Summer 2010

My summer break is almost over and I’m left wondering where my time went. Here is some proof of the fun:

Visit with Renee and Brad in Vancouver ( 3 nights)

Visit with lady, doc and Sophia in Colorado springs (3 days)

ISTE conference in Denver (8 days)

Visit with friend and family in Ottawa with a 2 night trip to Niagara Falls with Rosie (3 weeks)

2 weeks of summer school
1 week of computer setup, relaxation, tweeting, blogging, staying up too late and waking up to early.

Teach workdays begin on Monday August 16.

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Day Trips from Nagoya

Saturdays seem to have become the unofficial day for exploring nearby regions. I finally got my credit card and ETC card last week so we can go traveling and get better rates on the toll roads. My car doesn’t have an ETC reader but my friends’ do so we use their car. So far we’ve been to Inuyama and Tahara. This weekend was my birthday weekend so I got to choose what we did.

My birthday was on Saturday but the celebration started on Friday evening. A friend cooked a fabulous dinner. On Saturday morning, we had breakfast together while we planned our trip to Toba and Ise in the Mie Prefecture. Our first stop was Ise. We went to Sushi Train for lunch. I think I’m going to miss those two little tortoise characters when I leave Japan. As we headed to Sadahama Port for the boat to Dolphin Island, we came across a home made ice cream shop. I had chestnut ice cream while my friends had Pearl and blueberry. Mikimoto Pearls originated from the Toba region so I assume that pearl ice cream is a local specialty. We didn’t visit the Pearl Island but took a boat cruise to Dolphin Island.

The boat was clearly designed for an amusement park with bright colors and a myriad of life size adornments. Dolphin Island is quite small. The dolphin show was disappointing but the beach was beautiful. We walked along the beach with our feet in the water before climbing to the observatory for a panaromic view of the area.

From Toba, we headed to Ise to visit the Jingu Geku shrine. We were too late to go to the Naiku. The entrance and viewable areas of the shrine are relatively simple. It’s a Shinto shrine that has not been influenced by Chinese or Buddhist traditions. The walk through the grounds is very peaceful with majestic trees and small ponds.

The Jingu Naiku is 6 km from Jingu Geku so we did not go to the inner shrine. It was already dusk. Instead, we went to see the wedded rocks. There is a boulevard along the water. It was relaxing to stop for a moment and enjoy the sound of the waves and the trickling of water from the nearby temple. We didn’t get to see Mt. Fuji in the background but perhaps another day.

We found a nice little restaurant on the way home. It served “dry curry” which is apparently quite healthy. Unfortunately, all the descriptions were in Japanese so I don’t know what dry curry is (although I think I ate it) but it is apparently healthy. The restaurant is called Caravan and has lots of character with old records hung all over the walls. There were posters of the Beatles and John Lennon with the Statue of Liberty. The man and woman who I assume ran the place or maybe own it were very gracious. We wanted hot tea (which they said that they did not have) but the lady later brought us hot tea with a note written in English saying “Japanese hot tea is free”. We got home quite late but my travel companions came over and had birthday cake with me. Thanks ladies for a great birthday weekend.

Passing time in Dublin

I’m ready to go home even though I’m not really sure where that is. Losing my passport left me with this feeling of incredulity. I’m absent minded and forgetful but I’ve never found myself in a bind quite like this before. After an unsympathetic visit to the Canadian Embassy in Dublin, I was really upset and not at all in the mood for sightseeing. I had to cancel my visit to Glendalough so that I could appear at the Canadian Embassy at 9:00 a.m. this morning and throw myself at their mercy.

I signed in to the embassy at 9:05 this morning and filled out all the forms and paid my (hefty) fee for a temporary passport. I was told to come back at 2:00 p.m. since the Dublin office is 5 hours ahead of Ottawa and wouldn’t be able to get approval from Ottawa until that time. I walked around a bit and then decided to take the hop on / hop off Dublin tour. I took pictures of the highlights but did not visit any sights. I’ve had enough of looking at things; I was just passing time until I could return to the embassy.

I finished the tour around 1 and went for lunch. Lunch was quick and it still wasn’t 2 yet by the time that I finished eating, so I went for a walk beside the canal. When the clock struck 2, I headed to the embassy. I was asked to wait.

I waited, and waited, and waited some more. Good thing I remembered to bring a book with me today. I guess there were some complications with the passport and I finally got it just before 5 p.m. I’m thankful to the lady who processed my application and got me the passport. She’s the same one who made me lose all hope of getting my passport in a day but she pulled through for me. I must remember that actions speak louder than words.

I’m the owner of a white temporary passport. I guess the fee also pays for a real passport when I get to Ottawa but I didn’t know that at the time (or I would have paid a few more Euros to get a 48 page passport). I have to exchange the temporary passport for a 24 page passport within 60 days. I can leave Dublin and get a little bit closer to Ottawa, though it doesn’t quite feel like going home.

Irish culture

Today I walked on cliffs in the clouds with birds while the sea roared below. That’s what it felt like. I couldn’t see further than a few hundred meters away because of the thick fog swallowing the Cliffs of Moher. The burren and cliffs tour that I was on was saved by the spectacular views of the burren and of the Irish countryside, as well as the visit to Aillwee Cave and the stop to see the slab tomb at Poulnabrone Dolmen. Note to self: Don’t expect to be able to see spectacular sights at high altitude when on a day trip. Stay in the area for at least 24 hours in the hope of catching a clear view. That’s what I did in Banaue, in the hills of India; I’d forgotten the lesson.

Tonight, I continued my immersion into Irish culture, not the land but song and dance. It was a quick 5-10 minute walk to the Salthill Hotel from Clare Villa. I paid a fixed price for the deliciously satisfying three course meal on offer for the night before experiencing the magic of Trad on the Prom show. I have no pictures because they’re not allowed of the show but you can see them at The musicians and talented and versatile. Out of the five main performers, three of them demonstrated more than one talent. The dancers were high energy, enthusiastic and well synchronized, simply fantastic. It was a full and enjoyable day.

Yesterday was a more relaxed day. I walked around Galway, exploring the Spanish Arch, the museum, the market, St. Nicholas’ Church, the Galway Cathedral, Cobbin River, the River Walkway. I got most of my gifts at the market which sold a variety of crafts, wollen wear, baked goods, vegetables, fruits, cheese, hand bags made in Nepal, some jewellery made in Ireland while others were made in Sweden and other places. I stopped by the river to finish my book, and to watch the fishermen and the other people enjoying the sunshine. As I walked on, I saw some swans and ducks in Galway Bay. I’d given my feet quite a workout but I’d do it all over again.

Queen and Country

I had a few hours on Friday morning before my bus trip to Dublin. I decided to visit Queens University and the Botanic Gardens, both walking distance from my Camera Guest House. I first dropped off my laundry; I opted for drop off service since it was only 2 euros more and would save me time. I then went for a walk through the Botanic Gardens. The Palm House was closed but I enjoyed walking through and looking at the plants and flowers. I enjoyed smelling the fresh cut grass and the rain as it was drizzling most of the morning. The rose garden had a wide variety of shades and colors of roses. The roses weren’t very fragrant but there are some other very fragrant flowers in the gardens. Although I was there before the tropical ravine was officially open, one of the people working there was inside and I he made no argument when I walked through the unlocked door. It was hot and humid in there as you can imagine.

My next stop was Queen’s University where I went to check out the Canada Room and the Visitors Center. There is a larger than life Pio Fendi sculture of Galileo in the black and white checked hall in the Lanyon building. I was curious about the Canada room. It was explained to me that it is so named because Canada assisted with its renovation and there is a close partnership between the university and universities in Canada.

I still had a few more hours. I walked down Shaftesbury Square. I thought of going to Ormeau Baths but it started to rain so I dropped into the Europa Drop Center to get my ticket and hang around reading my book and enjoying a smoothie. I had enough time to pick up my laundry and have a quick lunch (bad Chinese buffet) before heading to the bus station to take the train to Dublin.

Irish Pasture from Bus from Belfast to Dublin

Protestant || Catholic

I’m in Ireland. I got here Wednesday evening (17th June). Actually I had flight connection troubles so I flew into Ireland and took the train to Belfast instead of flying into Belfast as previously planned. I lost track of time and was surprised when I realized that it was already 10:00 p.m.; the sun was still up.

I spent Thursday exploring Belfast. I took a hop on/hop off bus for the first time. I probably would have seen things more thoroughly if I hadn’t, and then again maybe that’s optimistic since it rained off and on all day long. The highlights of the trip were Stormount Estate, City Hall, St. Anne’s Cathedral, Titanic’s Dock and Pump House, none of which I stopped at. I would have liked to visit Stormount Estate and St. Anne’s Cathedral but it was raining and cold at the time and I couldn’t convince myself to do it. City Hall was closed for renovations. I got off the Bus at Skankill Road and had lunch there before walking over to Falls Road. The murals on the two roads send strong messages about the culture and history of the area. I spent some time talking to an older man in a coffee shop on Skankill. He told me some of the murals that I should see and shared some of the history of Skankill with me. He was a primary school teacher and now is a methodist ??. I didn’t quite catch what he said. I asked him to repeat it but I still didn’t catch it through the accent. Skankill has a more intimate feel than Falls Road in my opinion.

Lunch was fish and chips at Beatties. It’s a plain place with tables and pews that remind me of my school days. The portions of fish and chips are generous and served in about 7 minutes. I learned during the meal that fish and chips is a healthy food. I’m not entirely convinced but there was a large poster proudly stating this. I also ordered a pastie because I wanted to see what it was. It is a fried potato cake of a pinkish/red color. I’m not sure what is done to it to get it that way. I was curious about what a bap is but I had way too much food as it was and left most of it behind.

I saw Queens university and the Botanic Gardens from the bus but didn’t have enough time to visit that day so I went shopping at Clarks for shoes instead. I usually wear a size 8 or 9 in US sizes. I guess sizes are different in Northern Ireland. I had to keep asking for smaller sizes until the 6.5 finally fit.

It was around 6 p.m. when I finished shopping. I decided that that was too early to call it a day so I went to watch at movie before heading back to the guest house.