Sunday, December 26, 2004

WOW... Thailand

Okay... we had NO idea what we were in for... I mean, absolutely NO idea. As usual, we were totally last minute and didn't plan well enough. We were hoping to meet up with my former student Top, whose family lives in Bangkok. We had no idea that we would be treated like royalty by his entire family for the duration of our trip!

Top greeted us at the airport and drove us to our hotel, picking up his mother along the way. Then, his mother immediately began to make our travel plans for us, fussing over us and worrying because Thailand is so full of tourists this time of year. Yesterday, our first full day, she met us, took us out for breakfast, arranged a tour of the Grand Palace and Wat Pho (a temple) for us, took us on a long-tailed boat ride, out for lunch and then to a market. For dinner, we met Top's whole family at the Emerald Hotel for a buffet. Oh, and did I mention that they wouldn't let us pay for anything all day???

Then, today, Top left to return to Canada. No problem. His sister picked us up and drove us to the most incredible market I have ever been to my entire life. We were there ALL DAY and we didn't even see half of it. We bought so many clothes. I don't think I can ever justify paying full price for anything again! Then, for dinner we were taken out AGAIN to another buffet. The coolest thing is that we met up with Giacomo... a guy I worked with at Brock, and his girlfriend Nancy. They have been living in Japan about the same length of time as us, but we never connected. Well, it just so happens that they told Top they would be in Thailand... so of course, now Top's mother is taking care of them too! So we all met up at a Japanese-style buffet in Bangkok... my gosh, what a small world.

Tomorrow, Top's uncle is driving us south-east to a beach where we will stay for at least two nights. I can't get over the treatment we have been receiving. We have not had to do anything. This is the most amazing vacation we've ever had... and I haven't even begun to tell you about the amazing things we've seen! So I'm off now to get a foot massage and have a drink. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Check out our Photosite. I've updated a few pictures in the "Crazy Japan" and the "Around Ota" sections
I know its common to get Happy Xmas advertising back home, but this tops it. They don't even know what Christmas is about here, and already they've figured out how to shorten it. Happy Xmas indeed - a beer billboard... What's next.
Just outside the doors of the department store. This was the beginning of our journey through the shopping jungle that is Shinjuku.
Kathy and I were standing right in front of one of the many Starbucks in the surrounding area when I noticed these tricycles. They were riding around giving people rides to the Starbucks. Advertising the Japanese way!
This picture is from inside the men's washroom on the 13th floor of the department store overlooking "downtown" Tokyo. The twin towers on the left of the pictures is the infamous Tokyo City Hall - where I tried to make a romantic proposal to Kathy seven years ago!
This is an actual satelite picture of where we went. The big white building just below the train tracks (just left of center of the picture) is one of the main department stores in the area. It has 14 floors of shopping. All the little side streets you see around it are full of multi-floored shopping. It is overwhelming. I'll include some pictures of the side streets.
This past Sunday Kathy and I went to Shinjuku for some shopping. It is quite the crazy shopping district. Stores everywhere. People everywhere. It was really hard to get a good picture that captured the feeling there, but I will leave you with a few attempts. This picture is from the our "break" on the 13th floor of a department store in a garlic restaurant. Good food!!!
This is me on Friday December 17. I taught four classes of grade ones back to back. 100 happy students. 1 tired Santa.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

A graveyard directly beside the tracks. These burial grounds are everywhere - none really big, but everywhere around the city.
Just another picture for your enjoyment. I went for a bike ride on Saturday late afternoon. I was getting ready to take a picture on this overpass when along comes a train - right on schedule - like usual in Japan. (Jeff)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

It's been a slow week for blogging. As usual, I am taking pictures of anything that moves .... (or doesn't move...) These are typical phones in Japan. That's weird to me. I don't know how to use them but they look cool. (Jeff)

Monday, December 13, 2004

We Are Going to Thailand!!!

Oh WOW!!! It is really happening! On December 24th we will be boarding a plane and flying to Bangkok!!! Once there, we will be staying with the family of Kantawat Makarasara (AKA "Top"), one of my former students from Brock. Unfortunately, Top leaves to go back to Canada on December 26th... :-(

But we will continue our adventures. Not all is planned yet... heck, if it were, it wouldn't be an Epp excursion... We know that we will fly or bus north to Chiang Rai on December 30th. Once there, we will meet Mr. E, my former supervisor from Matsudo, Japan and a bunch of his old students. Then, Mr. E will drive us to the hilltribe that he and his students support, and we will stay with them until January 2nd. WOW. Bringing in the new year with a Thai hilltribe!

Then, we will fly or bus south, to Phuket, and catch a boat to a nearby island, where we will promptly plop ourselves down on a beach until we have to catch our flight back on January 7th.

And to top it all off, Monday the 10th is yet ANOTHER national holiday, so the 11th will be our first day back... hee hee hee. Enjoy the SNOW in Canada... yayayaya... I know, you don't have any YET... but YOU WILL!!!

And thank you SO MUCH to Beth, Jason, and Jacob Carson for the package of Kraft Pizza and Caramilk bars that arrived today. Mmmmmmm.... neither will last long!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Yes, I believe Tim Horton is rolling over in his grave... This is Japan's idea of "coffee." Yes, my friends, hot (or cold) coffee in a can, or, better yet, a juice box. Bought at your nearest convenience store... and there are SO MANY. If you want a real cup of coffee, you can't generally get it to go, and you're gonna have to pay at least 300 yen (over $3). Yikes.

Kathy's Back (no pun intended!)

Hi everyone... I really got into the blogging and then I disappeared and let Jeff take over. Let me explain... For about three weeks, I was experiencing a LOT of pain. It started with my right calf muscle. I started jogging at the beginning of October, and I had worked myself up to 5km jogs about 3-4 times a week... YES, you are reading that correctly.

So the pain started. Felt like a pulled muscle, but a little weird, because it ran up my leg at the immediate left of my shin. Not your usual calf muscle pain. I gave myself a couple of days off and ran again. Worse pain. I took two weeks off, and the pain never went away. You have no idea how frustrating it is to give up jogging when you have finally achieved some success and are up to 5km.

Even worse, the pain traveled up my leg to my lower back. And stayed there. Some days my leg was totally numb, and other days I felt like all the muscles in my body were out of whack. But mostly I felt really tired and really annoyed.

I spent all of the past weekend in pain and with no energy. All I wanted to do was sleep. Finally, I contacted Ayako Sunday night, thinking she could maybe get me to a doctor on Monday. Well, she took me to a friend's brother that night, at 9pm to get a massage. It turns out he isn't really a masseuse. He practices alternative medicine. He referred to it as "healing touch." It was bizarre, but he literally just touched me lightly... I wouldn't calling it massaging. At the time, I thought, what the heck. I just wanted SOMETHING done. I was in so much pain.

Well, I felt better the next day, and better the next, and today I feel terrific. The back pain was gone immediately, but the weakness is still there. The only pain I still have is in my right calf muscle. And it is much weaker than before. Most noticeable though, is my greatly increased energy. I feel positive again, and I'm not lethargic like I was. Am I a believer? I wouldn't say so. But I do have another appointment on Friday...

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Hi guys. It's Tuesday night here. I am sitting on the computer taking what was a short break, but has turned into a long evening avoiding everything. Kathy on the other hand has managed to keep herself busy. Here is a picture of her masterpiece. She volunteered to create a "Christmas in Canada" display. She told me that she didn't realize how big the board was. Well. She's been at it all evening. Looks good eh! Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Andy. This one is for you. This is a typical toilet for a nice restaurant here in Japan. The dials and stuff on the left side are for the heated seat, the bidet feature, the synthesized flush sound, the bird's chirping sound, and the air freshener. The little black rectangle at the back of the seat is the infra red or motion detector to detect your butt - wouldn't want to turn on the bidet without a butt on the seat. Oh, the comfort!
Kathy on our way into Yorube restaurant tonight. We both loved their little walkway so I thought I'd try out the night mode on my camera phone. Kathy looks pretty good - I guess the phone works!
It was a beautiful clear day today. On my way home from school at 4:30pm I just had to stop and take a picture. I know it doesn't really do them justice, but do you notice the mountains in the background? They turn blue when the sun sets on a clear day. It reminds me a little of Calgary. I always enjoy my days more when it's sunny. (Jeff)
We drove to the top of that mountain you see in that background yesterday. It was an incredible day.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Here's another picture of a big tree, just for good measure.
And of course, I like trees. These trees are big. No one here gets excited about them (except me). Kathy graciously excepted my request to take my picture with him. Wow.
Kathy took this picture standing between the two lamp-like things you saw in the last picture.
On our way up, we came accross a shrine...or temple...I don't know. There were a whole bunch of people lined up to get water from this spring. (Don't ask - we didn't - so we couldn't tell you if you asked). We wandered around the temple grounds and enjoyed the sites. It's remarkable how old things are in Japan. Even stuff they don't get excited about - is pretty exciting for people whose country is less than 150 years old. Kathy took this pic standing in front of the main building, with her back to it.
There are no good pictures yet from our little adventure today. The camera phones are not really good at landscapes, especially mountains and things far away. When we get our pictures from the real camera developed, I'll be sure to update this entry. For now, know that Kathy and enjoyed our beautiful Sunday. It must have been 20 degrees. I woke up a little earlier than her and went down to the river. The air was as clear as it has ever been since we've been here, and I couldn't resist. We decided to pick a mountain (from the peaks we could see around the city) and start driving. We checked the map, and the one we were heading towards was Mount Akagi. So off we went.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Hi guys...Jeff here. Just a silly picture for you today. One of my students gave this to me this afternoon. It's (obviously) a maple leaf - actually a Japanese Maple (aren't they all here?) from the school yard. What you can't see is that it's only about two inches across (5 cm for those too young or not influenced heavily by America to get inches). That's pretty small and pretty much standard. What you can see - assuming you can see the picture, is that it is still mostly green. Not some fancy digital photography trick ;-) the leaf probably only fell off the tree today or yesterday. It's beginning to look a lot like (can you hear the Christmas melody like you were walking through the Pen Center?) Where was I... Yes, it's beginning to look a lot like .... mid October. The leaves are mostly all changed, but not quite. About a third of them are on the ground. Just thought I'd rub it in again - especially Maria - off in the Canadian winter paradise city. How's Winter... I mean Winnepeg? Cold enough for you? I was playing dodgeball outside with the kids at lunch today ... in a T-shirt. Everyday I ask the kids, "How's the weather?" Then I ask them if it's snowing - to which they respond emphatically, "NO!" If I'm in a good mood, I usually go on to tell them that, "today, in Canada, it's snowing." They usually reply with some unintelligible Japanese slang that sounds something like bending over too fast and ripping your pants in the process. It's a lot of fun. (The question - not ripping your pants). On that note, if anyone is around this weekend - we'd love to hear from you - I think it's going to be a little lonely... Email us, or leave a comment here. See ya!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Another shot on my way home - this is the main street in our town. Christmas lights went up yesterday (December 1). It is always really busy around supper time. (Jeff)
The end of my day today. On my way home from school I stopped and took this picture. The sun was pretty much down - it was 5 o'clock. This is our town at night. Notice the flowers growing - they started planting them a couple of weeks ago. A little warmer than Canada.
A quick pic for your enjoyment. My dinner. It's not unusual to find bread in this country stuffed with something. As Kathy and I have said, there is always a surprise inside. This one had some kind of ham or bacon. I don't know. Most of the time it's pretty gross. This one surprisingly tasted good. Maybe I've been here too long! (Jeff)