Sunday 30 March 2008

Oki-na Gaijin, Chisai-na Kuni (Big Foreigner, Small Country) #2

March 21, 2008 - Arrival in Tokyo

After a very windy landing (and much applause to thank the pilot for not killing us) we disembarked. Things moved well until we got to immigration and - like every other time I’ve arrived in Japan- the foreigner line-up was huge! Interestingly, you now have to give your fingerprints and have a photo taken of yourself before you enter the country.

After I picked up my bags, my friend Yoichi and his wife Keiko met me at the airport. After greetings we did not take a train into Tokyo but, instead, had his driver take us! Unbelievable! It probably took the same amount of time as a train but was much more relaxing.

As we entered my old neighbourhood of Tai Hei, near Kinshicho station, it was strange being back. There were many different buildings and business but the feeling was the same as I remember. In some ways, it felt as if hardly any time had passed at all.

I was still feeling perky so after a beer, we went out to a tiny Tempura restaurant around the corner. The tempura was the best that I’ve ever had. There was minimal batter with a host of wonderful seasonal fish and vegetables. The bottomless glass of sake probably didn’t hurt either!

I found, as we talked, that my ability to at least understand Japanese is improving dramatically.

We headed back to the apartment where I had a chu-hi and that slept very peacefully.

Saturday 29 March 2008

Oki-na Gaijin, Chisai-na Kuni (Big Foreigner, Small Country) #1


I just returned from a wonderful trip to Tokyo, Japan. Instead of the usual scooter related journal entries, I thought that I’d share my actual journal I kept of my trip. It will be a few days behind but I intend to present the entries daily over the next seven or eight days.

Why Japan? I taught in Tokyo for a year, 23 years ago, and it was time to go back. Also, my youngest daughter was there for a home stay and it seemed like a great opportunity to go back and visit. Finally, my good friend, Yoichi, had visited Canada five years ago so it was my turn.

March 20, 2008

Vancouver International Airport was pretty quiet, considering that this is the start of the Easter Weekend.

My wife, eldest daughter and friend were waiting for me a the airport by the large green native canoe statue. They had returned from Prince George after a visit to UNBC as they might attend university there. Caitlin’s friend looked a bit like a drug addict after taking Gravol for the plane. I hope she didn't barf in our car on the way home.

After a brief visit, lunch and goodbyes, I checked in, made so easy by using the web check-in the night before. The departure lounge was great - tons of stores and very comfortable chairs, not at all like those moulded plastic chairs of old.

One of the things I’d been dreading is the plane. Whenever I’ve taken Westjet or Air Transat I’ve really felt poured into the seat. This time I went Air Canada on a Boeing 767 and the room was OK - I didn't feel squashed as both width and length were fine. I luckily was sitting beside a small Japanese woman. She did have more room than I did due to her small size but we didn't invade each other’s space.

The airplane had quite a few technological advances including a power plug for laptops, a USB charging port for iPods and a touch screen with a large number of videos and TV shows on demand.

Partway through the flight I had a strange, drug-induced experience. My doctor had given me a prescription for Ativan (which I had never taken before) so I could sleep. I took one half-strength pill even though it usually takes me a lot to be sedated (e.g. for a medical treatment). I’m glad I was conservative as after about 10 minutes I had broken into a sweat. Then I felt nauseous. I fought the nausea successfully (although I had a barf bag close by) and after awhile I started to doze.

Monday 17 March 2008

Wet, Grey Ride to Vancouver

If I were an artist - and I’m not - and I had to paint the colours of today’s ride, I’d only need black, white and maybe a bit of grey.

It was time for another servicing so today I rode into Vancouver. I take my Vespa in every 2000 km or about 4 months to get an oil change and to be checked over. It’s certainly more often than suggested but I l only really want to ride my scooter, not tinker with it, so this has worked well for me.

My youngest daughter is in Japan - I head there on Thursday - so she has my camera. The photos I have posted today were taken with my video camera so I apologize for the lack of quality.

I meant to take some photos on the way but the rain, which was not bad when I was still, completely soaked me while riding. Luckily I have good gloves, waterproof clothes, and I was even wearing my gortex overbooties!

After dropping off the Vespa, I headed into Kitsilano - a trendy section of Vancouver where Vespa Vancouver is located. There’s lots of good restaurants., cool stores and loads of interesting people.

I stopped at Kits Coffee for an early lunch (panini) and a latté while I read a couple guidebooks on Japan. Between the library and the Book Warehouse, I’ve accumulated a number of books about Tokyo - you’d think I hadn’t lived there before - sheesh!

I saw this interesting mutant bicycle - looks like some sort of Harley - Peugeot hybrid. It caused a few people to stop and look.

While talking to my favourite Vespa dealer, Bob, I found out that, much to my surprise, Vespa Vancouver was not rebranding but, in fact, now had a competitor. A couple weeks ago, I was at the Green Living Show in Vancouver and saw a display for Vespa Metro. I assumed that this was a new name for the old store, especially since I vaguely recognized one of the people at the display.

No, Vespa Inc. has decided to open another Vespa retailer in Vancouver, near (but not in) the area known as Little Italy (Vespa Metro is pictured above). Bob is not particularly happy as people think that the two stores are owned by the same people. He’s also a bit worried about a price war which could be good for the consumer if prices drop and could be bad for the consumer if they both go broke. For the time being, I’m very happy with Bob and the service at Vespa Vancouver so I’ll stick with them.

Vespa Metro does have a cool mural in progress, though.

I left with my serviced Vespa and headed home, stopping at Coquitlam Centre to pick up some Chinese groceries at T and T market. Lo and behold, when I left the mall, the sun was almost breaking through the clouds. It was definitely worth a photo.

So now, I am getting ready for my upcoming trip to Tokyo. I will hopefully be reunited with my still camera (or might even get another one in Tokyo) and have some interesting photos for this blog. Until then, sayonara!

Saturday 8 March 2008

Report Cards - Done!


Report cards are done for another term.

As a teacher, there are many different parts to my job. There’s being a teacher, an advisor, a mentor, a coach, a cheerleader, a policeman, an IT guy, and a secretary. I love all those different roles. Marking, planning, meeting with cranky parents - those are necessary parts of the job that I don’t like quite as much. Then there’s report cards.

Nothing sucks the time away or makes me procrastinate more than report cards. They are an important part of the job but I still have a heckuva time motivation myself to do them.

And now they’re done!

At 30 a term, with three terms a year, I’ve only got about 930 to do before I retire! Yippee!