Wednesday, September 06, 2006

5 most interesting things

Reading bookfool's post on Five of the Most Interesting Things I've Ever Done got me thinking about what my own 5 would be. As she rightly predicted, mine are all travel-related in some way.

1. Living with a French family in Aveyron, France for one year.
After graduating high school, I went on a student exchange to France and ended up staying in a small town, Rodez, in Aveyron. In Canada, both French and English being national languages, I did study French for several years at school. But it was more in the 'memorise vocabulary and write grammar tests' style, so I could barely have a basic conversation when I arrived in France. Surrounded by non-English speakers, plus going to French school (not a language school, but a regular all-French high school) meant I was truly and thoroughly immersed. By the end of the year I was reasonably fluent and had reverse language and culture shock on returning to Canada. This sojourn in France was the beginning of my desire to travel and live abroad. Without having this experience I seriously doubt I would have ended up where I am now. Something I still believe is that to truly understand another country, it's people and culture, you must live among them for a while. As a tourist you barely scratch the surface.

2. Moving to Japan....twice! (technically three times if you count moving back here last year)
I majored in Applied Linguistics (Teaching English as a Second Language) in University primarily because it would lead to a job that I could do outside of Canada (see how the experience in France had long lasting effects!). So after I finished my degree, I ended up taking a job in Japan. I had looked at other countries but money talks, as they say, and by working in Japan I could send money home regularly to pay off the dratted student loans.
My first stay in Japan was for one year in Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu. I taught English to kids, from the age of 1 (yes, really!) to about 12. I was there on a Working Holiday Visa, and after the year was up I returned to Canada.
But after just over a year in Victoria, I decided to go back to Japan. This time I was hired by a school in Tokyo that focused on Business English. Over the next 4 years I taught English at many corporations all over Tokyo. Honda, Nissan, Bridgestone, Hitachi Software, NEC, glass companies, pharmaceutical companies, to name just a few.

3. Marrying H.
I met H while I was teaching a class at his company. Yes, he was my student- so scandalous!! We ended up getting married not quite 2 years later, and while I still can't speak Japanese very well (we started out speaking English and continue to do so) or claim to fully understand the culture, marrying into it definitely is a step in the right direction.
I was going to include meeting and marrying H in the Japan section above but he thought he should have his own number, and deservedly so since I wouldn't have been able to tag along otherwise when his company transferred him to England. :P

4. Living in a church.
Our flat in London was in a 100 year old church that had been converted into 20 odd flats. Ours was in the corner and came complete with a stained glass window. It was rather small but it was a fun atmosphere for the time we were in it. We then moved to a terraced townhouse in Cambridge that was over 200 years old!

5. Watching 67* plays and musicals in 3.5 years.
I could do a subset of the 5 best things about living in England (the history, the architecture, within easy travelling distance to the rest of Europe, the bookshops and meeting authors [this will get a separate post sometime soon]) but one of the best things was definitely the theatre. Before we moved to London, I had seen a handful of plays and one musical, Phantom of the Opera. I decided to make the most of the opportunity and tried to see as many shows as I could. As we were originally only to stay for 15 months, it was quite intensive at the start, but even when our stay was extended twice and we moved to Cambridge, I still went to the theatre quite often.

*67 refers to the number of times I physically went to the theatre and does include a few repeat viewings- the ones that were so good I had to see them again!


  1. Very cool about living in the old church! And thanks for taking the pressure off me to come up with my list of 5. I'm trying to keep my blog exclusively book-related, but don't think I can come up with 5 interesting things that pertain to books/reading. I haven't quite given up yet.

  2. Just what I expected! ;) What a terrific list, Nat, and it was so fun to read about your experiences!!! Thanks for passing this on!

  3. What wonderful experiences. Living in a little podunck town in Utah all these places sound marvelous. And the plays - oh, wow!

  4. Glad to take the pressure off Les!

    Nancy, thanks for the idea. It was fun to think over for a few days.

    booklogged, I orginally come from a small town in Manitoba, but here I am now! :P
    A few of the plays were duds but on the whole it was a fantastic few years being able to see so many great shows!

  5. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Those are great! I've lived in one place (Dallas) for far too long... One day I'll move somewhere else :)

  6. Nat, I just love your list of the 5 Most Interesting Things You've Ever done! I love the fact that you have been able to travel so much and that you live and work in a country that you didn't grow up in. My daughter would like to do the student exchange program (she's 15 now) but at the moment she's thinking of Australia. I hope she will settle for a country in Europe, atleast it will be closer. :)

    Oh and living in the old church was cool too!

  7. Thanks Iliana and Lotus. I don't usually post much about myself so it's been fun to get comments on this list. :)

    Lotus, my experience in France, on the student exchange, really was the beginning of it all! I hope your daughter has a great experience if/when she goes.

  8. Oh to live in London! (Although the 2 times I visited there I just didn't like it at all - it's more the IDEA of it).
    Living with a French family would have been wonderful. Sigh.

  9. Lazy cow, after living in London for 2 years I have to agree with you. The idea of it is fantastic, the history, the theatre, but in reality it's rather dirty, and the public transport is rather iffy at times. We moved to Cambridge after the stint in London and it was so nice to be away from the dust and noise but still within reasonable traveling distance so we could still go into London when we wanted.
    The French family were wonderful! :)

  10. Big round of applause. You have done some really wonderful things, and I hope I get the chance to do some of them someday! Especially the 67 shows! Wow!

  11. Andi, I fully expect you to do many wonderful things in your life! And I look forward to hearing all about it along the way!

  12. You have had a very interesting life!!
    I share the London thing. Nothing fancy with the place, just like a very big and dirty Shinjuku! At least Shinjuku has some Yoshinoya or Matsuya that serves hot meals!
    and the River Thames might be looking good in the postcard but it actually stinks! (at least when we were there!)

  13. Grace,
    London was fun for the year and a half that we were there but then I was glad to leave the dust and bustle behind when we moved to Cambridge.


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