Saturday, September 19, 2009

2 more days of London

Now, I am going to follow on from my previous post chronicling my adventures in London and Paris.

13 July

I got up at about 8:30ish. Took my time getting ready then headed out to the Tube station. First stop was Topshop to get my nails done. Oh my goodness that felt good. Problem was that I am gullible! and I realised after I'd already bought the nail treatment stuff that my nails aren't actually in that bad a condition and that I didn't need to buy it! Argh!!!!

After Topshop I went off to the Tower of London, beautiful nails for a hellish location. I got there around 1230 so I waited for the 1pm Yeoman tour and proceeded to have a grand ofld time learning about the history of the place from someone who lives there. The "Beefeaters" are all ex-military and seem to have quite the sense of humour. Actually, both of the Yeoman warders that I encountered reminded me a lot of my Dad, must be something about the military that brings out the funny side of people, I dunno.
The Yeoman warders and their families live inside the tower and get locked in at 10pm every night after what is known as the Ceremony of the Keys. I couldn't believe it, 10pm curfews for adults, I felt a little sorry for them. The guy leading the tour said it's good for keeping his teenage daughter in line. ;-)
I also saw the crown jewels there. I was pretty cool although the put you on a travelator that doesn't move slow enough to get a good look. I must say though that that is a serious amount of jewels.

After the Tower I took off to St Pauls Cathedral where I was totally over awed. I had every intention of going back but didn't make it. It was a beautiful church and I can imagine it being quite the place to attend services.

I tried to go to The Tower Bridge exhibition but didn't quite make it. So, I sat and read the paper for a while before meeting up with my sister and her boyfriend for dinner at Wagamama's which really did turn out to be 'just another noodle bar' but at least the steak was good. :D

14 July

I cruised out of my sister's place at about 9am and took the Tube to St Pauls. From there I walked across the Millenium Bridge to the Southbank and went to The Globe Theatre where I took the guided tour, looked at the exhibition and bought the book that I wrote my travel diary in.

I walked along the Southbank to St Thomas's Hospital which houses the Florence Nightengale Museum which was almost empty but really good. Not much that I didn't already know though.

Then I braved the crowds down by the London Eye and ended up spending 14 Pounds to go the Dali Exhibition mostly because I wanted to go to the bathroom and find a quite cafe to hide out in for a bit. Not that Dali isn't a genius too though. His work is so outlandish and out there and he tackled everything! I liked most things that I saw in the exhibition. It was actually quite cool but I'm not 100% sure if it was worth the 14 Pounds. It was really empty in there, perhaps if they lowered the price they'd get more people through.

After the Dali exhibition I went in search of the Winston Churchill Museum and The Cabinet War Rooms. It was fantastic. I learned a lot about WW2 and was amazed by a room that had been done up to look like a locked toilet cubicle but had infact housed the InterContinental Phone that Churchill used to communicate with the President of the United States during the war. I thought it was quite inventive. It reinforced for me just how smart a crew he had and how tough things must have been living underground. It was an experience to say the least. Really impressive but I got rather annoyed when I heard a group of younger women complaining that it was boring. I was thinking to myself 'why in God's name would you go to a war museum if you have no interest in the war?!' I got really annoyed then went in search of a post office and then to meet my sister at Foyles Bookshop which was, frankly, a disappointment. There are other much better bookshops.

On the way to dinner with a couch surfing friend of my sister's we walked past a bunch of society people on the way to Camilla's birthday. I was not impressed with the fashion. I think society people need to learn that ruffles went out with the 90s.

Dinner was awesome too. Gotta love that thai fusion food. :D

Beautiful day in Japan today. Am off to a festival in the country side this afternoon and off to see my host family in another prefecture tomorrow for 3 days out of the 5 days that we have off this weekend. :D

Thursday, September 17, 2009

More Death and Dying

This post was going to be more of my travels to London back in July but unfortunately there is another poignant topic that I've been pondering over the last week.

Last Friday morning, I arrived at work and did my usual attempt to listen to the Japanese and try to pick up on important words to figure out what's been happening and will happen at school during morning meeting. Once again I heard the word for passed away a few times and got horribly confused. My supervisor had first period free, not technically free but it was her office time. Anyway, she's sitting there doing whatever it is she does as a home room teacher while I set to work on a worksheet/looking at game ideas online, when all of a sudden she says to me 'so....'. I'm wondering what's going on and she finishes the sentence, 'one of our students' mothers passed away in a fire yesterday and XZY sensei (teacher) lost his father in completely different circumstances'. Umm whoa! My reaction was one of not knowing what to think or where to go from there really. I chatted to her about the circumstances surrounding the death of the mother of one of our students because I had heard that there was a big fire near my house from a friend.

It turns out that she, a woman in her 40s with a family and a good life, got trapped in the house when fire engulfed 6 houses. She was the only person who lost their life. She leaves behind at least a Junior High School aged son.

The other death connected to my school was that of a teacher's parent, I presume he died of old age.

That made 3 deaths connected to my school in 2 weeks-ish which got me thinking a lot. 3 deaths, 3 completely different circumstances. 3 almost entirely unconnected people (from what I gather) aside from my base school as a connection. It made me wonder why death had struck us so hard lately and what lesson I had to learn from all of this madness, because it honestly felt like madness.

I spent the weekend by and large in my apartment watching Sailor Moon, which I have now finished and am not ashamed to say that I love, and thinking about this whole idea of death again.
I sat and looked around my room, at my Toshiba Regza flatscreen TV, at my clothes, at my shoes (Lord help me!), at my crane machine catches, at my books, at my STUFF. I have TOO much STUFF! It is all crap and if I died tomorrow I wouldn't miss it. I mean I like a lot of it, I despise some of it (most of that stuff is slowly getting given away as prizes to my students as of this week) but I don't require it. It is not essential to my existance to have a Hello Kitty handbag or a map of Japan in 2 languages. None of this actually matters. But then I had to ask myself what does matter?

What does matter? Those of you who've known me long enough know that in my 2nd year of university working at a hospice made me ask that question as well. What actually matters? What of all the things on this planet actually matters? That question changed my life before and I think the string of deaths lately has had an impact there again. Even if it is only to remind me of that question and of how materialistic living in a materialistic society is making me, it is having an impact.

The loss of 3 people connected to me through my base school has jogged something in my memory, in my soul even. What matters? What matters to me is the people around me who I care about and who care about me. What matters is the world that I live in, the people and animals in this community that deserve a world where their rights are protected. What matters to me is how I live my life and how I serve others.

I've been so selfish lately. My move to Japan was me me me, all about how I could satisfy myself and my love of Japan, how I could improve my Japanese and get a 'better' job when I go home. It wasn't for entirely selfish reasons that I came here but a large chunk of those reasons were. The recent spell of deaths related to my school reminded me of that.

I've had to think about how I serve my community best. How I support my friends here and back home. How I live my life in a way that would make my family and friends proud of me. How I live my life in a way that will make myself proud.

I spent a lot of time this weekend, in between the start of an annoying cold and Takaoka's 400th Anniversery Celebrations, thinking about this idea of "what if I died tomorrow?". I came up with quite a few blanks actually. The people that I haven't been in touch with in ages. The things I haven't thought about for a while. The things I wish I hadn't said and the things I wish I had said. The things I am yet to do and the places I am yet to go. There's so much to this idea of 'being finished' and stuff that I don't know if I'll ever be ready to die, so it's a darn good thing that I don't have cancer (touch wood!) because I wouldn't know where to start.

So!..... I shall start with this anyway, just in case, because unfortunately, as shown in the past few weeks for me, you just never know when your number or someone else's number is going to be up.

If you're my family reading this, I love you! xxxxxxxxooooooooooxxxxxxxxx

If you're my friend and I haven't told you how much I care about you and love you lately, take it as read that I do care about you and do love you because I just said it! I love you all!

If you are my acquaintance and I haven't told you that I care about you then take it as read that I do.

If I don't know you at all and you are reading my blog, nice to meet you and thanks for reading it, sorry it's a bit boring.

And that's me done for today. Off to see my host family in a different prefecture to tell them that I love them this weekend, because you just never know.

I'm going to borrow something from a dear and trusted friend now (thanks bro).
Rae Recommends: Telling the people around you that you care, because you just never know.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

I'm so behind! London: Days 1-2

Hi all,

So as promised I'm going to blog my travel diary from my trip to London.

But first I must congratulate myself on finishing all 200 episodes of the Japanese version of Sailor Moon. It was a most enjoyable experience and I have now moved onto the English dub of Samurai Pizza Cats which is nothing if not funny. :D I have been influenced by some awesome anime geeks that live in my building. :D

OK back on task. This is copied directly from my travel diary which I kept while in London. It's amazing how much I have forgotten more than a month on, thus the need to copy out of le book.


11 July

I traveled ALL day! It was exhausting but it's all good. Long days happen in life. To get to London, Leytonstone specifically [fyi this is where Alfred Hitchcock was born], I had quite an ordeal.

Osaka to HongKong was no problems mate. Except for the ahving to dispose of my just purchased frappucino at security, argh, how much more annoying can you get. They made me stand there and drink it, bad brain freeze!!

Hong Kong Airport was interesting. Yay for Ben and Jerry's! I'd written a note on a piece of paper and put it somewhere but I don't know where I put it so cannot add it in here. I think it was something about it being so incredibly cosmopolitan and multicultural in comparison to Japan maybe.

Hong Kong to London: LOL!!!! 'Ladies and gentlemen, we're just having a few problems getting engine number 1 started...' it was the bloomin' starter motor. We had to sit in the plane for AGES in the heat and humidity while they changed it because the air conditioning does not come on until the engines do! Meanwhile I'm sitting there swearing left and right that if the group of boys seated near me is like that [aka noisy as heck] for the entire flight shoes might start to gly. They were annoying on and off for most of the flight and I got very little sleep as a result.

Then (!) I arrive in London and jump on the tube to get to my sister's place in Leytonstone. Not gonna happen! Sorry, ah ah, nope. We actually, I thought it might happen but due to 'person under train' I had to get a cab as the line was delayed indefinitely that night. Argh! Bye Bye 50quid. It was in fact only 40 but in my 'I've been traveling for more than a day' state I gave him a 20% tip not thinking, I am a genius! Anyway, finally got 'home' and went straight to (air)bed.


12 July

I woke up about 11am (properly) having been in and out of sleep since about 7am. My sister made waffles with lemon curd for breakfast, YUM! Then we both got ready to go for high tea with her friend from way back.

High Tea was A-mazing! But of course I can't get into that yet...
Dressed in our most fabulous outfits we went to Harrods with our shoes in our bags and flip flops on our feet... haaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahahahahaha, it was funny.
I didn't realy enjoy Harrods, it's just like a place I used to work and didn't really do it for me. But High Tea in the Caramel Room at the Berkley was fabulous.

We looked stylish. The cakes were all based on designer outfits or shoes and when they found out that I'm allergic to yeast and can't eat sandwiches they brought me out an even more fabulous fruit platter (I regretted that later, a year without loads of fruit in Japan, oops). The cakes looked and tasted amazing as did the champagne and the tea. It was all a little rich though so the fruit was a nice refresher. The cakes all looked like the things they were based on and the green mint marzipan and chocolate handbag looked exactly like my big green bag. It was well worth the 43pounds that it cost, that's for sure.
My sister's friend and I made a few mistakes though. We tried to order tea before we'd finished our champagne (oops) and my airplane toothbrush managed to fall out of my handbag onto the floor only to be picked up by the waiter. OMG, how embarrassingly funny. There were so many laughs!

On the way home we walked past the NZ War Memorial, Buckingham Palace, through St James' Park, past Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, along the Northbank and past St Pauls to the Central Line tube station. We even took photos of the oldest monument in London, Cleopatra's needly. It was an awesome walk and an awesome day.

After 2 and a half years of them dating, I finally got to meet my sister's boyfriend too. He's a great guy and probably reads this blog so I am going to cease now before foot goes into mouth through me talking him up too much.


And so ends the first 2 days of my trip. More good times to come.