Tuesday, March 17, 2009

25 in 25

As I near the end of my 25th year, I feel compelled to reflect on all the things I've accomplished in a quarter of a century, as well as all the things I would like to accomplish by the time I reach the half-century mark.

So, without further ado, here is my list of 25 things I'd like to "accomplish" within the next 25 years (in no particular order):

1. Create an investment portfolio/retirement savings plan
2. Watch a Stanley Cup Play-Off game live
3. Watch a hockey game in the Czech Republic and/or Sweden
4. Visit every province in Canada (but not necessarily all the territories!)
5. Attend the wedding of one of my female friends born in 1983 (hint hint!)
6. Read the Bible all the way through
7. Purchase a condo/apartment of my own
8. Travel around Japan using a JR Railpass
9. Take courses on Shakespeare and Canadian History
10. Watch Shakespeare performed at the Globe
11. Watch a play at the Stratford Festival
12. Visit Boston, NYC, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand
13. Spend quality time with God every day
14. Own a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer!
15. Watch all three LOTR Extended Edition movies back-to-back in a 10-hour marathon!
16. See a film screening at the Toronto International Film Festival
17. Watch Les Miserable and Cirque du Soleil performances
18. Send my parents on a cruise/trip somewhere (probably as an anniversary present)
19. Pay for our house to be professionally cleaned (or for an air duct cleaning at the very least!)
20. Do a historical tour (WWI or WWII) of Europe
21. Dedicate around 5% of my income to supporting charitable organizations/works (Is 5% an overly low/high amount? I don't know enough about financial management yet to judge...)
22. Have a career I enjoy and find fulfilling
23. Go on an English-teaching mission trip
24. Visit Castle Loma and the Canadian Museum of Civilization
25. Go on a Canadian or American road trip with friends

And here are some of the things I've "accomplished" up to now:

- got baptized

- graduated from high school

- studied Japanese

- went on a missions trip

- saw the Avs play in Denver
- saw the Avs play the Leafs live
- watched Team Canada play live (World Cup of Hockey!)
- took a flight by myself (to BC to visit Steph!)

- became a WAY counselor
- graduated from university

- got a teaching degree
- met Tomas Kaberle

- traveled Europe
- went to Japan
- paid my own living expenses--housing, grocery, utility, etc. (I was going to say "lived independently" but I know I still rely on my parents a lot to help me out financially, so I'm not quite there yet...)
- bought a car less than 10 years old (both of the cars I've bought in Japan have been 9 years old at the time of purchase!)

- inspired a student
- visited the Ghibli Museum in Japan
- furnished my own apartment
- bought a front-loading washer-dryer
- ate alone in a non-fast food restaurant
- watched a movie alone in theatres
- cooked a meal for friends (i.e. without resorting to canned or store-bought dishes!)
- took (Japanese) dance lessons
- wore a kimono
- went to Hong Kong
- bowled 100

As you can see, a lot of stuff has happened since I came to Japan. I think the experience of moving to a foreign country has really taught me the importance of appreciating and making the most of the time and opportunities I've been granted.

Even though it was a decision made in desperation and at the last minute, applying to JET was probably one of the best decisions I've made in my life.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Seriously seething

It's probably not a good idea to be writing a blog post while I'm angry, but I can't seem to help myself. I won't give too many details because it'd be highly imprudent, but I think I can safely say that I had my worst experience of Japan tonight.

Given that I'm pretty much a non-drinker, I've never been particularly fond of the Japanese drinking culture, but after a year and a half I'm mostly OK with it. It definitely helps that basically all of the people that I see intoxicated on a regular/semi-regular basis are the type who just get happier, more chatty, or, at worst, slightly rowdy when drunk. I have no problem with that.

In fact, when I think more closely about it, I suspect that alcohol-inspired "friendliness/chattiness" probably goes a long way towards softening the rather off-putting effect of my natural reticence. That is to say, I seem to talk a lot more with people at events where alcohol is involved.

But I discovered tonight that I have no patience for people who become rude and obnoxious when drunk. It's been a long time since I gave myself a headache from sheer repressed rage (and the last time it happened it was from anger over an accumulation of small irritations built up over time), but it was pretty much an unavoidable consequence of being stuck in a vehicle listening to the loud, self-righteous complaints of a drunkard. For forty-five minutes I (and a handful of others) had to listen to this person complain about and criticize anything, everything, and everyone. Talk about being abused "past the endurance of a block!"

I'm usually a forgive-and-forget kind of person, but honestly, that's the kind of behaviour I can't simply dismiss as a mere drunken foible; it's a reflection on a person's character.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Most worthwhile purchases

Here are the most worthwhile purchases I’ve made since coming to Japan (in order of most to least expensive rather than importance):

1. 1999 Toyota Vitz (¥350,000)

I didn’t realize how much I loved my car until I got into the accident and had to make the decision to junk it and get a new one rather than fixing it. It felt small but was big enough to fit five people. It handled really well and was quite fuel efficient. And I loved how cute and red it was! My K-car now is much more economical (I’m actually paying LESS insurance per month even after the accident!) but I don’t feel the same pride of ownership as with the Vitz when I look at it.

2. Toshiba TW-180VE SDD-Hybrid Drum Front-Loading Washer-Dryer (¥116,000)

I’ve always wanted a front-loading washer and dryer set, and now I have a front-loading washer-dryer! It’s awesome!! Granted, it takes more time overall to do my laundry than it would to do the same load size in Canada, but I love the time set function (i.e. I can put all my laundry in at night and program it to finish washing and drying the next morning) and all the different settings: dry clean, delicates, towels, etc. Basically, I just love it!! It was definitely the best purchasing decision I made when I was deciding what to buy for the apartment!

3. Casio EX-Word (XD-SW6400) Electronic Dictionary (¥15,750)

I still can’t believe my luck in finding this at the Hard-Off. I use it almost everyday. The ability to input kanji by writing it with a stylus is indispensable!

4. Kenkyusha Japanese-English Dictionary CD-Rom (Casio EX-Word DATAPLUS2 XS-KE04) (¥11,235)

The Kenkyusha dictionary is so much better than the Japanese-English dictionary that comes with the XD-SW6400! It has a LOT more entries and examples. I wouldn’t be a Hotaru no Hikari proof reader for J-SiS if I didn’t have this dictionary to check translations against.

5. Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Dictionary SD Card (Casio EX-Word DATAPLUS3 XS-KD01CA) (¥7590)

This is an indispensable tool for learning the correct stroke order for writing kanji. Plus it’s a good back-up to have for those times when no matter how hard I try, I can’t get the proper kanji to show up when I write it by hand: with this I can look up the kanji by the stroke count, instead!

6. LPD3213 Compact Fuji Lamipacker (A3) (¥6980)

When I got Christmas money from my parents in my first year (I stayed in Japan that year), I immediately decided to buy a laminator with it and I’ve never regretted the decision! I’ve made dozens upon dozens of flashcards with it—often late at night/in the wee hours of the morning. I can’t even begin to calculate how much time/gas/mileage I would’ve had to have used to drive to the office to do my laminating if I hadn’t made this wise investment early on in my time in Japan.

7. Harmony Eupa Toaster Oven (TSK-2847N) (¥3980)

Most toasters in Japan don’t have temperature settings, just wattage settings, so I was really happy to have found this! I have made hundreds of cookies using this toaster. When I first bought it, I also had a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and pizza toast for dinner!

8. DVD Player (YTO-104) (¥3480)

It plays both R1 and R2 DVDs. My first year in Japan, I was pretty much the only Towada ALT to stay in Towada over the winter vacation, so the DVD player (and Tsutaya’s ¥100 rentals) was my best friend during that time!

9. Miffy Slippers (¥780)

In Canada I was never a slipper-wearing person, but even in the apartment the floors get pretty cold, so it’s great to have warm, lined slippers to wear around the house! They also look a lot nicer/cuter than the old blue pair I bought at the ¥100 store when I was living in the old house.

10. Onigiri Mould (¥105)

This probably saved me from many a dinnerless night when I first arrived in Japan! Even now, whenever I have to bring a bento to school or the office, I almost always make mayo-tuna onigiri. Sure, I could make the ongiri by hand, but using the mould is so much easier and faster (it takes about two minutes to make two).