Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Hard life...

Another good day at AEON, I'm now getting to teach students for the second time, which is very different... they're much more relaxed with me now, laugh much easier. I'm not getting much sleep for some reason... not sure why... maybe the tail-end of jet-lag or something... I'm not up at 5AM any more, mostly because I'm not in bed until late... once I get into a routine, it should be better...

Yesterday I was taking a stroll down Orion-dori, the main shopping drag here behind the office and oddly enough I hear my name called out. Now, considering the very limited amount of people who would recognize me in this town... though I'm not that hard to spot... I was quite surprised. Ends up it was Wasim, from Montreal, who flew in with me and trained with me in Omiya.... he's teaching in Oyama, just one stop down the line... maybe 15 minutes by Shinkansen. He was in the big city (Oyama's less than half the size of Utsunomiya and there ain't much there apparently) with one of the other teachers from his school. I followed them around a bit before heading out to buy myself a clock.

The time thing has to merit it's own segway here.... I was told by little B a couple of months ago about the Pisces obsession with time... whether it be conscious or not and I believe it now more than ever. When I walk in to my place, I usually take off my watch and lay it out on my dresser for the next day... well due to the lack of a prominent time display in my apartment I kept getting up throughout the day/evening to check my watch... so I finally bought a large face alarm clock thing... so problem solved. Well unfortunately when I set the time yesterday, I inadvertantly set it ahead one hour... and I didn't realize this until I was checking out of the Internet at the International Center this morning and took a look at their clock.... I had intended to go directly to work from there but even by Japanese expectations of foreign teachers... an hour and a half is too early...

Anywho, so it was a good day, tomorrow will certainly be as well... and here I sit in the Wall Street Cafe, sipping at a Vodka-tonic and writing on my blog... it's a hard life I tell ya... don't know how I'm gonna make it... lol Need to get into that Japanese language learning material I brought... should be much easier once my place is setup properly. Yoshi promises the extra crap will be moved out as soon as possible... but I know he's really busy right now and I made sure to let him know I'm not in any kind of rush... really...

Anywho, my Vodka's about done... if I keep writing I may have the urge to order another one and seeing as I don't know how much I'm paying for this one... I don't think that'd be a good idea... I think I'll mosy on over to Modern, a neat little Okinawan bar Scott point out to me the other night... the food looks quite good and I may just risk the language barrier to try it out! So wish me luck.

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

My little slice of Japan...

Well as promised... here are the pictures I took this afternoon after about 4 hours of cleaning and vaccuming.... this place will do just fine for me... just need to replace the rug (stupid dusty and dirty) and purchase some kind of sitting accessory... maybe a small loveseat???

So here's the show.... first pic is of the view from my balcony. Straight ahead is a large Park and a gorgeous shrine that I'll go photograph on a nice sunny day.

Second shot is a different angle from my balcony... see the building to the left with the P on it? That's about three quarters of the way to work... nice short walk... or an even shorter bike ride.

Here's a shot of the Maple Leaf I put up this morning... staking out my little piece of Japan... The table on the floor is a genuine Kotatsu... there are blankets that go under the main part of the table and a heater underneath the table to stay cozy in Winter...

Here's a shot of the main living area... I may move things around again but am thinking of buying a love seat or something and moving the table into the middle of the room. Also please notice the Ski Canada fridge Magnet Rene gave me before I left... the second personalization to this apartment...

This is the "kitchen"... I won't be able to cook anything too elaborate....

A shot of the very busy wall... the big grey thing on the left is an old Futon which is being discarded shortly... and my luggage will be going in the closet once the other futon that's in there is thrown out... Yoshi (Asst. Manager of the school... one of the most polite, quiet and nicest guys I've ever met...) says that's "soon".

This is Trinity, passed on down from teacher to teacher... serves as a quick way to get to work and an easy way to carry groceries... I don't quite trust myself with her in busy streets during the day.... but at night once the crowds thin out I can get around pretty easily.

Sooooo, I have a little shopping to do... and once Yoshi gets rid of the extra crap in my apartment, I'll be able to finish settling in. I've got a nice big closet which is great, my skis'll go in there... still have to clean the kitchen and bathroom and that's about that...

Also, as I was saying goodbye to my managers last night and thanking them profusely for their help in getting me settled in, Satomi (Manager) told me some students had gone to talk to her about me and said they really enjoyed my lessons... woohoo! Success! I've taken to this pretty easily... I can look over a lesson and teach it in about 5 minutes now.... down from like 8 hours during training... lol I'll enjoy myself here for sure...

Scottmeister is waiting for me downstairs so I've gotta run... will touch base again soon!

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Saturday, May 28, 2005

The big move...

No pictures yet cause I couldn't be bothered but I officially have a home address in Japan. I don't know what it is right now but it's mine dammit!!!

Seriously... moved out of the Washington Hotel this morning, not sorry to see it go. It's been a long week and I now feel it's been culminating to this point... I have a home! I was actually quite embarrassed at having the school's Manager and Assistant Manager help me trundle my luggage through the streets of Utsunomiya... not only did they help move my stuff but they made my bed for me for god's sake.... I helped but I'm not well versed in the art of futton-dom so they did most of the work. Oh and they bought me my first load of groceries! How cool is that! The fridge is full already.... one less thing to worry about.

Matt-sensei even left some beers in the fridge, one of which I may indulge in when I get home tonight.

Oh and I also biked for my first time in Japan... I think I may only trust myself in near-vacant streets for now... haven't quite wrapped my head around the left side of the street driving thing yet... but I made it to the Internet cafe in under 2 minutes....

After less than a week in town, I was invited into a student's home last night, though it was mostly indirect... final going away shindig for Matt... it was great! Scott and I tried to stay restrained since Saturday is such a long day at AEON... but they kept refilling glasses and supplementing half-empty cans of beer with full larger ones.... sheesh! And the food was great... though they kept apologizing we were just getting leftovers.... oh and the Honneydew melon!!!! My god it was to die for.... grown in Japan and obviously ripenned on the plant... not shipped in a truck from Florida to Ottawa....

Anywho... I think that's about it for now... I'll post again tomorrow with pics of the apartment...

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

One more night to go...

Well, apparently it's already been 6 nights since I started my stay at the Washington Hotel... went by pretty quick. Tonight will be the last night of my stay as I move in to my apartment at some point tomorrow.
I'll start bringing my stuff back to the office today since I have to check out tomorrow by 10 but I'm not sure when I actually get the keys to my place. It'll be nice to finally get a permanent residence, the Washington is nice but the room's a little crowded with my 1 year's worth of stuff.

So I taught my first full day all by myself yesterday and it went well... they're taking it easy on me as I only have 4 classes... but Saturdays I'm into the thick of it with 6 so that'll be my first test. I'm really enjoying it, the students are great though I must admit the High Schoolers are a little too shy for my liking, hopefully they'll warm up to me with time. The Japanese staff at the school is great, we help each other out all the time... they'll ask me some questions about what a native speaker would say in this situation and I'll get their advice on lesson prep or whatever... works well. I'm also enjoying the company of the 2 Foreign Teachers on staff... Stacy from Clearwater, B.C. and Scott from Australia... they're a hoot and are helping me settle in nicely.

Allow me to clear up a rumour or two about Japan...
1. Japan is Expensive
NOT! I guess maybe living in Tokyo would be expensive but then again so would living in Paris or London, do not make the generalization that it's expensive throughout the country. I'm able to buy more than I can eat for dinner for around 8-9$... and they have 100 Yen stores (Dollar stores) that sell everything from stationery to bathroom fittings to organizers... I'll be a frequent customer my first few days after I move in for sure. As long as you have a little courage and don't zero in on the places with an English menu, you can eat very cheap in Utsunomiya.

2. All Japanese food includes raw fish of some kind
NOPE! Raw fish is called sashimi... sushi is something different, essentially meant to describe the rice and presentation of the food... and I've actually met some Japanese people who do not like fish... so there! One of the main staples here is noodles, which are made any of a hundred different ways. The meat here can be scarce but it's certainly not non-existent. With the Japanese adventures into different parts of the world during WWII, they brought back allot of foreign foods which have been incorporated. For example, I've had Japanese Curry, and Gioza (Pot-stickers introduced from China for which Utsunomiya are famous)

So anyway, I think I'll put around the Net a little bit before heading in to Work. Take care, ttyl.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Live from the Tochigi International Centre

Well, I've found what will serve as my lifeline for the next few weeks... the TIC is a general info centre for foreigners and has 3 PCs for Internet access... which I will make good use of.

Today, I start work at 1PM, and essentially shaddow the departing teacher all day, trying to learn and figure things out. Tomorrow I teach 2 of his classes and Thursday I take over all of them. Should be a busy week.

Anywho, all the PCs are taken here and there are some people waiting in line, I'd better give them my seat before I get kicked off. ttyl. M

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

From Omiya to Utsunomiya, the transition from trainee to Sensei.

So Saturday morning, a few hours after we arrived home... we cleaned out the seminar house, packed up our things and headed out to the train station by taxis. AEONs trainers organized this very well and it went smoothly.

Here we all are outside the train station looking all prim and proper.

A final picture of Omiya, still amazed at the amount of idle taxis in this place.

Some Japanese ladies in traditional dress who were gracious enough to have their picture taken with me... notice the AEON pin on my jacket...

A Shinkansen (Bullet Train) pulling into Omiya Station. They are high-speed trains, did the 150 km journey to Utsunomiya in 30 minutes, including a 5 minute stop in Oyama.

My home in a business hotel across from the office for the next week... I move in to my apartment on Saturday.

After meeting everyone at the school and getting checked in, there was a Welcome\Goodbye party for me and the departing teacher at a nice place called Double. Got to meet and speak with around 40 of the schools students, it was alot of fun. This is the departing teacher Matt at Karaoke after the restaurant.

Some of AEONs students and staff in a Karaoke room... notice they are signing a Japanese song... very interesting...

Me and one of the Japanese teachers...

My welcome... the school gave me a Lavender plant for my apartment and Stacy, one of the foreign teachers gave me a box of cereal, a bowl and a spoon as well as an english newsletter from Utsunomiya.

Absolutely marvelous time here so far, everyone is nice and I will enjoy teaching these folks.

Thats about it for now, talk at ya later.

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We are now (insert name here)-Sensei...

I have found what will serve as my lifeline back home until I can get Internet access at home in a few weeks... a little Internet Cafe called Wall Street Cafe where I can sit and have an iced coffee and keep in touch.

It has been a crazy week, very tiring and fun at the same time. Here is the story... complete with some pictures... of the last night and morning in Omiya with the group of teachers.

After a long week of lessons, homework and yes partying... we are now officialy AEON graduates and teachers. On Thursday night, the President of AEON East Japan and director of customer/employee satisfaction for the entire company came and gave a one hour speech on our importance for the company as the face of AEON to its students. When's the last time the President of a company (of this size, AEON has about 400 schools in Japan) came and spoke with you after your orientation? I thought it was great. The line which stuck with me was: "While it is true that your school has many many students, you do not have 300 or 400 students. You only have 1 student, +1 +1 +1 +1" I thought that greatly summed up AEONs mentality and vision for its student, thats why I joined!

So Friday, we officially graduated from the training class (one of the group did not make it) and received our AEON pins. That night we went against the trainers advice and went out quite late. Here are some pictures:

This was our first stop for the night, a lovely traditional Japanese restaurant.

This is some sashimi I ordered called maguro, essentially raw tuna... very nice, very smooth and soft... melts in your mouth.

This is the second place we hit, a very nice club called Lagoon on the strip near the station. Very nice place, had many a vodka-tonic there... before running into tequilla and other shots.... The fellow with me is Ateve Araki, one of the teachers I trained with all week.

This is a shot of me with Leah, another of the trainees for the week.

Here is a shot of Leah, Robert (from T.O.) and Caroline (Aussie)

These are some Japanese folks who were enjoying our company to practice their english... we are definately treated as superstars down here...

Our arrival at a Karaoke place... the effects of the tequila are being felt... the night gets fuzzy from here on in...

Alcohol bad...

And that was pretty much the night... got back home and the sun was coming up... pretty harsh wake up for our departure on Saturday... but thats another story. Had a great time, we had a great group, the trainers were amazing... I love AEON!

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Friday, May 20, 2005

It's finally.... the begining

Well boys and gals, that's about it.... for training. We've just completed our graduation ceremony, where we received our AEON pin... very serious...

So we're all heading out tonight, and have a long day planned for tomorrow with our trip and welcome parties at our schools. Not sure when I can get back on the net... but I'll be having a blast and will post pics when I get online again!

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A first Japanese teaching experience...

Hello all!

We're all working quite hard here in Omiya, trying to keep up with the huge amount of information being crammed into our brains, while trying to get over jetlag and take care of lesson planning and home work. The trainers here are great though, so that helps a lot.

The jet lag thing is working itself out... though we were all hit by it. (even an Aussie who only crossed one time zone over) We made a point of staying out all night the first night we were here, which means I was up for about 47 hours since I didn't get any sleep on the plane... and oddly enough we were up with the sun around 5AM... AAARRRRGGG!!! Getting better now, yesterday was 7AM, today 8...

So the trainers threw us to the wolves tonight and made us teach actual Japanese students with only a few days of training. Seriously, it wasn't that bad... They invited quite a few students from the region out tonight, paid their train and taxi as well as handed out some door prizes and they were willing guinea pigs as we tried teaching them the finer point of English Grammar such as "Has she ever ridden a horse?" "No, she has never ridden a horse, but she had ridden an elephant"... Quite amusing really. The students were great, it was nice to get a preview of what they'd be like...

Anywho, off to the shower with me, will post again in a few days, hopefully with some pictures.

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Beautiful day in Japan... FIRST QUAKE!!!

Glad to finally be online and able to communicate. It’s been a busy couple of days and it looks like it’s not going to slow down any time soon!

The group of teachers training with me are all pretty neat. It’s funny how we quickly gravitated into 2 or 3 groups within a few hours of arriving. Maybe it has to do with who we first arrived with and started the journey with at Narita… here’s the group I’ve been hanging around with:
Robert from Toronto
Wasim from Montreal
Steve from Chicago (also one of my room mates)
Cleeve from Washington D.C.
Leah from San Francisco
Caroline from Melbourne, Australia
Dave from Florida, Australia and Japan for the last 6 weeks.

Here are some pictures of our walk this morning\aftern

YIKES!!! As I’m sitting here typing this, I’ve just felt my first Japanese EARTHQUAKE!!! Lasted maybe 5 seconds, gentle side to side motion… enough to make some doors bang around!!! Woohooo! Welcome to Japan!!!

Anywho, our walk this afternoon…

This is a shot of a small parking lot at a Church near the Seminar House. You drive your car in, get out of your car, hit a button and your car is lifted up so 2 vehicles can be parked in one spot… ingenious no?

This is a Lawson’s convenience store, our main source of sustenance during our stay at the AEON Seminar House.

This is a shot of a marker at the Entrance to Hikawa Shrine, you’ll notice the large gate in the background which serves as a gate to the other world (from what I understand) for the Shinto religion in Japan.

Here’s a nice shot of that Marker with the sun at the top.

Some very old painting on wood within the Shrine… at the very least hundreds of years old.

The mob at the market in Omiya on a Sunday is pretty impressive… there are small vendors setup on the ground on either side of the street selling their wares.

I left the group a little early to head in and finish up my laundry… not only did I walk home all the way by myself but I stopped at a Ramen shop on the way and ordered myself some lunch on my very own… I’m so proud… lol

I’ve enjoyed myself immensely these first few days, the Japanese people are absolutely amazing and helpful, even though most of them speak practically no English. Through pointing and gestures and grunts we’re usually able to make ourselves understood… on that note I have a funny story to share…

While I realize I had scoffed at the idea of visiting McDonald’s here in Japan, seeing as I don’t ever go there back home anyway, we found ourselves there our first night here and I decided to join in on the ordering. While the staff speaks no English at all, they have pictures and their menus are numbered so ordering should be simple right? I step up to the cash, take a look at the menu and figure out I’d like number 5, a double-cheeseburger. Look at they young lady behind the cash and say “Number 5” while making 5 with my hand… she seems not to understand and motions for me to point out on the menu, which I do. I pay my bill and wait for my order, which she gives to me. Get out of there, meet up with the group who’s already eating and open up the bag. To my surprise, I find 5 burgers! Me being a stupid Gaijin, I went ahead and ordered 5 burgers I guess…. Handed out 2 to the group and another 2 to some Japanese teens who were giving us CD’s of their Rock band and that was that. Learned an important lesson though. Never just smile and nod when hit with a barrage of Japanese, try to figure it out and confirm stuff with sign language or something. I think I redeemed myself by ordering my Ramen today…

Anywho, time for some relaxation… going to go out later and get some food at Lawson’s to make my first meal in Japan… we’ve just about run out of the food AEON had stocked for our arrival…

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

First Post from Japan

Hey everyone! Here I be, finally on the net for a bit. Here are some notes taken while I was offline.

O’Hare Intl. Airport – Chicago – May 12th, 2005 – 8:55 EST
The first leg of my journey is done. Flight from Ottawa to Chicago went well, wasn’t too crowded, smaller plane than I expected though… I’ve now found my departure gate for my flight to Narita, even though it isn’t for another 4 hours or so… I’ll poke around the airport a bit and try to find a wireless hotspot to connect to and kill some time. Also need: US Currency, coffee, Food… in that order…

Wolfgang Puck’s - O’Hare Intl. Airport – Chicago – May 12th, 2005 – 9:22 EST
Forget about the US currency, I’ll sit in this nice “terrace” (in that it’s outside the restaurant and I can people-watch for a while) at Wolfgang puck’s. I’ve already decided the choice was right since the Grandmother-like lady who just brought me my coffee called me “dear”. My search for a wi-fi connection continues… Also confirmed through AA’s customer service that the row I am in has a Power port… but in the seat next to me… hopefully not all 3 of us will have laptops….

Gate K16 - O’Hare Intl. Airport – Chicago – May 12th, 2005 – 10:11 EST
Alrighty then another airport complaint… I’m becoming quite the critic…. LOL… O’Hare has no “official” wireless internet connection. What’s up with that??? Ottawa has it, even Hamilton Airport has it for god’s sake… sheesh… I did find out from a certain un-named American Airlines staff member that you can usually hop in to the Admiral’s Club (American Airline’s First Class club I guess) connection… but you have to literally sit on the floor in front of it. I think I’ll give it a shot later on when I get bored.

39’000 feet above the Rockies – May 12th, 2005 – 20:13 EST
One last glimpse at Canadian soil before we leave the continent. The flight path actually takes us out over the Rockies and up to Alaska before angling down over the North Pacific off the coast of Russia for the last leg of the trip. Comfortable-ish seat, it’s already been a long flight and it’s only half over… sheesh.

AEON Seminar House – Omiya, Japan – May 14th - 9:10 Japan Time
Well that’s that, Welcome to Japan! Flight was very long, didn’t get to sleep much. Met at the airport by one of our trainers who helped us get our stuff sorted out and our bags shipped to our respective cities. Then it was a 1 hour and 45 minute train ride from Narita to Omiya where the AEON training house is. Train ride was absolutely amazing… Rice fields everywhere, very nice country, much greener than I thought it would be, especially for the Tokyo region. Got here by taxi from the train station, got settled into our rooms (I’m rooming with a guy from California and a guy from Chicago for the week) and got settled in a bit.

Expected to get right to bed when we got here but that didn’t happen. We decided to head down to the area around the train station (the hub in any Japanese town\neighborhood) to find an Internet Café and check in with home. Sent off an email which I now understand didn’t all come in OK… the PC was in Japanese, kept doing odd things with the keyboard… I think 2 lines of text got through. I’ll have to find a place to hook up my laptop to the net… After the Net, we walked around a bit, checked out an Arcade\Gaming house… As foreigners near Tokyo, we weren’t getting much attention walking through the streets but these two girls were giggling and stuff at some point so we went over and introduced ourselves which made them giggle even more. Ends up it was one of the girls’ birthdays so we took them out for drinks, showed us a neat Dart-playing club where they treated us like Kings. Even took pictures of us and had us sign a release so they could put us in their ads… lol Didn’t get back until 1AM or so, then went to bed.

This morning, up at 6, out of bed at 7. Training starts at 10 so I just went by a convenience store and finally figured out how to make an international call using a card I bought. Called home, said hello to my mother and Sebastien (and pinotte) but my father and Christian were already gone for their scout camp for the weekend.

AEON Seminar House – Omiya, Japan – May 14th, 2005 – 21:54
That’s it… I’m beat… totally bushed… it’s finally catching up to me. Long day of training, then out to the Station district, walked around with everyone for a few hours then we stopped in to a restaurant and had some appetizers and Sake… quite good. Now, I was thinking of popping in a movie but I think I won’t… too tired, gonna sleep…

AEON Seminar House – Omiya, Japan – May 15th – 9:29
Had a good night’s sleep, nice and rested this morning. Seeing as we’ve got the day off, I’ll make it my mission to find a location to connect to the Internet using my laptop and finally posting to sushiandmaplesyrup with some pictures and this offline journal I’ve been keeping. I think my best bet is probably McDonald’s or Starbucks, which apparently offer Internet Connections. It’s raining out, but I’ll make the trek to the Station district anyways. Took some really neat pictures last night which I must get out there!

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

T-Minus 1 hours and counting

That's about it... final goodbyes have been said, baggage is checked and x-rayed, Customs is cleared and I await the boarding call for my flight. The journey is about to begin!

Keep in touch, I'm not sure when I'll be able to get online but I'll do my best....
email: michel_lafleur@excite.com
MSN: mitchamaphone@hotmail.com
Skype (free VoIP): michellafleur
I'm 13 hours ahead of Ottawa... my mornings are your evenings and vice-versa...

***Note to Ottawa Airport Authority***
I am quite disapointed in the lack of a Tim Horton's behind the security lines.... somebody should write a letter, start a petition... something!

Cheers, Sayonara, Arigato for all the kind thoughts these last few days and weeks... and if ever you happens to be putting around Tokyo for a few days, drop me a line and we'll get together for some tea!


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Sunday, May 08, 2005

80 hours left... most goodbyes are done... few more to go

Some people have asked why I haven't written up an update in so long... to which I tend to reply that it's difficult to login to blogger when you're sitting on the side of a quiet lake in Algonquin Park enjoying the call of the loons.... We had a wonderful time camping in the Gonq, squeezed in all the ritualistic camping fare into what will be my last trip up there for a while. In fact, I'm always amazed at how well we eat while camping. Steaks, fried potatoes, hamburgers and sausages (Complete with 3 different kinds of mustard), Chicken Wings, etc etc etc.... seem to eat better while in the bush than I do here at home sometimes...

Today was of course Mother's Day, and I gave my mother a crisp new 10,000 Yen bill to be used when she comes to visit. My father has now started coming around to also making the trip so I'll leave him some Yen for father's day as well. I was actually quite surprised since he's very uncomfortable with the whole flying thing... our trip down to Florida last year was pretty rough on him... lol But it is an experience of a life time to be able to go to Japan and have a personal travel guide. The whole family got together for the traditional Mother's Day BBQ, so I got to say my goodbyes to everyone en masse as it were.

Preparations are still coming along for my departure Thursday morning. I need to pick up some traveller's cheques, a belt and a pair of shoes and that's about it for purchases. On Wednesday night I'll be finalizing my Will and Powers of Attorney so that that's taken care of in the event of anything untimely. Other than that, it's just finishing packing up and getting my stuff into storage mode. Pretty busy couple of days this week...

Monday - Sherry is taking me shopping for my b-day and we're going to lunch. Then it's off to a goodbye dinner with Little B.
Tuesday - Packing and sorting my stuff during the day and one final Chinese take-out evening with Renee and Martijn.
Wednesday - My mother is taking the day off, finishing up the packing and such... then the legal documents and a few hours of sleep before heading off at 3AM that night for the airport.

As far as updates on here go, I'll probably throw one more up here on Wednesday night, then again in Chicago if I can get on the net at the airport. After that, my communications strategy goes down the tube for a while since my first week in Japan will be pretty hectic. I'll do my best to get something out there shortly after my arrival though... likely on the Sunday we have off from training....

Off to bed now, my last Sunday in Canada almost over...

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

11 days left...

Been a busy, but not really, kind of week. Spent most of last week at Sean's cottage on Green Lake near Shawville. Had a lovely time, sleeping in, drinking and talking until all hours of the night, I'll miss Mr. Lewis while I'm away...

Just in town long enough to sort some more stuff out, pack up and head out again. We're heading out to Basin Lake in Algonquin Park, which is just a short jaunt North-West of Golden Lake, leaving Tuesday and back on Friday.

After that it'll probably be a few days with the family at the cottage and then the final wrapping up of things before I leave on the 12th. Woohoo!

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