Monday, April 30, 2007

3 whole years...

3 years ago Yasu and I shared our first kiss, in SPICE house on the Emory University campus where we were both exchange students. Ever since that 6-hour-long-kissing episode, we've been boyfriend-girlfriend and we've never let the 9291.4 km (5773.4 miles) between Veldhoven and Amagasaki be a problem. Granted there are some difficulties in maintaining such a long-distance-relationship, but with a little help from our friends, family and some TV producers we've been able to do it for 3 whole years!

We've never been able to actually celebrate an anniversary together because we have always been on our own side of the world when April 30 arrived, although we did celebrate our 1.5 year anniversary together because Yasu was visiting me in Europe then. As an alternative we always celebrate our anniversary via airmail by sending eachother special gifts. This year Yasu sent me some Japanese candies from a cake store in Amagasaki which I really love, and I made him a special movie by cutting, editing and combining all the movies we ever made with our digital cameras. 

It was hard and tedious work, but I really like the end result! I send him a DVD of the movie and made a movie poster (see picture) to print on the CD label, because love is in the details ;). Next year, I'll be living in Japan and so that may be our first anniversary that we'll celebrate by simply going to dinner or something more traditional like that.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The weekend with my mother

The weekend in Scheveningen with my sweet mother was absolutely awesome! On Saturday morning, we drove to The Hague (which Scheveningen is part of) parked our car in the hotel garage, took a peek at the Northsea and then hopped on a tram to the center of the city to do some serious shopping! I finally bought my first suit to wear as a teacher at AEON, it's brown and I don't really like it. In all my years as a business student, I've never worn a suit because I absolutely abhor suits, hence my procrastination in buying a Japanese teaching wardrobe. Buying the suit really was a chore, and I still have at least two more to buy! Next week, we'll check out the German and perhaps Belgian stores. Besides the nasty suit shopping we also did a lot of fun shopping and browsing, and of course we were way too busy to make any pictures until this picture when we were finished and waiting for a tram back to Scheveningen.
Back at our hotel, we checked into the hotel and checked out our room and the hotel facilities; the hotel was really nice! After freshening up we headed towards the beach to find some seaside dinner, and ended up at a place where they had excellent sangria but the wait for our food was very long! While our empty stomachs filled up with sangria during the 45-minute-wait-for-food, Dutch tv crime reporter Peter R. De Vries also sat down for dinner with his family in the same restaurant. When the tipsy fog had already clouded our brains the food finally arrived and it was pretty tasty, but then again anything tastes great when almost drunk and very hungry! After dinner we enjoyed the movie Wild Hogs at the nearby cinema, and the credits very pleasantly surprised me by playing a new Bon Jovi song, Lost Highway, from the upcoming album. Next was a couple of cocktails in the hotel bar before we headed upstairs to almost immediately fall into a deep sleep.
The next morning we woke pretty early and had fun at the breakfast buffet with croissants, jelly and getting some bread stuck in the conveyor toaster and watching it emit black smoke :o. Sunday was reserved for the beach and we were blessed with very sunny almost summery weather. First, we watched several people bungy jump of the pier while my fearless mother was contemplating to go jump bungy (as she put it) herself! She asked me to take pictures if she were to jump, but I told her that by that time her low-blood-pressured-daughter would be laying on the ground due to a fainting fit. Luckily, she decided it would be too risky for her back and we left the proximity of the bungy jumpers and my fear of seeing my mother dangle on some elastic band.
The rest of the day was spent in the hot sun, strolling on the beach and esplanade, and I even did some barefeet-walking in the cold and refreshing sea. We walked for a long time, from the pier all the way to the harbor and back. In the meantime we talked, we stopped to eat some raw herring (one of my favorite typical Dutch snacks), we talked, we stopped to drink some more sangria, we talked, we ate some Ben & Jerry's, we talked, we sat down to do some 'monkey-looking' (looking at loads of people passing by) and we talked some more. By the end of the day, the sun had burned my skin bright red as I forgot to bring sunblock. In the early evening we drove back home, where a beautiful homemade sushi meal was awaiting us. My stepfather had worked hard on preparing the sushi to surprise me! Well, they were delicious and a perfect way to end an awesome weekend with my mother. I am going to miss her very very much when I move to Japan and tried to absorb the feeling of being near her as much as I could. Like I predicted, we talked a lot about everything and anything, and I really loved her company and having her all to myself for two days. Thanks Moem, for a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Surprising flower

So today the mailman came to deliver this cute flower. On the back was an invitation from my sweet mother to spend this weekend with her in Scheveningen and spend the night in a very fancy hotel! What an awesome surprise! I've been trying to arrange some kind of mother-daughter-quality-time before I leave for Japan, but she beat me to it and with a much nicer plan than I could have ever thought of! I'm so excited and I'm really looking forward to spending two whole days alone with my mother. Having her all to myself without any distractions! I predict we will do a lot of talking (we are very good at that) and some walking on the beach, some shopping, some drinking, some eating, some swimming and whatever else we feel like doing. I am going to make many pictures and cherish every moment with her, I'm going to miss her so unbelievably much when I move to Japan...
I've have also been trying to arrange for some kind of brother-sister-quality time with Gyano, and suggested going to The Efteling together, which is a big Dutch park with rollercoasters and fairytale rides, which I have loved since I was a small girl. But my sweet mother beat me to that too! She had already bought us two Efteling tickets a while ago (even before I started talking about it) and surprised me with them today. Isn't she great?!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dentist anxiety

Two weeks ago I went to get a full medical check-up, which was actually pretty fun and the results were excellent. Today I went to get a dental check-up :(, which was awful and I had been dreading it for weeks. I am so afraid of the dentist that it's ridiculous. My sweet mother always has to take time out of her day to accompany me to the dentist's office, otherwise I would leave before even entering the waiting room. The only time she did not go with me was in 2005 (see picture), because back then Yasu was in Europe and he was there to protect from those scary drills.
This time I went to a Dutch dentist for the first time in 10 years. When we lived in Belgium we were obliged to go to a Belgian dentist and I really did not like him. He was very unfriendly and cold and he basically told me not to be such a big baby and grow up. This of course didn't work and made me even more afraid of him, leading to almost 3 years of me not going to the dentist at all, because I was just too scared. It was only because I was moving to the States for one semester that I made myself go see him again, much like I am making myself go now in preparation for my departure to Japan. After seeing me cry in his office before even sitting down in the chair and my mother explaining that I was really scared and it wasn't just an act, the Belgian dentist mellowed down and did his best to (unsuccessfully) calm me down.
Another problem I had with the Belgian dentist is that he worked alone (which is normal for that country), so without an assistant who can push away my swirling tongue to protect it from the drill. So today, I was pleased (but not happy because I could never feel happy in a dentist's office) when I saw the Dutch dentist's office crawling with tongue-protecting-assistants. Another improvement was the friendly atmosphere and normal smell, as the Belgian office and was cold and smelled like a slaughter house.
While two assistants (I later found out that one of them was actually the dentist) were poking around in my mouth, I was squeezing my own hands to mush hoping they would find nothing wrong. Later when they were removing tartar from my teeth, with something that sounds like an angle grinder, I was squeezing my poor mother's hands to mush :o. So far they found nothing wrong, I was starting to feel a bit better, but then they took pictures of some molars and discovered something... upon further inspection in my mouth it turned out to be a cavity :o :o :o!!! This was too much for this scaredy pants, and tears started rolling down my face, there I was crying at the dentist again, and I'm 26 years old. But the female dentist (by now I found out that she was indeed the dentist) and assistant were very nice and comforting, which was another huge improvement from the Belgian male dentist.
May 3rd I have an appointment with this young female dentist to get my cavity filled. This means I will spend the next two weeks in agony while I anticipate that drill penetrating my molar while my tongue swirls around in my mouth. I try to find comfort in the thought that there'll be a friendly assistant who protects my tongue and that I'll be anesthetized. Unfortunately, the painkillers are administered with a syringe, and pricking needles have the ability to send this low-blood-pressured-girl straight into a fainting fit. Although, I must say being unconscious during a drilling session at the dentist, would be something wonderful.

Monday, April 16, 2007

38 days left...

Only 38 days left until my plane leaves... The whole going-to-Japan-thing has seemed real to me for quite a while now, and having finished a lot of the preparations I think I grasp the reality of my future life in Japan. But the whole leaving-my-country-and-loved-ones hasn't really dawned on me yet, but since yesterday I feel that realization has started knocking on my door, slightly. It's only natural but also scary, so I'm still trying to ignore it as much as I can. I have less than 6 weeks of living with my family left and I want to enjoy them. The coming weeks are packed with appointments, parties and things I want to do at least one more time, and I don't want to waste that time by being sad about leaving.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Gyano is in love

Just wanted to share a picture of Gyano and his new girlfriend. Her name is Nikkie and she's very cute :). She's a very nice person with a good sense of humor (very important in our family) and they make a lovely couple!

My lifesaving mother

When I was writing my Master thesis in 2006, I occasionally had to go to my univeristy in Maastricht to meet up with my supervisor for some brainstorming. But after having moved away from the city (and country) in 2005, such a brainstorming session entailed quite some traveling. The problem was that I had a dangerous tendency to fall asleep while driving, which effectively made the 60-minute-drive to Maastricht a life-threatening challenge for me. Somehow during the course of my studies I've always felt exhausted and even my daily visits to the gym seemed unable to refill me with energy. My sweet mother really wanted me to survive my trips to Maastricht, and therefore used to serve as my personal driver and patiently waited for me in the coffeecorner in my university. Where she chatted with her fiance while I chatted with my thesis supervisor. The good news is that with her help I graduated very successfully and I no longer get tired while driving! Ever since I've been freed from the studies of Business, I have also been freed from the accompanying drain on my energy supplies!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Clucking away the last day of Easter

On Easter Monday, Negin came to visit. After our (way-too-short) short attempt of catching up in The Hague, we planned a whole day to do some more extensive catching up with pictures, movies and the like. Well that is exactly what we did all day, but it still wasn't enough time, not nearly enough! My stepfather called us a pair of clucking chickens :o :), because from the second we picked her up at the busstop until I dropped her off at the train station at night, we talked. We talked about anything and everything that we could think of, and sometimes my parents and brother joined. But by the time she left there were still too many things we did not get to talk about, so we may need to schedule another clucking session before I depart to Japan. But with only 44 days left in Europe and a thousand things left to do, time is starting to run out...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

It's me, the Easter Bunny

Today (and tomorrow) we celebrate Easter in the Netherlands, like in many other countries across the world. It has a religious origin, but I am totally clueless regarding religion and its traditions, so to me it is just about finding chocolate eggs (when you're a kid) or hiding chocolate eggs (when you're an adult). So late last night, I transformed into the Easter Bunny (with my mother) and started hiding more than 50 chocolate eggs around the house. We were hiding them for Guido's kids who spent about an hour this morning finding them, and they have found all but one of the eggs. Unfortunately, last night's Easter Bunnies also have no clue where this one egg is hiding, so it stays where it is and maybe they'll find it next year...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I'm very fit!

AEON advises their new teachers to get a full medical and dental check-up before they come to Japan. So today I went to the local hospital to get myself medically checked up. They took blood samples and did several tests, like an electrocardiogram and a lung function test. I learned that I have low blood pressure, which apparently is a good thing, that my heart works perfectly and that I am really very fit.
They measured my level of fitness with a bicycle/endurance test while monitoring my heart rate and more. When the fitness level of a regular woman is considered to be 100%, then a trained woman would score about 140% and a female professional athlete 200%. The fact that I am overweight decreases my level somewhat but even then I scored a whopping 166%! I was declared very fit! So I guess my daily visits to the gym are paying off and making me healthier! The doctor was very pleased with my results and my physical condition, and obviously so am I! The results of my blood tests will be mailed to me next week, but so far only great news!
Getting a medical check-up isn't really a problem for me, the only thing that scared me today was the needle used to draw blood from me. Going to get a dental check-up is a different story... I am exceptionally terrified of all dentists and am afraid one of them will someday drill a hole in my tongue! My appointment is in two weeks, and as you can imagine I'm already nervous and contemplating to cancel the appointment!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Gmail Paper

This morning, I went to check my email and stumbled across a new service Gmail is providing its members: Gmail Paper. I was reading all about it on their sign-in page:

I found this new service a bit weird and impractical. Who would want to pay to get paper copies of emails by regular mail and why? A bit intrigued by Gmail Paper I clicked the link "Learn more about Gmail Paper" and ended up here:

Now the story even got better, weirder and more implausible. The Gmail Paper service is free of charge, you can 'paper archive' unlimited amounts of emails, they use organic soybean sputum paper which makes the environment healthier and they even serve as your personal photoprint service also free of charge! This couldn't be right and the beta users who wrote the testimonials all seemed to be slightly retarded too, especially Mayumi the associate!

Then today's date hit me: April 1, 2007! It's April Fools' Day and Google is having a go at fooling us Gmailers! Well, they had me going for a bit at their sign-in page... I wonder how many people really fell for it! Well done Google, very funny hoax!