Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I booked my flight to Japan!

That's right, I booked my flight to Japan today :):):)!!! Yup, my moving to Japan is getting very real right now! I am flying with Emirates Airlines, it's an airline that is constantly in the top 5 of airlines (lucky me!), and it offered the most convenient and cheapest connection. I am departing from Dusseldorf Airport in Germany, which is even closer than Amsterdam Airport, and there is a stopover in Dubai before I fly to Nagoya in Japan.

I will depart at 15:15 on May 25th, and arrive on the 26th at 17:25 (Japanese time) in Nagoya , so my trip will last more than 34 hours! As far as I know now, I will have Sunday to get rid of my jetlag and on Monday AEON's intensive training will begin :o! When I went to Japan in 2004, it took me several days to get rid of my jetlag... So the schedule kind of worries me, but I won't be the only one with this predicament, all my fellow trainees will also arrive seriously jetlagged on the 26th. I think that will be a nice day for me to start drinking coffee again :)!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

As of today I flickr too

Since I started reading blogs (mostly of foreigners in Japan) I kept on stumbling upon a photosharing website called flickr. It is overwhelming how many bloggers use flickr, almost everytime I clicked on a picture I ended up on the blue and pink website of flickr. Flickr, flickr, flickr, again and again and again... I used to be a dotphoto-girl but as flickr appeared on my screen for the gazillionth time today, I thought it may be time to join the flickr-ing crowd instead. And so I did, and here is my shiny new membercard ;)

But don't expect a lot on my brand new flickr site as I am just a newbie, and there is nothing spectacular on display, yet! So far I have only uploaded some old pictures as a test and I am enjoying getting to know the program. But as you can see the flickr-member-card-makers were so friendly to give me a pro status to make me feel right at home ;)!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Windy

There is a big storm blowing over the Netherlands right now. This morning it wasn't so bad yet, but it was pretty uncomfortable walking to work, it was raining and the wind was blowing hard (yet timidly compared to right now). I had a hard time keeping dry with an umbrella fighting to fly off and my hair blowing in my face and blocking my view, all the while trying to walk as fast as I can because the bus was late and I was about to be late to work too. But I made it just in time and forgot all about the storm. As the EXPO is inside a mall, we are not really aware of the weather outside. Of course we did notice that there were hardly any customers and many shops around us actually closed way too early.
Once work was done and I went back outside, I was quickly reminded of the storm and it had certainly grown strength since this morning. Lots of wind either speeding me up or seriously slowing me down as I am trying to walk to the bus stop. I hurry as much as I can, hoping I can still catch the next bus. I finally get there after a severe fight with the wind, and the bus never shows up! Soon I find out that all buses and trains have been canceled due to the heavy storm and basically everybody is stranded in Eindhoven. There was complete chaos at the station with hundreds of people wanting to go home after a day's work, everybody got free food and coffee but all they really want is a ride home and not have to spend the night at the station...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Yasu is spoiling me :)

Doorbell rings, I open the door and there is a UPS lady asking me to sign for a package, again. Hmm weird, would this be the Policy Manual I was expecting from AEON? But they use FedEx, not UPS and the regular mailman just brought in a big envelope from AEON which probably contains the anticipated manual. Did I order anything recently? But I am broke, for sure I did not order anything. My name is really on it, the package came here from Venray (some Dutch city), but I don't know anyone or anything there?
Totally puzzled I walk to the kitchen to get a knife and open the package with the unknown content. I cut through the sticky tape and I guess my mind settled on expecting an AEON manual, although it made no sense. I open the package and total shock: a new red 8GB iPod Nano is looking back at me! I was seriously shocked at the discovery of the exact iPod I had desired for quite a while now, but had been unable to afford. I had been cold all day, but now my entire body felt hot from mere astonishment. Why is it here? How is this possible?
Did Yasu send me this? Why would Yasu send me this? Our 3-year anniversary is not until the end of April and Valentine's Day is weeks away. But who else could have send me this? My mother was right there with me when I opened it, and was as surprised as me. Could it be from Yasu? Yeah, it should be from Yasu? Is he crazy? Why did he send me such an expensive gift? Did he really? I carefully take the iPod from it's box and check the inscription on the back: "I love you so much. To Louana from Yasu." Ow wow, it really is from Yasu! I was totally speechless! What an awesome gift with no apparent reason... I did not know what to say. Last week he sent me a daily planner (another great gift I love), but now he is totally spoiling me :)!

Check out the sweet inscription

Later he told me that he decided to give me an iPod because he wanted to make me feel happy! And also he felt a bit bad for having to dissapoint me for not being around on my birthday, and now he wanted to make me happy and do it in a way he was very sure it would not turn out to be a dissapointment. Well, he certainly succeeded! What a wonderful boyfriend do I have?! I am not a material person at all, but I know how careful Yasu is about spending his money, and for him to splurge on a iPod to make me happy really shows me how important I am to him. I love him so much.

My mailing address in Inuyama

This is the address of my branch school in Japan where I can receive all mail and packages. I was told to feel free to pass this address out to my family and friends, so I'll be expecting loads of mail after I will have arrived in May ;)!
AEON Inuyama
Louana van Luttervelt
Granshario 1F
15-6 Inuyama Fujimi-cho
Inuyama-shi, Aichi 484-0081
JAPAN

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Celebrating the day we first met

Yasu and I met on January 11th, 2004 in SPICE House (our dorm) on the campus of Emory University. The first impression we had of each other was not particularly great. To me he was some Japanese guy that did not make any sense and to him I was a rude Dutch girl. We had no idea that we just met someone very special. The first half of the semester we both did our own seperate things, but halfway through the semester things changed…

SPICE House, 17 Frat Row, Atlanta GA 30322

We marked the day that we first kissed (April 30) as the beginning of our relationship, hence that is the date we celebrate our anniversary. But this year Yasu decided to also celebrate the day that we first met, by sending me a nice gift. I had no idea that he gave me this gift to celebrate the day we met, the card that came with the present was not that clear. I only found out after reading about it on his blog. He knows I like office supplies and especially cute, pink ones, so he went to what he calls a 'girly' store and bought me a very nice pink daily planner, wrapped it and send it to EXPO.

The 'girly' store in Amagasaki's Carrefour

The package arrived on my day off so unfortunately, I did not discover the package in the mail myself, which would have been very surprising! Instead my coworker called me to tell me about it, and I received the package a day later on January the 11th! So that worked out nicely! Actually, I already owned a brand new daily planner, but Yasu's gift was a much better version than the one I picked out in the store! I immediately started using the new planner which came all the way from Japan from the hands of my sweet boyfriend!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

流和奈

Once I get to Japan I need to get an inkan, which is a stamp that can be used as an official signature in Japan. Katakana is a Japanese script used for foreign words and names, and my name in katakana looks like this ルワナ (Louana) ヴァンラタベルト (van Luttervelt). Usually they use katakana on a foreigner's inkan, but I would like to have an inkan with Kanji characters just like the Japanese do. Kanji is the complicated script Japanese use, which contains of Chinese characters, each with their own meaning. Yasu's name in Kanji is: 小寺 (Kotera) 康博 (Yasuhiro), Kotera means 'small temple' and Yasuhiro means 'calm wisdom'.
So today, Yasu and I figured out my name in Kanji. I wanted my Kanji name to have an applicable meaning and my favorite was: 流話奈. This means flowing or streaming talk, and this is very appropriate for this very talkative Dutchie, especially Yasu agreed with that as I tend to talk until his ears fall off! But apparently my name written like that looked funny to the Japanese eye, as Yasu kept giggling at the sight of it. He said it is hard to recognize it as a name and people may very likely mistake it for a sentence. So we finally decided upon 流和奈, which means flowing harmony. Sure this is also a beautiful meaning and Yasu really likes it, and he says this really looks like a name and people will not mistake it for a sentence.
We also looked at my last name in Kanji, because it is not really common to put your first name on an inkan. But my long last name in Kanji would be something like 幡裸蛇部留頭, which means a naked snake section containing a head, or something weird like that :). And if I am ever to replicate my Japanese signature by hand it will be way too hard to write for me!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Inuyama 犬山

So I found this map on Joanne's (the other foreign teacher at AEON Inuyama) blog today and decided to steal it from her blog :o. Sorry Jo, I hope you don't mind :)! I like this map because Inuyama is marked on it with a big yellow star, so now everybody can stop wondering about where the heck Inuyama is. As you can see it is located in Chubu and pretty close to Nagoya, Japan's fourth city. I heard the train takes about 30 minutes to get to Nagoya from Inuyama. Unfortunately it takes a lot longer to Yasu's hometown Amagasaki, which is near Osaka in Kansai.

Inuyama in Japan

Inuyama has an estimated population of 73,247 and the city lies along the edge of Aichi Prefecture, separated from neighboring Gifu Prefecture by the Kiso River. There are a number of famous attractions in and around the city. The most famous attraction is Inuyama castle on a 40m rise overlooking the Kiso river. The Kiso river also has some very picturesque rapids upstream of the castle. These rapids and the rock formations are called the Nihon Rhine after the Rhine river in Germany, and boat tours are available. Cormorant fishing on the Kiso river is also done, although nowadays almost exclusively for tourists. Other things to do during free time: visiting the Urakuen tea garden used for tea ceremonies, or an anthropological open-air museum/amusement park called Little World Museum of Man, containing a large number of buildings built according to the native style of over 22 countries. Another amusement park is the Japan Monkey park, with different species of monkeys and other entertainment.

Check out all the fun things to do in my new hometown (click the pic for more info)

Almost sounds like I have already been there with all this info on Inuyama. My recruiter provided me with loads of information and I stole the rest from Wikipedia. Also Joanne told me a little about my future apartment: it is in very good condition, with a nice and wide kitchen, a nice balcony and perhaps even a couch (very unusual for Japan). The location is very convenient too, only about 5-10 minutes walk from school, close to the video rental store, the 100 Yen Store, the convenience store, the karaoke room, the Internet cafe, and the supermarket. Sounds good!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

My future AEON coworker bumped into me, online

Guess who found my blog today? My future coworker at the AEON school in Inuyama! This is the comment she left on my blog:

Hey .. Lou? Ok this is going to sound a little weird, but I was doing a search for another blog, and found yours by mistake, and I'm the other foreign teacher at Aeon Inuyama!!! If you want to get in touch, which would be fun please do. Otherwise I guess I'll see you in May!

Naturally, I was very excited when I found her comment on my blog! I knew that she was going to be the other foreign teacher at the school, because the recruiter in NYC talked about an Irish girl and I found her picture on the website of the school. I did not have a way of contacting her yet, so all I could do is wait until I got to Japan. But luckily she stumbled across my blog today :)!

Joanne

She is going to be at the Inuyama school at least until July, so she'll be able to show me the ropes once I arrive in Japan. It's fun that we can already get to know eachother now! Her American boyfriend also teaches for AEON in another city, and he lives about 40-60 minutes away by train. Indeed, much closer than Amagasaki (where Yasu lives) which is more than 3 hours away by train. Oh well, it always better than more than 12 hours away by plane!

My mind is constantly overflowing with questions about what to expect in Japan, and now there is someone I can ask those questions to and who has an excellent ability of answering them! She has already given me loads of interesting information and I can't wait to ask her even more questions!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

P.S.V. and a boyfriend-lacking-birthday

Last time Yasu was here, he really wanted to see a soccer game, because it is such a popular sport here and he likes to see live matches. When we wanted to see a baseball game in Atlanta, we just went there the day of the game and bought a ticket at the ticket booth. Unfortunately things are not that simple when you want to see a soccer game in the Netherlands. Here you have to be a member of the club to be able to buy any ticket. I do not own such a membership as I generally don't care much about soccer, but someone I know from the gym is a big PSV fan (Eindhoven's soccer team) and a member. He tried to buy tickets for us but the only tickets left were seperate seats on different sides of the stadium and the tickets were very expensive. So we decided not to go.
When Yasu was here again last month, I asked him if there was anything special he wanted to do in the short week he was going to be here. He still wanted to see a soccer game and luckily PSV played a game in the week he was here. So I called the PSV fan again and this time there were (kind of) affordable tickets still for sale, for seats next to eachother! So we took them.

Yasu with a PSV champions cap (PSV is currently the Dutch champion)

I don't really care much about soccer but I do know the basic rules of the sport. Yasu on the other hand, really likes soccer and he knew exactly what was going on and spend quite some time explaining things to his clueless girlfriend. What I did not expect was the silence during the game, I mean when you watch a game on T.V. there is always some excited voice-over but in the stadium there is no such thing. Also, I felt like an icecube after the game, it is so cold in the stadium, it's unbelievable! Yasu brought some 'kairos' (patches you attach to your clothes that heat up and therefore serve as a personal heater) but the ones I used were probably old because they did not heat up at all. Of course, Yasu's kairo did work properly :).

PSV players getting warmed up for the game

Speaking of my dear boyfriend, yesterday he told me that he will not be in Japan on the day of my birthday :O. People who know me a little, know that I value dates tremendously! I am one of those people that wants to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, graduations and the like on the exact date, or not at all. If it is not on the right date, it feels like the meaning of the celebration is lost, so there is no point in celebrating it anymore. I don't know why, but I do know that this date-thing has always been very important to me. Perhaps it has something to do with the uncountable amount of forgone promises in the past?
Anyway, apparently Yasu is going to be in San Francisco for many, many days in August (including my birthday) for some NLP seminar... Meaning that I have to celebrate my first birthday in Japan alone, as my family will be in the Netherlands and my boyfriend will be in the States. This news is quite a downer and as you probably already guessed Yasu will need to do something quite spectacular to make up for it!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

I won!

My boyfriend's ambition is to become the Japanese Dr. Phil. Yes, he likes the Dr. Phil show so much, that his dream is to have a similar show in Japan; 'The Dr. Yasu show' :). Well, he is not about to get his PhD anytime soon, but he is studying the field of NLP as much as he can (professionally and privately), so perhaps in the future NHK will host 'The NLP Yasu show'.

Do you see the resemblance?

Yasu is a big fan of the Dr. Phil show but none of his shows air on the Japanese TV and there is no DVD-box for sale. But lucky Yasu has a girlfriend who lives in a country where the show is broadcasted daily, and on two different channels! So, when he was here in December he bought a big load of DVD-R discs, so that I could record the show for him and send it to Japan.
But since the day Yasu left, I have been in a constant fight with our HDD/DVD player trying to get some Dr. Phil shows recorded on his DVDs. I have tried everything; record directly to DVD-R, indirectly via HDD, or via DVD-RW, etc. I ended up spending hours on recording and dubbing without resulting in a DVD-R which plays the Dr. Phil show on any DVD-player or computer other than the one it was originally recorded on. This must sound quite confusing, so let's summarize it into one sentence: I put loads of effort and time into it without the desired result :(.
After breaking my brains on a reason for this failure, the only remaning problem I could come up with was an incompatibility between the recorder and the discs. So today I bought a tenpack of DVD-RWs of the SONY brand, because our HDD/DVD player is a SONY machine too, and low and behold: everything works! I finally managed to take the Dr. Phil show out of the SONY recorder into my computer! Yes, I finally won the frustrating fight with the HDD/DVD player! And Yasu, can happily expect a couple of Dr. Phil shows on his doormat in Japan soon!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

An AEON interview and clean hotel in London

So two montsh ago I was in London, studying English grammar (just-in-case) in my hotelroom, because the NYC recruiters of AEON corporation had invited me back for a personal interview, the next morning. I had spent the day taking part in an orientation seminar about the company and later I had to present 5 minutes of my mock lesson plan during a group interview. The other candidates were my pretend Japanese students, while I tried to lead an English conversation lesson based on a self-made bingo game. Apparently it was good enough to get me invited back for the personal interview round :). I survived the nerve-racking interview the next morning, and the recruiter called me a week later with the good news: AEON was going to offer me a teaching position!

The Regent Palace Hotel @ Glasshouse Street

I also visited London in September and during that trip I stayed at the Regent Palace Hotel, they had great rates and the location was even more awesome, just 100 meters away from Piccadilly Circus! Well, that sums up the good points of that hotel, besides that this so-called palace completely sucks. There is so much wrong and dirty with this hotel, with the worst being a 5 cm long cockroach crawling past my feet in the bathroom! Let this be a warning, the low rates and great location are not worth the ick-factor of this hotel!

The Montana Hotel @ Gloucester Road

So on my second trip this year, I was willing to spend trice as much on a ensuite hotelroom just to feel comfortable and well-rested for my job-interviews. After a severe amount of research on tripadvisor.com, I decided to book a room at the Montana Hotel, and I was not dissapointed. It was a nice hotel indeed with free WiFi and I even got an unexpected small breakfast every morning! The only bad point was the staff, which was not very friendly but they were not nearly as rude at the Regent Palace Hotel staff. I really enjoyed my stay at the clean Montana Hotel, and the two Starbucks Coffee stores in the street!

Over the holidays I sent AEON in NYC several things like my Master's degree, lots of passport photos, several signed contracts, a $200 check and more. Everything arrived safely and now they are going to send my stuff off to Japan, and hopefully they will send me back a Certificate of Eligibilty which will enable me to get a working visa at the Japanese Embassy in The Hague. The recruiter told me I am kind of a special case, because I am the first person they hired without a passport from a native English country, and he is not sure what will or will not be a problem for the Japanese immigration service. This all makes me a little nervous, I really want to go to Inuyama, so I just hope everything will go well!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

'All You Need Is Love' videos

I just discovered how to upload video to my blog and I wanted to share the video of Yasu and me on the 'All You Need Is Love' show. The quality is not great, as I used my digital camera to make a recording of the show playing on the regular tv (yeah I know there probably is a much more advanced way to do all this, but I have yet to discover how that works). The person you hear giggling in the background is me and the person you hear giggling on the tv is also me :)!

Our part on the show lasted for about 7 minutes, and as my digital camera only records for 3 consecutive minutes I had to record in three seperate videos. Of course I did put them in the right order here, so start watching the top one! Unfortunately, the show is in Dutch so if you don't speak Dutch it will not make much sense to you, but at least you can still see me acting all giggly on tv!

January 26, 2009 edit: See a great quality video with English subtitles here!



Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy 2007!

Yasu lives 8 hours ahead of me, so at 16:00 Dutch time, Japan was going to enter the new year. Yasu and I had a skype videocall open so we could countdown into 2007 together. But a few minutes before midnight Yasu got distracted by my mother, because she asked him to show her the living room, and all of a sudden it was 2007 already :o. Uhm, well happy new year... But not to worry, we were to have a second chance 8 hours later, when the Netherlands was going to join Japan in 2007. Yasu got up early in Japan and called me so he could join me in counting down to the new year. A few minutes before midnight, I was talking to a very sleepy Yasu on the phone, and it was slightly chaotic in my house; with people still pouring champagne, Gyano unsuccesfully searching for a countdown clock on TV, and a temperature that was way too high to be comfortable. I thought I just went outside for a few seconds to get some fresh air, but when I (and Yasu on the phone) re-entered the living room there were only a few 2006-seconds left. This was so surprising that we fell silent and failed to countdown into 2007 for the second time!
Luckily there is more to New Year's Eve than counting down. This year everybody (even the children) in our family cooked a dish or two to make up for a very varied New Year's Eve buffet. I made some salmon-cream cheese-chives-tortilla 'sushi', which I towered up on the blue plate, not my finest hour of cuisine but tasty none the less! And of course, my mother baked the traditional Dutch 'oliebollen' on the last day of the year (you can see them on the back of the table). Most dishes were very tasty and it could be a nice new tradition for coming New Year's Eve celebrations: an everyone-cooks-one-dish buffet!

New Year's Eve buffet

Of course, a Dutch New Year's Eve is not complete without fireworks, and at the stroke of midnight all hell broke lose here as hundreds of people started setting of their own fireworks. Of course, the displays aren't as impressive as professional shows organized by big cities or tv shows, but the sum of all parts (so many people in the street and neigborhood shooting arrows into the sky and setting off boxes with colored lights shooting out of them) can be pretty impressive and extremely noisy! But it is a good noisy and very enjoyable to me. Unfortunately my camera wasn't doing what I wanted it to do, it was too confused with the sudden changes in light every second, so I did not get to snap a good-fireworks-shot :(. So I added a small video to give an impression of the noise and the fireworks, so when you see the fireworks in the video imagine that going on everywhere around you and in all the colors of the rainbow, then you might get an idea of the spectacle that went on in our neighborhood!