Made it to Sydney safely and have been quite busy running around on guided tours. Tomorrow I'll be walking around the city shopping (but not buying much, because my luggage is near to bursting as it is). I'll be home soon enough.
Just signing on from the hotel lounge to let people know that I arrived in Cairns safely. Things are mostly going okay, nothing too horrible, just a couple bug bites and some stormy weather. So far I've held a baby crocodile and a koala. I'm going to have a ton of pictures to post when I get back...though hopefully I'll be able to locate a converter at the mall today so I can recharge my camera battery...
Fancy you should ask.

I'm currently working on packing up clothes I won't need during the next month and more books. The boxes are starting to make a small wall across my hobby room. I may need to run to the post office to buy some more boxes tomorrow.

I'm also buying last-minute DVDs and other items, such as converters for the electrical appliances I'll be taking with me.

I was a bit shocked yesterday when I got a phone call from the travel agency saying they hadn't received payment for my plane ticket back to Michigan. Oddly, during the time it took me to run to my purse and locate the receipt, the travel agent was like, "Oh, wait a minute, here's your payment. Never mind." Huh? You wait until AFTER calling me to look for it, what?

The package of information for my trip to Australia arrived the other day. Apparently everyone on the tour has to wear a hunking big ball pen on a cord so the tour guide can identify them. Anyway, at least now I know the hotels where I'll be staying while I'm there.

I'm still working on trying out new recipes while I can. It's hard when each one makes enough for 2-4 meals, and I'm just one person. I have to finish the old stuff before I can make something new, or else I won't have enough room in the refrigerator. A side effect is that it keeps me busy constantly washing dishes. At the same time, I'm trying to whittle away at my reserves of canned/dried/frozen foods before I wind up having to toss things.

I've also been spending a lot of time with [ profile] megory playing Warcraft. We finally got our characters to level 70, the current highest level.
I have been rather swamped recently with end-of-year duties, but that all ends today.

Last week, my students had their final classes. This meant that I was spending all my free time baking the prizes to give them for turning in an optional notebook assignment.

This year I made:
  • Banana walnut muffins
  • Stollen (baked in the CUTEST mini-loaf pans I picked up at the dollar store)
  • Chocolate chip cookies (which came out PERFECT thanks to the advice I got last time)
  • Pumpkin pudding (pumpkin pie filling baked without crust)

I also added in a jar of homemade persimmon jam, but no one chose it. They don't know what they are missing! Oh, well, more for me.

My kitchen is still recovering. I am gradually whittling away at the enormous stack of dishes/baking pans/plastic containers/cooking utensils.

Since then, I have been concentrating on giving and grading their final exams, plus any random assignments that I hadn't graded yet. I'm giving the last make-up final today.

Yesterday the school shut down normal operations to give the high school entrance exam. I was told that none of the teachers would be showing up, so I took the day off and went to Otsu to set up a vacation. I had been afraid that I wouldn't be able to arrange something, because I had sent my passport off for renewal, but the new one came back in record time. (I hadn't expected it until mid-February at the earliest.)

I visited a travel agency in Otsu and spent some time poring over their Australia tour booklet. Finally I picked a package that I wanted and one of the agents came over (hesitantly) to deal with me. I told him (in Japanese) which plan that I wanted, including details of extended nights that I wanted to add.

Agent: ...All of our rules are printed in Japanese.

Me: Yes?

Agent: Also, although Australians speak English, our guides will be giving all explanations in Japanese.

Me: Mm hmm?

Agent: <flips to the back of the booklet, looking stressed out> Our terms and conditions, such as what happens if you cancel, are all printed in Japanese.

Me: ...I understand Japanese.

I mean, really. I was just READING the booklet, not to mention SPEAKING in Japanese. He still couldn't grasp that this was not a problem for me. Throughout the conversation, he kept trying to throw in English words whenever he could. People like this just can't understand that having random English dropped into an otherwise Japanese conversation is far more jarring and difficult to follow than just saying everything in Japanese.

He also seemed to be afraid that I wouldn't be able to pay for the trip. He kept saying things like, "Are you SURE you want me to make the booking? You'll have to pay a fee if you cancel later..." and "Here's the total cost of the trip, it's a lot of money, are you SURE you will be able to pay it?" I mean, I can understand informing a customer that there will be fees and such, but the way he phrased it was less "informing" and more "warning." It almost felt like he was trying to scare me off. I don't know what was up with that.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get the first package that I wanted (which included a trip to Ayers Rock) because there were no connecting flights (I believe from Hong Kong) available. However, I did manage to book a package that starts in Cairns and goes to Sydney.

Here is my itinerary:
3/05 (night) Leave from Kansai International Airport
3/06 (morning) Arrive in Cairns
3/10 (morning) Fly from Cairns to Sydney
3/14 (noon) Leave from Sydney, arrive at KIX

I believe the package includes a tour of Sydney on the 10th, but other than that I should be free to do whatever I want. If anyone ([ profile] msscullyred?) will be in the area, I'd be happy to try to meet up.

I'm planning to use my remaining vacation days to take off the entire month of March, and possibly some of February, since I won't have any duties at work. I'll probably need a lot of time for packing and cleaning.
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