Where in the World? – Tokyo

It’s the second instalment of my new series, Where in the World? Last time, my friend Carolyn wrote about our hometown of Ottawa. Today, Anna is writing about Tokyo. Anna and I used to teach together and Poland and I also once lived in the Tokyo suburbs. Enjoy

1. Where do you live?

Tokyo city, Tokyo, Japan.

2. How long have you lived there?

18 months.

3. If you weren’t born there, why did you move?

To see Japanese culture and work in a thriving Asian city.

4. What is something your city is known for?

The Arts, cultural exhibitions and festivals, great food, karaoke, fashion, and Japanese pop culture.

5. When you travel outside your city (other cities or countries), what form of transportation do you most often use?

Trains or planes.

6. Within your city, what is the best form of transportation for getting around? Why?

Subways or trains because they’re fast, efficient, economical and everywhere.

7. Name and describe 3 things that, in your opinion, are “must sees” in your city. 

  • The Imperial Palace
  • Shibuya crossing
  • Harajuku area

8. Name and describe 3 things people should do in your city. 

  • Go to a sushi train restaurant
  • Sing karaoke
  • Explore the Asakusa temple area

9. What is one thing that you haven’t seen or done in your city but would like to?

Visit Tokyo Disneyland.

10. Describe a special event that happens in your city every year. 

Matsuri is the end of summer and floats with shrines are carried around on people’s shoulders to the local temples for good luck.

11. What do you think are the three most common jobs in your city?

  • Salaryman, commercial business is number one (suits everywhere)
  • Factory workers in manufacturing
  • Sales

12. Where’s the best place to shop?

I like Futago Tamagawa. If you want high-end shopping, that’s in Ginza.

13. Where’s the best place to eat? Why?

I can almost guarantee you will never get food poisoning in Japan – food is exceptional here. Try it all!!

14. In your opinion, where’s the best bar in town, and why?

Best bar – craft beer breweries in Daikanyama or Omotesando areas can’t be beaten.

15. If you could give a piece of advice to someone visiting your city, what would it be?

Explore using the Yamanote line. It’s on a loop and connects many main centres with plenty of different options.

16. Anything else?

Learn some Japanese words and phrases, the locals appreciate it.

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Where in the World? — Ottawa

I’ve decided to start a new series on my blog that I’m calling Where in the World? I’ve been lucky enough to live in many places, and travel to even more. I thought it might be cool to compose 16 simple questions about the city you live in, and send them out to my friends around the world, to see not only individual takes on various places, but also the similarities and difference between them. I’m not sure how regular this series will be (I’ll post answers as I get them) but I’ll tag all the posts with “Where in the World” so you can find them all together, if you want to read them all at once.

The first post in the series will fittingly be where it all started for me – my home town of Ottawa. These answers were sent to me by Carolyn, one of my longest friends and it was really interesting for me to see how she sees our city (and makes me want to go home and visit!). So, here is Ottawa from Carolyn:

1. Where do you live?

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

2. How long have you lived there?

Born and raised!

3. If you weren’t born there, why did you move?

N/A

4. What is something your city is known for?

Capital city of Canada.

5. When you travel outside your city (to other cities or countries), what form of transportation do you most often use?

Car – Canada is a huge country and great for road trips.

6. Within your city, what is the best form of transportation for getting around? Why?

Depends on what area of the city you’re in. The downtown core is very walkable and there are lots of bikes that you can rent. If you want to visit some of the smaller towns nearby, you’ll want a car.

7. Name and describe 3 things that, in your opinion, are “must sees” in your city.

Parliament buildings – It’s free, and the grounds are super accessible compared to other seats of government. It’s a heritage building, and there are free sound and light shows on summer evenings.

The Rideau Canal and Byward Market – Ottawa’s heritage is a lumber town and these are the remains of those days. Lots of great restaurants in the market and cool boutique shops. Rideau Canal is fun both summer and winter.

Gatineau Park – A huge piece of parkland, free to go through and park. Great for hiking and picnics. Near a historical site (former Prime Minister’s summer residence – also a fun visit). Ottawa is right on the edge of two provinces, Ontario and Quebec. Consider a mini-trip to the Quebec side and try the Nordic spa in Chelsea (Le Nordik) and the quaint village of Wakefield with awesome live music at The Black Sheep and good B&Bs.

8. Name and describe 3 things people should do in your city.

Music lovers must check out Live on Elgin. Great venue, huge variety of acts. Ask the bartender, Kirby, to make you a custom drink.

Foodies – we are fast becoming a foodie haven. Sidedoor is my pick for awesome food at a fair price. Tacos are out of this world. Consider also, Mena, in Little Italy, which offers tasting menu experiences.

Ladies who shop – Pom Pom on York. Really different clothing, jewelry, shoes and great prices.

9. What is one thing you haven’t seen or done in your city, but would like to?

Skiing. Great skiing in the area, but I can’t ski!

10. Describe a special event that happens in your city every year. 

Canada Day, July 1st. Huge party in the streets downtown.

11. What do you think are the three most common jobs in your city?

Government town for sure!

High tech

Other professional jobs (education, law etc)

12. Where’s the best place to shop?

Rideau Centre for malls, Pom Pom/Roadtrip/Zargara for clothes, Byward Market for souvenirs.

13. Where’s the best place to eat? Why?

As mentioned, Sidedoor is excellent, and Mena. Try also Must, Gezellig and Metropolitan. High class at Zoe’s and The Shore Club.

14. In your opinion, where’s the best bar in town, and why?

Live on Elgin for music, Pub Italia for vibe and beer selection.

15. If you could give a piece of advice to someone visiting your city, what would it be?

Dress warm if you come in winter!

Try the local music scene. Lots of options.

16. Anything else?

It’s got a good small-town/big-town feel.

Lots of green space.

ottawa

Photo from ottawatourism.ca


 

Come back soon for more instalments of Where in the World? and why not go over to iTunes and check out Carolyn’s band, Arms of the Girl!!

 

 

 

Calm Before the Storm

Not much is happening right now but that’s probably a good thing, as we’re heading into March, the worst month in my personal academic calendar. The school year lasts nearly 11 months (August – June). How is it that everything seems to happen in March? Can’t it be spread out a little? In March, we will have student conferences, the Grade 5 Exhibition and the high school play (Shrek). All of which I’m involved in, all of which take a lot of work. So the fact that not a whole lot is going on right now is probably a good thing.

Today is Sunday and last week was our first week back after the February break. I didn’t go anywhere abroad for the break because I had to get my passport renewed. I had big plans of traveling around Switzerland, maybe taking some day trips to Geneva, Berne, Basel. I did none of those things. I slept in in the mornings, sat around during the days, and sometimes met up with friends in the evenings. That’s it. A whole week off and I did nothing. And it was glorious.

But now we’re back into it until our next break, in April. I’ve also been busy with my new role as Secretary of the theatre group I’ve been involved with. That hasn’t been too much work so far, it’s mainly booking rehearsal spaces and sending out emails and notices to various members. This past Wednesday we had our first Committee meeting (which happen every 2 months or so), for which I write up and send out the minutes. It’s interesting to get an inside look at how a theatre organization such as this runs, just for future reference …

Behind the Iron Curtain

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend a conference on inquiry-based learning at Berlin Brandenburg International School. I went with two teachers from my school, Helen (Grade 1) and Judy (Grade 5), as well as Ian, Helen’s husband, who teaches Grade 4 at another school.

It was a cold and very damp weekend, but the first time I had ever properly been to Berlin. Technically, I had been once before, when I lived in Poland. We had driven from Wrocław to Berlin to go to the Christmas market but it was dark all the way there and all the way back, and we literally drove directly to the market, got out and walked around, and then drove back.

This time I got to see a little more of the city, but still not a ton. Because it was cold and damp, and because we were tired from being in seminars all day, we didn’t see as much as we could have and I think I’ll need to go back again – maybe in the summer.

We arrived Friday afternoon and after dropping our things at the hotel, decided to have a wander into the nearby town to find food. We weren’t staying directly in Berlin, we were staying near the school which, despite it’s name, is actually in Potsdam, about a 30 minute drive from Berlin proper. So we walked into downtown Potsdam to find … everything was closed. It wasn’t even that late – maybe 7pm on a Friday night, but everything was closed. Except one restaurant. Which was full. Then it started to rain.

As we continued to walk around, in the cold and rain, hoping against hope that we would find something open, we began to face the inevitable truth that this place was a ghost town, and eventually walked back to the hotel. Potsdam had failed us. The other three (all Brits) kept referring to the town as the Milton Keynes of Germany. I didn’t entirely get the reference, but I have heard Londoners deride Milton Keynes before, so I knew it wasn’t a compliment.

When we got back to the hotel, we decided to finally eat (it was now after 8pm) in the hotel restaurant, which we probably should have done in the first place, but oh well, then headed for bed. I know Berlin is known for its nightlife, but after a week of teaching, and the knowledge that we would have to be up early Saturday morning for the conference, we teachers were in bed by 10.

The conference ran on Saturday from 9-4 and once we were done for the day we went back to the hotel to change into warm clothes and then straight into Berlin (by taxi) to make the most of our limited time.

We were dropped off at the Brandenburg Gate and started walking down what seemed like the main street, in the general direction of Alexanderplatz, where the big tower is. Our plan was to then get a taxi from there back to the hotel, after finding somewhere to eat on the way.

berlin-2017

It was so cold and damp and foggy that it was like walking in one giant cloud. Buildings would emerge from the fog as if by magic, giving Berlin a dark, eerie glow. Strangely enough, we ran into Stu (cover teacher at our school) and his girlfriend in the middle of a crosswalk. They were in Berlin for the weekend just for fun. Small world.

Halfway toward Alexanderplatz, with no prospect of food and (thanks to the fog) an inability to see if there were likely restaurants ahead, we decided to abandon our original plan, turn down a street full of big stores like Zara and H&M and hope that we would find food and warmth – which we eventually did.

We pitched up at a Thai restaurant that I can’t remember the name of (Thai Garden?) for a few hours, eating and warming up. It was pleasantly busy – not packed but not deserted either – and the food was excellent. I had Indian flat breads (at a Thai restaurant?) and a mountain of vegetable fried rice that was so big I should have taken a picture, as it continued my tradition of eating food the size of my face, like the mushroom pie from London and the bowl of guacamole from New York.

Eventually, we had to catch a taxi back to the hotel, and that was not without its events. We got lost. Very lost. The driver – an older woman – couldn’t figure out how to program her sat nav properly and we ended up on a fairly empty, misty road, with woods on both sides. If the driver hadn’t been a woman, and if we hadn’t been with Ian, I may have been mildly concerned that we were about to get murdered. However, thanks to Ian’s Google Maps and Judy’s rough command of the German language (better than the rest of us) we were eventually able to get us where we needed to be – though what should have been a $45 cab ride ended up costing us nearly $70. Ouch.

Sunday we checked out of the hotel and took our bags to the conference with us. When it finished at 3:30, we called a cab and headed straight for the airport. The flight home was pretty uneventful, though the landing was a bit bumpy.

Actually, “bumpy” is not quite the right word, it implies there was more than one bump, which there wasn’t. There was one bump. One big bump. When we hit the ground (my neighbour’s tray table popped open with the impact). It felt like the pilot wasn’t expecting the ground to be there so soon. Objects in window may be closer than they appear.

All in all, a good weekend in Berlin, though it deserves a second visit.

PS. My new teaching blog, Can I Ask a Question, is now up and running. You can see it here. Please follow 🙂

Almost a Year Later …

I’m back!!

I mean I didn’t actually go anywhere – it’s not like the radio silence is due to my being in Antarctica for the last 10 months or anything. I’m just back to my blog. I’m not sure why I stopped writing in the first place but I think it’s been busy and I just haven’t really had much to say.

Since being away I have finished the play (Taking Leave) I was acting in in May, moved to a new apartment downtown which is so much better than my old place (which I never liked) and assistant directed a mammoth play (White Out) that pretty much swallowed the lives of anyone who came near, in the fall. Squeezed in there I also met up with Kali and Maggie in New York City for a week in July, and revisited Glasgow for a few days in October.

But now I’m back here at My Third Culture Life for two reasons. The first is to tell you that I’m going to start writing about my travel and theatre adventures again. I don’t have any big travel plans coming up at the moment (other than the fact that I leave for a three-day conference in Berlin today) but I am currently working on props/set/choreography for the high school play (Shrek). I have also recently been elected as a new committee member (Secretary) for the theatre group with which I have done the last few plays in the city and that is sure to yield some interesting stories as well (in fact, I was in a four-hour casting session this past Wednesday for the upcoming Spring play, but more about that another time).

The second reason I am back is to tell you about a NEW blog I am starting. It’s called Can I Ask a Question? and you can find a link to it here. This blog will not be about travel and theatre, it will strictly be about teaching – namely my journey into inquiry-based learning and emergent curriculum. In the fall I will be moving back to the classroom, as a Grade 1 teacher, so for those of you who were following my current blog for the teacher posts (or anyone else who’s interested!) I would be ever so grateful if you would pop over to my new site and click the “follow” button. The first post should be coming very soon.

Now I’m off to Berlin, but I promise to be back and writing more soon!

Spring Round Up

Over the last few months I’ve let the blog slip. Not for any real reason in particular, mostly because I’ve either been too busy or too lazy, but I’m trying to get back into it, so here is an update on what’s been going on.

January

A week after coming back to school after the Christmas holidays, I was lucky enough to go to an IB workshop for three days, The Role of the Arts in the PYP. The course was in Dubai and I got to spend the weekend with other primary school arts teachers discussing things like integration and how to make arts lessons less of a stand-alone subject and more incorporated into other subject areas.

It was a very interesting course and I’m really grateful to my school for sending me. Also, I got to go to Dubai, which was pretty great too.

February

In February we had Ski Week and I did not go skiing. Instead, I headed for Malta. I didn’t really know what to expect – I knew very little about it – but was pleasantly surprised. It was an interesting mix of European and North African cultures and the Maltese architecture reminded me of a mix of Florence and Morocco. It seemed, to me, like what ancient Jerusalem might have looked like. Not to mention the weather was really nice – not too hot, and a good breeze. The only thing about Malta is it’s very hilly. There’s a lot of walking up and down and up and down. But I was alright with that, and there’s a lot of good, cheap hotels in the city centre.

March

Not a lot happened in March. School was busy and I had lots of rehearsals. I’m directing and choreographing the Primary school musical “The Aristocats” which will be showing at the end of April, so that’s been fun and exhausting.

I’m also acting in a play, like I did last year, with the ZCC. This play is called Taking Leave and is loosely based on King Lear. I play the eldest daughter, Alma Pryne. Like last spring’s play, it will open in mid May and run for two weeks.

April

I just got home from a trip to Japan. I won’t say much about it because I’m hoping to write an actual post on the trip, but it was really fun and I forgot how much I missed living there – it’s been over 8 years since I was last in Japan.

That’s pretty much all you missed.

D3

Dubai

D6

Dubai

M5

Malta

M2

Malta

M18

Malta

Under the Moroccan Sun

And here it is. I have finally gotten around to writing about my trip to Morocco, which happened back in October. Oops.

So, if you recall, I went to London for Wednesday-Saturday of our school holiday, but Sunday-Wednesday I was in Morocco first, visiting Kali, who just moved there.

First, let’s just say, I forgot how much I like palm trees. I feel like you really can’t be in a mad mood with palm trees around (I’m sure that’s not true) – especially those short, fat ones, those are my favourite. The weather at that time of year was a little hot for me – high twenties, low thirties, but it there was usually an ocean breeze.

I landed in Casablanca on Sunday night, which is where Kali lives. The next day she took me on a walk around her ‘hood. We saw a huge mosque1 by the sea and explored the tight streets of the medina. To be honest, I wasn’t really a fan of Casablanca. I’m sure it’s different when you’re living there, but as a tourist it was kind of just a big, dirty, industrial city with very few traffic rules and people (men) who are perfectly happy to stare and cat call.

7On Tuesday, we took a day trip to Rabat, the capital city. It was about two hours on the train, which wasn’t bad at all, except that we ended up being an hour late because our train wouldn’t start properly and after traveling about 15 meters we had to get off and wait for the next train. But get there we did and Rabat was much more what I had anticipated Morocco to be. It was less congested, seemed safer (in every sense), cleaner and had more to see.

We wandered around the city, went to the place where the previous king and queen were entombed and ate lunch on a pirate ship. We explored the 5gardens of the Kasbah and the medina was wider and less intimidating.

I got a cute little purple tagine to take home with me. I would have liked to get a larger clay one – the kind you can actually cook in – but because I was going to London first, I don’t think it would have survived. So I went for a smaller, purple, ceramic one.

All in all, it was a good trip. I would like to go back to Morocco some day to see Marrakesh and I’m exceedingly grateful to Kali for allowing me to sleep on her couch and drink her bottled water for a few days.