Back in 2014 I moved to Japan and had the experience of a lifetime. I was all set to be an English teacher, and ready to move to my first big Japanese city, Nagoya. It's located in the Aichi prefecture in central Japan. I spent a hot and humid August training, teaching, and exploring in the "peaceful" city.
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.
In my previous post I mentioned being grilled by a Japanese company for a position as an ESL teacher. I've been in constant contact with a representative from the company and after completing a questionnaire, essay and grammar test, along with submitting two references, and a copy of my degree and passport - I finally have an answer. While it is conditional on submitting a third reference, the representative told me she is 99.99% certain she was going to hire me. She wants me to start looking for flights to Toronto for orientation day. My tentative start date is August 18. I told her I would be more comfortable with waiting until it was official. I won't have the third reference until next week, so at least it gives me some time.
Time? Time for what? Well, last Friday (April 4) I had an interview with another possible employer who hires in Quebec (technically a government job). The interview was really successful - it was comfortable, I answered the questions professionally and there was chemistry with the interviewer. He said he would give me an excellent recommendation but it was ultimately up to the employer in Quebec whether they wanted to hire me or not. It's for a position as a language assistant and it would be very similar to the Japanese job. They'll take longer to reply with an answer so I'm hoping that I hear back from them before I send in my third reference, and confirm my position with the Japanese employer. If I was offered a position in Quebec, it might change my mind. Staying in Canada and learning French has other advantages.
While that's going on, I received an e-mail yesterday from yet another employer. I applied for a media relations/communications job months ago, and finally I hear back with: "After an initial review of your application, you are currently in the group of remaining candidates being considered". I just stared at those words. Then they asked me to complete a 40+ minute questionnaire. What is with employers and questionnaires? Anyway, I thought, why not? So I completed the questionnaire, and now I'm waiting to hear back. Yeah - that's right - three potential employers all at once. I didn't see this coming.
I've spent months and months scouring around for a job. Applying to as many as I could and hearing only negative responses in return. I was beginning to think that I was un-hirable. I was actually settling in with that attitude - thinking about completely throwing myself in to my writing and forgetting about a conventional job. Which was a painful concept to accept since being broke sucks. You still need money to subsist as a writer. Now I'm suddenly in a position with at least one guaranteed job and a possibility of two others. If I do hear back from either or both, then I honestly don't know what I'll do.
Each job has its positives and negatives, and they're all in different places. One in Japan, one in Quebec and one locally. While I will be confronted with some difficult decisions, I also know that I've wanted to live in Japan ever since I was a little girl. I've been in love with Japanese culture for as long as I can remember. This is a dream opportunity that may never knock again. I could say the same about the Quebec opportunity but the reality is I may never have the chance to work in Japan again. The only thing really holding me back is the trusted words of my third reference. It's my Japanese professor from university - we met again last year at my boyfriend's work Christmas party. It was like fate. Anyway, she said her friend worked for the same company and had a really negative experience. I'm waiting to hear back why she had problems - if it was related to the employer directly in some way, I may have to reconsider.
Anyway, I clearly have some upcoming decisions. Either way, things will change in a big way. What's really exciting, is that I'll have the opportunity to share my experiences with my readers. For now, it's a wait-and-see game.
I jumped from a plane today! That's right, out of choice.
My sister and I have been thinking about skydiving for years. We finally decided to do it about three weeks ago. We made the reservation and next thing I know, the day is today and we're in a plane.
We drive out to the place, it's almost an hour out of town. I had already went to the bathroom about 6 times but of course, I needed to go again. So my sister and I rushed off to the bathroom before checking in. After that, we filled out waivers and watched a short orientation video on jumping and landing.
Then off to get ready. We meet our instructors. My sister's? A man about her height (she's 5'11") and not only an experienced jumper but also a pilot. What's my sister? A pilot. Skydiving was the next logical step apparently.
My tandem instructor? A tall, Danish man with over 4000 jumps under his belt. I felt like I was in very safe hands. Although he didn't let on he was experienced until much later. He certainly liked to play up some very dark humour while the plane was climbing, I digress.
Sig (my instructor) picked out a jumpsuit and helped me into the harness. At one point he asked me to spread my legs so he could tighten the harness around my crotch. Then he stood and adjusted the ones around my chest. That was all very intimate but of course absolutely necessary. I want it as tight as possible - I'm pretty sure that's the point.
After a brief explanation on the harness and what to expect, we meet our videographers and head out to the field. It's not only the two videographers, instructors, my sister and I, but three professional skydivers. Each one had their own custom jumpsuit and chute. One guy had a purple jumpsuit with the golden lettering, "Curious Chris" (a Curious George reference, no doubt).
The little plane starts up. The propeller whirrs loudly. They set up a little ladder to get inside the large bay door but it's quite steep and very windy, so I require the assistance of my instructor in order to get into the plane. I get inside and sit down, straddling a sort of long bench. A clear shutter is brought down, blocking the large exit and we start going down the runway. I haven't had any time in small planes, so the take off is quite different from a large plane. Of course, my sister is used to even smaller planes than this one, so she handles it like a pro the whole way up.
The ground shrinks away. The climbing is steep and takes a long time. My sister chats up the people around her easily, talking about learning to be a pilot and her flying experience. I watch the view, I can't help but enjoy the plane ride itself. Sig points out familiar landmarks. It was like having a tour guide, I really enjoyed that. I look at my videographer's wrist and see the altimeter rising. We're getting closer to our altitude.
Finally, we reach 12, 500 feet. The giant, clear shutter is opened up and all that's left is sky. The professional solo divers go first. I watch them. Two men and a woman. I can't believe they just did that. My videographer climbs out on to the bar, waiting for me to come out. My instructor helps march me to the door. I crouch, like taught, and look out. Oh god. My instructor reminds me to cross my arms over my chest and look at the camera guy.
Scariest moment of my entire life.
I scream. Apparently my sister says she can hear me scream after I jump (she jumps after me). I want to scream more but there's so much air filling my mouth that I can't dispel any. Instead I look around me. Holy fuck. Everything is so far and beautiful. A perspective I've never had. The weather is perfect, absolutely perfect. Not a cloud in sight and it's warm, and I'm falling. Actually falling. I can feel gravity pulling me down. The view is so awe inspiring that I don't know how to feel but to be amazed. I actually flail around a bit, kicking my legs and such - only because I'm so excited that I don't know how to express myself (since I can't talk).
Then he pulls the chute. We instantly shoot up into the sky. It was at that moment that I realized how fast we were falling because I watched as the videographer fell to the Earth like a comet. I was frightened for his life!
The first thing that happens when he pulls the chute is my legs fly up like I'm sitting. The same thing happened to my sister. The force is so great that it sucks you up.
That's when you really get to enjoy the view. Wow. I've never seen anything like that. All I could say was, "Wow" mostly. My instructor was holding on to the...oh gosh, what's the word? Well, they're handles that control the parachute. He asked me, "would you like to hold them?" I said, "sure!" Next thing I know, I'm steering the parachute! We did a couple 360s for fun (with his help of course)! Wow! So fun!
Finally, it was time for the landing. He brought us in easily and we landed softly. He unhooked me and I jumped up, incredibly excited. My first words, "I want to do it again!"
Obviously, I had the time of my life. I feel like a whole new person. Would I recommend? Oh yes I fucking would.
P.S. What did I wear? I wore my green Paris, France t-shirt my father bought when he was there years ago. I thought it was the perfect symbol.
Class began at 9:00 a.m. and ended at 6:00 p.m. Perhaps 9:00 a.m. doesn't sound so terrible however that means I woke up at 6:40 a.m. on Saturday morning. Not exactly ideal especially since I stayed up late Friday night. At one point during the class I was having a hard time staying awake but I pulled it back together and got my second wind.
So how did the first class go? It went fine. It was quite typical of an introductory class. We were shown marking rubrics, discussed how we would be assessed and what would happen if we didn't pass the practicum. Apparently you can simply return and do your practicum over, without any additional fees or the need to take extra classes. However if you miss more than four hours, you automatically fail and have to take the course over. Again, there are no additional fees and you can come back when you're ready. Quite fair really.
The teacher also discussed in length what sort of cultural changes to expect and the necessity to be flexible and adapt. She emphasized the importance of the journey and how the experiences shape you into a new person. Most importantly, she expressed enthusiasm at the idea of exploring the world and taking the opportunity when it presents itself. She said, "Usually opportunity only knocks once. If it knocks twice, the second time will be ten years later and you'll regret not taking it before".
I believe she's absolutely right. I'm most pleased that she is quite even handed when discussing the reality of travelling to another country; it's both intensely rewarding and challenging. Perhaps it's the challenge that makes it so rewarding.
I am excited and anxious and nervous and worried and happy and I can't wait. I want to travel to a faraway place and live somewhere new. Do something new. Become something new. I need this for me. I need to push myself out of my comfort zone and see the world in a whole new light.
The instructor shared many, many anecdotes about her 7 years as an ESL teacher in Korea. They were quite enlightening. One really interesting anecdote was the reason she chose to live in Korea. She wanted to pick somewhere far enough that she couldn't swim back. She explained that she didn't want to be able to use a crutch to fall back on and return home early. She wanted to stay there and make it work, no matter what. I truly admire that. She commented that if you give yourself something to fall back on, you inevitably use it. She's right. The moment you say to yourself, "I can just return home if I want," you're really saying, "I already gave up".
I don't want to give up. I want to do my best, even if that means struggling along the way. Tomorrow is my second ESL class and I'm looking forward to it. Another step closer to my dream. Another step closer to Paris.
I wasn't looking forward to yesterday at all but it seems no matter what you can still be surprised. I might have to admit as well that having a good day is largely dependent on yourself. No one else is responsible for your happiness, just you. It's a hard pill to swallow but every day is only as good as you make it. I digress.
Yesterday truly was a great day. It started off with my partner waking me up with breakfast in bed. That's truly impressive since they have to work early in the morning, yet they took the time to make sure I had breakfast. Very sweet. While they were at work I slept in a little then woke up and just lounged around instead of my usual write, write, write business. I watched a movie and played a video game. It was nice just to relax and not stress about submission dates or pages I need written.
My partner came home from work early just for me. It was nice to spend some real quality time together. We relaxed a bit before getting ready to go downtown. The day before my birthday I decided what I wanted to do. First we visited the art gallery. I love strolling through the rooms looking at all the different forms of art. We saw modernist paintings from the Automatiste Revolution (1941-1960). Many of them captured the essence of motion. I wish I could share my favourites but they did not allow photography. The best part of the art gallery was the exhibition of contemporary art and the baroque entitled, Misled by Nature. Never in my life have I ever felt such fascination and awe while I gazed at these installation pieces. I so badly wanted a million photos of each one. They were all spectacular. One piece could best be described as a yeti decomposing into the earth. Another was an impressive chandelier hanging in a room full of mirrors (there were even mirrors on the floor). There was also a magical hut that was made out of what seemed to be wax. It looked and felt like a fairy getaway in the middle of a forest. I particularly liked that one. My partner's favourite was three panels of framed decorative patterns made out of bindis. The most interesting installation was this giant open sphere that you could describe as a world under construction. There were so many facets to it that it was truly something to behold.
After the amazing exhibitions we had a dinner reservation with a restaurant I have always wanted to visit named, La Ronde. The restaurant is at the top of a hotel on the 24th floor allowing for a magnificent view. The best part, the restaurant rotates, doing a full rotation in 90 minutes. We were able to see a unique and stunning view every time we looked out the window, whether it was of the rolling river valley or the lights of downtown. What made it truly romantic was the sunset during our dinner. As though the view wasn't spectacular enough, the food was absolutely stellar. The menu is superb and thoughtful. To start we had Classic Steak Tartare with brioche toast points and Escargots Bourguignonne En Croute. The steak tartare was delicious but the escargots was phenomenal. The little dish had a pastry top that when eaten together with an escargot made me wish I never ate anything else. For the main course my partner had a lovely prime rib while I ordered Roast Brome Lake Duck Breast with bigarade sauce and roast baby potatoes. I have always wanted to try duck and thought it was the perfect opportunity. I made the right decision, I have never eaten anything so succulent. To round out the perfect entrees my partner ordered a seafood melange of shrimp, scallops and lobster. I'm allergic to shrimp but let me tell you, scallops are usually bland but these scallops were delectable, not to mention the outstanding lobster. To top it all off we had dessert. What I haven't mentioned was the outstanding service we received. When I ordered my Cinnamon Creme Brulle the waitress remembered it was my birthday and brought it out with a sparkler. She also tastefully sang happy birthday. It was a lovely touch. I love sparklers! The creme brulle was perfect while my partner's pistachio and white chocolate slice was amazing. All in all it was an amazing dinner. I would highly recommend LaRonde to anyone, just be prepared to pay the price for a truly wonderful experience. You won't forget it, I know I won't.
We returned home, happy and more than satisfied. My partner then gave me my present. It was delivered in a giant box from Amazon and had been teasing me for days. I had ideas about what it was, one in particular but the size baffled me. So I finally opened it. It was the Harry Potter Wizards Collection! All 8 movies on Blu-Ray, DVD and in digital copies! Not only that but it came in the most wondrous and impressive box that included 2 different maps of Hogwarts, many pieces of art, beautiful books and the Horcrux necklace. I had been looking at it online for months but I never knew how big it was! It's enormous! Not to mention heavy! The only downside about the box is the decision about where to put it!
After all that excitement we sat down for a relaxing movie. I picked one of my very favourite movies all time (should have included it in my Top 10). It's called "The Flight of Dragons". It's a brilliant animated film about the struggle for magic to survive in a world turning to logic and science. I really love it. My partner had never seen it so it was nice to share it with them.
All in all it was a stupendous birthday. I'm truly thankful to have such a loving partner. Now you can enjoy some scenic photos! (They were taken with my iPhone 3GS.) On a sidenote, today is the first day of snow!
I had an eye appointment today, it's actually the first one in four years! I can't believe I waited that long, well, actually I can. I just kept rationalizing with myself that it wasn't time yet. The glasses I've been wearing have attracted so many compliments, I was a little afraid I would never have such an attractive pair again. As anyone who wears glasses knows, they're important to you. They become a part of you. In fact my partner requested that I get a similar pair. I do love them but it couldn't wait any longer. The lenses are so severely scratched I can't see my computer monitor clearly anymore. Which is a big issue since I work with a computer all day long.
So I did something I've never done. First, through a little research I found a new optometrist. Then I booked an appointment. That was fairly exciting. The receptionist I spoke with on the phone asked for my birthday, I said October 9th and she exclaimed that it was her birthday too! What a strange coincidence! It seemed to be a good sign. I went in today and met with the optometrist. She was warm, friendly and knowledgeable. When she took my glasses to test the strength, she immediately asked how I could possibly see through them. It was bad. Apparently it was difficult to get a strength reading off of them too.
Everything went very well. My prescription has changed only slightly, which is great news and for the very time, I bought myself 2 pairs of glasses and on top of that, 1 pair of prescription sunglasses! Oh my goodness! It's very exciting. I can't wait to get them. This time I've gotten very bold, exciting colours. A vibrant emerald green frame and a very pale blue frame. The sunglasses are a brilliant purple. They're all very colourful. I was looking at another pair of sunglasses but they were much more muted. They were safer. I guess I was tired of being so safe with a black pair of glasses.
When I get them in I might post some photos. We'll see!
I've been driving a motorcycle for 2 years now and there's only one thing you really need to know: it's fun! My motorcycle is a 2006 Suzuki Bandit 650S (right). It performs like a dream. It handles smoothly and accelerates quickly. It's very nimble!
The second most important thing you need to know (if you're still reading past the "fun" comment): it's dangerous. Well I suppose anyone could have told you that. I'm sure if you told your mother you were buying a motorcycle (or have), their reaction would be to tell you how dangerous it is. She's right. It is dangerous. If you're not cautious and don't play it safe, you're opening yourself up to all sorts of pain.
I remember my very first time getting on it. I just received my learner's license and was with my father, who also drives one. Let's just say he gave me very simple instructions. I sat on it, started it then put it in to first. I stalled it. More than once. Then I finally put it in first and got it to go! Suffice to say, I wasn't sure how to go straight or steer at all, so I kind of drove in a diagonal line before falling altogether. Luckily, I was going relatively slow, so the only real damage was to my ego.
I tried again and again, on different outings, before I was able to finally steer and switch gears properly. When I got a handle on it my dad and I drove on our bikes together. That was something I had never experienced before. I think what's funny about all of that is we were prepping for my motorcycle course. So when I finally went to the course I was already driving and everyone else had never driven before! I was light years ahead! Unfortunately, if I had waited to go to the course, I might not have fallen. Maybe fathers aren't always the best teachers. You know what though, falling made me realize I never wanted to do that again. It built character!
Like I said, driving a motorcycle is fun, so long as you're careful. If you're not the careful type, I would probably suggest not driving a motorcycle. I was sitting at a red light once when it turned green. In my attempt to accelerate I accidentally popped a wheelie! I heard a few cheers, I guess from people who thought I was doing it on purpose, but my heart was in my throat as I racked my brain trying to figure out how to land without falling. Luckily I was able to land it but I was shaken for awhile. That's not really something you want to happen by accident.
I received my first rejection letter last night after submitting a fictional short story. Honestly, I wasn't surprised since it was my first submission. I actually agreed that it probably wasn't a great fit for the particular magazine but some very positive things came out of that rejection.
1. I faced my fears and submitted my first story. That was hard to do. I haven't let a lot of people read my writing but I did it and I'm proud of myself.
2. The managing editor for the magazine wants to see more of my writing. I think this speaks well for me since that particular story might not have been the right fit but perhaps another will be.
3. I still want to write. I realized that this doesn't really matter. Sometimes you're rejected. It happens. It's a part of life. It's part of growing and maturing.
4. I feel like I'm making progress. Perhaps a rejection letter seems anti-progress but I think in some respects I've taken my first step.
Next step, send more stories. Write more, try again and never stop.
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