Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Shopping Day

Wednesday was shopping day!

I worked in the morning, while the kids did their homework. After lunch, we hit the mall. I bought Amy and Lena a 'rash guard' each. That always seems like such a dumb word for it when we don't use them for surfing, but for sun protection. Both of them were fine with going brown last year, but Amy decided on her own that she didn't want to tan this year, and Lena was TOLD by her 'Idol Class' teacher to choose either an all-over tan, or none at all! Luckily the trend for what I prefer to call 'swimming tops' is catching on here, and there were some cute ones this year. Amy's has Winnie the Pooh on it. Cute never goes out of fashion in Japan. Lena's is pink with mesh panels in the back and under the arms, which looks really cool, but is maybe a bit loose for proper swimming.

And I bought a parasol! Right now, despite the ozone layer and melanoma rates, NZers will be thinking I am certifiably bonkers. But dammit, it's very convenient carrying your shade with you! I have to walk to the train on Tuesday, and then from the station to the factory I teach at in another town, and it's DAMN hot! I've been using umbrellas, but I decided I wanted a real parasol with a lining to reduce heat and cut UV rays. It's black, and I managed to find one without lace trimmings, just a subtle damask-style rose pattern, black on black.

We also bought face powder - Chacott. Stage make-up, I know, they even had a pure white one, but it was only ¥1200. This was after the girls and I spent a good ten minutes drawing lines all over my face of different Revlon powders, only to find that my chosen shade was sold out. That tells you something about the goal of make-up in Japan - it's for whitening here, not blending in, so while I clearly have lighter skin, it's *my* shade that's sold out!

We also got some toiletries, the yummiest cheese and bacon bread ever at the Jusco supermarket bakery, a water gun for Erica, a t-shirt and summer cardy combo for Amy (she bought it), stuff for the cats and ice creams for us all. We stopped by Shimamura on the way home, where Lena got a top and shorts, and Amy got a gorgeous dress, and I got floral jeans, a peasant top and a maxi dress with a string top to go over it. Amy, Lena and I all happily tried on clothes for an hour, while Erica played hide and seek with her new bestfriendsforever that she met five minutes before.

Ahhh... shopping with the girls!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

More Joyfull

I can't seem to keep away.

Apparently there's a girl in this house called Amy, but I'm not sure, I don't see her often. She's quite nice, she's says hello and goodbye, and I think she's human, because she moans dreadfully about the noise when I wake the other two in the morning for rajio taiso. (If you don't know what that is by now, stuff it, go check July of every other year!).

She appears out of bed, nags me incessantly for the ten minutes demanding to know where her gym clothes are, where her underwear is, where she left her head, and MUM PLEASE DRIVE ME! Which I do, because a) it's only time I get to talk to her, b) it's already a hard morning for her running in the sun let alone walking there too and c) there's air con in the car.

In the morning Lena and Erica do homework. I gave Erica a kindergarten book to work with, and Lena helped her with it - who knew? She is a natural teacher, patient and good at explaining. And Erica is an active learner - she spent most of the time with her feet kicking out behind her, she would stop moving long enough to write a word, then kick again. This does not bode well for school, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

The wraith appears again around lunchtime, which she skips, checks once with me that her outfit looks okay (feeling happy that I'm still trusted to know, though she defers to Lena if she's there) and off she goes again. They reappeared once this afternoon to 'show' me their very tomboy friend, the 'big version of Erica'. Then off again, to Joyfull apparently, where they went yesterday too.

Amy handed me the drink tickets when she got home (for a discounted all-you-can-drink drink bar), but I told her to keep them. She was so happy - more so at the implication that it was fine that she went, and fine for her to go again.

She reappeared again at 6, having spent THREE HOURS at Joyfull. And off again to Gion practice. I'll be taking Lena and Erica to Joyfull in a moment, I'm not cooking tonight after slogging away all day today getting the living room clean, including sorting and cleaning books, and 4 DIY projects involving, one of which worked.

That was the extra long studs to hold the book shelf in the bookcase. My attempt to fix the lower panel of the front door screen failed (wrong materials), clearing the paper from the shoji paper doors is a work in progress, and my el cheap air conditioner is still under construction...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Crazy Joy

I'm not sure why my student wants her lesson in Joyfull, a busy family restaurant. I met her first at her house, she has a huge house, and no-one it in - daughter moved out, son at school all day, husband passed away ten years ago. Maybe there were grandparents hiding somewhere, who knows. But her living room was bigger than some people's apartments, and had this... thing... in it. A corner of the room walled off with glass, with a sunken floor and sofas around the four sides of the square that resulted. I couldn't quite figure out what the architect had in mind (and yes, this was the type of house that most definitely came from the mind of an architect, not the pages of a house company brochure), but it seemed ideal for English conversation, as did the coffee table bigger than some people's cars.

But she preferred to drive into town, get a table at Joyfull, pay for drink bar tickets for both of us (which is why I am still awake, still buzzing on the cappuccino), and natter away at our booth, hopefully not disturbing the neighboring diners too much. At first I found it both a bit embarrassing, and limiting - I couldn't really connect the 'quiet dining' persona with the 'outgoing English teacher' persona, who is a lot louder! But over time, I got used to it, to just talking normally, neither too quiet nor too loud.

Unlike our fellow diners tonight.

First of all, we were sitting next to a booth containing high school girls. To tell the truth, they were actually quite well behaved, but you just can't have high school girls anywhere without squealing and loud laughter happening at least a few times. There were kids, of course, being a family restaurant at the start of the summer holidays, but the crying baby, dancing kindergartener and loud requests from the kids at the table in the corner were NOTHING on Loud Guy and Nasty Guy.

Loud Guy was apparent from the start of the night - everyone in the place knew he ordered a cheese-in hamburger. Nasty Guy was sitting with a very quiet wife, son (?in-law) and daughter (?-in-law) and kid, who all looked very cowed, but I didn't notice him until he and Loud Guy started arguing - I didn't hear the whole exchange but it included one telling the other to be mindful of the other customers with that loud voice, then both of them calling each other stupid. I should add Japanese almost never have public confrontations like this. Like everyone else, I very quietly pretended it wasn't happening. Except to take a peek at the protagonists the next time I filled up my Pepsi (not happy with the drink bar selection, by the way).

Finally both lots left, to be replaced by a table full of loud teenage BOYS - much to the delight of the table of high school girls, but not such good news for us! The last thing we did in the lesson was list verbs saying what we are doing right now: sitting, studying etc. I added 'listening to very loud customers' and my student laughed, then Nasty Guy slumped past the window outside on his way to the car park. Grumpy, I said, which resulted in me and my student both looking up the word for a Japanese definition. And me finding this

I swear, the guy looked EXACTLY like this. Whereupon student and I joined the noise and giggled our way out of the lesson!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hot, hot, and then some

I'm sitting here, in front of my computer,

... wearing a house dress (well, just a loose cotton dress I bought online that is too loosely cut in front so I can't really wear it outside of the house),  fan on full bore blowing on me, not oscillating, a bottle of ice in front of it in the hopes that that will cool the air just a little more, another fan on full bore in the next room, this one oscillating and blowing by me every now and then, with a chamois draped around my neck for more cooling, and another towel to daintily dab the sweat from my face, and a water bottle, empty, because I tend to drink all 500ml at once.

And like that, I can concentrate on work.

Yeah, it's hot, but there are some hidden advantages to going no air con! I am COOLER a lot of the time, except for that one time of the day when I feel like I'm going to melt. But most days around that time, I'm at work (air conditioned), and if not, I take a shower, or go shopping (air conditioned) and every evening I have to take the kids to various classes in the car (air conditioned) so I do get to escape it usually, though I end up having to fight with my students over what temperature to set the air conditioner at!

I'm cooler at night, sleeping. I remember when we used to have the air con on to sleep (switching off later) I would always feel hot in the morning. Now I get to enjoy, really enjoy, the cool breezes of morning, and those moments when I actually get to feel COLD and - gasp - have to put my blanket on (my cotton air cell blanket).

But the best thing is not instantly wilting and breaking into a drenching sweat the minute I leave my house - or just the living room. Which means I can get more done around the house but best of all, spending time outdoors is much more pleasant. All I need is shade and a mild breeze and I feel fine. Night events are even better, no sweat (literally) in the cool evening.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

A Few Things

Laugh of the day: Lena was sitting on the floor at the kotatsu doing homework this morning, and felt something brush against her leg. Thinking it was a cat, she reached out to touch.... A cockroach! While she stood on the sofa eeking and freaking and literally crying, the rest of us tried very hard not to laugh, and the cats and I chased the cockroach until I caught it under the bug spray can. Yes, wrong side, I know, but I left it there to deal with later... only to find the can knocked over later. Kind of hope the cats got it, kind of don't, since we sprayed it a lot last night when we first saw it.

(shudder: a cat rubbed against my legs just now!!! Creepy!)

Lena's hissy fit was probably only marginally less ridiculous than Kanji and me squealing and trying to hide behind each other when we first attacked it last night - and it flew at us!!!

But not nearly as funny as Kanji trying out the brand new 'one spray per day' (eg, every 12 hours: no, we have not worked out how that works yet) and spraying himself in the face.

He's not having a good week. He got caught not stopping at a Stop sign. Twice. At the same intersection. sigh. They've been fixing up the roads between our house and his shop for years, and this intersection was finally totally finished, painted and perfect. What better time to set up a sting? I've been stopping at it for ages, because I've noticed the police on that road numerous times - it seems whenever there is roadworks, people think there are no rules any more and do what they like, so the cops follow them there and catch them. Apparently Kanji had not noticed though!


Just did something I have not done for years, and never in this house. Carried a warm, freshly washed and DRIED load out of the laundry to fold. Ever since the shocking failure of my last drier, which took six hours to dry one load into a crumpled heap because all it did was blast hot air on the just-spun load, I've had to do without. So it was a mixed blessing when the machine started to play up, and a piece of happy luck to find a combination machine on sale for 88,800 (they are usually about 150,000). Now all I have to do is try not to use it too much!


Three new recipes tonight, mixed results. I added grated carrot to my corn fritters - that worked! I love corn fritters with sweet chili sauce. And added moyashi to latkes. Or, mung bean sprouts to the potato cakes we used to have that we called mock whitebait fritters. Bean sprouts make much better fake whitebait! I also tried crumbed pumpkin slices, Lena's idea after I tried crumbed zucchini a few weeks ago, which she loved. Fail. I tried doing them in the oven and added too much oil. Anyone have any idea how to re-make too-oily crumbed pumpkin into something?

At Fadies to get the chili sauce, I saw.... drumroll please....

Babich Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. 1980 yen. ($25). And yep, you just know I'll fork out for it! I only just, with a great show of will power, that I managed to not buy it tonight, knowing it would just sit there taunting me all week. Now I am seriously thinking of how many other ways I can cook mung beans and tofu for dinner tomorrow and Friday so I can afford it!


It's a new Wednesday. Bye-bye laid-back Wednesday, although with swimming starting later the afternoon felt longer. I added juku for Amy from 7-9, after her swimming lesson, so she needed a snack. Now I really do only have Friday left!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

One little monkey jumping on the bed

Well, actually she was jumping OFF the bed. The bed in question isn't exactly fun to jump on, with its wooden base with a futon on top... So OFF the bed, landing awkwardly, possibly skidding on her futons set on the floor and

She fell off and bumped her head

Well, cut it open actually. Crashed her head into the squared metal pole supporting Amy's loft bed. I heard the thump, and thought it was particularly loud (I am used to loud thumps from upstairs that I know is the sound of kids jumping off the bed onto the floor. It always startles guests because the whole house shakes and it feels like the ceiling is going to come crashing down, but I know from experience that it won't!). The sound was different this time, so I thought she had dropped a toy drawer to the ground from its place in the upper half of the closet, since her mission that afternoon was to find 'Littlest Pets' toys to give to a friend.

I was eating a banana, so I thought I would finish that then go up and help her clean up the mess. THEN came the scream. You know how the longer the gap, the bigger the scream? Yeah.

So up I rushed, amazing how fast you can streak up stairs when you need to! Banana still in hand, sisters also appeared literally from no-where, I'm sure I was all alone in the living room before that, then they were just there!

I saw the blood running down her face and freaked out a little bit! OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod! Shake hands like fool. Then order Amy to fetch me a towel as I looked around the room which was relatively tidy for once and therefore had no towels lying on the floor. Dump banana on clothes box. Look at sweet, frightened baby and realize I had to pull myself together. Start speaking in a deliberately slow and gentle voice, telling her it was alright, just a little blood, we'd get it fixed up soon.

Pressed towel onto bloody head. "Shall I get your phone?" said Amy, who was thinking more clearly than I was at the time. I had no idea where my phone was, so we all trooped downstairs. We called Kanji first, who was still miles away, having gone to a meeting out of town that day - worst luck, normally he would be able to come.

Mama called the doctor 

Well, the ambulance actually. I was so concerned about holding the towel to her head, and driving, and wondering where I should go, that I decided to call the ambulance.

I probably wouldn't have unless Kanji hadn't suggested calling them that night I broke my toe. If that was worth a call, this was!  and got all annoyed when they started to try out their three sentences of English on her,

and the doctor said,

Well, the ambulance driver said, "Watto aduresso". Damn. Honest, it was just a moment's hesitation, just turned to Amy once to check the word for 'pole', and BAM, that "this person speaks no Japanese so I have to use my three English sentences on her" thing happened. Nice of them to try, of course, but I can speak a whole lot more Japanese, including directions and medical terminology, than the page or two of English they have on a little bit of paper in the back of the ambulance. It wouldn't bother me, of course, only it can sometimes take several repetitions of "I can speak Japanese" for it sink in and for them to both stop trying out their English sentences and worse, trying to decipher my 'English' answers (which are actually Japanese, but it shows how much people can block their hearing).

So I threw several more quickly spoken fully Japanese sentences at them and the switch happily happened, and the ambulance driver said,

"wait outside the bank we'll be there in a few minutes".

I should add here that they really are 'ambulance drivers'. Not paramedics, not nurses. The amount of actual medical procedures they can do are limited - they can't put in lines or give pain medication. What they can do is drive you there safely, and they know where to take you, which, in Japan, is not as clear as it should be.

Meanwhile I found my phone in my pocket, where it had been all along.

Out we go to the street, me holding Erica in my arms, awkwardly pressing the towel against her head, Amy holding an umbrella as it had started to rain. Then she held the towel because my hand was getting sore all twisted around. At this point I thought I might have been able to drive, as I realized Amy could probably do the first aid, though I still didn't know where to go (Kanji had the hospital number, though we could have called and asked).

Meanwhile neighbors gathered. A woman came round the corner, I vaguely recognized her, I think from the school. She stopped her car, jumped out and came over to see if we were okay. "Oh, the ambulance is on its way", I said. I could hear it by then. It seemed to take ages. I remember wondering how they would get the house if we couldn't come out to meet them outside the bank - run in with the stretcher, I suppose.

By the time they arrived I was feeling quite embarrassed, and quite a wee crowd had gathered outside the bank. Oh well, I thought, everyone knows now. So I climbed in the back with Erica (Amy and Lena stayed home), and they wrapped her head up with gauze after judging it to be about 1cm long and1/2c wide, and off we went, Erica's temperature and blood pressure being taken, and me being asked if she had passed out, seen stars or felt sick.

I forgot to look out the front window to see the parting of the ways, except for one point when we were on the main road, and I saw all the cars lined up on either side of the street as we went down the center - meanwhile Erica was calm enough to be fiddling and asking questions about the stuff in the back of the ambulance... by this time I was quite convinced we didn't need an ambulance, but well, it was a bit late by then.

So they drove us up to the door of the pediatric emergency entrance (there isn't a dedicated emergency department in the hospital) where we had to wait a bit for the one on duty pediatrician. She declared it too big for her boots, and promptly called the surgeon. I had time then to call Kanji, who was still on the road, and Kristin, who was on her way to visit with 3 kids (eek! but also, phew - will you arrive and promptly babysit and cook dinner while I hang out at the hospital, please?).

He came pretty quickly, along with my student from last year's hospital class! Erica was SOOOO good. She really likes hospitals and doctors, goodness knows why, with all that has happened to her! She was quite determined that it wasn't going to hurt and she lay still while they cleaned it up and applied the steri-strips. The nurse was funny, handing the surgeon what he needed just before he asked... he'd say 'are...' ('that one') and there she'd have it. Yes, Maria, Mum and Rebecca, I know, you nurses always have to tell those doctors what to do! She was real smooth too...

And we were given two days worth of prophylactic antibiotics and told to go to any old nearby surgeon on Monday.

Back home in time to cook dinner, then everyone arrived - Kristin and the kids, then Kanji, and Erica made a miraculous recovery so she could play with her friends and then everyone said,

no more monkeys jumping on the bed!