leave it behind!!! The bus leaves first from Montreal (coincidence? perhaps not!), then comes to Ottawa and on to Toronto. There was apparently a delay on the Montreal end. We were supposed to leave at 12:30...and actually left only at 2:00 a.m.!

Couldn't get a window seat unfortunately (it turns out there are other crazy people besides myself who take overnight busses), but I was lucky enough to sit in the area reserved for wheelchairs (none on our bus) and so was blessed with a HUGE amount of leg room. Kinda made up for the four-seater on Monday's train, I guess. Slept maybe 3 hours in total on the ride down. Got in to T.O. at 6:40 (supposed to be 5:55, so we'd made up some time somewhere along the way). My brother picked me up at the subway station, and then I fell asleep on my parents' bed (my dad was already up but my mom was trying to sleep, and I'd gone in to talk to her) for the rest of the morning till about noon.

No plans today - I'd wanted to go visit my aunt but we were short a car. Around 2:30 we had a tremendous thunder and lightning and hail storm - I couldn't even see to the back of our backyard. Mom, it turns out, was on the road in the midst of all this (she'd gone out earlier to do errands), but was smart and pulled into a parking lot rather than try to continue driving.

The Toronto Agenda:

Tonight, no plans.

Tomorrow, I go to Hamilton to visit Jen and Allison so that Jen and I may test the ability of a 6-month-old in enduring a lunch-and-shopping outing.

Tomorrow evening, no plans.

Friday afternoon, my dad's cousin Marion arrives for the long weekend, and I plan on going shopping downtown (MEC and Eaton Centre).

Friday evening, no plans.

Friday at midnight, take the bus back to Ottawa (hopefully on time).

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

That must be a mistake!

There are 31 days until we leave for Japan. 31 days! That's a month, folks. A month!

please stand by. this blog will return once its author stops having a nervous breakdown.

Someday perhaps, for all your amusement, I will post the entire list of absolutely everything I have to do between now and July 29. It boils down like this: I'm moving 1/4 of my life to Japan, 1/3 is going into storage, and whatever else is left (any math majors in the crowd?) is being given away. Somewhere in there I am going to Toronto (twice), Vancouver and Winnipeg. The spare room looks like a tornado hit it, the kitchen hasn't a clean dish left in sight, and we're almost out of toilet paper in the washroom. Life is good. :)

Monday, June 26, 2006

The weekend that almost was...

What a weird weekend. A good time was had by all (OK, by me) in Montreal, but it was a string of almosts and not-quites.

Saturday morning I took the train up to Montreal. Directly behind me was seated an insufferable bore. And he was British, to boot. It was like being in a bad movie. I wanted to spend my train trip staring out the window listening to the moody atmospheric tones of Sigur Ros, but quickly found out that the only thing that would drown out the droning voice behind me was a mix CD (I need a new mp3 player) with the likes of David Bowie, Blink 182 and Pink. At a very loud volume. Seriously, the guy behind me stopped talking for about 20 minutes of the 2-hour train ride.

Once arrived chez ma grandmaman, I met up with my parents, who were in town for the day, and my uncle. The five of us headed out to the Jardin Botanique, where my grandmother, who is a Friend of the Garden, wanted to see the photography exhibition currently showing onsite, "Family Memories at the Botanical Garden" at the Tree House ("Maison de l'arbre"). This is the 75th anniversary of the Garden. My grandmother worked there for a number of years in the 1940s, and was (I believe) the first directrice of the children's gardens.

When we got to the Garden, we were just in time to climb aboard the little train that takes you on a tour of the complete Garden. We were advised that since it was the last train of the day (at 3:30! - obviously this should have tipped us off), we would have to take it down to the south end then switch to a different train to make it back up to the Maison de l'arbre. No problem. We rode the train halfway down through the grounds, then were advised everyone had to get off since the trains weren't continuing all the way to the other end because of construction. You can't really feel jipped when a FREE train offers less than expected, but we were slightly disappointed. So while my family waited in line for the northbound train, I ran off in search of the nearby Japanese gardens (because lord knows I won't be getting enough of those in 32 days from now), but had barely glimpsed the outer pond of the gardens when I heard the train coming back.

We took the train back up north, grumbling about the aborted trip around the Garden, and got off at the Maison de l'arbre at 4:10, only to find that while normally it closes at 6:00 (which was the sign I had checked before jumping on the train the first time around), it had closed at 4:00 that day because it was St-Jean Baptiste Day! Feeling slightly dejected by this point, we took some goofy family photos (which I might post if my mother ever sends them to me*), then my dad and I took a quick tour of the pond behind the Maison de l'arbre.

We were just debating how to spend a bit more time at the Garden (we had dinner reservations at 5:30 but it was barely 4:30 at this point), when a security guard came up to us and said the Garden was closing early, rather than at sunset like usual, because of - you guessed it, St-Jean Baptiste!

So we left, went to my uncle's house to discuss the trees in his backyard (he wanted to cut one or two down and wanted my mother's opinion), then went to dinner. And dinner was, I am pleased to announce, GREAT! As good as I had been hoping. We went to Le Flambard, a little French bistro on Rachel Street just past the Parc Lafontaine. Sooooo good. I had the rarest, bestest filet mignon steak I have ever had, plus a cream of broccoli soup, a salad with lyonnais sausage, and pear and mango sorbet to top it all off. Expensive, but worth every penny.

Sunday morning, I met my friend Anne-Marie for dim sum in Chinatown. She was late getting to our arranged meeting point, and I had just enough time to start worrying that it was going to turn into another "almost" moment, when she got off a bus at the corner. Turns out she'd had her own share of "almost" moments - she'd barely missed her first bus, started to walk in the direction, and managed to be caught between two bus stops and therefore missed the second bus when it went by, etc. But it was great to see her - the dim sum (which I haven't had in at least ten years) was quite tasty, and we hung out in Chinatown for a while. There was a festival of some sort going on and I took some pictures - however, since I don't (yet) have a digital camera, you're going to have to wait another year for me to finish the roll of film before I can post my pics online. (LOL)

Shopping in Montreal. Aahhhhh, but I do love shopping there. I almost didn't have enough time at Simons, but I managed to spend almost $150 just there alone anyway, so it's probably a good thing I didn't have time to try as much on as I would have liked.** I finished the day with a black suit (my second purchased black suit in as many weeks - now I have to decide which one to keep!), a funky white blouse, brown semi-dressy pants, a grey zip-up sweater, a green T-shirt, and three V-neck sleeveless sweater vests - one grey, one black, one burgundy. All in all, successful shopping.

Then it was time for my other main reason to come to Montreal (other than seeing my grandmaman and Anne-Marie): I called my good friend Mark, as planned from the day before, at about 6:30 since we were going to go out for dinner. I of course am leaving for Japan in a month; Mark, however, is beating me out of the country as he and his wife Amynah are moving to France, where Amynah has a post-doctorate fellowship in something relating to pharmaceutical sciences, on Wednesday! Mark and I have known each other for almost 10 years (we even dated for a torrential 9 or 10 months of those...let's just say we make much better friends!), so this was going to be our last hurrah together. Unfortunately, there had been a death in Mark's family and he was leaving that evening with his parents (who had driven in from Halifax) to drive to Guelph to be with the rest of his family. So while I was, understandably, sorry to hear about his family's misfortune, I was (and am) also sorry we wouldn't be getting to see each other. In fact, in true Julie-and-Mark fashion (we often seem to have trouble coordinating our schedules), he is taking the bus back to Montreal from Toronto on Tuesday afternoon, while I am taking the bus TO Toronto on Tuesday night (overnight, actually). So I guess all I can say more on that point is, Bon voyage, Mark & Amynah, and I hope you guys settle in well in Strasbourg!

Well, I think that's enough excitement for one weekend. I passed a nice impromptu evening with my grandmaman last night - she made pain cuit dans le sirop for dessert (literally, bread cooked in maple syrup) and it reminds me that I really ought to see my dentist before leaving for Japan. (Japan is a first-world country but apparently their dentists are something else.)

Train back this morning was fine. Such a short ride. Though I seem to constantly have the bad luck of being stuck in the 4-seater section (where you face your fellow travellers, so everyone's knees are in your way; well, at least for those of us who have any height at all).

Nap this afternoon was nice. Then a walk up to the Japanese embassy, where Randal and I dropped off our visa applications (today was the deadline and our coordinator actually called at 2:00 to make sure we hadn't forgotten! teehee). Early dinner (it was 4:00) at Marché at Rideau Centre, then some laptop (for R) / mp3 (for me) / digital camera (for me) shopping. No purchases (I'm broke now!).

Tomorrow's goals:
DMV to get international driver's license.
Pack for Toronto.
Japanese class 6:30-9:30.
Overnight bus to Toronto - whee!

* Hint hint.
** The grand total for the day was much more than $150 - I love shopping in Montreal, but never said it was cheap.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Almost as good as Hitchcock...

In further Close Encounters of the Winged Kind, today at lunch I met up with my friend Jennifer on the spur of the mo', and we got hotdogs from the guy who sells them on the edge of campus along Laurier. We sat on the steps of one of the university buildings while savouring our street meat. And were promptly joined by a number of birds, mostly sparrows again, who wanted to partake in the feast. Of particular note was one plucky little fellow who plunked himself down on the ground no more than a foot away from me. He kept a keen eye on my hotdog for a few moments. He then proceeded to engage in the most extreme display of chest-puffing out his chest and causing his feathers to ruffle all around him. If it is possible to be horrified and amused all at the same time, then I was. Jennifer remarked that he was probably used to people oohing and ahhing over his cuteness and then having people feed him bits of hotdog. But let me tell you, that hotdog went entirely into my gullet and no one else's.

I spent a chunk of the rest of the afternoon talking and giving computer technical advice to Josephine, a friend of mine from the law school here who I also know from Dalhousie, and then searching for a missing issue of the Supreme Court Law Review. (I found it.)

Tonight's agenda:
Get rid of nasty headache plaguing me since 3:30 - DONE
Laundry (one load only) - ALMOST DONE
Take Rion for a walk - DONE
Wings with Cheryl & Glenn at St. Louis' - 7:10 (SOON! YIPES!)

And my friend Simon, who I went out with last night, couldn't understand why I have virtually no spare time between now and July 29...

Update: Ruminations...

I forgot to mention the unscheduled part of the evening where I ended up walking to the bus station twice in a row, once to buy my ticket to Toronto and once to change the ticket to Toronto (so I could get a cheaper price because I'm a nob and didn't do that the first time I was there), and then all the way over to the Royal Oak on Laurier - which is a freakin' long walk! I might add - to have the aforementioned drinks with friends (which, incidentally, also included dinner since between the two walks to the bus station, and my misunderstanding that Randal was not going to the Market but in fact to Hartmans (the regular grocery store) to buy food and snacks, there was no "surprise dinner" after all despite my claims to the contrary).

All of which, I feel compelled to add, combine to make one really, really long sentence.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More ruminations on my fair-feathered friends

This afternoon I went to get coffee at Timothy's on Laurier with a girl I know who works in the career counseling centre at the law school. And as we sat down on the patio for a quick cuppa, a little bird (a sparrow, I believe) swooped down and perched on the edge of our table. He was kinda cute, though I was too distracted by his sharp pointy beak and deadly looking clawed feet to notice. As I cowered in fear, Stacy said, "Ack! Shoo!" and gave a few half-hearted attempts to swat him away. It worked though and he flew off to someone else's table. This is when I learned that I am not a freak in that I am afraid of birds - Stacy is also quite fearful of them and agrees that although they can be cute, there is something inherently frightening about them. Well, unfortunately for us, the Timothy's patio is a popular gathering-point for birds - mostly sparrows, thankfully, so we were able to enjoy our break without too much bird-related stress.

On the other hand, on my way in this morning, right across from the law school, a pigeon took flight and was flying straight for my face - I had to duck to avoid him. Good thing I'm done work in two days - this workplace is obviously getting much too dangerous for me to stick around.

Also achieved today:

Timetable figured out and airline tickets booked for upcoming trip to Vancouver-Winnipeg-Toronto.
Two loads of laundry currently in the washer.

Upcoming excitement for the night:

Two loads of laundry to be transferred to the dryer.
Folding of aforementioned loads.
Dinner surprise that Randal is bringing home from the Market.
Excursion to Greyhound station to buy ticket to Toronto for next week.
Drinks at 8:00 with JET folk.

What can I say? I'm a social butterfly and a busy beaver rolled into one special Julie package.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Tuesday's child is fair of face...

My fourth-last day of work is going well, despite last night's crushing defeat. The news of the day (thus far) is that I finally got an email from my JET predecessor at Gifukita. Apparently they are going to have to find me a new apartment in Gifu City since the current JET lives in one that is fairly far away (she spent her first year teaching at a different school but was transferred in her second year (last year) when that school closed due to declining enrolment; however, she did not change apartments), and Randal's apartment, while nice and large, was also a little far (fine to visit; less fine to commute daily). So unfortunately that probably means I won't be able to have pictures of my Japanese apartment until I actually get over there. But my predecessor (Michelle) is going to write me back with lots of information on Gifu (the city and the school), plus I may be able to buy or take over much of her things, which translates into less start-up costs. And she's also Canadian, from what I can tell. So all is well.

Still remaining on today's schedule:
Work till 4:00.
Shop till 5:30.
Eat sushi for dinner.
Japanese class at 6:30.

Not bad for a Day 4.

Monday, June 19, 2006

I remain, disappointed


My uncle lives in North Carolina, and it's already bad enough that he gets to lord it over us all winter because he's mowing his lawn in his shorts in January and doesn't own any winter coats anymore (he was born and raised in Ottawa). There's just no justice.


Over the past few years, I have had the following shigoto:

1. sensei = teacher
2. shisho = librarian
3. bengoshi = lawyer
4. daigakusei = university/college student

In addition to "occupation", you can also use shigoto to mean, generically, work (as in "the type of work you do") and also to indicate "the office": Kyō watashi wa kyū-ji shigoto ni ikimashita = Today I arrived at work at nine o'clock. (Please don't check my grammar; my textbooks are all in the other room!)

Kids say the darnedest things...

One of my students was at the library today and she popped in to my office to say hello, so I told her I wouldn't be back next year as I was going to Japan to teach English. After expressing surprise and disbelief that I'd actually want to do this despite all the fancy degrees I hold,* she wished me luck and said she hoped I would meet some fabulous Japanese businessman who would whisk me off my feet. Upon hearing that my boyfriend, who is accompanying me overseas, might have an issue or two about that scenario, she blurted out:

"You're bringing a sandwich to the restaurant???"

Mmmm, tasty :)

* This is the same student who, upon realizing I was an actual lawyer who'd been called to the Ontario Bar, once exclaimed, "Then why the hell do you work here at the library?!?!" But she also believes that once she graduates, she won't ever have to do legal research...HA!

Monday, Monday

Since this is my last week of work at the university, I've decided to share snippets of each of my day. Not necessarily my workday - it's really not always that interesting (at least to non-librarians) - but just my day generally.

Walking to work was nearly beheaded by a low-flying pigeon grasping a sharp pointy stick. Randal says I am paranoid (I don't like birds, little flying demons with razorsharp, needlelike beaks and claws) but this pigeon did come very close. He had this grim, determined look in his eyes, like he was thinking, "Must. Get. Stick. Home. Before. It's. Too. Late." (He swooped down from one building on campus, crossed the street, and then flew up to a perch on another one.) After collecting my shattered sense of bird-safety off the ground, I couldn't help laughing. The pigeon made me think of Rion when he's got a sock, or some other such contraband, in his mouth and he's determined to hang on to it against all odds. In the way that Rion perceives the whole world to be against his possession of socks, so too did the pigeon clearly indicate its determination that, no matter how much I might disapprove, he was NOT going to let anything come between him and his stick.

Not that I was going to get in his way, of course. Not in a million years.

Remember the Goodfeathers in the Animaniacs cartoon show? Now those were birds I dug.

Friday, June 09, 2006


The Japanese Word of the Week has been on vacation (yasumi). But no fear, it's back! (Well, this week, anyway. We'll see how things go from here.)

Our JET orientation sessions, every Wednesday night (next Wednesday is the last night, however - yay!), include a one-hour Japanese lesson. Now, I'm the first to admit that my Japanese is fairly elementary, but this class is even more basic. We're learning basic introductions/greetings, etc. - all good to know, but I can conjugate 7 different types of verbs in my sleep!* But I like to go in order to interact with the other students; plus I pick up little tidbits of info I didn't know every now and again. Like this week's Word of the Week, and its Associated Words:

shumi = hobby

As in, O-shumi wa nan desu ka? = What are your hobbies? (Remember, Japanese words can usually be either plural or singular.)

And the response?** (The Associated Words)

haikingu = hiking
kanboku = writing
e-kanboku = painting/drawing
dokusho = reading
shashin = photography
ryōri = cooking
spōtsu = sports
amimono = knitting

See? In Japanese Word of the Week Land, it never rains but it pours.

Send me your hobbies and I'll give you the word back in Japanese! (Or you could just do like I often do and use an online dictionary.)

* Claim may not be 100% true. But I do know the general rules for the conjugation of the 7 verb types - does that count?

** I make no claim whatsoever to actually practicing most of these. For example, I'm a terrible cook, can't play sports to save my life (though I do like watching aisu hokki), and would probably suffer accidental self-inflicted bodily harm if I ever attempted knitting! This is just a sampling of what some of the JETs offered in response.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Of shoes and ... ladies' undergarments

Everyone is afraid of turning into their parents, right? I already divulged how I am slowly becoming my father. But I am afraid to say that every once in a while, my mother does something that I understand ALL TOO WELL, and it freaks me out to think that I might be slowly turning into my mother.*

Case in point: I spared you all last week's emotional and torrid story of the Bad, Bad Shoe Store. Suffice it to say, I bought a pair of shoes and was assured I could return them no problem if necessary. Unable to do so myself in Toronto, I arranged for my mother to return them, giving her my card number. The store*** would not refund the money to my card, since it was not present (I know that is generally the rule for purchases, but I've never heard of it being applied so inflexibly to returns - like I'm going to dispute the validity of an extra $90 being returned to my Mastercard). They allegedly needed the card in order to prevent fraud. Not the end of the story. After speaking to me numerous times and telling me she could make an exception to this policy, the manager then finally decided (without speaking to me) that this exception could not in fact be made, but that she saw no problem refunding the money to my mother directly, on her credit card (never mind the argument that this second card was never involved in the original transaction and belonged to a completely different cardholder - fraud-prevention my a%$). I'm not a finance genius, but even I see the problem inherent in this "solution". There is an idiot born every minute.

Anyway, long story short (too late?), today I received a cheque from my mom for the refund.

All of this a rambling story to share what I thought was a funny, funny card (likely just a product of my warped sense of humour):

My dear Julie,

      Here it is, the One and Only Shoe Refund! May it bring you more joy and happiness than the pair of shoes did. It will also bring Balance into your accounting system.


ps: on my way out of the Promenade thru Sears, I saw some PINK underwear (panties) and bought 3. At the cash register, I found out they were 30% off! So your shoe refund brought me LUCK! :)

I'm still laughing.

* Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.**

**Hi, Mom! Love you! :)

*** Not to name any names, but beware the Feet First store at the Promenade Mall in Thornhill.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

But that don't make it any less cool...

I have been advised by someone in my Japanese class, who lived in Japan for a year (and is actually also going as an ALT this year - hi Leah!), that virtually every apartment in Japan comes with a little tiny washer, and so this aspect of my contract is not out of the ordinary.

This doesn't make me any less excited and, dare I say it, giddy at the prospect of my very own washing machine :)

Though I've also been warned that it will come equipped with 17 different buttons, all neatly labelled in kanji, and that one of my first tasks upon arrival will be finding a kind neighbour (or asking my supervisor) who can show me which button does what ... as well as how to use the 11 buttons on my toilet, the 6 buttons on my water heater in the shower, and the proper way to lay out a futon. If nothing else, I shall return someday to Canada a better-informed person all around.

Monday, June 05, 2006

My whereabouts in about 57 days*

So we got two mysterious letters in the mail today from Japan. And while we have been waiting for this information for a while, we took our time opening them. (In fact, although we only picked them up today, we had in fact received our notices from the post office in our mailbox on Friday and then forgotten to go Saturday to pick them up. What can I say? We're beyond keen.) We picked up our letters, did some groceries, went home, put the groceries away, then I sorted some laundry (which I never ended up doing), then I went to the gym, then Randal made dinner and we ate, then I watched the entire hockey game (grrrr, what a lousy game - the Oilers lost on a terrible hard-luck goal with only 30 seconds left in the game) and he played a videogame. And then, only at about 11:00 p.m. tonight, we decided to open them.

I have been posted to Gifukita SHS (senior high school) as an ALT (assistant language teacher). Only problem is, I don't know what city Gifukita SHS is located in. Now, using my wise powers of deduction, I figure it is probably located somewhere in or around Gifu City itself. I have a web address for the school - there are some lovely photos of the little churdlin - but please, if your Japanese is better than mine, maybe you can tell me exactly where Gifukita is located.

I will make further inquiries with my Japanese contacts (Fumiyo at Algonquin, Rebecca B. and Hiromi at JET, and Kozo in Japan) and report back in due course.

Though just as an addendum, I feel compelled to report that according to the terms of my contract, I will be provided with a fridge and...a washing machine!!! I'm so excited.

* I am expected to report to Gifukita, if I ever figure out where it is, on August 2. No separate Countdown Clock necessary.

Oh, and Randal is in another senior high school - can't remember the name now but it starts with "M" - and his school's page is also in Japanese but it included a link to a map that we assume is showing us the location of the school (though it's entirely not clear) and it seems to be somewhere just outside the main city itself.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

You know it's time to write when ...

Last month, I beat my all-time monthly posting rate. My previous record was 9 posts in August 2005, and I beat that on May 17 (my last post) with 10 posts. So, record beaten, time to stop posting for the month. ;)

So, what's been happening? Well, it's been busy. As Rebecca mentioned, I went to Toronto for the May long weekend. Read her post for the lowdown on the first part of it: much shopping, eating, and martini-drinking. On Sunday, after Rebecca left, I did some more shopping with my friend Shoshanah - but she was still walking around with swollen lymph nodes and feeling pretty miserable, so we didn't achieve much. Still, always good to see her. Sunday night we celebrated Mother's Day / Robert's birthday, and then I went out for drinks with Robin and a different Rebecca (just to confuse everyone). Monday I bummed around and then took the Greyhound back home that evening.

Three days later, on the 26th, Randal, Rion and I headed back to Toronto. We'd taken the day off so we rented a car and drove up. Ate dinner at a place called Hockey Sushi on Centre Street in Thornhill. All-you-can-eat, reeeeeally good. Rebecca #2 had told me about it the previous weekend. Saturday my friend Jen and her husband Mike, baby Allison, and their dog, a large year-old Black Lab confusingly called Baby, came over to visit for brunch. Rion and Baby did not get along, unfortunately :( Baby was too big and excited for Rion, and he got scared. So we had to keep them separated. It was a nice visit, otherwise. Then that evening, my cousin Brian got married. Quite a nice wedding. On Sunday, we headed downtown with Rion to Shoshanah's place again, and had a good visit (her lymph nodes having returned to their normal size by this point). She has a fantastic house in the East end (Gerrard & Pape area). We got back to Ottawa late that evening (it was about 10:00 p.m. by the time we got home), so a tiring weekend, but nice to be able to visit some people we don't often get to see.

Which bring us to now. Things have happened this week, including dealings with maddening shoe salespersons, but nothing truly worth sharing, at least not now. I was originally going to go to Montreal this weekend to visit my grandmother and check out a Japanese festival that is taking place there, but decided to stay here and catch up on all the stuff that hasn't been getting done, like preparatory paperwork for going to Japan (visas, medication imports, etc.), finishing up my TESL Business English module (which needs to be returned ASAP), weeding through books and clothes, etc. 55 days left!