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.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sunny Thursdays

Should you be in Nakatajima on a Thursday, stop by and say hi. Stop at the park, take the North path. I'm just past the third bench, lolling in the sun. I don't have any classes between noon and 4 on Thursdays and have been taking advantage of the beautiful weather. Sometimes I grab lunch at a conbini, or sometimes I actually stop and have paper thin pizza at Grazie Gardens. Then I take my beach mat and some books and worship that beautiful fireball we call the sun. It's a pretty large park. There are usually old men flying kites, old people playing croquet, business men asleep on the benches, mother's pushing their babies, dog walkers and frequently entire classes of preschoolers. But as the park is so huge, I'm normally far away from them all. I normally spread out near some trees that host squawking song birds. Including chickadees. I didn't expect to find a bird I could identify here, but there is no doubt, they are chickadees. Sometimes I nap. I always read. And if I have the energy I go over to the beach and walk along it. There's a good chance I'll run into someone I know at the beach. And yesterday I got to help one of the turtle conservationists release baby turtles. These few hours are always glorious and do my soul so much good. I command you all to find some bit of heaven to bask in.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Everybody Wants to be a Rabbit

Several weeks ago, in my Preschool class we made masks. I had to print them on card stock...which ain't easy to find in Japan. And it's pretty expensive. Hope the little whippersnappers appreciate me. Hah! Nonetheless, I made equal amounts of the 3 different options - a rabbit, lion and monkey. But everybody wanted to be a rabbit. So some pouting happened. But I thought they generally did a good job with them. And then I had little kids hopping to and fro, with the occasionally lion chasing them.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Bit Fruity

Yesterday I went to another of the local Parky Parks. I don't know what to call them. They are destinations, like the zoo, or amusement park. And they require an entrance fee. There is the Garden Park, the Flower Park and the Fruit Park. I'm sure such exciting places to come will be the Tree Park and the Vegetable Park...but they don't appear to be in the works yet. Well yesterday I went to the Fruit Park, sometimes also called the Fruits Park. Entrance was 700 yen, and parking another 200 yen. I had heard mixed reviews on the place, but the weather was just so lovely, I figured even if I just sat somewhere and people watched I'd have a nice time. The park was broken into two halves. The first half wasn't terribly large. It had some green houses showing tropical fruits. Pineapples are weird things to see on the plant. They look fake. There were some shops, and a fishing pond, and a few paths through the persimmon trees and a HUGE playground. But I killed a good 45 minutes looking around and getting toasty. Then I headed for the second half. You walk over the over pass across the road and then you take an escalator up the hill. It is very strange to take an escalator up a mountain. It was at least a 4 or 5 story escalator, and very steep. But when you get to the top of said mountain you arrive at the real fruit growing areas, where you can pick your own fruit. The have a bit of everything, citrus, apples, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, etc. But I happened to pick a week where just about nothing is being harvested. Just missed the grapes, and just a little too early for persimmons and apples. So I just walked around. It was a very large area, and since most of it was out of season, I had most of the back areas to myself. And I walked and walked. It was nice, and the weather made it really lovely. They did have one place where you could pick your own under ripe mandarin oranges (mikan), for a reasonable price. I grabbed a basket and listened to the tale end of the guy lecturing everyone on the rules. He asked me if I understood, and I said "No". He pointed to the white stick protruding from some of the trees and said "White, Okay", he pointed to the more ripened fruit and said "Yellow, Okay" and then he cut the stem as close to the orange as possible and said "Okay". It took him 10 minutes to tell the Japanese folks that, I got it all in under a minute. So I plodded around looking for the best fruit possible. I ate one later, they are still quite sour, but still refreshing. Then I decided it was time to take the escalator down the mountain and head home with my spoils and my warm sun-buzz. I enjoyed myself, but I still think these Parky Parks are kinda strange.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Zen Pit Stop

On Tuesdays, between my last two classes, I have an hour and a half to kill. It's not enough time to go home, but it's too much time to kill at the 100 yen store. One day I finally stopped at a shrine/temple complex that is on my route to Sony. It has a narrow opening on a fairly busy street. You could miss it, if it wasn't for the stop light next to it, that gives you plenty of time to look around at your surroundings. But all you get through the gate is a glimpse. A glimpse of another world, a calm world. So I finally stopped there one night. It was so calm, and yet welcoming. There were little tables, with chairs and ashtrays. There were all the usual little statues. These were neither too cold, or too dopey. I didn't stay very long. But it was a nice little respite from usual trafficy Tuesdays I usually have.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Making Faces

A couple of months ago I had a lesson plan about faces for my toddler class. I drew a big circle on the board, then drew a mouth, eyes, nose, ears, etc., and said the words as I drew it. Then I gave each child a laminated circle to make their own face with. Next I tossed about foam shapes I had cut out. Then let them make their own faces. The foam pieces allow them to keep changing the faces, and adding new things. Here are a couple of samples of what they (and their mothers) came up with.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Spider and the Chicken

It was a dark and rainy night. I had just finished with one job, and was moving on to the next. During my route I encountered an area of road that was under construction. The way was perilous, visibility was very low, and the windows of my car had started to fog over. I reached down and turned on the air very carefully, while never taking my eyes off the road. I continued on, concentrating on the view. When I looked up for a brief second, I noticed a spider in the center of my windshield. On the inside of my windsheild. A large spider. A very large spider. With a wingspan of about 6 inches. My heart started pounding loudly, as I controlled the large squeal that wanted to escape me. Don't panic. It's only a spider. It doesn't have a gun, it doesn't want to attack me. I can drive to the next destination, it's only 5 minutes away. I can do this.


I look to the side of the road to find somewhere to pull off. I'm cringing, keeping my eyes on the spider, and whimpering pitifully. I spot a gas station. I pull in quickly and ingnore the attendant flagging me into the bay. I jump out of my car, and start squealling like a little girl "kumo, kumo, kumo,", and pointing inside the car. The attendant smiles at me condescendingly and leans into the car, to protect the damsel in distress. He pauses, and backs away slightly when he sees the size of his foe. But he can't back down now with a woman watching on. He reaches for the spider with his window cleaning clothe. The spider darts to the other side of the windsheild. The young man has to follow it farther into the depths of the car. He apprehends it, and the smirky smile returns to his face. He swaggers away, to release the spider under the lights so he can get a better look at his detainee, as I start thanking him profusely. I'm not terribly afraid of spiders, but in this case I was a big old chicken. It took nearly 10 minutes for my heart to stop pounding. Yick!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


There is something wrong when your hobby starts to make you crazy. And seems to take the joy out of life. I have felt that way a couple of times over the last year with my photography. I just couldn't be bothered to take photographs, even though I should. More than that, I really didn't want to take pictures. Like when we went to Europe this summer. I just wanted to do stuff, without wondering what would make a good picture. And over the last couple of months I have felt that way about this blog. It became a chore. Something on the "To Do" list, after washing dishes and before vaccuming. And the pressure of not doing it was way worse than not doing dishes. There is no record of the days I didn't do the housework (and thank god for that!), but on the blog their are the huge gaps between entries. And probably everybody has given up reading my blog anyway. But one night the whole pressure thing seemed like just one to many things I "had" to do, and it was keeping me awake. I had a huge urge to turn on the lights, log on to the computer and delete the whole damn site. But I made a deal with myself. That if I still felt the same way in a week, I could make the whole thing disappear. But I was hoping I wouldn't feel the same way. Well, I no longer feel like it's a 20 pound burden on my back anymore. But I'm still not convinced I should keep going. Hey, I got on and ranted about how I felt, so maybe that's a good sign. Maybe.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Never Let Me Go

Book Review - I just finished Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. He also wrote The Remains of the Day. This is definately not in the fun, entertainment category of fiction. This is literature. And as such took me awhile to get through it. It has an uneasy feel to the location and subject matter. The details of what is going on are only let out extremely slowly, to the point of being annoying. You only get a clear idea of the plot during the last third of the book. But Ishiguro is quite brilliant at providing that creepy/but very normal world that one can also find in books such as Farenheit 451 or 1984. But it most reminded my of "A Handmaid's Tale". There is no violence in the book, but a slow, unnerving process of events. But I was glad when it was over. Score - 6.