Monday, April 6, 2009

This Crazy Canuck’s Canadian Conquest, Part 3

Another late night and slept-in morning later, it was Friday. I was supposed to ‘geek out’ all day with Steve, but I had stuff I needed to get done. I forget what it was right now though; I think this was when I went shopping for groceries and not Thursday. I do know that in the afternoon though, I took a step to the drastic, I shaved my head.

I’ve been meaning to do it for a while, but I feared looking like a chemo-patient. Comments like “you’re thinner up top” or seeing photos of me where you see the back of my head bugged me enough to give it a try. Now that there was a tanning booth nearby maybe I wouldn’t be so pasty white after. I’ve never been in a tanning bed before, but it didn’t do a thing, and I smelt like cooked chicken fat when I got out; which concerns me.

Bottom line though, I think it looks good, and I’m (mostly) enjoying the reactions I’m getting. On a side note, other comments I got were usually weight related, as I went from, I think size 40 when I was at my fattest, to size 34 pants. People asked if I’ve been working out in Japan, but not much more than pushing a pencil around making Japanese characters. It’s kind of ridiculous how much time I’ve spent studying now.

I guess when the fat goes away the muscles come out, but on another note I gained 3-5 kilograms in Canada from all the food and beer I was consuming :) and I’d do it all again. Mom made pies and desserts, and I ate what I could. Granted it wasn’t as much as I would have liked to eat, given how I was always stuffing myself on tasty foods and snacks wherever I went, and I was heartbroken when she threw out the leftovers days later; such a waste of scrumptious food. The things we take for granted :( Nothing ever really tastes as good as mom’s cooking.

Speaking of which, that night mom made some fresh tasty buns, and cinnamon buns. We enjoyed that, and more crazy family dinner conversation. My camera was making its rounds, as I wanted pictures of the tasty food with family and my new haircut or lack there of, and it ended up in John’s hands. Melissa took pictures with the milk jug so you knew it was bigger than her head, and John took pictures of things like condiments, hot dogs, sautéed onions, the nutritional information on the side, and other ‘treats’ that they ‘don’t have in Japan’ according to him.

John: “I bet Japanese people don't have Bananas!” *snap snap* with the camera
Tony: “They do John. They call them 'ba-na-na' in Japanese.”
John: “Oh!” Bewilderment in his voice. He kept taking pictures of the bananas, perhaps more curious at these yellow/green fruit in front of him than a small child discovering the world for the first time.

That night mom had to work, but we were going to have a good old-fashioned house party like I used to have practically weekly with friends before I left. The funny thing too, is that apparently there hasn’t been a party since I left. And our neighbor commented to Melissa that morning “you guys sure are quiet now!” to which she replied, “yea, I guess we grew up.” Well that night, we were going to bring the house down. Chris, Steve, Matt, John, Melissa, Kurt and I would have drinks, tasty snacks (like sour cream and bacon chips… mmm…) laughs, and play Rock Band on the PS3 for six hours straight.

It’s a video game using music for those who don’t know. And since it’s a music game with memorable music you sing along with, you play it loud, and sometimes the whole rooms bursts into karaoke together if we’re jamming hard enough. You have plastic guitars, drums and a microphone. 4 people can play at once and there are a lot of songs you can play along to. We jammed through the night, downloaded new songs to play, and had an absolute blast. I would dance along with my guitar and perform rock star poses to try and psyche Chris out on the other guitar. I got him laughing hard enough he screwed up more than a couple times.

I tried singing a song I love, but I kept failing the vocals! It does tone recognition and I know I’m kind of tone deaf. Later since I love the song so much I requested it again but stuck to the guitar this time. Melissa ended up doing the vocals, but she had never heard the song before so she didn’t know the words. At points in the song she couldn’t handle, she kept singing the words “dinosaur dinosaur dinosaur”, and she never failed the song once! I was outraged, but I’ll take solace in getting to jam to an awesome song, and singing along over-top Melissa’s tonally correct, but infuriatingly wrong “dinosaur” rants.

Chris and John made it to about midnight, Kurt to about 2, Steve passed out shortly after, Melissa kept going until 3, then it was just Matt and I again. So we popped in a game we played until 5 in the morning before. I think I made it until 4 in the morning but it was time to pass out.

On a separate note, a different morning when I came home at 5 or 6, Melissa went upstairs right after to tell mom on me. I usually go to the bathroom before I go to bed, and she thought I was puking from drinking too much, when I was really quite sober. For shame Melissa; trying to get me into trouble with mom. I'm 26 now!

Anyways, when we got up in the morning we fired up the game again, and we even got my mom to sing along for a song before I had to take off. I wasn’t around for long, as my friend Steve talked me into building a gaming computer; so we went out to put one together. We picked out the pieces and I have a beastly machine now for my gaming needs, it wasn’t too expensive either! After which we made it to the movie theater to watch “Watchmen” after I gave up on any of the family members coming to see it with me. It was almost 3 hours long, but I thought the movie was pretty incredible; big points for style.

For supper, Chris and his girlfriend Fiona invited me over for a hot-pot supper. Those are always delicious and it was an awesome night talking and hanging out with Chris and his gal. They have quite the impressive place for university students, but it helps to work full time I suspect. That night I could have gone to a “sweat pants” party or even a house party with a live band, but I just chilled out at Chris’ instead and we played video games and chatted until 2 in the morning. Like JD’s with John the night before, where I went and what I did didn’t matter nearly as much as the people I was doing it with.

Sunday was always a brunch day with my dad, and when I showed up I was surprised and delighted to see more family made the trip as well. My Uncle Gordan and Aunt Elaine made the trek from the far Northern reaches of the province, and my Aunt Wendy, Aunt Iida, Uncle Bill and my Grandparents were there too. Since I was late though, my seat was at the far corner, far removed from everyone. It was unfortunate the place was so loud and everyone was so far away from me; it would have been nice to catch up a bit, but regardless it was great seeing them. We had a Hungarian food buffet, where you had cabbage rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy, and other treats to stuff yourself silly with. Surprisingly again, I could only eat one plate and was too full for seconds. I wanted to pack more away, but I guess I gained enough weight on the trip as it was.

After we ate I was better able to talk with the family, however brief it was as you’re putting on coats, and we got pictures together. I was going to assemble my new computer and get it working that afternoon, but dad said we should hang out for a while instead and he was right, I didn’t know when I would see him again. We made our way to John’s where I, unfortunately unsurprisingly, got covered in dog hair again, and John played with his video game character while we talked away. I can’t help but feel I know too little about farming given how many years I lived on one, I guess I should be happy I’m not clueless when terms are thrown around.

Like before with the grandparents, I was happy to be able to ask questions outside of what used to be ‘normal’ conversation. I asked if dad every rode a train before for example, and I heard really interesting stories of how there used to be an express one from Saskatoon to Regina, and tangently, how a certain nearby town in the states used to be huge for parties every weekend because of the cheap American beer.

I wish I knew my family’s backgrounds better, as you know they’ve lived extremely amazing lives. I only know wild short stories like how a tornado ripped through the yard before I was born, or how my parent’s first house burnt down and lost everything; sometime before they came back from their honey moon and Dad’s old bachelor friends left garbage all over the place as something of a bad prank. Times sure were different back then, but I’m glad I can relate a little bit to their stories now, now that I live in a house that’s as cold inside as it is outside, and that I go to classrooms that have a stove in the middle, with frozen children everywhere else.

It’s too bad a life story isn’t something you can just put out of your head like a book with chapters. You need to trigger the memories to get the stories, and what do you use to trigger? I rely a lot on pictures I’ve taken to trigger them, but even then I forget a lot. Regardless, I think we had a good talk, and it’s just good to see my dad in good health and happy. He likes his new job, lost a lot of weight, and goes out and enjoys life now.

He had to leave to go to work eventually so we parted ways. My plane was leaving a bit too early in the morning I think to give a proper send off, it would be tough to make the trip to Regina just for that. I went to John’s basement and talked with Shane for 10 minutes or so, and at John’s request I saw his computer game for a bit, then I went home. I was to build the computer, but other plans were soon creeping up, and I used the rare downtime to start packing for my return.

That night, I unfortunately had to cancel on my Uncle Francis, but in that wake I was able to meet up with my close Engineering buddies. We were there for each other for years, and spent many long hours pulling out our hair trying to figure out how various abstract things worked, including our final project together, the GPS solar powered backpack. This was our first time being together since graduating 3 years prior. It was great swapping stories and catching up on how life is treating everyone.

That night, I started to put together my new computer with Steve and Matt, but it wasn’t going very well and we gave up around 1 in the morning. My last full day in Canada was spent a lot with my mom, as we went shopping for new clothes I could go to work in for the next year or so. We picked up various dress shirts and had a good time. At home, I opened up some Christmas presents that had been accumulating since I left so that was fun too. I gave her a DVD my school made of their music band; mom was so happy she cried. We later watched the family Christmases together that I missed. It was sweet and all, and the ending was unintentionally hilarious:

It started when I found something of a gag gift for John for Christmas. Since the can was for adults, it was sealed and you needed a can opener to open it. I couldn’t make out much on the Japanese can, other than the girl wearing a bikini and her information. It had her 3 measurements (bust, belly, butt), her hobbies and other stuff; her name was “moe-chan”. ‘moe’ is a name for Japanese anime genre, which borderlines Lolita (pedophile).

“This must be a blow up doll” I thought. Neal and Richard with me were in agreement; we didn’t know what it was other than being an adult product. For $10 it wasn’t outrageous to be a gag gift. So there John was on camera, opening the package. Inside was girl underwear with a marker to draw on them, a porn DVD, a box of condoms that John proudly claimed were too small for him “I only buy large”, and a curious pink toy.

John: “What is this…?” Inquisitive look. “A vibrator?”
Patty and Melissa, almost instantly: “ya it’s a vibrator”
John: “Why did Tony give me a vibrator?”

Leave it up to sisters. Later in the tape Melissa is going through some presents all family friendly like, while Kurt beside her is clearly preoccupied with the pink toy. Melissa would say things about her presents she was opening, and Kurt was all like “uh huh” and “yea that’s nice” while studying the pink marvel, clearly not listening to her. The tape cuts to John holding it. He turns it on and there is a large rattle noise of the vibrator rumbling against the controller.

John jumped shock: “Holy Dyna!” A brief pause later, as the vibrator slowly fell between his legs, with a creepy smile and sly voice he looked into the camera and said “Thanks Tony”. Haha. Almost immediately the tape cuts to a different scene. Now John is holding a lot of alcohol in his hands. Perhaps he was warming up for something?

Later when Christmas was over, Kurt turned on the camera and there was John with a big smile on his face and a can of Pringles chips in his hand. Kurt said: “Here I am, watching porn… with the family…” I guess John couldn’t wait until he got home, so you had the ambience of him making creepy laughs in the background while a Japanese girl was doing her thing on the TV. “Is she from your neighborhood Tony?” Kurt asked. My mom came into the room to show off some new clothes and asked if they looked good. The boys didn’t really pay her any attention, so she looked at the TV to see why. She shook her head and blocked the TV by walking in front of the camera. Haha priceless.

That wasn’t to be the end though. Another cut in the tape later, Kurt is laughing and John is screaming bloody murder in the background. “NOOOOO! It’s CENSORED!!!!!” The outrage he expressed in his voice was an ageless classic that will always echo in my head. Rage is his eyes, he then screamed “BOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” as he pointed at the TV, bellowing out a condemnation fierce enough to make adults cry. The tape cut out and that was the timeless end to Christmas 2008.

My last supper was Mom’s potato sauce. I can’t make mine taste as good as hers of course, and I ate until I couldn’t move again. Chris and Fiona went out of their way to come over and wish me well, seeing how I was leaving in the morning and who knows when we’ll meet again. We all watched the ‘good parts’ of the Christmas tape together and laughed so hard we were in tears. Steve was there too, as we resumed building the new computer.

I said my “see you later” as I don’t believe in “goodbye”, got pictures with them and they were gone. John followed suit shortly after. Steve and I worked until 2 or 3 in the morning building the computer, with a movie and then cartoons in the background to keep us company. Finally it was all said and done and I needed to wake up in 4 hours to catch my plane. I said nuts to that, who knows when I’ll see my good friends again? So I went to Steve’s, where I was able to see his puppy and see Matt again before I headed out. Together we watched another movie, and later parted ways.

I got about an hour of sleep, and I was awake. Melissa and Kurt bid me farewell and mom took me to the airport. She was strong this time and I was proud of her. I think we both held our tears back and there was no sobbing, “There goes my son!” following me this time; a testament that still haunts me. I of course was tired, so there was little conversation, but we enjoyed each other’s presence up until the end.

The flight was long and getting home was so-so, even if I was lugging around 75 kilograms of luggage on my back. I did manage to drink Canadian beer everyday I was in Canada. On the plane there was a mom of 3 kids that had a Molson Canadian before lunch, so I ended up doing the same, on an empty stomach haha. We flew over some ice caps and it was breathtaking seeing them breaking up and splitting apart. I got some cool pictures of that.

Now for the impossible task of summing everything up, and giving last thoughts. It was hard to imagine me being a tiny person after being in Japan so long, but it was humbling being around Friendly Giants like my dad; whose forearms are bigger than my head and they’re all muscle. I was gone long enough and been to enough places to get a better idea of Canadian people and their culture in general. Canadians are a very polite, very friendly, shy and happy people. They act out of consideration of people around them as they realize they aren’t kings; perhaps they have good karma that way as well. No wonder the world looks to Canada in high regard.

But more importantly I hope I somewhat captured the crazy fun that is my family and friends. I definitely can’t capture just how much I enjoyed being home, and how unimaginably short my time there ended up being. I think I did well though considering how little time I had. I made sure to visit before 2 years had passed. I always knew in the back of my mind as soon as I’d visit home again I’d want to stay, that the honeymoon would be over.

Am I regretting going to Japan now? I felt that way for the first couple days, how criminally short it all felt, but honestly how could I say no to everything I’ve been fortunate to be apart of here? I don’t want to make it sound like I’m trying to justify my actions, but Japan has been absolutely incredible. It’s just a different lifestyle where the family is far away, familiar foods are harder to come by, and my friends are more plentiful at the sacrifice of not being as close. You can always have something that is new, but you can never replace that which is old.

Like the mighty ice formations I flew over, in time we may break up, drift apart, and go our own ways, but you know that soon enough the season will come and we will get back together and be stronger than ever.

Haha that was so cheesy. I love you all. Thank you for the trip of a lifetime.


P.S. This is my 100th post. Weird the numbers worked out that way, I think it's very fitting.

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