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Thursday, September 11, 2008

My fortune from Senso-ji:

"Number 15 Bad Fortune"
"Every year your servants will get fewer and fewer and you will be alone. Even if you stay in bed for a long while, you'll never get well. It's too dangerous for you to bring the boat to dshore. Just like a dragon loses its treasure ball, you will lose your hope.

Your wishes will not be realised, a sick person will never recover, the lost article will not be found, the person you are waiting for will not come, building a new house and removal are not good, making a trip, marriage, employment are bad."

And no one told me you could bless it away if you hung it up on the metal thing, so I'm screwed. I wouldn't spend too much time around me if I were you.

It was a good run folks, it really was.
Sooo...first day of school today!

For the next 3 weeks or so we have intensive Japanese classes as opposed to Japanese 2x a week and other classes mixed in. So M/T,Th/F, we have 3 hours or so of Japanese each morning.
Yesterday we wrote placement tests and had short speaking interviews, and as expected, I conclusively proved that I know very little nihongo indeed!

However, that's fine as I seem to have ended up with a very nice teacher (though she seems to alternate with another teacher through this course and I'm not sure who I end up with for the semester) and only 5 kids in my level. I'm sort of at the bottom end, so she'll be helping me catch up (and one other guy) at the end of each lesson. Today was sort of a review day--we did self introductions, watched a ridiculously hilarious dated movie, and then practiced up for our field trip to Asakusa tomorrow. I'll finally get to go to Senso-ji! (Last year I sent Navina while I went to work, so I've not been yet). I feel like I'm back in gr. 4 again going on a field trip--we have a sheet of different places we have to find and describe and then we have to (and this is going to be entertaining), find three Japanese people off the street and ask them three questions. Eeek! We practiced in class today, and our sensei was the 'tourist' it was so funny because she kept rushing past and not talking to us and pretending to be scared of us.

So far decently good I suppose--I think I spoke more today in class than the entire year at SFU, so that's good! I have to do it now, so hopefully it will be easier...I have to study over this weekend, but that should be OK--it's a 3-day one!

After class I went to work, which was fairly uneventful for me (not at a critical stage with BAB yet), and then had a bit of time, so I went to Tokyu hands where I got tracing paper and pastels to start a new mural on my wall like I did @ york (pin the paper up and draw on that and you can't really tell it's not directly on the wall) and also got some back to school stationery, b/c paper rox my sox!

Following that, I headed to Jingu, which I miraculously remembered how to find after a month off and played futsal with the onnabelievables. It was so fun! There were only 6 of us, so we played 3v3, which was a good run around!

After that it was home (which now takes 1.5 hours from there, ouch!) and I made it in about 30 mins before curfew (wouldn't want the door to get locked on me!) and now i'm just chilling out trying to decide if i want to study or start making my wall mural...


Monday, September 08, 2008

NxE's Fifty Most Influential Female Bloggers can be found here. I need to step away from the computer and get moving or I'm never going to get to work...especially if I start clicking those links!

Ridiculous dorm rule number....we're not allowed to use the stairs...elevator only, sloth people!


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Today's order of the day was heading to IKEA to improve the bland ness of this here room!
Hoka and I headed to shin yokohama eki and then jumped on the free IKEA bus(!!) to a huge IKEA. It was great, if utterly crowded! I got a new bedspread, light duvet (the one they gave us could deal with a Ft. McMurray winter!) a very handy wire basket holder thingy, 3 cacti, some fabric, and a serious craft bug!

I ended up recovering my headboard, stretching fabric over a frame that I also bought (a trip to the hyaku en shop to buy a hammer, measuring tape, screwdrivers, etc was also required!) framing fabric, and (far)tistically placing cacti on said frame...I also put together my basket thing and moved a bunch of food and stuff into it (a shopping trip to SATY for food was also required!)

A couple of us ended the evening watching Sex and the City, eating pasta w/ sausages (I decided to complete the suzy homemaker day and cook), and (thanks to poor Hoka) filling out takkyubin slips, as it's back to work tomorrow for me....

now to figure out how to recover the chair cushions without doing anything permanent!


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Well as you can see, I'm kind of moved in now...Tomorrow I'm going on a field trip to IKEA to get some storage and some color! The rules are, as expected, pretty ridiculous! Especially the 11pm curfew. And the 'no boys' rule, which they take very seriously! Hitomi and Peter drove me down here with some stuff today and Peter had to wait in the common room while Hitomi and I took it up to my room!

The other totally ridiculous thing is that the boys are in a different dorm (well, obv) but they don't have any of the same rules! Besides that being of dubious legality in north america, it's just plain ....!

It's a nice place though, if small (and totally lacking in storage!) It's great having Peter's place here though, A as a place to escape on weekends and B as a place to pilfer housewares from--we were given one rice bowl, a side plate, 3 forks, and 3 spoons (no knives), and two teeny tiny glasses...

It's pretty funny, there are signs downstairs to all the Japanese residents along the lines of 'on September 1, you will be joined by these foreign students' and then lists our names and room numbers!

Right, I think it's off to bed (or some desperatly needed katakana/kanji studying!)
xoxo D

PS: GOOD LUCK to Karen Brain and VDL Odette as they ride for Canada at the Beijing Paralympics this week. Follow them here and here.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

And...another crazy day. I don't know that I've had 3 days this busy in a row for quite some time! I don't want to go home though, it's so much fun!

Today was another fairly early start, with a light breakfast in the Club L lounge before I headed up to the spa for my Harmony Massage. It was a lovely way to start the morning, especially with the storm raging outside (I actually woke up from the thunder). Following that, I went for a facilities tour and got to see some other types of rooms, all of the restaurants, etc.

After a juice and muffin in the lounge (oh how i love the lounge) it was time to race across town to Aberdeen to the Jumbo Floating Restaurant, which is an amazing ode to glitter and kitsch and all things Chinese. I took the correct bus, but I think I got off on the wrong stop and was just lucky to see a little sign directing me along the harbour walk...I kept walking and walking, past little fishing skiffs, etc. until I came to a pier saying 'JUMBO' with a super-cute dark wood ferry tied up to it. I hopped on board, crossed my fingers, and a few minutes later got puttered over to the restaurant. Which is amazing on the outside. It's really quite the place!

I was actually there to meet Karen and the rest of the Canadian Paralympic Equestrian team, so there was no time to explore the complex (I think there are multiple restaurants and stuff) before heading in to join them for a tasty lunch. We had various pork buns/dumplings/rice/veggies/etc before finishing it all off with some ice cream. Very nice! Then everyone headed to Stanley, and I got to go with them, jumping in to one of the team's Olympic-provided cars (cool!) and heading out there. They only had about an hour before they needed to head back to the barns, so it was a bit of a power shop all around, with many silk tops, sunglasses, and jewelry all being procured. I bought myself a silk top as I hadn't yesterday and was kind of regretting it...It's a really pretty teal with a Chinese cut/neck line but doesn't have a brocade pattern, instead there are sort of creamy embroidered flowers...(in a fairly western style)

Following that, everyone headed off to the barns and I headed back to the hotel, arriving here at 5:45, just in time to meet up with 15 other hotel guests for a 45-minute tour of the markets around the hotel. There was a girl there who was a new staff member at the hotel and so she was on the tour. She's a 19 yo HK-born expat, so it was cool to talk to her about that...The tour was interesting and encompassed the Mong Kok food/fruit/wetmarket, Ladies Market, sneaker street, etc. the food market was most interesting, with a dried seafood stall, open air butcher, crazy fruits, and the scary scary toad killing stall, where there were poor innocent (ugly as all get out) toads in an aquarium, which were then plucked out, decapitated and skinned in a matter of moments. Madness. I gather the goal is to have them still twitching when you get them home. Tasty?

Markets to hit up on the next trip: flower, bird, and goldfish. Also: bartering. I must do that next time. I'm an idiot/confrontation-hater and there for paid list price for everything at Stanley. Haha! Still decent prices though...It would have been good to take this hotel tour earlier though, as the woman said if it was HK 10-30 not to barter, HK 100-200 to try and get 10-20% off and if it was HK 200 or over to cut it in half. I made a few HK 200 or more purchases at Stanley. Ah well, live an learn!

Following that, I went to work the Science Museum haha. They are having a sports exhibit in honor of the Olys, so I went and threw pitches, sprinted, wheelchair raced, balance beamed, etc. It was fun! (Though chotto lame to do it on my own!) I had a quick tour through the fitness challenge part of the regular exhibit (free on Wednesdays seemingly) before having some dinner and then heading back to the hotel.

A quick stop by the lounge to book an airport shuttle and order a lavender pillow from the pillow menu and then blogging/tv/packing i suppose :( and then bed...glorious bed!
(you know the the pic for pics)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A very short clip of the light show in HK's Victoria Harbour. It's a pretty cool show, apparently it's in the Guinness Book of World Records for shows of this kind...The Star Ferry was definitely the way to see it, too.
Day two is on the books and all I want to do is sleep! However, I'm being a good blogger girl as something tells me I won't be any more energetic to blog at 11pm tomorrow after another full and exhausting, yet fun day.

Today I woke up at about 7:30 (my phone in the hotel plays an obscenely happy 'its the morning, rise and shine' song. if I wasn't on vacay I'd probably want to beat it up). However, I happily bounded out of bed (or, well, eventually dragged myself up) and ended up in the lovely lovely shower here. Its a rain shower, but also includes a regular hand held shower. Basically no chance of that annoying 'I'm cold cos I'm wet but I have to rinse my hair and there's not enough 'spray' to do all of that'. Very nice! After that I headed down for a lovely buffet breakfast at one of the hotel restaurants. There is a huge selection, including all of your typical 'western' breakfasty foods, fruit, pastries, etc., plus all the sushi and fried rice you could ever want at 8am.

After that I headed on the MTR to Central to go to the Japanese consulate and get my visa sorted. Other than having to get yet more photos taken it was pretty straight forward. Central and what I saw of the surrounding area on HK Island is much more what I was expecting I think--a big, clean, modern city with British things like pret a manger and 'mind the gap' on the trains, but some kanjis thrown in as well. Its pretty businessy and I didn't spend too much time down there before jumping on a double decker bus to Stanley. (Thanks to Jordon for the suggestion). It was a gorgeous ride out there, along the water, on this twisty winding road with somewhat of a cliff on one side and a mountain of rich greenery on the other. There were gorgeous bay views, peekabo looks at the city, and glimpses of absolutely gorgeous mansions along the way.

Approximately an hour later we pulled into Stanley Market, which was pretty cool. I got my shopping bug out today! I got a couple of leather(ish?) bags, and then a bunch of presents so I can't talk about it! I spent an hour or so wandering around all the stalls in the market and then walked along the promenade thing by the water. It kind of reminded me of the Bahamas almost, with the colorful and tasty-looking eateries right by the water. At the other end of the walk is a cool building, with tons of columns. Apparently, they had to dismantle it for some reason and keep it in storage, so they wrote numbers on all the bits. Except the ink washed off, so when they 're-mantled' it they weren't quite sure where it all went, and managed to end up with 6 columns spare! They're now just standing there in a pretty row.

In said building is a really nice martime museum that I went in on a total impulse as they were having an olympics exhibit. In the end, that part was cool, but the heritage stuff was really cool as well. They had some GORGEOUS models and artifacts and stuff. Some cool history but not to much and also some nice interactive displays. In the modern gallery, as well as the Olympics stuff (all concentrating on rowing/sailing/canoe-kayak, etc), they talked about shipping and modern boating. There was a morse code game (its harder than it looks!) and a full size bridge deck from a shipping boat in front of a huge three-screen simulator so you can try and steer into the harbour. unfortunately i had no idea where i was going so settled for crshing into a star ferry instead, which made for a lovely shudder and crunch.

Following that, I got back on the bus, wound my way back to central, and happily listened in to the conversation of the Calgarian tourists in front of me. Nothing interesting, just a wrap up of their shopping, but passed the time :)

From Central I jumped on the MTR and came back to the hotel to grab my other camera and headed down to the club lounge for a snack and a chance to quickly deal with any urgent emails and finish up an article before jumping back on the MTR to central to get on my 7:20 Star Ferry boat tour. It was really nice! We went around the harbour and then paused to watch the light show. It was incredibly hard to photograph, but pretty cool looking. I met a lovely couple from the Netherlands who were beside me on the open air deck. They'd also gone to Stanley and the Maritime Museum today! They're off to Sydney and Perth after this before heading home.

After we bobbed our way back to port I went back to the mall by the hotel and got a pretty silk shirt from H&M and then grabbed a picnic of a sandwich and chips at the huge grocery store in the basement of the mall. I also got a pear, but it was funny cos there were like a dozen or so pears strewn in with whatever was next to them, and so I just reached over and grabbed one, and the lady that was over in the 'main' part of the pears stepped over to me and grabbed it out of my hand! I guess she was saving those ones. It was hilarious. (Things like this are the subtle differences between here and Japan, where there's no way that pear would have been taken back off me!)

After all that, I *still* wasn't done, and took my computer up to the pool for a lovely lovely swim (la mac stayed on a comfy cushion under a cabana) before I toweled off and settled in under the stars (er, smog) to upload some photos and start this blog. When the pool closed at 11, I came back to my room, had a picnic in my bed (what vacations are for, really), and finished this.
(click the pic for pics)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Whew, long day and I'm totally exhausted but I'll try and be a good girl and blog before I roll over and collapse!

Today was the big travelling to Hong Kong day, which was quite exciting! Took the 6:33am (yuck) Narita Express from Shinjuku, which was a really easy trip (much nicer than the airport limosuine I think!) and had an easy check-in, exit immigration, etc. Flight left uneventfully at 10ish and I was very excited to find that ANA, whom I've never flown with before, has seat-back, on demand entertainment, featuring Sex and the City! Woot! Unfortunately, I managed to knock the button on the seat 2/3s of the way through, sending it back to the beginning. At the time, I couldn't find the ff button (it was hidden!) and so I gave up on SATC and watched 'What Happens in Vegas' instead. It was cute enough. I also managed to write most of an article on BA, which seemed ironic, yet productive. The only complaint? The WORST food I've had on a flight, quite possibly ever. Easy and quick at just under 4 hours, though!

Arrival in HK was easy, I didn't have to say a single word to the immigration officer, not even a token 'business or pleasure?'. Strange. She did, however, talk to herself for the entire time I was standing in front of her. It was really, really weird!

Mentally squealed at all of the Beijing signs and then jumped on a bus to my hotel. It took about an hour and we got to see a fair amount of the city as we were driving in. It's nice--more tropical than I was expecting, though I guess it is about 4 hours south, and TONS of high rises! It made me realise just how flat Tokyo really is. (also seen today that made me realise i hadn't seen it for a few months: guys with no shirts and pda in the mall).

Got to my hotel and checked in (I think I'll have to do a seperate post on the hotel, but suffice it to say that it is very nice) and then called one of my friends from SFU who hasn't quite gotten back to Vancouver yet and also Karen, here to compete for Canada in the paralympics to make plans with both of them. That done, I went down to the Club L and had a quick snack before exploring the huge mall next to me for a bit and then meeting up with Vicky. Its funny how many Japanese things there are here! Seibu, Muji, shu uemura, italian tomato jr, yoshinoya,...and that's just in the mall next to me! There's also an H&M!

The shopping seems pretty good here, and cheap, but I'm having a ridiculous time trying to convert the currency in my head, either to yen or CDN. Luckily, my phone (in the hotel) seems to be able to do that (as well as send texts and check the weather).

Vicky took me shopping in the nearby neighborhood and also basically fed me for 3 hours straight! We got some street food that is apparently very traditional in HK--bascially a block of fermented/rotted tofu, some really tasty sort-of-waffle type snacks that are somewhat hard to describe, watermelon juice with lemon jelly, and for dinner a sort of cousin of ramen that included balls of meat (or fish). Whew!

I'm fading fast here, so first impressions? I like it, it seems like a cross between Ueno and Kabuki-cho and a bit of something all its own! I'm sure I'll have more to say on the subject after some more exploration tomorrow.

Click the picture for more pictures.