Archive for category Before Japan

September 23, 2003 – Departure

On departure day I woke up early, enjoyed my last free shower for the next year (more to come on this), and waited for my parents to pick me up and take me to the airport. My parents live outside of Winnipeg, so they spent the night in a hotel in order to take me to the airport. We didn’t want to take any chances on missing an international flight, so we got to the airport around 6:00 for my 7:30 flight to Vancouver. I didn’t expect anyone else to be there, but my friend Junk (not his real name) surprisingly showed up to see me off. My parents, Junk and I sat around enjoying my last Tim Hortons coffee for a very long time. For any non Canadians reading this – Tim Hortons is a hugely popular and succesful coffee chain in Canada. There are more Tim Hortons locations than McDonalds.

My parents were both excited for me, but also nervous at seeing their son travel to the other side of the planet for a year. When the time finally came I hugged them both and made my way through security. Looking back I could see them waving good-bye until I was out of sight.

Having never traveled by myself before, I was more than a little nervous. The first flight was easy enough – Winnipeg to Vancouver with a brief stop in Saskatoon to pick up more passengers. In Vancouver I had a 4 hour wait until my flight to Tokyo. Since Vancouver airport was huge, I was worried about getting lost and went almost directly to the international departure area. As soon as I entered, I started feeling like I had already left the country. My gate was between two other flights to Asian destinations, and I was one of the few white faces in the crowd. As I waited, I listened to bits and pieces of conversations in several different languages, trying hard to focus on any Japanese I could recognize.

When the flight finally boarded, I found myself sitting next to two young Japanese ladies, likely students. (To this day I can’t accurately guess Japanese people’s ages). I learned something valuable that day – Japanese people have the ability to fall asleep in any moving vehicle at any time. They were both soundly sleeping before take off. Being an excited Canadian guy who had never traveled solo before, I found myself unable to sleep for the entire flight.

The flight was about 10 hours long, but felt much, MUCH longer. By the end of a 10 hour flight the air is stale, the seats are uncomfortable, and you just want to get off the damn plane. I spent the last 30 minutes glued to the window, watching the land getting closer. My first impression of Japan from the air was that everything was really crowded and all the cars were driving on the wrong side of the road. What I thought was crowded was nothing compared to what I was about to experience once we landed.

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September 22, 2003 – The day before

To say that the day before I left for Japan was busy would be a huge understatement.

When you are about to go away for an extended period of time, people you know tend to call you to say goodbye and wish you well. They also always ask if you are free for one last coffee, drink, pizza, whatever. My whole day was spent avoiding the phone and packing. Not only was I finishing my Japan packing, but I was also packing my stuff to go into my parent’s house for storage. At the time my sister and I were sharing a two bedroom apartment, and she needed my room empty so she could find a roommate.

When you have lived in one place for a while, you tend to accumulate huge amounts of junk. Packing up the big things are easy, but sorting through years worth of random papers, pens, CDs, clothes, etc. is a never ending battle. My family and The Ex were helping as much as possible. I started the day grumpy, moved on to unpleasant and finished downright miserable.

At the end of my packing day, I had 2 large suitcases packed with clothes and essentials to go on the plane. I had my lucky Canada flag backpack filled with stuff for the plane, and a laptop bag with my sisters ginormus dinosaur laptop of doom. The rest of my room was stacked with packed boxes making movement difficult. On our last night together, The Ex did not stay over. She said that she didn’t want to come to the airport with me so we would have to finish our goodbyes the night before. For all intents and purposes, that was the last night of our relationship.

Getting to sleep was nearly impossible thinking about all that I was leaving behind and the promise of unknown adventures to come.


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September 19, 2003 – The Farewell party (aftermath)

I woke up in Victoria hospital with an IV in the back of my hand. When I realized where I was, my first thought was to get out as soon as possible. Since my official graduation would be in October, one month after I left for Japan, my parents had scheduled graduation pictures before I left. My picture appointment happened to be later that very day. I needed to get home to recover and clean myself up before pictures. There was no way I wanted my parents to know that I had spent the night in the hospital.

I got the nurses attention, got the IV removed and headed to a phone. I didn’t know when The Ex had left the previous night or how angry she was going to be, so I called the frat house for a ride. I made it almost the entire way home without puking. Almost. My apologies to the people waiting for a bus in front of Burger King at confusion corner – I didn’t want you to see that.

At home I slept for a few more hours, had a shower, tried to eat something small, and waited for my ride to pictures. My family commented on how pale I looked and that I must have killed a few brain cells the night before. I didn’t share any details.

My graduation pictures look terrible. I am pale at the best of times, but on this day, I looked practically albino. Wearing a bright white shirt made the effect even worse. Only my sister noticed the band aid on the back of my hand and asked about it. I said that I must have bumped my hand at the wrestling show the night before. She said “good, I thought maybe you got really drunk and needed an IV at the hospital”. Lucky guess!

So if my family is reading this – there is the true story about why I look like an albino ghost in my graduation pictures.

For everyone else reading this – graduation pictures are really important to parents. Don’t screw yours up.

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September 18, 2003 – The Farewell Party (part one)

My farewell party was at the Premier Championship Wrestling (PCW) show on Thursday, September 2003. If memory serves, it was annual the “Back to School Bash” show. At the time I was a big pro wrestling fan, and had been going to weekly PCW shows for over a year. There was a core group of us that would always go to the shows including The Ex (also a pro wrestling fan), and a few of the frat boys. Not only was I a regular, but I was also the undisputed wrestling trivia champion. Since this was a special occasion pretty much the entire fraternity chapter showed up. PCW ran all of their shows out of a local bar located close to the University.

The problems started when almost everyone wanted to buy me a farewell drink. When I mean everyone, I mean the fraternity brothers and some of the other regular wrestling fans. Being a fun, friendly guy I didn’t refuse any drinks at all. The promoter made a point of telling the crowd that it was my farewell show, and got me into the ring to demonstrate my beer chugging abilities. I also got to be part of an in ring angle where one of the wrestlers had a shocking revelation about his personal life. My job was to wait for the signal and then hit the mat and bail out of the ring in a hurry. Considering how drunk I was at the time it is fortunate I didn’t end up falling on my head.

At some point my brain went into survival mode and I started giving away the drinks that people were bringing me. Memories get fuzzy later in the evening, but I ended up puking an ungodly amount beer and awful shots in the bathroom, and then went to sit with another group of regulars for the end of the show to avoid further free drinks. My last memories of the wrestling show were of Mentallo winning a championship and getting into someone’s car to go back to the fraternity house. My next memories were at the fraternity house. A few people were trying to convince me to drink water while I was sitting on the floor in the bathroom, hanging onto the toilet for dear life. My brain, still in survival mode, convinced me that they were trying to give me more alcohol, so I flat out refused to drink anything else.

The problem with drinking stories is that some of them start fun and end fun. Others start fun and end badly. This was one of the “ending badly” stories. To be continued…

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September 17, 2003 – The Visa arrives

Original post

I just got my visa in the mail today. I am now good to go.

2013 Notes

Don’t get too relaxed – still lots of things to do!!!

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September 16, 2003 – Shopping for ties

One week until I leave!! Today I bought some new dress shirts, pants, and ties for work. Also some new clothes so I will look extra studly out of the office as well.

2013 Note 1 – Before this shopping trip I only owned one shirt and tie.

2013 Note 2 – I love shopping at Moores! I went in, found a sales guy and told him that I needed shirts and ties for a job. He took measurements and lined up a selection of pants and shirts. I picked out the ones I liked and he brought over ties that matched. The whole process took less than 30 minutes and was the easiest clothes shopping I have ever done.

2013 Note 3 – Blogging about how your new clothes make you look “studly” does not go over well with the girlfriend you are leaving behind.

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September 15, 2003 – Destination: Kawasaki

Today I found out I will be living in Kawasaki, Japan. I will be in a guest house called “Hello House” where I get my own room but share bathrooms, showers, kitchen and a common area. It will be exactly like rez, but with less classes. Things I still need to do before I leave:
– Transfer all my stuff to my sister’s laptop (which I will be taking)
– Transfer all of her stuff to my computer (which stays here)
– Buy luggage
– Pack everything

2013 Note 1 – “Rez” is common slang for a University residence or dormitory.

2013 Note 2 – Deporning a computer is important before your sister takes it over.

2013 Note 3 – My sister’s computer sucked. It was an underpowered old IBM laptop that weighed about 8kg and only functioned when plugged in (this detail will be important later – trust me). Since it was old and crappy, I could only bring along classic computer games.

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September 9, 2003 – Trip to Edmonton

I got back from Edmonton yesterday. Very quick trip, but still fun. All went well with the consulate. Casualties of the trip: one pillow (left in hotel), one towel (stolen from waterpark), one skunk (run over on highway). Can’t complain!

2013 note 1 – The Ex and I drove to Edmonton to visit the consulate. This was a bit awkward knowing that I was going away for a year and that our relationship was going to become more challenging. Winnipeg to Edmonton is approximately a 14 hour drive. Driving through Saskatchewan is BORING. Hitting the skunk was the most exciting thing that happened on the way to Edmonton, but unfortunately the outside of the car smelled like skunk for the rest of the trip.

At the consulate I filled out the forms for a working holiday visa. I had to answer questions about where I was going to travel and what I was planning to do for work. You are not supposed to get a working holiday visa if you already have a job in Japan. NOVA warned me that telling the consulate that I had a job lined up could disqualify me from the working holiday visa. Technically I wouldn’t have a job until I landed at Narita airport and signed my employment contract, so I wasn’t really lying.

While I was waiting, a blonde woman came into the consulate and started filling out forms. She asked me if I was applying for a working holiday too. I answered yes. She asked me if I had a job waiting. I answered no. She made some small talk and asked me again if I had a teaching job waiting. I still answered no. To this day I think she was working for the consulate and trying to trip me up on my visa application.

2013 note 2 – The only other exciting thing that happened in Edmonton was that I got a call from one of my close female friends. She had just learned that she was pregnant from her boyfriend. The pregnancy was unplanned. I got this phone call about 30 minutes before The Ex and I were going to be back in the hotel having some… um… alone time. Learning about a friend’s unplanned pregnancy is a serious mood killer. Thanks for that friend!!

Overall, the Edmonton trip was successful and I returned to Winnipeg with less than a month to go before moving!

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August 31, 2003 – Turn your head and… never mind

This week I got my stuff done with Manitoba Health (new card, letter), got a very expensive doctor’s note saying that I am healthy, and got an appointment for my visa interview. I will be heading to Edmonton next weekend to make my appointment Monday September 8th. Unfortunately the only way to apply for a working holiday visa is to go there in person, and Edmonton has the closest Japanese consulate to Winnipeg. The only thing left to get for my visa is the traveller’s checks.

2013 note 1 – The story of the doctor’s note was interesting. The Japanese consulate wanted a doctor’s note stating that I was healthy. Health care in Canada is free, but getting a doctor’s note for anything other than health reasons costs $85. I went to the walk in clinic and waited an hour to see a very busy doctor. I told him why I needed the note. He asked a few introductory questions, and checked my blood pressure and reflexes. He then asked a few questions about my health history, said I seemed pretty healthy, and told me he would write whatever note I needed.

At first I was a little upset that I was paying $85 and didn’t receive an actual examination at all. Then I realized that this saved both of us time and I didn’t have to have any fingers inserted into places and walked out the door happy. Looking back on this now I realize that he really should have checked me out – I could have been lying the entire time!

I didn’t write about this in my blog at the time, just in case someone from the Japanese consulate was going to find me online. I don’t think they would appreciate how casually the doctor’s note was obtained.

2013 note 2 – The consulate moved from Edmonton to Calgary a few years after I moved to Japan.


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August 24, 2003 – the To-Do list

It is one month before I arrive in Japan. Today I am catching up on apartment stuff (cleaning, dishes, laundry) and will be doing some preparation stuff as well. Most of the preparations right now involve getting my work visa. To see what hoops I need to jump through, check out the Japanese Consulate website here. The main things I need are:
– Letter from a doctor saying I am healthy
– $2500 in Canadian traveler’s checks
– Plane ticket with open return (got it)
– Passport (got it too)
– Travel insurance

I need to apply for the visa in person at the Japanese consulate in Edmonton. The plan is that on Tuesday or Wednesday I am getting a full physical examination for the doctor letter, and next weekend I am driving to Edmonton if I can get an appointment for Tuesday, September 2. I also need to plan my fundraising social ASAP so I might actually have a chance of having one. Today I am planning on getting a folder together with a check list so I can keep all my paperwork in one spot, and not forget anything when I go to Edmonton.

Flight leaves Winnipeg September 23rd, 9:05 am to Vancouver. After a short stopover in Vancouver, I fly from Vancouver to Tokyo arriving September 24 at 3:00pm. Total flying time will be 14 hours. Thanks to Toronto’s Dream Time Travel for making my flight cheapity cheap.

2013 Note

Dream Time did not actually make my flight cheapity cheap. I have had cheaper flights since then. If you just need a flight, forget the travel agent and search on


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