Wednesday, June 21, 2006

World-do Cup-pu


For a taste of the World Cup experience, we went to a sports pub to watch Japan's incredible draw with Croatia. It was incredible how organized the cheering was - it was like they had rehearsed it beforehand. I guess we weren't invited to the practice, since we had no idea what they were saying.

Seriously, the crowd was great and fully decked out in Samurai Blue gear. It really makes the game 1000% more exciting watching it in a packed pub. The 4 to 6 beers also helped!

It's too bad Japan hasn't won a game yet. Technically, they are still able to advance - if they beat Brazil by two goals and Australia loses.

I've posted some pictures on our SmugMug site.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It's hard to find good help...

Went to our favourite fried pork restaurant: Issho. New girl was working. Had to ask for tea - strange, because normally you're just given it. She brought us two cups of cold tea. As I'm taking my first sip, I see Krista spitting out a mouthful of it back into the cup.

"It's soya sauce," she says.

I call New Girl over and tell her in perfect Japanese (ha!) that she served us soya sauce and not tea. She insisted that it was tea and even had two customers and New Guy to smell the tea and tell us that "tea" in Japanese is "ocha" not "sho-yu". Um, thanks New Team. I kinda know that.

Finally, Kazuya the owner comes in. We tell him about our yummy tea. He tries a little and shakes his head - I'm thinking we are really dumb.

"Sho-yu," he sighs. "Just a minute, please."

I guess New Team got the strap because we could hear him yelling "Sho-yu!" I didn't really see them until we left.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Den Music

Krista and I are kind of bored right now, so we're eating takeout from Takahiro's and drinking shochu at home. We are trying to write an English menu for Hiro and Yoko at Takahiro's, but it's going a little slow. We got distracted with Den music.

If anyone doesn't remember the (cool) Den, we pity you. It was the raddest place to hang out at the University (and hella better than classes). So we were trying to find some "Den Music" to inspire us.

So far I came up with:
  • Blister in the Sun (Femme Fatales)
  • Girls (Beastie Boys)
  • Sweet Caroline
  • Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)
  • Stuff from Jackson 5 or James Brown
  • Ms. Jackson (Outkast)
  • Stuck in the Middle with You

If you can think of anything else, please let me know...

Friday, June 02, 2006

Peak Oil

Recently, I've been reading and thinking more about a phenomenon called "Peak Oil". It essentially is all the issues that we as a planet will have to face when all the cheap oil runs out. Some people say that we have already hit this "peak". In any case, most experts predict that within the next generation (i.e., our kids' generation) the world will undergo a massive shift in its energy sources.

Unfortunately, they also predict that more than half of the energy that we will require 50 years from now will have to come from some clean, non-polluting, cheap source that currently hasn't been discovered.

Predictions as to what will happen range from $200 barrels of oil, right out to global meltdown and a return to the Earth's population as of 1900 (read: die-off of a massive amount of the population). Scary to contemplate.

For reading material:

"The End of Oil" by Paul Roberts. A well-balanced discussion of the history and future of our energy economy.

"Peak Oil: Life After the Oil Crash" by Matt Savinar. A bleak but matter-of-fact statement describing a potential scenario after the cheap oil is gone. Basically, he says that nothing can replace it and the world will turn upside down until it becomes self-sustaining again.

Very interesting topic and I invite everyone to read a bit about it and share their thoughts with everyone that will listen (me included).

Reading Railroad

One of the things I've been trying to do while over here is keep up my reading. It's a great way to kill time when there isn't anyone on TV eating live squid while walking on crocodiles and having a black-leathered dude pelvic thrust in their direction.

Highlights have been:

"The Power of One" by Bryce Courtenay. A story about a British boy growing up in South Africa during the 1940's. It's an amazing story of racism, determination, survival, compassion and boxing. It was made into a much lamer movie years ago, starring Morgan Freeman, which I thought was a good movie until I read the book. And you should too.

"The Hot Zone" by Richard Preston. The horrifying recount of a deadly Ebola-type virus leak in America in the 90's. Totally frightening because it documents the true events. If you have ever heard of Ebola or know how it kills people, this book will scare the crap out of you.

I also read some fun fluffy books, like a few Tom Clancy books.

Plus some Japanese books: "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Yakuza: The Explosive Account of Japan's Underground". Both were very good at showing some sides of Japanese culture that we have not experienced.

Golden Week and your basic life update

Been a while, yo. Sorry.

Golden Week (the first week of may) Krista's family were visiting us. It was great to see them (especially the Old Dutch Ketchup chips and Mundare Kubasa sausage that they brought).

We did a whirlwind tour of some Japanese sights such as Kyoto, Hiroshima and Gujo-Hachiman. I think the best day was actually spent bike riding around Tarui and then finishing it off with a barbeque at our house. It was great because it was exercise and relaxing at the same time. Riding the bullet train is cool, but it has nothing on the good ol' bicyclette (or chari in Tarui-speak).

At least when it isn't raining. But if it is, Krista's sister Lisa demonstrated for us the proper Japanese attire.

May saw me starting to work full-time. I now wipe noses two days a week at a Kindergarten. The kids are 4 and 5 year-olds and I only have to teach them English for 1 or 1.5 hours a day. The rest of my time is spent as a student like them, learning Japanese drumming, writing or just playing. The staff seem to be really happy that I am there and they love the way that I can just play with them all the time.

Actually, I think it is a little strange that so many of the kids are so super-friendly with some foreign stranger. It's like their parents never gave them the "stranger" speech, or maybe it's just okay to talk to any foreigner. Whatever. The best part is that I haven't been kancho'd yet, but I have been bit and there have been a few close calls with some head-butts.

With the kindergarten, I am now working every day: Monday in Tarui at elementary schools (although no longer with Krista :( ), Tuesdays with private students at my place (4 lessons), Thursdays in Ogaki at an elementary school, and Wednesday and Friday at the kindy.

All in all, I'm pretty busy now, yup. Makes up for the first couple of months, I guess. Oh well. Real life is waiting for me back in Calgary, so I might as well get used to it here.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Happy Easter!

Last weekend was Easter and Krista and I tried to celebrate as best we could. By coincidence, our once a month English mass at church was last weekend as well, so we went for Easter Sunday.

Being good little Ukrainians (I'm trying, ok?) we made an Easter basket. The centerpiece is always fresh baked babka, which is a sweet orangey bread with raisins in it. Krista spent the morning making the dough, waiting for it to rise, asking it sweetly to rise, asking angrily for it to rise, and then finally shoving in front of our kerosene heater. It rose enough (I think it was just scared).

By the time we left for the train, we had a little baby babka that fit perfectly in our basket. We also had devilled eggs, cottage cheese, butter, salt, Japanesey ham and some kind of greasy sausage that was absolutely not a substitute for kubasa.



After church, we shared some wine and dug in to our blessed basket of food. Oishikatta yo!

Fore!

I was lucky enough to go golfing this week. Two of my private English students - Mr. Noda and Mrs. Yamamura - are avid golfers. They invited me to join them at the Sekigahara Country Club - which is just in the next town over.

The course is located up in the mountains that are to the south of Tarui. This time of year, the grass is still a little brown but the cherry blossoms were still in bloom.



The country club atmosphere was in full effect. We were greeted by the manager - one of my students is a member there - while no less than three attendants unloaded our clubs and prepped them on our cart.

This was my first time having a caddy join us. Her job (yes, she was a middle-aged woman) was to take your club out of your bag and hand it to you before shot, and then replace it afterwards - ensuring that it was clean, of course. For many shots, she would stand ahead of us and watch with a trained eye where your ball went. Unfortunately for me, this service was necessary more often than I care to mention. On the green, she would mark your ball, clean it off, and hand it back to you. Overall, it was neat but not quite worth the $27 that it cost me (I'm pretty sure we each paid this).

This course was enforcing the cart rule, but with a twist that I hadn't heard of before. The cart was actually driven automatically at the push of the caddy's button. As a result, we walked for most of the course while the cart (with our clubs) would follow us, winding along the cart path. Every now and then, the caddy would run over and grab some clubs and run back, presenting them to you for your next shot.

After the front nine, we had about a 20 minute break. I guess it is normal to actually sit down in the clubhouse for a meal, which is what we did. It was heaps better than just grabbing a warm hot dog and a can of coke.

I had a great time and am really glad that I had the opportunity to go. I would like to go again, but it is pricey, so I'll have to clear it with the boss first...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Let's MSNjoying free time

People always ask us what we do during the day. One of our favourite past-times is having ridiculous MSN conversations. Krista is usually online at her schools, if she has no classes. And, well, I am such a great husband that I sacrifice my precious free time to keep her entertained.

The excerpt below is just a sample of a recent conversation we had. Steve is in red and Krista is in purple. Enjoy!

do you think the spaghetti sauce and meatballs are ok to eat?

hmmm

i was thinking about that yesterday

when is it from?

i thought maybe we froze them

i think we should have

but.....

can i eat the meatballs?

when are they from?

i don't remember

i dont know i might be a little leery

i dont know what is actually in them

if it was just veggie sauce i would say yes but i dont know

i am trying to think when they are from

they are from last week some time

ya

from friday? or wednesday?

i think wed

i dont think i would eat them

i think you should have something else

there are some leftovers in the freezer you could eat, you will
just have to make rice

it is indian curry

that might be good

however, the meatballs did say they didnt expire for a couple
weeks so i dont think they really have real meat in them or they have a lot of
preservatives

well would you eat chef boyrd raviolli if it was sitting in the
fridge for a week?

i think that is kinda the same thing

I think it's a little different, because the ravioli is in a can.
the meatballs were in a bag - is it really air tight and sealed the same as a
can?

no

eat the curry like i said

make your rice now and make enough for dinner too

i am sure that you will be fine if you eat the meatballs but i
would be a little scared

since you dont really know what is in them

if it was meat i would say definitley not

true. old mystery meat is to be avoided, i think

.......

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Geishas

When we were in Kyoto, we finally saw some geishas up close. We have seen them before, but usually they were running off to some party or something. During Hanami, they were out a little longer. These two were just getting into a cab but my ninja-photo skills were able to snap the picture below...

The one on the left is really hot, don't you think?