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.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Where Are You, Alex?

Alex is missing. The housesitter let us know a few days ago. We suspected that Alex had just wandered into a corner of the yard and laid down and passed away. But after several people searched the yard for us we have had to come to the conclusion that somehow she wandered away from the house. She's nearly 18 years old, completely deaf, mainly blind and has horrible arthritis. Where could she go? It's been several days now, and we are not hopeful. Our worst fear is that she wandered away and fell down and couldn't get up. Her voice is nearly gone, so she could have sat there howling and nobody would hear her. Our best hope is that she took herself on a last walk, got tired and laid down forever. In my fantasy little doggie angels whisked down to take her up to Doggie Valhalla where she will have a place of honor.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Sento, Zenkoji and Haruo

We went to a sento (public bath) this morning and it was wonderful. I think it was a little too much for Mark, but he's telling everyone he liked it. I loved it, like the other 2 trips I've taken to sentos. I got really clean, really warm and really relaxed. All good things. Then we went to the local temple. I had been there only a couple of months before, but it was wonderful to see it covered in snow. But it did get bitterly cold. Then before we knew it, it was time to go to the restaurant for dinner. Haruo and 2 of his students popped up from Tokyo to go to dinner with us. Now that sounds easy, but really it's a bit crazy. But dinner was wonderful and the company was delightful. Unfortunately Yuwen couldn't participate in any of the above events as Kai has come down with a fever. This was not completely unexpected as she went in for vaccinations only a few days before and they were warned this was a possibility. The possibility turned into reality and Kai is pretty understandably cranky about the whole thing. Well at least tomorrow she get's rid of us and can have her parents back all to herself.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Day of Not Seeing Monkeys

Mark and I have come up to visit our friends Tomone, Yuwen and their one-year-old Kei. Today our plan was to take Mark to see the monkeys at the Monkey Park. We set off this morning at a reasonable time. It was cold and brisk, but the sun was shining and we were excited. We had checked the MonkeyCam the day before and people were definately still visiting. We drove the hour to the turn off, turned off and were shortly met with a closed sign. Hmmmm? So Tomone went into the visitor center to find out the scoop. There is another way to drive there, but it is a longer hike in to see the monkeys. Well, okay we would go check it out. We found our way to the parking lot and sent a foray up to the trail to see if it was doable. Well, by the time I got to the trail I knew there little possibility I could go. Then when the trail said "one mile to monkeys" I knew it was no-go for me. I am just still too weak from the tonsilitis. I think everyone else was happy when I whimped out, so they could whimp out with impunity. We drove back by the restaurant that was recommended by the information center and had lunch. It was lovely to sit inside the all window restaurant and look out at the beautiful snow, while we were all nice and cozy. Then we returned to their place. Mark and I napped, and next we are gonna be served dinner. Let's face it, we spent a whole day not looking at the monkeys. I bet they didn't miss us.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Suzukis Meet Mark

Well, the Suzuki family invited us over for a traditional Japanese Christmas dinner of pizza, onion rings and Christmas cake. But I guess the real reason was so they could meet Mark, and I think to see if he is good enough for me. I hadn't prepared them that he is actually a quiet kind of dude. They figured it out quickly enough. But I think the two different parties hit it off well. They asked Mark lots of questions. I think in the end he might have passed there initial test...but there might be more to go.

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Funny Friends

I thought I would post some of the emails I have recently gotten from the Suzukis. They are so sweet and funny. They worry about me ALL the time. So you can imagine how upset they were to find out about the tonsilitis.

Poor Natalie,
Are you all right? Do you have any trouble? Did you prepare Mark's Futon? We are worrying about you. If you want, we 'll pick Mark up at Hamamatsu St. tomorrow. Oh, we will start X'mas Party around 6 o'clock p.m. Please say anything you want, anytime.
See Ya!

Hi! This is Mikio. May I go to your room? We are worrying about you. We want to see your face. Can I go? And if you want, we will lend you FUTON for Mark.
See Ya!!!

Thanks for your news,we'll be relief to hear that.We can understand how Mark is exhausted. So we say 'OTSUKARESAMA-DESHITA'. See Ya!
See you on Christmas!

Hi! What's up? Are you in bed? Are you able to go to the station? Can you eat? Oh, are you alive? See Ya! I'm alive!Fine!

Are you both all right? Is Mark alive?

Nope. We both died. Can you arrange a funeral for us?
Natalie's Ghost

I got it! Mr.and Mrs.Davis died!? I can arrange a funeral for you! So tomorrow I'll pick you up at five thirty.

I Just Love The Suzukis!

A Present from Santa

Santa brought me a present yesterday. My husband, Mark arrived! I was supposed to meet him at the Hamamatsu Bus Station at 8:30. Small problem. It snowed in Nagoya. So the bus was cancelled. We had talked about the train as a back up, but I wouldn't know which of the gazillion trains coming through he would be on. Plus I'm still mucho sicko, so standing around the station (No Chairs!) wasn't really an option. I could only hope Mark could figure out taking the train from the airport to Nagoya and then switch to a train to Hamamatsu...and then figure out how to use the phones and call me. I had half of Japan calling or emailing throughout the evening asking if I had heard from him. Finally, a little after eleven, the caller was the American Man I married. I notified everyone in Japan to relax, and ran down to get him. He is safely drinking his tea as we speak. Thank you Santa.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Bullet Point Day

* Wake up and feel rotten.
* Conduct 2 Christmas parties.
* Feel more horrible.
* Come home and lie down.
* Thought of food sounds terrible.
* Eat 3 popcicles, bliss.
* Take Emergency pills. Use only in case of high fever. No high fever, but what the heck.
* Conduct 2 more Christmas parties.
* Feel significantly better.
* Come home and eat real dinner.
* Start occasionally coughing and gagging.
* Go to Skyland, throw them a surprise Christmas party.
* Go to the Suzuki house to prove to them I am alive.
* Come home.
* Puke guts out. No nausea, just a couple of gags and blamo. What the heck?
* Guess I'll be going back to the doctor.
* Aaaaarrrrrggggggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Visit to the Vet and Training the Puppies

Fever. Swollen tonsils. Chills. Aches. All these descended on me yesterday. The night was miserable. By 3:00 am local time I had emailed Mr. M and told him I was going to have to go to the doctor. I hate going to the doctor, and seeing a doctor with Mr. M as translator sounded even less fun. He obligingly collected me at 10:00 and hustled me to the clinic. The line drawing on the door said clinic and had 2 elephants with their trunks entwined. And then in the lobby there was a pic of a puppy.
I was starting to think he was trying to save money by taking me to a veterinarian. And then I had to change to freezing cold slippers before entering the exam room. Yah, really comfortable to a woman with a fever and chills. But the doctor turned out to be a woman, always a little more comforting. However, her English was rudimentary. She took a brief look at my throat and declared tonsilitis. I had guessed that was my problem. She prescribed a boatload of pills and said if I don't improve in two days to get Mr. M to call her. Can't say I'm feeling much better after just one set of pills. Mr. M actually asked me if I could work, rather than begging me. I agreed. The thought of my little dimbulb students not getting their Christmas party was just to sad. I was a little sedate, but that didn't keep them from jumping around like a litter of puppies. Dopey, not too bright, but really sweet. I had them paint stars I had cut out of air drying clay, I wrote the first letter of their name in glitter glue on it. They loved it. The mother's were more impressed with the homemade cookies. I went to Pulstec as usual and saw my private students, too. But I shouldn't have. Maybe more pills and a good night's sleep will make tomorrow better. Please.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Everybody Wants to be Santa

These guys are great sports. I hand them a dopey hat, and they put it on. No questions asked. I'm thrilled that my 3rd and 4th graders were willing and eager, but when the Sony class jumped on board whole heartedly I was pretty thrilled. The Let's Go 2 class went great, as it always does. The improvement they have made so far just thrills me. Teaching them is not only a breeze, but a true pleasure.

My Sony class has had me worried. Attendance is significantly down, but I do have a few diehards. Let me introduce you to tonight's class. Starting in the back hidari to migi we have:

Sayaka - Her verbal skills aren't great, but she has great handwriting. Her greatest joy appears to be her car.
Ayako - Excellent verbal and written skills. Spends her free time studying English Grammar (baka - crazy) and improving her cooking skills. Husband has just left for China for 2 months and will be spending the holidays alone.
Kouji - Really tries hard even though he is quite abit behind the others. Spends his free time playing a form of mini-soccer and getting drunk with his friends. It amazes me how the Japanese will just say this sort of thing with no embarassment. Has never missed a class.

Front Row
Yasahito - Really great English comprehension, but has some difficulty with pronunciation. Not embarassed at all about his problems in English, which is really rather refreshing. His New Year's resolution is to take 20 strokes off his golf game. As he is pretty terrible at the moment it isn't an impossible goal. Self-proclaimed Treckie.
Toru - doesn't make it to class all that often, but he's a hoot when he does. He has 4 boys under the age of 7. He doesn't have time for hobbies.
Tatsuya - probably the least advanced student in the class, but not pathetic or anything. His New Year's resolution is to get a hobby so he can have something to talk about in class.

Give these guys a round of applause for being game to not only wear the silly hats, but to let me take their pictures.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Freezing My Tail Off

So, I had this problem. I only heat one room of my aparto. And it ain't the bathroom. And the tempeture in the unheated parts of the apartment have been running about 42-50 degrees farenheit. And the toilet seat tends to be around -2 degrees. I found myself "holding it" because of this little dilemma. I would think "It's only an hour until I go to the community center, I can hold it" or "Do I need anything at the store?" so as to use other restrooms. Well, this just couldn't continue. So I looked into the Japanese way of dealing with the difficulty...heated toilet seats. I figured the extra expense would be worth the health benefits I would get. Until I went to the store and saw that the cheapest one was around $200. Shit! Or worse, not shit. While I was in the hyaku yen shop I came to the bathroom supplies and saw the toilet lid covers, which I despise. But then realized they also had matching seat covers, too. Well, for the equivilent of one dollar I would be willing to try it. Low and behold it is amazing what a difference it makes. Best hyaku yen I ever spent.

Santa's Little Helper

So, I have a day off. I don't have any classes, so no Christmas parties. Ut...not so fast. I helped Rinako with her Christmas party for her classes. Yeah, well, I could hardly say no to helping her after she has been so helpful to me. And it wasn't my party, so I could just play "Honored Guest" and not have to worry to much. Sometimes not being in charge is a nice thing. I got to give out presents, too. Sort of a cross between Santa Claus and Lady Bountiful. Then we went back to her place to continue the Bake-a-thon. But now the 16 dozen cookies are completed. The freakout is officially over.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Warming Up A Chilly Crowd

I spent the day bringing Christmas cheer to the little heathens (remember I'm a heathen, too). Boy, they just ate it up. The bigger kids, too. The 5th and 6th grade class has always been a tough sell for me. But they are definately warming up to me. And today was proof! They didn't even grumble when I asked them to put on the Santa hats and have their picture taken. We played Christmas bingo, too, and I'm really proud of the way they are coming along with phonics and vocabulary. Think the whole day went pretty well, considering I was working with only 4 hours sleep under my Santa belt. Four down, twelve to go. 'Twas more than a week before Christmas, yada yada "And to All a Good Night".

Friday, December 16, 2005

Christmas Party Anxiety

Ye Gads, I'm never gonna get to sleep tonight. Why do I do this to myself? I've been all over town today, trying to get the last minute supplies I need. And I spent the night at Rinako's house baking Christmas cookies. We spent 4 hours baking and I only ended up with enough cookies for 4 out of the 16 kids classes. And I still have to get everything organized. I'm way overdoing it. Why? Tell me why?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Decapitating Reindeer

Cutting the head off a reindeer is just creepy...even if the reindeer is just a paper cutout. But it had to be done. I made a "Pin the Nose on the Reindeer" game, and the pieces of brown paper that I had weren't big enough for the whole reindeer. So I had to cut the head off the pattern reindeer. But I didn't like doing it. But I'm pretty happy with the final result.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Oh, Tannenbaum!

I don't think this is what the composer had in mind. This is how I decided to decorate my little Christmas tree. I even had carols playing over the internet when I decorated it.

Suzukis to the Rescue

Okay, I didn't really need rescuing. When trying to attach a new vaccuum bag to the vaccuum I realized that I had probably thrown away an important piece when I threw away the old bag. And as the old bag had already been picked up by the garbage guys I was quite out of luck. So I emailed Mikio and asked if he knew of a place where I could order a new one. He never heard of the maker of my little vaccuum so he decided to come take a look at it. And to show me how to work the gas heater. Yoko came, too. I think she just wanted to get a look at the aparto, as she had never been inside. Well, they went straight to the heater and started it right up. They were afraid of me freezing to death. Really. And they showed me all the various functions. Then they set to work on the vaccuum cleaner. They shortly declared that it was missing a piece (I told them that) and that this vaccuum was too old to be able to find parts for it. So Mikio gerryrigged it with a rubberband and now it's working great. And thank goodness they showed me how to use the heater. It's bloody cold today. It even snowed for a few minutes. The thermometer in the unheated part of the apartment is showing 42 degrees. Aaaah, but this room is nice and toasty. Three cheers for the Suzukis!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Making Out Like a Bandit

My presents were so purdy I just had to take a photo. I got a fancy pants box of Chocolates from Magda. Hmmmm, don't know how long they'll last. A scarf and gloves from the Suzukis. I'm guessing they'll be warmer than the ones I purchased at the hyaku yen store. Yuuki got me Japanese style hankies. That means they are kinda a cross between washclothes and a handkerchief. Mika got me the cutest little plant. Also not sure how long that's gonna last. Marino got me a calendar with all the Japanese holidays marked in red. Hopefully this will keep me in the know about when they do and don't pick up the garbage! Yuriko made me a panda bear out of an egg shell. O'Goody brought me an interesting wine (I think it's German) and figs. Junko got me a bento box which I'm suppose to use as a jewelery box. I didn't know what these boxes were when I first saw them, so I asked her if they were jewelery boxes. She thought that was so funny, she just had to get me one. But I think my favorite gift of all is the one on the far right. Yuuma got me a can of black beans. Yep, a can of black beans. I love it. I love it all.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Subarashi Shindig

Tonight was the night of the planned birthday celebration, as opposed to the spontaneous celebration the other night. I coerced about a dozen people into attending my karaoke birthday party. From left to right are Yuuki, Mika, Junko, Marino, Yuri, Rinako, Yuma, Yoko, Mikio and O'Goody. We drank, and snacked and sang and chatted. And I got lots of gifts. O'Goody refused to take the mic, but always sang along suprisingly enough. And we nearly had to drag Marino out of there she was having such a good time. And I sang worse than I could ever imagine, but lord knows it didn't stop me. It's my party and I'll caterwaul if I want to.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Where's Natalie?

What? There wasn't a post yesterday! Something must be wrong with this blog's author. Maybe she was abducted by aliens (which would make her mother very jealous). Or could she have gone shopping in a hyaku yen shop and just couldn't get out again? Or did she join a tanuki worshipping cult? Or was it something more social, like going out and getting drunk? Or was she being industrius and preparing for classes or cleaning her aparto? Hmmm, that is probably the least probable suggestion yet. Well, I will make you wait no longer to find out the solution to the mystery.

I fell asleep. Apparently I was really tired, because within 30 minutes of arriving home last night around 6pm I couldn't keep my eyes open. I snuggled under the covers to rest my eyes a few minutes. That few minutes turned into 12 hours. So I know you were all devasted not to have a fresh blog update yesterday, so I will try not to fail you again my loyal public.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Lordy, Lordy, I'm Friggin' Forty

It's my fortieth birthday. And it's been unexpectedly wonderful wonderful. I was expecting a few e-cards at most. But in my BabyKid classes I had them sing "Happy Birthday" to me. And then Rinako took me out for lunch and gave me a small present - hair accessories, which I really need since the wind started up and the static gets pretty horrific at times. Then when I went to Skyland tonight, we started the class as usual at 7:00 talking about our past weekends and future ones as well. About 20 minutes in I mentioned it was my birthday and thought they might sing to me. Boy was I wrong. The place broke into Defcon 1 and plans were made on the fly. 15 minutes later all 8 of us had been whisked off to the Act Tower by taxi. I thought we were going to a nearby bar. Once again I was wrong. We proceeded to the 30th floor to the very posh Paganini restaurant with a gorgeous view of the city. Shortly thereafter I was drinking Dom Perignon and blowing out the candles on a beautiful cake while the pianist played "Happy Birthday" on the Grand Piano, and the wait staff applauded with the the beautiful view of Hamamatsu at night as a backdrop. I was so touched I started to tear up when I was blowing out the candles. I was really quite speachless. So I said a simple, but heartfelt "Thank You." We continued to drink and eat and chat until 10:30. Then they sent me home with the aid of a daiko. This is kind of a tag-team designated drivers for hire. One of them drives you home, while the other follows to pickup the DD. I can't tell you how touched I was by the whole experience. It's just been very mindblowing. And fun. Damn, can I turn forty again next year?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Aoi has an Owey

This is Aoi and Hinata. They are twins. Both of the twins are quiet and cautious, but Aoi is downright mousey. Although she is starting to come out of her shell a little. At the beginning of every class the kids come to me for their name tags. I say Hello, they say Hello. I ask "What's your name?" and they respond "My name is....". Although a lot of them just say their name. Frequently they will add "chan" to their name. And one little girl always bellows "My name is Hana-chan des!" mixing English and Japanese. But not Aoi. She has never said "boo" to me, or any other slight utterance. While Hinata has been quietly, but correctly performing the greeting ritual. However, last week Aoi pulled off a suprising performance. She completed the entire script. Her mother just about fainted over dead with suprise. It was a red letter day for everyone. Notice the big black spot under Aoi's eye. That's one heck of a shiner she gave herself flying headfirst into a table leg, according to her mother. Seeing as you pronounce Aoi like owey, it seems like she is destined to come up with lots of bumps and bruises.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Going a Bit Native

I have wanting to ride my bike to work for weeks now, but I just haven't felt well enough...until today. So this morning I am hemming and hawing about riding in. Tuesdays are a good day to ride in. So I check the current weather conditions on the internet. The site says 41 degrees and winds are only at 13 mph (as opposed to the 25-40 we had been getting the previous day). Well, lets take a chance. One problem, I had already gotten dressed before I decided on this bicycle foray, and the wardrobe choice had been a short skirt, turtleneck shirt and thick tights. So I decided to do what the local girls do...I put on a pair of jeans under my skirt. And I thought it looked rather good. Once I got to the CC I took off the jeans. But still, that was quite the unusual look for me. Well you know, when in Rome...wear jeans under your skirt...isn't that how it goes?

P.S. Notice the huge pink tote bag stuffed into the little basket on the front of the bike. Normally I have another bag sitting on top of the first bag as well. It's amazing I get anywhere alive.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Video Reviews

Yesterday I walked in cold to the video store. It's about a 15 minute walk, but with a little sunshine on your back it's not too cold. I love being able to walk places. The happiness I derive from the original form of transportation is a little out of character for me. Basically I am lazy. So why do I enjoy this walking thing? Maybe it is the novelty. Lord knows Americans NEVER walk anywhere. Oh well, I'm too lazy to get philosophical. The video store sends you home with these cute little totebags to carry your DVDs in. Very convenient when you walk or ride your bike there. But it's so unAmerican. They'd never see the totebags again back in the states. And then they would add more fees, and lawyers would have to be brought it, etc., etc.

I have seen a few movies in the last couple of weeks.

Kill Bill 2 - didn't enjoy it as much as the first one.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - A really thoughtful, thought provoking movie. Thats a good thing.

Life Aquatic - Zany and fun.

Napoleon Dynomite - Very low key and amusing.

and my favorite of them all....(dum diddy dum)...Dodgeball. I really loved it. It does that really smart dumb humor. I know that doesn't make sense, but it was both. They didn't even pretend to be original with the plot - team needs to win tournament to save their gym from the big bad corporate meanies. And you can guess the rest from there. But they took the dopey plot and gave it some fun twists and turns and likable characters. And it made me laugh my ass off.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Bathtime Buddies

Unexciting day here. Big news was I took a bath, whoo hoo! The turtle's name is Trojan and the duck's name is Aflac. It ain't easy trying to take pics in the steamroom I call the bathroom. My bath buddies are the closest thing I have to a pet here. Unless you consider the large moth who lives just outside my door a pet. He is always there to greet me when I come home. You might even consider him a guard moth. One of my students was really afraid of him when she came for her lesson. He's not as big as a luna moth or anything, but he does stand out. Boy, I'm rambling today. Guess that's what happens when you spend too much time alone.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Autumn in Babykids Land

This week's babykid classes was punctuated with falling leaves. I made laminates showing the different seasons and taught them the words for Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. I then got out a bag of silk fall leaves I bought and started dropping them down on the cuties heads'. They love when I throw stuff around. They ran and collected them, some of them threw them around too, others sorted them. I took everyone's picture with the leaves on their heads. Then I had them bring me only the red leaves, followed by yellow and then orange. Yep, that was my big lesson plan. It went over really well, too. Like I said, they love it when I throw stuff around.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Martha Stewart I Ain't

I'm not the hostess with the mostest, but I appear to have pulled off a successful little dinner party. I got an email 2 days ago from Marino, a friend/student of mine, asking if she and Kayo could come over to my place for dinner on Friday. I had invited them, spur-of-the-moment, a month or so ago, but it fell through. But they decided they wanted another chance and invited themselves over. I agreed, and knew that they wanted me to cook Mexican Food. Both girls have lived abroad and fell in love with Mexican food. So I ran around and bought supplies and whipped up a rather bland Mexican dinner, but topped it off with Margaritas so who cares? They seemed to have had a great time. Oooooh, I'm yawning. 'Night y'all.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thank You. What the Heck is It?

The community center handed out thank you gifts to the teachers today. It is very nice of them. It came with a form letter in Japanese. I'm guessing it says thanks, but for all I know it could say "foreigners have cooties, and they smell funny, too." But probably not. It's always nice to get presents. I have no idea what most of it is. Except the container of bath salts - that I recognize. It looks pretty, though. It's nice to be appreciated, even if you end up with mystery gifts.