Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The moving process has begun

After a little over a year in my first Japanese apartment, I am on the verge of moving to another one. After 15 or more years of housing AEON teachers, the Teishin building will lose the privilege or doing so as of Sunday. It's been a good run, but I think it's time the relationship be dissolved. The floors have lost their shine, the wall paper just isn't as white as it once must have been, the dust on the balcony is just about irremovable..... hard not to feel nostalgic when you think that this was the first Japanese home to maybe ten of AEON's finest teachers over the years.

Regardless, I will be happy to be settled in to the new (NEW being the operative word here) apartment. Shiny new floors, nice clean enclosed balcony, fancy water heating system... life will be good.

The process started today with two major changes of address being made. One at City Hall which coincided with my Visa renewal, which was nice, and the other being my Internet\Phone move. It's interesting how powerless one feels in these types of situation with little to no language ability. I had to sit for over and hour while Yukiyo phoned back and forth between the Internet and Phone companies to get them to do something. It was the classic case of the right hand not knowing what the right hand was doing. A call to YahooBB told us to call NTT, while NTT sent us right back to YahooBB. In the end, it took 6 seperate phones calls, 3 to each company to get things rolling! So it's nice that that's going.

The bad news? The guy at City Hall made a mistake and we have to go back there tomorrow for him to fix it... and the Internet will take a week to transfer from here to there, leaving me offline from June the 4th to the 12th... aaarg! Luckily I will be able to bum Internet off work, and Yoshiko... and maybe even Matto if I stop calling him Matto "the natto" Sensei on this here blog....

So I've actually already made 2 trips with stuff over there, though the whole biking with a 50 pound load of books on my back wasn't so amusing... I wanted to get some things out of the way so that when I really start to pack, I don't have stuff all over the place. Sunday is the big day, though Matt will give me a hand to move the big stuff on Saturday night. I'll be able to move the TV and the rest myself, but the fridge and washing machine will be a bit too much to lug up three flights of stairs. Yoshiko will of course help, and is supplying the vehicle and driving, but god bless 'er, the appliances weigh more than she does.

Tomorrow, the packing starts in earnest, and I'll be taking care of a few changes of address myself since some services NTTDocomo (cell phone) and Lloyds (overseas remitance service) have English options. Speaking of Lloyds, I thought I should mention this here. GoLloyds answered an email I sent to their general email address I got off their web site in about 5 minutes. How amazing is that? Anyone wanting to setup a link between a Japanese account and a bank overseas, I highly recommend Lloyds... check them out at www.golloyds.com and if you sign up, do put in my name (Michel Lafleur) in the blank for referrals.

Anywho, better get to bed, early start tomorrow.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Aaah Nikko.... good to be back

The Nikko area is quite lovely, this is something I kept repeating to myself again and again today as we walked around the Temples and Shrines which dot the hills. We met up this morning and biked down to the station and hopped on the ol' JR Nikko line for the 45 minute train ride. Since this is a Monday and most folks have to work, the train was practically empty save for the gaggle of foreigners and retired folks heading up to Nikko.

Now, excuse me for a second but I've got a mini-rant here. What is it with women and wearing high-heeled shoes to go sightseeing in the mountains? What's up with that? Don't they know they'll be walking a lot, through gravel and dirt and stuff? Duh. There was this German (I think) couple next to me on the train, and she was wearing these white heels... about the common sense of a snail that one...

Anywho, back to our regularly scheduled programming. Upon arriving in Nikko, we stopped by the Information center for the mandatory map and then took a bus to the touristy area. Ends up we shouldn't have bothered, the posted "30-40 minute walk" sign must be for the geriatrics who head up there... we were on the bus all of 4 minutes. The first thing we saw was of course the "famous" Shinkyo bridge.


We walked and checked out a few temples, then as we were walking up to the Toshogu, the main site in Nikko, bells started tolling which set the mood very nicely. Once inside the Toshogu, we did the typical rounds, starting of course with the famous monkey carving.


Everything was nice and green up there, with some trees just recently having grown leaves due to the mountain weather. Even the lanterns were green.


After touring the inner area a bit, we trudged up the side of the mountain and visited the tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu. If you want the whole story about Nikko, click here for the post I made when I visited with some students.


After walking around some more, we headed off to the next couple of shrines. I think this is my favourite picture of the day, of the lanterns heading to Futarasan Shrine.


After checking out a couple of other places, we walked on back towards the station in search of a restaurant Lonely Planet said had good Shabu Shabu since I'd never tried it. However the restaurant seemed to have vanished\disappeared and we ended up having tempura and soba instead at a place with this lovely Engrish. I believe they are trying to communicate that the right and left buttons are flippers....


Once we returned to Utsunomiya, we quickly checked out Yodabashi camera, and then I showed Matto around my new neighbourhood before heading on back. Looks like a nice area, cute little vegetable and fruit stand, little markets here and there. I of course have to move the entire contents of my apartment, appliances included, which will make for a busy week. The bike ride back home took all of 5 minutes, so it's not that far away... though it is downhill... maybe 7 minutes to bike from here to there. I'll check it out some other time. For now, I need a shower and something to drink... been a long day.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Off to Nikko!

Heading out to Nikko this morning with Matto "the natto" Sensei. This will be my 4th trip up there, it's quite lovely. Will get to see the Toshogu again today, along with a few other things I haven't had the opportunity to check out.

On Saturday night, with the help of a map, I did finally find my new home and had a peek inside. It's not much bigger than my current place, but has a better layout and a much bigger balcony which has windows on the outside so it actually serves as a 3rd room. It's a corner unit so I have a nice big window with a large window sill where I can set out some plants. The entire building has only 6 units, I am on the top floor with nothing but the terrace above me! Should be great. The best thing about it is that it is NEW. The floors are shiny, the walls are clean, the toilet has fancy buttons on the side of it that do god knows what... lol Should be nice! Moving next weekend.

Yesterday, Yoshiko and I headed out to see the DaVinci Code. I found it good, though of course not as good as the book. The actors playing Lee and Silus stood out more than Tom Hanks, who unfortunately in the part of a reserved, cramped space fearing Harvard professor, didn't have much of a character to play with. Silas was absolutely frightening and disturbing in almost any scene he enters, especially the self-flagellation sequence where he atones for his actions by whipping himself to a bloody pulp while wearing the silice. Ian McKellen as Lee was absolutely fantastic. He has a presence that is so stately and wise... gotta love our good ol' friend Gandalf!

Anywho, better get ready to go. Pics tonight.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Movin on up

Scott we miss you! I don't know about the rest of the people in the office, but I keep expecting him to be just around the corner... or I keep looking for him to tell him something. I tell ya, this will be a heck of a change!

In other news, I will be vacating my apartment shortly and heading into the apartment recently vacated by Master Yoshi when he moved to Tsuchiura. From what I understand, it is larger, has a bigger kitchen, in a quieter neighbourhood, is newer, has separate toilet and bath, larger balcony AND a roof top terrace where you can BBQ and hang out!!! Woohoo!

I tried finding it tonight, but having never been there at night, was unsuccessful. Will try again on Sunday\Monday.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The end of the Scotto period in Utsunomiya

Yes, it has finally happened. After a glorious 18 months at the helm in Utsunomiya, the Scotto legacy has ended. Historians may note in the future that the Scotto Period may have marked the people of the region just as much as the Edo or Meiji Periods, we will simply have to wait and see how time judges our beloved Scotto.

The first round of goodbyes occurred of course at the school with students from his final class saying their farewells, and eventually the staff had a go at it.


It was hard to believe that our wandering wanderer of an Eigo teacher was finally leaving us. I guess it sort of snuck up on all of us, even though the indicators have been there for months. After class, we ended up at the Lion's Head as is our Wednesday night custom, a great way to end one's tenure here in Utsunomiya. If I had the choice on which day to leave, Wednesday night beer night would have to be it. Here are the last few survivors of the eveningu out.


So that's pretty much that. In a matter of hours, Scott will have embarked on his final journey in Japan, that from Utsunomiya to Narita airport. It's been a hell of a ride for the ol' boy and I know we all greatly value his friendship. His realism and down-to-earthism (leave me alone, I've been drinking) have helped keep me sane and will certainly be missed. He has been an invaluable part of my time here in Japan as one of the few people actually involved in my life on a personal level. You don't realize just how isolated you are out here until a major building block of your social life disappears. My social circle here has essentially extended to Yoshiko, Scott and Matt, as well as to a select few students whom I see socially. Scott's departure will leave a gaping hole where there was once a good friend. I do expect we'll be seeing our young traveller again, if not here in Japan then at some point in our future travels. He has led a hell of a life so far, and I wish him all the best in the next leg of his journey.

As a final tribute to the Scottmeister, here is a retrospective of his final year in Japan, to the tune of Green Day's "Time of your life". The most difficult part of it was finding the right tune to put this to. I didn't want anything too somber, and most goodbye songs are definitely geared towards lovers... but Green Day's song about forks in the road and life being unpredictable seemed particularly fitting here.


Goodbye Scotto, fare thee well. May your keel be straight, your compass be true and may the wind always be at your back.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

A mere matter of days...

...until the end of Scott's tenure here in Utsunomiya. I think this has kind of snuck up on everyone, even though we've known for six months that he was leaving in May. The lucky guy has not only attended his final Friday afternoon meeting, but he has taught his last Saturday! Oh how I envy him!

Saturday evening after class, we headed to the Lion's Head for the traditional pre-farewell party drink before heading over to Esprit, a dinner-theater\karaoke cross restaurant. It's got a sunken room with about 20? tables and a stage, and was a pretty good venue for this party, due to the necessary speeches and activities. We had a great turnout, about 50 people at the party and 20ish for the 2nd party. Here's our dear Scotto in full mingling action.


Here are our two sound Scandino-viking scamps on stage doing the speech thing.


Scott was presented with some lovely gifts from us staff and some of the students, and I think he may need to rethink his single checked-in piece of luggage policy. The man travels light, only one backpack and a carry-on, but I think gifts may have pushed him over.

After dinner, we headed over into a different section of the same restaurant into their karaoke section, and actually ended up in the same room as we did after my welcome party a year ago!
Here's the man of the hour belting out Battery by Metalica with Keizo, quite an impressive display. Keizo also later took on Eminem's Lose Yourself, a song I as a native speaker failed to keep up with. Kudos to Keizo.


Scott here is wearing on of his gifts. Kumiko bought this robe in Kyoto, and the kanji on it says something along the lines of choosing your group for yourself. Quite lovely.


Of course as the evening progressed, things got a little wild in the old karaoke box with the ladies dancing on the benches and everyone having a lovely time. Karaoke is enjoyable, but not my thing in large groups such as these so I made my exit relatively early around 1AM. I did manage to squeeze in a rousing rendition of the Banana Boat Song with Matto... Daaaay-o! Daaaaaaaaay-o. Daylight come and me wan go home. A lovely evening for Scott.

Sunday morning, Yoshiko and I got to meet up with Stacy again after her 9 month absence from Utsunomiya and we had lunch at a lovely restaurant called Ishi no kura. As the name points out, the restaurant is in a large converted oya stone warehouse on the shore of the river, very nice. We even got a treat and sat outside in the beautiful sunshine and enjoyed a fairly decent meal. I wasn't a big fan of the egg-white they surrounded one of the dishes with, but the korean style rice bowl was great. Following a nice lunch, we headed off into the countryside around Motegi, stopped by the famous ice-cream stand for some strawberry ice cream and we even got to see the steam train pass on by. After leaving Stacy, Yoshiko and I headed to Movix and took in "The Constant Gardiner" or as it's called in Japan Nairobi no hachi (Bee of Nairobi).

It was a disturbing, thought provoking movie. The plot involves a drug company in Kenya using Africans as disposable test patients for their drug, with a diplomat's wife finding out about it and being silenced for her efforts to stop them. The diplomat must then bring together the shattered remnants of his wife's work and try and figure out what was going on since she didn't include him in her research. This was one of the few movies who kept me cemented in my seat for a few minutes after the credits started rolling, very powerful. Africa is a place filled with such hope and despair, it makes for a great backdrop for stories of this kind. My current favourite movie is Hotel Rwanda, which of course outlines the genocide in Rwanda that we, the West, allowed to happen. The Canadian UN officer in charge of the mission states at one point that he has 300 soldiers for the entire country and they were not allowed to intervene, while millions of Hutus were in the streets massacring hundreds of thousands of Tutsis. It's moments like these that we see the failure of the world bodies we've created to put an end to such savagery. Anywho.

Today, I'm meeting up with Scott and we're heading to Aiichirou's for the final Nabe party, and then tonight, just chilling out at home.


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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Japan has four seasons!

What does that mean exactly? Can someone give me that answer? I've only heard this once from a Japanese person and it was, in my mind, totally unrelated to the topic of conversation at the time. From what I understand, this is something that is said quite frequently. This week, in the Japan Times Online, they were doing a street survey of people's opinions on raising kids in Japan. I'm about 80% sure they added this one guy in as a joke. Here is his quote:
Hisashi Fujisawa
Clerk, 51
Japan is an excellent place to raise children. It's a safe country, we have four seasons, and our mathematics is better than any other country in the world. Compared to France, for example, Japan can calculate very well.
Here's the link, second from last: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20060516vf.html

"We have four seasons" Really? As opposed to what? 12? Do some countries have seasons during which time fire and brimstone fall from the sky, or the sun's rays automatically kill anyone who walks outside? Is this why Japan is so special for having just the 4 "standard" seasons? Or does most of the world only have 1 or 2 seasons? I don't know, I haven't visited enough of it to verify this for myself... but it is an interesting question. Compare this to Canada, which only has 2 seasons (Winter and Construction), maybe that's why people here are so proud of this unique Japanese feature? Now personally, I would be quite happy if Japan would have limited itself to 3 seasons... Beautiful leaves and clear weather in Fall, Skiing in the Winter and Cherry Blossoms in Spring... the summer tends to be humid, muggy and hazy... sprinkled with the odd Typhoon.

That was today's first rant... here's the second. Japan's Parliament yesterday passed a law requiring every foreigner entering Japan to be fingerprinted and photographed, much as the US has recently done. They say this has been done in the interests of protecting the nation against "terrorism", since we all know just how high on the target list Japan is on Al Quaeda's list right? The only act of terrorism in Japan in recent memory was a domestic act... this is basically just another way to control these "scary" foreigners who come to Japan. I am disappointed in the direction human rights and discrimination laws have been going in this country, and it seems the current government will only continue to push things in the wrong direction. From now on, every foreigner who enters Japan, regardless of Visa status (working, study, married to a Japanese citizen, permanent resident) will be fingerprinted and photographed. Bah.

And another thing, it seems that I was correct in my assumption that Japan does have different ring sizes from Canada and the US... the UK has their own system as well by the way. The 6.5 ring that I bought in Canada is a 12.5 here in Japan, and having it sized down that much may damage the setting and put unneeded stress on the ring. Sooooo, I'll be sending it back home and they will have one made to size, free of cost... gotta love Jubilee Jewelers! Compared to the horror story I heard from John when he bought his at People's, the experience at Jubilee at Carlingwood Mall has been Fantastic and I highly recommend them.

Oh yeah, and this week is Scott's final week in Japan. After teaching here for a year and a half, our wandering Aussie will be heading back home for a bit. His farewell party is Saturday night, and he is leaving Japan on the 25th.

And on a Canadian note... on the eve of s House of Commons vote on the future of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, Canada has suffered its first female combat loss since the World Wars. 26 year old Captain Nichola Goddard became our 17th casualty since we deployed to Afghanistan in support of the US mission to oust the Taliban from power. Canadian forces were acting in support of the Afghan National Police and National army in a firefight against Taliban fighters when Captain Goddard was killed. I hope this death does not cause those bleeding heart liberals in the Commons to turn tail and run. They seem perfectly happy to see Canadian Forces Engineers rebuilding roads, bridges and power plants in war-torn countries, but seem to cringe when they are reminded that these people have to sometimes be protected in order to do their job and that yes, some people may die in the process.

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Ashikaga Fulawa Paaku

Learned something new the other night.... seems Japan and North America have different ring sizes? I figured as much when I was shopping for the ring in Canada last week, the staff at the jewelry stores kept looking at me strange when I put the words "has very small hands" with "is a size 8.5". I thankfully did not have the ring modified and took my white gold Polar Ice solitaire diamond ring home with me to be sized here. Well, the ring is a 6.5 in Canada, and it is much too big on Yoshiko's 8.5 Japanese sized hand.... I guess she's probably a 5 in Canadian size. Not sure what's up with that, but word of caution to anyone doing any international ring purchasing...

We made a bit of a snap decision yesterday when we woke up and saw clear skies. I'd heard from a student that the Ashikaga Flower Park was quite nice this time of year and so after breakfast, we hopped into the Pajero-mobile and made our way out to Ashikaga.

The drive was nice, the rice fields recently planted, the lushness of the returning forest... We parked, bought our tickets and headed on in. Ashikaga Flower Park sits basically in the shadow of the Kurita Ceramics Museum, of which you can see one of the building off on that there yonder hill.


This park's claim to fame is its flowering Wisteria, which was quite beautiful and is apparently the best in Japan.


Right at the entrance of the park is this fabulous 100 year old fuji (wisteria) tree, with it's branches supported by a trellis system. Yes, that is one tree, you see it in the middle of the flower umbrella.


There are also a few flower shops on the ground of the park, and maintenance is no doubt a constant chore. Fuji delivery services are apparently available...


It was great to walk amongst the flowers and enjoy the sunshine while in the presence of my fiancee. Yes, I have to start using that word now.... fiancee fiancee fiancee fiancee!


I think these are poppies? The contrast between the green and yellow is quite striking.


Here's a pic for those of us who enjoy the colourful Gerbera Daisy.


I've found myself to be rather bored with photography these days, but do enjoy some of the more unique shots I can find. I may start doing a little more with black and white, and more street photography.... on top of the usual shrine and temple pictures of course. Here's an example of a good one for black and white. As we rested on a bench near a pond, this young girl was looking into the water at the small fish swimming around.


In an attempt to compensate for the ickiness of the water, I tried to snap a black and white shot and here's how it turned out. Quite nice don't you think?


After walking around the park and enjoying the great variety of colours and the nice peaceful atmosphere, we headed on back to the car and started the ride home. On the way, we got a misty view of Nantai-san, which I hadn't seen from this side of the prefecture before. Nantai is the conical shaped volcano towering over the other mountains in the distance. It's the mountain which you can see up close in Nikko (10th and 17th pictures down) and which dominates the landscape to the West of Utsunomiya. I should point out that the pictures I just linked to were taken at an altitude of 1800 meteres... and Nantai towers almost another 1000 meters over that... quite the hill. You can also see some freshly planted rice in the fields, nice time of year.


And finally, what's a day in Japan without a little EngRish thrown in there. I've seen this car dealer a couple of times before, quite amusing. Car Cordinator and Hyper Discount Market being the two attacks on the English language I'd like to point out of course.


We then headed back home and lounged around a bit before enjoying some great pasta whipped up by my fiancee. (there's that word again, lol)

Jet lag is now officially over, only took about a week or so. I did ok coming back to Japan, but Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at work were a little rough. It's crazy to think that this time last week I was on a plane heading back, interesting how one settles back into one's routines after a trip like that. It was fantastic to recharge the ol' batteries, see the family and friends again. Will make the next 10 months go by quickly I'm sure.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Making an honest man out of me...

2 hours ago, a mere few meters from where we shared our first kiss 7 months ago, I proposed. I'll spare you the usual cliches, but needless to say we are both ecstatic about making a commitment to each other and are ready to embark on our life together. In other news, today marked one year since I landed in Japan, who'd of thunk I'd be engaged by this marker? Everyone at the office joked I'd be coming home with a cute Japanese girl, but I just laughed it off... and yet here I am!

Gnight all, 'tis late out here in the Land of the Rising Sun.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Yet another safe landing...

Last night, shortly after 8PM Japan time, I arrived back in Utsunomiya and into the arms of my beloved. I ended up being quite lucky with my trains, mainly due to the fact the plane landed a good 45 minutes early.

I'm starting to think that there's something to this karmic balance thing... at least as far as airports go. Here's a breakdown of the events.
1. The first negative event was the evil customs agent in Ottawa who kept me in customs for 20 minutes while my parents were waiting outside. This was balanced by the fantastic customs agent here in Japan. Here's the entire conversation: Me-Hello Him-Hello, passport please. Where did you come from? Me-Canada Him-why are you in Japan? Me-I work here Him-You speak Japanese? Me-Chotto dake. Watashi wa Aeon no Eigo no kyoshi. Him-(joke about me not being at work on a Monday) Have a good day. Me-Thanks!

2. The second negative event also happened in Ottawa, going through security with my checked baggage. The lady wanted a look at my camera lens case since it showed up on the x-ray as a big black clock. As she had a look at it, another agent did a swab and my bag tested positive for explovies residue!. No idea what that was all about, and they said it was no big deal but they had to go through the motions with me, The supervisor came over and asked me a bunch of questions about my occupation and exposure to various chemicals, and then I had to be frisked before I could go through to the gates. Not a pleasant experience, but fully understandable of course. 5 minutes later, the woman at the cash took money from her tip jar to cover me since I didn't have enough Canadian cash for the juice I wanted to buy... very nice!

So all in all, the flight back home was uneventful, though the plane lacked personal video monitors... which totally help pass the time on long flights. They did show 3 movies, but I slept through 2 of them. It's nice to be back in my things again, and it'll be interesting to see how I can settle back into the routine after a week abroad. It was certainly a fantastic trip, and here is a little more detail on some things that I didn't take the time to post about.

First, it was quite nice to see the family again. The brothers have certainly grown in the year I was away, and I think neither of them have gotten their hair cut since I left, they're starting to look a little bushy. Here's Sebastien on the left, and Christian on the right.


Second, it was very nice to see the ol' neighbourhood again. Some things are still the same, the neighbours were happy to see me, but some things have changed as well. Across the street from my parents' house, the owner split his lot and is building these two houses. They've both already sold for more than 500,000$ each! Crazy! Though, the houses are quite large, and they both back onto a park, which increases the value significantly.


It was also great to see the 6th member of our family, Pinotte, whom I cannot talk to over the web cam. I was happy to see that he recognized me after a year away and went nuts when I got home. Here he is at his usual spot, hoping for food to fall off the table during dinner.


DRIVING! Having not driven in a year, I was a bit uncomfortable when the rental guy said they didn't have any SUVs and they would give me a full size Dodge Ram to go camping with instead. Luckily, my driving rocks and I had no problems getting back into the groove of things, even with a vehicle almost 3 times the size of my truck.


NATURE! It was fantastic to head back into Algonquin Park and get away from the concrete and power lines which dot the Japanese landscape. Seeing real rivers and lakes again brings into sharp focus the horrible damage that has been done to Japan's waterways over the years.


The camping trip was absolutely amazing, we got lucky with the weather and the lack of bugs. Here's a a series of pics to show you just how easy it is to setup my hammock. This is it here.


You tie off both ends to trees.


Remove the snake skin covers.


Tie off the two lines off either side.


Open up the slit in the bottom.


And have a seat.


You then just have to pull your feet in and shuffle up the hammock a bit and you're lying flat, quite comfortable, and much better than sleeping on the floor of a tent as Sean had the displeasure of being reminded with his first tent sleep in years last weekend.


This is my entire camp setup, with my dry back hanging in the tree... The hammock also comes with a rain fly which you can clip on, and that's that!


Here is that picture I hadn't rotated... lovely sunshine streaming in.


And fire, every camp needs a camp fire.


This is lovely basin lake in the morning, perfectly clear and calm waters. A great drive-in campsite.


Following the camping trip, we headed out to the cottage, about 45 minutes drive from Ottawa on the Quebec side. Here's the back of said cottage, we're in the process of installing new siding, here's a section that's been done.


This is the front of the cottage, with the men BBQing next to the deck. The big windows on the left are in the living room, and the kitchen is to the right.


The section on the right spans 3 floors from basement up through to the play room on the top floor. This is a pretty massive place for a cottage and we've slept anywhere from 30-40 people in here on some weekends.


This is our front yard with a view of the lake.


And here' the group that came our for this weekend. This is just about half of my father's immediate family... in this picture are my parents (my mom to me left and dad the tall one with a mustache to my right) my brothers, my grandparents (sitting at the table) and the rest are aunts, uncles and cousins and friends of cousins.


So that's that, back to the routine and teaching. So far so good, I got almost a full night's sleep... we'll see when the jet-lag sets in... wish me luck!

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

My... how time flies

Yo! A fabulous week home is just about over and I'm preparing to head on home tomorrow... not looking forward to the flight, but I'll survive. See youz all soon!

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Friday, May 05, 2006

The Algonquin Experience

Well I've returned to civilizations after a precious few hours spent in the bush with Mr. Lewis. Wednesday morning after getting our stuff together, we headed West from Ottawa in the behemoth of a vehicle I was forced to rent when the rental place didn't have the SUV I reserved. I ended up in a full size Dodge RAM quad cab, and after not driving for a year... it scared me when I first laid eyes on it. But I quickly got back in the groove and by end of our trip was parallel parking it as if it was an Austin Mini.

Don't have much time, so this will have to be a picture post with minor comments... here goes.

Here's something I've missed dearly while in Japan, natural rivers. Notice the lack of concrete... strange how Canadian rivers are able to survive the horrors of erosion and floods without the high berms and tons of concrete every river in Japan has been desecrated with...


This was the trading post, essentially a private residence, which serves as an issuer of permits to enter Algonquin Park. Notice the moose antlers at the top of the door... we unfortunately did not encounter and meese on our trip... this time.


Here is our camp site on Basin Lake, about 20 kilometers into Algonquin Park. I love pine forest... very cool little camp site... and the behemoth of a vehicle I had to take in there.


People always look at me funny when I tell them I camp in a hammock. Even the folks where we picked up our permit had never heard of such a thing. Here is the Hennessey hammock... a comfortable way to spend some time in the outdoors.


Here it is completely setup with the rain fly on top. Great way to sleep outside.


Here's Basin Lake, or at least one leg of it.


There be Sean setting up his tent after a failed attempt at getting his hammock up. He had to join the forces of the land sleepers for this trip after forgetting the instructions for his new hammock.


I forgot to rotate this pic and am not gonna take the time to do it. Enjoy the view... tilt your head to the left... :-)


Here's our happy little camp site, the Hennessey is the ultimate in Leave No Trace camping. I have nothing touching the ground, I can even hang my bag on the hammock's tree supports.


Here is lovely basin lake as the sunset was ending. I need to get a polarized lens for my camera, the glare of a full on sunset is too much for it to handle....


MMMMMMMEEEEEAAAAAAT!


These are the clear waters of Basin Lake... lovely.


Without a doubt, the highlight of the trip were these hungry little birds who were eating from our hands... literally.


They usually don't do this in the summer... only the lean Winter months... but I guess they figured we were good kids and wouldn't try to fry em up for lunch or something. They'd just pick away at whatever we had in our hands... for a while they were annoying as they dive bombed towards our bacon cooking on the grill... but Sean was able to fight them off.


So that's about that. Heading out for 2 days at the cottage shortly... then back here for some rest and flying out on Sunday. Matta ne.

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