click to enlarge
I'd like to make a few general announcements.
First, I just found out today that I passed
the Japanese Language Proficiency Test that
I took in December -- Yay me! Now I'm an
official 'level three' person. That just
leaves me 11 months to get ready for level
two, which is actually when things start
to get interesting.
Second, Karen and I are going on vacation
-- a 'real' vacation, not just a trip back
to Canada to visit family. We're going to
Thailand in March. We're both pretty excited,
it'll be our first leisurely break in about
We'll be going to Koh Samui (island) initially
(I know it's kind of a cheesy place so please
don't write in about it), and then maybe
skip over to Koh Pha Ngan or Koh Tao later.
One reason that we're going to Koh Samui
is because we're thinking about relocating
there for a while after leaving Japan, so
we want to do a little reconnaissance. I
know that there are probably nicer places
to stay while in Thailand but Koh Samui has
two things going for it: a hospital, which
is a load off your mind when you have a small
child, and, more importantly, high-speed
Internet connectivity, which we'll need to
continue our work while living there.
I love Thailand, it's probably my favourite
country. As a matter of fact I used to live
there. You may not know this, but I actually
have a Master's degree in archaeology, with
a specialty in ethnoarchaeology, a hybrid of cultural anthropology and archaeology.
I did my thesis research on ceremonial feasting
(no joke) and spent a good part of three
consecutive years living in Hill Tribe villages near the Burmese border. I studied
the Akha people mainly.
I'm going to leave for Thailand a week before
Karen and Jack, and then spend some time
up in the mountain villages visiting some
friends. I brought Karen there for our honeymoon
three years ago, but I don't really want
to bring Jack there just yet because they
have some pretty nasty diseases flying around
in some of these villages -- super high child/infant
mortality rate. I'll eventually meet Karen
and Jack in Bangkok where we'll board a plane
to Koh Samui together. It's going to be great
for Jack to get some fresh air and sunshine.
This all leads me to my final announcement.
Because of this trip to Thailand I've decided
to invest in a professional quality digital
camera. I'm thinking about getting a Canon EOS 10D -- a low-end digital SLR, but with some
good lens it should do the trick nicely.
If anyone has any comments about this camera,
or related accessories, I'd like to hear
So, I guess I'm going to have to put Japanese
language study on the back-burner for a few
weeks while I brush up on my Thai. Anyway,
we should all expect some interesting vacation
photos this coming March.
click to enlarge
I really love Japanese food, especially
fish and seaweed.
The other day my student asked me, "What
is Canadian food like?"
"It varies a lot," I said, "but
it's generally pretty crappy."
Contemporary Canadian home cooking, at least
the stuff that I come across, seems to be
a hodge-podge of Asian and European food
-- think fried rice and pasta. In many cases
it's essentially a foreign dish with twice
as much meat and grease added to adjust it
to the 'local palate'.
It's kind of a shame really that we don't
have a unified cuisine like other places,
although maybe we will some day. The Americans
invented fast-food and made it their own,
maybe Canada will one day do something similar.
I went on to tell my student that if you
forced me to pick something that was typical
Canadian fare, I'd have to say 'meat and
two vet': i.e., a piece of meat, potatoes,
and a vegetable. I guess another way to say
it is 'meat and potatoes' -- a result of
our British background I suppose.
She pointed out that it's strange that we
have two oceans in Canada but eat relatively
little fish. It then occurred to me that
this was also a British thing: I don't think
that the British are big fish eaters either,
which is really strange for an island nation,
don't you think?
Japanese cuisine is practically centered
around fish, even the seasoning and soup
stocks. They also eat a lot of seaweed, which
is really delicious once you're used to it.
Why don't Western Europeans eat seaweed?
Is it because there is no good seaweed in
I don't know if they harvest seaweed in Canada
right now, but I know that when I move back
I'll be munching on the imported variety
until they do.
click to enlarge
It seems like people everywhere, with maybe
the exception of a few intelligent European
countries, are working more than ever. I
can remember not too long ago, before PCs
and office computers were so ubiquitous,
that many people believed that when PCs eventually
came into common use that they would cause
a drastic reduction in work hours.
Well, computers have undoubtedly caused a
huge increase in production -- can you even
imagine anymore what it was like to type
a document out on a typewriter and only have
one copy of it? But what happened to all
of our free time? Who ended up benefiting
from this huge surge in white-collar work
output and drastically reduced production
times? Why are we working more than ever?
I don't know the answer to these questions,
but I wasn't surprised to read recently about
a trend in the UK among young white-collar
workers to 'pretire' -- i.e., quit their
hectic high paying job and take a more relaxed
job for much less pay.
I, of course, have a pretty cushy set up
going right now, thanks mostly to Karen.
And when I read stories like this about Japanese office life, I don't miss
my old programming job so much.
click to enlarge
Our friends Tony and Gabrielle, and their
baby Harper, are leaving Japan and returning
to Australia next week. We're pretty sad
about their leaving, though I think that
they'll both be happier in Australia. Tokyo
is such a loud and brash city for two such
soft and buoyant people.
Living in a foreign country for an extended
period of time is in some ways like being
a really old man: all of your friends just
slowly disappear and you're left sitting
around feeling dazed and wondering what happened
Right now I feel about 95 years old.
In other news, Amanda and her friend Nadege
are still here. Well, actually, to be more
specific, their luggage is still here. Amanda has so many friends
that she wants to see, and places that she
wants to visit, that we've hardly seen them
at all since they arrived last week.
Right now they're on a three-day Zen Buddhist
retreat somewhere on a mountain top near
Greetings to all the new Hunkabutta visitors
who have found their way here via Nikolai
Nolan's Bloggie Awards page.
The voting period for the Bloggies is nearly
up, so if you haven't gone there and voted
for your favorite sites yet, then you should
go there now.