Monday, July 31, 2006

Ohayo gozaimasu!

The hotel in Tokyo, Keio Plaza, is apparently where they filmed Lost in Translation. Some of it certainly seems slightly familiar. And it is, indeed, tres tres swank. Not that we've had much time to explore - too tired!

It's 1:30 a.m. here (Monday morning), so not much of a post here. Suffice it to say, it's been a long week. Moving on Thursday was nutso. Cleaning the apartment and then packing for Japan took all of Friday afternoon and night. We barely had a chance to enjoy our nice Novotel in Ottawa (how long ago that seems!). Our flight to Detroit on Saturday afternoon was delayed because of mechanical problems. At first we were going to stay an extra night in Ottawa (how anticlimactic that would have been), and then they told us we were going to Detroit and hopefully would catch our connecting flight, and if not, we would be put up in a hotel in Detroit for the night. Not ideal, as you can imagine. Finally somebody said, "Get on the plane now! They're waiting for you in Detroit!" Tiny tiny 40-seater plane - I'm still amazed we made it to Detroit alive - but that's another story for another day. The 33 Ottawa JETs caused some 2 or 300 other people to have their flight to Tokyo delayed by an hour and a half - whee! the power!

Long flight but I slept lots. Upon arrival, some of our bags were missing (including one of mine); apparently still in Detroit but now on their way to the Far East. There were screwups at customs, and never-ending lineups. We landed in Tokyo around 5:45 p.m. local time but did not make it to the hotel till 11:00. We have since eaten some yummy sushi and noodles (finding a little restaurant that is open till 3:00 a.m. every night), and now, dear reader, your Beloved Narrator shall lay her head down on the nice pillow on the comfy-looking queen-sized bed in her room, and she won't awake again until, uh, 7:00 or 7:30. (Breakfast is only till 8:45.) I can hear Randal having fallen asleep already, and I'm quite anxious, as you can probably imagine, to join him.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

7.5 hours...

We just got back from visiting our swanky hotel room at the Novotel in the Market. We had a nasty run-in with a nasty taxi cab driver who wanted to charge us $10 for one extra bag (according to their regulations, they can charge up to $10 for any bags over 4, and we had 5 - the key term here being "up to"), then a much nicer cabbie (after I sent the first one away) who put the extra bag in his front passenger seat without us even having to ask. The Novotel is SWANK - did I mention? Because of our late check-in (10:00 p.m.), we were upgraded - for our entire 3-night stay - to a fancier room with a king-sized bed (we had booked just a standard king-sized room). We took quick showers then met our friend Rob who lives near there for a quick drink and bite to eat in the hotel lounge.

The bathroom door is like a double french door with frosted panes. It's gorgeous.

If only we were there instead of here. We're confident this won't be an all-nighter (we have about 2 hours' work left), but favour has, sadly, not been on our side the past few days.

I hear the hotel in Tokyo, where we spend 2 or 3 nights, is also tres chic. If only one could afford to live like this all the time :)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

And now, for something completely different...

2 days!* Yikes!

* Technically, it is 2 days 23 hours plus 20-some minutes, but that doesn't have the same ring of impending doom to it.

One more night, gimme just one more night...

Soooo, it's T-plus-3h50. Basically, after a full afternoon's and night's packing and more packing and then packing again, we gave up at 7:45 this morning and called our mover to reschedule to tomorrow. We're just waiting to hear back if he is coming in the morning (our preference) or the afternoon (he had another job in the a.m. but was going to see if he could round up a second "crew" - a.k.a. two strong men).

Anyway, upon rescheduling, we took about 4 hours shut-eye and now we are getting back into it. The sunroom is virtually packed up in its entirety, so the plan is to flip the spare mattress (upon which we slept this morning, since, again, the other bed is not useable at the mo') and then stack as many of the boxes as we can in there, in order to make room elsewhere in the apartment.

And there's a bright light at the end of this (long, dark, horrid tunnel): checking in to our hotel tonight, having nice warm showers or oooh, even perhaps a bath, and then heading for drinks with a few friends. Good incentive to finish.

The low point last night should have been the moment when I tore a 4-cm gash across my upper thigh (filing cabinets have super-pointy corners!) and then found that band-aids just aren't made long enough to cover such injuries. Or perhaps it was when we discovered the colony of silverfish living in an old plant pot. Then again, maybe it was when both Randal and I took some Tylenol in a (failed) attempt to ease the dull pain we both had in our feet from standing for so long.

But none of those make the cut. Yes, the highlight of the night can only be the moment just after 11:00 p.m. (remember my comment about unforeseen items?) when I opened the bottom cupboard door in the kitchen, which is rather deep and has "back country" that we haven't explored in a while, started pulling items out, and discovered a minefield of little black droppings. So it turns out our dog was not crazy after all. There are pipes that run from the floor to the sink in that cupboard, and between where the pipe comes out and the back of the cupboard, it is completely open to whatever is below! The mouse had helped itself to generous helpings from our bag of skim milk powder (which we haven't used in a few months). Anyway, in addition to the food, we threw out all the plastic dishes (containers, etc.) in that cupboard, washed all the pots and pans thoroughly, and cleaned out the cupboard. I just checked now and there are no signs of life - Randal had fashioned a sort of cover over the hole using sandwich container covers, and they look undisturbed. Blech.

On that note, back to packing!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

12 hours...

...and oh, still so much to pack.

Who knew one little apartment could hold so much STUFF???

Still, I count my blessings (whatever they may be), as we're still probably better off than our friend Elliott, also Japan-bound on Saturday, who called earlier this evening to tell us all about the emergency dental surgery he has to undergo on Thursday morning. Nothing like some good painkillers to make an 18-hour flight go faster, I guess...

Monday, July 24, 2006

34 hours...

just about 2 hours ago, I realized that I had exactly 36 hours to finish packing the apartment before the movers show up to help us load up our rental truck (9 a.m., Wednesday morning). I have packed about 15 boxes. 7 of those are books. (In my defence, I used to regularly have 10-12 boxes of books when I'd move!) One is the contents of my filing cabinet. Other boxes' contents include: miscellaneous stationery, photo albums, sewing materials and a sewing machine, pictures, vases, items picked up while traveling (masks, statuettes, etc.), a jewelry box, bed linens, etc.

Left still to pack:
- clothing and shoes which I am not bringing to Japan
- computer items (minus laptop, which I am of course bringing with me)
- all bathroom items
- all my dishes (and anyone who's been to my kitchen knows that, for a gal who doesn't really cook, that's a LOT of dishes)
- tools
- small lamps and other decorative items
- pillows, cushions, etc.
- all those small annoying things that you forgot to itemize at the time but that will, invariably, rear their ugly heads at the last possible second (estimated time of occurrence: Tuesday, 11:30 p.m., until Wednesday, 2:37 a.m.)

Which perhaps begs the question, dear reader: Why am I posting rather than packing?

I feel bad about not having posted about the Vancouver-Winnipeg-Toronto cross-country tour. I have all Randal's pics on CD and mine will be ready to pick up from Black's, having been scanned (by them, not me!) to CD as well, tomorrow. However, I doubt that chapter will be forthcoming anytime soon. In a nutshell: It was a good trip - I love Vancouver! - Rion is settling down (entirely too) well in his new quarters with his new doggy pals - the rumours that Winnipeg does get very hot in the summer are true - and the most dangerous thing about Toronto, I have discovered, is Mountain Equipment Coop.

Internet will be shut down Wednesday morning - I will try to blog again before then. Otherwise, perhaps our hotel here in Ottawa (we're staying at the Novotel in the Market for our last three nights) will have access - otherwise you will have to wait until I hit an Internet cafe, either here or in Japan! Whee!!!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Great Escape

Update: pixxiefish and freemount fly the coop at 12:38 p.m., July 29, flying from Ottawa to Detroit then on to Tokyo. I have updated the Countdown Clock accordingly :)

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Toronto Nature Show

My parents are in North Carolina right now, off having a fun time on the Outer Banks with my dad's brother (who lives in N.C., hence the destination) and sister and their respective families. My younger brother Robert is in Toronto, holding down the fort. And the fort is under siege!!!!!!!

First Assault: The Beetles (I don't love them, yeah yeah yeah):

Randal & I have been in Toronto visiting since late Friday night, and every night when we get home, we discover lots of little black beetles crawling inside the house around the front door. At first we were disgusted and squeamish about killing them; now, by night #3, we are squashing them with gusto. (Except for the one Robert's girlfriend found in her shoe, and the one that fell out of the kleenex and onto my hand - both of those spawned shrieks.)

Tonight, when Randal & I got home from dinner at our friend Shoshanah's, we came in through the garage door in an attempt to thwart the nightly beetle advance. Heh heh, were we ever in for a surprise: in the garage on the floor there were about 100 little beetles crawling around, having a big party. We rushed in the house and got Robert & Judy to don their shoes to come take a look (that was the point at which the beetle-in-Judy's-shoe incident took place). We squashed the indoor beetles then marvelled at the garage beetles. Then I searched the house for bug spray and thankfully found some. We have sprayed around the front door (only on the inside; no one was brave enough to tackle the front step) and some spot spraying inside the garage (including along the bottom of the garage doors), so we'll see what happens. Updates to follow.

Second Assault: "Raton-voleur" is French for "AUGH!"

Then, as we are starting to settle down for the night, I suddenly hear Robert and Judy downstairs in the kitchen making a ruckus. I go down to investigate and Judy tells me breathlessly that there seems to be a raccoon on the roof! (Our kitchen extends past the second storey of the house, plus we have a patio covered with a large wooden trellis sun-shelter type thing, also at roof level.) All four of us troop up to the second-floor bathroom to peer out the window in the dark, and sure enough we can see something just outside the window on the roof in the process of cleaning itself. At first, we think it is a cat. As soon as we convince ourselves that it is definitely a cat, it becomes aware of our presence and backs up, arching its back, looking intently at us. Definitely a raccoon! And - shocking city kids that we are - we were definitely more scared of it than it was of us.*

Robert ran downstairs to get a flashlight so we could see it better. It soon decided to ignore us, and went to lie down on top of the sun-shelter roof. Then we became aware of a second blackish grey lump. A second raccoon!

We watched for a while, Randal took some pictures through the window (if possible, I will try to upload them here later), then one of the raccoons decided it was time to go get some food (I assume) and started climbing down one of the trees. So we all ran back downstairs to the kitchen sliding doors, flipped the back patio light on, and watched his descent. He cut up through the gardens and then out of sight (long yard at my parents' place and too dark to see where he ended up). After a minute or so, the other raccoon followed.

The worst part is that about five minutes later, while I was puttering about the kitchen, I realized that Robert and Judy had left a pillow out on the hammock in our backyard, where they'd been lazing about earlier that afternoon, trying to avoid the sun's heat. The pillow shouldn't stay out overnight. So I told Robert that he'd just have to go out and get it. Which he promptly refused to do. Judy laughed and called him a ninny. So, being the older sister and feeling slightly obliged to set a good I'm-not-afraid-of-no-raccoons example, I sighed and said to never mind, that I would do it. Judy bravely put her sandals on too, we made Robert run upstairs to check that there was no one on the roof, and upon getting the all-clear, we half-tiptoed, half-ran across the backyard (we brought a flashlight too, just to be extra sure we wouldn't encounter any, uh, visitors), grabbed the pillow and ran back in.

Judy picked this point to tell me how, one night a while back, she was leaving our house and walking to her car parked in our driveway, when she suddenly saw a skunk staring at her from not so far away. She fled back to the safety of our house for five minutes and then attempted to leave again, this time successfully. So I will keep my eyes peeled.

Totally enough excitement for one day. Robert says he thinks that last week, before my parents left, he and Mom heard something on the roof but couldn't see anything. We hope we don't have a permanent addition to the family. We're going to keep an eye on things and he may call the Vaughan Pest Control tomorrow if we think it's necessary. Ack. Now all we need is a bat to get into the house. At least there, we have a bat-removal professional on the premises.**

* Except Randal. He's from Winnipeg and well-acquainted with all sorts of animals like that. He's the only one that didn't back up three steps in fear.

** The illustrious Mop Boy, Randal K., aided by his not-so-useful (but loud and squealing) sidekick Bat Girl, of course.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

13 days!!!

holy c**p.

and I've spent the last 8 previous days on the road, with 4 1/2 to go. Leaving us with exactly 9 1/2 days to pack, clear out our apartment, have a final orientation session, etc. Crazy - that's all I can say.

It's been a busy week but it is 2:11 a.m. and I must go to bed. I will update soon!