Natalie Goes to Japan

40 year old very married blonde woman having a midlife crisis who heads to Japan alone to follow her dreams. Be careful what you wish for ... you just may get it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I'm Rich

Okay, I'm not rich. I just got paid though. I have to send most of it off to the bank to pay off this very computer that I am typing on. And then there is the credit card with all my grocery store purchases. I want to buy a bike and possibly a microwave stand (mine is currently on top of the fridge - kinda inconvenient) and to travel somewhere. So the money quickly disappears. But ain't it pretty.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Nutty Logic

From the bag of cashews, almonds, peanut and unknown entities:

"World Nuts for Your Relax Time".

I don't know about you, but during my "Relax Time" I prefer not to be bothered by a bunch a crazy people all jabbering in different languages.

Monday, August 29, 2005

My Mother's Soap Opera Updates

Since my day was so boring (filled with laundry, cleaning and scrubbing) I have decided to post the hilarious emails I got from my mother giving me updates on the soaps we use to watch. You needn't have ever seen these soaps to read the following updates...

Guiding Light
Phillip is not dead. You were right. He lost his mind and Allen (his father) secretely had him locked away. There was a body because Harley (one of Phil's ex-wives)was put on trial and acquitted for his murder. Now Allen is in jail for murdering mad Phil and for some reason has married his ex-daughter in law, Beth,> Phil's on-again-off-again wife. Lizzie, Phil & Beth's daughter, summed it up nicely "My Grandfather who murdered my father is now my stepfather."

As The World Turns
Barbara Ryan's daughter got pissed off about something and in a fit of pique, slept with Craig Montgomery and got pregnant. The following dialogue ensued:
Craig: "It's my baby. I want custody."
B.R.s daughter: "You aren't coming near this baby."
After 4 months of this a full term baby was delivered. Fortunately for Craig, at the same time, a slutty girl ( who was pregnant by Tom & Margot"s son, Casey who refused to acknowledge his misdeed) also gave birth to a 4 month full term baby that died. (Are you with me so far?) Somehow Craig, being the mastermind we all know and love, switched his baby for the dead baby, so that everyone thinks his and B.R.'s daughter's baby is dead. Then out of his inconsolable grief at losing his own child, he adopted slutty girl's child. But hold on! Now Craig has gone (I am not sure whether he is in jail or being held captive by trappist monks) and Carly and Jack have the baby.

Bold and the Beautiful
(Wealthy dyssfunction on the west coast)
So heres the thing: Stephanie, the portly matriarch of the rich California Forrester clan takes a gun and tries to talk Brooke into killing herself. This is just the latest in Stephanie's nefarious, but wholly justified, attempts to remove Brooke from her life. Why? You may well ask. Because Brooke has managed to marry and divorce several times both of Stephanie's sons (Ridge and Thorn) and also Stephanie's husband (Eric). After many years of sex, tears and assorted children, there occurs a lull in the lusting-after-Brooke-phenomenon when from somewhere over the horizon comes an itinerant yachtsman who has left a string of broken hearts in every port but falls in love with the eternally irresistable Brooke. Yes, yes finally, someone outside the Forrester clan is keeping the "California Cleopatra" bedded and happy and Stephie's men are safe. Not so fast, Bucko!! It turns out "Sailor Boy" is Ridge's half brother (who didn't see that coming?) due to a youthful indisgression that Stephanie comitted with a handsome Italian and covered up by marrying Eric and passing Ridge off as his son.. "Handsome Italian" turns to a rich and rewarding life as a crime lord due to Stephanie's rejection of him and fathers son number 2, the aforementioned Sailor Boy, who has apparently inherited that same genetic predispsition to fall in love with Brooke. But I digress!! At this point, Ridge finds it necessary to persuade Brooke to marry him AGAIN in order to keep her out of the clutches of his ne'er do well half brother. Sailor Boy, is thus left broken hearted but being a man of great practicality he tries to heal his wounded heart by turning to the nearest port in a storm which happens to be Brooke's daughter. A very sensible solution and everybody is happy when lo and behold right before Ridge and Brookes 3rd (or 4th) wedding who should show up but Ridge's presumed-dead other wife (played by the lovely Hunter Tylo), who it turns out was not dead but merely slumbering in a coma for the last 5 years in the Arabian desert under the watchful eyes of some filthy rich dude with a foreign accent. Ridge turns back to his newly restored not-dead other wife, who, by the way, gets a haircut. Does this mean that the eternally alluring Brooke is left manless? No, no!! Do not despair! Once again those powerful Brooke pheromones override logic and scruples and poor genetically flawed Sailor Boy has no choice but to leave his comely (and pregnant) young wife and fly to the empty arms of his mother-in-law, who, if you ask me, is starting to look a bit frayed around the edges. To sum up, Brooke has been married to her first love in the form of Ridge, her brother-in-law, Thorn; her father-in-law, Eric, and is now contemplating life with her son-in-law (and Stephanie's grandson-in-law). OK, Stephanie enough is enough, just shoot the bitch.

I think Mum should have her own column.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Pal Pal with my pals

The wonderful Suzukis whisked me off this morning to Paru Paru, the local amusement park out at the lake. Apparently you can translate this into Pal Pal as well. It was not a bad amusement park for a medium sized one. I have visited more than my fair share, AND had a season pass to Disney World, so I am quite the authority. Oh, they are definately not as efficient as Americans (once again), but it was a whole lot cleaner than the 6 Flags parks. Yuuma is a big kid, but he is only 8 and is a little chicken of the bigger rides, so I went on a lot of the kiddie rides with him. After lunch we went to the water park adjacent to the amusement park. It only consists of a lazy river and two water slides and a couple of baby pools. But I really do like swimming and enjoyed getting some sun. I ran into one of the few people I know - a Canadian ELT I see at the community center. Small world, eh? After swimming we went to the gift shops (also not what I am used to...all they sell are food and toys) and a few last rides. While Mikio and I were waiting to ride the rollercoaster, he asked me how many rollercoasters I had ridden. Oh, I told him not very many. 10 maybe. He thought 10 was alot. Well, when I came home I started thinking about it, and I have definately ridden more than 10. I listed them all out (not including log flumes, kiddie coasters or mine trains) and the Pal Pal rollercoaster makes the 21st rollercoaster I have ridden - that I remember. I guess Mikio might think that was incredible. Maybe you folks should leave comments about the number of rollercoasters you have ridden, to give me an idea of where I stand. How about it?

Happy Birthday to Mika & Junko

I went to a party. A birthday party. This party was for Mika, one of my former students and Junko, one of my current private students. My workday ended at 6:30. I check my phone email and it says that I should be ready at 7:10 for someone to pick me up and that my contribution to the party would be 1500 yen. I what? Oh, well luckily I got paid for some private lessons just moments before, because I was down to my last 10 yen (dime). So this email means I have to sprint back to the apartment, change clothes, do something with my hair and my face, and wrap a couple of presents. There will be no time to scarf any food down before I go, so I was hoping there would be a few tidbits I could nibble. When we arrive at Mika's apartment it turns out it is not so much a party as a dinner party. And I'm pretty sure Mika doesn't know I'm a veg. I spot enough things to make me happy so I say nothing. Junko looks at the food and realizes I can't eat any of the main dishes. She knows that I'm a vegetarian because I get her to read ingredients of things I buy at the supermarket in hopes they will be something I can eat. I've been lucky so far, only one thing turned out to have bonito flakes in it. She mentions to Miki the problems and that sets off much toing and froing from the kitchen to add non-meat dishes. I end up with way more than I can possible eat in one setting, but it was delicious. Here is a picture I took after I figured out how to use the timer on my camera of the whole group of us.

It was a wonderful evening, and we discussed everything including love, politics and religion. One guy had just come back from Malta and showed us all his pictures. Remember this is a Japanese guy so it was 3 albums full of pictures. So we finally come to the end of his slightly too long tale, and he pulls out another set of albums with pictures from his trip to England. Then he pulls out the set from his trip to Australia, with at least a hundred photos of wombats. I like wombats more than most folk, but even I got bored with looking at the feisty little fellas. Time gets to be after midnight and things start slowing down. Mika and Junko are absolutely pissed drunk. But there is no sign that anyone is making their way to leave. I finally say I have to go home because I have a busy day planned. Mika's husband drives me home in silence. He understands some English but Mika keeps insisting he doesn't. I go to give him my contribution, but he won't take it and thanks me for attending. Okay, I ain't insisting you take my money. And I do have a busy day planned. The Suzukis are taking me to an amusement/water park and maybe a hot spring if we have time. I know it sounds unlike me to go galavanting around this much, but my philosophy has been to turn down no invitations. Gotta enjoy the moment.

Friday, August 26, 2005

I really like Fridays

Oh, if everyday of the week was like Fridays, what a great job this would be. I have 3 classes of the 2/3 year olds (English First Classes) and one of the 4/5 year olds (Let's Go Starters). And it went wonderfully, the shapes segment was a big hit, and although we did square and circle, we focused on triangle. I have a musical triangle lying around the apartment and I let each of the kids have a go at it. They loved it. The letter we are working on was S, and S is for sun. So I took sunglasses, sunscreen and a big sun hat and let them take turns trying those on.

So the picture to the left is of one of my favorite students. It's Haruna again, but she is just so dang cute. And she knows it. Her mom laughed and said she looked like a grandmother with the hat and glasses.

This is Tomona, she is in the following class. She is silent, but deadly. She hardly ever speaks, but she gives you these knowing looks, that just make you know she is wise way beyond her years (both of them). I didn't take any pictures in my Starter class, as we were having way too much fun to stop for that. I had quite a few observers sitting in my classes, including the todays Starter Class. The mother stepped out at one point to sign her kid up, and put her money down. I have seen all the observers afterward signing up, so I think I must be getting better.

I will add the rest of the pictures to the blogsome site tommorow, so check those out. And also take a look at the changes I made to the sidebar. I've added a couple of new sites, and some photo albums.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Typhoon #11

Well, Typhoon #11 came to visit today. My afterschool class of 1st & 2nd graders was a very small class because of it. We sat at the window (we are on the third floor) and watched people walking along with umbrellas. Whenever they got to our corner, whooosh, their umbrellas would flip upside-out. And we would laugh and laugh. What else could you do? We eventually got down to work and held class as usuallish. We had some extra time at the end and I taught them the "warmer, colder" finding game. But it got a little out of hand. I let one of the kids hide an object, but he and the rest of the class ran out of the class and down the halls screaming. Mind you there are other classes going on. I got furious. I made them all go back and sit in the room and I told them how bad that was and how angry I was. I was hoping to make them feel guilty. I even got a little teary eyed (unplanned), and that seemed to really bother them. I dismissed them, but several stayed around to try a cheer me up. Guess the trip to guiltland worked. But by next week they may have forgotten. My trip home was safe enough, but seconds later the wind started up a howl. I wasn't sure this building is really strong enough to weather a storm, but it did. My evening class at Skyland was cancelled. Out of all my classes, it had to be that one. I really like going to that class. We have a ball. Oh well, I needed the time to come up with something really inspirational to do in my baby-kids class tomorrow. Inspiration became desperation. Now I'm gonna teach them Square, Circle, Triangle tomorrow. It's not much but it's all I can come up with, with the supplies I have at hand. I had thought of a few cooler things, but that would require stopping at the store before I went to class, and the stores won't be open yet. So I will just have to show them a picture of a circle, a square and a triangle. I'll take a ball, some blocks and a musical triangle I have lying around and see if I can't stretch that into a whole ten minutes. Remember 10 minutes in toddler world is a really long time. I have certainly found that out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Walking in the dark

When I left my evening classes at Pulstec I came outside to a wonderful, cool evening. I knew I would definately have to go for a long walk after dinner. I try to go every night, but it just doesn't always end up happening. But I made sure I went out tonight. I figured I would go north on the river path and travel to the second bridge, but I just kept on going. I ended up turning around finally at the fifth bridge. It was great. The bats were out protecting me from the bugs, there were some young adults hanging out at the riverside park, joggers passed occasionally, middle aged couples walking their dogs and random salaryman walking home from the train station and all to a chorus of ducks quacking and bullfrogs croaking. Of course the reason for the delightful weather is that a typhoon is bearing down on us. Latest satellite photo below.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Teachers Little Helpers

I started to realize I was discriminating against my older students by not taking pictures of them. So this afternoon, when these two girls stayed after class to erase the board (doesn't that sound like something out of the fifties?) and put the chairs and tables back to their original positions (we do a lot of moving around, and the tables keep migrating) I took the opportunity to take their photos. Japanese kids are very easy to photograph. Let's face it, the Japanese love to take photos, and raise their kids to endure the whole process without complaints. Makes my life easier!

Monday, August 22, 2005

A Day at the Beach

The weather was overcast all day, but it didn't rain much, so I attempted the trip to the beach. Put a swimsuit on under my clothes, grabbed a towel, sunscreen and my camera and headed for Nakatajima Sand Dunes. I didn't know exactly where I was going, but I headed to downtown Hamamatsu and found a sign pointing to the dunes and just followed the yellow brick road all the way to the end of land. When I got there I was greeted with this little sign...

Oh, well it is still a beach, and I would walk along the surf. It was pretty warm and I got tired quickly, so I sat and watched the waves roll in. It was pretty evident why they don't want people to swim there - the surf is really rough. But it didn't stop these kids. They seemed to know the area pretty well.

I took some arty photos. Like this one...

and this one...

and this one.

Then I tried to sneak up on the fishermen and take their photos without ticking them off.

Then I walked back to the starting point. It was starting to get a little cooler, and the sounds of the waves was very hypnotic. So I just sat there and sat there. After a significant amount of blank-mind time, I started to notice the people on the beach. There numbers had swelled. And then the coolest thing happened. The leader of a group of kids opened up this cooler-like contraption and started hand each kid a baby turtle.

She drew a line in the sand and all the kids lined up behind it. And on her word they released them. We all stood there and watched as 50 baby Loggerhead sea turtles made a beeline for the ocean.

There was much cooing as they worked their way to their new home, and then as the waves hit them and tossed them back at us there was lots of gasps and laughs. The babies just righted themselves and headed back to the water. When the last one made it in, you could see all these little random black heads poking out of the water here and there. It made me so happy I got a little teary. Then the whole thing happened again with another bunch of kids.

After that I walked back to the shops and had a little cool refreshing drink. As I walked back to the car I came across some interesting little statues in the park.

And then this Dutch Windmill?

and then this musical mens room. Really tinkly (no pun intended), music box type music was coming from the restroom. The song was "Sing, Sing A Song". I couldn't decide if it was unnerving or hysterically funny. I decided it was both.

I then just decided to see what was down the road. I found some better spots to hit the beach on next time, and some cool walking paths, and a little group of "Love Hotels" and one of them was named "Tomato Paradise". What? I'm not even sure I want to know why it has that name. And why does it have cat designs all over the place? Or maybe I don't want to know that either. But I had to stop and take photos of course.

I took a different route home, which is a big deal for me. I was able to just go here and there and learn a little more about the city, and get more comfortable driving out of my normal territory.

All in all a pretty cool day.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A view of my rooms, now that I have them cleaned up enough for viewing. Posted by Picasa

Rainy Day in Hamamatsu

Well, today was rainy and the temperature was quite comfortable. But it caught me off guard. We haven't had but a spot or two of rain in the last month. And then the whole day was rainy. And it looks like tomorrow is going to be rainy. And rainy for the foreseeable future. It may just interfere with my motorboating plans next Sunday. But it was nice to have a cooler day. I walked to the convenience store to pay my phone bill (yes, that is one way to to it here), and I took some of the back streets that I had not walked before. There are some really fancy houses (for inner city Japan) in this neighborhood, with some really cool gardens. Of course I didn't take my camera. I mean, for gosh sakes, I was just walking 6 blocks to do an errand. Then I spent the rest of the day intermitently cleaning and listening to NPR and watching "Gone With The Wind" for the 1,789th time. I'm determined to do some exploring tomorrow and almost no housework. We'll see how the weather holds out and if I can keep myself from scrubbing anything for a whole 24 hours. Wish me luck.

I realized I hadn't been taking enough photos in general, and of really boring minutia in particular. This is what I made for lunch. It was "oishii". Oishii is one of the dozen words in Japanese I know. Posted by Picasa

The Fathers are Increasing

I thought that the number of fathers attending the 2-3 year old classes had been getting bigger, but yesterday was crazy. Out of 15 kids in one class, 10 came with their fathers. That is just crazy. I don't really understand why the fathers are increasing. One might guess that I am just so cute that the men flock to me, but as much as that might fit in with my standard delusions, I just don't think it holds water. My predecessor was quite attractive - she was tall, curvy and blonde. I don't get it. But I decided to enjoy myself with this increase in males. During the first part of the class we do alot of active things - running, jumping, etc. Well, I made sure we did all the most embarrassing things during that class, flying like a bird and saying "tweet, tweet", kangaroo hops, and crawling. I also really enjoyed the end where we did the "Hokey, Pokey". I always do. Watching 3 year olds try and shake their leg "all about" is always adorable, as half usually topple over. But watching 10 serious Japanese men, turn in circles singing a childrens song is an all out hoot!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Back to kiddie world

Vacation is officially over. Went back to work today, but had a fairly good time. I have a bunch of good classes on Friday. But I got another call from Mr. M. saying he needed to speak to me. He would come to the community center and we would talk in his car. I hate that. First of all, I am not allowed in the front seat. I have to sit in the back like a child. Second, he always walks in front of me. It's so rude! Well, we got to his car and obviously he thinks there is some concerns about my teaching, but he just can't tell me what they are. Oh, he tries, but it all comes out gobbledy-gook. This time it was something about me being to business-like? I told him I would do better. I don't know what to do, but in general I hope that I am a good teacher, and that I get better. Isn't that what we all hope? I don't think there is any danger of getting fired, but that isn't the point. I just don't know what I am doing wrong (if anything), or how to improve, because M-san can't tell me. Oh, well, I went out and bought an small entertainment center. I wasn't planning on buying one this month, I was looking for a fan for the kitchen. But I found this really great deal in the discontinued section at Khama 21. Only 1826 yen (20 bucks-ish)! I always feel better after a little shopping therapy.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Strolling to the Video Store

Ahhhhh. I spent most of my day scrubbing years of grease from the upper cabinets and the burner hood in the kitchen. I would take breaks and watch the DVD I rented when it got too hot. It took me almost as much time to figure out the DVD player, the remote, and then the DVD itself. None of these things are in English or have any universal symbols on them. But I feel like I accomplished alot today. And then after my dinner of nachos with black beans and olives I strolled over to the video store to return the movie. This is one of the best things about where I live. Being within walking distance of a lot of things. I'm not really within a short walk of either a grocery store or a 100 yen store, but otherwise I am quite covered. The post office is on my block, there a dozen hair cutting places within 6 blocks, the video store is 10 minutes away, there are restaraunts galore, including an Italian place and an Indian place, a couple of convenience stores, and of course vending machines on every corner. I also spotted a cool-looking coffee place. I think I will try it out Sunday morning.

P.S. The movie I watched was "Before Sunset". I liked it!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I have a video card!

Well, I am really living it up now. Rinako took me to the video store to help me sign up for a renters card. I had heard I was going to need a guarantor to help me get the card. One of the ways the Japanese discriminate against foreigners. But turns out that if that was the policy, it no longer is. I still needed help filling out the form, and finding out the rules and costs. But seeing as going to the movies is super-expensive here (close to $20 a ticket), dvd rental is a much better option. They run about $3.50. The hard part was choosing a movie to watch, but I think I found one that should be in English. I'll let you know tomorrow if I got it right.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Food that ain't like home

Okay, I realize this is Japan, and they don't eat alot of American food. I get that. And I will survive. What I am having trouble with is the American food is even different. I bought a bag of Frito Lay Cheetos. They taste nothing like Cheetos. And the mayonaise is funky. The cheese single slices are not American Cheese, that's for sure. Saltines, thank goodness, are the same, they just come in little prewrapped packages of 6, 9 packages to a carton. Microwave popcorn can only be found in the specialty stores. Today I bought a package of chocolate covered raisins, only to have my happiness killed by trying them and finding out they were chocolate covered puff rice. Didn't really taste like anything, not even chocolate. I keep trying new things, but mainly they don't work out to well. But I do have 8 dinners I can make now - Spaghetti, Pizza, Burritos, Grilled Cheese, Avocado sandwiches, Tofu & Rice, Soup, and Eggs. I bought a couple of new things today at the grocery store in hopes they would be vegetarian. I had my private student read the ingredients...yeah, no dead animals! So if they work out I will be able to add a couple more things to my list. One of the nice things about Japan is that you can buy pre-cooked tofu. Oh my, I think I'll have to eat a little late night snack, this post is making me hungry.

Extra site

I have created another site, where I can post all the cute kids photos. That way I can tell the mothers where the site is. I don't want them to have access to my daily blog though. I need to be able to rant a little.

The new site is

Monday, August 15, 2005

Me, after a long day. Posted by Picasa

Yuma ready to take the plunge! Posted by Picasa

The fancy pool at the fancy hotel. Posted by Picasa

Funky little statue at the Flower Garden. It might be a happy onion...or not. Posted by Picasa

Mama-san. She thinks she should use this picture to send to the arranged marriage matchmaker. Posted by Picasa

How do you pronounce Xiv?

Well, I'm exhausted but I had a great time. We went to the old Flower Expo (which has been turned into a free park) for lunch and walked around a little. Too hot to go very far. Then we went to the Grand XIV resort. Therefor the question in the title. I had to explain about Roman Numerals. And it was very grand. Bellhops, and men in suits, and people carrying placards. Very European. We spent most of the afternoon in the pool. Yuma is a great kid. And we played and splashed for ages. But sometimes it's like playing with my pets. Can't talk out the rules too much, so you just make it all up as you go along. I managed only to turn pink and not get sunburned. I was the only westerner there, and the Japanese don't really need suntan lotion. Must be nice. It started thundering and lightning (needed to explain that we have a different word for each), so we had to evacuate the pool. We went back to the room and played cards and watched a little tv. Then we went and did Japanese baths. So Yoko and Mama-san introduced me to how it all worked. I'm not sure I have ever seen that many naked women before. First you "get all naked" in the changing room (very nice in this case) and then you carry your towels into the sit-down shower stalls. Shampoo, conditioner, body soap and facial cleanser are provided at each little station. You sit on a little stool and use all the above products. When you are officially spotless you then enter the bathes. Here we had two choices, really hot and scalding. Yoko and I chose the first. It was like and really big, fancy kiddie pool. Mama-san chose the hotter of the two pools and didn't last very long. We stayed an extra five minutes and then headed out. We went back to the changing room and sat at these nice little dressing tables. Each had a disposable brush, cotton swabs, blow dryers, moisturizer, mousse, etc. It was great!! We then headed back to the room to change for dinner. It was a very fancy restaraunt. We had a private room and our server was dressed in traditional kimono. So they decided I should have the vegetable tempura for dinner. Then when the waitress came she told them it takes a long time to make and is enough for 2 or 3 dinner. So they asked me if I would like to try the tofu. Sure. So the tofu comes in about 5 minutes and it is 3 cubes of raw tofu with a little thing of sauce. So I eat it with chopsticks, even though Mikio made them bring me a fork after I told him I could eat it with chopsticks. The tofu was good. Then 5 minutes later they bring me the tempura. Huh? I thought I was wasn't getting tempura, and it certainly didn't take a long time (there was however more than I could eat)- Mikio and Yoko's dinner took yet another 10 minutes to arrive. All through the meal I am asked every few minutes if it is all right? Yes, yes, quit asking and eat your dinner. We finish dinner and go back to the room. The room has two large single beds and 3 futons. I'm asked if I want the bed. No, no I'll sleep on a futon! They then start to fight about who is going to have to sleep in the bed. Here I was turning down the bed to be nice and they don't want it! What was I thinking? So I say, sure I'll sleep in the bed. And that is what I do. 5 minutes later I'm asleep, exhausted by sun and fun and explaining lyrics to Queen songs. How do you explain the phrase "Mama Mia"? Next morning Yuma and I take a walk in search of the lake. Although we can see it quite clearly, we can't seem to get there. We would have to cross the golf course, and I know that is sacreligous. Back to the hotel for "Viking" breakfast. I was disappointed there weren't any vikings serving us. Viking mean buffet in Japan. But it was a really excellent meal. Off for more swimming for a few hours before check out. On our way home Mama-san invites me to go out on a motorboat on the 28th. She said her friend has a boat, but I think it is her boyfriend. As we are driving back to Hamamatsu (only about 30 minutes from the hotel) they ask if noodles would be okay for lunch. I firmly beg off. I am exhausted and just want to get back to my own quite little world.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Yoko and Yuuma at the restaraunt Posted by Picasa

Trip to the Natural Food Store

Mikio, one of the fathers of my first graders, had been worried about my health. So he emailed me one day and said they would like to take me to the natural food shop. So we arranged for them to pick me up at 10:00 o'clock this morning. He and his lovely wife, Yoko, then proceeded to drive me to their place. They live right next to the Hikuma train station (the one I use to catch the Red Line train). And they invited me in to meet Yoko's mother. Okay. I have nothing to do during my 6 days off. Sure. She turned out to be quite a hoot. She knows only very basic English, but we had a great talk. She is 60 years old (I told her no, she must be 16) and she owns a bar. Cool. Then Mikio says that we will go to the restaraunt in an hour. Restaraunt? Turns out the natural food shop is a natural food restaraunt. They served me some soda and asked if I would like to play a card game. I love games, so okey-dokey! Turns out it is an old favorite of mine, which my family calls 7-up. So we played several rounds of this card game. During the card games they ask me if I like to bowl. Yes, I like to bowl. Oh, good, after lunch we will go bowling. And they have made preparations to make an all vegetarian dinner for me in Japanese style. Dinner? I left my air conditioning on thinking I would only be gone for an hour or two. Well, they are just soooo nice, and we are having a great time, so how can I say no? So over lunch at this really cool buffet style, natural restaraunt they ask what sights I have seen in Hamamatsu. I have to answer that the only sites I have seen are the shopping malls. But I hope to get to the beach during my time off. They ask if I like to swim. Yes, I like to swim. They then go into conference and start chattering away in Japanese. Would I like to go to the swimming area near the lake tomorrow? This is probably where I should have said no, but thanks. I should stay home and clean my kitchen. But I didn't really come to Japan to clean an apartment. So I say "That would be delightful!". So after lunch we go bowling. Mikio barely squeaks out a victory over me in the first round, and I rally to a score of 126 in the second to beat my Japanese hosts into submission. We then go back to their nice little apartment house, play some more card games. They ask me to teach them an American card game. Darn, they already play my favorite, except for Texas Hold'em, and I don't think I can teach them that. So I teach them "Go Fish". They ask if this is a very famous card game. I laugh. After our fill of card games we adjourn to dinner. We laugh and they ask me lots of questions. Then they say that they plan to stay at a resort at the lake and would I like to join them. In for a penny in for a hundred yen. Why not? So, it turns out my 2 hour trip to the natural food store has turned into a 3 day excursion with a Japanese family.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Discipline for everybody

Well, today was another of those 4 and 5 year old classes. And it to started to get out of hand. And I had just about all I could take. The leader of the pack was cute but deadly Kodai. And I had reprimanded him several times to no avail. So I had to run him down and catch him. It sorta reminded me of the days at the animal shelter when I frightened cat got on the loose. Kodai was much easier to catch, I promise you. Then I carried him out of the room (just outside the door so I could keep an ear out for the rest of the pre-school hooligans. And I asked Kodai if he wanted me to call his "Mama". He shook his head no, with very hound dog eyes. I asked him if he was going to be good. He nodded his head yes, vigorously. I really don't know how much he understood, but apparently our little heart to heart worked. If he started to act up too much I would yell "Kodai sit!" (more flashbacks to animal shelter days) and he would sit. And the rest of the class seemed to take note and did pretty good. I don't expect them to be perfect - they are 4 and 5 years old for gosh sakes. But we had fun in a slightly more controlled way. Then there was the disciplining I got. Mr. M. called and said he needed to speak to me about a small problem. So he came to the center and we had a little talk in his car. It seems that there was a complaint from one of the mothers of the kids in my 1st and 2nd grade class. Her son came home with the wrong workbook. I'm not sure why that is a crisis. The ideas we were learning were "make a mess" and "clean up". So the easiest way to show make a mess was to have them throw their workbooks into the center of the floor (along with all my stuff, too). One problem - nobody had their names written on their books. And some of the books got mixed up. Call out the National Guard. Now she wants to attend the class to see what is going on. Fine. I am not changing my style. This method of teaching has validity. It's called "Total Physical Response". Of course I use it cuz I have a dang good time. And so do the kids. I'll just remember to have them write their names on their books before I go tossing them around again.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Yet another TC (too cute) picture. Posted by Picasa

Anarchy and Conversation

Well, yesterday's classes were very different. I had one of my classes of the 4 and 5 year old types. I had started to really like that class. But yesterday was complete chaos. I have one little girl named Ryouna. And she absolutely adores me. She just won't be good for me. She runs around, playing and screaming and having a wonderful time. And that starts off a chain reaction. All the kids start running around and having a good time. Screaming. Very little got accomplished. I have had some kids drop out of that class, probably because too much running and playing and not enough learning. They were the serious kids. But I just got a lecture from Mr. M saying classes need to be 90% fun. Well, yesterday was ninety percent fun for some. Not me. Then I went to Pulstec for conversation classes. Last week they didn't go so well. This week they went great. Very chatty, lots of laughter, great fun for all. I think those classes will pick up in attendance (when they aren't flying around the world for conferences). I just think I am getting it all figured out and then "kabam", it all goes topsy turvy.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Benny - a new member of the English Conversation Club. His English is pretty terrible, but he comunicates just fine. Posted by Picasa

Urgent Meeting

On Saturday, before my last class, I got a call from Mr. M. He needed to meet with me, urgent! Could he meet me after my last class? Well, no, I have plans. Can I come to the office Monday, Tuesday would be to late? Yes, I guess I could come in on my day off. So I had all weekend to ruminate about this urgent meeting. Would he give me a new class with only one day preparation? Was I being deported? Had I offended the people at the Tuesday Sony class? So, I survive the anticipation and go to the meeting at the appointed time and place. "August is important, September, too". That is basically what the meeting came down to. His English is not good enough to go into much depth. I think the meeting was about the fact that there had been a few students had left the class after the last teacher left. And that is too be expected. Some folks just loved the last teacher. According to Mr. M. she was "too good". Well, then maybe he should have given her the raise he promised her but failed to ever get around to. So August is important. But, he said he understood the class turnover and that I was doing a good job. August is important. Okey Dokey.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Other Side of Town

Yesterday Rinako and her family had plans to spend the day at the big mall on the other side of town, and invited me to come along. Apparently it was the big end of summer sale (does that mean it is gonna cool down now?). How could I pass up that opportunity? The down side would be that I would spend money. The up side would be that I would see another part of Hamamatsu, get to spend the day in free air conditioning and spend the day with Rinako and her family. So I only spent $20 on a shelving unit I desperately need (at an excellent price for Japan), some cream of potato soup, the aforementioned refried beans and a cheap kimono. Yes, I bought a kimono. Well, you see I need a robe and you can't find them anywhere (except Tokyo). So Rinako said she would just cut it down. But now that I have it at home I don't think that is really gonna work to well. Maybe I'll just keep it as a kimono. And just a side note, the other side of town looked alot more Western. The road was 4 lane with a middle turn lane and had sidewalks and looked alot more like any strip mall alley you see in the states. It was so much easier to drive. But a little sad in a way, too.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

News Flash

I found refried beans, vegetarian refried beans!!! All is right with the world (except all those wars and famines and things)!

Rice fields and parking lots

Last night I was invited to go with Rinako and her family to see the Fukuroi fireworks. Fukuroi is the town just a few minutes to the east of Hamamatsu. So I was picked up a little after my last class and bustled into the small car with her, and her daughter Yuri, her husband Masa and her mother (I forgot her name). Her mother is a pip. She understands quite a bit of English, I just haven't heard her use much. But boy, she is always on the move. I always see her either riding a bike, or running, or going somewhere in a hurry. And always in a skirt and every hair perfectly coifed. So we drove to Fukuroi, stopped at McDonalds for some french fries (mmmmm yummy), and pulled off the freeway to an adjoining field to set up camp, like hundreds of other people. It appears in the last year they paved over a large section of the fields for a parking lot for a huge used car dealer. Much sighing went on through the night by the family for the loss of the wonderful viewing sight. Not unlike the sighing I do over the loss of the trees back home everytime they build something new. Apparently this fireworks festival is more of a contest. So each section is bigger and brighter than the last. Some of the fireworks looked like shapes, such as hearts, smiley faces, butterflies, flowers, etc. My favorite was the one that looked like Saturn. The fireworks went on for 2 hours. Then within minutes, everybody in the fields had cleaned up everything and were back in their cars and on the road. I'm not sure if I was more impressed by the fireworks or the dissappearing masses.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

He sailed his shoe

As I was walking through one of plazas downtown I noticed a little boy hopping around on one foot, as there was no shoe on the lifted foot. He stopped hopping at the edge of one of the many water features we have in Hamamatsu, and proceeded to pick his shoe up out of the water, put it on his foot and run back to the other side of the fountain. Then he took his running shoe off again, placed it on top of the water and watched it sail to the other side. And the whole scene began again. Kids! I just never would have thought "Hey, I wonder if I put my shoe in the fountain if it would float?"

Friday, August 05, 2005

Another heart-stoppingly cute picture Posted by Picasa

My Kingdom for a Can Opener

Well, I thought the time had come. I thought maybe last night I would come home after my last class got over at 8:30 and make mini black bean burritos. It was less hot (I wouldn't go so far as to say cool) and I had the energy. I got everything out of the fridge, cut open the tortilla bag and placed them on a plate to warm up in the microwave, shredded some cheese, got out the pan to warm the beans, poured myself a little drinky-poo, and chopped some tomatoes. The gas stove cooks everything so fast and makes the kitchen so hot that you prepare everything first and then cook. I then went to open the can of black beans and of course you need a can opener. So I opened the drawer of utensils I have inherited and started to rifle through it. No can opener. Well, maybe in this other drawer with the chopsticks. No, but I found 2 corkscrews. Maybe in the junk drawer. No, but 2 more corkscrews. Okay. Let's look again. There has to be a can opener! 30 minutes later I have sorted the drawers and thrown away alot of junk, but have not found a can opener. I'm getting sort of hungry by now and my cheese is melting into a giant lump. So I made quesadillas instead. Not bad, but not the burritos I was hoping for. I guess I could have gotten dressed and gone out and bought a can opener, but that just wasn't going to happen. Oh well.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Last week my BabyKids class was studying the letter N. And N is for Nose. So I painted the kids nose with kitty kat noses. I have tons of adorable pictures....this is Nodoka. Isn't she adorable? Posted by Picasa

Driving in Japan

Driving in Japan is totally mindblowing. First of all you drive on the other side of the street. That hasn't turned into to much of an issue because there is so much traffic. Mainly you just follow people going the direction you want to go. And as for making turns...well, you can't go in the wrong lane as there are already cars there. However, the thing that makes driving here so crazy is the amount of traffic and the tiny, narrow roads. What would be a one way street in America is a congested two way avenue here. Now add the fact that the electrical poles are jutting into the street. Mix into this craziness that there are no sidewalks and that there are quite a few pedestrians, all of which are carrying umbrellas (rain or shine). Plus the motorcycles and scooters zipping in and around cars willy nilly. And the final part of the video game are the bicycles. Bicycles everywhere, riding down either side of the street. They may be carrying an umbrella, talking on a cell phone or smoking a cigarette while they ride (or any combination of all three). And Japan doesn't really understand street signs. A few of the bigger streets have them, but not many. You just have to know where you are going. Sounds kinda like a big philosophical question, doesn't it? Do I know where I am going.......hmmmmm.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Conversation and comforts

Yesterday was rather nice. I had agreed to go to an English Conversation group with one of the students from the Skyland class. She had been pretty helpful to me, so I figured although I get paid to talk English I would do this as a favor to her, and I might meet a few expats there. As were walking up these steep steps in a very narrow stairwell, she says "Oh, it costs 2000 yen ($20), is that okay?" Well, no not really. I am pretty broke and will be for the rest of the month. Another expat comes up behind and tells us it doesn't cost gaigin anything, and we get a free drink out of the deal. Whew! It only lasts a couple of hours and I actually ran into one of my students and someone else I had met. So nice night, eh? Even better than that...I went into the little specialty foods market and found black beans and tortillas. It cost me 238 yen for the can of beans and 258 for 5 tortillas the size of a saucer, but I don't care. Alas, I don't think I will ever find sour cream. And I found Sprite. Haven't had a Sprite, 7up or Sierra Mist in a month. And as I type this I am listening to Morning Edition on NPR over the internet. You can't believe how happy these few things have made me.

Monday, August 01, 2005

It takes a (Japanese) family

I am reconnected to the world!!!! Yesterday I recieved my YahooBB kit. It was delivered by courier. They do that alot here. It was a Sunday, which kinda freaks me out. I am not use to any business transactions taking place on Sunday, except for a few hours when retail stores are open. It's nice, but freaky. So, all the instructions are in Japanese of course. But the wiring diagram is pretty simple, and all the wires are color coded. Even President Bush could have figured out that part. But from there on I was lost. Tried a dozen different things to get it to work. Mainly rebooting, which didn't work but I kept trying it nonethesame. So, I called Rinako. I was supposed to go to her house the following day and help her write and email, so I thought maybe she could just come to my place instead. No, no, no. That wouldn't do at all. She would bring her husband and daughter over immediately. The apartment was a wreck, so I scrambled to make it presentable. Well, they all came and sat on my floor and pointed and looked through the paperwork and pointed some more. My wiring was correct. I knew that. But they added the new network and called YahooBB to get the account authorized (or maybe they were calling a relative to would I know?). Nonetheless, they got it working! They were so nice to come rushing right over like that. I had waited a month, I could have waited another 12 hours (but just barely). I'm back!