Sunday, August 27, 2006

Everything Changes...

I received a call on Friday stating that another school in Japan had a bigger need for teachers therefore I am being moved to a different apartment. That big, long entry about the first apartment (the American, the Aussie, the fighting over the big room, the address) ignore it. Here's the new story.

I will be living with an American and a Brit. The American has been there since June of 2005, which means if he doesn't know the lay of the land he's quite the homebody! The Brit moved in this June so the fighting over rooms is non-existant. I will be getting whatever's left. The joy of that, though, is that this new apartment's smallest room is bigger than two of the other rooms in the previous apartment. There is a downside, though, since this new apartment, on paper, looks much smaller than the first apartment. Here's the new address:

Kasahara 2f
2-19-42 Okubo

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Final Day of Work

I thought that this entry would be better fitted if written AT work so that is exactly what I am doing. So if I suddenly end this entry with no explanation, you'll know that my boss walked by and chastised me for not doing my work. I don't think that'll happen considering that for the past two days I've been struggling to find something to do! Once I finished everything Camp-related (Final Camp Report, a last get-together dinner for the employees of which 3 out of 8 employees showed, clean-up, etc...) there really wasn't much for me to do. The solution? Paper shredding! Lots and lots of paper shredding. A ridiculous amount, frankly, considering I filled six garbage bags with old Recreation Complex documents. It felt like I was working at the mill again, paper dust coating my lungs and massive amounts of machinery threatening my life if I made so much as a flinch in the wrong direction.

Sitting here on my last day of work has made me think of all of my jobs and final days. I can't say that I've had a truly awful job cause I can find the positive in any employment I've held. I thought that I'd take this oppurtunity to go through my previous jobs and talk about why I enjoyed the work, why they sucked and what I did on my final day.

1. Thunder Bay Times/Chronicle Journal Newspaper Carrier (i.e. Paperboy)

Why it was good: There's no better job when living in Northwestern Ontario than walking around in the nice, fresh air delivering newspapers to very nice customers who tip unbelivably well! I held this job for 9 years, at one point with the largest paper route in all of Dryden with over 75 customers, and I made ridiculous amounts of money for a young kid. Where did the money go? A computer and an assload of candy!

Why it sucked: Winter. There was no forgiveness when you have to deliver papers in the most vicious cold weather ever witnessed. 9 winters meant a new kind of winter every single time. Some winters it was dry and harsh, others it was wet and disheartening. Sometimes it was mild, others it was just cruel. Also, customers who didn't pay on time and felt that their world revolved around the newspaper really pissed me off. Heaven forbid that a 7 year-old boy not deliver your paper at 7:00 AM on a Saturday morning! Whatever shall you do without your Daily Jumble or Marmaduke comic!

Final Day - My final day with the paper route came when a new hotshot newspaper man came in and claimed that I wasn't doing a good enough job soliciting new paper subscribers in a small area of North Dryden. On this note, he took away a 5-paper route and gave it to someone else. Considering my work history, my mom and I marched into the office and demanded my route be returned to me. When it wasn't, I gave my two weeks notice and had the joy of informing my customers, dedicated people who had been with me for years, that I was being screwed by The Man. Needless to say the tips and presents were mind-boggling and I used my final day delivering papers to count my money and blow it all on candy!

2. Canada Safeway Ltd. Produce Clerk

Why it was good: There's nothing like working with your friends. The period of time in which I worked in the Produce department of Safeway was considered the "Glory Days of Student Employment." There were so many students working back there that all had the same mentality: "Work to live not live to work." Oh, that and "Let's hurl rotten tomatoes down the garbage chute!" The 3 1/2 years I spent at Safeway were some of the most carefree and fun years of High School. Everything and anything happened at Safeway: joking, lying, cheating, stealing, procrastionating, the occassional Safeway romance, freak-outs, breakdowns and just plain, old-fashioned fun.

Why it sucked: Rotten produce. There was this one time in the first few months of my tenure in the Produce department when my boss, Rick, an interesting boss who could be both a prick and a pal in the same breath, and I stayed late to clean the broccolli traps in the cooling shelves. They hadn't be cleaned in months, possibly years, and the stench that eminated from the liquidized broccolli was a reek that still sits in my Safeway apron. I could claim that I had never dry-heaved before that point. No longer can I say that. The smells that rotten produce give off would make you rethink your purchase of asparagus and eggplant.

Final Day - Everyone left around the same time I did since University was fast approaching. On that Final Day I had the joys of working the late shift with my boss Jeff, Rick's replacement when the guy was put on permanent disability. Jeff was, and still is, the best boss I've ever worked with. The man knew how to joke and run the Produce department to record sales numbers. Also working that last day was Scott Baziluwski, another student who said that on all of our last days we had to say something over the P.A. My line was one word: "Ass!" With that done, I walked out of Safeway.

3. Weyerhaeuser Pulp and Paper Mill

Why it was good - Plain and simple: the pay. In the interview, Donna Hall asked me why I wanted to work in the mill. The obvious answer was the correct answer: "The money, Donna." And you have to be honest when you realize that no other student back at York is going to be making $24 an hour as easily as I would be. Putting the money aside, the job itself was pretty damn good. Again, I entered the job in the hayday of student employment and I got moved to the greatest department in the entire mill: The Paper Machines. 16 students were hired my first summer and 4 would work each shift. That meant there would be no boredom on hour-long breaks or multi-hour long lunches. Even the full-timers were great to work with, always ready with a hilarious work story or a bitter comment about useless students. The work was, for the most part, easy and, again, the pay was incredible.

Why is sucked - When the going was good, it was good. When the going was bad, you felt like throwing yourself into the paper machine to end it all was a common thought. When the paper would snap off the drums of the paper machine the main doors would rise, the whistle would sound and you were forced to grab an air hose and blow down a 50+ degree furnace. It sucked! Sometimes this task would take minutes, other times an hour or two, but there was the rare occassion when everything would take the backseat and all 12 hours of your shift was spent sweating and trying to make this damn machine work. The other shitty part of this job was an area of the mill labelled The Pits. The Pits were four large concrete rooms housed underneath the two paper machines. The temperature of these Pits could climb well about 60 degrees and the students had to go into them daily to clean up any paper that dropped off the machines. Imagine a room in which you get an instant coat of sweat once you walk right through the door. And imagine spending more than 10 minutes in this room. Hell, I had a full 14-hour shift of just sitting in that room cleaning paper and hosing the floor.

Final Day - I worked at the mill for three summers and I like to think of two Final Days I had there. 1. On the last day of my first summer I sat in the break room avoiding getting soaked by Lenny who, two days prior, I had dumped ice water all over his head in front of more than a dozen employees. 2. The last day of my last summer, which was last year, and just finishing up a hellish summer that involved very few hours and alot of bitterness. Two completely different Final Days for the same job.

4. Timbermax Lumber Loader

Why it was good - The job was not glamourous in the least! I was another guy in the back who just put 2x4s and patio slabs in the back of mini-vans and trucks. It's difficult to find the good in that job but I can honestly say that I began that job as an overweight college student and left it, after only a month, with less weight and a better physique. Also, I had a really nice tan.

Why it sucked - The employees in the back didn't like to talk much, the job was alot of heavy lifting, I was always covered in insulation or sawdust and I was making minimum wage in the quest to pay for my second year of school.

Final Day - I actually quit this job when I got a call from Public Works. Almost a $7 difference in pay! I had to go. The manager was really kind when hearing this news and offered to bring me back if I needed. Needless to say I put Timbermax to my back and never went back.

5. City of Dryden Public Works Department

Why it was good - I got paid to drive around, fill potholes and enjoy the great outdoors. Working outside was fantastic! And it just so happened that I took this job during the summer in which the mill first annouced the employee lay-offs. Talk about avoiding awkward tension in the workplace!

Why it sucked - Jackhammering in the summer heat, dropping the brand new truck into a ditch, watching a drunk guy roll his truck into Dead Man's Creek. Well, that last one was fun but when he started telling us not to call the cops and, when we did, running away from the scene of the crime and hightailing it into the bush I knew I was in for quite the ordeal!

The Final Day - The Final Day held one of the best staff parties I have ever been to. All of the Public Works gang got together at the Queen St. Station bar, ate, got prizes and got ridiculous drunk. The highlight came when Moose, a full-timer, and I got into a debate whether the waitress was wearing a thong or not. Moose did the smart thing and asked her. Nothing like boldness to make a party great!

6. Dryden Recreation Complex Summer Programmer

Why it was good - My first office job after years of back-breaking mill work. It was a pleasant change from the normal work I am used to. Everyone here at the office was great to work with and it has given me a glimpse into what it will be like to teach or take an administrative job in the future.

Why it sucked - Nothing like making girls cry over the most minor of criticism! Ugh, I need a drink!

Final Day - It's 10:27 and so far I've worked on this blog. Things are good!

There ya have it! Don's resume in a nutshell! Interesting way of documenting work but it's nice to look back and think about all the money I've blown on candy! Damn you 7-11!!!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Let The Packing Begin!

As the days pass by on the Get Fuzzy comic-a-day calendar sitting beside the monolith that is my DVD shelf, I realize that packing what I need and want to bring to Japan. Here's the deal: I will be flying into Japan's Narita Airport and will travel to Yokohama via train, which means that my luggage will be sent to my apartment by a courier paid for by the company I'm working for (nice people, I tells ya!) There are restrictions placed on my luggage: I can only have two pieces of luggage that are under 55 pounds. Any more than 55 pounds I incur all costs. Not exactly the way I want to start my journey, paying out the nose just to deliver my hilarious Nintendo T-shirts. Also, shipping some of my more important necessities, like clothes, to my place is not exactly an option. Dryden to Yokohama is about two months worth of sea shipping (take notes people! If you want to send me a Christmas gift, you better ship it in October) so I kinda need to have everything right off the bat. You see my problem...

Taking all of this into consideration, I need to start packing and weighing now. I've already started combining things, like taking the movies I want to bring and putting them into a large CD binder, but I haven't really started on the clothes. I've limited myself to 5 books, 5 large books mind you, but only 5. I've got the Gameboy and a few games tucked away in its carrying case along with my important document storage case. Pictures will be coming with me but most of them are already cut up and in large collages. I'm going to print off a few at Wal-Mart but I still need to pick and choose. You can see how ridiculous this is getting. I need to start packing and I need to start packing now.

I know what you're thinking: "Wow, this entry was boring!" Hey, there's only a few weeks left and I've got nothing better to do! But what this entry is trying to do is illicit comments. If you have any ideas on what I should bring to Japan, throw them out there. I'm gonna need help on this one.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Visit Beautiful Yokohama!

To counterbalance my last post (hey, I never said this blog would be all wine and roses. It gets real sometimes!!) I thought I would write about the city that I am going to. I just found out today that I will be in a little city called Yokohama, Japan, Population: 3.5 million. Yokohama is a port city facing the west side of Tokyo Bay. Only 30 KMs from Tokyo, Yokohama is Japan's second-largest city. The rainy season is Sept. to Oct. (of course, right when I arrive) but the weather is extremely mild all through the year: the highest temperature recorded was 36.9 C while the lowest temperature was -2.5 C. The City Flower is the rose. The port of Yokohama is one of the most active ports in the world. Now that I've gone through all the touristy things about Yokohama, I might as well talk about my feelings on this location. Considering how close Tokyo is but yet still living in a city roughly the size of Toronto, I'm extremely happy I'm living where I am.

I also received the information on my roommates: one Australian, who is already there, and an American who is entering the house at the same time as me. That means it's a fight to the death for the big room!! But since the dude's an American, he'll probably shoot me and take it over (that's a sneaky jive at Larry! Take that you Texan!) The Aussie didn't move in until May so we're all going to be fairly new to the area. Hopefully we get along and make this year a great one. I don't want to drink and sing kareoke alone! That's just a pitiful sight: Don, hammered off sake, singing "One Is The Lonliest Number" to a bunch of Japanese businessman who are flicking raw fish in his general direction.

The apartment looks pretty sweet. There are three bedrooms (obviously): two Western-style rooms and one traditional Japanese room. The Japanese room is the biggest but the Western rooms are more familiar to all. Now, I have no idea which room the Australian guy took but if he's thinking the same way I'm thinking, he'd take one of the Western rooms and watch the two poor bastards moving in fight over the other Western room. It'll be interesting and I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, here's my address:

#112 Garden City Kanazawa Bunko
2-13-2 Kamariya Higashi

Ku means Suburb, Shi means City, Ken means Prefecture. If you want to send me something, there you go! Now that I have an address things are starting to fall into place. And let the countdown begins: 3 weeks! 21 days! It's gonna be sweet!

The Ties That Bind...

With a little over three weeks to go I headed down to Toronto to start tying up the loose ends of my Canadian life. Now, you ask anyone who's gone on to live in a foreign country for a long period of time and the last thing they tell you about was the process of saying their goodbyes to their family, friends and loved ones. Why? Cause it's the most bittersweet life can get. Sure, it's nice to see everyone but it's in that moment that you realize that this may be one of the last times you see these people for either a) a long period of time or b) ever. No-one tells you about this experience...until now. Consider yourself told! And I wish someone would've told me cause then I would've been prepared for both the action of tying up those loose ends and the emotional drain after it's all over.

I travelled down to Toronto to make my final trek through the South to see everyone I needed and wanted to see: Jessica, my old roommate and dear friend, Ruby, Michelle, Mark, Poonam, my crazy Friday night Scrabble partners, Melissa, concussed PB cookie baker, and of course Ainsley, the girlfriend away at her Ranch Cult. Luckily for me I got to see people that weren't even listed: Mikey P., the man with the coat that could make or break a bank account (I still need a picture of that bad boy). If I didn't get to see you, I apologize. I wish I could've seen everyone in one big party but unfortunately I'm not vain enough to throw myself a going-away party. Although, I bet the buffet would've been sweet! That's neither here nor there.

While most of these visits were extremely pleasant and well needed, there's always that one that just makes you a little disappointed cause it didn't go the way you wanted it to go. For me, that one was Ainsley. I'm not going to go into details but let's just say that if I were to do it all again, it would've been very different. And when you sit and realize that it's that memory that is the freshest one in your mind, it worries you to think "Will that be the one I take with me? Will that cancel all the good times?" As of right now, I don't even know if I can answer that one. I hope it doesn't but all it takes is one event to really affect you to the core.

It's those loose ends that'll really bug you (well, if you let it bug you, that is) when you are off jet-setting to your next new adventure. But it's a necessary part of this whole moving away for a year thing. Hell, the whole weekend could've been shit (luckily it wasn't) but you still have to go through it. Closure. That is the key.

Don't say I didn't warn you.