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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I'm a Snake

I'm a snake. Or more precisely I was born in the Year of the Snake. According to the Chinese zodiac my personality is thus:

Rich in wisdom and charm, you are romantic and deep thinking and your intuition guides you strongly. Avoid procrastination and your stingy attitude towards money. Keep your sense of humor about life. The Snake would be most content as a teacher, philosopher, writer, psychiatrist, and fortune teller.

I just don't know if any of the above is true. Wisdom? I know a lot of useless facts, mainly about American television. Deep thinking? I thought I was known for my shallowness. And I don't think anyone has ever accused me of being stingy. What do you all think?

To find your own Chinese Zodiac and descriptions visit the China Today site.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Farther Afield

Yesterday I took a walk in my neighborhood with my camera and took some more photos. But today I got in my car and went for a wander. I went up north a little farther than Hamakita, which everyone knows is the edge of the world, and explored an unknown exotic town called Tenryu. I really had no plan, just figured I'd go there and see what there was to see. They had some highway signs up telling you how to get to this thing or that and one of them was to a folk art museum. Well that sounded perfect. Except the signs sort petered out and I never found the mysterious museum. Same with a shrine. But I found a couple of interesting temples and poked around there and took some more photos. I drove a little farther along and spotted another highway sign so I followed that - didn't exactly know what it was though. Turned out to be a highway rest area. But I did pick up a warm lemon drink and a couple of maps. But I was getting drowsy and the sky was getting gloomy so I headed home. Not exactly awesome, but I'm still proud that I expanded my horizons.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Dear Alex

Dear Alex,

It's been over a month since your disappearance and I guess it is time for me to say good-bye to you. I can only hope that your death was a quiet release from this world. Mainly what I want to say to you is thank you. Thank you for bringing such joy to my life. To be loved by as faithful a companion as you is a gift to be treasured and I do. I hope that we gave you a good life with us and that we did right by you. You brought so much to our home and taught me so much. Thank you. You are greatly missed.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Seeing Stars

Oooh, I am so remiss. I haven't told you what I have done in my classes in a while. Well, we just finished doing a project with shapes. We've already done circle and triangle so of course we I haven't figured out a good square lesson yet. I'll get to it, just hold your horses. But this week we did stars. I cut a bunch of stars out of a foam rubber matt. Then I gave each student a small piece of construction paper. Then I got out the yellow paint. Sometimes the mothers would ooooh in delight, while other times they sorta groaned. Too bad, yellow paint is fun. Then I showed the class how to dip the foam star into a plate with a thin coat of the yellow paint in it and started stamping. Then I sat back and watched. But, you can't really go wrong. Hiroto's art came out really clear, but Amika's is much more impressionistic. They were all beautiful. And everybody left with yellow fingers. Me included.

Friday, January 27, 2006

One Less Cutie

Oh, I'm heartbroken. My favorite student is moving to Tokyo. Haruna was the first child I fell in love with here in Japan. And now she's leaving me. I got teary eyed when her mother told me today would be her last class. Watching Haruna do the Hokey Pokey always makes me smile. She adores me, as much as I adore her. She watches every move I make and is always willing to try anything I ask of her. I've seen her on the street and she screams "Hello, Sensei" and smiles and waves so hard I was afraid her arm would fall off. Her last words to me as she was waving were "I love you, Sensei. I miss you, Sensei." I'll miss you too, Haruna.

War on the Word Maybe

This is a formal declaration of war. I am trying to stamp out the overuse of the word "Maybe". The Japanese like to use it to begin almost every sentence. Of course, I am talking about adults and not my wonderful children, who don't even know the word. But the adults use it all the time. They use it frequently when they mean to say "I think". Or, sometimes when they want to soften the blow, but the answer is "no". And even occasionally in the correct context of "It's possible, but...", yet "Maybe" sounds so childish. But they mainly use it to be noncommital. And this wishy-washyness is driving me crazy. I remember asking someone if the vegetable soup on the menu was vegetarian. And the answer I got after they read the ingredients was "Maybe it has ham in it." Well, does it or doesn't it? Let's find out! Isn't it right in front of you? Aaaaarrrrrggghhhh, harumph. So, now I am at war with the word maybe. It needs to reduce it's presence and return to it's own small territory and quit trying to conquer Japan. Do you hear me "Maybe"? Will I succeed in my quest? Maybe.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Emotional Wasteland and Happy Campers

I hate the internet. I just spent an hour and a half looking for graphics, to use to teach the little guys emotions. Crap. Everything on the internet is crap. Except this blog which is a literary masterpiece. All I want are a few nice graphics including Happy, Sad, Angry, Suprised and Confused. This shouldn't be so hard. If anybody out there knows of a good site, or has some great Emotion Graphics or flashcards, or wants to draw up some professional, fun yet pretty emotion drawings I would love to hear from you. On the other hand I had class with my dimbulbs today. And I keep going in and thinking "Now, they aren't as mentally challenged as you make them out to be." But it only takes a short time for me to realize again for the billionth time what thick headed puppies they are. Oh, terribly sweet and fun to play with, but dimbulbs nonetheless. I read them "Wheels on the Bus" and taught them the song afterwards. They were so cute doing the motions, but kids were getting poked in the eyes and it just turned into The Twelve Stooges go to PreSchool English Class. Really, this isn't a song where so many people could get hurt. Well, if nothing else, they do make me smile.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Lots of Little Things

I don't think there was anything particulary great today, but it was a great day. My two BabyKid classes went really well and were very fun. Then I walked over to May1 to do some shopping and found Kraft Mac & Cheese! I was supposed to go over and put up flyers to try and get new students but I left them in my car. I should have been ticked, but as the wind had stopped and the sun was out I just couldn't be in a bad mood. As I entered the Community Center I ran into another teacher I know and he was in a bit of a jam. He had forgotten all his lesson materials at home. He's had to wing it before, so he wasn't panicked, but I was able to loan him some ABC flash cards and laminates I had made. He thought they were great. My 3rd graders class went well as always. I stopped at a brand new Family Mart convenience store, and they actually had sandwiches I could eat. So I had egg salad sandwiches for dinner instead of a Snickers bar. Sony class went pretty good, and much laughter occured. And here is an email from one of my private students (too cute)...

Hi! Thank you very much. I will try the worksheet you sent me. I have just done summary of chapter 4. I noted on notbook but I will write in the PC and send it later. Chapter 4 was very interesting . It discrive personality those character's have. I am really appreciate for your kindness for giving me fun lesson. It's very exciting. Thank you.

She's friggin thanking me for giving her homework. But she seems to really like the lessons and her email made me feel good.

And my husband sent me pictures of him in a suit. And my husband looks great in a suit and it always makes my heart flutter to see him dressed up. Not bad for what is my Monday.

Monday, January 23, 2006

More Parent Problems

I get a call today from Mr. M. He says a parent called the community center to report her child cried after class on Saturday and wouldn't tell her why. I actually saw that this little girl was upset, and trying not to cry just as class got out. She's in the 1st and 2nd grade class and is the only new student this term. On the last worksheet on phonics she got some of them completed, but she didn't get them all done by the end of class. And I could tell this frustrated her. Well, her mother wanted to make sure that the boys weren't being cruel or anything traumatic didn't happen in class. I can appreciate that. I told Mr. M. that "No, nothing traumatic happened", she's just frustrated. The other kids are pretty laid back about that sort of thing, but it obviously bothered said girl. But after 20 minutes I got Mr. M to understand (conversations over the phone with him are always such hard work). He said that the mother wanted to attend the class with the daughter and help her. I put my foot down. I said she could observe once, but that the other children would be shy around a parent and that she could not come to every class. Later I got an email from him concerning the same thing. I reiterated that I think after a few more lessons she will be fine. She's plenty bright and has good spoken word skills, she just needs some more practice with phonics. I made it pretty plain that making a big deal out of this was not going to help her. But, we'll see......

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Daruma and Me

During our visit to the Goshin Shrine on New Year's Day, the Suzukis bought Mark and I each a Daruma Doll. He's a symbol of good luck and protection in Japan, and is traditionally given to someone starting a new venture, celebrating a birthday, or at the beginning of a New Year. You paint one eye and make a wish. The other eye is painted when the goal is reached. So you have to make a wish that is somewhat attainable unless you plan to cart this guy with you for the rest of your life. That was just too much committment. My big wish would be to see the world before I die. I crave travel. How some women feel about babies, I feel about travel. I can't read armchair travel books because it's too painful. But, a more attainable wish would be to visit Thailand and Amsterdam this year. Do I paint half a pupil after I go to Thailand? Hmmm?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Die-Hards

In my 6th graders class I gave them a crossword puzzle that was way to hard for them. I'm pretty sure I went back and made the hints easier, but these were obviously copies from the original. Whoops! So I ended up putting all the correct answers on the board, but in random order. But they just count the number of letters in the words and figure it out that way. We still didn't have enough time for them to finish. But half the students wouldn't leave until they had figured it out. They were so funny, my little (and not so little) Die-Hards. I finally had to leave them in the class to finish up by themselves. That's the kind of moment that makes you glad to be a teacher.

Friday, January 20, 2006

You Speak the Truth

I went out to lunch with Magda today. It's nice to get together with someone who has the same job as I do and bitch and moan. And Magda does it with such flair and funny English. She went to Australia over the holidays and brought me back a pen. I got a gift and it wasn't food! Yeah! Her Japanese boyfriend proposed over the holidays. And that's scaring the pants off her. Her parents had a rotten marriage, and she just can't imagine that marriage could be a good thing. She's so funny. And she seems to really like me. I can't remember what the topic was, but she laughed and said "That is why I like to talk with you, Natalie. You speak the truth." Hmmm, I normally get into trouble for speaking the truth. But it's nice to know my frankness is appreciated occasionally. We laughed and made fun of our students and their mothers and ate lunch and dessert and gossiped and swore like New York Construction workers. Not bad for a gloomy winter day.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Taste of China

One of the perks in Japan is the number of gifts you get given. Almost always it is some sort of food. Sometimes it just a single piece of candy that a cute Japanese child in so delighted to share with you. I never get tired of their generosity, exuberance and smiling faces as they hand you the cherished gift. But, I have also been given tons of other foods as well. I am only now finishing up with all the treats I was given before the holiday break. But today I was given something a little different. Mrs. Kaneda from the Skyland class just got back from a trip to China. She brought me a box of mini moon cakes. I looked up Mooncakes on Wikipedia before biting into one. According to them mooncakes are very dense traditional Chinese confections with one of many types of fillings. The most traditional is Lotus Seed Paste, but as that is very expensive other fillings are frequently substituted. Such as mung paste, black bean paste, yellow bean paste, or red bean paste. I have no idea which one I may have tried, but I think I got a nice variety pack. I quite liked the one I just finished nibbling on. And it was really filling for only being the diamater of a quarter. The trip was only 5 days, of which 2 were mostly travel. But she went to a palace, Tianamen Square, the Great Wall and saw Chinese Acrobat performance. For someone who is currently living in a foreign country, and planning trips to two more foreign countries I shouldn't be so jealous. But, alas, I still am. Think I'll eat another moon cake.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Joys of Dreaming

I got one of the travel books that I ordered today. I actually ordered this one several days after the Amsterdam books, but this one came first. It came at a very dangerous time. I was working on lesson plans for the following week when I recieved the delivery. Oh, it was excrutiatingly hard to concentrate on ABC's and 123's when I had a new book, behold a new travel book only a few feet away from me. I was able to control myself, but just barely. Now, it is night. Me time. And I'm gonna log off this trite blog and read until my heart's content.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Future

Well, it's official. I'm staying another year. When Mark was here we discussed it. After much emotional turmoil, situation dissection and talking until we were blue in the face we agreed it was the best thing for me. The second year will be sooo much easier. I will have all the lesson plans done. And I have the aparto pretty fixed up. That means there will be less costs during the second year. And with all the lesson plans in place I will have more time to take private students. Which means yet more money. Also this whole experience has been so good for my confidence. I've read enough blogs (and moved around enough) to know that the second year is not as exciting as the first. But that's okay. I just hope I don't implode when I sing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" for the 1000th time. Mr. M. has been asking me for the last month "Have you decided to stay?". When I finally told him "yes" it was very anticlimatic. All he said was "I take you to Visa office in April". That's all he said. No "Oh, I'm very glad, the kids love you". No "Ah, what a relief. Here's a bonus." Not even a god damned "Thank you". He's such a putz.

So that's all the settled stuff. Now on to the still working on it parts of my future. The traveling. I have seriously been thinking of going to Thailand for "Golden Week" (beginning of April). I've ordered the travel book and it should be on arriving anytime now. The airline ticket ain't going to be cheap. But once you get there your money goes forever. As I recall the "Lonely Planet" website said to expect to pay $25 a day for medium range accomodations and food. I was telling Junko about it the other night and she asked if I was going alone. I said half heartedly "Yah, unless you want to come with me" She said "Okay". So now I have a traveling companion.

I have also been invited by a certain co-blogger to come visit her in the wilds of Shikoku. I really want to, but not sure if it can happen too soon. She's not exactly in a place I can get to visit just for the weekend. But I'm working on it!

And then there is the summer. Mark is hoping to come spend close to a month here in Japan. He's hoping to do a little professional colaborating while he's here, which doesn't bother me in the slightest. But mainly he wants to spend time with ME! And then the hope is that for my vacation week in August that we can fly to Amsterdam. Travel books have also been ordered for this destination. I'm so excited about all these plans I could just explode. Damn, life is good.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Hana Delivery

The top picture is of the flowers I had at the beginning of the day. The second picture are the flowers I had at the end of the day. No, they are not rare flowers that grow after being cut. They are flowers that were delivered to me. I got a call early this morning from someone who only spoke Japanese. I was pretty sure he used the word "Hana" which is the word for flower, but it is also the word for nose. But I didn't think anyone would be calling me about flowers or noses. But in his rambling he did say Soude Cho, which is my neighborhood. So I started to think he was a delivery man. I once had the delivery people call me before delivering the books I ordered from Amazon. And as I had recently ordered books from Amazon I was hopeful that this could be them. I said "kiyo" (today) in a question form and he said "hai" (yes). Then he said "mate" (wait). I said "hai". So I waited for awhile. Not a big problem as I was planning on staying home most of the day to do laundry. When he arrived he handed me the biggest bunch of flowers I had ever seen not bestowed on the winner of the derby or at a funeral. I just couldn't imagine who sent me flowers. And if he hadn't called first I would have assumed they were at the wrong place. Then I saw the card. It said "I love you, Mark". My husband (known for his thriftiness) sent me these beautiful, extravegant flowers. It took my breath away. Wow. I love you too Mark.

Now you are all required to sigh and say "Awwwww, isn't that sweet".

Movie and a Bath

Sounds like a nice cozy way to stay home on a rainy winter night, doesn't it? But it wasn't a stay at home Movie and a Bath, it was a day on the town Movie and a Bath. The Suzukis decided to take me to a movie yesterday. Yuuma wanted to see Chicken Little, but as it was dubbed in English I wouldn't be able to understand. Yoko wanted to see "Stand Up". I'd never heard of it. I asked who was in it. Yoko said a famous American Actress. Oh, well that narrows it down. After searching their electronic dictionary they said the plot was about sexual harrasment and tunnel makers. I took that to mean miners. Which means the movie is North Country. Which I had heard about through NPR. It didn't actually sound like a movie I would like. I knew it would just make me angry. I like movies that make me laugh or make me cry or make me fall in love (or even better all three). I'm not a fan of movies that make me angry, nervous or scared. But as it was such a generous invitation I agreed. But in the end Yuuma wanted Yoko to see Chicken Little with him, and Mikio was stuck taking me to see "Stand Up" (what is the point in changing the name?). It was a very plush theatre and the seats reclined and had side tables. Well, the movie did make me angry, but the cast was so good that I ended up liking the movie anyway. And there was one scene that brought tears to my eyes. But Mikio was crying and sniffling for the last 20 minutes of the movie. I had to stifle giggles. Then we went out for lunch. I had Omrice. Its a huge omlette stuffed with rice and my rice was buttered and the Omrice was covered in a cream sauce with vegetables. Between that and the Brownie and Oranges Sundae I had afterwards I was stuffed. Our next stop was a car dealer who was changing their insurance policy. We were probably only there for a half hour, but I kept falling asleep. Then we went to a Super Sento (public bath). It was wonderful. They had hot baths, boiling baths, jet baths, a plum sake bath and an electric current bath. It was really weird. This one was just a single seat in the jet baths pool and when you sat down your butt was in the line of an electric current. It felt like a very small but forceful jet that tingled a little. Then there were the outside baths. Mmmm, they were wonderful. A nice wooden pool covered by a wooden gazebo, a rock pool, giant cooking pot baths (I felt like Natalie Stew in that one), a place to lie down and take a nap in about an inch of running water, a Ginger Sauna, and my favorite the warm pool where you can sit under a gentle waterfall. By the time I got home I was so drowsy and full I couldn't stay up past 8:30. Really, I reccomend this Movie and a Bath thing.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Saturday Ritual

Somewhere along the way a Saturday ritual was created. On Saturdays I have a break between two of my classes that is 1 hour and 15 minutes long. That isn't enough time to really go anywhere, and yet too much time to sit around and read. And in the summer it was so hot that I kept falling asleep. So one Saturday When Mikio and Yoko came to pick up Yuuma after his class I asked them if they wanted to grab some refreshment at Act Tower. They said "Sure". And we've done it every Saturday since. We always go to "Freshness Burger" and grab something to drink. Yoko has to work some Saturdays, but every Saturday that she's available she insists on buying me something to munch on as well. She is unbelievably worried that I am starving to death. She is always sending me home from any excursion we make with leftovers, and sometimes just things she thinks I should eat, or something I mentioned I liked. Yuuma normally plays his Gameboy during the hour, but seems to like just going somewhere. And as he is probably tired of speaking and listening in Enlish, I can't blame him. This is a tradition I have come to really enjoy.

Friday, January 13, 2006


Whoops. I got my electric bill. Now, I knew it was going to go up. i left my electric heater on alot, especially when I was sick. Also, because kerosene heaters are a pain in the butt. First you have to go buy the fuel (electricity is delivered). Then you have to keep filling up the tank. And as you don't want to keep a big old ugly, dangerous plastic container of fuel in your apartment, you have to put it in your entryway or balcony. Whick means, when the tank gets empty you have to go out into the cold to heat up your house. Now that's just downright silly. And my first week using the kerosene heater I went through 1000 yen worth of gas in one week. Last month's electric bill was 2000 yen. This month's bill was 12,000 yen. That's right folks it increased by 6 times. Like I said, I knew it was going to go up, but I didn't expect this. Luckily I had put aside 10,000 yen for electricity, because it is my first winter here and my predecessor left me no info on this sort of thing and cuz I'm a smarter cookie than I look. But, jeepers, I wasn't really prepared for the shock. But on the bright side the heater has been cooperating since I threatened it with mechanical torture and replacement.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bitter Disappointment

My private students went to Arizona over the holidays. Before they left they asked me what my favorite cookies were. They wanted to pickup cookies as gifts for their friends and family. I had to think about it for awhile, but when I thought about it I do have a very favorite cookie. Mother's Iced Raisin Cookies. And Mother's is the brand name, not my Mom's. Sorry Mom but you ain't known for your cooking/baking prowess. You can only get Mother's on the West coast, so I haven't had them for many years now. These are not just some little raisin cookie with a thin smattering on the top for decoration. These decent sized cookies are dipped completely into a thick icing. Mmmmm. But I tried to think of something that would make better gifts. Something that would scream American Southwest. But nothing really came to mind. So when they came for their lesson yesterday I spotted a Mother's logo in Yukia's bag and got a wee bit excited. And low and behold I was presented with a batch of Mother's cookies. Mother's Macaroons. Macaroons? Macaroons? I don't want no stupid macaroons. But I smile and coo and make like I'm thrilled. It is a very nice gesture that they brought me cookies. But, oh, the disappointment. I don't think I can take it. Oh, this world is a cruel, cruel place.

The cookies I wanted:

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Heater Saga Continues

So, the heater refused to work all day. Including first thing this morning, but it tried to turn itself on. It's got this nifty timer thing, which I forgot to reset. So, it tried to turn itself on at 5:00 am. But it failed and insisted on letting me know that it tried. It beeped 25 times. Well, I couldn't exactly sleep through that. So I woke up, but it was too cold to get up. So I sat there and fumed and waited for the ceiling heater to take a little chill off. I tried that dang heater all day with no luck. So, when I went to Pulstec tonight I brought up my dilemna again. The first class was totally uninterested in helping me. Rat bastards! But the second class was much more helpful. They pointed out that the heater has a magic self-cleaning button. They also had other helpful suggestions. And they insist if it is still not working, and I have not frozen to death, that I bring it in next Wednesday and they will mess with it until it works or they break it. Now, the magic self-cleaning button also is the power save button, so you have to make sure the machine is turned off when you press the button or it won't do you any good. Kinda got a Clark Kent thing going. Well, I tried it. And she turned right on after the cleaning. The real test will be in the morning. May seem like an unexciting thing to post about, and well maybe it is, but it is also extremely important. Like almost as important, to me it has got to be first priority. Nothing gets done if I be too cold, dagnabit!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Fog is Lifting. Or is it?

So, back to kiddie world today for me. And that's a good thing. My morning BabyKid classes were fun and upbeat. Then I came home, took a nice nap, paid my water bill, straightened up a little, etc. All things a properly functioning person would do. Went to my 3rd and 4th grade class, which is always a blast. And it lived up to it's reputation. Then I headed off for Pulstec. I took a slightly different route hoping to shave a few minutes off my trip. And everything was going smoothly. I stopped at the hyaku yen to grab something to drink, like ususal. The trip was quite a few minutes ahead of schedule. Only one problem. I didn't have a class today at Pulstec. I was supposed to be going to Sony. I am totally screwed. I have wasted half an hour getting halfway to Pulstec and Sony is on the other side of town. So I jump back in the car and haul butt back to where I started and then onto Sony. I am so not going to make it. What was I thinking? Apparently I wasn't thinking. Obviously I am still in a daze. Well, luck was on my side and I got to Sony only 2 minutes late. But the heart attack I gave myself is definately taking years off my life. So, we have class as usual and it ends a little early. I have been having problems with my kerosene heater for the last 4 or 5 days. And it keeps getting progressively worse. The problem is it is getting stubborn about turning on. At first you just let it sit and try again and it would start. Then it required several pauses and starts. Then today it just wasn't happening. So, with the extra few minutes I asked what it could be. I was smart enough to take along the manual. You never saw such interest in the disfunction of a heater. They were all chomping at the bit to look at the manual. So there was much discussion and questions thrown at me. They came up with two possible solutions. The first was to unplug it and then plug it in again. I'm not kidding. I had a room full of engineers and this was one of there solutions. I teased them pretty good about that. The other solution was to clean the valves. They couldn't tell me how to clean the valves, nor had they ever had to do it themselves. But it sounded very logical. So I came home and tried the stubborn heater. No luck. So I unplugged it and replugged it in. And of course it started up, no problems. There is a part of me that is hoping it's just a fluke and that the heater will continue to give me problems, cuz I just don't want to go back and tell them that it worked. But, the other 90% of me wants the stupid thing to keep on truckin'.

Monday, January 09, 2006

A Good Walk

Today was another rough day. Really rough. I made myself walk down to the far away grocery store to get out of the house. I'm glad I did. It was cold, but I wore the flannel shirt I stole from Mark. Today was one of the billion holidays that the Japanese have. I think the holiday is "Fathers Play Baseball with Their Sons in the Cold" day. It was wonderful to watch. Every park I passed was filled to the rims with fathers and sons. I walked the path along the river, which is always filled with old people walking their dogs. Thats always good. But I saw one cute little old man walking a very cute dog. The dog was carrying the pooper scooper spade in his mouth, chomping on the wooden handle like it was his very favorite toy. I couldn't help but laugh. And then almost as I got home I saw a lot of people standing around looking into the river. And then I saw why. There was a whole flock of swans swimming up and down the river. The ducks were chasing behind them like fans trying to keep up with celebrities. And it was kinda like finding celebrities at your usual grocery store. They were much to grand and glorious for our little river. But watching them glide around with the sun setting behind them was a touch of balm for my melancholy.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Tears and More Tears

Mark went back to Georgia today. I took him to the bus station early this morning. It was excrutiatingly painful. I was crying so much I couldn't drive home. So I walked around the cold quiet city before it got going for the day. I finally got myself under enough control to drive back home. But seeing the slippers he used sitting in the entranceway, as if he would be stepping back into them shortly undid me again. I've spent the day in a fog trying to stay strong. I'm not doing a very good job.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Yesterday the Suzukis took us on the promised temple visit. Yoko and Mikio wore kimonos. Yuma couldn't be convinced to wear one, and as he is still waddling around from his surgery on his boy parts he can do pretty much whatever he wants. First we went to Kamoe Temple (Buddhist). Here we poored water onto a cool statue with really long poles with cups on the ends. We rang several bells, lit incense, drank hot sickeningly sweet sake, threw money in the prayer boxes and made wishes for the new year and bought safe travel charms. We also bought fortunes and tied them to the temple. Mark had an unlucky fortune, mine was a normal fortune but I ripped it in half when tying it to the temple. I don't think that's very auspicious. Then we walked to Gosho Shrine (Shinto religion). There we purified ourselves by washing our hands in holy, freezing cold water. We also through money into the prayerboxes and made wishes for the new year. The Suzukis bought us "Darumas". They are little round dolls. You make a wish and paint a pupil in one eye. When your wish comes true you paint the second pupil. Then we made the tradional pilgrimage to the mall to eat crazy crepes and visit the hyaku yen store. We then went back to the Suzukis house to warm up and rest a little and play some more poker. Then we went to dinner at "Jolly Pasta". Had to practically sumo wrestle the check from Mikio's hands so that I could pay for once, but I prevailed. I'm pretty scrappy, you know. Then we went to Yoko's mother's bar. I have only met Miyoshi a couple of times, but she's a real hoot. It's a tiny little place, but you can tell she's the queen the second you walk in. They talked me into singing on the karaoke machine twice and they served us each a drink. They (the entire bar) tried to talk us into more alcohol and karaoke, but we were pretty exhausted by this point and we begged off, even though it wasn't even 9 o'clock. My favorite part of the day though, was when Yuma would hold Mark's hand while we were walking from place to place during the day. Yuma holds my hand all the time, but this was just too sweet.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Corrupting the Japanese

Today the Suzukis had planned to take us to a shrine. But Yuma had some minor surgery on the 26th, but still was a little sore, so plans changed. Mikio took us to Hamamatsu Castle and and then walked around the park until it got too cold. Then we went to Act Tower to go to the Musical Instrument Museum. Whoops, it was closed!So we went and had some warm drinks and a nice sit down. Then we went up to the top of Act Tower to see the city from a bird's eye view on the 45th floor. Mark, who normally doesn't like heights, really liked it. Then Mikio whisked us both back to the Suzuki house where Yoko had prepared a lovely, huge dinner. They plied us with too much food, a lot of drink and wonderful companionship. And how did I repay this hospitality, I taught them and their son to play Texas Hold'em. But Yuma is a smart kid, when he got ahead he took his yen and left the table.