Saturday, October 31, 2009

Au revoir, Montréal

The past few days have been a whirlwind... a whirlwind of goodbyes, of things to take care of, of things to put in my suitcases. I have a new, long awaited hair cut (probably the last one in a long time, considering my fear of stylists abroad), a suitcase full of shoes (only shoes), a pocket full of yen, a one way ticket to Tokyo, and some new clothes and (more) shoes thanks to my mom, who spoiled me like a princess since I won't be home for Christmas... or my birthday.

Saying goodbye to the television world was sad. My lovely coworkers all wrote me sweet messages in a card, and both actors and the crew made a special goodbye for me right on the set... cameras, microphones, and all. Kind of embarrassing, but so nice. I realized the crew is like a big family for me, and the temptation is strong to dip my toes into the television world again, maybe after Japan. But we'll see. One thing at a time.

More packing to do, more friends to see, more decisions to make (which shoes to bring). I'm so incredibly excited for this next step, even though departures are always bittersweet. I will miss Montreal, even though my short in-between stint left me with a bit of a sour taste. But, I'm leaving Montreal with a happy heart, lovely friends, and a stomach full of delicious farewell brunches and champagne.

{Haircut. Zara wool jacket}

{Party ensemble. Sky high heels, and little black dress. Thanks mom for the shoes! She was worried about my walk.}

{My farewell card from work}

Monday, October 26, 2009

Before I go...

Many readers (okay, okay, a few) have been inquiring about the whole finding a job abroad process, as well as living in Asia. I'm not sure I ever gave clear answers, but I'd like to make a post with information about it all: teaching abroad, the ESL world, being a foreigner, culture shock, what to do with your apartment or boyfriend... anything you want! Ask away!! Email me or post in the comment section.

Right now, I'm avoiding packing at all costs...

Hello Kitty Hell

I think the cat is cute, but this is pure overload. This one goes out to my friend Annie, she hates the cat with a passion. Welcome home!

Hello Kitty sushi

Hello Kitty wedding dress. Fluffy. Not my dream dress.

Hello Kitty house.

Hello Kitty hair salon. What kind of haircut do they give you?

Hello Kitty bar.

Hello Kitty cat costume. I'm sure the cat loves it.

Hello Kitty airplane. Whaat? Oh, and the food they serve you.

My future boyfriend. Um, no.

Image 1/Image 2/ Images 3-4-5-6-10/Image 7/Images 8-9

Hope living in Japan does not turn me into some kind of Hello Kitty freak. But I have a new favourite website to kill time, and to avoid doing anything productive or related to my departure.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thirteen days to go

Thirteen days to go.

Thirteen days until Japan. Until a month-long stay in Nagoya, where I'll get a two-week training, and some vacation time before starting my position in December. Some fellow teachers posted pictures of the Nagoya training accomodations, and it looks nice. My possible city is also a ferry ride away from the beautiful Kobe, so I'm dreaming about fun weekend trips. Not really prepared about what's awaiting me, but excited nonetheless.

Thirteen more days in Montreal. Trying to see all my friends, go to my favourite cafés, and eat my favourite foods. Living my regular life, pretending I'm not going anywhere. Going to the gym, taking the bus to work, going for long walks at the mountain, cooking meals and watching movies in my little white apartment. Saying goodbye to the city I loved and loathed in the past few months. Not sure if I feel sad, or relieved to escape Montreal. And ecstatic about living my dream. A bit of everything, I guess.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Confession time

* Shikoku is the light purple island in the South.

This all happened today. Sleep deprivation makes me act a little bit crazy.

It all started as a regular work morning, my soy latte in hand (I reward myself to Starbucks when I sleep less than 4 hours), just checking my email. I was thrilled to find a message from my Japan company, saying they finally have an idea of my placement. It's still subject to change, but they gave me the name of my city, located on Shikoku Island, at the very south of the country. Puzzled, I quickly googled it and found a bit of information, but nothing too specific. I decided to google pictures, and all I saw were mountains and huge fields of... rice. And water. My heart started beating faster and faster, as I nervously realized I'd be living in the sticks. Yup. Me, Vivian, in the countryside. After I specifically insisted on "NON RURAL" on my application. I almost started crying. Imagining I'd be the only foreigner on that island.

So I wrote an upset email to my recruiter, telling them how disappointed I was they ignored my only request, and wondering why they would put me in the least populated place in Japan. Or so I thought. Turns out I was mistaken. In my panic, I had read everything wrong. It's not the least populated place in Japan. My city is pretty big. A Starbucks locator told me there are nine shops in my city. And a Zara. Not bad. Can't be in the sticks, right? Some fellow expats told me it was a beautiful location in Japan, full of mountains, beaches, castles, and hot springs. And full of foreigners, too. And, across the river from Osaka and Kobe. And near the lovely Hiroshima. With direct flights to Seoul. Can't complain.

So I wrote another email to my recruiter, telling her to disregard my first one. That I had been under a lot of stress with the preparation and that any location would be fine. She was kind about it, again reminding me that it could still change.

I went home. Made some tea with honey. Watched some Friends, took a nap, and had a workout. I'm driving myself crazy. Any tips on how to relax?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Packing for Asia

I learned a few valuable lessons the first time around, and I'll be more sensible while packing for Japan. I have to put my whole life in two suitcases, which is a scary thought to most people, but I can pack really light. Do I need ten pairs of boots? No. And since I'll be living in Japan, I can buy things there over the course of my stay. Here's a list (again) of things I won't forget to bring:

Not the real kind, but the television kind. Friends have always been there for me, Friends never change, and Friends always cheer me up and are just so comforting. I won't leave without packing a few DVDs.

Maple syrup
If I have a little bit of room left for a can, it's coming with me.

Pillow and small blanket
I never travel without my own pillow (it's tiger shaped), and a small blanket will make me feel cozy.

Spices and vitamins
Some spices we use regularly are impossible to find in Asia, and vitamins are so overpriced there.

Although it's not commonly used in Asia, I've seen it in Seoul, but it was expensive. I'll stock up before, just in case.

Mini French coffee press
Coffee is so expensive over there, I'll stick to making my own.

My music
Fortunately the era of CDs is over, and everything fits quite nicely on my iPod. I actually am building a Japan playlist, I'm just dorky like that.

A few of my favourite movies
Lost in Translation, of course. And some comedies to cheer myself up on bad days. And some SATC.

Luckily I fit into Japan sizes for clothes and shoes (thank goodness), so that's not a big worry.

It's kind of hard to pick two suitcases worth of my possessions, but having it done a few times before really puts things in perspective. Moving overseas made me a bit less materialistic, as I learned to live with less, and to appreciate small treats. As I'm typing this, I'm looking around my living room, at my extensive movie and book collection, and it makes me a bit sad to part with it, but I know it's totally worth it.

Anything else you can think of?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Japan: things to get excited about

Okay, so no baking and Mac 'n Cheese for the next year. Sad, sad. To cheer myself up, I made a list, in true Vivian fashion, of things to look forward to in Japan... the list is long, and I'm seriously excited (despite being seriously sleep-deprived).

*Uniqlo (oh I've missed you, lovely, cheap clothes)
*Weekends in Tokyo (although I won't be living in Tokyo, some of my friends do, and I'll definitely have some fun weekends there)
*Shinkansen (also known as, the fastest train in the world. And it's always on time.)
*Japanese food (fresh sushi, soba, ramen, and a plenty of new discoveries are awaiting me)
*Hello Kitty everywhere. Being cute is okay.
*The wicked, wicked music scene... concerts.... festivals. Hello, Summer Sonic.
*Muji (Ikea's Japanese counterpart)
*Higher technology (let's be honest here, North America is quite obsolete)
*Efficient public transporation
*Japanese fashion magazines (JJ, Vivi... even if I can't read, the pictures are startling)
*Japanese fashion and style (need I say more?)
*Onsens (hot spring spas) and public bath houses (I finally got over my fear in Korea)
*Having my own Japanese bathtub in my apartment (bathing in Japan is an art)
*Taking Japanese classes
*Cherry blossom season
*Mini trips around the beautiful country
*Seeing and petting deer in Nara
*Making friends with fellow expats, and locals
*Teaching kids (yes, I love teaching, and can't wait to get creative again)
*Writing, writing, writing
*Having more time to read books, relax, and run
*Taking pictures
*The beautiful Japanese countryside
*Going back to Kyoto, one of the most fascinating places in the world
*Being a foreigner (can be fun. a lot of fun.)
*Convenience stores everywhere (you can find so much, and they have fun, cheap drinks and weird candy)
*Suntory lemon Vitamin water
*Green tea
*Healthier lifestyle
*Trips to Seoul to visit friends and re-live memories
*Family and friends from home visiting (you better come see me)
*Beach vacations in SE Asia
*Incredible customer service (Asia has the best in the world)
*Weird Japanese things (I don't know exactly what, yet, but I know there will be plenty of weirdness... at first)
*Living abroad. 

Just another summer day in Tokyo

I am aware the whole year won't be all fun and games, but that's life. Whenever I feel sad I'll re-read the list. Adjusting to a different culture and leaving everything behind is terrifying, but I remind myself that staying here and missing out would perhaps be even more terrifying.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A few notes

"For relaxing times, make it Suntory time" Could use that now.

Huh? In one year, I'll be able to decipher this menu.

#1 Note to self: When having a passport or visa picture taken, do not pull your hair back in a ponytail. The idea seemed great, and even looked good in the mirror. You know, just following Tyra's tips on ANTM, on how models should look. Unfortunately, for regular folks under neon lighting, it makes us look like serial killers. Now I have to live with that horrible picture for the next four years. But, I did obtain a Japanese work visa, so it's all good.

#2 Montreal has been cold, grey, and rainy. Many harsh reality checks happening lately made me realize that I'm doing the right thing. I've spent the last few months feeling restless and anxious about my decision to go to Japan, thinking it might be wrong, thinking I'm doing something a little crazy. But you know, life is too short to live with regrets, and I need to see more of the world. And yes, maybe I'm a little crazy, but the good kind. I feel completely at ease and happy with my decision now, ready to face all the upcoming challenges, ready to embrace change, and ready to start my love affair with a country I've been dreaming about forever.

#3 About those passport pictures, is it just me?

#4 Pssst: After being a closeted reader of my blog (gotcha!), my good friend L. finally decided to start her own, so check it out... for all things Montreal. I'm loving it, and I'll miss my Sunday brunch partner.

Four more weeks. A bit overwhelmed. I think I'll have to learn Japanese on the flight over there.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cupcakes, and yet another list.

Last weekend, I stopped by my local cupcake shop, and told the charming girl who works there that she'd see me at least once a week for the next month, because I was moving abroad, in a (most-likely) cupcake-less land. She was excited when I told her about Japan, and she said not to be so sad, because the clothes and fashion would be amazing there. That is, if I can fit into it after binging on baked goods like I intend to for my last month in Montreal.

Most Asian apartments are not equipped with an oven, so no more baking for me, unless I get creative and use the toaster oven. It makes me sad, and here are some things I'll indulge in for the next month:

*Baking as many cupcakes, cakes, cookies, and pies as I can.
*Hopefully sharing them with friends (no need to fatten up, my current size is probably considered overweight for Japan...sigh)
*Eat and cook Mexican food (so difficult/expensive to find in the East)
*Run and enjoy the sights at the mountain
*Entertain my friends at home, with dinner parties
*Go to many concerts (although Japan has a wicked music scene)
*Just enjoy my apartment, my lovely white bed and comforter
*Eat Mac 'n Cheese once a week
*Take in the sights of Montreal, and soak in the culture and French language I won't hear/speak anymore

Sigh. That list makes me sad. But I'll come up with a list of exciting things to look forward to in Japan, and I promise it will be even longer.

Note: After reading my cupcakes whining, a friend who's already in Japan confirmed that yes, there are cupcakes in Japan. I'll be definitely looking for Fujiya. And Mina already told me that desserts in Japan can be quite decadent. Phew.

{I realize this post makes me sound like a complete pig, too. I can live with that.}

Pop Montreal

{Daehyun and I playing and singing some Neutral Milk Hotel. We even made a video, which I'm too embarrassed to post.}

October in Montreal brings the cold weather (seriously, I'm wearing mittens today), but it also rhymes with Pop Montreal, a music festival that takes place in different venues all over the city. It usually brings little-known artists from all over the world, and a few big names. My early morning work schedule does not really allow me to party all night long, but here are some highlights I'm excited to see:

My friend Daehyun, who came all the way from Seoul (via London) to play the festival

Think About Life, an upbeat local Montreal band who are so much fun to watch live

Kid Koala, a kindergarten teacher turned DJ

Teenage Jesus + The Jerks, the only reason I care about them is because Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth is in that band!

The coolest import from Sweden, Fever Ray

May I get on the guest list?? Aw, thanks, Pop!

via Quietly Loud