summer in the city.

28 July 2014 § 1 Comment

And just like that, my first year as a secondary school teacher is complete. Above all else, patience and humility got me through – along with some dear individuals who helped me keep things in perspective. I’m excited about putting in to practice next academic year what I’ve learned this past one. I’m also excited that I am in the midst of a six week long holiday. 

While lots of people fly off to destinations far and near, I am spending most of the summer here in London, doing all the things I wish I had more time to do during the school year. Learning to drive in the UK, reading, jogging/making efforts to be more fit, writing, donating blood, learning to make bread. 

Being done my first year of teaching also means that I’ve nearly been living in the UK for a year. 

I’ve been writing poetry on and off since elementary school, nearly since I could write a coherent sentence. I find that each phase of my life is accompanied by a different voice, a different kind of poetry. Middle school was fantasy, Tolkein-inspired stuff. High school was poems about loneliness and love. University was academic and playful. Post-University was thoughtful and romantic. Japan was reflective and focussed on communication. England doesn’t have a voice yet. This has been reflected in my lack of writing poetry, as well as my general ambivalence about living here – so obvious when anyone asks how I find living in London/England (“Umm.. well,.. it’s good. Not great, but.. it’s alright..! You know, I don’t love it, don’t really hate it…”). I’m hoping I can find that voice this summer.

A colleague lent me a book a while back. “Burnt Shadows”, by Kamila Shamsie. I only just started reading it last week, as my holiday kicked off (“At least one book every two weeks!” I promised myself). It seems to fit fairly well with this idea of finding my England voice. While it is driven largely by international conflict, it follows the lives of a few different families as they move about, providing a thoughtful look at ideas of loss and foreignness. I’m about two thirds in. I recommend it. Y’know, if it sounds like your kind of thing. 

And that’s your end of July update! Over and out.





11 February 2013 § Leave a comment

I wrote a haiku last week.


In English, it might be something like…

Strolling and
Night’s mystery
Snow flowers…


poetry, apartments, kids.

26 February 2012 § Leave a comment

The Poetry.
I held the fourth poetry event last week on Sunday. While there weren’t as many people reading as I would’ve liked, the turnout was brilliant, with around thirty people coming out. And this time, rather than it being only people I know, there were a handful of others who I didn’t know. The limerick writing contest at the end was really fun and included limericks in English, Japanese, and Russian. I’m really excited to see if I keep this up. I’ll need to put more work into having a solid list of readers lined up for the next one, but hopefully that won’t be too hard. If anyone’s reading this who came out, many thanks! And to anyone who’s reading this who lives in Osaka or nearby, come on out to the next one! I’ll be planning the next event for mid-April, probably. 

Apartment Hunting.
To be honest, I didn’t really hunt that much. We had a meeting with a housing agent on Thursday, she told us about a few potential options, drove us to see the most promising apartment, we liked it, we took it, we’re figuring out the details of the contract on Wednesday. Could we have found a larger space for the same rent? Could we have found the same amount of space for less? Quite possibly. But neither of us felt like dragging this out and looking around a lot, and the location we found is hard to top in terms of convenience. Instead of being rather south, I’ll be in a more central area, close to three subway lines and a major train line. Downtown is a fifteen minute walk away. I’m moving in two and a half weeks. I can’t wait. This tiny apartment has been alright for the past year, but it’s time to move on to bigger and better things! 
Apartment hunting isn’t so difficult here. There are a number of housing agents who speak English, so it’s alright. 

 …are adorable. I visited a particular kindergarten for the last time last week and after the last lesson of the morning, the kids followed me out of the classroom to ask me a million questions. They asked a lot of questions, all in Japanese of course: “Where are you from?” “What is Canadian food like?” “What Japanese food do you like?” “Where do you live?” “Are there any temples near your home?” “What’s your favourite colour?” “How old are you?” “Can you play soccer?” As an English teacher there, I’m not supposed to speak any Japanese around the children, so I responded in English, though whether I could’ve answered in Japanese had I been allowed is questionable. I’m always surprised when a group of kids seems interested in me, because I feel so clueless around them most of the time. I’ve become a lot more comfortable with being around large groups of them in the pass year, though. 

That’s all for now. I’m going to adding a link to my friend Celia’s blog soon, so check out the right hand side of the homepage for that. She writes well and offers more observations on and insights into Japanese culture than I do. 🙂 

I’m still here!

16 October 2011 § Leave a comment

I am, in fact, alive. My lack of updates would suggest otherwise, but here I am! I’ll get back to more posts on the two week adventure with Dan, but if I wait to update about anything current until I’m done with that, I might not post again til 2012 (which actually isn’t that far from now..). All in good time. (If it gets to be too long, do send me a message nagging me about it. Nagging me about updating my blog is effective, as proven by this post, in response to Deanna).

Time is flying by, no surprise. The past month and a half seem in recollection the length of two weeks. I’m not even too sure what I’ve been keeping busy with. Here are a few things that I can remember:

Improv workshop.
There’s this improv group in Osaka called The Pirates of the Dotombori. I think I’ve mentioned them on here before. Anyway, they perform around here around once a month or so, and I try to make it to their shows whenever I can. It’s nice to go see a live comedy performance (as opposed to a live non-comedy performance or non-live comedy performance, y’know?). I’ve gone alone a few times now because I  decide I’ll go last minute, and there are always great people there to talk to, acquaintances and strangers alike. A few times a year, they hold an improv workshop. I’d already missed two – one due to a hanami (cherry blossom viewing party), the other because of work or something. But then a couple weeks ago, I finally made it. It was a lot of fun. Mostly foreigners, from a few different countries, as well as a few Japanese people. I don’t really have much (any?) experience with this sort of thing, but it was a great way to spend a Sunday evening.

I posted about Koya-san back in April, I think. I went for a day trip with my friend, Ciaran. The place that reminded me of places I’d dreamed of when I was 14.  I’d been looking forward to going back sometime to check it out more thoroughly, and I finally did last weekend with my friends Laura, Fionna, and Raynor. We checked out a number of the temples there, taking our time, enjoying the fall trees and fall air. Fionna and Raynor headed back to Osaka in the late afternoon, and Laura and I checked into the temple that we were going to be staying at overnight. Our dinner at the temple was vegan and delicious. Same with breakfast. We were up at 6 for meditation. We walked around Koya-san until we felt we could walk no more. It’s a beautiful place – definitely in my top five in Japan.

I went for another visit with my relatives in Wakayama. Went down on a Sunday afternoon, and came back Monday afternoon. They’re so welcoming. I don’t think everyone’s so fortunate when they meet their distant relatives. We had a barbecue and ate outside  under the stars. My cousin Aya’s grandfather (who’s also my cousin, I just don’t know how to refer to them to distinguish between them..) was apparently unusually talkative, which I found sort of amusing, given that I couldn’t understand anything. But Aya translated for me, which was so helpful. I’m so grateful to live close to family, regardless of how distantly related we are.

Justin Bieber.
I taught a group of five year olds about the Biebs when I was teaching them the word beaver. Japanese people have some difficulty with v’s because it’s not in their alphabet (or whatever the right term is for it… syllabary?), so my kids kept saying beaber. I drew a picture on the board for them of a Canadian flag and a person singing and gave them a brief, simple explanation. I think they understood. They’re bright kids.

It’s coming up soon and they encourage us to wear costumes to our job. Finally, my 13-year old dream is coming true. I will be Sailor Moon. Or some brunette variation, anyway. Not many of my students will have watched it, but the Japanese staff that I work with have assured me that they at least know who she is. I am excited. The first time I tried the outfit on, though, I was at a friend’s playing Zelda: Ocarina of Time on N64, and I could only bear to stand there in my costume so long before I felt way too nerdy and needed to change out of it. The nerdiness continued though, as we made our way through Jabu-Jabu to collect Zora’s Amulet from Ruto…

Planning for the next poetry event is underway! I was so surprised when at the last one, I said that the next one probably wouldn’t be until early 2012 and people insisted on it being sooner. I can’t wait. One friend suggested that I get people more involved by having some kind of writing contest. I’m thinking something to do with limericks. I think this one’ll be that much better.. the last two, I held it on a weekday because I thought it’d be easiest to find a venue then, and people won’t have plans they’re rather go to than a poetry reading. This time, though, it’ll be on a Sunday.

..That’s about it for now. The next couple months are going to fly by, and before I know it, it’ll be Christmas. Incredible.



15 June 2011 § Leave a comment

Sometimes the fact that I’m here feels about as natural as the way in which we put one foot in front of the other to walk. Sometimes it feels effortless. It’s not a matter of thinking hard about what I’m doing, it’s about doing what I need to do and always moving forward. As I take things one day at a time, I’m often pleasantly surprised by the things I have the opportunity to do and the people I have the opportunity to meet and get to know.

Karaoke. I’ve gone to karaoke a couple times in the past week. It’s such a feel-good thing to do, especially with the right people. Sometimes I get the feeling that karaoke might be to actual singers/songwriters sort of like paint by numbers would be for real painters, but it just feels good to use my voice like that, regardless of whether it’s my own song or not. I think my new go-to song is “Rapture” by Blondie.

Aquarium. The Osaka aquarium is awesome. It’s huge. And it has a whale shark, and huge manta rays, and sharks, and eels, and penguins and otters and seals and monkeys and so much! My friend Laura and I must have spent over four hours, taking our sweet time walking through. Aquariums are one of my favourite things to see when I’m sightseeing.

Poetry. The poetry reading was fantastic. There must have been around 15 people who came out, which seemed like a lovely crowd for the small venue. Around half of those people read, which was more than I had anticipated. Most of them had never been to a poetry reading. A couple of them, when they went up, were clearly nervous, hands shaking and all that. It makes me so happy when people are willing share their poetry with a group of people, despite being barely able to hold on to their poem because of their nerves. It’s hard, and wonderful.

I had an hour and a half lesson with a student the other day and we talked about poetry. He shared a couple poems with me that he had written in English. He doesn’t normally write poetry, but he had done so in response to a message board on an ESL-related website. A few people the other night came up to the mic and just made up poems on the spot. They joked around, insisting that they’re in no way poets. But as much as people like to insist that they’re not, or that they can’t write poems, or whatever, I think a lot more people are poets than care to admit or realize.

A Little Help from my Friends. A lot of you were so supportive when my good friend, Joel, was in that contest. He certainly would have been in the band, but he stepped down because he couldn’t be sure of what the band would be and if the right chemistry would be there creatively and what have you. So now, he’s continuing to pursue success. A large part of this is planning shows over the next while, in Toronto and Southern Ontario. Another part of this is taking advantage of other contests. If you have a moment (and I’m sure many of you do!), check out either or both of these:

MOArtist Competition: something to do with EMI Canada, a lucky person will “legitimately get one of [their] own tunes released as a single”. This involves texting, which many of you do. Text “Vote JOELMUSIC” to 79999 to vote for Joel. Text “JOELMUSIC” to 79999 to be added as a fan, which will provide you with a link to a profile with some of his songs that aren’t available anywhere else online. It’s free, guys. So what are you waiting for?

The Cool in You, Canada’s Next Singing Talent: CLICK HERE, listen and LIKE.

still kicking.

26 April 2011 § 2 Comments

My laptop charger is busted! I’m not impressed! There is one on its way from China for me, and I am trying to wait patiently for its arrival. In the meanwhile, a few friends in my apartment building have been kind enough to allow me some time on their laptops, and right now, I’m borrowing a charger from a girl downstairs. Here are a few updates from the past little while:

1. One of my students gave me an article (in English) about dating in Japan. She thought I might find it interesting. Dating isn’t on my list of things to do in Japan, but it was nice of her to think of me during her week.

2. I found another awesome park a short bike ride away from my apartment. I am excited to spend some time there.

3. Found a bottle of Niagara wine for the first time the other night. Every time I am at a store with a large wine selection, I look to see if there’s anything from Niagara. Finally, I was at some place last night that had an empty Peller Estates ice wine bottle on a shelf. It made me happy to see.

4. I’m setting up a poetry reading event in downtown Osaka in mid-June. I’m really excited about this. Going to put an ad in a monthly publication about it. Hopefully I can get a few people to come out and read some original poetry! I’ve been asking around a bit about a poetry scene, but no one knows anything. I saw an ad for a poetry reading back in March, open mic for original pieces, advertised as free, but was taking place at a restaurant and anyone attending was required to buy a dinner set (4000 yen later… approx. 48 dollars). Might as well go ahead and set something up myself!!

5. I figured out some kanji for my name tonight. There are a lot of different ways to write Emi in kanji, but I think the one I’ve figured out is what it’s supposed to be. The kanji I’ve got for “mi” means beautiful, and the kanji that I chose for “e” means smile. One of the other popular kanji for “e” means painting or picture, but I seem to recall my parents telling me that my name means smile…

6. Two more shifts and then a week off!! (Well, with the exception of the two days of overtime I’ve picked up).

7. If anyone in the Niagara area doesn’t have any plans for this FRIDAY, April 29th, check out the St. Catharines Downtown Market sometime between 11AM and 8PM. Rachael Forgeron is selling some of her jewelery which is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. Check out some of her stuff HERE ON ETSY. She’s been doing this for years and her experience and passion for her craft is evident. A nice trip to the market downtown on a Saturday afternoon – sounds kinda nice, doesn’t it?

eight mountain ample child.

9 March 2011 § Leave a comment

Strange finds at a store today: eye tape and face pajamas.

Favorite Engrish of the day: “Three Years Past Planner”.

Favorite restaurant find of the day: a cafe/bar called Slices that offers a relaxed cafe atmosphere with a good selection of hot drinks (and some of the best coffee I’ve had here yet!), cold drinks, pizza, wraps, sandwiches, and salads. I met the owner last week. He’s from the Kingston/Waterloo area. Also got Mexican today for dinner. That was pretty good.

Unusual music of the day: Auld Lang Syne on loop at a sports equipment store. Stores tend to play some strange music here. At the school I was working at the other day, the school director had an Enya mixed CD, followed up by some Michael Jackson. Why not, really.

Favorite place of the day altogether: a free art exhibit with a focus on sound and typography. Lots of quotes scattered around from Gide, Mallarme, Duchamps, Godard, and Rimbaud. A very cool piece featuring the final four or five chapters from The Little Prince, en francaise.

Interesting quote of the day: “I have nothing to say, I am saying it, and that is poetry” (John Cage)

Started attempting to translate some Japanese poetry today. I’m certain I’m not doing it right, but it’s getting me to look up some kanji and learn it and get better at recognizing my katakana and hiragana. And I get to (sort of) write a poem in the process. Like some kind of paint by numbers but a lot more complicated and with more possible results.

Today was about translation, communication, understanding, words, letters, symbols, and poetry. It was great.

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