Thursday, May 31, 2007

I taught Japanese students!

Or actually a Japanese teacher fluent in English posing as a Japanese student and a Korean guy who lives and works in Japan but really is an AEON student. Our trainers (see picture) had some trouble gathering a big enough group of real AEON students for our practice lessons today. It had something to do with the length and the late hour, so only 3 students were able to show up in time and a fourth one showed up later when I was already done. We needed at least 6 students in order to let everybody teach a full 50 minute lesson, but we improvised and all taught a 35 minute lesson. But it was really fun and I got a lot of great feedback from my trainer and fellow trainees, and most importantly (to me anyway) I enjoyed teaching the class and didn't feel nervous doing it! Like I said before I was afraid of talking with the speed of a Shinkansen but it didn't even match the speed of a local JR train, so I'm doing fine! Well, I've got to go prepare for another class I'll teach tomorrow and do a load of reading, so I'll better get to it! Ow and tomorrow we are going to an otsukare sama (thanks for your hard work) lunch with the cho (chief) of our department, so that'll be fun! I'll get to practice some more of my Japanese like itadakimasu (this is said before a meal) and gochi sou sama deshita (thanks for the meal).

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My first AEON lesson

Today I had to teach my first 50-minute-AEON-lesson :o! It was a practice lesson in front of the trainer Andy and one of my fellow trainees Adrik. They pretended to be my Japanese students and I was teaching (or at least trying to) them a full lesson like I will have to do at Inuyama very soon. I was kind of freaking out right before I had to start (see picture), but I wasn't alone because all six of us trainees were nervous and scared for the lesson! I had to teach the simple past of irregular verbs and according to the feedback and my trainer I wasn't nearly as bad as I thought myself. I mostly got positive feedback and loads of great tips on how to improve my lesson for tomorrow when I'll be teaching actual Japanese students. Let's hope for the best!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Training so far...

So after writing my blog on Sunday afternoon I got really tired so I decided to go for a walk and ended up in the Tokyu Hands, a huge department store in Nagoya station. I just browsed about every floor, especially the stationary floor until Yasu came back to Nagoya station after his seminar. We had dinner in a small restaurant underground (lots of stores and restaurants are underground near the trainstations here) and I found out that I really don't like miso. I had some kind of donburi dish with misosauce which was great when I scraped the misosauce of. Then after dinner we finally went to karaoke! I had been looking forward to karaoke for a very long time, especially because they have so many Bon Jovi songs in the karaoke machines in Japan. We almost exclusively sang Bon Jovi songs for an hour until Yasu had to catch his Shinkansen home. Saying goodbye was so weird: kissing Yasu in the middle of a Nagoyan street (he is still very nervous about kissing in public in Japan, but he's trying to get over it) and both walk our own way and go 'home' without an airport in the neighborhood or a tear on my cheek! I'll see him again this Sunday :).
Monday was my first day of training in the IMON building across the street from Nagoya trainstation, which is like a 5 minute walk from our hotel. We got a lot of information thrown at us for about 8 hours, but the funniest thing was when the trainer thought us some Japanese phrases (ohayou gozaimasu = goodmorning & osakini shitsurei shimasu = sorry to leave before you) that we have to say to a full office of AEON employees everyday when we arrive and leave, and we need to bow at the end too! We were all very nervous when we had to do it the first time; it's just weird to stand in the middle of some office filled with unfamiliar faces and kind of yell out something in Japanese and then bow... We also had a Japanese class at the end of the day, which was not so much about teaching us Japanese (although we did learn some stuff) as it was to let us experience how our students will feel during one of our classes. That was a lot of fun!
For lunch we went to a curry place, their dishes look like plates of rice with diarrhea... sounds good? Well it tastes allright but not great, could it have anything to do with the yummy association? For dinner we went to a yakiniku (Korean BBQ) place around the corner, we didn't really know what was going on and ended up spending about 1000 yen (8 euros) on 6 tiny pieces of beef to cook on the built-in BBQ in the table, they didn't even serve rice with it! It was extremely expensive, but the taste was great. We were still hungry after that so we made a pitstop at a konbini (convenient store) to get some more food. After that I kept trying to do my reading for today, but that's not easy when you fall asleep every 5 minutes... so yeah I'm still jetlagged :(.
Today was our second (long and tiring) day of training and we actually got to see and speak to some Japanese students! One of the trainers gave the Japanese people a free lesson so we could observe it, the Japanese people are really funny and cute and I'm sure it's going to be fun to teach them English. We have to teach our first lesson tomorrow to one of our fellow students and a trainer, and the day after that to actual Japanese AEON students :o! I wonder how that'll go, I guess that due to nervousness my talking speed will probably match the speed of a Shinkansen... Sometimes I wonder why I chose to go teach when speaking in public makes me so nervous.
It's hard to stay concentrated during class when you're so tired all the time, and today during one of my space-out-moments the trainer asked me a question, but all I had picked up was cruise and brainstorming, so I thought we were pretending to be Japanese students brainstorming about things having to do with a cruise, so I said boat. The class (including trainers) bursted out in laughter, because apparently he had asked me to give me an example of what people could see to eachother during a cruise... and going around saying 'boat' would be quite unusual. Maybe you had to be there or be seriously jetlagged like we all are, anyway we couldn't stop laughing. And the rest of the day the other trainees kept saying boat to me :), yeah it's going to haunt me forever!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Hello Japan!

After two long flights I finally arrived in Japan yesterday late afternoon!! We (Gyano, Chantal, Guido, my mother and myself) spent a couple of hours together at Dusseldorf airport hugging eachother a lot, laughing, crying and drinking some nice Starbucks coffees ;). I still didn't feel very well because I was so nervous about going to Japan. When the dreaded goodbye hugs and kisses finally arrived I kind of collapsed into Gyano's arms because my knees just went totally weak all of a sudden. Luckily Gy is very strong and nobody got hurt! Saying goodbye was extremely painful and I couldn't remember why I was going to Japan anymore... I kissed, hugged and cried as much as humanly possible and left. The customs people were very friendly and sweet to me and tried to cheer me up by reminding me about MSN and Skype. The plane was delayed for about an hour, but that was great for me because I actually got to see my family from the window at my seat the whole time and they actually saw me sitting in there very clearly (after a coordinated signal with the windowshutter and some cellphone communication they found my very quickly). When my plane finally did take off, I sat there bawling like a baby for a while until I regrouped and tried to enjoy my front row seat. In Dubai I just waited around a bit for the next plane while observing all the Japanese faces around me. The second flight lasted for 9 hours and it was way too much, especially after just having experienced another 6.5 hour flight. I wasn't comfortable during the flight (even though I sat front row again) mostly because I was anxious to get to the ground again and I was extremely tired.
Once I landed in Nagoya, I was very happy! I met a trainer at the airport who welcomed me and helped me forward a suitcase to my school in Inuyama. We had to wait for another trainee to arrive a couple of hours later, so I had a small adventure trying to buy a international phone card and making a phonecall home. With some extensive help from two Japanese airport employees I managed to call home and talk to Gyano for about 6 minutes which cost me 1000 yen! Unfortunately my parents were out grocery shopping but they called Yasu's cell phone later last night so that was good. Once I got to the hotel around 10:30 P.M. ( I landed at 5.30) I dropped my stuff in my room and went to Yasu's room (who's in Nagoya for a weekend seminar) and had a nice and surreal reunion with him!
We grabbed some dinner with the other trainee at a small restaurant in the street here, where you throw some money in a machine and push a button (written in Japanese) and it spits out a ticket which you take to your table. An old lady appears to pick up your ticket and a couple of minutes later she reappears with your food! It's really quick, and the food was delicious. Today I went there again for lunch with four other trainees: Jennifer from Australia, Warren from Chicago, and Eric and Steve from San Francisco. It's fun to meet some people who understand the whole-moving-to-Japan-and-teach-thing, without looking at me like I have lost my mind :)! We also did some browsing in a huge electronics store and department store and it's fun wondering around without understanding anything with four other people who are totally clueless as well! I didn't take many pictures yet, so I guess I'll go out soon do just that! My jetlag is starting to kick in so I need to get moving now... We had to do some reading for training tomorrow and it's quite hard to read with your eyes closed! But it's dome so now I can relax the rest of the day, Yasu is coming over for a few more hours after his seminar, before he takes the Shinkansen (bullet train) home. The next two weeks are going to be extremely busy and intense with full-on training and a full-on jetlag! So you guys may have to be patient, but I'll try to blog when I can! Even though I miss my family so much and tears start rolling down my face when I think about it too much, I am enjoying myself here and I am so excited to be here, finally!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bye bye land of Dutchies...

So this is my last day here and as you can imagine I am extremely busy but I really wanted to make one last post here in the land of the Dutchies. But it is going to be a short summary of my last week here with my wonderful family. On Monday it was my stepfather's 42nd birthday and we (the parents, Gyano and myself) had a delicious dinner at a Japanese restaurant here in Veldhoven. On Tuesday I went to the movies with my sweet mother and stepfather to see 'The Number 23', which was very interesting! On Wednesday I had my last steps class at the gym, which was exhausting and awesome! And today we (all 7 of us) had some typical Dutch foods as a farewell dinner: pancakes with cheese or apple, a frikandel speciaal, a kroket and icetea with bubbles.
Besides all that I had another thousand errands to run this week received some personal presents from my family, like my mother's perfume so I can always smell her near me, a bag that laughs insanely like my stepfather likes to do and sounds just like him and a bag of Dutch licorice for me to enjoy on the plane from my stepsister and a nice turtle keychain from Gyano's girlfriend Nikkie to wish me a safe home in Japan.
Today the day is finally here, the day that I move to Japan and leave all that I have known for so long behind. I am very excited about going to Japan and extremely sad about leaving and saying goodbye (I have shed hundreds of tears in just 2 days, I must be some kind of champion). I really want to go and I really want to stay... I am weird! I am so nervous. I have felt sick for the last couple of days and am afraid to vomit continously... Nasty details ;p! Bye bye land of the Dutchies I am going to miss everything but I am excited about my new adventure! My next post will be from the other side of the world!





Sunday, May 20, 2007

Bye bye Lou

Lots of people, lots of sangria, lots of food, lots of presents, lots of sun, lots of beer and lots of fun that sums up my farewell party yesterday! It was really great to see everybody one more time before leaving for Japan. It was great to have everybody together at my house, but they were just too many people to be able to keep up the catching up with everybody, which was kind of too bad because I wanted to talk to everyone!
I was proud of myself because I didn't cry one tear the whole day! Mainly because I kept telling myself that the whole moving-to-Japan-thing wasn't really true, and it worked! Some people did leave my house teary-eyed but the whole party was mainly cheerful and sunny. I made pictures with all my guests and warned them all that it would be showcased on this blog, well here they are people!

Oma & opa: Guido's parents and therefore my stepgrandparents. They brought me bouquets of white and red roses and they were here very early to help out with everything and opa was a sausage-throwing-BBQ-cook for a large part of the night :).

Minke: one of my Bon Jovi friends and one of my best friends. She made me a wonderful picture calender of our Bon Jovi adventures in 2006 in which almost all my guests noted their birthday so they're probably all expecting birthdaycards from Japan ;).

Gyano: my 10-year younger brother. During the months that I've been living here I've been crashing in his room, because I don't have my own room here (the house is pretty full with 7 people). So although I'm sure he is going to miss me when I leave for Japan he'll be happy to finally have his room all to himself.

Jitte: one of Gyano's best friends who hangs out at our house almost daily. I heard that he actually started wobbling around the garden even before the BBQ started due to an overdosis of beer.

Femmie & Geert: friends of my mother who have known me since I was about 6 years old. They gave me a beautiful silver four-leaf clover necklace for luck and some fun pictures of when I was still a cute little girl.

Arvin: another one of Gyano's best friends who hangs out at our house almost daily. After the party we (Minke, Negin and me) actually went to Gyano, Jitte and Arvin's favorite bar in Veldhoven to see what all the fuzz is about. Well I wasn't impressed (but I have never been a bar girl anyhow) and came home smelling like a chimney! But Minke and Negin seemed to enjoy themselves, especially Negin who ended up dancing on a pool table with Jitte!

Steef: Guido's best friend and my fellow witness at the wedding last week. He brought me some fun gifts including an orange stuffed Dutch lion and a ducky wash cloth and some kind of light-weight device to display my pictures in my apartment in Japan.

Jurre, Casper & Myra: my stepsiblings and 3 of the 7 inhabitants at our house and of course they were also part of the farewell party. The boys drew me some beautiful pictures to put on my wall in Inuyama.

Louise & Guido: my parents and the people who threw me this wonderful party. I am so grateful to them for so many things like allowing me to live in their house and this party but mostly for their support and love. I am going to miss them so much!

Jesse (a.k.a. Jamai), Leonita, Martijn, Kirsten & Hella: my EXPO coworkers. They gave me a nice picture book with letters and pictures of all the people I worked with at the EXPO (some of them couldn't make it), some nice bracelet ornaments and a 1000 yen bill which apparently was very hard to come by!

Elroy: the boyfriend of my EXPO coworker Leonita. While working at EXPO Leonita told me many stories about her life with her boyfriend and it was fun to finally meet him.

Marieke & Jeroen: friends from my time in Maastricht. Marieke lived in the same studenthouse in Belgium and moved with me to the same building in Maastricht, and Jeroen moved into her room when she left Maastricht and he also was a student of International Business at Maastricht University. The 3 of us have been trying to make a dinner date for ages, but something always got in the way. But luckily they were both able to make it to my party and brought some beautiful orange (the color of the Netherlands) flip flops and they framed a funny picture of the two of them.

Chantal: my mother's sister (kissing my mother's husband in this picture). She was the only one at the party I didn't get to take a picture with :(, but she was really here and this is the only picture I have to prove it. She brought me two beautiful pink roses and a great surprise: a karaoke set! She borrowed it from a friend for us to use at the party. Minke and I sang our hearts out with Bon Jovi's Livin' On A Prayer, but none of the other guests felt compelled to do some karaoke... Yeah, Dutchies on average are too shy to let other people hear their poor singing skills (unless they're really drunk), I used to be the same until I discovered the joy of karaoke in Japan with Yasu. Late at night, Geert actually joined me in singing some songs and Minke and Negin sang the night away with Guido's kids.

Negin: one of my Bon Jovi friends and one of my best friends. She gave some nice silver earrings and one part of a friendship keychain set, she kept the other part. She and Minke both live pretty far away and they both stayed for the night (after 'partying' at the local bar Jerry's with Gyano and his friends).

Floris: a very old friend from highschool whom I hadn't seen for about 8 years! We kind of lost contact after we went our seperate ways after high school, but after having reconnected with several old friends in the last couple of months I thought it would really be fun to catch up on eachother's lives a little before I left for Japan. It was great to talk to him again after such a long time and he brought me a very funny Lonely Planet book filled with pictures of Engrish signs all over the world called Signspotting.

Piet (a.k.a. Coen): a friend from the gym. He is really tall and it wasn't easy to take a picture with him! He brought some lovestory books to read on the plane, but we already enjoyed them at breakfast today with the whole family, they are written in quite a silly way!

Rini & Ingrid: my uncle and aunt from my mother's previous inlaw side of the family. When I was 3 years old I was actually their cute little bride's maid in a blue/white dress, and I still remember it! Besides a small financial contribution, they made me pictures of their whole family with all their kids and their girlfriends and boyfriend, I really appreciated that! Also my aunt gave me a beautiful crystal star to hang near my window in Inuyama, and when the sun shines on it it will make all the colors of the rainbow appear, what a wonderful gift!

Steffie & Remy: my cousin (son of Rini & Ingrid) and his girlfriend.

Marjolein & Danny: my cousin (daughter of Rini & Ingrid) and her crazy boyfriend.

Maikel & Emily: my cousin (son of Rini & Ingrid) and his girlfriend.

Janny & Henk: my aunt and uncle from my mother's previous inlaw side of the family. Besides a financial contribution to my Japan adventure they gave me a very funny picture of themselves in crazy Brazilian dancer costumes (or something like that), in which my uncle even wears lipstick! I was really happy that my aunts, uncles and cousins could make it to the party, because I don't get to see much of that side of the family and it was nice to have them here all together to catch up a little... very little because there just wasn't enough time for me to catch up with them as much as I would have really wanted to, but it was great to see all of them again!

Paul: and old friend from highschool who I hadn't seen for more than 13 years until last week when we went to dinner with Yasu to do some catching up. We only spent about 1.5 years together in highschool when we were about 12-13 years old, but I found him again on Hyves and it seemed like fun to catch up again. He had other engagements last night but decided to stop by afterwards, he was the last guest and arrived late at night when almost all the others had gone home.

Minke and Negin stayed here until today and we spent the day doing some more talking and eating and drinking a lot of yesterday's leftovers. I dropped them both of at the busstop near my house today and those were actually pretty sad moments and we ended up hugging and crying at the busstop with 3 guys who were also waiting for the bus staring at us wondering what on earth we were doing! I am really going to miss these girls and I can't wait for them to come and visit me in Inuyama!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Giveaways

So tomorrow night (or rather tonight as it's already past midnight) it's time for my big farewell party! Almost 40 people will cram together in part of this livingroom I am sitting in now and the garden. My stepdad has created some space outside where we can hang out without getting wet in case it rains, but I really hope it stays dry because we are planning to feed everybody with meat from th BBQ. There will be 3 BBQ's somewhere in the garden for people to take their raw meat and cook it on theirselves, kind of a do-it-yourself-or-starve party ;). I'm still up now because I was making giveaways for the guests at my party (see picture). Everyone will go home with a small bag of Japanese crackers with a card attached to it directing them to this blog and with some further contact details for when I'll be in Japan. I remember when I spent a semester in the States I got many emails from friends and family asking the same kinds of question about my life abroad, resulting in me having to retell the same stories over and over... To avoid such behavior this time around I wanted to introduce them all to this blog where they'll be able to find the answers to all of their questions about my life in Japan and maybe more.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sushi-go-round

Tonight it was time for quality time with my slightly crazy stepdad. He loves Japanese food and this seemed like an excellent opportunity to finally try out the only conveyor belt sushi place in Eindhoven. I discovered it once on the top floor of a teppanyaki restaurant, and have wanted to try it ever since. We had lots of interesting sushi and some tempura. My favorite thing on the sushi-go-round was an oyster covered in omelette in a delicious sauce, and I kept dipping my other sushi in the leftover sauce instead of the soy sauce. We had a lot of nice food and talked for hours about everything and anything! And ofcourse this crybaby cried again, but only a tiny bit this time. For weeks, I have been trying to ignore the fact that I am going to miss my family so terribly much after my departure but it's hard to ignore when your stepdad toasts to having a lot of fun during my last week here. But quickly after tears started to come out I regrouped and focused my mind on just enjoying the umeshu in my glass :). Ow boy, I think I won't be able to stop crying next week Friday, I am going to miss my family and my home so much! But a new adventure awaits me and of course my sweet boyfriend.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Just married!

My mother and now finally official stepfather got married last Friday. We celebrated it with a small group of close friends and family and it was a beautiful day. On the picture on the right you can see the groom Guido and his beautiful bride Louise with their (step)children Gyano, myself, Myra, Jurre and Casper. We all had some function during the wedding to make sure we wouldn't get bored ;). Casper and Jurre presented the bride and groom with the official marriage documents during the ceremony, Myra read a poem and handed out the wedding rings, Gyano was in charge of decorations at the restaurant where we had the party and I was my mother's best (wo)man, or witness as we call it in Dutch. As a witness to their marriage, I got to sit next to my mother during the ceremony (Guido's best man/witness sat next to him) and cosign the official documents. Of course this crybaby was unable to contain her emotions and even before the bride and groom came inside tears started rolling down her face. The ceremony was beautiful and more and more tears were generated, not just by me!
After the ceremony and during the congratulations, Gyano and his girlfriend Nikkie sneaked outside to decorate the car with a bunch of funny stuff I had collected during my time working at Expo. We had to make sure that the outside world was also aware of the happy commiting that had been going on that afternoon! Today Guido went back to work and the decorations are still on his car :). It was a rainy day but somehow we always managed to avoid the heavy showers when we were outside, but we did manage to get the couple wet when we were all blowing bubbles at them as they left the building where the ceremony as held. Unfortunately everybody was wet and sticky after that, because we all had to attach the bubble wands to the lid after first fishing it out of the sticky soap solution in the container. Apparently they don't sell the old-fashioned-bubble-blow-stuff-with-the-cleverly-attached-wand anymore... I had a hard enough time finding enough of these unclever-new-fashioned ones, but it was all good fun!
The reception was held at a different location where things didn't go very smoothly; service was slow and cranky and the table arrangement was so inappropriate that the newlyweds and their guests were actually lugging tables around the cafe to create a cosier atmosphere. The lowpoint of the day was when the happy couple cut into their cute-heartshaped-wedding-cake and discovered that they delivered the wrong cake! A couple of weeks ago they had visited the bakery themselves to assemble the perfect wedding cake, and chose a black chocolate cake with a special mousse and fruit filling. The outside of this cake looked exactly as they had wanted it complete with a drunk cow couple (my mother loves cows), but the cake and the mousse were exactly what they had not wanted... Of course they were very dissapointed as this was supposed to be a very special custom made cake, and it's not like we could run out and get the right cake in the store. So they had to make do with this one, but the guests loved it and the entire cake was eaten including the two marzipan cows.
Speaking in public always makes me very nervous but as my mother's witness I was expected to give a speech at the reception and toast to the happy couple. I was a nervous wreck the whole afternoon and wasn't really looking forward to it, but I did it and it went pretty well too! I had thought about what I wanted to say way too many times and it came out differently and half of it never even came out, because my emotions got the better of me (again) and I bursted out in tears. I finished the speech while in tears but I wasn't the only one, besides some of the guests the groom and bride were also in tears (and believe me it's quite an accomplishment to make my mother teary eyed). According to some (including the groom) my speech was the most touching moment of the day :), good job best (wo)man!
After the reception we went to a Spanish/Mexican restaurant to celebrate the happy couple some more while enjoying a lot of tapas, sangria and live Spanish music. You can see the guitarist of the tiny band named 'Corazon' (which means heart... how appropriate) behind Yasu in the picture on the right. Yes that is right Yasu was at the wedding too! He came over from Japan especially for the wedding and stayed here a short week, he went back home yesterday. My parents were very honored and happy that he was able to attend the wedding and Yasu really enjoyed the whole experience, even though he did not understand the ceremony and the speeches because they were all in Dutch he did feel the emotional, romantic and happy vibes that were with us all day. And of course I was very happy that he was here to share this special day with all of us. In the morning, we (all 5 kids, Yasu, my mother's sister Chantal and Guido's witness Steef) had surprised the soon-to-be-wed-couple with their wedding gift: a Canon camcorder and all the necessary (and more) accessories. I thought a camcorder would be a nice gift (especially for my mother who usually only uses the video option on her digital photocamera) and they would at the same time be able to record their whole wedding day on tape. When they opened the package, they were both stunned into silence... well they were unbelievably happy about their new toy and so happy that they can relive their special day on their tv or computer.
I had prepared one more surprise for them which had taken me many many days to make. I made a 7-page-comic-book about their life together so far (see the front page on the right here) which they had to read out loud (!) during the party. The whole process required a lot of cutting out heads out of pictures with Photoshop, and that program just totally frustrates me. It took me quite a while and several fights with that program, to figure out how to properly cut out heads and Photoshop isn't really user-friendly (anyway not for this user). After finishing my cartoon I quickly deleted the trial version from my laptop again, I hope I'll never need it again! It was a lot of hard but the resulting comic book was very funny and the bride and groom were very pleased with their last surprise.

A groupshot of the happy couple and all of their guests

Although the wedding party was small, it was a great and intimate group of people. It truly was a wonderful day and many happy memories were made!
Unfortunately, Yasu had to go back home pretty quickly but we had an awesome week together here in the Netherlands. We used it to do a lot of catching up on kissing and stuff ;) and meet some of my friends who had never met him before. One of them was Negin (see picture) who came all the way to Veldhoven after her work on Saturday to meet Yasu. Because Sunday was Mother's day she had to go home pretty early the next day, but Yasu and Negin still spent a lot of nightly hours to do some serious getting to know eachother, we all went to bed after 4 AM! This Saturday she'll be here again, and with her lots of members of my family, and a bunch of old and new friends to attend my farewell party... That's right my departure to Japan is getting scarily close now: only 9 more days! I try to look at it this way: only 9 more days until I see Yasu again! We have never been apart for such a small amount of time before... I don't even get the chance to miss him :)!

Friday, May 04, 2007

They're waiting for me...

This is what I found in the mail this week, a beautiful welcome card from the staff at AEON Inuyama. It was a wonderful surprise and I loved all the messages. It also made me feel a bit weird to realize that there are actually people in Japan waiting for me to arrive (except for Yasu of course). Obviously I was aware of that fact already, and I did send them my own introduction letter several weeks ago, but it makes things feel more real, which in turn made me feel kind of surreal. Does it still make sense? It still seems so unimaginable to me that I'll be leaving my home and country in 3 weeks, I know it's happening but usually I don't really feel it... yet.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Drillday

Today was the day I had dreaded for a couple of weeks: drillday at the dentist! I tried to ignore the fact that I had an appointment as much as I could, but about an hour before we headed for the dentist's office I got really nervous. I was afraid to eat anything because I really didn't want to vomit during all the drilling excitement... Once that horrible reclining dental chair was in view I felt my eyes burn with tears again... I'm 26 years old, but at the dentist I feel like I'm 3 years old again.
This time I brought my trusty red iPod with me to try and listen to some music instead of to those horrific drilling sounds. This was my sweet mother's idea, she thought it might help calm me down and perhaps to not squeeze her hand so hard for a change. Even though I could still hear all the horrendous screeches of the various drills the dentist used, I could also hear the soothing sounds of Jon Bon Jovi's voice and it did calm me down a bit. I was listening to a concert I had actually been to myself, so I just tried to travel back in time and be there again, for a few seconds it actually worked and I started shaking my head to the rhythm of the music! Oops! I quickly remembered my whereabouts and resorted to wildly and rhythmically tapping my mother's hand with my thumb.
In the end I survived the 40-minute-drilling-session! I'm not kidding it took this dentist a total of 40 minutes to drill and fill the hole! I am used to a much quicker dentist and the duration of it all and the fact that I couldn't hear what they were talking about, made me a bit nervous, especially when I heard and felt the drill returning to my mouth several times! But the dentist told me later that she isn't very quick yet, due to a lack of experience.... glad I found that out after the dental operation!
After all that fun at the dentist I headed toward the city of Eindhoven to meet up with my mother's sister Chantal. She wanted to buy me some jewelry (I chose a beautiful bracelet) as a late graduation gift and buy me dinner because I'm moving to Japan in 3 weeks. Drinking wine and eating steak isn't really easy when the right part of your face is totally numb from the anasthetics that had been injected into my cheeks a couple of hours earlier. It was an interesting experience and I eventually chose to drink my wine through a straw and catch some weird looks from my fellow patrons. Dinner was good though and I had a nice evening with my aunt Chantal (see picture).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Busy and long weekend

So this weekend it was back to the nasty suit shopping again. We started on Saturday in Düsseldorf, where I found two more suits for Lou-sensei. The suits do look very European but they're still very professional. Of course, we didn't just search for suits in Germany, we also searched for Starbucks! Gyano and I are huge Starbucks fans and we're still desperately waiting for the first coffee house to open in the Netherlands. I heard they're actually opening one at Schiphol Airport soon but it's on the other side of customs, so if you want a frappucino or caramel machiato you'd have to buy a plane ticket first. But it's a start, maybe by the time I visit my home country they have a Starbucks store in my street ;). Anyway, we've always had to travel to Germany to taste some Starbucks coffee, and we actually did on more than one occasion. So last Saturday, we endulged ourselves in all the Starbucks goodness... three times! Of course, we also ate. For lunch we had sushi and for dinner we had some typical German food: Bratwurst and fries. Next time we'll be in Düsseldorf, will be May 25th at the airport, when I depart for Japan...

Sunday was brother-sister-quality-time at the Efteling, courtesy of my sweet mother and stepfather. We had a lot of fun with all the exciting and less exciting rides the park has to offer. First thing we did was try out the new 'Flying Dutchman' ride, which is a small rollercoaster with a finale splash in the water. It was a fun but even shorter than normal ride, and it wasn't worth waiting 90 minutes in line for. Luckily, we only had to wait for about 10 minutes because we went there so early, but many visitors were not so fortunate. Almost all the other rides had very short to non-existent lines, so we were able to spend the day hopping on and off rides. We even went on some of the boring and too familiar (we have been to this park many, many times) rides, just for old time's sake and for me to do it one last ime. We also revisited some of our favorite rides, with the 'Half Moon' ship being our all-time favorite! It is the largest swinging ship ride in Europe, made even more amusing by the various screams and chants from Dutch riders. I especially heavily contributed to those screams during our 11 swings in that ship (the picture is during one of these swings). Our goal was to go 20 times, but after 11 times we were too nauseous to continue. Of course, we always tried to sit in the back benches to make it as scary as possible! We had a great day and laughed a lot, I'm going to miss him so very much when I move to Japan.

Our weekend didn't end on Sunday, we added two more days: a day of shopping in Belgium and a day of relaxing in the Netherlands. On Monday (my 3-year anniversary with Yasu), we spent all day shopping in Wijnegem, Belgium because it was Queensday in the Netherlands, a national holiday resulting in all Dutch stores being closed. Gyano and I still needed to complete our wedding outfits with some shirts and a tie for Gy. Tuesday, we spent all day relaxing at the Zwaluwhoeve, which is a large and beautiful sauna and beautyresort. During the studio taping of 'All You Need Is Love' everybody in the audience was given a voucher for a day at this spa, complete with two meal buffets. People are supposed to enjoy the saunas while naked, but we are too shy for such exhibitionism so we decided to go on a monthly bathing-suit-day, which was yesterday. We sweated in about 12 different saunas and steamrooms, sat in 2 herbal baths (which I imagine onsens in Japan are like) and 2 whirlpools, swam in a variety of hot and cold swimming pools and enjoyed two buffet meals. We spent 11 hours at the spa and all that relaxing actually made us very tired, happy tired :).