Phew! I mananged to cram loads into five and a half short days!
We started the long, long weekend (Saturday to Wednesday) with a Friday afternoon spent in hospital waiting rooms (dermatologist and dentist). Not the most fun start to the week, but we quickly made up for it with Hotto Motto (take-out) for dinner and sat down to watch a movie together. Dirty Dancing of course. The kids hadn't seen it yet, and I cracked open a half bottle of champange. Two hours and LOTS of questions later, and the girls were prancing around the living room. Another favorite to add to their list.
Saturday was the day of the big party. Friends Zain and Mari and their little baby Kiara were back from the US for one very short week to attend her sister's wedding. Because Mari's parents live in a different town, I offered them the use of my house for a reunion party so all their Nakatsu friends could come over, including the kids. We had a pot-luck lunch, it turned out to be a great spread with three different kinds of chicken (pot UNlucky!), two different sorts of sushi, fried shrimp, pears, grapes, donuts, and various snack foods. And beer. Of course.
Two very grubby babies and one broken window later and the party wound up fairly early, allowing me an early night in preparation for Sunday.
Sunday we attended the Sports Day at the small primary school I teach at in the mountains. It's a tiny school with just 14 students in total, and this is its last year of operation. From next year, the 14 kids have to travel a few kilometres down the road to the next school. I was wondering what 14 kids would do all day long for sports events, but the whole community came out in support, and joined in the color teams. Mums and Dads ran relay races and there was even a gate ball relay for the oldies (gate ball is a version of croquet played by old folk like bowls in NZ).
Monday I taught a lesson in the morning, then took off to Jusco for lunch. Baachan broke her arm in a fall a week ago, so I couldn't make her cook us all lunch. Erica fell asleep on the way, so I drove to a park and read a book while Amy and Lena played. When hunger got too much for us we went to the mall and had lunch in a family restaurant. We shopped, but only bought stuff at the 100yen shop - loads of party things for Erica's birthday.
Monday night I was scheduled to go out to karaoke with Zain (back from America) but he started drinking a little too early and piked! In the meantime I had rustled up my old drinking buddy Maiko and her boyfriend, so I went with them instead. We stayed out til 3 singing natsukashii old J-Pop tunes and Abba...
...Which meant I took it rather slow on Tuesday morning. I read on the sofa, pulled out into a bed, with my little puppies around me watching Disney and Nickelodeon. At 11am I forced myself to move and made it as far as McDonald's, but only the drive-through, and quickly retreated back home to watch Billy Elliot. Erica and I took a nap after that, and woke up just in time to get ready for Tuesday night.
That night we went to a birthday party for Ana, the wife of the owner of my 'local', the Mexican bar. She's Mexican too, and doesn't speak English or much Japanese yet either. She was turning 20, a big deal in Japan as it's the age you can drink and drive. It was a surprise party - we all hid behind the bar and jumped out at her. She got such a fright she cried! Then she opened her present - a huge box full of balloons and children and a puppy that she named Leno. We didn't stay too long as we were afraid of Erica's asthma getting worse again with the tobacco smoke, so we left at the very first cough. I took the girls home in the car with a 'change driver' taxi, and this time Kanji stayed out until 3am.
Wednesday we went to Oita to go shopping. I stopped first at a book store that used to have a good selection of English books...very few books stores have a good selection anymore or any magazines since the internet. Overall we're better off, but I do miss browsing. We then drove round in circles trying to find Park Place. We finally got there, and had lunch at an Italian restaurant. It was truly divine!
It was a bit more expensive than the usual lunch places, with dishes 1000-1500 yen, but it was worth it. Like many restaurants in Japan it was noisy - I don't know what it is about them, they seem to be designed to amplify accoustics, maybe they like the busy bustle and noise, it makes it look popular?? There always seems to be a big humming noise of air conditioning or ovens or an industrial-strength extractor fan somewhere, and the constant clatter of dishes. The upside, of course, is that three little girls' noise goes completely unnoticed. They even SANG A SONG and not even the people at the next table noticed!
We had four dishes shared between us - a warm salad of potato, carrot, broccoli and cauliflower with garlic butter, a huge cheese-filled rice ball with a tomato meat sauce, thick fat parpadelle pasta with chicken and broccoli in a creamy white sauce, and a margherita pizza. And there were still things I wanted to eat on the menu!
Then we hit the shops. The haul included: new jeans for Amy and Lena, who have put holes in the knees of all the ones they currently have; toys - Lego for Amy and Lena and a puzzle book for Erica; several hundred yen wasted playing those silly games where you try to get stuff knocked off a shelf into the scoop; several hundred more indulging Erica's 'need' to ride every single Anpanman ride (four); a Harry Potter board game that was on 'time service' for 500yen; some pretty Body Shop creams and potions to make me (ethically) beautiful; some fancy balloons for Erica's birthday party; A.I.'s new 'best of' CD; ice creams and chocolate parfaits (with cornflakes, sigh); lucky dips - three for 1000 and we got a ball (a pretty good one acutally) a slinky and a Care Bear mug.
We finally got out of there to find Erica's puzzle book was gone! While I was looking at the time service table (table of goods on special only at that hour) Lena took her to play in the baby playground...and neglected to put the book, which Erica had been holding in her hand, back on the stroller. I hummed and hahhed and decided it was worth it to go back and check the Lost and Found. I couldn't find the help desk, so we headed back to the playground. I asked at one counter, and was told to ask at the toy counter. Before going there, we checked the shelf to see if they put it back on, then checked the playgound...and there it was! In the meantime, some kid had opened it and played with it. There was a load of books in the playgound, so they must have just assumed it was a shop toy. All the bits were still there, and the packaging, so Amy and Lena patiently put it all back together and we drove home.
We finished the weekend where we started - with bentos from Hotto Motto.