Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas, all!

Well, here I am, no longer DREAMING of a Green Christmas, but in the middle of one! It's 3:30 in the afternoon on Christmas Day. Randal and I woke up this Christmas morning at 8:30, got up and had showers, then had a leisurely breakfast of fruit salad (fresh bananas, papayas, and pineapple), scrambled eggs on toast (for him) and banana pancakes (for me) on our second-floor guesthouse veranda, overlooking palm trees, a Balinese house courtyard, the pool of our guesthouse and, best of all, the rambutan tree (who knew rambutans grew on trees?) that is so close to our veranda that we can almost pick the rambutans fresh ourselves!

We got here yesterday fairly smoothly. Taipei on Saturday was a bit exhausting and forgettable - we had a bad incident with the shuttle bus guys on our way out of the airport Saturday afternoon, and after the extreme politeness and deference exercised by ALL Japanese people, the Taiwanese seemed quite rude. Sunday morning (Christmas Eve), we had an early morning flight to Bali, and it's been simply magical ever since. I hadn't forgotten how beautiful Bali was, but it's every inch as magical as I remembered, and then some. We had a nice big lunch an hour or so ago, we've done a bit of shopping, and even the giant rainstorm this afternoon was magical (it also helped we were sitting in the open-air-but-covered restaurant at the time, rather than being out in the rain, when it hit).

Anyway, there will be more posts and stories to follow. I am currently sitting in the same Internet cafe that I used two years ago when I was last in Bali, in my pre-blog years when I would send some of you long lengthy mass emails.

Merry Christmas, all, wherever you may be. I am thinking of my family back in Canada - I'd like to say back in the snow and cold, but my understanding is that it's not so cold nor snowy in Toronto right now ... Anyway, have a great day!!!

Friday, December 22, 2006


We leave early this morning.* And that is all I have to say.**

In other news, tonight (Friday), we had our bounenkai at work, which is the end-of-year party. It was quite nice. We had Japanese-style dinner in a Japanese-style room. There was lots of food; I couldn't eat it all. It was (mostly) all tasty. Not much else to say other than, lots of food was eaten, lots of drinks were drunk, and there were many loud, red-faced Japanese people in the room before too long. (Those who are familiar with Japanese enkai will back me up on that point, I'm sure.)

* Please, no comments from the peanut gallery as to why, if we are leaving early in the morning, I am still up at this late hour. Pre-departure jitters? Hardly. More like unpacked bags (now packed) and Walkmans begging to be filled with music (not yet filled).

** I will do my utmost to post from overseas (can I be "going overseas" when, technically, I am already overseas?), but I make no promises that I will surface from my underwater explorations long enough to hit an Internet cafe.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


We just had an earthquake! I was sitting stretched out on my couch, talking to Randal on the phone, when my couch started rocking back and forth just a bit. Then the shaking got a bit stronger. It died a bit after maybe 5 seconds, then got stronger. I watched my heater rock back and forth, and I heard dishes rattling in the kitchen. In all, it lasted about 20 seconds. I actually started to get a bit worried because it picked up a bit in intensity. After the first wobble, there was no doubt - it was definitely an earthquake. Not up and down, like the one Randal felt the other day, but a lazy side-to-side motion, like a car being buffeted by very strong wind (except here, the "car" was a 5-storey concrete building).

JMA doesn't have final stats yet, but they show 3-or-more on the scale thus far. I added a red dot to show where I am:
earthquake, gifu, 18h34, dec 19/06

Somehow I suspect, however, that that was not the Big One everyone is waiting for...

OK, new pic is up on JMA site and it's dramatic (for a little shake). I've marked my area with an arrow. They list it currently as a 1, but it was stronger than that, I think - more like a 2. They had a 2 in Kakamigahara, which isn't very far from here, so it's possible:
earthquake, gifu, 18h34, dec 19/06 (2)

I feel less left out now.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


My dear friend, Elliott:

Just thought you might like to know that for the first time this year, the weather forecast for Nagoya (as close to Gifu as you can get, almost) is announcing a low BELOW zero. You heard it here first: -1 is the forecasted low for Tuesday, December 19. The high is +9.

With fond hopes that this will allow you to sleep better at night (maybe a little warmer in the heart, too),

I remain,
tropical julie :)

Is that your stomach rumbling???

They had a small earthquake south of here, in Aichi Prefecture, just over an hour ago, and Randal felt it in Kitagata-cho, slightly northwest of where I am, but in Gifu City itself, I didn't feel a thing, even though technically I am between Kitagata-cho and the epicentre. Darn geological movements and faults that don't follow straight lines. Nothing moved here, not even the slightest little bit. I didn't even knock anything over accidentally and get to blame it on an earthquake. It's not fair.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

And the Oscar goes to...


Got the tix in the mail last week.** We leave on the 23rd (next Saturday!) and return on the 8th, with a few days in Taipei at the end. Can't wait.

Though, man, has this cold, damp weather as of late EVER chased my tan right away. I'm so not bikini-ready, but somehow I'll manage. Tough job, but I'll do it.

* It's only not-quite-yet 2007. High time I finally put the last of my pics from my 2004 Southeast Asia trip on my Flickr site, eh?

** I had a pic of the actual ticket online, but more cautionary minds prevailed, and I removed it. It is, however, available on Flickr, but only to those special folks listed in Flickr as "Family" or "Friends" (so, like 5 of you). Sorry to the rest of y'all.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Where have all the bats gone?

Bats hanging out in a cave in Malaysia (pic from my 2004 trip).

I have noticed in the last week or two, that the bats, normally so prevalent in this area, seem to have disappeared. At first I thought it was just that I was leaving school later or something, and so the bats had already retired for the night. But tonight, as I was walking home at dusk, prime-time for bats, through a previously bat-infested neighbourhood, I confirmed the apparently complete absence of bats.

Any chiropterists amongst my readership?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A tale of saikuringu and woe...

If I was better at kanji, I would know the kanji for "hardware store" and would have been able to find a hardware store close to my apartment where I could buy a lightbulb for my front hall light (which has been out-of-order for about a month now).

If I knew more Japanese, I could have asked someone at the grocery store or the local konbini (neither of which sold the right kind of bulb) where the closest hardware store was so that I could buy said lightbulb.

But I didn't. So this evening, after bicycling to get some groceries, I decided to continue bicycling further across north-end Gifu to a large Valor Home Center (kind of like Home Depot) in order to buy a lightbulb for a whopping 238 yen.

It was 6:15 when I left the Home Center to start the long cycle home (about 25 minutes). Randal was coming over at 7:00 or so, and we were going to go out for Indian food (and, conveniently, he was going to change the lightbulb - it's a tricky fixture up a bit too high for me to reach).

But when I got on my bike and started pedalling, I became aware of a strange dragging sound. I had heard it shortly before entering the Home Center parking lot, but attributed it to the strange pavement I was on at the time. Now, on smooth pavement, the noise was still following me.

I got off, and inspected. Not good: I had a flat tire.

Not only flat, but apparently (it was dark out) a tear in the tire down to the inner tube. And I was in the middle of nowhere. There were no busses in that area of town, and besides - I had my bike and a basket full of groceries.

So I called Randal, told him I would be late (he was running late, too, anyway), and started the long walk home with my poor bike's wheel completely flattened.

I was dressed warmly, with gloves and a scarf, but having gone out straight from work, was still in my dress shoes - not the best pair for long-distance walking.

So this was going to be a post about how it took me over two hours to walk home and how, by the end of it all, I had had to sling my bike over my shoulder, with the grocery bags and purse perched precariously atop my head, since the wheel was now wobbling back and forth, in four barely-attached pieces.

But. The bike made it home in one piece, other than the tire.

And. It took me barely 45 minutes to walk home. What a kick in the pants to what otherwise would have been an interesting blog entry. I apologize to all my loyal readers (all two of you - hi Mom! hi, uh, Mom again!) - you deserve better.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

i can't resist

Ottawa has almost as much snow now as Hokkaido.

crash course

A word to the wise:

If you ever find yourself doing a Japanese language correspondence course, DO NOT leave the first set of monthly materials and test to the very last minute. It just isn't fun trying to learn the 27 different "giving and receiving" verbs" in a day. Then re-doing the entire test again the next night because you realized you are a dummy and did it all backwards.

I still don't understand all the uses of the "giving and receiving" verbs, but like the book says at one point, "But don't be afraid of misusing them - try to use them over and over again. As your mistakes get pointed out, you will soon master the proper usage." Uh. OK. The month of December is as good a time to start learning these verbs as the month of November should have been, I guess!

Anyway, if I had mailed in yesterday's version of the test, it would have been a spectacular BOMB. But my head kicked back into gear this evening, I re-read all the verb rules, then worked my way (again) through the 40-question test. Now that I've changed a good chunk of my answers, I might actually pass (I need 70%).

In more interesting news, we went to Tokyo this weekend. That should be the second word to the wise: Don't go to Tokyo for a long weekend (Thurs-Sun) when you should be staying home, learning the "giving and receiving" verbs. But you know what? I had such a good time, though I battled sickness and ill health for part of it. On Saturday, I started developing sores in both corners of my mouth (not quite cold sores, but dang did they ever hurt) - they're almost gone now, thank goodness - as well as a strange nasty leg rash on BOTH shins, which isn't gone yet, sadly, but also isn't getting any worse, thankfully. And, to cap it all off, Randal had a sore toe. But regardless, there was WAY more walking around Tokyo than should be attempted by persons of our advanced ages* - the main wanderings were to Akihabara for electronic goodies, Shinjuku (twice) for people-watching and seeing the view from the high-up-in-the-sky Government Offices, Kabuki-cho (red-light district of Shinjuku) for judging how Tokyo stacks up against Amsterdam, and Harajuku for ritzy shopping and cos-play kids (sorry, Simon, I found them slightly disappointing and somewhat Disneylandish).

It's late here, so I'm going to leave it at that for now and go to bed. I will post pictures soon, however. I'm hoping to get (mostly) caught up on picture posting before we leave for Christmas in 3 weeks (yay!).

* And, obviously, failing health. Aaaahhh, if only I were 22 again. (For those who don't know, Kaila is a fellow JET from Ottawa posted south(ish) of Osaka. She's very cool, but I had no idea she was so young (or that we shared a b-day).)