Monday, November 27, 2006

Some Shameless Begging

I have just entered some photos in a contest and as always, left it to the last minute to submit them. Told myself I had plenty of time. Then of course - I noticed that you need votes from viewers!

The magazine is called the Japanzine (the old Alien if you were here long ago like I was). You DO need to sign up as a member though, so no worries if you don't want to..... It is a cool mag though, especially when you're living here or were living here, or want to live here, or want to visit here, or want to know what it's like for your friend to live here ......

My photos can all be seen at:

that of course is just one of the photos - you can see my others on the side.

Talking 'bout the weather

One thing I love about living in Japan is watching the seasons change. When we first arrived here in March, Wayne saw his first snow. Quickly the white of snow turned to the pale pink of the Cherry Blossoms. Their days were short-lived and the sky turned to grey for the rainy season. I always dread the end of rainy season, because it heralds the arrival of summer. The Japanese summer is long, hot, humid and exhausting. Before we knew it though, the skies had turned a clear crisp blue with faint brushstrokes of clouds to announce autumn. This year autumn was unseasonably warm so we had hardly seen the leaf colours change before the cold of winter was upon us.

It really doesn't feel like long ago that I was complaining of the heat, and now, I'm rugging up every day in multiple layers and looking at down-filled jackets. My friends back home tell me of the heat that is now building up. While I really miss the Queensland beaches in summer, I'm looking forward to a white Christmas - we're going to be up in Nagano skiing for the holiday this year.

Just so you can see if I'm my weather complaints are accurate or a little exaggerated, I've found a little weather box to put on my blog.

Mmmm best go, time for another hot chocolate to warm me up......

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Filling in the blanks

It’s funny how when you only know some of a language, your mind will work hard to fill in the blanks. I sometimes find myself watching TV over here and trying to work out what is going on and coming with a scenario in my head.

I used to play a game when watching TV of “Guess what this commercial is for”, some were easy, others, I never figured out. I remember way back watching a drama on the fateful September 11. The show abruptly ended and a scene of New York with a tower on fire was broadcast. I sat for a number of minutes trying to figure out what the commercial was advertising and musing to myself that it was going for an awfully long time.

Every morning at school, the day begins with a staff meeting. I usually stand up, say my “Ohaiyo Gozaimasu” with a brief nod of the head and then sit down and ignore the rest of the proceedings, as I have no idea of what they are all talking about. Recently, I heard something about a female, a measurement in centimeters and a hospital. I assumed that someone had had a baby. How wrong I was! It was in fact about an elderly woman who had left a local hospital and was now lost. Everyone was being asked to keep an eye out for her.

I am lucky that I work with three other native English speakers. It somehow takes the edge off the isolation that can sometimes be felt over here. Jason, who sits next to me, has the highest level of Japanese out all of us. We sometimes rely on him for translations. After the morning meeting on Friday, he turned to me and told me
“There’s a ghost in the school”.

Jason loves a joke, so I simply turned to him and asked “What are you talking about now?”

“No, seriously! They were talking about it in the morning meeting! They were very concerned and said that something had to be done about it. They were talking about an obake. Obake means ghost!” he told me all excited.

Japan takes its ghosts a little more seriously than we do back home, so it didn’t sound that unbelievable. Where was the ghost? What are they going to do about it? I wanted to know.

It was a couple of hours before we had that one cleared up. The teachers had indeed been talking about an Obake but it had a different meaning. They were using to term to refer to a person that reserves a room and then doesn’t turn up to use it.

I can tell you, I’m never going to forget the word for ghost now.

Those Love-Hate Days

I haven’t written for a while, I have had blog posts running through my head but have been really busy.

Most of the time I love living in Japan. I love how simple and healthy life can be over here. I love the innocence of most of my students. I love the lack of aggression. I just love the standard of service no matter where you go.

There are days however that I hate it. Last Sunday was one of those days. It had been a bit of a rough week proceeding it. With the birth of Mel’s adorable little boy, Wayne’s and my thoughts had turned to the more logistical side of our future family plans.

We had always thought that in a number of years, we would start our family over here. We love the idea of raising children, at least for a number of years, in a bilingual environment. Once they were coming up to school age, we would decide how and where we wanted them educated.

But recently, a deeper fear and loneliness seems to have set it. I joked to a friend that it seems I’m going through post-natal depression on Mel’s behalf. I have started to worry about my low level Japanese and dealing with doctors. I have worried about the difference in attitudes to childbirth here. But mostly I have worried about the lack of support and being isolated. I have some really dear, giving friends here, but everyone has their own lives to lead as well. We also don’t want our friendships to change into something else because we lean too heavily on people for help.

So a week of nutting over plans, different ideas and late night talks had exhausted us. On Sunday, doing even the simplest of tasks just seemed so difficult. We had a form to fill in and be faxed off, something that would be done in a flash had we been dealing in English, but instead saw us screaming at each other, tears of frustration flowing and doors would have been slammed had our paper sliding doors been up to it.

I’m just not sure how we’d go raising a child over here when we can’t do the basic things. We’ve had an eight month drama of trying to order a computer, I’ve had problems with my visa and hence haven’t even been able to get a bank account and then there was all the stress with dealing with doctors and the hospital while Wayne was sick.

Monday luckily brought an upturn to our feelings. That night we had dinner at a sweet, kind friend’s house. She has us over every few weeks. While she and her husband don’t speak English, we always have a wonderful night and leave feeling loved.

We still haven’t decided what the best plan of attack is for baby plans, but we have a little while yet to think about that. Now I suppose, its time to go back to loving this place…..

Thursday, November 16, 2006

So just how cute are you?

I learnt a new Japanese proverb today. Jason, one of the guys I work with was telling me about his son. He said something along the lines of "He's so cute, you could stick him in your eye and it wouldn't hurt." My response? "Whaaaaaaat??????"

He was translating the Japanese proverb,

"me ni iretemo itakunai" 目に入れても痛くない

otherwise translated as "Even if it pokes me in the eye, it wont hurt (it is VERY cute!)" or "Even if I stick it in my eye, it won’t hurt".

Interesting idea...... thanks for that one Jason.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Kawaii or Kowai?

As in many languages, Japanese has some words that sound similar. Some of them can then be rather embarrassing to confuse…. My personal mistakes include kirei (beautiful) and kirai (to hate); I was trying to tell my hairdresser that I hated my hair and instead I told her that I thought it was beautiful, ningen (human being) and ninjin (carrot) and for some reason, kakigori (shaved ice) and gokiburi (cockroach); one summer found me telling my friend a number of times that I really wanted to eat a cockroach.

A pair that I have always been very careful of are kawaii (cute) and kowai (scary). Soon after I arrived in Japan the first time, I was told a story of a guy who saw a baby on the train and told the mother “Oh, he’s so scary” and couldn’t understand why the woman looked rather upset.

Japan loves all things kawaii and the word is thrown around, sometimes rather loosely. Often at school, I will have girls gushing at me telling me I am kawaii. I admit, I like the flattery, but it can be rather off putting while in the middle of explaining an important grammar point to a class.

Now, I don’t often get angry at a class, but it does happen on the occasion if I’m in a particularly foul mood or if they are being really annoying. One such day, my class was being really rowdy and would not quiet down. I’d had enough and went off. My diatribe went something like this;

“Everyone, BE QUIET! I’m serious! You have your interview tests today and I am trying to explain something very important. Now you want to be quiet because if you are not, I am going to be in a VERY bad mood and if I’m in a very bad mood, you will get a bad score on your interview test. So now everybody LISTEN”

The hushed atmosphere of the room as everyone looked at me, mouths open, gave a moment of false hope that I’d had some effect, until… one of the girls at the front of the room, in a loud voice gushed…


I turned bright red and quietly said, “Kawaii jyanai deshoo, kowai deshoo?” (I’m not cute, I’m scary aren’t I?). Mmmm so much for my attempt at being scary.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My Cafe Press Store

So what exactly does one do during a seven week summer holiday when it's too hot to go out side? Personally, I hid out in one of my two airconditioned tatami rooms.

To amuse myself, I played on the computer, started this blog and my Kimono Reincarnate blog and started taking my Cafe Press store seriously.

In the store, I load up my images and then choose what products they can be sold on. Since I've started I've made a few sales, which is always exciting. Wayne and I have also ordered a few things for ourselves. I plan to add more designs regularly. Anyway, if you're interested, it's on:

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Congratulations Mel and Seigo!

That big bump Mel has been carrying around for a while now finally burst and out came a little boy (hehehe... so I was right hey Mel - it WAS a boy...).

They have called him Ryder and both mum and bub are doing well.

Congratulations guys!

Kitty-chan does Sumo

This is just soooo wrong. Hello Kitty, or Kitty-chan as she's known over here, as a sumo wrestler. I picked this little one up at the last Nagoya sumo tournament.

Personally, I think she looks far cuter in the sumo apron.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Mino Lanterns

Last night, Wayne and I went to Mino with Natsuki and Ikuko to see the lanterns. We had sadly missed the big festival last month due to Wayne being "diseased in the head". In the festival in October, the old cobbled streets of mino are lined with hundreds of lanterns in its annual competition.

Mino is famous for its handmade paper, so all the entries into the competition must use Mino Washi - Mino's handmade paper. Some of the pieces are truly amazing and the old town looks magical.

There were only a small number of the lanterns to be seen last night, but it was a lovely evening, the moon was bright in the autumn sky and the air was crisp. We can't wait to go again next year.