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Well, work and its myriad of duties continues to trundle by me at alarming speed. I recently felt particularly vindicated when I was asked to record a bunch of dialogue readings at headquarters for various classes. It took my mother till nearly the end of high school to stop moaning about me taking drama...she didn`t foresee me as the voice of Lia in the latest ECC batch of textbooks. Anyway, I expected to be smuggled into some dank basement that smelt like gym lockers and unwashed fat on a 3 day old frying pan, but was pleasantly surprised to find a very professional sound studio with padded walls and on hand sound mixer. Anyways, I basically got paid to be in grade 12 drama class, drink coffee and pour over a script, without having to endure Van Allen and his various neuroses. Hooray!

I also found a gaming bar downtown, so now I go play Super Nintendo and drink Bloody Marys on Saturdays, which is a wonderful way of deluding myself that gaming is a social activity. I even managed to drag myself out to a baseball game yesterday. It was, as all baseball games are, boring as all hell, but I sat in my pretty dress and drank cherry flavoured alcohol, discussed traditional Japanese suicide, and blew up balloons and let them fart away into the atmosphere during the 7th inning and at the end of the game (a Japanese tradition).

Jason and I are trying to organize a trip to Scotland in August, and since Edinburgh is a little dream of mine that was dashed nearly 10 years ago, I`ll be ecstatic if it all works out. I don`t have much romanticism in me but `Scotland` makes me feel all dreamy. Then again, so do the words *time machine*, *accent*, and *underwater world*.

I feel a little dismayed by this entry. I usually try to reserve most entries for things I find very amusing. I don`t know if general age is affecting my ability to find things funny or if my life is just very drab. But I haven`t updated in a while.

Can`t wait to see you all, can`t wait to hear English, can`t wait to go to school and become an outwards focused person.

Feb. 27th, 2011

I know it's not worth posting over, but I get really, really peeved when people I've known for 2 years come over and call other friends saying "We're at JAY's. HE's in apartment 505. HE's coming out with us. JAY's place."

Um, I'm standing next to you. I've just spent 20 minutes talking to you. I'm coming out too. I pay rent as well here. I noticed this in October, and I've yet to hear one of the 5 or so people refer to this as my apartment as well.

I've see these people a few times a month for two years. Why?

Dec. 16th, 2010

My Umeda class threw me and another teacher and student an early surprise birthday party after today's lesson. There was tea, a cake with my name on it, and presents with the sweetest note ever.

In fact, it's so flattering and cute I'm going to quote huge chunks of it.

"I love you. Let's go to dinner with us."

"I'm happy to be taught by Diana. I want to talk with you more."

"Today is happpy day. Your birthday is next year. I love you. Diana. Let's talk with us next year, too."

"I like your class. I'm glad to see you."

As you can see, I still have some work to do. But they spoke virtually zero English 9 months ago - just days, numbers, months and How are you? They even won "best idea" in the presentation contest (their presentation was about a time travelling Doctor by the way - I swear I've never mentioned Doctor Who in class) despite being the lowest level class. :D I was having a really crappy week and this cheered me up so much. I seriously have to work harder next year to be worthy of this praise.

Oh, and I taught them the phrase "bright eyed and bushy tailed" a little while ago and there's a hilarious picture of a demon possessed looking squirrel carrying a present on the card. Awesome!!!

Bite Me

There is something inherently amazing about a vampire that owns a bar called Fangtasia serving synthetic blood in bottle form. I mean, I would go, wouldn't you?

True Blood is like the Jesus of the vampire genre, come to wipe away the sin of Twilight and cast her into the void from whence she came - that would be Stephenie Meyer's mind, by the way. True, at the core of the story there's the "trying to be moral" vampire Bill Compton falling in love with twenty-something waitress Sookie Stackhouse. Luckily there's an actual reason why he finds her interesting, and even a sensible explanation as to why Bill's so god damn honourable. When I found out in season 3 I let out a big "Oooooooooooooooo. Why has no one ever done this with vampires before? This is SO smart! I love you, you beautiful planned out story you!"

The supporting characters are plentiful and interesting, especially Sookie's oversexed moron of a brother, but my favourite by far is Eric Northman, vampire bar owner and former Viking. Did you ever play Baldur's gate? In that game you had the choice of making your character good good, good neutral, good chaotic, neutral good, neutral neutral...and down the line to evil chaotic. Eric Northman is the ultimate neutral neutral. After three seasons I still don't really understands how he works. I know Bill will be righteous, I know Tara will almost have a mental breakdown, and I know Sam won't express his feelings and end up fucked for it somehow. But Eric, I don't know how he works. He'll save Sookie from werewolves then offer her up for dinner to fellow vampires in the same episode. He locked a character up in his dungeon and then gave him a Ferrari after he escaped. What??????? He's amazing.

It also helps that the actor is incredibly good looking. Upon reveal of abdominal muscles, I had to be very careful to suppress multiple squees from a nearby boyfriend.

The writing and the acting are top notch, and I was really impressed by how the series weaved in the history and rules for this particular brand of vampires over the first couple of episodes. Vampires "came out of the coffin" to the public two years ago, after the Japanese invented synthesized blood. Stakings, silver and sunlight are all no-noes, garlic and holy water seem to be irrelevant.

My favourite rule though is that vampires must be invited into a home before they can enter. Which makes for great entertainment when Sookie gets pissed off at Bill and screams "I rescind my invitation!!!!" and Bill is sucked back into the doorway, before having the door slammed in his face.

In conclusion, I seriously recommend this show. It's HBO. They do good stuff - Sex in City. Dexter. Watch it. Especially if Twilight makes you want to cry.

Nov. 18th, 2010

Well, we finally got out of the eyesore that is Beijing and made our way to Shanghai. If you want to imagine Shanghai, just picture the city from Futurama and then deduct the flying cars. Every building is a skyscraper and every surface is reflective. It's the sort of drawing that people made in the 1950s showing what they thought the world would look like in 100 years.

Shanghai was knee deep in the World Expo at the time, and our hotel price reflected that. When I flung open the door to our new room I was happy as a clam - it was very clean and looked nice and had lots of non-IKEA type wood. I joyfully flung myself onto the bed, only to land on a slab of concrete in the cunning disguise of a bed. Minutes later I discovered that the bathroom was so small I couldn't actually sit on the toilet AND close the door at the same time. Which maybe wouldn't have been such a big deal if the bathroom was round a corner, but if directly faced the bed, so Jason and I spent the next two days politely asking each other to step into the hallway whenever nature called.

But yes, the World Expo. The Expo straddled both sides of a river, and we spent the morning poking around the side closest to our hotel. My favourite exhibit was actually the first one we saw - the Pavilion of the Future. Looking back, I think I liked it because it seemed to treat real world technology and outlandish imagination as one and the same, giving each equal reverence. One room was computer technology I won't see for another 10 years, the next room was quotes from 6 year olds about what they think the world will be like 50 years from now.

Next we puttered over to the French Pavilion which wasn't all that interesting to be honest. I noticed a "wine tasting" sign that mentioned the third floor, so I obviously went there. A French sounding security guard was turning away a constant stream of Chinese people who were repeating "drink wine". Well, English clearly meant failure, so (and this is the only time that my French certificate has been in any way useful) I asked "Ou est-ce qu'on peut gouter de vin?". The guard smiled brightly at me and ushered Jason and I into an all French wine tasting party, where we got a little drunk and ate copiously from the many cheese platters.

Next we got in the line for the ferry, which was carting people to the other side of the river. I say there was a line, but it meant absolutely nothing as people would just casually walk in front of anybody they pleased. When a boat came, everyone in the line actually ran wildly towards the gangplank, towing slow children and doing pretty much everything except directly shove other people out of the way. "These people are like animals," I thought, not for the first time.

Anyhow, off to the Canadian Pavilion where more people butted in front of us, which especially ticked me off because "Hey, we wait politely wait in Canada, ya stupid hosers." A quick tour of Lithuania, the Ukraine, Belgium and Italy, which, with the exception of Italy, were just giant tourist advertisements. Anyways, it just felt rather souless after the serendipidous happenings of the morning.

The next day we looked at some buildings. They were buildingish.

Well, that's China in a nutshell. You've probably gathered I don't have much affection for the place, which is completely true. I actually left a bit racist, and in utter sympathy with Taiwan. Out of the 11 countries I've visited, it's in a firmly distant last place. When I went into my Doctor Who daydream later on the plane, I walked into the TARDIS control room, took out the giant map of time and space the Doctor keeps, and crossed off every depiction of China I could find. Any imaginary friend worth their salt would never let another imaginary friend go there.

Nov. 12th, 2010

The Forbidden City is rather impressive, mostly in the "who on earth decided that the colour of 1970s shag carpeting should be used to paint an entire city" sort of way. Upon entering you're thrust into a giant square. It's huge and big and there's a billion people, all who are ambling over to a building at the far end, maybe 500 meters away. When you finally get there, you read a little note about about how the emperor met some people here when he felt inclined. Everyone funnels off into the two entrances round the sides, only to end up back where they were 10 minutes ago - in another identical looking square, with a building 500 meters away. Again, Jason and I reached the building, read another note about how the emperor met dignataries here when he hit the snooze alarm one too many times and couldn't reach the first building. Funnel off the the side and christ here we are again, back at the beginning. We hike to the next building and read another note that the emperor came here when he had a particularly buxom concubine the night before so he was tired on top of hitting the snooze alarm too many times. We funnel off to the side and....back at the beginning again. I was stuck in the Forbidden's City's Moebius loop, which went on three or so more times until I pulled Jason down a side path into the concubine area.

I liked this part much better - someone had had the sense to plant some trees and put up some art benches and what must have been fountains at some point, and there was less people milling around. A few of the homes had been opened as small museums, showcasing the wonders of the Forbidden City. And I suppose they would have been wondrous, if I hadn't been to the National Palace Museum in Taiwan the month before. See, when everyone heading to Taiwan left China, they grabbed all the treasures they could, and it's all sitting in a truly spectacular museum in Taipei now. These were leftovers - things that were either too huge or heavy to move. Most stuff wasn't that nice, but there was one jade rock, maybe a metre high, that had been carved beautifully. Overhanging tree and people cut right into the face. But overall, it wasn't that exciting. But it was a nice thought that somebody out there had screwed over the Chinese government, so that made me feel a little better.

Funnily enough, my favourite part of Beijing was a bell tower that overlooked the Forbidden City. It was mostly deserted, so that was nice, and you could see the whole city. It used to be a clock tower ages ago, and had interesting machines that used water to measure time. I stood there, watching the throngs of tourists in the Forbidden City and fancied myself a professional bell ringer from two milleniums ago. That would be nice. I could watch the sunrise, hit a giant bell, and watch the Emperor scurry through the Moebius loops, wondering how far he would get today.
China is a terrible place filled with mostly terrible people. I couldn't have been happier when my trip ended and the plane spit me back out into the well oiled machine that is Kansai International Airport. I'm sure someone with a mind with the politically correct switches flipped on is thinking that it's terribly mean of me to make sweeping judgment of a nation that I experienced for a mere 5 days. And to those people I say, China started it.

It started with a tour we'd booked through our hotel. Generally Jason and I wander around by ourselves when we travel, but the Great Wall wasn't accessible by the mass transit system. The tour company had told us to be ready to leave at 6:30 a.m., so we woke up at 5:30 , showered and dressed, then hit up the nearest convenience store for a little breakfast, since the hotel restaurant didn't open till 7:00. 6:30 arrived and the tour bus was nowhere to be seen, so I flipped on the TV.

The first channel seemed to be footage from the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. I watched for a bit, then flipped over to another channel that was showing some sports footage. Also Olympics. Maybe you can see where this is going. Flip. Chinese athlete winning gold. Flip. Chinese athlete having gold medal hung around her neck. Flip. Chinese anthem playing. Flip. Jackie Chan movie. Flip. Newsreader standing on the outskirts of some modern Olympic facility.

It was all rather eerie, and I briefly wondered if I'd slept through an electrical storm on the plane ride over and traveled to 2008. A glance at Jason's bulging stomach confirmed I had not.

Anyways, our tour van trundled up at around 8:00, and Jason and I set off with our fellow passenger, an older German lady who couldn't speak any English. That left the tour guide to concentrate on us. I forget her name so we'll call her Boots. Boots immediately launched into a speech peppered with rather impressive words like "auspicious" and "acrimonious", and I was thinking that we had lucked out in finding such a fluent tour guide. She yakked on and on about the Wall for near half an hour. When she finished speaking Jason asked some simple question, probably "Where can I buy some more hair gel?". Boots stared at us momentarily, then announced there were plenty of government quality shops we could visit on later in the day. I didn't think much of it, until Jason began asking some touristy questions, which the tour guide frowned at. If she did say anything, it was at complete odds at the question. Consider the following exchange.

"When did they begin building the Great Wall?"
"We will start the climb soon."

A few more standard questions and I realized that the woman couldn't understand English at all. It was as though she had learned to speak phonetically. If we asked a question she seemed to scan our sentence for a word she knew, match it up with a word in a speech she had memorized, then go off bleating on an unrelated topic for 10 minutes. Which is how an innocent question about where we could eat Peking Duck led into a 15 minute speech on famous lakes in china. I gave up asking anything at all after the first 20 minutes, but Jason was rather more persistent and continued trying all day.

We arrived at the Great Wall. Our tour guide waved us over to her, told us to stand for a photo, then stood back as some lady hurriedly took our photo and then barked "100" at us with hand oustretched, about 15 Canadian dollars. I was rather annoyed to have been set up by our tour guide, a person who we were presumably paying to help us avoid these type of scams. It was a theme that continued throughout the day.

She later brought us to a "high quality government jade factory", the factory being one man carving jade and 20 rooms of overpriced jewellry. I'm not the biggest shopper and was a bit gobsmacked when she told us we had 45 minutes to look around. I'm not a complete moron either, and happen to know the relative price of jade, as it's a pretty big staple of lots of places in Japan and Taiwan. This place was comitting highway robbery, and that's an understatement.

I glided around the store, as our tour guide desperately tried to direct us to display tables and told Jason he should buy me a nice necklace and commented that I'd be so beautiful if I bought this 500 Canadian dollar statue. She was clearly in league with the store, and looked completely crestfallen as we left.

It was noon by the time we finished at the jade factory. Jason and I were starved, having eaten at 6:00 and spent an hour climbing up the Great Wall. Jason asked if we could stop for lunch. We figured there would be no problem with this as our tour group was only us and the German lady, who clearly had no idea what was going on. "No, later, Ming Tombs now."

It was close to 1:30 when we finally arrived at our restaurant, which was "a quality government food restaurant". Jason was too starved to wait for food, so he puttered around at some fruit stands before our tour guide angrily found him and insisted we wait for the "quality food".

Next we went to a "quality government health clinic" where we were supposed to receive foot massages. As we sat on overstuffed chairs, a rather miserable looking women came in, and pointed dramatically at the picture of a foot behind her. She began to rattle off a series of astounding facts, like the heel controlled your heart and your big toe was connected to your brain and needed to be massaged in order to present headaches. I probably should have guessed something like this was bound to happen and I saw all the pictures of 4000 year old Chinese witch doctors scattered over the walls, all with little placques praising them to the ends of the Earth.

Then health lady told us, in what seemed to genuine awe, that Chinese Doctors could tell you what was wrong with you simply by checking your pulse. And on that note, a whale of a man shuffled in, stinking of the cigar I'd seen him smoking earlier in the hallway. He didn't seem to notice Jason and I and made a beeline for our German friend. He gripped her hand, told her she had intestine problems, then motioned for our lecturer to bring over a pack of pills, insisting that she buy them. Our companion shook her head in confuzzlement, while the "doctor" kept insisting, before getting red in the face from annoyance and stomping out. Our foot massagers stood up to leave, but the health lecturer looked at Jason and me and ushered the Doctor back in. He sat next to Jason, took Jason's pulse (which is actually in one of your wrist bones, who knew), then told him he had stomach problems. Jason made it clear he did not want to buy random Chinese pills, and the doctor stormed out for good.

"The foot massage is over", the lecturer announced. The masseurs stood up mid rub and left without a word.

The rest of the day followed similarly. More scams at a "quality government" tea shop and a "quality government" jade shop. Thinking back on it now, it seems ridiculous. Not only the tour, but the fact that the Chinese government though that this approach to tourism would endear themselves to foreigners and entice them to spend money.

This was day 1 of 5. I'll write about the Forbidden City and Shanghai later. But it doesn't get better.

Oct. 14th, 2010

I will post about China at some point but I've been too distracted by this breaking news:

The Doctor will be the Ghost of Christmas Past in the Christmas special!!!! Or at least, that's what the trailer tells me. And we all know that trailers never lie or mislead. :D

In further Doctor Who news, whenever I feel sad I watch this clip. I want to go back in time, find Patrick Troughton (actor) and tell him how stupendously wonderful he is while hugging him. By the way, you are not my friend if you don't watch my obsessions.


The exciting thing, Doctor, is that I have the coolest imaginary friend in the world.

From Beijing, China

I'd post this on facebook since I only have a minute, but the Chinese government has uh, decided that website doesn't exist. Neither does Postsecret (NOOOO!!!!).

For the record Sarah, your website is viewable from inside China!

This place is interesting. VERY interesting. More to follow when I return to Japan.

The Magical World of Scuba Diving

I have found a new love, even though it gave me an ear infection.

In my ever growing maturity and wiseness, I spent all the money I'd saved for school in Canada on a tour of Taiwan and Indonesia. Very clever of you Diana. Anyhow, there was a plane flight, then another plane flight, then a car ride, then a boat ride and then the wonderful, unparalleled Gili Trawanagan Island.

I like water. I distinctly remember one of my first swimming lessons, dunking my head under, and realizing I couldn't hear my mother blathering on about something. Go under, grab the 30 seconds of peace, lather, rinse, repeat. I made Jason aware that our next vacation would involve MY idea of sport, none of this rocketing down a mountain stuff. I also wanted to be productive on my vacation so I decided I would obtain my scuba diving license by taking a 3 day course. Yes, I spent my vacation studying scuba theory and writing exams. But...

I lugged the airtank onto my back, suited up and attached everything together. I sat in the pool, deflated the vest, sank under, then....breathed. I COULD STAY. I wish I could explain how stupendously wonderful this was..

Later on I rolled backwards off a boat, and went down, down, down. Twelve meters down, the surface ages away, coral stretching out as far as I can see. YOU ARE MINE, underwater world. I saw four turtles, attacking the coral for food. Trigger fish, cuttlefish, pufferfish, trumpet fish, angel fish, clams and one fish the size of my big toe who made it its mission to attack Jason's face.

I breathed in slowly, let the current take me, and drifted along the sea bed. Seems I'm either calmer or have freakishly small lungs, because I always ended up with more air than everybody else by the end. As in you have to go up when the first person reaches 50 bars, and I still had 120. Starting from 200.

On the second day our instructor pointed off down the seabed, which rolled away to maybe 50 meters deep, where I saw 3 giant, 2 metre long eagle rays, raising their giant wings in slow motion, the shadow disappearing to be replaced by white underbelly, then shadow again. It may be the most amazing thing I've seen with my own two eyes.

After each dive I came to the surface like I was a Tibetan monk, placid and calm. Around the third dive I realized I am unable to think in words underwater. I couldn't form sentences in my head. Odd.

Burst back onto the reality of Japan. I am now the proud owner of a worldwide scuba diving license, which is a pretty way of saying that insurance companies will cover me to 18 metres deep. And my God, it's expensive as hell. Figures. But regular swimming is going to be so lame after this. I have to come up for air? What is this shit?

Yeah, Taiwan was nice. It's almost like a forgery of Japan, but with people who smile. Bali was a total rip off, a giant tourist trap with 20 somethings drinking themselves to oblivion at wild parties with insane prices everywhere. I'm not sure why all my co-workers here love it. I spent the same amount in 5 days in Gili as 1 day in Bali, AND got to eat breakfast/watch movies on the beach AND wasn't harrassed incessantly by people trying to sell me overpriced sunglasses.

Time to build up my bank account again. Sigh.


Diana Racecar

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