Wednesday, November 26, 2008

nice people do exist

I was driving around in an unfamiliar area the other day, with the help of my handy-dandy GPS navi system. It directed me right to the place I was looking for (a school where Kai needed to sit a test in a couple of hours), and I was looking around for a cafe or some place to have lunch and wait for the test time. Unfortunately, there was very little in this area as far as any resting area was concerned. It was a small residential area near a larger commercial area that I knew was nearby.

As I drove around, roughly guided by my navi in map-mode, I found myself suddenly met by a dead end meeting the train tracks. There was no indication on my navi that the road didn't continue. A small delivery truck had been driving ahead of me, and at the end of the road had looped around, and then pulled off the road just behind me. I guess I stopped dead in the road, which just stopped dead in front of me, and then eventually followed the example of the delivery van and turned around in what seemed like a little parking area.

As I got ready to head back the way I came, deciding the 7-11 I'd passed was about my only option for a break and lunch, an older man hopped out of the delivery truck and started to flag me down. "I hope this guy doesn't expect me to give him directions!" I thought, as I wound down my window. I was completely confused when instead of asking directions, he started giving them to me.

"Keep driving up this road, and you'll see a 7-11 on the right. On the left there's a school. Turn there, and follow that road over to the next street. Turn left there, and you'll be on the road that will take you to the other side of the tracks."

I thanked him, and drove off in a daze, following his directions. He had obviously deduced that I had been trying to get across the tracks by driving down the street we were on. Seeing as we did have a couple of hours to spare, and this kind man was so sure of where we should have been going, I did exactly as he said, and ended up in the middle of the urban shopping area on the 'right' side of the tracks.

I am amazed still that on a grey rainy day, in an old residential area of back-street Japan, this man not only sensed my plight through his rear-view mirror, but also went so far as to offer unsolicited advice to a gaijin woman in a bright yellow car. So have faith all, there are still nice people out there.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Being happy

There has been a lot of negative energy floating around my circles of late, and perhaps this musing would be more productive in a more public setting. I am, however, a chicken at heart, and so I write here, in the safety of my own circle of family and friends.

People will always find things to complain about, be angry about, and even quietly feel unhappy about. I'd really rather focus on things to be happy about. I like being happy. I do feel that I've had a very generous dose of luck/fate/blessing... whatever you'd prefer to call it. I certainly can't complain about my life. But is it really just my circumstances? Am I really that much luckier than others? Or is it just that I don't/can't/won't see the negative stuff around me.

I often joke with my friends that I live in a bubble of sorts. I let all the negative stuff at work, school, in the neighbourhood bounce off my bubble, while I stay snug and warm (well, not always warm) inside. In a lot of ways, I'm very naive, I'm sure. I'm certainly not very worldly. I never watch the news or read newspapers. I get snippets of the happenings around me through pieces my dad sends me (thanks Dad, keep 'em coming), through articles brought to my attention on the many web-groups I subscribe to, through overhearing conversations at work and at home. I'm a 'bad' citizen I suppose, living just for myself and my family (and my students, and the univestity, and...) And for me, that's enough.

Because, I'm happy.

I like Japan. I like living in Japan. I like my Japanese family. I look at all the crazy, unexplainable, sometimes unforgivable stuff that goes on here, and I don't need to try and change anything. I can choose my place in it all. There are things I will not bend to, and I'm lucky because I don't really have to. I have a lot more freedom here, I think, than Japanese women do, because I have the loophole built into my face, my 'alien-ness'. I'm quite obviously not Japanese, so yes, I quite obviously do some things differently. And that's ok. I know that when it's hoped or even expected that I do things in certain Japanese forms, it doesn't mean that anyone is trying to change 'me'. I can choose to do or not to do, and I understand the weight of this decision each time I make it (which is usually pretty much every day, in some form or other).

I hope that my happiness affects the people around me. I hope that others will find some way to see more happiness in their lives. I hope my children are learning from me to be themselves, to make their own decisions about what they want to do (unless its something I've told them to do - ha ha), and to find happiness around them, no matter where they find themselves, and what they are doing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Taiga!!

Taiga celebrated his big "5" yesterday!

He was excited all day long about two things...
1) his present - he'd requested a specific game for the DS
2) his first day joining Kai's shorinji kempo class

We went to shorinji right after preschool, and Taiga was very keen to stand alongside Kai and go through the moves. Kai was a good, if a bit too strict, teacher. He enjoys being the one who 'knows' what to do, and its a good experience for him to show off as well. I'm glad that the two of them are finally doing an activity together. Up to now, all the extra activities we've done have been just for Kai.

After class, we headed to the restaurant for cake. Taiga loved his chocolate cake with Pokemon characters, just like he'd requested. He got his DS game cassette, plus a great Pokemon play kit from Kai, and a new DVD from Grandma and Grandpa, and a bit of cash from Jiichan and Baachan to pick his own gift from. He went to bed a happy 'big boy'.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Pit of Darkness

A friend of mine e-mailed me the other day, saying that he was on his bike heading toward Hasunuma. Unfortunately, I wasn't home at the time, so wouldn't be able to entertain him. The next day, he told me that he had a horrible time trying to find Hasunuma, and managed to get completely lost and turned around, while some maleficent force (apparently me) mischeiviously altered the roads as he traveled them, ensuring that he never reached his destination.

Later on, as I contemplated his story, it occurred to me that he had been attempting to find Hasunuma by bicyle, in the dark. He had emailed me at some time after 5 pm, and our area is in the full clutches of dusk by then, with 5:30 bringing on full darkness. Add to that the ongoing joke (which is quite true) that Hasunuma is located in the "pit of darkness", and it is no wonder he never found us. I began to wonder exactly what he was planning to find at the end of his great journey, which would reveal to him that he had discovered our fair town. A bustling city? No way! A cozy cluster of warm shops? Nope. A spattering of random lights? Not likely. In fact, without a specific and quite exact destination (the ramen shop, for example) there is really no way to distinguish any point of Hasunuma from any other expanse of dark field and random home.

In order to somehow come to closure on this traumatic journey, I invited him over for dinner last night. We traveled by car this time. As we drove, he tried to pick out landmarks that told of his previous path of travel. This proved very difficult, as one curve seems much like the next, and rice fields don't offer much in the way of distinguishing characteristics. I'm not sure if he was really prepared for the 'non-existance' of Hasunuma. It turns out he actually had ridden right into Hasunuma, and only a dozen blocks from our home, in fact.

So much for 'following the lights'. They certainly won't lead you to my home!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Happy Halloween!! (5 times over???)

Well, we managed to survive Halloween again this year, with 5 different events under our belts this time!

We started things off with pumpkin carving at IBA, the language school I sometimes help out at. We had about a dozen kids come out to help us carve the biggest darn pumpkin I've ever seen!! It was sure a lot of work (ahem) FUN!! The finished product was definitely worth all the ooey gooey slimy gut-pulling.

The following night we were back at IBA for their Trick-or-Treat event. There were about 40 kids there, ranging in age from 3 to maybe 13, with some older high school kids helping out. The place is always done up in amazing style, with black light and spooky sounds... A real treat! The atmosphere is pretty wild, the kids are even wilder, and my voice after the night is pretty much toast. Its a lot of fun for the kids though, and this is the only time they get a chance to do 'real' trick or treating through the neighbourhood in the dark. Too bad they have to travel around in one huge mob though. Its just not the same that way.

After a one night breather, we were off again with my own Halloween bash for my weekend kids. We had about 35 kids, with 5 or 6 parents helping out. My former student Kazumi was also on hand and was a huge life-saver! Much more organized than the IBA event, we had pumpkin carving (5 teams), a giant bingo-style game, and then game stations done on a rotation.

After all that, we headed out for a walk around the neighbourhood for a little trick-or-treating of our own. It was mid-afternoon, and they only actually visited 4 houses (including the ramen shop), but as a first experience for everyone, it was a great success. I'm hoping to be able to get more neighbours to help out next year. We actually traveled around in small groups, so it was a bit more 'real' feeling to me.

The next day found us out on the other side of the Chiba peninsula at the Wives' Club party. This is always great fun, for both the boys and for me. I love that the kids amuse themselves, and other than helping them load up their plates at lunch (its always a potluck), I can almost forget that they are there at all. This year's party was at a great house with a bamboo forest in the back, and lots of space for the kids to explore and get really really dirty. There was a whimsical enchanted forest populated with an amazing assortment of beanie babies and other 'creatures'. The kids got their third round of trick-or-treating in as well, going around to selected neighbours houses.

Finally, on the last day (a holiday Monday), we were at a community center helping out another teacher I've recently become good friends with. Most of her students are quite small, so it was a very cute event with activity stations and some pseudo trick-or-treating. A nice way to finish off Halloween.

I wonder what we'll find in our schedule next year!! I'm already planning our costumes...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Little Chef

The other day, Kai decided to make dinner for everyone. He chose to make 'omu-rice', a dish of fried rice wrapped in an egg omelet. He had to fry the rice up first, made traditionally with ketchup for a nice red colour. Then he fried up the egg omelet, added some rice, and 'folded' it all up to make a nice little packet. A final garnish of ketchup, and it was all done! And very tasty, I must say!! Good job Kai!

We're back!!

Ok, after a series of issues with our Yahoo 360 page, I've decided to have another go with this one. I hope you'll all be able to view this page more easily, and I hope I'll be able to keep up with my entries. I have to remind myself that I don't need to wait for a significant event to write, and I don't have to write in pure chronological order as well. So, be prepared for snippets, essays, rants, and random thoughts. I'll try to post things as they come up, but if I skip around a little, please forgive me. Such is the state of my mind and my life. Anyone who has seen my house can attest to that!

So welcome to all of my dear friends and family. Sorry for the long silence. We're ready for a fresh start.