Monday, March 30, 2009

This Crazy Canuck’s Canadian Conquest

This was easily my most poorly planned trip yet, but I suppose half of its purpose was entirely for leisure. The days leading up to my departure had me even missing going to school in favour of cleaning my old house and moving smaller, more manageable stuff to the new house ½ hour away. (The big stuff went onto trucks after I got back) You could say I just threw stuff into my luggage that wasn’t going to the new house, and grabbed presents from present shops not unlike shops you see in airports. Regardless, this was quite the memorable trip.

I got to Tokyo and had lunch with my friend, Megumi. She’s a sweet gal that lived in Germany for a couple years, before coming back to Japan because that country doesn’t hire Asians for jobs outside of menial tasks. For a weird side story, something in the beef in Germany made her allergic to all beef and dairy products. Poor girl has a difficult time finding food to eat in Japan now, or anywhere for that matter. Anyways, with her help I was able to save $20 getting to the airport by taking a different train; it’s still quite the journey for me though leaving from Tokyo, now that it’s the only city that will fly to Canada. I left Japan at 5 p.m. Saturday, and arrived at 9 a.m. Saturday, the same day :) Time travel across the ocean! (Pictured: from the ferry in BC)

After being on a number of different airlines now, I was fairly surprised just how lacking Air Canada is, but I didn’t really have an option. Just little things add up: like poor entertainment selections, giving you a drink 20 minutes after getting your food after you’ve already somehow choked down the stale bun they give you, headphones so bad that I used my own and so on. That aside, I got to Vancouver and had a couple days of layover to visit the eldest of my younger sisters, Patty. I had to get to Victoria to do this though. I called her to confirm some stuff, and was rather taken aback I had to pay $3 on those rotten phones to call her for each minute, and the call dropped twice because the phone was in such poor shape; I had to hold the wires a certain way to make it connect.

My trip might not sound very good so far, but now that the airport experience was behind me it’s only smooth sailing! One thing that stood out for me right away was the bus driver. He had a big smile and joked around with us! I’ve been gone for too long maybe, but either way I was suddenly glad to be back in Canada; none of that stiff, formal stuff and plenty of smiles; people were saying, “excuse me” when they walked by! They didn’t have to bump into you to say it! At the airport even!

Good times, I quickly tried to adapt out of the Tokyo mindset and be friendly back. I guess I understand the “big city” mentalities now, where you literally see a million faces before lunch and you’ll never see them again. The ferry was quite impressive, putting the one I saw in Thailand to shame. It had 6 floors, restaurants, Internet and arcades to name a few “features.” Massage while you wait anyone? Not to mention the scenery floating by was breathtaking. I was gawking at it for a lot of the journey, but fatigue overcame me and I napped half the 90-minute journey.

I got out and Patty was waiting to pick me up. It has almost been 2 years since being in Canada last, and it was good to see her again. We hugged, loaded the truck, and my extremely tired state had me panic for a little while wondering where the steering wheel had gone, and why Patty was trying to kill us by driving on the wrong side of the road. She saw me panicking with her 6th sense navy-skill and put me at ease. We were on a mission… to buy presents for her boyfriend!

Good seeing you again too Patty, after almost 2 years… I didn’t argue too much though, reminding myself the reason for this layover was to see her and not really having anything else planned, as my other plans for seeing Vancouver or Toronto/Niagara Falls/Ottawa had fallen through the cracks earlier. On the way to Costco though, we stopped at a red light looking at an A&W. Our conversation went a little like this:

Me: “Oooooh A&W! I could use a root beer ^_^ ”
Patty: “Do you want to get some drive through then?”
Me: “That would be awesome!”
Patty - the light turns green and she proceeds to drive away.
Me - longingly looking at my root beer falling into the distance, “….uh?”
Patty - “Oh, you want to go now?”
Me – “Um…. Yea?”
Patty – “Oh” and she laughed. She kept driving to Costco though.

To her credit, on the way back after buying a couple small packages of Beef Jerky for her boy-man sun tanning on the beaches of Thailand right now, we picked up a combo meal. We made it back to her new condo, which I thought was pretty awesome even if there was a working girl at her front gate that night. Nice place! Insulation, central heating, and other nice Western touches like doors that don’t slide. That night we went to a navy party she helped organize. It was very similar to a Japanese party in a way, in that they gave you some small dishes throughout the night, and there was an order in which they were put out and picked up. It was good though, but the most entertaining part of the night was the “battle of wits.” (Pictured: Patty and I in our Sunday best)

One table was pitted against the other table, with the head table being the moderator and “president” of the cleverly worded zings being tossed around. It was all over the place and I could never do it justice with my descriptions, but an example would be our table harassing the other to tell about traditions, and feigning outrage or catcalls at anything else. I was even asked to speak at one point, even though I was shaking from exhaustion; I made it about 34 hours without sleep. I shared with them “white day”, the Japanese reverse Valentines Day where the men give gifts back to women on March 14.

We went to a bar after and Patty tied quite a bit on, as I found out in the morning when she couldn’t remember some of the heart-to-heart conversations we had. Maybe it was for the better, half the point of them is baring your soul to someone other than yourself I guess. All this Japanese alcohol and their all-you-can drink parties has done surprising things to my tolerance. It was so good having Canadian beer again… everyday…

We slept in late, even though I woke up a couple times during the night. Patty has a fireplace, and it’s been so long since I slept in a room that wasn’t frozen that it was rather uncomfortable. We went shopping during the day and I got a large portion of my new wardrobe. I made Patty nervous by standing behind her on the escalator; Japan style. She was a good teacher though, and caught the brunt of my reverse-culture shock. We found a picture booth and we went inside. I was disappointed it severely lacked millions of features found on Japanese booths but we still had fun, even if we could barely fit both our heads into the shot. (Pictured: Patty's park job)

It is so weird seeing Japanese people use perfect English; it’s hard to describe but it puts me on edge. I guess that’s why foreigners who speak perfect Japanese are looked at strangely too. Maybe I’ve just been in Japan too long and it’s not like there were many perfect-English Asian speakers in Sask. Even among my skilled teachers here there is a hint of accent.

That night after Patty did some parallel parking and made me take a picture of it, we caught up with my friend from Japan, Erica. She left last summer after having been there 2 years already. It was good to catch up, and in the background they had hockey on TV. I never cared for it at all before, but it was nice to have in the background now, and it held my attention more than a couple times; another cultural delight. I ate Shepard’s Pie and was delighted with the whipped potatoes that were on top. Oh small pleasures.

That night was bad for jet lag though. I was awake from 3-5 in the morning, talking with friends and doing whatever, but I did manage to get some sleep later. A panicked sister awakened me, as we had to get up early in the morning to get on the ferry so I could catch my plane to Regina. After much confusion, Patty just drove me to Victoria’s airport, where I flew on a small plane to Vancouver to get my plane. Oh well, it was $160 and I’ve been in much weirder situations. On the way she was like “I’m sorry Tony”. A *brief* pause later she followed up with “This is when you say ‘apology accepted’” or something. Sorry Patty! My head was spinning with fatigue and running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

Flying to Regina was a really, really odd feeling. First you watched from the plane as it went from warm city, to cloudy mountains, to frozen wasteland, where you could make out twisty rivers and large squares carved into the otherwise featureless white landscape below. There was a lot of unexplained anxiety and dread, and thoughts of how I didn’t want to be back. Maybe partly due to the snow on the ground, but either way it was unsetting to have those feelings suddenly. I arrived in Regina and was greeted by my youngest sister, Melissa, and my mom, Susan.

Immediately after getting luggage we checked up on updating my immunizations downtown. While we were there, there were some aunts and uncles nearby to quickly say hello to and give presents. My Uncle Merv was closest, so we stopped in briefly. A quick chat and planned diner date later, we went on to see my Aunt Donna. This lasted a fair amount longer though as there was a fair amount of financial things to sort out after 2 years, like getting my bank card to work and closing an account that only exists to give the bank more service fees. On that note, why are there service fees?? Anyways, I gave a present, there was another dinner date made, and we were on our way. (Pictured: Saskatchewan river?)

I soon realized that 1-week wasn’t going to be enough. I was convinced staying longer than a week at home would leave me bored. I soon remembered that Regina would leave you bored, yes, but friends and family won’t; the reason I was there. Most of my anxiety was gone at that point. I say most because before I knew it, my mom was writing down on paper for me a mini schedule. I never really used it though, as my memory has become a lot better. I’ve heard of someone that knows many languages and they attribute it entirely to having a good memory. I suppose that makes a lot of sense with all the vocabulary I’m constantly reviewing, trying to get it to stick. I only had one double booking the whole trip but more on that later.

Either way, I was getting busier than I realized, so I made sure to call my dad and grandparents so we could meet before I got too busy. It would be good to see them more than just Sunday when the family gets together for brunch. After those errands and a mini tour of the ‘new’ Regina, we headed home. I got back and immediately started cleaning; as I brought lots back and haven’t been in my room in so long.

That was short lived as soon my brother John came over, giggling and screaming louder than any schoolgirl I’ve taught yet. It was good to see he was still in high spirits and that things didn’t change much. Melissa said she hasn’t seen John that happy in a long time, it was fun. My first meal was mom’s roast chicken. Melissa’s boyfriend, Kurt, was there with us too. I ate until I couldn’t move, which was surprisingly little, I guess my stomach must have shrunk to Japanese-portion size.

One thing that surprisingly got to me was the vulgarity of our dinner conversation. For those whom aren’t family reading this, it’s quite common, if not our own household’s culture, to have questionable conversation, especially when John comes over. Examples would be my Nurse mom talking with my soon-to-be Nurse sister about patient disorders, or dreaded bowel movement stories. I won’t talk too much about it, but dinner conversation is never, *never* dull, and incredibly entertaining. Believe me. I missed it so much. Again though, Japan made me surprisingly sensitive again, now I understand why Patty reacts so poorly when she visits from out of town. She acts like a lady, but cusses like the navy sailor she is. ;)

Mom went to work that night, so it was Melissa, John, Kurt and I sitting around. The boys started watching some horrible reality show which reminded me of the TV I despised so much before I left. I wanted to go see a movie but no one was game. I guess there was work the next day for some people, but I knew that would give me opportunities to get things done during the day, or just sleep in from being up all night. This ended up being one of those nights.

I got a hold of my good friend Steve and we agreed to meet up at an old stomping ground of mine, Best Buy. This was where the two of us waited, freezing in line for 17 hours or whatever it was to get our Playstation 3. First impression when I saw Steve, what a monster! I got the same impression when I first saw John, just how much I’m towered over. I’m so used to being a monster to everyone in Japan, I guess I forgot how small I am when in Canada, I mean of the new clothes I bought they were size “medium” and even some smalls! Even the XXL in Japan doesn’t fit me. But I digress.

I came to Canada knowing I would spend a lot of money, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay the price they were asking on things like movies and such. Life has got a lot busier, and owning movies on DVD isn’t nearly as glamorous as it used to be, especially when they were over $30 each. I left the store somewhat disappointed, old nostalgia somewhat tarnished by a dusty reality, but it was still good to go. I can’t remember if I even bought anything. (pictured: me, Melissa, John)

That night I went to Steve’s and met his brother who is also good friend of mine, Matt. We all watched “300” on blu-ray together and it was fantastic. Steve had work the next day, but Matt and I stayed up until 2 or 3 maybe playing video games. Not bad for my first night back in Regina!

“Families are like fudge - mostly sweet with a few nuts.” ~Author Unknown


A bit of a side note, I’m still moving into my new house and don’t have internet there yet. I was fortunate enough to hook up my computer at work to post this. More stories later when I'm able.

1 comment:

Patricia said...

Haha!! This is by far my favorite Post!! lol

That was a damn good parking job.. and thanks for visiting me!! It was alot of fun :)

Miss ya already,