03 November 2007

I'm going to South Korea!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, I've been back in Montreal for two months and have still not managed to find any interesting or lucrative work opportunities. I have been looking for work outside the daycare spectrum, as I have become completely discouraged with daycare. In my humble opinion, it is a thankless job in the sense that daycare educators are underpaid and offered zero benefits (especially in Quebec) and although the kids are adorable and the parents appreciative, the negative aspects of daycare work far outweigh the positive ones. So...I have decided to eventually pursue graduate studies. However, I need to be able to fund this future project, so have decided to embark upon another overseas teaching adventure!

I have been busy researching jobs in South Korea and have come across a relatively new (first implemented in 2004) and exciting approach to language learning. The concept in question is the "Korean English Village," a government funded, English only campus where language teachers engage children in role-playing activities in simulated environments such as an imitation bank, hospital, train station, post office, etc. I think it's a very creative approach to language learning and the hands-on concept follows my philosophy of "learning through experience" as opposed to "mindless rote learning."

So...I decided to look for employment opportunities in one of these English Villages. I came across two job postings and applied to both on October 30th. Within less than an hour of sending out my CV via e-mail, I received e-mail responses from both agencies. Within 24 hrs, I had already had phone interviews with both recruiters. The first recruiter explained that the position that I had applied for was no longer available, but offered me several other teaching positions. The second recruiter was very impressed with my credentials and arranged an interview with a representative from the Korean Ministry of Education for November 1st. The following morning, I found out that I got the job! The position is at a new English Village opening in January 2008 in Gwacheon. I have already begun the visa application process. I will probably be leaving for Korea in December. This is all happening so fast...it feels a little surreal to me.

I am feeling very positive and am excited about this interesting opportunity. I'm looking forward to returning to Asia. Of course, I'm nervous as well, and I know that I will miss my family and friends. Saying "goodbye" is never easy. I'm also sad to say that I won't be attending ISCM this summer. I really feel that I need a change and I also have to think about my future. This job in Korea will not only provide me with what I hope will be an incredible experience, but the necessary funds to follow my future goals.

For more information regarding English Villages, visit these sites:

Wikipedia Definition of English Village
Newspaper Article about English Villages
Gwacheon English Village

16 September 2007

Felicitations!

Congratulations to Isabelle and Rodger on their new addition! Oliver joined his siblings Remi, Daphne & Penelope on Thursday 13th September 2007, weighing in at an incredible 9 pounds 6 ounces! I am thrilled for the wonderful and ever-growing Phillips family and wish them much continued happiness!

In other news, yeah, yeah, yeah...I know I haven't posted in an eternity, but I was working (and partying) my ass off in the Swiss Alps, not to mention sharing two computers with like 150 people and barely having time to check my e-mail, let alone update the old blog. However...I'm back in Montreal (for now) and currently unemployed, so you can look forward to more regular posting habits...until I find a new fabulous job, that is.

I'm still addicted to Facebook (as are about 34 million others, I've heard) so, as long as I remain unemployed you will often be able to find me on there. I've added loads of new pics from my summer in Switzerland and my travels in Italy to the site. I made a lot of new friends at ISCM and was thrilled to be reunited with friends from the previous summer, even if it was only for a short time. I'm planning on going back next year...hopefully!

I've also recently joined a new Mod group started by none other than Marko and Sanjiv and have been catching up with old friends, which is great! My dear friend Laverne (who's been sending me loads of old pics, for which I'm deeply appreciative) is convinced that Facebook has forever changed our lives and is currently taking a course called Healing Through Art and has been working on some pieces she calls "Facebook" and "Healing through Facebook." All I can say is, since I've joined Facebook, I've been feeling very nostalgic and even my dreams have been affected by the memories now flooding my brain. Okay, I'm a little mental, I know. What else is new?


19 May 2007

Mike & Miyuki's Wedding Day

My return to Japan was too short but so sweet. My deepest thanks go to my incredible friends Mike & Miyuki Musial. They are truly one of the kindest, most generous, coolest couples on the face of the earth and I feel priviliged to call them my good friends. They are like family to me and seeing them again was amazing, to say the least.

Their wedding day was incredible, and that's an understatement. It was an extraordinary celebration that matched the uniqueness of this wonderful couple. I've uploaded photos from the special occasion onto facebook (my latest addiction) and will soon be uploading them, along with more photos from my return to Japan onto smugmug.

A Japanese wedding begins with the kekkonshiki or marriage ceremony, which is held at a Shinto shrine. Mike & Miyuki's ceremony was held at the beautiful Usa Shrine. Miyuki looked fantastic in a pure white kimono or shiromuku, complete with tsuno-kakushi, a headdress which is meant to hide her horns of envy. Mike looked very kakui in his masculine black, white and grey kimono.

Shintoism is one of the two major religions practiced in Japan, and as such it plays a very important role in many Japanese customs, including marriage. As Shintoism is an “animistic” religion, it incorporates the belief of many different manifest spirits. These spirits are known as kami, and most major events in Japanese life include an element of purification, a process by which kami who may cause mischief are chased out while the ceremony participants seek the blessing of benevolent kami by cleansing themselves.

The Shinto ceremony is traditionally quite small. Only the immediate families of the bride and groom, the Nakudos, and perhaps some other family members usually attend. The ceremony itself is rather short but very symbolic. In this way, it reflects the Japanese traditions of perfection and beauty within simplicity. The bride and groom perform the ritual of san-san-kudo, or “three-by-three exchange of nuptial cups”. After the exchange, the attendants on both sides exchange sake to signify the union of the two families.

Miko (shrine virgins) play a key part in the Shinto marriage ceremony. These young girls have performed rituals of purification and are therefore appropriate ambassadors between the kami and the participants. The miko wear red and white dresses and are responsible for serving the sake.

At Mike & Miyuki's ceremony, we were also treated to a kagura (ceremonial dance) performed by one of the shrine virgins. Music plays a very important role in the kagura performance. Everything from the setup of the instruments to the most subtle sounds and the arrangement of the music is crucial to encouraging the kami to come down and dance. The songs are used as magical devices to summon the gods and as prayers for blessings. Rhythm patterns of five and seven are common, possibly relating to the Shinto belief of the twelve generations of heavenly and earthly deities. There is also a vocal accompaniment called kami uta in which the drummer sings sacred songs to the gods. Often the vocal accompaniment is overshadowed by the drumming and instruments, reinforcing that the vocal aspect of the music is more for incantation rather than aesthetics.

Here is a breakdown of the Shinto Wedding Ceremony:

  • First the couple are purified by the priest, meaning that they are made pure before the gods.
  • The priest reads a ritualistic prayer, announcing the marriage and offering a prayer.
  • Exchanging the nuptial cups of the marriage oath called sansankudo.
  • Exchanging vows with wedding rings.
  • The groom reads a vow aloud. The bride adds only her name at the end.
  • Bride and groom offer tamagushi (An object presented to the kami by a priest or worshiper, composed of a sprig of evergreen sakaki to which paper streamers have been attached) at the altar and bow.
  • At the end, the members of both families drink to indicate that they are now one family.

I am forever grateful to Mike & Miyuki and their families for allowing me to participate in this amazing experience with them. Arigatou gozaimashita!

Following the marriage ceremony, is the kekkon hiroen or wedding reception. Mike and Miyuki's reception was held at a picturesque, mountain-top reception hall and was truly a fairy tale brought to life. It was a very emotional and joyous celebration. Upon arrival, we were entertained by a trio of Japanese musicians, including a taiko drum player who played for us on the terrace overlooking the mountains. Sugoikatta! Then, we toasted the couple with a fruit drink consisting of orange, pineapple, lemon and passion fruit juices. Oishikatta! This "magical fruit" cocktail is meant to bring anyone who drinks it happiness and good luck. It is also said that if a couple drinks this together, their dreams will come true and they will live happily ever after.

The couple (Miyuki now wearing a highly detailed, colourful kimono) was escorted onto the terrace by an oni (Japanese mythological devil-like demon with long nails, wild hair, a fierce look and two horns on their forehead) dancer. Although once thought to devour humans, in more recent times, oni have lost some of their original wickedness and sometimes take on a more protective function. Men in oni costumes often lead Japanese parades to ward off any bad luck, for example. Therefore, having the oni present the newlywed couple to the guests was a purely symbolic gesture and represents good fortune, as the demon wards off any bad luck. It seems to have worked, because everything about Mike & Miyuki's wedding day was absolutely perfect!

The oni continued to dance around the reception hall, approaching guests throughout the first course of an outstanding meal (Japanese/French fusion cuisine). He terrified poor little Taiyo (Mark and Yumi's 18 month old son) who was sitting beside me. Between almost every course, each more delicious than the last, guests were entertained by a variety of events, including family speeches, the decorating and cutting of the wedding cake, Miyuki's changing into a Western style wedding dress and later a yellow Princess-like dress and Mike's changing into a silver Edwardian-style tuxedo, Miyuki presenting all of the single women (including moi) with gorgeous bouquets, Mike's former kindergarten class singing to and presenting flowers to the happy couple, etc. Here are some photos depicting some of these events:



The children decorate the wedding cake

Western style wedding attire

The cutting of the wedding cake

The bride presents the singletons with bouquets

The kids sing to the happy couple

The union of two wonderful families


Following the reception was a three-hour break for the couple and wedding guests. Everybody had a chance to get slightly refreshed (nap, shower, massage chair, hot spring bath, etc.) then change into more casual clothing. Later, the party continued with the nijikai or second reception at Nakatsu's Garden Bar. Here, we were joined with more of Miyuki's extended family as well as more friends. There was a buffet and open bar and an insanely generous game of bingo (we're talking iPods and a Nintendo Wii as prizes). I later found out that there was a cover-charge at the second reception, but mine was paid for by Miyuki's parents. I never got the chance to thank them for their incredible generosity. I got to spend time with many old friends and meet new ones and fun was had by all!

The party continued at Tropicoco Cafe, my old Nakatsu stomping ground. The highlight of this portion of the evening was when Walter (Mike's older brother) got up on stage, made a multi-lingual speech and announced the wedding dance. We all danced, drank and were merry into the wee hours of the morn. Good times!!!!


Miyuki was tired and left with her friend Kumiko by car while Mike, Marky, Marc, Nick and I ended the night with a drink (four beers and a chu-hi) at a stone table in the park where some of us used to play footie and some of us used to attend fitness with the Pads. We talked about old times and more good times ahead. The perfect ending to a perfect day. Shiawase!

This entry was a pleasure but took me several hours to complete. Please stay tuned for more entries relating to my return to Japan...eventually. Remember, I've also got the rest of the photos to upload to smugmug, two weeks left of work at Playskool, preparations for Switzerland and oh yeah...I better go get ready for my family birthday dinner that begins in less than two hours! Mata ne!

18 March 2007

Assorted Ramblings

It was Evan Dando of The Lemonheads who first introduced me to Ben Kweller. Not personally, of course, although that would be much cooler. About a year ago, I read somewhere that Evan was so impressed with Ben that he invited him to go on tour with him across America and Europe. I hold Evan's opinion in high regard, so I decided to check him out. I think Ben's a talented songwriter and I really dig his old-school rock yet indie style.

Yesterday, I wasted two precious hours of my life watching one of the most boring movies I've ever seen. Warning: Do not rent Running with Scissors!!! If you already have rented the DVD (or heaven forbid, actually paid full-price to see it at the cinema) I offer you my sincere condolences. Here is an IMDb user's review that pretty much summed up exactly how I felt after watching this rubbish:

"Just because something happens in real life doesn't mean it should happen in a movie. Case in point, Running With Scissors. Memoirs rarely make good movies because they have no plot to speak of and are generally made up of random events that lead to nowhere. Any good filmmaker knows this, but writer/director Ryan Murphy went ahead anyway; he merely has the narrator make a disclaimer up front that we might not believe everything that takes place. Oh, I believe everything happened, all right. What the "creative" team forgot is that the point is not to make me believe, but to make me care. They didn't...and I didn't."

"One bizarre scene after another piles upon the viewer until we're stacked with dysfunctional drivel up to our eyeballs. And it makes no difference whether or not the performances are any good if we're anxiously waiting for the damn movie to be over. Even the usually wonderful Annette Bening cannot salvage this material so completely devoid of rational thought that it knocks off ten IQ points each minute. And, um, what in hell is Gwyneth Paltrow doing in this movie? Did she have some unpaid traffic tickets to take care of? Or is she serving community service? I just don't know. And to tell the truth, I just don't care."

"I won't even dignify this behemoth of boredom with a more detailed review. I just had to warn anyone thinking of seeing this movie that their lives will be robbed of two precious hours that could be spent doing something more productive, like organizing recipes or vacuuming the tub. For those who did pay for this pile of garbage – and I mean emotionally, not financially – I've come up with a plan to get back at the filmmakers. I suggest every disgruntled viewer run with scissors to their local movie theatre and chop up every reel into guitar picks. Then stop by the bookstore on the way home and pick up Augusten Burroughs' funny and insightful book that never should have been adapted (well, obliterated) in the first place."

Believe me, don't let the outstanding cast fool you, this movie sucks. If you want to see a good movie about family dysfunction, there are plenty to choose from. Try renting the hilarious and poignant Little Miss Sunshine, the brilliant The Royal Tenenbaums or one of my all-time favourites, American Beauty.

From celluloid to literature...As I anxiously await the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (which I sadly won't be able to read until I get back from Switzerland since it won't be available until July), I've found a distraction from my obession with Harry Potter. I am currently mesmerized by another fantasy series featuring a young magician.

The series I am speaking of is The Bartimeaus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. I am almost finished the third book and I just don't want the story to end! The two main characters are Bartimeaus, a sarcastic demon who provides much comic relief throughout and Nathaniel, a bad-ass Harry Potter. I would recommend these books to anyone interested in the genre. Kristen and Isabelle, I think you would like this trilogy!

While I'm on the topic, I was thrilled to recently find out that another favourite trilogy of mine, His Dark Materials by Philipp Pullman is being made into a film, due for release in December 2007. Actually, the film will be based on the first book of the trilogy The Golden Compass but I'm sure that they will be making movie versions of all three books, because each ends on a cliff-hanger. The film will be starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. I can't wait!

In other news, I stopped taking dance classes a couple of weeks ago. I was enjoying the classes, but had to cancel for two reasons: I need to save money and I would have missed too many classes as well as the show because of my upcoming trips. Which brings me to my really big news...

I'm going to Japan!!! My friends Mike & Miyuki are getting married (omedetou gozaimasu) and they're flying me to Japan for the wedding. They are the kindest, most generous couple and I am honored and thrilled to be attending their wedding. I am so excited about seeing them as well as all of my other friends. I'm also very happy about re-visiting my home away from home, Nakatsu. I've been brushing up on my Japanese, studying every day during my lunch hour and am simply salivating at the thought of all of the oishii Japanese food that I've been missing.

I will be leaving on April 23rd and returning on May 4th. I wish that I could stay longer, but I can't afford it and must return to work for a month before heading to Europe. It will be difficult going back to work, but it's only for a month, so I'll have to suck it up and wait it out, while looking forward to returning to ISCM in Switzerland. Then, come June 1st, it'll be sayonara for good to Playskool! I mean it this time. Of course, I'll miss the kids, but I won't miss the constant illness, the lack of communication and organisation or (the worst part for me) the unbelievable shallowness, pettiness and cattiness of some of my fellow co-educators.

I will be leaving for London on June 12th. Then, I'll leave for Geneva on June 17th. My first day of work at ISCM is June 18th. My last day is August 25th. I'll be flying from Paris to Montreal once again, but this year I'll be spending a couple more days in France and plan on possibly visiting Versailles. I will be returning to Montreal on August 31st and then...who knows what adventure awaits? I plan on heading to South Korea but have no definite plans yet, except for the fact that I am definitely not going back to Playskool or any other daycare for that matter.

Lastly, I'm doing rather well with my latest weight-loss and exercise regime. I do cheat on occasion, but have managed to lose 8 lbs since the beginning of February. Of course, I gained 10 lbs within a month of returning from Europe (where I had surprisingly lost 2 lbs...I guess it was the daily alpine hike to work that did it). I have been exercising daily. I do two sets of 300 crunches a day. My abs have never been stronger! I'm not really doing enough cardio, especially since I dropped the dance classes but am looking forward to cycling to work every day once all the snow melts. I'm so sad...it was almost all gone due to springlike temperatures but we were hit with about 20 cm this weekend.

I guess that's it for now. This has been a freakishly long post and I hope that you've enjoyed it. It's actually my second attempt at publishing. My first attempt failed for some reason and I had to start over. Is it me, or is the screen looking a little fuzzy? My head is spinning. Okay...I'm copying and pasting this into Word right now and trying again. Here it goes...

11 March 2007

A very sick girl

Promises, promises, eh? I said that I'd be posting again soon, but guess what? I'm sick again. This time it's a bad case of strep throat. I started feeling ill on Wednesday night and only slept 3 hours due to aches and chills. I suspected that I had a fever and my throat was killing me but I went to work anyway since one of my co-educators was on vacation and I don't have any paid sick days left. Bad mistake...

I left work at noon with a fever of 102, severe throat pain and my whole body was aching. I went to the clinic on Friday morning because on Thursday afternoon I was too sick to move from my bed. Actually, I wasn't feeling much better on Friday morning, but didn't really have a choice, eh? So, I've been on antibiotics for three days now and I feel quite a bit better. I have to go back to work on Monday. Mendoksai. Damn, daycare is not for me. I am so over it. I must pick up at least 3 out of 5 viruses that sweep through that place on a regular basis.

I'm gonna go watch The Amazing Race now. Hopefully, I won't catch anything again for a long while (wishful thinking) and will be able to post again soon. Until next time...minasama kiotskete!

27 February 2007

Juicebox

Okay, so I haven't posted at all yet this month. I could blame it on the fact that I had a severe sinus infection, or just plain laziness. I will be posting again soon, I promise. Anyway, thought I'd share this awesome video. It's just so funny. I love these guys. Enjoy Juicebox by The Strokes...

21 January 2007

Mysterious Skin

I watched the movie Mysterious Skin today on DVD. This haunting film was directed by Japanese American director Gregg Araki. I first heard of Araki when I was working at Blockbuster Video in the late 90's. He is well-known on the indie film circuit. Until today, I had only seen Totally Fucked Up (1993), The Doom Generation (1995) and Nowhere (1997), otherwise known as his "Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy." These films were highly controversial due to their graphic violence and sexuality. On the other hand, Mysterious Skin, a story that deals with the devastating effects of child abuse, based on a 1995 novel by Scott Heim is disturbing on an entirely different level and proves to me that Araki has matured as a filmmaker. The performances given by the young actors in this film are incredible. It is a must see. Click here to read an interview with Araki about this film.

20 January 2007

New Look

Today, I had my hair cut and coloured by Carole at Salon Blue Earth. I had been to that salon before, a few times before leaving for Japan, but the stylist who did my hair then has since left, so this was my first time with Carole. I'm really pleased with her, so I'll be going back! I needed a change, even though I'm trying to grow my hair long. I like the layers and I'm loving the colour!

I also bought myself some new, funky winter boots at Yellow and went to the cinema. I finally saw The Departed. It was fantastic, but I'm still not sure if I liked the ending. Last weekend I saw Children of Men, which totally blew me away. Next weekend I'm planning on seeing The Queen. I'm trying to get in the habit of seeing at least one film at the cinema a week, like I used to. It's one of my many 2007 resolutions, along with keeping this blog updated!

16 January 2007

Willy Waller 2006

"Eh! Mon ami, t'aimes tu ├ža manger des patates?" This one's for all of my fellow Quebecer friends... if you don't already know about this video, it's time that you watch it! For everybody else, it may not be that funny. Oh, and most people don't really speak French this badly in Quebec. By the way, if you haven't already, you should hit the pause button on my new music feature before playing the video. Enjoy!




15 January 2007

That white, cold stuff...

Okay, I realize that it's been an eternity. I won't bother making excuses about that.

If you're unaware, I should let you know that we have been experiencing an almost snowless winter here in Montreal, which is virtually unheard of. Not only did we have a Green Christmas, but we have had unseasonably high temperatures for most of the winter. You can't go anywhere without hearing people talking about their fears of Global Warming.

The kids in my class haven't had the chance to make a snowball yet this winter, let alone a snowman, so you could imagine my delight when I awoke this morning to snow! Of course, 20 centimeters later, when I found myself waiting an hour for a bus that is supposed to come every 20 minutes and my toes were frozen solid, I wasn't as delighted. But seriously, I'm thrilled about the snow and am looking forward to building a snowman with the kids tomorrow. A Montreal winter without snow...it just didn't feel right.

I just finished watching The Golden Globes and now it's time for bed. I will be posting again soon...I promise.