Friday, March 31, 2006

Saying goodbyes

On Thursday night I met up with Warren in Sanners and took him out for a farewell and thanks-so-much-for-all-your-help dinner. We went to Sapna then St. Marc cafe for chocolate croissants. Gonna miss you matey and all the best with wherever the future may lead you next. Perhaps back to Japan? hehe

I also found out which teachers will be changing schools next year. There are about 14 of them! It's quite sad too because I've developed good relationships with a lot of them. I could feel tears creeping into my eyes when we said goodbye on their last days. Even in basic English and basic Japanese, it was so sad. It's just not going to be the same without Young-maths-part-time-sensei, Bakamono-leader-baseball-sensei, Tea time-sensei, Can-speak-good-English-soccer-sensei and a few others. Even the ones that don't speak to me much but always give me a warm, sincere smile and "Ohayogozaimasu!"

On Thursday I went out to Gusto (family restaurant) for lunch with Young-teacher-that-sits-next-to-me-sensei. He passed the Hyogo exam to be a proper licenced, full time teacher last year so they usually get placed somewhere rural for their first school.

In his sweet, new ride Toyota Surf

On Friday, Tea time-sensei (who will be moving to Cheryl's school) took me out to a sushi restaurant and then to a Reve Chef cafe for our 'last date.' haha Reve Chef is a gourmet dessert shop famous around this area. There are quite a few take away shops around Tarumi station and the neighbourhood but I didn't know they had actual cafes. We both had the day's special which was tea cake smothered in fresh cream with fruits and two scoops of ice cream. We were so full! Even though his English wasn't that good, Tea time-sensei would always ask me questions and was so interested about different cultures. I would teach him useful expressions (Have a good weekend! See you tomorrow! Take care!) and test him every now and then.

Friday night was Warren's farewell party at Cafe Absinthe in Shinsaibashi, Osaka. Very nice bar and the food wasn't too bad either. Lots of mates came to farewell Warren and he seemed to have a good night, busy catching up with everyone. Met some very nice people too - hot mama J, who is Korean but with her fluent Japanese could easily fool anybody. I couldn't believe she had a 5 year old son! and 19 year old Chuso (?) who works with Warren teaching English at a juku school and also at a Kyoto ryokan.

I should have left when they had left, as when I got a taxi back to Osaka station, sprinted out to the gates (it was quite an amusing race alongside a salary man who got out of the taxi behind me - I caned it down the stairs but he beat me navigating through people and the sharp corners) we were 2 minutes late for the last train. We both stood there for a few minutes catching our breath, defeated.

I ended up splitting a cab with Noel and crashing at his place - Thanks again so much!!!!
I would have done an all nighter but I had to go to Kyoto the next morning. Still, 5 hours sleep is not cool.

With Warren

Hisashiburi Drew! Back studying in Hawaii, just visiting for a week

With Noel

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Home, sweet Japan, home

So after two flights and a transit in Singapore, I'm finally home.

I'm a big fan of Changi Airport and all it has to offer ~ hot milky horlicks, kaya toast, 2 terminals with lots of shops (duty free baby!), convenient sky rail, free internet (although the standing sucks), gym, pool, beauty salon, shower facilities, koi pond and orchid garden. This time round they also had Changi Youth Ambassadors (?) in red tops walking around the airport providing assistance. Big thanks to the dude who assisted me by dislodging my front trolley wheel from the sky rail gap (mind the gap). I did a little run-up push and hoped the momentum would allow me to fly over the gap but alas, I failed miserably and was too embarrassed to look at the guy as I said "Thank you."

On the bus ride back to Sanners I met Thomas, a Swiss guy in Japan for business meetings. He's the managing director for some company that builds power plants and had previously lived in Kobe for 3 years. We chatted about what us gaijins talk about best - our love/hate relationship with Japan (though mostly love). Was going to meet up with him and some colleagues for drinks later that week but I had tutoring on. Who knows when our paths may cross again?

On the bus ride from Kansai Airport to Sanners, the landscape always captivates. From the dense concrete, industrial jungle of Osaka to the green, rolling mountains of Rokko and the calm ocean on the opposite side. You will also spot some rather unusual buildings that don't seem to belong. Rising from the usual grey buildings is the bright and colourful Maishima Incineration Plant (Environmental Management Bureau) designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. As soon as I saw it I was reminded of a Hundertwasser painting I'd studied in art class, that and a My Little Pony castle nestled in the clouds with rainbow slides.

Another outstanding structure is the glassy, dome building which happens to be the Osaka Maritime Museum. So many places to visit, so little time.

The faint smell of tatami lingered in the air as I entered my apartment. It's surprising what you come to miss.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

And in a was over

Today was recovery day. Went to church and it was nice to catch up with family and friends. Spent most of the day cleaning and packing my half empty suitcase.

Had fish & chips, Gelare's ice cream and il Ciao's chicken caesar salad take away at Brendon's place. Said goodbye to my parents then headed to the airport and met up with the others.

It was a strange feeling. Although I was 'home,' I was looking forward to going 'home' to Japan - where my bed and routine is. I thought I would be fine seeing that I was only back for a week, but when I got to the gates I felt bad for leaving again and guilty for putting him through it again and then the tears came. Thanks to those who came to the airport - much appreciated as I know you had work the next day.

Sue Yen and I were on different flights so she went in first. But when I went into the departure lounge I saw her sitting there sending messages from her mobile! We sat there for a while talking and thinking about settling back into Japan again. She made me smile at the mention of St. Marc's chocolate croissants. It felt strange, indeed. "See you in Japan."

It was good because I knew it was the last time I would have to go through the goodbyes again, but it was also sad knowing that I was now on the last legs of my stay in Japan. The next time I'd be at the airport, I would be saying goodbye to Japan.

I'm going to miss Japan a lot.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Wedding

Finally...the day we'd all been waiting for.
The wedding ceremony was held in the morning at the top of the Swan Bell Tower. With a string quartet, beautiful blue skies and smiles all round, it was a perfect day.

Michael's sister and Rui - the beautiful bridesmaids
But the most beautiful was Marina in her gorgeous white dress and signature smile - beaming with happiness and radiating that glow.

I couldn't help but tear when I saw her walk in with her dad. She was stunning. I turned to Sue Yen next to me and she was tearing too.

Congratulations! Wishing you guys the very best as you start your new lives together.

The wedding dinner reception was held at Burswood's Grand Ballroom with about 300 people in attendance and a delicious chinese banquet. It was such a great night being with old friends to celebrate the marriage of one of our dearest friends. You're one lucky guy, Michael. Not only is Marina beautiful both inside and out but she is the cooking queen - as in she can cook for a house full of Indonesian students!

The bride and groom's first dance

me, Sue Yen, Rui & Pamela

J & J - my favourite twins

Money shot

Marina changed into two dresses for the night. She first entered the ballroom in her white wedding dress, then later changed into a bronze halter dress (unfortunately I didn't get a photo of it), then into a pink dress which matched Michael's pink shirt. And the cake was deeeelicious!

Rui & me - a long way from Japan

I love this shot of Marina! Everybody loves a good train.

Saj & me

Money shot #2

Yen & Mike - next in line to get married, going off to Grease Lightning

Let the games begin...

The girls (single and not engaged) had to go on a treasure hunt for things like a pair of guy's shoes. I managed to survive round 1 (I got Marina's older brother's shoes as some chick had already beaten me to Brendon's shoes - new ones which we bought the day before!). Then we were instructed to wear them. Bugger that! I was too tipsy, tired and in no state to play any games, plus dessert (mango pudding) was being served! The next task was to get a guy's jacket and put it on inside out. Round three was to find a pair of cuff links and we had Pam still in the running represting our table. Next was a postage stamp but proved to be impossible so it got changed to anything Versace.

Pam's classic comment: "Versace? Who the hell wears Versace these days?!" hahahaha

The winner ended up being the chick who got Brendon's shoes - lucky shoes indeed! She won Marina's hugeass bouquet.

The game for the guys involved push ups. When the DJ said "up", they had to go up and when he said "down", they had to go down. Brendon ended up coming second because he went up before the DJ said "up". The guy who did win was in the army haha

"I just wanted to win"

Oh no you didn't!

The prize was getting to take off Marina's garter with your teeth!

After the speeches, eating, photo-taking, drinking, merry-making and burning up the dance floor with our freakin' awesome dance moves to ABBA and Michael Jackson, we said our goodbyes and hit the casino and the Sports Bar to meet up with the others.

Frances & me

Brendon & Janlyk

It was good to be able to catch up with Janlyk as well. He was flying out the same night as me and Sue Yen, to join Poe in Seattle. All the best with Microsoft, Janz!

Friday, March 24, 2006

It's all in the company

On Thursday night Brendon took me out to dinner at Borsalino Ristorante in Nedlands.

It was initmate, excellent food, great wine, delicious dessert, wonderful service - a perfect evening. Highly recommended.

On Friday night the Choongs invited a few of us over to their new place for dinner. This was the first time for me to see Mr. & Mrs Michael Choong as I was away for their wedding. Love the house guys - it's awesome! Michael is one very lucky man. Lien is an amazing cook and she cooked up a feast for about 13 of us ~ pasta, sheperd's pie, salad, chicken and the very yummy hazelnut cheesecake balls. So very impressed! Thanks so much for having us guys - you definately are the hosts with the mosts, especially with Yeo's lychee drinks.

Michael, Lien, me & Brendon

I had to leave early to meet up with Jez (down from Geraldton for the weekend), Felicia and Sarah for coffee. I haven't seen Jez since Ben's wedding so it was really good to see her, catch up and see the rock on her finger!! Congrats to you and Matt!

We live different lives now but it's always a blast when we all catch up and I haven't laughed so hard in ages reminiscing about the good, the bad and the very ugly. Chips - we missed ya. haha

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Where did the sun go?

I spent the morning at home cleaning out my old room. Man, do I have a lot of junk.

Karen dropped the kids off while she went to an appointment. After putting Sean to bed, my dad's idea of babysitting was dropping Callum in front of some cartoons. So I sat with Callum and watched Transformers, Mr. T and Jem and the Holograms (as soon as I heard the theme song I was like NO WAY!?! and rushed closer to the screen than Callum. Damn, she was my hero). I asked him all sorts of questions and he gave me funny responses, some which I couldn't even understand but just nodded my head. We played with Lego (the same ones my sister and I used to play with) and had to teach Callum how to share when he shouted, "Aunty Christeeeeeen, tell Seany to go away. Don't you ever be here again!"

To get Callum to eat his lunch I said I would let him have some oranges, so I cut them the way I like to eat my oranges - thin circle slices. We had so much fun eating oranges with juice running down our arms and dripping from his elbows. He sure does know how to make a mess.

We had promised him that we would go swimming today but the weather went crap and it started to rain. Poor little guy - he was so excited too. He ran into the house with his swimming bag and told me what was in his bag, "My hat, Seany's hat, mummy's swimming stuff, my sunglasses, my swimming jocks" hahaha

When it started to rain he ran to the glass door and complained, "Awwwwww maaaaan!" (he definately got that from Karen) "Go away rain!" "It will stop raining and then we can go swimming" "It's not raining." I felt so bad that I even considered filling up the bath tub so we could have a 'warm swim', but we decided to lie on the floor and draw pictures instead.

This is my favourite. I couldn't stop laughing when he said this was 'mummy' hahahaha

Too cute.

For dinner we went to Bibik Chans (Hey Ambray!) and pigged out on satays, gado-gado and curries.

Andrew trying to get Callum to smile with his teeth showing

Karen, Sean, Thibe, Lionel & me

Brendon, his mum, his sister Felicia, mum & dad

Then it was to Sue Yen's house for poker and watching the Commonwealth Games.