Saturday, January 31, 2004

Sunday Feb. 1, 11:41 a.m.

It's been a pleasantly quiet weekend. Not too cold but my nose can sense the hay fever season coming in, although reports say that the pollen count will be lower this year because of the cool summer last year.

The kids were a bit more on the ball yesterday, and I received some more leftovers snacks and stuff from the mother who always seems to get loaded down with food gifts. Aside from that, it was just straight home and crash. I also had time to cook up some fried rice and warm up the minestrone. Then, I just whipped up another audio tape (I haven't gotten into the CD burning technology or even i-Pod) of jazz stuff.

I made my monthly call to Mom. It looks like the whole family is there watching Hockey Night In Canada. Just my the decade that I've been here, the Leafs just decided then to aspire for the Stanley Cup. They're doing a good job of it this year...they're one of the top teams in the league. I told her that I'm still waiting for that birth certificate processing to come through; apparently, 70,000 Canadians have made that section of the government a living hell by throwing them their applications. At this rate, I probably won't get my passport made up until late Spring. I also informed her that I got the mail from Toronto-Dominion. One was just asking me about my dormant account back home and the other was just a report on my mutual fund. My last request before I finished off was just for a box of Aunt Jemima.

Speaking of pancakes, I'll start in earnest for the planning for Pancake Day at my school. I still have a little under 2 weeks to get everything together. I gotta do the usual purchases of the different grades of maple syrup and see if there is any paraphernalia about the production of it I can use. That stuff from the Embassy is just so hoary. One is a video tape all the way from 1958 on sugaring off; the students a couple of years ago were having a laugh at all the brushcuts on those kids. Last year's literature consisted of a large crumply piece of construction paper with somewhat forlorn pictures and enlarged photocopies of the sugaring off process. I'll be heading out today to the Canada Centre in Ikebukuro to see what they've got in terms of literature. I'm not too hopeful since I went there last year without finding anything, but I know that I can pick up some syrup and other types of food there. Mind you, Amazon had a couple of books that looked interesting in terms of maple syrup.

Along with my trip out to Ikebukuro, I have to head out to Ginza and Nihombashi to pick up a birthday present for one of my Monday students and a birthday card for my dad respectively. I haven't received any calls from Chip Guy this week about doing anything so I'm just gonna assume that it'll just be one big shopping trip today and then back home for leftovers.

It looks like I'm not gonna have any classes at the school this week since I haven't received my usual fax of my schedule on Friday. It's not a big worry right now but if this lack of classes keeps up (and it probably will since the kids graduate in a few weeks) for another half-year, I'll have to think of finding some more privates during the empty patches.

It also looks like I've got another interpreting session at the Monday company tomorrow. But again, it won't be too just concerns the president's nephew's trip to Toronto. Perhaps that dinner after the class will be concerned with that.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Friday Jan. 30, 1:03 p.m.

Well, just another day and then January 2004 will be out of the way. One down, another 11 to go. The speed at which this month has gone by probably means if times flies by any faster, then I should be doing my Xmas shopping within a couple of days.

Looks like the big international news for me has been the BBC crisis and the US Democratic Primaries. It was interesting seeing the BBC talking heads calmly reporting that their company has just gone on one knee in front of Tony Blair's government. I've always seen the BBC as this monolith of journalistic integrity...and also the station which brought us, through PBS dollars, Monty Python and Doctor Who. It's going to be fascinating how the BBC will change because of this sordid affair. It needn't worry about its reputation worldwide, though. The news only merited a small report and space on the running red ticker tape at the bottom of the CNN screen.

As for the primaries, it looks like John Kerry is in the driver's seat for now. But one of my students pointed out that he looked exhausted. The two of us think that G.W. Bush will probably keep his job for another four years.

I got that rubdown today at the neighbourhood clinic. I finally got my favorite masseur for the first time in several months. He's now the clinic director so he's pretty much in demand. Then, I did a splurge at the supermarket. I bought my first sack of rice in a while since the stuff is now pretty expensive, but I figure that if I'm going to spend the yen to make a good pot of minestrone, I might as well go whole hog.
Thursday Jan. 29, 9:41 p.m.

Another pretty normal day. Just had the conversation class and then a couple of those students who had wanted to go to the now defunct Chinese restaurant caught up with me. We have arranged to hit COCA this time next Thursday. It'll probably be the Thai hot pot again.

Then it was off for that guy at the juku. As it turned out, he was pretty much under the weather with a cold but he was game enough to come for one hour. I also got a nice cup of coffee and a dish of rice curry for my efforts; makes me regret having the Big Mac set at Urayasu Station. Speaking of which, the cost of one of those sets suddenly dropped to just 390 yen, about a 200 yen drop. I wonder if that BSE thing has anything to do with that.

Well, I'm off for the weekend. I'll probably get that rubdown and then actually make some minestrone. I've been lacking of veggies recently.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Thurs. Jan. 29, 10:14 a.m.

I had a rather interesting sight on train into work yesterday. For the firrt time in my decade in Chiba, I actually saw Mt. Fuji all the way from my little burg. And it was only just for a moment before the smog obscured it again. They say that over here if a person's first dream of the New Year is of Mt. Fuji, then he will have a prosperous year. Well, I'm several dreams late but I did think it was rather remarkable.

Having said that, I still had a rather exhausting day with three classes. Great students, mind you. Today will most likely be my last work day of the week since my Friday student has to clean up the accounting books tomorrow. I have a regular conversation class at the school and that new student at my juku tonight. He'll probably drain me since he's pretty low and I've got him man-to-man.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Tuesday Jan. 27, 11:34 p.m.

An interesting class this morning in Tsudanuma. One of my more emotional students got into a major crying jag on revealing that her bag had been stolen in broad daylight in front of her house....6 days ago, and even though she froze all of her accounts 20 minutes after the theft. Mind you, I can understand the violation that she felt from personal experience, especially when her phone book was one of the items taken. Most likely, though, the thieves just went for the cash. Why anyone would carry a thousand bucks in her bag, even in this country, in this day and age stuns me. As one of her fellow classmates rightfully pointed out, Japan is no longer a supremely safe country and really hasn't been for some years now. Robberies are a sad sign of the times, and bizarre violent crimes are doing volume business.

On the other hand, by the end of the class, everyone was smiling, and since I had no class in Tokyo this afternoon, the ladies took me to one of those places that only the locals know. I had a great lunch set of raw yellowtail, deep-fried flatfish and broccoli covered in ground beef sauce. It's always nice when I get these opportunities in a life where McD's and Subway are often the norm.

Got home tonight to get that call from the prospective student's mother. Looks like I'm set for Saturdays after my regular gig with the doctor's kids. I'll have to give Movie Buddy the heads-up that I won't be able to catch the afternoon viewing of The Return of the King on the 14th.

I also got e-mail from The Curry Master, the buddy of Movie Buddy's girlfriend. She was the one who got me my current gig on Tuesday nights. She wants to also set up English lessons with me which I'm surprised about since her level is very high. I don't think I can really do anything for her, but I agreed to meet her for coffee next Friday. However, according to MB, she also has a habit of cancelling out at the last minute so I'll be keeping an eye on this one. As my nickname for her would indicate, she did make a mean curry when I first met her.

Well, the nominees came out for the Oscars. No particularly big surprises although CNN is buzzing about the fact that Cold Mountain got snubbed except for Renee Zellweger. For me, I'm waiting for LOTR to get the brass ring.

Busy day tomorrow. I've got three classes to take care of but all of them should be pretty good.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Monday Jan. 26, 9:41 p.m.

Pretty cut-and-dry Monday. I just had that lone company class out in Shinjuku tonight. Earlier, I picked up the package from my friend back home. The class itself just had the lone student but it went well. I told the Iconoclast that I didn't have time for our seemingly regular post-class dinners tonight, but we still had some time for a bit of tea at a tea bar in the HALC Department Store. It looks like I've also got a dinner with the president and the Iconoclast next Monday. The conversation with the Iconoclast once again centered on the seeming ineptitude of that one employee. He even secretly taped the President chewing out the hapless man just an hour before my arrival. I could take a couple of seconds of the secondhand abuse.

Well, it looks like I'm on my way to consolidate a couple of new students. One, a hairdresser, will be meeting me for the first time next Wednesday morning. However, my greeting call to that mother of the propsective kid fell on deaf ears for some reason. I'll have to let the mother of my regular kids about the aborted attempt. After going through my schedule, it looks like these two will be last two students to fill the slots unless someone decides to permanently pull out.

I'm watching CNN and seeing the snow coming down hard on Washington DC, and I'm getting a sense of wistfulness. Wouldn't it be nice to get a whiteout just about now?

Good to see "Lord of the Rings" get the Golden Globe award, although I've always thought that prize to be the poor man's Oscars. One of the three pundits, a cheerfully irascible grump, slagged "Lost In Translation” for demeaning the Japanese. Oooh, boy...I wasn't thrilled with "Kill Bill" for the same reason. I wonder if I should also let Bill Murray's latest go by the wayside...if it ever gets here.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Sunday Jan. 25, 9:53 p.m.

Movie Buddy came by the house today to see The Two Towers for the umpteenth time, but with all of the extra scenes which he proceeded to point out to me. Not that I minded at all. It was good to banter out a commentary.

Then I went out to see another couple of former students for dinner in the Ginza. One actually was the person from Friday's get-together at El Torito. The other was a more recent graduate who got her current position thanks to the efforts of the first woman. We had a Thai hot pot at COCA; the older grad and I had been there a few times before for the regular Chinese fare but this time we decided to go for the hotter stuff to warm up our bones. It definitely did the trick since the two ladies were perspiring up a storm by midway through the meal. They even decided to get the coconut milk shake that I was drinking to cool their tongues off. At the same time, it seemed like fate wanted to have a bit of fun at my expense. I committed a faux pas with my chopsticks by almost tapping them to the older grad's ones in an attempt to help her with some of the ingredients. Over here, the tapping of chopsticks is reminiscent of the Japanese ritual of passing bones after a cremation. And then, I dropped my chopsticks which necessitated the waitress getting me a new pair. Plus, I forgot a few key facts which involved the older grad's meeting with other people. In any case, things calmed down after that.

It ought to be a quiet day tomorrow. I only have my regular Monday night class. On the housekeeping side, I've gotta go to the tax office to prep up for the annual procedure in March, and then pick up a package.