Hello everyone and thank you so much for visiting! I know it's been nearly two years since I last posted, and I just wanted to thank all of my supporters who stuck with me. Your loyalty means so very much to me. I hope that the coming updates help make up for such an extended absence. As to the reason why I was gone for so long, I could say that I was too busy but I think that's just an excuse. I could also say that it was due to numerous stresses, but again too much like an excuse. The truth lies more with how I began to feel about the site. The longer I spent away, the harder it became to think about. It was like a relationship that had fallen to the wayside, and I just didn't know how to restart the conversation.
Well, now I'm back and the site is going to be regularly updated once again! At the moment, I have put a lot of time and effort into sifting through thousands of photos I've taken, and creating galleries to peruse through. The galleries won't be available all at once, instead I will be uploading a different one each week. Each will highlight a different location, for example, the first gallery to be revealed for this update is Surfer's Paradise, Australia! It is one of the smaller galleries, but I think I'd like to start off slow.
If any of you are wondering what's happened these past few years, I'll clue you in a little. As I'm sure most of you know, I was in Japan 2014-2015 teaching English, and then I returned home to Canada after a very tough year away. After that, I was trapped in limbo. I didn't really have a permanent home, nor a job. Thank goodness I had my partner because he was incredibly supportive. He stuck with me while I was in Japan, and helped me maintain some semblance of sanity. When I came back, the first thing I did was chase an old dream. I decided to study for the LSAT and try and get into law school. I spent months preparing, and even took a course to help boost my odds of doing well. I ended up getting a pretty good score, just a bit better than average, and applied to several Canadian universities. I waited months to hear back, and while I waited I received offers from a lot of American universities, sometimes with offers of free tuition. I would have considered that as an option except it's usually pretty expensive after the first year, and it would have meant being away again. When I finally did receive an answer, none of them were positive. It was really unfortunate, but I think academic competition in Canada is incredibly strong since there's so few spots available. It took me a long time to come to terms with their responses, but ultimately I resigned myself. It was a shot in the dark, but I'm glad I tried.
Will I ever try again? Probably not, things being what they are. Canadian law schools don't hold interviews and put almost all of their weighting on your GPA and LSAT - you need a 4.0 and at least a 170. Just so you know, that's impossible to do with an Arts degree. I did well, but I never hit anywhere near a 4.0, mainly due to the fact all of my assignments were essays that were subject to the professor's opinions. I didn't know anyone who had an "A+" average, it was simply impossible. In order for me to attain the grades necessary to get accepted in to law school, I would literally need to go back to school for a degree in science, and that ain't happening.
While I was waiting to hear back from potential law schools, I got myself a job. I believed it was just going to be temporary since I would get an acceptance letter any day, but after I was categorically rejected I was once again stuck in limbo. I ended up keeping it for a long time until I just couldn't do it anymore. I worked in the call center for a major utility company, and came face to face with cubicle life in a corporation. Let's just say, I was never able to drink the Kool-Aid, and each day I could feel my soul being sold for pennies. Then I made a decision, 2017 was going to be my fresh start. I gave my notice and have not looked back.
So what am I doing with my life now? The first step for me was returning to the site. I think it's a big part of who I am, even if I did neglect it for so long, I'm happy to be back. On top of that, I've decided to buckle down and learn Canada's second language, French. I did take French in school, as does every Anglophone Canadian, but what I remember can be summed up by "Bonjour". I know it's a big commitment as an adult, especially since I'm terrible at learning languages. I managed to get by in Japan with basic Japanese, but I never learned how to properly converse. There was a huge mental block there, and I was better at reading and writing than I ever was at speaking.
Next, I'm hoping to become more politically involved by joining a party. If you're not Canadian, I'll quickly break it down. There are many federal parties you can vote for, but there are really only 3 that have any significance. There's the Liberals (left), Conservatives (right), and the New Democrats (left left). Right now the Prime Minister (equivalent to President) of Canada is Justin Trudeau of the Liberals. His father, Pierre Trudeau was actually Prime Minister years before him, and Canadians were so nostalgic that they voted his son in despite his real lack of experience (sound familiar?).
I want to join a party because what happens in my country is important to me, and I want to be a part of the conversation. I've always been politically inclined, but to be honest, deciding what party to join is a pretty big deal. I would finally be putting a label on it, when I've always felt it's important to remain moderate and generally impartial. I believe trying to maintain objectivity is crucial when analyzing an issue, but the truth is we all have our biases.
Anyway, that's all I really have to say for now. I will be updating weekly, and I'm scheduling the next update for Friday, February 10. Thank you so much to all my returning visitors, and of course thank you to anyone who's new to the site! Now please feel free to check out the first gallery: Surfer's Paradise.
Japan is odd in many ways. Whether it's the products you find in stores (tentacles on a stick, no joke), or the cultural expectation of wearing slippers for particular types of floors (one set for indoors, and another for the bathroom). The oddest thing about Japan, in my opinion, is living here. You are transported to a reality that simultaneously places you in the past and future. Now, I am drawing a comparison between Japan and Canada (or more generally, between North America, and to some extent, Australia and the U.K. - perhaps other countries as well, but I'm drawing from personal experience). Why is Japan like simultaneously living in the past and future? Let me explain.
The Past: So if you think of bygone days, what comes to mind? What are some things that were common and are no longer but a memory? Well, let me give you some examples that are alive and well in Japan. Bicycles. Yes, I'm sure you're aware that bicycles are common in places like China, but were you aware of how common they are in Japan? They are everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. Not just bicycles, but the type of bicycles remind me of travelling back in time to the 1950s. They're the kind of bicycles with baskets in the front and a bell on the handle. I'm not kidding. If you watch a movie from that era, you'll see people happily biking along on exactly the bike I'm talking about. How about trains? Trains used to be a common method of transportation. Guess what? They're everywhere here. Trains, trains, trains! So many different lines! Some of them are older and feel like they're from the 50s, I swear. In more rural areas, the train pulls away from the station with a tug, like pulling on a slack line. You can see the movement jostle everyone in the car.
Okay, okay. So bicycles and trains are a blast from the past. What else? Laundry. Yes, everyone owns a washer, but owning a dryer isn't actually common. Most people buy laundry clips and hang their laundry to dry on a line. It's true. In fact, I just finished hanging my clothes to dry. It's an odd thing having to take your clothes from the washer, and clip them to a string hanging outside your apartment. What year is this?
Remember fax machines? Well they're plentiful here. I use one every single day at work. I can hardly believe it myself. I find it so incredibly old fashioned. What about e-mails? What about computers? What about doing things that save paper? I'm not sure I understand myself. I guess Japan just prefers having hard copies of absolutely everything. So I spend my time filling out forms and dialing numbers. You think they're old, clunky machines? Nope. They're new. Yes, new, small, efficient, fax machines. Oh Japan.
Then we come to the topic of gas stations and convenience stores. You're probably thinking, "Wait, aren't those the same things?" Nope. They most certainly aren't, not in Japan anyway. I know travelling in North America is filled with gas stations and convenience stores being one and the same. Not in Japan. Take a trip back in time when those things were clearly separated. Your local "general" store carried everything you could possibly need in a pinch, and the service was always friendly. If you wanted gas for your automobile, you had to go to a different place, where it was always full service and they offered mechanical work if you needed. Welcome to Japan. In that sense, things are very much like looking back in time. Station attendants happily take care of your every vehicle need, and definitely offer any automotive service required. In fact, because it's Japan, customer service is always taken to another level. At some gas stations, expect the attendant to stop traffic and clear the way for you to leave safely, and in style. Now that's service.
If it isn't classic bicycles, gas stations, fax machines and hanging your laundry to dry, what else is a blast from the past? Simply put, gender roles. Japan is the place where women are exquisitely feminine and all the men wear suits. In fact, they're called "salary men". They work ridiculous hours and are never home with their families. Women graduate college, work as a receptionist for a few years then marry. It's true. They marry young and they have children. Then the men continue to work themselves to the grave, while the women take care of the offspring they've birthed. What's that? Is that the phone? Who's calling? Oh yeah, it's the '50s and they want their stereotypes back.
The Future: Honestly, I'm just going to talk about technology advances. For instance, the machines located in a train station. They can take bills, coins and most of them offer services in English. Then there's the gates. It's this elongated machine which you can either scan your pass through (you can buy a card that will scan electronically through your wallet, no kidding), or you can insert your train ticket into a slot and it will shoot through the other side of the gate. It's pretty amazing. It gets me every time. The city I'm from goes by the honour system. Kind of a huge mistake. In contrast, there's New York City, where you will actually get deported if you don't swipe your metro pass.
How about ATMs? Feel free to dump your change into these machines. That's right, ATMs process change. When you want to withdraw cash, a slot opens and the cash is presented to you in an expeditious and polite manner. (Not to mention the fact that everyone deals in cash. That's right, cash. Another blast from the past.) Or what about the presence of a copy machine/printer in every convenience store? They take USB keys, SD cards...whatever you can slap you files onto and print off. It doesn't matter, these machines will do it.
Japan is also very concerned about the environment. That idea is reflected in some city bus drivers that will actually turn off the bus instead of idling (even while at a red light). Although, I must say that I don't feel like it's helping much (if at all), but the thought is there. One hotel I visited, gave me a key card, which seemed perfectly normal until I got to my room. I attempted to turn on the lights but nothing happened. Then I saw a slot on the wall that asked me to insert my card. As soon as I did, all the lights came on. It blew my mind. They actually thought of a way to conserve energy even if you've left things on, because without the card, nothing would work. So if you go out shopping, and forget to turn the radio off, the tv, the bathroom light - whatever, removing the card would immediately shut it all off. Pretty cool.
I nearly forgot to mention trains again! Yes, there are old fashioned kind of trains, but there is also the shinkansen, also known as the bullet train! Oh my god. Prepare yourself for the most luxurious and comfortable train ride of your life. You have a lot more room than a plane, and yet it feels like you're flying. The train exceeds speeds of 300 km/h and feels like a soft glide just above the ground. If you're standing on the platform and watch the train go by, it rushes by with such speed and sound, that it's sure to surprise you! I grab my heart every time and feel the whirlwind wrap itself around me, like a plane passing you on the street. It's intense!
All in all, Japan really is like living simultaneously in the past and future. All of the technology (save fax machines) are a reminder that they are always ten steps ahead of everyone else. They have the ability to invent and implement everything right here, in their own country. Simple things like talking vending machines that can produce hot and cold beverages (depending on the weather), ice cream, beer and even cigarettes. Some ramen shops have a machine where you purchase your meal ticket before handing it over to the chef. Yes, technology wise they are "streets ahead". However, some things culturally remain rooted in old beliefs and traditions. Whether you're visiting a temple or shrine and witness apprentices wearing traditional clothing, catch a whiff of cigarette smoke from the numerous smokers (some places in Japan allow you to smoke EVERYWHERE), or observe the gender dynamics of a couple - the female wearing ultra feminine, frilly clothing and following behind her well dressed, male partner. Things in Japan are quite different from the rest of the world. Nowhere have I ever seen such a strange dichotomy of the past and future. I suspect that I will never experience this type of surreal reality anywhere else.
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