So, we have some interesting decisions to make soon. Really soon. Really, really soon.
Entry #106 (Aug 20 2023)
So, after talking to my parents and siblings and friends (my supervisor was away this week, but we’ll talk Monday or Tuesday), I basically have two options that I’m weighing as about equal to each other.
The gist of it is that I will likely, at some point in the future, move back in with my parents to help take care of them. Or to be precise, I aim to buy a house or condominium or something in the next few years and have my parents move in with me, so that I can help take care of them. I do want a house of my own, to decorate, renovate, and earn equity with, and so the eventual aim will be to find something where my parents can move in with me if they want to as well, as can my siblings whenever they come back to visit Edmonton. Or even friends visiting from out of town. They’ll even pay a bit of rent, they say, better than renting an entire place and paying rent out of the family into a black hole. Of course, a house and a mortgage itself would come with its own expenses.
The problem is what path to take to get there. There are some variations, but there are two main paths, and the reason that all this musing is under School is because that’s the main fork in the road. I can either:
a) Go to Japan, do a year there, come back, pool resources and move in with my parents, find a job, then find a house, buy it, and move in, or:
b) Skip Japan, and either move in with parents right away (if they break their current lease to find a more accessible place) or stay in my current place for around a year longer (if they stay on and finish their current lease) and then pool resources and move in with them. While doing this, I’d keep my job, and possibly look for a better one in the meantime if I want, but even if I don’t, I would have a job that I can actually use to secure a mortgage for a house with. And I’d skip the find a job part, so I can go right to find a house, buy it, and then move in.
In either case, I wouldn’t buy the house immediately — we first have to see how much Mom recovers, for starters, and what kind of mobility she will have after rehabilitation, to see what her needs are. Dad‘s also getting very long in the tooth, and with poor eyesight and other problems, he also has some accessibility issues that we’ll need to be careful about. The idea is that I can move in with my parents to test out living with them, and if either of us find it totally unbearable then we can part ways again without having already committed to a house first. If not, I/we would find a house within a year or two, and I could move in ahead of them and start some renovations to make it more mobility-friendly if necessary. Or, we might settle on a condominium instead, if we find a good enough one that checks a lot of our boxes. (If I do find it unbearable, I can always go get a house anyway for myself.)
There’s no real hurry to make that decision and purchase something. However the issue is that going to Japan would forfeit my current job, and once the job is gone, although I have enough to put down a decent downpayment on a house right now, I would not actually be able to get a mortgage until I found a job again. It would also put a decent dent in my savings for that downpayment. All in all it would probably set my house purchase back about 3 years, I estimate.
Is it worth it? I don’t know. I’m not dying to go on this study abroad opportunity or anything. Obviously it will be a good and valuable experience, and I’m sort of sick of my current job, which has turned into a push factor away from here, but I am not currently planning to move to Japan to stay either, since my sister is no longer also working there nor planning to move there to stay either.
But even past all that, if my parents are here in Canada, I don’t see myself moving elsewhere now until at least they both pass on. I don’t want to put them into a nursing home. Also, with the recent environmental trend of crazy weather around the supposedly rapidly warming world, Canada seems that it might actually be one of the best places to live in to minimize the effect of global warming upon oneself. Even though we sure get a lot of forest fires annually.
So, restating what I wrote earlier, it boils down to:
a) Going to Japan — the positives here would be that I’d get to temporarily live in a new country and attend school there, something that I’ve worked really hard and applied several times for. I’d leave the mental stress of my current job, finish my degree (or my degree minus one class) and try a few other interesting classes while there too, possibly meet a new great friend or two, continue improving my Japanese language, and experience a lot of new things.
The negatives are that this comes with its own brand of stress in terms of being abroad, immersed in a different language that I don’t completely understand, studying in a school that I might find I can’t make friends in, living in a place that I might find to be a nightmare, and so on, there’s a lot of uncertainty. I’d not only lose the job, which would be what would be needed to secure a mortgage, but I’d also probably spend around $20k of the $70k Canadian that I have saved up, while in Japan for the one year (my housing rent alone projects to be about $11-12k), which would significantly cut my ability to make a downpayment on a house.
b) Staying home — the main positives here would be the security of the job and a continued influx of money, but the job itself is also flexible enough that I can take significant trips and work remotely without eating up much vacation time at all. I would actually be able to travel to more varied places, perhaps down to Sydney, Australia to visit Zian and Huihan, or up to and around Canada to chase the northern lights, or even to Singapore if the ICA and CMPB ever figures out their differences with each other. Or to Japan, of course, but on my own terms this time. I would also gain time, time that I could spend on other doors that would be available to me sooner than I otherwise could, like starting to learn to build computer games like Satinel is doing, or working on other parts of my blog that I never seem to have time to do. I would also get more time in my current apartment, which I do like (except for my noisy neighbour). Staying is far more “comfortable”, overall.
The negatives here are largely the job, actually, since I’ve maxed out my progression and have nowhere to go from here. I could keep the job while looking for something equally flexible somewhere else in the University or in Edmonton though, but Edmonton ultimately is a small city and a small market as well, and I like big cities. I loved Kyoto when I was there for a month, and I love cities like Singapore, Tokyo, and New York, although the latter felt a bit too.. desperate for me in a way that I can’t really put into words.
And yes, I would lose all the hard work that I put into making the study abroad application happen in the first place, but I don’t really subscribe to the sunk cost fallacy — in fact, quite the reverse, I think that the COVID issues with my first Japan applications, the immigration issues with my Singapore applications, and then Mom‘s stroke here and now, might be signs from the gods that I’m not actually supposed to go on this exchange program. Plus, I’ve already gone to the Ritsumeikan one in Kyoto earlier this year, and that was such a great experience that it has already checked a lot of the boxes on my personal checklist, so I don’t think I will actually have any regret specifcically from not going to Sophia, as I don’t think this Sophia one can top what I experienced there anyway.
But, my deadline for deciding one way or other is around Sep 04, as that’s what I’ve negotiated with both my boss at work and the University of Alberta side of things, so I have a couple more weeks to mull things over and see what other angles I can look at this from. My Dad said it best I think — there’s no right or wrong answer to this, and even if I stay I might not be able to do anything for a couple years, and if I do go I do think I can find some sort of decent job once I return. Or after one final semester to finish up my silly arts degree.
So, with all that, I went down to Calgary this week anyway to apply for my student visa. More details about that down in the Life section!
My boss was away from work this week, so it was an especially quiet week at work even compared to the previous weeks.
While I consider work to be a push factor (i.e. one of the reasons that I want to leave Edmonton and go to Japan for a year, as it doesn’t provide me with much satisfaction anymore and I want to work in a different industry where I can actually help people), I actually did come to a realization near the end of this week that I do have a further progression path here even if I do not want to get into management. This path is to try to join the infrastructure side of my team, which would mean picking up coding as part of the job. I can code at a superficial level, I understand the theory, have coded small things in the past, and coding is one of my longer-term goals anyway since I want to eventually get into making computer games in my spare time like Satinel does, but I could actually sort of leverage this for work too, plus that half of the team gets paid significantly more than our half of the team does.
I also wouldn’t be the first or even second person to make the jump from this current team to that other team, as two other people have done so in the past before our teams merged (Maciek and Tyler A, to be precise.) And both of them did it under the guidance of my current boss. Things would be a lot busier, but in a good way, I think, as I would have slightly greater autonomy in fixing the things that I think need fixing.
It’s a thought. It’s an option I’ll have to discuss with my supervisor -if- I end up staying.
My trip down to Calgary was interesting. Vishavdeep had filled up his car for the trip by the time Monday rolled around, and none of the five people that I met at Century Park for the ride down to Calgary early Monday morning knew each other — we were all solo travellers carpooling with him down south. Besides the driver, there were three males and two females, from places like India, Mexico, and Serbia. One thing I saw and found interesting about the Poparide app (and the people I met from it in my very limited experience) is that the clientele skews very non-Caucasian, with a large percentage of Indians in particular.
But first, here are a couple pictures I took of the Century Park Station area at 5:30 am or so in the morning. Very nice. I usually see this sort of scene when I wait at the same station for the 747 bus to take me to the Edmonton International Airport for an early morning flight off somewhere, so it had the same sort of “I’m going travelling!” vibe to me.
The car ride down south was very safe, fast, and comfortable — I sat in the back seat and dozed off for most of the ride there, as did the person next to me, which was nice since we had met up before 6am. Vishavdeep had also provided everyone with a free bottle of mineral water but I didn’t use it. The only downside about the ride is that there wasn’t a lot of leg room between the back seat and the seat just in front of us, but that didn’t really matter once I dozed off anyway. Around the patches of sleep that I got, I took in the view of the surroundings, prairie fields everywhere as always, but there was what looked like a white morning fog creepily rolling across the fields everywhere that I had never seen before.
I closed my eyes and ignored it. We reached Calgary, specifically Saddletowne Station, at around 8:30 am, and I hopped on a train headed south toward downtown, where the Consulate-General of Japan was. I had to use the bathroom along the way though, and my appointment wasn’t until 10:40 am anyway, so I hopped off the CTrain, or Calgary Train, at one of the stops along the way, Marlborough Station.
With visions of the second orange Monopoly property dancing in my head, I headed to the mall next to the station, Marlborough Mall, and wandered around in there a little bit after relieving myself. The stores didn’t open until 10 am, but the mall itself was already unlocked for people to walk around in, with a sign outside talking about the importance of walking and exercise for seniors in the local community. I was neither senior nor local, but I liked the liminal vibe that it gave off anyway.
I then hopped back on to the train. The way the Calgary train system works, there’s a free fare zone in the middle of the downtown area that goes along the city street itself, and the trains do something interesting there — west-bound stations and east-bound stations stop at different, alternating stops, so the stop you get off at to get somewhere downtown by train differs depending on whether you’re approaching the fare-free zone from the east or the west.
Since I boarded the train at Saddletowne (and then Marlborough), I was coming in from the east along the blue line, so the nearest station to the consulate was 4th Street SW. However, the bus that I was going to take home to Edmonton was scheduled to leave from Westbrook Mall, near Westbrook Station, which was west of the fare-free zone on the blue line. Since I still had over an hour to spare at this point, and my train ticket still had time on it before it expired, I went to visit the mall to check out the place where I would be catching the bus from, which then meant that I came back into the fare-free zone from the west side, and at that point the nearest station to the consulate was 3rd Street SW. Thankfully Google Maps handled all that for me, but it was interesting nonetheless.
Also, the trains were very similar to Edmonton trains, though the seat design was a bit different, they were obviously from the same manufacturer though. But the Calgary trains seemed to be a lot cleaner and a lot more trusted by the local populace than the Edmonton ones, whose ridership tend to be very low in the mornings and evenings, since some of the train stations and trains seem to have druggy and homeless issues these days, and the police, ETS, and city council refuse to do anything about it. I saw a couple of adults usher an entire cohort of 20-something kindergarten kids onto the train on my journey west on the CTrain — I’m not sure that would fly in Edmonton anymore these days.
Eventually I reached Westbrook Station, and walked out to the mall.
I was very glad later on that I did this, as finding the best path to the mall and then finding the place that I was supposed to catch the bus from, which was located between Entrances 5 and 6, both of which were on the other side of the mall from where I approached from the station, took a little bit of time. The picture above is of the east side of the mall, approaching Entrances 3 and 4 — Entrance 3 is front and center in the picture while Entrance 4 was by the Safeway on the far right. Westbrook Mall is set up as a long, thin mall that runs north-south, so Entrance 5 was “across” from that Entrance 4 and about a 20 second scurry past several shops, whereas Entrance 6 was across from Entrance 3 above and about the same distance as between Entrances 4 and 5 as well.
I learned all that with this recce, so I was more assured of catching the bus later on, since my appointment was at 10:40 am, the bus ride home was at 11:30 am, and the train ride here was about 10 minutes, with a potential up to 10 minute wait, and a 5 minute walk on either end of it. It was honestly really tight!
Anyway, I took a train back from here to 3rd Street SW, and got to my appointment at the Consulate-General at 10:37 am. It was on the 9th floor of the building, and my duffel bag had to pass through a little security scanner area to get in to the office. There were two people ahead of me, but they had both already given their documents to the counter for processing, and were waiting around for the staff to vet their documents. I did the same and waited around a bit.
Then they called me up, and told me that I was missing a document, the Certificate of Eligibility. The Consulate-General’s website says that the things to bring include:
1. Valid Passport;
2. One 45mm x 35mm passport-type photos taken within the previous six months (should have valid date stamp, stamped on back of the photo from the photo shop);
3. VISA APPLICATION FORM TO ENTER JAPAN: Online Fillable PDF Form
4. Certificate of Eligibility issued by the Immigration Bureau of Japan
5. A photocopy of the Certificate of Eligibility
6. Visa Fees
7. Both the original and one photocopy of your Canadian Immigration document (ie PR Card (not the Confirmation of Permanent Residence paper),, Work Permit and Visa, Study Permit and Visa) only apply if you are not Canadian citizen
8. Self-addressed registered return envelope, only apply if you would like to receive your passport by mail
* Additional documents may be requested if necessary
The Consulate-General of Japan in Calgary will not make copies. If you need the original documents, please bring the original and one copy.
But the digital Certificate of Eligibility document I had received said, in both English and Japanese:
1. This certificate is not an entry permit . Even if you have this certificate, you are not admitted into Japan unless you get an entry visa at a Japanese Embassy or Consulate abroad.
2. You need to present this certificate(this email) on smartphone when you apply for a visa and a landing permission. If you cannot show this certificate(this email) on smartphone, be sure to bring a copy of this email in print.
3. You need to show this certificate(this email) to an Immigration Inspector with an entry visa for the landing permission at the port of entry.This certificate shall be invalid if the application for landing permission is not filed within 3months from the date of issue.
4. This certificate does not guarantee the entry of the person concerned. In case that an applicant does not fulfill other requirements for landing, or the relevant circumstances are found to be changed, the landing permission would be denied.
5. This email address is for transmission purposes only, therefore, please do not reply to this email address.
6. If you have no knowledge of this email, or if you have any questions about this email,please contact us at the below contact points.
7. Unauthorized reproduction of the contents of this email is strictly forbidden.
You are permitted to forward this email to apply for visa related purpose.
So, point 2 says I can use this email in lieu of a printed copy and point 7 says I’m not even supposed to make copies of it. Apparently the Consulate-General of Japan of Calgary sees themselves as being above the Immigration Services Agency of Japan though, and they refused to accept the digital copy, and told me to go print it out at a nearby Staples, seven or eight blocks west of the Consulate-General office. The Consulate-General of Japan office in Calgary is so arrogant and unhelpful and inflexible that even in cases like this, they not only do not accept seeing the digital copy even though the OFFICIAL JAPANESE agency in charge of handing them out says its okay, but they did not accept me forwarding the email on to them earlier, and would not lift a finger to help me print it out or anything like that in the office either, unlike other consulates/embassies (After I recounted the story to my siblings the next day, Kel later said that the Chinese embassy, in comparison, had printers/photocopiers in the office that they would use as necessary).
This is poor Japanese bureaucratic behaviour, but honestly very typical of the country’s backwards ways, and is just one example of many things like this that they throw in the way of people who don’t dance to exactly the dance steps that they demand. I got the impression that they don’t serve people and aren’t proud of their jobs or their countries — rather, they think they’re doing others a favour by existing and doing their jobs, and it’s a pretty disgusting attitude to have. Anyway I hope that my blog eventually gets immortalized and turned into a book that is read by thousands of students in the future, as an ultimate petty revenge against events and people like this! And Japan wonders why they are having population crisis issues.
Anyway, at this point, it was 10:55 am and I was convinced that I was going to miss my bus back. They told me I could either come back another week, or I could go get a printout of the email I had, and give them the printout, and they would process it. I left in a huff, but decided to try to make the timing anyway. Going out onto the road, I ordered an Uber ride to the Staples west of the Consulate-General’s office, which was $7 (plus $1 tip) for a 4 minute ride or so, got my 3-page email printed out for 50 cents, then took another Uber back to the Consulate-General’s office for another $7 (and $1 tip), and went back up to submit the photocopy. It was about 11:11 am at this point, and they still told me to sit down and wait for a few more minutes as they puttered around in the back room, before coming back a few minutes later and confirming that everything was okay. (Well, actually, they wanted me to amend a couple things on the application form, but that part was no big deal and took a few seconds only.) Once all that was done, it was 11:16 am, and I quickly requested another Uber ride right to Westbrook Mall from the Consulate-General, while in the elevator itself.
I got into the car at 11:17 am, and while it was only supposed to be a 10 minute drive there, we basically hit every red traffic light along the way anyway so by the time we pulled into the Westbrook parking lot area by Entrances 3 and 4, it was 11:29 am. I told him that I had to be on the west side of the mall, by Entrances 5 and 6, and he drove me up and around the Safeway to the road behind, where I saw the bus waiting. I thanked him and hopped out of the taxi right at 11:30 am and headed to the bus driver, who was standing in front of the bus and waiting for stragglers. Phew!
I shared a laugh with the bus driver, whose name I believe was Sergio, at how late I had arrived, but he said there were still a couple people validating their tickets or something anyway, and that I similarly had to go in to the little office that the bus was parked next to, and get my ticket validated there or something anyway. I did so, came out, and boarded the bus with a sigh of relief. The bus took off a couple minutes later, around 11:33 am or so.
The bus ride back was slower than the car ride here, but was still relatively comfortable, as there were more than enough seats for everyone to have their own double-seat. I tried to play on my Steam Deck that I had brought along, but the battery died really quickly, perhaps I hadn’t really charged it properly the day before. I didn’t bring the overdue book that I had talked about several weeks ago along, though, because I had felt uneasy about holding on to an overdue library book, and had finished and returned it last Sunday instead, the day before my trip. So I puttered around on my phone, and took another nap.
The bus stopped in Red Deer for 15 minutes, and parked next to a Tim Horton’s store there, so I actually went in and grabbed a bite to eat since my tight schedule for the day had not scheduled any other time for lunch except for this break. I had taken similar bus routes back from Calgary to Edmonton before, even though last time the bus was run by a company named Cold Shot, and this time it was run by Rider Express, so I knew that we were going to stop by some sort of food place to let the passengers (who weren’t disembarking here as their final destination) refresh themselves a bit before the rest of the trip. Here’s Sergio (if that was his correct name) smiling at the camera at Red Deer:
I had never actually eaten at Tim Horton’s before, besides mooching on free donuts or Timbits that others bought and gave out at a meeting or something, but it’s just one of those Western food places that I’ve never patronized myself. I had a Chicken Bacon Ranch Grilled Wrap for $7.13 though, and while it was a bit overpriced, it was pretty great (and renewed the 7 day counter on my New Year’s resolution to eat some non-pie bread product at least once per every 7 day span).
The reason I had picked this bus in particular was because it featured a drop-off point right at Southgate Station back in Edmonton itself, and soon enough we had arrived there, and it was just a hop, skip, and a jump to get home from there. I did see someone trying to lug six clear, large bags of bottles into the doors leading to the train station as I passed it, so I helped him hold the door open while he manouvered the bags in. That was a bit weird, but earned me a nice thank you anyway.
I reached home just past 3 pm, and saw a delivery attempt notice for the box of CDs that I had bought from Suruga a couple of weeks ago. I took it down to the nearby Canada Post counter to try to see if I could get my package early, but it wasn’t in yet, so I just bought some dinner and went home. I picked it up the next day instead.
The CDs cost $100 or so for the lot (they’re second-hand CDs, but basically largely in pristine/complete condition), but I apparently saved 8,800 yen, or just over $80, in shipping, and because I used EMS instead of DHL shipping, it also skipped customs for whatever reason (I’m not clear on why sometimes it skips the customs fee and sometimes it does not).
Monday was quite interesting overall, it was definitely a first to me to leave Edmonton and return to it on the same day itself. I ended up sitting in nine different vehicles along the way too — an Uber from my house to Century Park in the morning, another three Ubers while in Calgary (Consulate-General to Staples, Staples to Consulate-General, and then Consulate-General to Westbrook Mall), three Calgary trains (Saddleborne to Marlborough, Marlborough to Westbrook, Westbrook to 3rd Street SW), Vishavdeep’s car on the way to Calgary, and the Rider Express bus on the way home. I’m not sure if that’s a personal record for most vehicles ridden on in a single day, one of my vacations to Japan with its many train transfers might have something to say about that, but it should at least be fairly close.
I also wondered what would have happened if I had taken the other route down here with Jagdeep, who had said the trip would cost $150 but that he would wait for me (and the other couple) to be done before bringing us back to Edmonton too. I never met him or the other couple even though their appointment was right after mine. Would he have driven me to Staples and back? Or would he have said that I was on my own? Even with all the Uber trips, it still cost me less in the end — it was about $40 each way, and the four Uber ribes cost me about $40 in total too after tips, plus one train ticket for $3.50, and even counting the bacon wrap that I had, that only put me around $130 for the day. I also didn’t have to pay any visa application fee — the Consulate-General page was unclear and wishy-washy about this but that saved me $57 as well that I was prepared to have to spend.
So that was most of the excitement for the week. Besides that, I paid Mom a couple more visits at the hospital, and near the end of the week she was finally discharged from the main hospital and transferred to a rehabiliation one where she’ll try to regain most of her motor skills if possible in the couple more weeks before the 6-8 week mark post-stroke where they say that recovery tends to plateau out. It’s been 3 weeks, and she’s doing a lot better each week, so we still have high hopes for how much she will hopefully regain. The nurses at the first hospital call this rehabilitation hospital a rehab boot camp!
I also, as always, have other pictures of the neighbourhood from the week to share.
Sunday August 13, 11:35 am, boundless blue skies on the way to the library to return my book:
Then on 11:48 am, a rabbit who let me get somewhat close on the way back from the library.
And a picture of the back of the management office, around where the BBQ was last week, five minutes later.
6:07 pm later that night, the neighbourhood kids are out in force again:
10:04 pm that night, a bunch of teenagers sitting on a bench while the year-long Christmas tree shines above them.
Tuesday, the 15th, at 10:35 am. I found another somewhat friendly rabbit. Or maybe it’s the same one?
And then Wednesday, at 8:14 pm, the sounds of happiness outside compelled me to take another picture of the lovable neighbourhood scamps.
On Thursday, at around 9:30 pm, a thunderstorm and hailstorm swept into the city, and it was so loud and so strong that I stood by the balcony door (on the other side of protective screen mesh) and took a 3 minute video of the rain and hail and wind terrorizing the city. It felt good to watch (from indoors), although I think I heard a scream at some point from someone running by in the hail before I started recording. I also wanted to see how good the Samsung phone’s recording capability was.
Another week, another revolving door of games. Victims this week include Dave the Diver, Grand Theft Auto V, Yamafuda! 2nd station, Library of Ruina, Tales of Maj’Eyal, Risk of Rain 2 (with Satinel), Children of Morta (with Satinel), Evil Genius, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Boneraiser Minions, Holocure – Save the Fans!, Final Fantasy XV, Space Haven, and Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk. Most of them were one night (or one hour) flings, or things that briefly came up because their sequels were in a Humble Bundle (in the case of Evil Genius). My gaming intake is still very restless overall though, with no end in sight.
The game I probably spent the most time on out of all those was Boneraiser Minions, which is a fun take on the Vampire Survivors sort of “reverse bullet hell” game. It has lots of little incremental upgrades to get over time that unlock new classes and playstyles, which I like. Labyrinth of Refrain is also pretty good, although I didn’t own the game at the start of the week, and picked it up halfway through from a summer sale at Fanatical. It plays like a mystery dungeon sort of turn-based RPG, with an anime-style visual novel story wrapped around it. So far, very interesting.
On the phone, I played Shattered Pixel Dungeon this week, although the game also apparently exists on PC (and Steam). It hasn’t really captured me yet, though it apparently hides a lot of depth beneath a very simple interface, but the individual runs are not very long (before I crumple into a pile of sorry bones) so it’s been good to fill up a little bit of time here and there.
I’ve been bouncing from fleeting craving to fleeting craving, and we’ll see what happens this upcoming week. I’m writing down all the games I touch in a week just so I have something to look back at in the future.
Jah played Chicory: A Colorful Tale for Jah Stream Night this week, and it’s notable because I wanted to upload a gif of him painting a screen with a Tigey brush that he made, as Diary1800.gif. It isn’t the 1800th picture uploaded onto the blog or anything like that, as I have several other naming schemes besides DiaryXXXX, and it’s apparently actually the 10,897th piece of media uploaded onto this blog, but within the bounds of this DiaryXXXX naming scheme, it’s the 1800th entry. So here I am happy to present Diary1800.gif.
Plushie of the Week #102 – Gordon
Mom has a couple of plushies with her while she’s in hospital, and although I don’t know exactly when or from where my siblings got her the plushies or how much they cost, I wanted to (and acquired permission to) post at least one of them anyway. This is Gordon, a Kelly Toys squishmallow shark, and he’s the larger of the two plushies that Mom has with her. I probably won’t be featuring the smaller one yet because he’s actually part of a set that my siblings are trying to collect, so it’s probably better featuring them as a complete set eventually, but Gordon’s a standalone rascal and demanded some blog time after Tigey annexed him, so here we are.
I have no idea where they came up with the name, since I don’t see it on the tag in the pictures that I took. I will probably casually edit in things about this shark as I find out more about him though.
What a smile. What big teeth you have!
Song of the Week #79
Title: Buses and Trains
Artist: Bachelor Girl
Album: Waiting for the Day (1998)
Another week, anoher quintessentially late 1990s song from my heart. This song is by an Australian duo, and apparently did not chart in the USA at all, but it did do fairly decently in Australia as well as a couple countries in Europe. It did make its way to Singapore as well, where it did have airplay and did appear on local charts, which was where I got to know this song.
With Mom in the hospital, this song kind of resonates with me a little more. Not the lyrics in particular, although it’s all about the singer’s mom, but rather the music video, with the singer recording her life and then sending it off as a tape to her mom. Back before all this though, my lingering memory linked with this song is walking around Toa Payoh MRT station in Singapore with Mom after a visit to the library, or the Popular Bookstore that used to be there. We’d be walking around the kopitiams and food places there looking for Indian Rojak to buy and bring home to our Yishun house. That one is a precious memory. The end part of the chorus that crosses over to the second stanza, around the 1:50 to 2:15 mark or so, is particularly powerful to me and also makes me think of my Secondary 2 Dunman friends (particularly Huihan) and sends some sort of a nostalgic, thrilling sensation through me.
I also link it with a particular instant noodle that we used to eat, Myojo-brand Mee Poh Dry, though I don’t know why this is the case, as we wouldn’t have stumbled across it until the mid 2000s once we moved to Canada. That instant noodle is one of my favourite ones, likely because it reminds me of a noodle dish from home, but I don’t know how that would have gotten entangled with this song. The memory of the song itself has a sunset orange sort of hue to it for me though (somewhat similar to the video, though I don’t think it’s because of that — I didn’t remember the video until I saw it here), and I guess I associate the taste of those noodles to that same hue and thus this same song too.
Hmm.. I wonder if I can find those noodles for cheap anywhere. I haven’t eaten them in many, many years since they’re not on sale at my usual stores. Dad used to get them from some Chinatown supermarket or other, but I don’t know which one and I’ve never actually been to Edmonton’s Chinatown myself, only the Western and Asian supermarkets near me. Actually, why haven’t I? I should try venturing out there while it’s still summer and while I still have the time.
Writing Prompt of the Week #22
This week’s writing prompt reads:
“The scariest thing that ever happened to me was…” Go into as much detail as you can.
Hm. One of my older trips, back in July 2014, was to Seoul, where I had tried to go to a clinic there named Yeson Voice Clinic for feminization surgery on my vocal cords, to raise the pitch of my voice. This was my second attempt at vocal cord surgery — I had initially scheduled a surgery with another doctor back in March of 2013, Dr. James Thomas in Portland, Oregon, but even though I had committed all the way to physically travelling there with my Dad a couple of days before the surgery, I had some really bad vibes about the entire thing after seeing the building (it was basically a clinic shared with a dentist and a few other doctors) and after getting a schedule that was completely off because they had mixed up my dates with another patient’s. They apologized and sent a new one, and I’m sure it’d have been fine to a certain extent anyway, but I trusted my gut instincts there and cancelled the following day, the day before the surgery. Dad and I spent a couple more days hanging around Portland after that before returning home.
But anyway, this writeup isn’t about that trip, although I need to post pictures from it on my blog at some point. This one is about a trip I took the following year from Canada to Seoul, in South Korea, to get a surgery from Dr. Kim at Yeson Voice Clinic. I went by myself as I couldn’t find anyone to accompany me, even when I was offering at the time to sponsor the airfare for my wanted chaperone.
Still, everything went swimmingly well, I settled in to my hotel and found my way to the clinic there and everything to set up the surgery… until the day before the surgery, when I went in for a pre-surgery checkup. That involved doing a number of voice tests, as well as throat examinations, and I was nervous enough (and hated using my voice enough) that my voice definitely trembled somewhat during the tests.
After the tests were done, Dr Kim came into the room and told me that he recommended against and did not want to perform the vocal cord surgery on me as he had diagnosed me with spasmodic dysphonia, and that it would be dangerous and in fact that I should go home and seek treatment for it first.
In shock, I went back to the hotel to research this — spasmodic dysphonia was something that looked quite complex and, while not life-threatening, very serious. The research will be left as an exercise for my readers, but there are videos with people who have bad cases of spasmodic dysphonia, and they sound pretty darn terrible. I didn’t sound any of that, but he was saying that I had that too and that I needed to go home and get botox treatments and such?
I had a little bit of a breakdown back at the hotel — I felt alone and far away from everyone else in the world at the time, and I felt like my gender transition, for which this was to me an integral step in the process, was crumbling to pieces. Due to time zone differential, most of my friends were all largely in bed as well and wouldn’t see the news until the next morning, so I had no one much to talk to and just wallowed in my negative thoughts for several hours.
I eventually pulled out of it and tried to enjoy the rest of my trip, even technically visiting North Korea via a tour to a special shared room in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea at one point on the trip, but that dagger of Damocles was always hanging over me and followed me through the next year or so, as I eventually had to take some time off of work after being diagnosed with major depression.
However, none of the doctors that I saw back in Edmonton would diagnose me with spasmodic dysphonia. I got examined by several of them, including some ENT (Ear/Nose/Throat) specialists, and all of them said that I was perfectly fine. The last one said that he literally could not prescribe me anything because he was confident that I had zero symptoms or signs of that condition.
So, armed with that, I contacted Yeson again, gave them a bunch of paperwork that I had collected that stated that I was fine, and arranged to come back for a second shot at the surgery. This might seem counterintuitive at first, but I actually figured that this “over-caution”, while it did cause me anguish, money, and time, also showed that they were serious about the surgery and my well-being and would not compromise in the name of profit, or they would have just done it on the spot anyway. I felt a level of integrity behind it all, so I went back again in October 2015 for my second surgery. This time, on my third attempt at vocal cord surgery, I finally went through it and it was successful. I’m still very happy with it eight years later.
Anyway, that sensation I felt was probably the scariest thing that ever happened to me. The only thing I can think of that rivals that is the first day when I went out dressed and living as a female as part of my Real Life Test, which would have been in early April 2013. And especially facing workmates and such who knew me in my previous gender from just a couple of weeks prior to the change. I survived that just fine though, nothing bad happened, and I told myself that every day after that would feel better and more natural as well. And it has! (But this one wasn’t really something scary “happening to me” so much as it was something I was doing.)
Memory Snippet of the Week #86
I have previously talked about some games from my childhood, for example in My Diary #039/MSotW #21, where I talk about things like Speed Scrabble, or My Diary #081/MSotW #63 for the Ninja Turtle Card Game and Army Chess/Luzhanqi, or My Diary #101/MSotW #81 for L5R, or My Diary #102/MSotW #82 for the Mickey Mouse Jigsaw Puzzle, and so on. I’ve even touched on some personal games like the Bone Trophy more recently.
There are several more game-related posts that I want to make though. One for highlighting some old board and card games and similar stuff that I still have and have carried around since young, one probably for gamebooks (outside of Fabled Lands) as well, and one for games and toys that we used to have and that I still remember but that are now long gone. Most of those sound like they’d involve some time set aside for cataloguing and taking pictures though, but not the latter, so I thought I’d mention some other childhood games or toys this week, that my siblings and I used to have but that are now gone.
The first one I remember is called the Giant Game Board Book (local). It’s a large “book” (that we stored behind the spare room door) that you could open up and place on the floor to form a game board. The “book” came with counters/tokens and an electronic dice device with a button that you could press, at which point it would beep and a light would “randomly” cycle across the numbers 1-6 printed on the electronic dice device, until it finally stopped and settled on one of those six numbers. That number was your die roll for the turn. It was significantly harder to cheat this way!
Another one we had was a carrom board — this one I’ve actually mentioned briefly before in My Diary #087. I still haven’t found the pieces, or at least I haven’t remembered that I was looking for the pieces at the same time as actually seeing the box where the pieces should be kept in, so for a lack of a better term, no dice so far. I do remember putting baby powder on the board to make the pieces slide better though, before flicking the pieces around and playing a game of carrom with myself.
There were also a box of flag erasers that I had — I’ve previously talked about them briefly here in MSotW #77, and I feel like I likely have that box around somewhere as well, but again even if I do, I haven’t seen it in years. So for the moment, I’m categorizing this one and the previous carrom pieces as being missing (the carrom board is definitely gone, anyway).
We also had a cylindrical metal box of Pick-Up Sticks, although I think at least one of the sticks eventually snapped. Each stick was thin and was made up of a solid colour, so most of the Google pictures of them look exactly like they do, but I can’t find a picture of the exact canister that they came in so I didn’t pick a picture to showcase here.
I’m fairly sure that we had a packet of Snap cards that wasn’t based on a deck of 52 playing cards, although upon Googling, I don’t recognize any of the cards that I see from a cursory search as well. I don’t actually remember what our cards look like either though, so maybe this one is a made-up memory (but I don’t think so..)
I have a dim memory of a large, red circular toy, about as round (and thick) as a large pie or wall clock, with a cord hanging from one end. Pulling the cord would cause a little arrow in the middle of the toy to spin around, and that little arrow was pointed at various pictures painted around the outside ring of the toy. I don’t remember what happens when the arrow stopped. I’m sure there’s a name for this toy but I have no idea what it is to look it up.
(Edit: Satinel has since said that this is likely some variation of a toy called a See ‘n Say. Upon review this seems likely to be correct!)
We also had an electronic logic or math puzzle game or something with a guy who would recite math quiz questions, though it possibly had other categories besides math, and there were a couple of buttons one could press depending on what we thought the answer was. It almost certainly had several possible coloured buttons that one could press, but I think it was restricted to binary true/false questions, with the multiple buttons being something that allowed more than one or two people to play at once if desired.
I do remember that after we turned it on, it would play a short ditty, then the guy voice would announce something like “Press a colour pachet”. Pachet isn’t a real word, but I never figured out what word the guy was using, it sounded like Pah- (from like Papa) as a prefix and -chet or -shey (from the word sashay, for example) as a suffix. I thought for years that it was just a word that I hadn’t yet learnt.
Anyway, whoever was playing the game would pick a colour. Once the joining phase was over, it would play another 6-8 note tune, and then launch into a question, something like “Six. Plus. Five. Equals. Eleven.” Since this statement was true, the first person to press their colour would get a point. I don’t remember what the announcer would say here, something along the lines of “Correct!”, probably, and the person’s coloured buzzer/button probably flashed their colour and gave them a point, however points were calculated. If no one pressed after a second or two, however, when the answer was correct, I vividly remember that the announcer would say “Need to be quick!” and move on to the next question. That “need to be quick!” was a quote that my siblings and I stole, and it became a little meme among us. Sometimes the equation would be wrong, though, and if anyone pressed down on the buzzer then they would lose a point.
I remember at least two different alphabet jigsaw puzzles that we had as small children as well. One was really just a board with different shaped pieces attached to little wooden pegs that could be fit into the corresponding spots for each letter. Y was Yacht, for example, and the piece was a yacht-shaped piece of thick wood that could be lifted out of and put back into the board under Y. I remember this piece rather vividly because I also remember saving it when my parents eventually got rid of the game. I don’t know where that piece is now, though, probably wherever the carrom pieces are. One day I might find it again. Another alphabet jigsaw puzzle we had was a more classic jigsaw puzzle, although its pieces were all weird shapes too. I remember this one though because I also saved a piece when it was being thrown out, and this one I did manage to locate:
This piece is from the bottom of the board, with W on the left side (W for Wellington here, apparently — I wonder where this jigsaw was made!) and X on the right side for X-mas tree. You can see the “X” part of the letter on the top right side of the piece, in the little connection knob.
We had two hand-held consoles that I remember growing up. One was a grey Tetris console, and another one was a game called Heli-Battle. I actually saw the Heli-Battle console on sale at Sim Lim Square when I went back to visit Singapore last year, a picture of the console can be located on the corresponding travel diary page here.
We also, later on in Canada, had a yellow Tamagotchi and a brown Furby when those things were popular. And a slinky toy that actually worked for climbing down the stairs in Edmonton 4012 when we stayed there — we called this thing Rainbow Spring. It got tangled up and then untangled many, many times over the years, but somehow still worked whenever we used it even after it got bent out of shape a little.
I remember having a box of marbles, although I don’t think I ever really played any games with it with either my siblings or friends. I just took it out to look at it now and then I guess? And eventually I lost my marbles?
Although this section is mostly for old children’s games and such, I also wanted to take the opportunity to call out a compact disc we used to have, that Dad likely brought back from Malaysia or some weird Singapore contact that he had. It was a shareware disc that might or might not have been pirated, it was labelled A055 (or possibly AO55), and it contained several hundred little games, apps, and random other programs on it. It was one of the first CDs we ever had and I remember spending tons of time looking through the apps on the CD using a custom app browser that it came pre-installed with, but we seem to have long since lost or gotten rid of this CD as well, and I’ve always wondered about (and occasionally tried to find) this old disc. I’ve never seen it online, though.
In the end, I skipped a lot of board and card games, because I think all those require a separate MSotW at some point in the future. Perhaps with accompanying pictures for those that I can still unearth.
This was a rather poor week for dreams, but at least I didn’t get shut out.
Aug 18 2023
- I dreamt that I was back in McNally High School, but the school was actually located in Singapore and I was in my Sec 1/2 GEP phase there. The rest of my classmates were away at the Singapore Science Centre for a 3-day field trip, however I had skipped it because I didn’t want to go, and more precisely because I had apparently recently visited it already anyway.
- Anyway, despite my classmates being away, classes were actually still in session, so I went to my Physics class, which was in a second floor classroom. Mr Jauch was the teacher there, and he seemed surprised to see that I was the only student there so I explained why everyone else was away. There was a door to an attached storeroom in the classroom which swung open and shut a couple times while he did his class, and I said that that might be the wind, but also that the place might be haunted because I thought the door was actually fully shut before it began swinging.
- I asked that he wait for me to pack up after class is over before he left the class so that I wasn’t alone in here. He agreed to that but also turned on the light switch for the storeroom, which was located on the wall outside and just next to the door itself. This turned on a white light within the room that was visible through the frosted glass panel located in the upper middle part of the door. I told him not to do that — if there was actually a ghost inside we might see the outline of something that we would regret seeing through the glass panel.
- Anyway he waited for me once the class was over and we went outside together. Mr Ng and a few other students were waiting for us to leave the classroom, and they filed in for the next class after we did so. After we had left and walked a few paces, I met Paulene, who said she needed to go into the class we had just left to take a picture of a large rectangular box that was labelled Resources and was located under a table near the front door. This was apparently a continuation of a school-wide task that she had been doing on the behest of another teacher, possibly from a recent previous dream that I had forgotten about, and while it didn’t register to me that she was in the same GEP class and thus shouldn’t even be here to begin with, I helped her knock on the door of the classroom that we had just left and explain her task to the teacher. She then took her needed pictures with the camera she was lugging around, and left to report her findings.
- I headed down to the ground floor and across to a neighbouring building for my next class, which was Biology. My next class was in classroom 201, but despite the number, the classroom was located on the ground floor of a block which contained science labs, and I saw a sign that pointed toward classrooms 201 to 205 all in a row not far from where I was.
- This next class’s teacher was the one who had sent us to the Science Centre field trip to begin with, so I wanted to figure out some exhibits that the Science Centre had while I walked there, in order to fend off the inevitable questions after I would explain to her that I wasn’t at the Science Centre because I had been there recently. I looked up the Science Centre on the phone and took a look at some of the exhibits and attractions that I would mention to her once I was grilled. There was a large roller coaster in that place for some reason, so that was one I definitely had to mention, as well as exhibits of birds, turtles, and other things. I even found some sample camera feeds from the previous day that had captured Paulene there on the trip, and they had used that picture as the thumbnail for the camera link on the website.
- While I was walking, I also passed a little plant exhibit on a raised semicircular brick resting area, and on the jutting out part of the brick semicircle where students could sit on to rest, there was a bright pink snail crawling about that I and another female student stopped to admire for a while before continuing on our way.
- Once I reached the classroom, I wandered in and saw a number of regular non-GEP students in there as well, but Yiwen and Paulene both came in after me as well and the three of us went to sit together at a table. They sat down on either side of me, with Yiwen on my left. I asked why they were here, and not at the Science Centre, and started to explain as rehearsed that I was here myself because I had visited the Science Centre recently already. Yiwen said that the third day of their field trip, which was today, was cancelled due to rain. I asked if the Biology teacher had mandated that we come in to school on such short notice even though it was raining, despite the field trip being cancelled for the same reason, and she said no, but that she had come in anyway.
Aug 19 2023
- I dreamt something about sailing on a ship through an ocean, and using a world map for navigation purposes. That map had a sentence which contained all the letters of the alphabet written on it, which was shorter than the classical English sentence that contains all the letters of the alphabet (“The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog”) because it had proper names in it.
Aug 20 2023
- The dream took place inside a multi-level nightclub that had apartment homes attached to it on its upper levels as well. There were a set of elevators in a lobby, four or six of them in total, that took people between floors, and other people I knew were occasionally travelling around in the area separate from me in my dream. Jon and Kel were there and travelled with each other, for one. However, one of the elevators was being permanently held at the ground floor for some event.
- Anyway the dream involved completing a set of forms that was needed for me to go abroad to Japan. I had to go places and do things for this, although I don’t remember the context behind this part now. I do remember at one point going up to the third floor or so, and visiting an admin room to submit some papers. There were a row of four tables and three or four people behind the tables waiting to help me — one girl, then a guy, and then two other girls who were busy with other walkups. I ended up with the guy, and spoke Japanese to him in this part of the dream.
- He took my papers and then gave me another set of papers to do, saying that they had to be completed in about 3 days. It turned out that he was the head honcho here, so he also gave me another set of reference papers or something that would help me with one of the questions on the paper that involved either analyzing or creating new music. I thanked him for all that.
- In return, he asked me if I had a map with me as he wanted to confirm the address that the person who was in line previous to me had put on his form, as something about the address didn’t sit right with him and he wanted to confirm it. I said I could use my phone to look up the address on Google Maps and he thanked me and showed me the address.
- The address looked really familiar, as it was similar to my Yishun 723 address, or at least contained the number 723, so I said that I had actually lived near there when I was young and could confirm it without looking it up. But I confused the tense of the phrase in Japanese, starting with sundeiru (currently live at) which he helpfully corrected to sumimasu (to live at), before realizing that he had also mixed it up and re-correcting it to sumimashita (lived at), which was apparently correct in the context of whatever sentence I was trying to use. We shared a laugh over the language issues. At this point I realized that the address was actually wrong, but oh well, whatever. I didn’t bother correcting my confirmation of it.