chris vs. the arctic

chris: 72 // the arctic: 47


Cherry Blossoms
Stop and Smell the FlowersPink Branches
Amanda In Motion
Sakura Lanterns
Park Lanterns in the TwilightHanami at Kojo
Darkly Sakura
Dave and SakeTim Bouncing
Dedicated to the CauseNight Cherry Blossoms

Obachan vs. The Environment


Obachan Burning Shit
Originally uploaded by buck82.
Toyama is very rural (apparently), so there are farmers around every corner here. When the snow is not covering the ground, they are burning shit 24/7. Not shit literally, but rather dead organic matter (leaves, dirt, garbage...). There are days when I can't see 200 metres ahead of me because of the smoke! I sometimes wake up thinking my house is on fire, but it's actually the neighboring farmer, up and burning shit at 6 am.

This particular fire was out of hand. First of all, it was much larger than any other I have seen so far. Secondly, look at where the great plume of smoke is flowing... Yeah, right into traffic. Nice.

I wonder how many tons of carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere every year by Japanese farmers? Someone MUST introduce composting here, before the planet is too hot to grow rice!


Finally! The long awaited post about my trip to Vietnam! Sorry to keep you on the edge of your seat for so long. (I know you were.) As you've probably guessed, I don't really like writing about everything that happened on a trip. Mainly because I'm really lazy, but also because it's boring. So, I'm going to highlight the best parts of my trip by location. Enjoy!

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
March 25-28, 2006
The moment Amber and I arrived in Vietnam, we were absorbed in the madness. If I were an alien from another planet observing Saigon, I'd say motorcycles were the dominant species. They're everywhere! Somehow, though, the chaos works and everything flows smoothly.

Once we got into the groove of things, we enjoyed everything HCMC has to offer, including ridiculously cheap beer (50 cents a bottle), fresh spring rolls, warm weather, crazy foreigners, crazy locals, and everything in between. So what did we do "in between?" We walked around the city, shopped in the local markets, visited the Reunification Palace, experienced the War Remnants Museum, toured the Fines Arts Museum, grilled beef at our table at dinner, danced at a local club, and drank beer at every meal (save breakfast)!

Self Pic #1Saigon Rooftops50 Cent BeerHotel de Ville
Motorcycle MadnessUncle Ho
Notre Dame Cathedral and the Virgin Mary

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Saigon, for me at least, is how colourful everything is! Every building, from the tallest tower to the smallest shack, is vividly painted. I even saw advertisements for paint on billboards and in magazines! Maybe coming from bland Japan has cleared my palette for some colour, but it was definitely a nice change!

Our stay in HCMC was brief, but memorable.

The Mekong Delta
March 27. 2006
The mighty Mekong river is one of the world's largest. We had to see it. Amber and I booked a "classy" day tour of the delta region, including stops at a Cao Dai Temple, the floating market, a local village, an ancient house for lunch, and the river itself.

A Cao Dai TempleBuddhist PillarFirst Glimpse at the Mekong RiverIn the Boat
Kissy Fish
Rice Paper Drying in the SunBoat Eye

It's an amazing feeling eating food that was caught and grown a mere 100 metres away from your table. Globalization has done something unnatural to our food chain. It's not uncommon now to have food on one plate harvested from four or five different continents. We need to get back to the local food cycle. The Mekong Delta was a great experience!

March 28 - April 2, 2006
Next, Amber and I flew to Hanoi -- the capital of Vietnam. The one thing I immediately noticed was how much more relaxed Hanoi is compared to Ho Chi Minh City. Perhaps it is due to the French influence. Indeed, Hanoi is referred to as the "Paris of Southeast Asia." There were cute coffee shops, patisseries, and gourmet restaurants galore in the Old Quarter.

After several days of exploration, I discovered the second most remarkable aspect of Hanoi: It is the most international city I have been to in a long while. On a tour of the Temple of Literature, I heard the following languages in the span of ten minutes (no joking): English, French, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, German, Vietnamese, and Mandarin.

The Vietnamese have adapted well to the foreign tourists. Walking through one of the markets, I listened to the sellers hawking their wares. One second they will be yelling, "Please come look!" The next moment, they will seamlessly switch to Japanese, "Irasshaimase!" Incredible!

Old Quarter StreetCheese Oyster on the Half ShellThap RuaThe Huc Bridge
Burning Fake Money
Green GroundsThe Gate of Great Synthesis
Saint Joseph's CathedralHo Chi Minh's Mausoleum

Hanoi had a lot to offer. We did the typical touristy stuff, including: watching a water puppet show, paying Ho Chi Minnh a visit at his mausoleum, visiting the Palace and Ho Chi Minh's stilt house, walking through the Temple of Literature, shopping and dining in the Old Quarter, touring the Museum of Ethnology, and visiting an old prison. Pictures speak better than words, so please look through my photos for all the details!

Halong Bay
March 30-31, 2006
This was the one place I was really, really excited to see! Whenever someone says 'Vietnam', I think not of the war, but of junk boats sailing between the famous rocks of Halong Bay.

We booked an overnight cruise on the bay. Our boat wasn't a junk, but the experience was fantastic nonetheless. When we arrived at Halong City, we were a little surprised to find the entire bay had been engulfed in fog. Luckily, the captain was feeling adventurous, so we were able to sail. Whew!

Halong Bay
Amber and I at Halong Bay

I think we both at the best time at Halong Bay!

Vietnam is absolutely fascinating! The Vietnamese are proud, resilient, and alive in every sense of the word. The terrain is varied, unique, and beautiful. I can't wait to go back!!

How Iran Affects Me

Iran talks about developing nuclear weapons.

Commodity traders worry about oil supplies from Iran dropping.

Price of oil rises.

Canada (a net exporter of oil) sees its dollar rise.
Japan (a net importer of oil) sees its yen fall.

It is more expensive for me to buy Canadian dollars with my Japanese yen.

I lose real money.

Nomikais Kill

I'm supremely hungover right now. Last night, Amanda and I had a nomikai (drinking party) with our hair stylist and his girlfriend. Unlimited food and drinks, then the bar for darts. Good times that I'm paying for now.

Walking Through Kojo-KoenWe Are A Party People
Japanese Trumpet StyleThe Result

It's one of those hangovers where the entire day is a prelude to puking. You can feel it coming. It's in there, deep down inside, wanting to come out. But it doesn't. It taunts you. You know you'd feel better if it came out, yet your entire purpose at this moment is to prevent that from happening. When the wave of nausea hits a new apex, you desperately try to negotiate with your body. Maybe if you breathe a different way? Maybe if you sit this way? Or that? Maybe.

This will end one of two ways. One, I puke. Possibly at my desk in a wastebasket, or after a quick and obvious dash to the sink or changeroom. Two, the nausea subsides and leaves me with a wicked headache and in need of a quiet and dark place. Either way, this sucks.

P.S. I just discovered an embarrassing and hilarious tag on my Flickr site: drunk

Hanami Park Party

Thanks to everyone who showed up for my hanami birthday party on Sunday! The sakura hadn't bloomed yet, but this week should be fantastic!

Me and AmandaSakura Season Is Upon Us
Park PicnicMai-chan BBQing


Okay, that last post was truly 'random'! :)

So, you may have noticed that I haven't written about Vietnam yet. I'll do that as soon as I have sorted through my 500 or so pictures, which will hopefully be by the end of this week!

In the meantime, I need some list inspiration! Every month, I post a list of random things, experiences, whatever. However, I am completely lost for an idea about what to list this month. Please help! Give me your suggestion for a list by adding a comment to this post! Thanks!!

Random Thought [第15]

Singing along to a dance song always leads to disaster...

Suggested Lyrics to Avoid: Keep on dancing. Keep on. Keep on. Keep on. Keep on dancing. Keep on dancing. Dancing. Keep on. Keep onononononononon. Keep on. Keep on. Dancing. Keeponkeeponkeeponkeeponkeeponkeeponkeeponkeeponkeepon. Kkkkkeep on. Keep on dancing.

Japanese Television

I almost never watch TV in Japan, mainly because I don't speak Japanese well. Also because it's generally crap. Not that Canadian television is any better, but you know.

Out of sheer boredom one day, I decided to turn on my TV and check out what was going on in the world of Nihongo. I quickly found one of the more popular variety shows, featuring a joke-cracking host, cliché slapstick comedians, personality-lacking actresses, random video segments, and some sort of undecipherable quiz game. All-in-all, pretty typical.

However, one of the video segments ended up being one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen on Japanese TV! They gathered three 80+ year old men, put them behind podiums on a stage, got a famous crooner to ask questions, and had the men answer them for points. Because the old men were sincerely senile, they were blabbing out answers that had nothing to do with the questions! One man kept interrupting the host, while another pushed his buzzer repeatedly to answer a question that wasn't even asked yet! It was essentially "Celebrity Jeopardy" from Saturday Night Live!!

Japanese Television

I was one the floor laughing at this one, even though I couldn't understand one word of it! It just proves that laughter is universal. Or, laughing at old men is...

Frosting-Coated Shrimp Cookie

Frosting-Coated Shrimp Cookie
Originally uploaded by buck82.
Omiyage from a new colleague at work... It was surprisingly delicious!

Uni Cows

You may remember my post about Yellowknife? The one where I introduced Rick Mercer and his television show on CBC? It turns out he has filmed another video related to me! This time, it's about my university -- the University of Guelph.

My university has one of the oldest agricultural colleges in North America -- the Ontario Agriculture College. This was my college in university. (No, my degree doesn't relate to teaching English. I had veterinary ambitions...) Rick visited UofG during College Royal; a huge open house for the community. For the last two years of my program, I helped College Royal by volunteering at 'Old MacDonald's Farm', which happens to be the event Rick visits! As well, Dr. Jim Atkinson, one of my favourite professors (and references), was interviewed.

I have done the two things shown in the video involving cows and holes...

University of Guelph Video

Ahhh, memories.

Goodbye Vietnam

Amber and I are about to get on the plane for Tokyo. It's going to be an interesting experience moving from dirty & chaotic Hanoi to clean & quiet Toyama. I have about 400 photos to share, as well as several stories, so I want to post those sometime this week. Goodbye Vietnam!

▲ List: Strange Things I Have Eaten In Japan

Cow Heart
Frog Leg
Firefly Squid
Pig Intestines
Sea Urchin
Baby Sparrow
Fish Tail
Chicken Joints
Cow Liver
Wasabi Ice Cream