Friday, December 25, 2009

Returning "home"

It's already happened twice since I came back (to Mississauga) yesterday: I referred to going back to Towada as "going home."

But when I'm in Japan I also refer to coming back to Mississauga as "going home."

I guess I'm lucky that I have two places that I honestly feel I can call "home."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas mania

Even though I've been preparing (buying things) for Christmas and even doing Christmas lessons at schools for over a month, I'm only beginning to feel the "Christmas spirit" now.

I spent the entire evening on Monday baking Christmas cookies (my regular chocolate chunk cookies but with red & green M&Ms added) for my students. Since it's my last year here, I decided to make cookies not only for the Kirita JHS students, but also for all of the students and teachers at the nearby feeder elementary schools--Kamikirida and Shimokirida ES. It took about six hours, but I managed to make 155 cookies in two batches--of which I gave away 154.

Even though it was really time-consuming (I was baking from 6-11pm), and I was tired because I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before, baking the Christmas cookies was very soothing/relaxing. It made me feel happy in spite of my fatigue. Somehow, there's something about baking Christmas cookies that really puts me in the "Christmas spirit." Maybe it's because baking cookies has been my Christmas tradition since high school...

Anyway, after/while baking the cookies, I also wrapped presents for all of my Kirita students. In my first year, I only had one present for each grade (gingerbread house kits) and we played pass the parcel. Last year, though, I had tons of small "prize" things--SpongeBob files, pencil cases, etc.--that my mom had brought/given me, so I had one present for each student and we did the present swapping/stealing game in every class.

This year, I did the present swapping/stealing game with the first year students with the remainder of the prizes from my mom, but I bought a bunch of snacks and made presents for the second and third years as well. Since the students were generally too nice last year and didn't really steal presents from each other, I decided to skip the "game" and just give out the gifts to the second and third years this year.

But yeah between wrapping the presents and putting the cookies into individual gift bags, I ended up staying up until about...4am? And I was up the next day at 7:30am (about 30min. earlier than usual) to deliver the cookies to Kamikirida ES before going to Kirita.

Even though I am enjoying the Christmas preparations/lessons now, I'm also really looking forward to the plane ride back to Canada. I expect I'll be sleeping for almost the entire 13-hour flight! =P

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cooking failure ^^;;

Maybe it's because I've been reading a manga that talks about a lot of different foods-- 深夜食堂 (Midnight Restaurant) --lately, but recently I've developed a bit of an interest in cooking. Last week I even bought four cooking magazines (in Japanese, of course) and went through them, putting stickies on recipes I wanted to try.

Monday night (Dec. 7) was my first attempt at one of those recipes: 手羽元の肉じゃが風煮もの, "nikujaga" (meat & potatoes) style boiled (chicken) drumsticks. Unfortunately it was a bit of a failure.

Well, it was still edible, but there were a few problems with my cooking...

The first one was a circumstantial issue. While I was in the middle of cooking I got a call from the Monday night eikaiwa because no one had shown up. Turns out there was a miscommunication about the schedule so I ended up having to stop midway through cooking to go to the eikaiwa, and I didn't come back until an hour later. Luckily this interruption occurred before I actually started boiling everything, but it still probably wasn't the best thing for the recipe...

The next problem was that I completely forgot that the soy sauce I had in my pantry was dark soy sauce.

Lastly, I let everything boil for too long. At the end of the time recommended by the recipe, the potatoes were still a bit hard, so I decided to let it boil for a bit longer. Even though I was standing by the stove the entire time, I guess I was spaced out or something, because it ended up getting overcooked. ^^;;

Ah well. I'll just have to be more careful next time. (Although, I don't know when I'll have a chance to cook again since my schedule until winter vacation is crazy busy. And I'll probably go back to my "raw veggie" diet for a bit in January to try to compensate for all the' holiday binge eating.)

Here's a photo of the finished product.

It looks OK until you compare it to the photo from the recipe... ^^;; (You can really see what a difference it makes if you use dark instead of regular soy sauce...)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Car accident (#2) conclusion

So I finally got my car back on Nov. 27th and was amazed to see that it actually looked newer than when I first bought it! After that I sent word (via my supervisor, of course) to my insurance company that the car was repaired and everything was OK so the two insurance companies (mine and the obaachan's) could get things settled.

I was waiting to hear exactly how much and by when I would have to pay for my portion of the car repairs--did I mention before that the obaachan had kindly refused the need for me to pay for the damage to her car?--and finally got an email from Mukainakano-sensei today....

Turns out the obaachan actually (and very generously) insisted on paying for 100% of the damages from the accident, i.e. car repairs for both cars, plus my medical bills. @_@;; I still feel very shocked and humbled, and also rather regretful. 

As much as I complained about it, a tiny part of me (that I wanted to ignore) could kind of understand the logic behind the Japanese system of assessing responsibility/liability in the case of a multiparty accident, so I stopped feeling like it was "unfair." (Well, subjectively I still felt like it sucked, but when I looked at the situation objectively, I could accept the reasoning.)

[When I got the cost estimates from the insurance company, though, I did feel/wish, that I could have made things less costly for the obaachan (and myself) by buying a different used car. But she had requested that I repair the car so I acceded to her wishes. But I digress...]

I did mention in a post I wrote after the post about the car accident that I realized that I had misjudged the obaachan, but after learning that she had insisted on paying for 100% of the accident costs, I really regretted judging her so quickly (and harshly) in my initial post-accident blog entry.

Looking back, I realize that what I interpreted as "rudeness" could, with a kinder eye, be interpreted as mere brusqueness--likely partially attributable to personality but also probably partially attributable to shock from the accident. I guess I was too caught up in my own feelings/reactions to the accident to be able to step back and look at her actions from a different perspective. I mean, everyone reacts to shock differently. And courtesy/manners are really more a reflection of social skills than of character, so it was unfair of me to think of her as a "rude person" because her behaviour was abrupt/"rude".

Ahhh... I'm making a mess of things, but basically what I want to say is that I've realized that I should work harder not to judge people. This is really the first time I've understood (in my heart and not just my head) why God tells Christians not to judge others. And I feel regretful at my uncharitable thoughts about the obaachan when I think about the verse in 1 Samuel (16:7): "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

All I could see was the obaachan's abrupt behaviour and the fact that she didn't explicitly say "I'm sorry." But now her actions have revealed an amazing sense of...integrity? Honesty?

I mean, even if you really felt 100% responsible, it would be easy to accept only 80% of the liability for practical, financial reasons. (And really, the repair cost wasn't a small amount.) If I was in her shoes, I really don't know if I'd be able to make the decision to do the same thing.

So yes, I feel incredibly humbled by her actions.

And I want to do my best from now on to draw conclusions about people less hastily and to give them the benefit of a doubt instead of assuming the worst--because only God knows what is truly inside a person's heart.

(Apologies if this post wasn't very coherent/intelligible--I'm still "in shock" from the outcome of the situation.)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Osaka plans!

When I first started planning my trip to Osaka (Jan 9-11) I was worried that I would be bored and not have enough to do there, but after browsing through the Osaka Visitor's Guide, I ended up finding a lot of places that look interesting!

So my tentative itinerary looks something like this: 

Sat. Jan. 9: (Evening arrival)
- check into hotel
- gyoza at the Namco Naniwa Gyoza Stadium (ナムコ浪花餃子スタジアム)
- Osaka Castle (大阪城) (night illumination)
- relax in hotel

Sun. Jan. 10:
- Shitennoji Temple (四天王時) (~8:30-9:00)
- Osaka Castle (大阪城) (~9:30-10:30)
- Osaka International Peace Center (ピースおおさか・大阪国際平和センター) (~10:30-11:30)
- Lunch (takoyaki?)
- Osaka Museum of History (大阪歴史博物館) (~12:30-14:00)
- Osaka Museum of Housing and Living (住まいミュージアム・大阪くらしの今昔館) (~14:30-16:00)
- Taiyuji Temple (太融時) (~16:15-16:45)
- Umeda Sky Building "Floating Garden" (梅田スカイビル・空中庭園) (~17:00-18:00)
- Okonomiyaki at BOTEJYU Dotonbori Head Restaurant (ぼてぢゅう總本店・道頓堀) (~18:30-19:30)
- Walking/shopping around Dotonbori (道頓堀) (19:30~)

Mon. Jan. 11:
- Waterworks Memorial Hall (水道記念館) (after hotel check out)
- omiyage shopping at Shin-Osaka Station =P

Now that I look at it, my schedule is actually quite jam-packed!

And of course, before going to Osaka on Saturday evening, I plan on going to the Ghibli Museum in the afternoon, and maybe even the Square Enix Character Goods Shop Showcase if I have enough time. =P

I'm really excited about this trip now! Before I felt like I was going just to eat takoyaki and okonomiyaki and to get Osaka crossed off my to-do list, but now I really can't wait to go! And maybe it's for the best that I'm going alone, after all. I mean, having company would've been great, but this way I can go at my own pace without worrying about another person.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

8 months left...

At first I was planning on talking about how exhausted I am and how much I'm looking forward to winter vacation right now. But then I realized that I only have 8 months left in Japan. So I want to do my best to treasure and enjoy every moment of the remainder of my time here--even when I'm tired and/or when things seem mundane/routine!

Anyway, here's my updated (from my November 4 post) to-see/to-do list:

- 十和田湖冬物語 (Towadako Fuyu Monogatari) - Lake Towada Winter Story: Still planning on going in February!

-十和田市称徳館 (Towada Shoutokukan) - Towada Horse Culture Museum: Just gotta pick a day...

-七戸NonoUe人形の館 (Shichinohe NonoUe Ningyou no Kan) - Shichinohe NonoUe Doll Museum: Went on the Sunday of the November long weekend (22nd)! You can see a couple of photos in my Facebook "Around Aomori" album.

- Osaka: I've already booked the hotel accommodations and train tickets through JTB for the January long weekend (9-11). And yes, it's going to be another 一人旅 ("hitori tabi" aka solo trip). The nice thing, though, is that I'm also getting my fourth Ghibli Museum visit in en route! So I'll be able to try the Cafe's winter menu!

- Hiroshima: Looks like I should be able to go with Jen, Syv and Justin at the end of March/beginning of April!!! Very excited!

- Graduation monkeys for the sannensei: Zero progress made. @_@ Still only have 1/2 a monkey completed. I'm going to be sewing like mad in January/February!

- Graduation video: Watched the video from 2 years ago, and it was really just a photo slide show, so I think I should be OK. Discovered that I'm actually missing quite a few videos, so I'm still in the process of capturing them from the DV tapes. Plus I need to get some more photos off the shared drive...

- Farewell speeches/messages: Finished the Kirita Kagura (kind of like a yearbook?) message to the grads because I thought it was due by November 24th. Turns out the teacher deadline is later (mid-January?) so I may want to edit it; the original message wasn't all that meaningful since I was pressed for time and stuck with very only basic Japanese.