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, June 30, 2007

Unexpected Invite

Out of the blue the mother of one of my students handed me a note, inviting me to dinner at her house. Her English isn't great, so I think someone else wrote the note. But I was so touched, and her little boy is so adorable and sweet that I couldn't resist. It turned out to rather pleasant. She invited her neighbor, who speaks English quite well, and her husband's English was pretty good. When I arrived at the house her husband was hard at work cooking (another Japanese man who cooks). Shoukei, the 3 year old student of mine, went around pulling out every toy to show me. They cooked 3 times as much food as we could all eat, but it was delicious. Then afterwards we lit some sparklers. The whole night was really sweet.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Odd Combination

The pic above is of an interesting old factory/warehouse that was along my route to work when I first got here. But just over a year ago they started tearing it down. Now the picture below is what has been built in it's place. It's now a pachinko parlor and physical fitness center. Yes now you can lose weight and lose money all in the same location. Only in Japan.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Other Side of the Mountain

I had visited one half of Akiha Shrine a while back, and had hoped to hike to the other half, but I fell quite short on that plan. So this time I just drove to Akiha Part Deux. And it was quite different. The bottom shrine wasn't much, but this was quite lovely. And it gave me a good excuse for taking a billion pictures. After visiting the better half I drove up the "Super Woods Road" to Misakubo. But it wasn't exactly Super, I liked the other drive to Misakubo through the Myojin Gorge better. But, there was a little surprise when rounded one corner. Up on the rocks were some critters. The area is known for antelope, but these didn't look like antelope. At one point I thought they were boar, but I eventually settle on some very stock mountain goats. Then the long drive back. But I'm glad I did it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Five Seasons

I don't quite understand "Rainy Season", when rainy season is just a rainy month - June. That would be like saying that March is the "Windy Season". But here in Japan, they say they have 5 seasons. But I'm used to "Seasons" having to do with the length of the day, and the position of the Earth being in orbit around the sun. And rain has nothing to do with that. But, my confusion not withstanding, the Rainy Season is in full swing. And I can't tell you how many times I've left the windows down in my car during this month, only to go outside and sit on wet upholstery. And when it rains, it's not no nice cleansing 1 hour storm, but minimum 12 hours, and maximum 3 days. But, at least it means it doesn't get hot for too long. As a matter of fact it's kinda chilly today and I'm wearing a sweatshirt to stay warm.

Sunday Brunch

Junko and her new husband invited Hiromi and me over for Sunday Brunch. They were
trying out some recipes of things they ate in Spain on their Honeymoon. And they made Sangria, which was excellent. We just spent the afternoon chatting and laughing. Although I had a wonderful time, I do look forward to the time when I will understand the entire conversation, and not just when people are willing to change languages. The best part was watching Toshi do most of the cooking. I hear that it's highly unusual for men to do anything like that here. Happy to see that Junko caught herself a good catch.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Free Market

Yesterday I harassed Mikio and a mother of one of my students to help me take my stuff down to the flea market to sell. But since the Japanese can't say flea they think it's a free market, and of course nothing about it is free. I had to pay 1500 yen in advance to reserve a space. Mikio came the night before to tell me more about what to expect. We would be given a spot 2 meters by 2 meters. No overflowing the spot. All merchandise must be in place by 9:30, even though it doesn't start until 10. Well, that was gonna be a problem. And be prepared that nobody was going to buy anything, so don't expect to make any money. Mikio was completely freaking out. All my stuff would not fit in that space, we couldn't make it by 9:30, and we couldn't bring anything from the cars if we sold some stuff and we had room for it, and it wouldn't all fit in the cars anyway. I really had to insist he take a chill pill. Okay, this was gonna be a big exercise in futility. So what? We'll just sit around the flea market and drink cokes and make fun of people. Of course his little visit left me really upset, and not a little angry. Stupid Japanese with their weird, inflexible ways. I didn't get to sleep until 2 am, and then woke up at 6 am so that I could start taking everything down stairs, so that when they arrived at 8:30 it would go that much faster. Well, let's just say that Mikio's contageous worry was all for naught. People were digging through the boxes and buying things faster than I could tell them the price. And this is before the market even opened. Mikio kept trying to get me to go down on prices, and I kept saying no, it wasn't even 10 yet. I don't start bartering til I've had a few people pass up on something. Everything was pretty much sold by 12, even though the market was to go on for another two hours. I only made half as much money as I paid for all this crap from my predecessor. But the weight that is off my back makes it worth it.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Clock is Ticking

One month from today I will be getting on a plane and leaving this bizarre and comfortable country. And I doubt I'll be back. I'm not really one of those persons who returns to a place they have left. Not even for visits. So, I'm starting to wrap things up here. Starting to box things up, throw things away and pack other things. That's a situation I'm very used to.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Out and About

Pictures from my camera's first trip outside. Didn't get very far from the house. The camera did me proud.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I Can Tell By the Look in Their Eye...

The newest Community Center class schedule is out. And my name is noticeably absent. So last week the bravest of mothers began to ask me about it. And it's kinda sweet. Their faces get all concerned and confused. They all say such lovely things about me and how much their child will miss me. But this week the less brave mothers are beginning to ask too. And frequently they have very limited English skills, or none at all. But I can tell what they are asking by the look on their faces. But Saturday I had a tough one. One of my 5th graders had that look on her face. She was so serious! And when I told her she looked absolutely heartbroken. And the worst thing is her little sister, darling Kimika, had come up to class to say hello to me. And Kimika is 5 now and just graduated out of my Starter class. So the older sister had to tell her what was happening.

This is Kimika trying to look brave.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Many Faces of Sakiho

Took the new camera to class. I took lots of pictures of all the kids in the class, but the best ones were all of Sakiho. I've only known her since the beginning of the term, but she's so fun. Love her attitude.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Yet Another

I'm not sorry. I know I probably shouldn't have, but I wanted this so bad. I know I have two already, but I wanted a better one. And it wasn't easy. I thought long and hard. But in the end, what the hell is money for if you can't buy what you really want. And I wanted a Nikon D40. I've been looking at SLR for years, but I fell in love with the D40 when I was in Yamada a few weeks ago. And it turns out that I really fell in love with the "extra lens". After a couple of failed attempts at purchasing the camera (language barrier, un-knowledgeable sales people, fluctuating prices, etc.) I finally came away with it at the price I wanted. These pictures were taken the first day without even leaving my apartment. I'm still just practicing with it, but I really love it. The clearness and the colors are exactly what I was hoping for. My only thing I don't love is that the small lens is really the same size as the big lens. Seems wrong somehow. Oh, well, nothing is perfect, but this seems to be close enough.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Invasion of the Internet Snatchers

It's horrible. It has invaded into my life. But nobody believes me. I'm convinced my computer has a virus, but none of the detection devices can find it. It's making my computer go so slow that I can't do many of the things that I want... no need to do to keep me sane. I have 50 gig free, so that's not it. I defragged the computer, so that's not it. I scan my computer daily, and it can't find the ghost virus. I can't Flickr, I can't watch any media clips, I can't listen to NPR, I can't play games. I can get my email and I can watch DVD's. But that's about it. I'm going crazy.