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 30, 2006

Hola, from Mexico

Made it to Mexico. I lived in Arizona for years, made trips to New Mexico and Texas repeatedly, and was born in California, but had never been south of the border until now. And coming from Japan makes it quite funny. It´s hard not to compare it to Japan, and even harder not to compare it to Thailand. I really like Mexico, and Merida was a great choice. This is a funny little town, whose main industry is NOT tourism. The streets are bustling all the time. The main plaza has quite a few people trying to hawk stuff at you, but not nearly as annoying as the hustlers in Phuket. And when comparing it to Japan all I can say is that it is much dirtier and yet much prettier. The first full day we went to see Chichinitza, through a tour through the hotel. We spent the whole day on this tour, but got less than two hours to actually visit the ruins. I had read that Chichinitza may be the most famous, but not the most interesting of the Maya/Toltec sites. It's not terribly photogenic, there are people selling souveniers along all the paths, and the numbers of people visiting it are huge. The tour guide was interesting, amusing and adorable...and very, very biased in his opinions (he stated them as facts). Once we were allowed to go wander unaccompanied it was actually a little more enjoyable. And once you got away from all the hordes it became a little more magical. Of course the two most interesting places on the site have been restricted. You used to be able to climb to the top of the Temple of the Warriors and see the chacmool up close, but people kept standing on it to get there pictures taken. And the other most fascinating place to see was inside El Castillo. But an 80 year old woman fell to her death earlier this year and now no one is allowed to climb it anymore. Inside is the Jaguar throne, and the temple that this temple was built over. Nonetheless, the The weather has been pretty good, and it´s wonderful to walk around in summer clothes in the middle of winter. Oh, and of course the food has been great. I like Mexico.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Worldwide Christmas

Well, the Christmas parties are finally over. All the cookies have been eaten, all the games have been played and all the messes have been cleaned up. The picture above is of my fabulous group of 1st and 2nd graders on Saturday. My tiny class, as I call it. My other group of 1st and 2nd graders are fun, but it's a large class of 15 kids, and very energetic kids at that. But these are my girls. Kana was in the class last year, so she's pretty good, and definately the leader. Haruna has obviously taken lessons elsewhere and is also quite good, and so funny. Momo only started back in October, and is really having to work hard to catch up. She's still having to learn her ABC's. But she's a very willing student. Ayane, is the shy one. She cried on the first day of class, and her mother had to stay in the room. She's not exactly brilliant, but she definately has improved. Look at them. Aren't they adorable? I always have to take extra things for them to do, because they get through the lesson so much quicker than my other class. Ah, but now all the parties are over, except one. The big party. In a few moments I walk out my door and will be on my way to see my hubby. We are spending our Christmas vacation in Mexico. Yep. Mexico. So from Japanese Christmas parties, to grabbing my husband in Atlanta and then off to the Yucatan. It's a very worldwide Christmas this year. Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Last Christmas, Arrrrrggghhh!

What do you think is the most popular Christmas song in Japan? Jingle Bells? Rudolph? White Christmas? Nope. You are wrong. It is "Last Christmas" by Wham. This is now the Christmas song I hate the most. The one Christmas song I used to despise the most used to be "Favorite Things" from the Musical I hate the most "Sound of Music". But after spending two Christmas seasons in Japan, Favorite Things has been usurped. I thought I was just imagining this obsession they have with "Last Christmas". But I wasn't. The last week the Nagoya English station has had a contest, and "Last Christmas" decimated the competition, which included "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and every Christmas song by Mariah Carey and by the Carpenters. All of which I have heard repeatedly over the last couple of weeks. But Wham is everywhere. It's getting creepy. Aaarrrgggh! I hope this is the Last Christmas I ever have to hear Last Christmas.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Power Rangers to the Rescue

A while back I went with the Suzukis to Pal-Pal to celebrate Yuma's birthday. One of the things on our agenda was to see the live action hero show. Mainly because we wanted to see O'Goody in it. I don't think they ever used the word Power Rangers, but if not they were knock-offs. The day was unusually hot for the time of year, and the amplitheatre was like an oven. The show was totally cheesy, and if there were any jokes in it I didn't get them due to the language barrier. And O'Goody wouldn't tell us what part he was going to play in it. It's part of his secret identity. The Suzukis guessed that he was the Johnny Depp looking guy. But I know O'Goody better than they. I see him everyday, and I knew they were wrong. He was one of the evil henchmen and he got thrown around alot. The next day at work I was prepared to "get sick" and have to go home if he didn't tell me which character he played. But I didn't have to resort to blackmail, just a little good-humored badgering did the trick. He admitted to being the bad guy with the red hair. I knew it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Christmas Parties Have Begun!

Well, the first set of Christmas parties have begun. Because of the crazy schedule, half were at the beginning of this week, the other half will be the last half of next week. But so far so good. Although this year's crop of BabyKids is filled with a lot of seriously reluctant youngsters. So the Pin the Nose on Rudolf game isn't as big a hit this year. But the cookies and songs are big hits. Here, let's mingle. I'll introduce you around.

This is Natsuki and Yuzuki, they are both second years and have on their serious face. Natsuki has a cute little girly voice. Yuzuki is quite the card.

Here we have Nanami and Satsuki in their dimples pose. Nanami is usually so straightlaced. She is very serious about learning her ABC's. Satsuki has come along way this year. Early on she was a trouble maker, but she's settled down and done a very respectable job learning the alphabet.

Let me introduce you to Taiki and Shiki, the only boys here at our little internet party. Taiki...Well, Taiki takes my classes twice a week. Same class mind you. And I'm pretty sure he's taking other classes at the CC. He's very good with the spoken stuff, he just isn't interested in the physical stuff or the songs. Shiki is a fairly recent addition, and can be high strung. He's either great or a great pain in the ass.

Over here are Sae (pronounced Sigh) and Nayu doing there strange faces. I really don't know what Sae is doing. She's a very soft spoken child, but not bashful. As this pucker face and strange peace sign shows. Nayu is very young, and this is actually her attempt to smile for the camera. I think she needs a bit more practice.

And last, but not least, we have another Nanami and Mei. Well, as you can tell I have spiked the apple juice and they have had more than their fair share. Nanami is a surly drunk, and Mei is more of a lampshade kinda party girl. These BabyKids sure know how to celebrate.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Are You Interested in Belly Dance?

A while back Junko invited me to a Belly Dance party. Our group consisted of Mika, Junko, myself and Junko's new boyfriend. The little bar was packed with people. And it was pretty hard to see anything, but what I did see was fun and hypnotic.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Okuni Jinja Here We Come

A couple of the girls from my Sony Class took me to Okuni Jinja, since they had promised to take me to Kourankei and never did. Misato is on the left, Yumi on the right. Yumi's English is pretty bad, Misato's is even worse. But Yumi's inablility doesn't stop her from trying. While Misato barely ever says a word. It was rather nice in away. I never get to use the little Japanese that I do have, because most people WANT me to speak English. But these two didn't care. The temple was nice, and I bet it looked beautiful at it's peak earlier in the season. Definately worth the trip. Then we went to a park and ate conbini lunches and walked around a little. Then we decided to get a little dessert. So we went to Louisiana Mama and bought some slices of cake and brought them to my place, and I made them raspberry tea. We laughed and talked. We got around to talking about the Chinese Zodiac. I guessed that Yumi was a monkey and Misato had to be a mouse. And I was right. A nice, pleasant day with the girls.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Baking Buddy

Well, the Christmas Party season shall be upon me in no time. That's not exactly a phrase I thought would be a part of my life in Japan, but it is. And when I say Christmas Parties, I mean for my classes. No spiked eggnog for my party companions. I am using the same lesson plan as last year, but I still have to bake 18 dozen cookies. And as my oven is broken (it doesn't get hot...just kinda warm) I have to borrow Rinako's again. Luckily her daughter Yuri loves to bake. So the two of us spent Saturday night making dough and baking 6 dozen cookies. But I got a lot more to go. And then there is the decorating. But with Yuri's help it'll be fun!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me

Friday was my birthday. And the nice folks from Skyland took me out for dinner to a very nice restaurant. A cake was brought out, and the jazz singer sang "Happy Birthday" to me. And the food was delicious. And there was so much of it. I really overstuffed myself and ended up feeling pretty yucky. And the Skyland group was less jovial than usual. And then I missed my stop when riding the train home. And there weren't any more trains going the other way. So I had to walk half an hour to get home in dressy shoes. And it began to rain, and I didn't have an umbrella. And what started out as a nice time ended up pretty crappy. Poor, poor, pitiful me.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fun With Rectangles

For BabyKid classes the theme was reviewing shapes, with a focus on rectangles. High tech it ain't. I cut up plastic sheets into rectangles of various sizes and drew faces onto some of them. In class I dumped out all the rectangles and we made them into robots. This was one of my favorites that one of the kids made. I tell you, the fun you can have with rectangles is awesome. I can't wait until we do ovals!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Kourankei Finally

I had heard about Kourankei from my Sony students. It's supposed to be the coolest, most popular place to view the fall colors in the area. And they kept offering to take me. But something always came up. So I finally decided to go on my own. It was much further than I had ever driven before here. Basically I had to follow my own footsteps back up to Horai, and then keep on going. It was a nice enough drive. But I got to a place where I didn't know what to do next, or if I was even going in the right direction. I stopped a couple of times to get directions and maps. But the maps showed where I was now, and which direction I needed to go, but then not what to do next. And several times I wasn't sure I was on the right path, so I turned around and went back. It turned out there had been many signs to the city Asuke, and if I had known Kourankei was at Asuke I might have found it an hour or so earlier. Well I got there very late, but by god I found it. So I wandered around along the riverside and walked up to the top of the hill. I stopped at the temple, that had a guard cat napping away happily on the cushion of honor in front of the buddha. But the leaves were actually past there prime. I had come too late. The pictures actually look better than reality (more photos on Flickr). By the time I got back to my car it was 4:00. I was supposed to be back in Hamamatsu by 4:45. That wasn't going to happen. So I called my private student and cancelled. My second private student called me to cancel, so my profits took a big hit. Not too mention the half a tank a gas, and my mood by the time I got back. Nonetheless, I had heard so much about it, it was very good to get it off my list of places I need to go. Now, I just need to get Okuni, Magome, Hakone, Izu, Nara, Nikko, Gifu.........

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Beach Kin

When I go out to the beach, there are frequently surfers out on the waves. It's always nice to watch them. Sometimes there are 30 or 40, or sometimes just 1 or 2 surfers. And they have to work pretty hard to catch the right wave, and it doesn't propel them very far. But they get back in there and try again, and again, and again. Their perseverence is really great. While I just sit on the beach, or walk at the edge of the surf. But I like to think we have something in common, this relationship with the ocean.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Forever Has Come to an End

Michelle, the Aussie who has lived here "forever", is going home. And Saturday night was her Sayonara Party. And it was quite the party. It started out with a group of 18 of us at a garlic restaurant. It was a set menu sort of thing, where for one price for everybody, the restaurant puts down large communal plates, and everybody helps themselves. And the liquor is included. But I'm pretty sure my drink was so watered down as to be a soft drink. I had 3 of them and there was absolutely no effect on me. And I'm a whimp. There was much comingling and chatting and laughing throughout the dinner. At some point we moved on to the Down Under bar. On the way there a tall foreigner said to me "Hi, Natalie", and as I had never met him before it seemed a little strange. Apparently he is one of the few people who read this blog. So "Hi, Chris" from the etherworld. The bar has this hysterical little pool table, with a half sized cue which was a central part of the festivities. Not to mention more alcohol, which this time did have the desired effect on me. After an unknown amount of time we moved the party over to No Name Bar. Somehow I got left escorting the most inebriated of the gang. I was barely able to keep them from walking into traffic and getting themselves killed. More chatting and drinking occurred with great gregariousness. One of the things we discussed was the atrophying of all our vocabularies by living in Japan, so we were bringing out the big words whenever possible. Michelle decided she needed to get home, so we 6 diehards decided to disband the festivities. But as we were walking to the taxis, Kevin, the most seriously drunk of us spotted Denny's and decided some food would be in order. We all agreed it was a good idea so we headed in. The poor wait staff was not quite prepared for a large group of intoxicated, loud mouthed foreigners to overtake them. Well, after all the club sandos and french toasts were consumed, it was truly time to go home. It was 4 o'clock in the morning, afterall.

The photo is of Steph, Chris and Michelle, who thinks she looks best in sepia.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

BabyKid Fix

It's been along time since I did a cute kids post. So here's a few pics taken ages ago.