Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Ranger's last ride....

Drove my faithfull little truck one final time this morning, down the 417 like hundreds of times before... took it in to my father's work and went over all the little features with the buyer. Sat down in his office, filled out the paperwork and that was that, all I'm left with are two sad little plates... sniff.

That little Ranger did what I needed it to, actually went above and beyond my expectations. I think the proudest moment was when Sean and I were camping on Wickware lake which is only accessible through an ATV\Snowmobile trail. These 4-wheelers come blaring out of the bush and onto the beach where we were staying and stopped for a quick rest and to enjoy the view of the lake. They took a look at my truck and asked incredulously: "You drove this in here? Is it a 4x4?" Nope, it's not but I had a good set of tires on there, and I made my way in and out of that trail quite a few times with no problems... other than your head banging the roof of the truck from bouncing up and down on all those rocks and washouts and such. It's moved quite a few people, hauled quite a few trailers and taken me on dozens of wonderful camping trips.

We'll make a final trip to Wickware next week, one final camping trip in the wild before I leave, and the first without the Ranger. At least I'll still be in a Ford (Explorer) for the trip in...

Heading out to Sean's cottage tonight for a few days, should be nice and relaxing.

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Monday, April 25, 2005

17 days left - my apartment

Got in touch with the teacher whom I will be replacing and he sent along some pictures of his, soon to be my, apartment. The one below is of the exterior of the building, the interior pictures are in pretty small format but they're down there as well... probably taken from a camera phone or something.

Looks like a nice modern building, Matthew tells me there's a large (looks like a 27" or so?) TV, DVD, CD player in the apartment as well as some funky lighting, so I'm looking forward to seeing what that's all about. The size is about what I expected. One room which is convertible between living area and sleeping area with a seperate kitchen. (I think... as I said the pictures are small)

Anywho, today is my last day with a vehicle so I've got some running around to do. First stop, spend the lovely gift card for Moores I got from my former co-workers on Friday... then probably a trip to the barber...

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Friday, April 22, 2005

Michel-sensei... I like the sound of that

Received a card from the staff at my school today, they all refer to me as Michel - sensei... which I'll have to wrap my head around... though I like the sound of it!

Everyone says I'll love working there, one fellow-Canadian teacher from the West Coast has been there 3 years! very nice to hear.

Also got the email of the teacher I'll be replacing and will send him a quick note asking if he's got any pictures of the apartment...

Things are rolling along as my final three weeks here wind down:
  • Truck is sold, I'm handing it over on Tuesday morning... sniff sniff
  • I've started packing up some things I won't need from now until I leave, still have a little shopping to do but I'll wait until I have the cash from my truck in hand... just to be on the safe side. I think I'll get away with my garment bag (for my suits) and one suitcase... plus my skis of course...
  • 2 camping trips in the works, April 27-29 and May 3-6... probably both in Algonquin Park. It's unfortunate that the ice hasn't broken up on the lakes yet, I was hoping to see my favourite camping spot one final time but it's difficult to paddle a canoe on 6 inches of ice...
  • I think my departure is starting to be real for my little bros... I find Chrisitian is spending alot of time hanging around me these days and Seb keeps commenting on how little time we've got left... I certainly hope they're not preparing to wrench my heart out of my chest as I leave....
  • Still have to deal with cancelling a few things... insurance on my truck being one of them. I guess I'm in denial... I keep putting it off... lol

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

First Contact

First Contact was made this morning with teachers who are working at my school in Utsunomiya.

The first to email was Kanako, a Part Time teacher (native Japanese obviously) working at the school. She thanks me for the beautiful postcards, mentions they're posted in the staff room and the everyone is looking forward to meeting me. She was emailing me from his phone, so kept it short...

The second email was from a fellow named Scott who is currently teaching in the School. He has been there 6 months and has just extended his contract because he likes the school and the staff. Very nice to hear that! Also talks a bit about the region and the great outdoorsy opportunities around. Sent him a few questions about the apartment and skiing and such, I'm assuming I'll hear back at some point, though since he was using an Internet Cafe... I won't hold my breath...

So very cool to be in touch, I'm sure I'll get the few questions I have left answered.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

23 days and counting - The folding of the flag

Ever since I moved into this room, I've had a huge Canadian Flag draped across one of the walls. I bought the flag on Canada Day a few years ago in an unfortunately rare spurt of patriotism, no doubt brought on by the tens of thousands which surrounded me that night in downtown Ottawa.

This evening, to the mellow sounds of David Gray who happened to be leading into "As I'm leaving" I removed the flag from it's spot on my wall. With the help of my former navy-cadet brother Christian, I folded it properly into a tight triangle and put it in my suitcase. Funny how it's little moments like this that make me delve into thought. I still can't quite wrap my head around the fact that in a matter of weeks, that flag will be draped across a wall in Japan, a country with which we were mortal enemies a mere 60 years ago. Funny how times change.

Guess my departure is starting to sink in, but it's been such a long time coming that it's a slow release. I'll make sure to enjoy my last 23 days here... I have 2 camping trips in the works, one 3-day and a 4-5 day, plus many meetings and dinners and lunches with friends. The time will certainly go by quickly.

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Monday, April 18, 2005

Stupid internal clock

Well, apparently, my body has yet to realize I don't have to wake up on weekday mornings any more... 6:55 this morning, about 5 minutes before my alarm would have gone off had it been on, there I am awake. Fought it 'till 8:00 or so, but it wasn't working so I'm up...

Lots of things to do anyways today, may as well get an early start.


Friday, April 15, 2005

27 days remaining - Welcome former coworkers!!!

Hello all who were directed here by my farewell email today at work. Thanks for the visit, and I hope you'll stop by often for updates.
***For my "regular" visitors, today was my last day with the Firm and I invited everyone to drop by here and bookmark this site via my farewell email.***

First of all, let me reiterate a quick part of my email message. If you would like to be notified of major updates, please send an email to michel_lafleur@excite.com with your personal (or work if you don't have one) email address which I will add to my list. Don't worry, I won't bother you with emails every day... just a quick reminder to drop in here once in a while because of ___________. (fill in the blank with: "my departure from Canada", "my arrival at my school", "my visit to Russia", "etc.")

So I guess the first order of business for those of you who do not know the details of my trip is to get you up-to-date.

  1. My (soon to be) home

    • I will be teaching in a city of 440,000 people called Utsunomiya in Japan's Tochigi Prefecture.
    • Utsunomiya is located near the mountains, about 1 hour (100km) North of Tokyo. From what I understand it's a very nice place to live. Onsens (Hot Springs) are abundant and it is close to a few national parks for hiking and such. Not too big, especially compared to the Tokyo metropolis (population 36M) and yet big enough to have most of the amenities to help make your stay comfortable.
    • My apartment in Utsunomiya is arranged for and subsidized by the school I'll be working for, so I don't have to go through the hassle of finding a place to live in a foreign country.

  2. My employer
    • I will be working for AEON Corporation, one of the largest private language schools in the country with over 360 branch schools in operation accross Japan.
    • I will be teaching English to adults who break down into the following demographics: 85% business people, 5% housewives, 5% college students, 5% high school students.
    • I've signed a one year contract from May 21st, 2005 to May 20th, 2006. I may be offered to extend my contract after 6 months.

  3. My first week in Japan
    • I will be flying Ottawa-Chicago-Tokyo, leaving Ottawa at 6:27 AM EST on Thursday May 12th. I arrive in Tokyo after 15 hours of flying and a 4 hour layover in Chicago at 2PM Tokyo time on May 13th, having crossed the International Date Line. In my tired and confused mind, it will seem like it's 1AM Eastern Standard Time.
    • I will be met at the airport by AEON staff and taken to the Seminar House where I'll be staying during my week of training. Training starts the morning following my arrival.
    • Following training, I will be taken to the train station and shipped off to Ustunomiya where I will be met by staff from my branch school and taken to visit the branch.
    • I'm assuming I will then be taken to my apartment and allowed to settle in and catch up on some much needed rest!
So that's about as much information as I'm willing to write out at the moment. Please feel free to peruse the rest of this journal, you can see past posts on the bottom right, as well as the current time and weather in Japan at the bottom of this page. Should you wish to do so, you may leave a comment using the chat box to the right of the page by entering your name and message in the appropriate fields.

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

One more day

Today, I packed up my office. It's funny how 3 years have gone by so quickly and they can be relatively well mirrored by the contents of a simple cardboard box.

  • My dress shoes and shoe polish stuff... me the guy who'd rebelled against the attempts of management at my previous employer to formalize the dress style (while I still refuse to concede that field technicians should wear suits to crawl under people's desks...) See what working with a bunch of lawyers does to you?
  • My stainless steel travel mug, engraved my TOH email address and given to me by my good friend Sean 5? years ago... has it been that long?
  • The duck decoy, lovingly carved by Ken, which I bought at the United Way Charity auction in 2003
  • The Canadian flag stress reliever thing Nellie brought back for us from a Law Clerk's conference way back when...
  • 2 Sea Shells Donna brought back from her trip to the Dominican
  • Enrique's (he's the most amazing field tech ever!) business card from Nex... thanks for all your help bud, you're the best.
  • An Ogilvy Renault golf ball... eerily similar to those who went for sale on EBay a few months back and were purchased for over 100$ per sleeve of 3...
  • An Atlantic Voyages 2005 calendar, ironic that I'm moving to the other side of the planet and yet I have yet to visit either of Canada's beautiful coasts...
  • Some photocopied recipes from Donaria's "Northern Cookbook"... oddly enough she didn't make me a copy of the "Sweet pickled beaver" recipe (I kid you not...)
  • The ski hill maps I've had on my wall all winter... it certainly was my most amazing ski winter ever... must have gotten out 15-20 times in total... great fun...
  • Kadance's picture from when she was 6 months old... about 6 months ago, how time flies.
  • A picture of Rene and me at our office door taken during the Margarita Day last November...
  • My final performance evaluation, which I received last week and have yet to really go over...
  • The little Kazoo toy given to me by Heather following the Jeopardy incident at a staff meeting in 2002...
  • A piece of Origami made by AEON's recruiter and sent to me in my hiring package that I've had at my desk for months...
  • The "Ogilvy Renault: 125 years of History" book published in 2004 for the Firm's 125th, my name's in there!
  • The small glass my Poinsettia came in from the Christmas Ornaments contest this past December... I won for "Best Hand-Crafted Ornament" with a tacky ugly thing I made when I was like 3...
  • The picture of my brothers skating at the Corel Centre at the Firm's family event this winter...

Along with all this stuff, and the memories that come with it, are a few more items that deserve special mention.

From Rene this morning, I found at my desk a lovely card with some very thoughtful words:
Cover: "Never is life so exciting as at the beginning of a journey" - a philosopher
Inside: "It sucks that you're leaving" -me
In a lovely Canada bag: an igloo Christmas Ornament (for whatever I can find which even remotely resembles a Christmas tree in Japan, I can tell Japanese people it's a replica of my home), a "Ski Canada" fridge magnet (Which will be the first official decoration in my new apartment) and a small jar of Maple Syrup (which will be opened in 6-12 months from now, and served over pancakes for breakfast) ...totally blown away by that first thing this morning, only the first of a series of tugs at the ol' heart strings today...

At lunch, which I was supposed to be going to with Brigitte, I come around the corner at the Japanese Village to the people I've had lunch with practically every day for 3 years now. After a wonderful lunch (for which Brigitte was gracious enough to pay) they present me with a "Learn Japanese in 10 minutes a day" book with a custom made translation exercise in the front. I'll be trying to decipher what they wrote to me this evening... and the Japanese village staff took a great picture of all of us which will be staying in the front cover of the book with the exercise...

So it was an emotional day, but tomorrow should be worse... I'll miss these people dearly, there's no other way to put it.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Weird week at work

You know what I found out today at work? I just don't care any more. I've been sending more bitchy "get this shit done now!" emails than I ever had... and bitch sessions galore about all kinds of stuff... I guess it's because I know I'm done in two days and my work is all done and I'm just counting the seconds or something... But one thing stood out today and really rubbed me the wrong way...

Now I ask you a question, What are some of the more important factors to take care of when "taking someone out to lunch?" Let's say, for example, that one of your employees was leaving and you wanted to "take him out to lunch." In my mind, 3 things quickly pop up to mind...
  1. Locale\Ambiance\Good food (Taken care of by a wonderful co-worker)
  2. Company\Conversation (It's the Parliament Pub, think politics may be the subject?)
  3. PICKING UP THE TAB!!! (Yeah that's right, kind of an important component to ignore)
Think for one single second of the social ineptness required to take your employee out to lunch and not bother to whip out either a) the corporate credit card for which you have a budget to pay for such things or b) your own wallet to at least cover the cost of a quick lunch and a glass of iced tea! "Here, let me take you out to lunch instead of you actually spending one of the few last precious lunch hours with people you actually care about... and oh yeah you're footing the bill too!".... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGG!

I've dealt with or ignored many things over the past years, so I don't know why this is bugging me so much but it may very well have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. After all that's gone on in the last week, I don't think I could bring myself to ever enter into a professional relationship with this person again, and that's really too bad because he's not a bad guy, he's just... innocent? naive? doesn't get the way the social world works? is totally socially inept? Don't know the answer, but I can't believe the guy is in a management position... and I intend to make my feelings finally heard!!!

Bah I say... bah...

Now I'm off to pick up my truck, and drive it back home from Calabogie, land of many deer... wish me luck.

p.s. I find writing this out has helped sooth me, I guess that's what these blogs are for after all... lol Now of course I'll have to restrict access to this post on Friday since I'll be sending the link to my blog out in my farewell email to the entire office....but it'll still be around....

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Amazing weekend!

We of course all had an amazing time this weekend at Manoir St-Sauveur. It was great to see everyone one last time before I leave on Friday. There was much drinking and merriment of course and a great time was had by all (including my room mate, who will remain nameless, who drank too much and got sick in our room...forcing me to pack up my stuff and ask the front desk for another one.... but no biggie, happens to the best of us...)

The big surprise was the horse drawn carriage ride from the hotel to the restaurant for dinner on Saturday. That was great fun and we kept warm by drinking Caribou. (a mix of brandy, vodka, port and sherry served to partyers at Quebec City's outdoor Winter carnival to keep warm.) It was a hell of a sendoff and I'll miss these folks greatly.

So 31 days left, officially one month as of tomorrow, until I depart for the great yonder. I have a feeling the next little while will go by quite fast.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Busy week

Got back from Chatham Monday after, had a marvelous time of course, little Kadance is just simple the cutest thing on earth...
The Lincoln was quite comfy, and damn fast too... 724 km in a about 6 hours... and that includes driving through T.O. where my speed dropped to a measly 120-130 km/h, lol. Gas mileage was not as good as the Focus I was planning on, but I wouldn't have gone so fast with the focus. There's just something about having 8 cylinders at your disposal that makes it soooo tempting to just eat up the road. Averaged a gas mileage of about 11.6 litres of gas per 100 km... which isn't so bad considering the speed I was doing. The difference of pushing it to 140km/h from 100km/h was only like 0.4 litres per 100km...
So I've been on-call the last 2 nights, certainly won't miss that while I'm gone. Only 7 working days left out of the 5 weeks notice I gave and I'm making the following information Public as of now... drum roll please!.........................
It looks as if they are seriously considering not replacing me. There, I've said it. They've asked us to keep it quiet but it just had to get out. If it sparks a riot in OR's offices, too bad, I've kept quiet for a month already... Not really my problem in the end, but I feel bad for my co-worker, whose work environnment will go from excellent to stressful, stupid number crunchers....
On another note, the Gomery Inquiry into the Sponsorship Scancal is still in full swing with the Attorney General of Canada now threatening to take legal action against bloggers who link to a certain American blogger who is breaching the Publication Ban on testimony by Jean Brault and Chuck Guité. Justice Gomery has ruled that publication of their testimony before the commission would poison the jury pool from which a jury will be selected in a matter of weeks for these guys' criminal trials.

While it has been proved to be very simple for people to find Ed's blog through a simple Google search, anyone caught directly linking people Mr Morissey's site is subject to contempt of court and whatever penalties may come with it.

While I find that the integrity of these two men's trials should be upheld, I refuse to believe that all discussion on the matter should be quelched. Blogs, as seen during the US presidential election, have become a vehicle for opinions and information from around the World. The bottom line is that Canada is uncovering the rot within the Federal Liberal Party, who is of course forming the current government with their paltry minority. With the constant threat of an election, Canadians needs to know what the key players in this scandal have to say before we head to the polls again after less that a year.

But that's just my 2 cents on it, my riding did not go to a Liberal so I did my duty to keep these corrupt bastards out of Parliament....

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