Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter at Tama

We took Ethan and Megan to the Easter Eggstravaganza put on by our base's Services Squadron at Tama Hills today. They had a huge egg hunt, a petting zoo, some bouncy castles and pony rides. They also had a big Easter buffet, but it was booked up months ago, next year we're planning to book one of the cabins for Easter eve so we can spend the night and have all of Easter Sunday to spend up there. Megan won two huge baskets filled with candy and toys. Ethan couldn't have been less interested. Gabi went to church and had Easter lunch with Kelekah.


Megan was terrified of this baby chick. She refused to bring it any closer to her face, afraid it would peck her eyes out. What a chicken! LOL


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Gabi's 1st Track Meet


Today was Gabi's first track meet. She really loves to run and seems to have a pretty decent talent for it; her father was a big time runner and ran track in Jr. high and high school so maybe that's where she gets it from, 'cause it sure didn't come from my side of the family! She ran in 4 events, she was only supposed to do 2, but 2 girls didn't show up so Gabi ran in their place; we won't have the results until Tues/Wed but I think she did pretty well. Her best friend Kelekah's mom is the sprinting coach and she's done a great job with Gabi. The meets are sooooooo long! Today was 9:30a - 3:00p!! And of course Gabi was in the 2nd and the last events so we stayed ALL DAY.

Here's a shot of her strong finish! She was totally exhausted and fell asleep in her floor at 7:00p, right in the middle of playing a game with Meg.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Ethan-chan's new school

I've finally gotten off my butt and found a fully Japanese preschool for Ethan. It's called Kodomo Gakuen; click here to check out their website, it's got lots of great info and pictures.

For those who don't know, Ethan has been attending Kunitachi Kids International School. KK is a Japanese preschool off base, but it's an Enlish immersion school for Japanese kids, which means only English is spoken. We really like it and Ethan was happy there, but I'm determined that he (and the rest of us as well) will become fluent in Japanese while we're here! One of my biggest regrets is that I grew up in Japan, but never learned to speak Japanese!

The Japanese school year runs April - March, with about a 2 week break in between, so school got out this week, including Kunitachi. Ethan will start at Kodomo at the beginning of the new school year, April 7. Like KK, Kodomo has a bus that picks up from our gate at 8:30am, they get home around 3:00p. I think there are 4 other American kids enrolled. One awesome thing that I couldn't believe is that Kodomo offers an extended day program, with bus service! If I need Ethan to stay later, they'll keep him until 5:30, then bring him home on the bus!

There are 3 English speaking teachers on staff, so they'll help with his transition, but both of his teachers are Japanese, and with only 4 American kids out of 240, he'll get plenty of Japanese practice! I'm so excited!! I can't wait to hear him sprechen some Nihongo!!

Kampai!!!

Finally, after 20 years......I mean, after 15 years of alcohol consumption, I can finally have a beer with my best friend Robin. Until now all beer tasted like pure horse piss to me. Just plain nasty! And believe me, I've really tried to like it. But now, thanks to Suntory, I can kick back with Rob on her couch and knock back a few cold ones of my own:

It's PINEAPPLE BEER!!!! And man, is it good!!!

A few months ago I went to a karaoke restuarant with a culture class I was in and they had the yummiest pineapple wine, which I had never tasted before. I've been searching every where for it with no luck. I was in a Happy Foods grocery store today looking for a juicebox for Ethan and stumbled across this bit o' liquid gold! It didn't occur to me at the time (not being a beer drinker and all) to see if they sold it by the case, so I'll definitely need to go back and check. The store isn't very close to the base, so I'll have to check the ones around here to see if they stock it. It's only 7:30 Friday morning in Hotlanta, but I'll drink a couple for you Piece-a-pear-head.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chestnut Mojo

Tonight Otis and I went to Member Apprecitation Night at the Officer's Club with our friends Frank and Candy (Frank is an OR nurse too, he just came back last week from 4 months in Afghanistan). The club has a member's night every month with free dinner, games and prizes.

My name got picked for musical chairs, I lost. But to my credit I got down to 4 people out of 10 after I had already had 3 margaritas and was walking round and round a small circle in high heels. My consolaton prize was $5 in "Club Bucks" which will get me 2 margaritas, and my name went back in the pot. Towards the end of the night they pulled Otis' name for a digital camera, called another name for an umbrella, then pulled my name for a micro stereo system!! Woo hoo! I've been begging Otis to go to member's night ever since we got here but it's always in the middle of the week and he hates going out on a school night, but now he's ready to go back again :)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Did I mention that I LOVE TOKYO?!?!?! Day Two

We slept in Saturday morning then headed for Tokyo Tower on foot. It took us about 30 minutes, but we were just ambling along taking in the sights, I probably could have made it in 20 on my own. Click here to see the rest of the pictures. Along the way was this woman and her performing monkey. It was really just creepy. The monkey obviously wanted no part of the show and he kept shrieking and showing his huge fangs. Of course we had no idea what the woman was saying but she just kept laughing...really creepy.



Ethan taking in the view of Tokyo.


I'll let you take a guess at what this thing is supposed to be. No, it's not a giant penis in overalls, which is the obvious first guess. I have absolutely no idea what the band aid is for.

We had a good time, we took the elevator up to the first observatory, but the girls took the stairs back down (about 600 steps). Afterwards we had lunch at Wendy's (the first one we've seen in Japan) and wandered through Roppongi and Roppongi Hills. After a nap and some TV Otis and I drove over to the New Sanno hotel, about 10 minutes away, to get some dinner and check out the hotel (Otis had never been there). We headed home on Sunday around 12:00 because we were sure we'd hit a 3 hour traffic snarl, but it only took 45 minutes! Again we couldn't believe how lucky we got! It's exactly 46 km (28.5 mi) from our house to Hardy Barracks.


Here's Ethan amidst a gaggle of adoring fans. Everytime we stop we get a swarm of women and girls, he's just so kawaii...even when we pull up next to a Japanese woman or girl at a stop light they're smiling and waving at him. Sometimes he hams it up and waves and blows kisses, which sends them into hysterics, but a lot of the time he's his usual stinky self and turns his head away, refusing to acknowledge them at all.

Did I mention that I LOVE TOKYO ?!?!? Day One

Damn good thing we brought a map!!
It was actually a very easy, though expensive drive, straight down the Chuo/Shuto expressway: $13.00 for tolls each way. It only took us an hour to get there!! We couldn't believe it! We only made one wrong turn and just stopped at a convinience store for directions.

We didn't know before, but Hardy Barracks is the headquarters for the Pacific Stars & Stripes, the military newspaper for all of the Pacific area. HB consists of just 2 buildings: the hotel, pictured above, and the S&S building. Our room was great: no frills but it had a queen size bed in the bdrm and a sleeper sofa in the living room with a full bathroom (complete with cadillac potty) in between. We had a fridge, microwave and dvd players, dvd's are available to check out for free in the office. Not too shabby for only $50/night ($35 for the 1st person, $5 for each additional person over 3 years old). The only down side is that there's no food nearby. They offer a free continental b'fast and there's a small convinience store on-site, other than it's a good 20-minute walk to the nearest grub.


Just cause he's so cute! This is Ethan waiting for the subway. We arrived in plenty of time to head for Roppongi for dinner.


It started raining as soon as we got to HB, but I was not about to spend our first night in the hotel! So we grabbed our umbrellas and headed to TGI Friday's. The food was delicious, but not something we'll be doing again any time soon!!! :( The girls both had appetizers as their meals: Gabi had a 3-piece chicken tender plate (just chicken, no fries or anything) and Meg had an order of chili-cheese fries. Otis and I both had bacon cheeseburgers with fries (Ethan just ate off our plates). Add in 3 sodas and 1 pina colada for a grand total of.......$81.00!!!!!!! I knew it'd be pricey, but DAMN!!! When I say we won't be doing it again anytime soon, of course I mean "us" as a family, it won't be nearly as expensive when I go by myself!!! LOL!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cellies

In Japan you can do just about anything with your cell phone, except talk on it. You can pay for nearly everything with your cell phone: train fare, groceries, drinks (or cigarettes, beer, porn magazines, eggs) from a vending machine. I've even seen cell phones with a built in pedometer! A Japanese university recently starting having complete classes via cell phone using text messaging!! And there are Japanese authors publishing entire novels completely via cell phone texting.

But Japanese people NEVER talk on their cells in public, it's considered extremely rude; if it's absolutely necessary to take a call you'll see the person remove themselves as far as possible from other people, turn their back and speak quietly into the phone while shielding their mouth with their hand. On the trains and buses there are signs and frequent announcements reminding everyone to put their phones on vibrate.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring is springing


I think Spring is on it's way! Our temps have gotten to the high 50s/low 60s every day for nearly a week. I can't wait for the cherry blossoms to start blooming; the Japanese news says they should start around 3.26. My culture group is going cherry blossom viewing on 4.3.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stay Tuned!!

Tomorrow we're heading off for what will be, I'm sad to say, our first real trip to Tokyo. Yes, it's pathetic that we've been here for 7 months (has it really been that long already?) and this will be our first trip to Tokyo. Otis and I went to Ginza for a few hours once, and I did my quick trip to the YOSC conference a few weeks ago, but that was just one day and I didn't make it very far from the hotel. So this will be our first real trip; the first of many, I promise!!

We are staying 2 nights at Hardy Barracks, a tiny Army (or maybe Navy?) post right in the heart of Tokyo, Roppongi to be exact. We've decided to drive so we'd have a bit more flexibility with our schedule. Not sure if that's going to turn out to be a very good idea or not; it's supposed to be a very simple drive, a straight shot down the expressway, but it's not unusual for the 30 mile drive to Tokyo to take 3 + hours! The plan is to go to Akihabara, Tokyo Tower and Odaiba, we'll see how well we stick to the plan. I just have to keep telling myself that I have years to see everything, on most of our outings I'm usually running around in a panic trying to cram in every possible site and activity as if we're leaving next week. I just so don't want to waste a single minute of our time here!!

Looks like Singapore is on the back burner for now. Otis is really swamped at work and they're really short-staffed so he can't get enough time off for an extended trip, we're moving to Plan B with lots of short 2 - 3 day trips instead, easier on the wallet for sure.

Friday, March 7, 2008

10,000 Steps to a Healthier Me. Not.

I REALLY, REALLY need to get active, not just to lose weight (though lord knows I definitely need to do that), but more for getting healthy. Let's face it, I'm not going to be 25 forever! So I decided to start with what I thought would be an easy excercise routine: walking 10,000 steps a day.

I walk ALOT already, both for excercise (at a minimum I drag my butt around the block after putting Ethan on the bus) and I walk on errands too, parking at a central location on base and hoofing it to the post office, bank, library, etc. So I was sure that 10,000 steps wouldn't be a big deal. WRONG! Even with extra effort I'm barely making 6,000 steps! One day this week I made it to 9,868, but that included walking in place while I was folding laundry and pacing back and forth on the sidewalk for 10 minutes while waiting for E's bus. 10,000 steps equals about 5 miles, which I thought I could easily do. I'm going to stick with it though, it will just require a bit more effort (which I was really hoping to avoid) than I thought.

YEES Alumni

Megan is attending Yokota East Elementary School, the same school I went to as a kid. It's gotten bigger with the addition of two classroom buildings, two huge playgrounds and a lunchroom (when I was a kid there was no cafeteria, everyone walked home for lunch every day) but the rest is still exactly the same. Although now their mascot is a panda; when I was a kid our mascot was our principal's little weiner dog, East, who came to school every day and followed our prinicpal, Mr. Lenz everywhere he went. On a side note, for some reason I vividly remember learning to spell the word PRINCIPAL while in the 2nd grade at YEES. I missed it on a spelling test and my teacher made me stay after school until I figured out how to spell it. In a moment of pure genius I asked to go to the office to call my mom and tell her I'd be late getting home; when I got her on the phone she told me how to spell PRINCIPAL and I raced back to class to correct my test. That memory just popped into my head! I literally hadn't thought about it in 30 years! Anyway, at Christmas every student got their picture taken with East, the weennie dog, to put in the Xmas cards we made for our parents. I still have mine :)


Now, every Friday at YEES (now renamed Mendel Elementary School, in honor of Joan Mendel, a teacher at the school for over 30 years, who recently passed away) is Spirit Day and the kids wear their school T-shirts; today Megan wore MY 30 year old YEES school T-shirt. It was pretty cool. I'm so thankful that my kids are getting the same great opportunity that I had to grow up here!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Oishii! Or maybe not so much.

Lunch served at school today:

Shrimp burger
Radish & fish paste soup
Fried spinach and corn
Fruits Jerry

Lunch served to Ethan today:

PB&J sandwich
strawberries

I guess the lunch ladies finally took pity on the hungry little American boy.

Ode to big Daiso and Choco Bites


I had a really great day today. I took the train to Machida by myself, something I really want to do more of (taking the train places during the week, by myself). Machida has the mega 100 Yen store and TGI Friday's (see my 2 Feb entry). There's a really neat upper level sidewalk that runs about 5-6 blocks down the street outside the train station.
I had a great time browsing through all 6 floors of the Daiso (I spent less than 2000Y!!!!) in peace and at my own pace and had a yummy 1/2 rack of babyback ribs at Friday's. I topped it off with a Choco Pie (found out it's PIE, not BITE) at McD's. The McD's at the Machida train station is on the 2nd floor with little booths lining huge windows overlooking the hustle and bustle of Machida, it was so nice sitting there people watching, revelling in just being in Japan. I still can't believe I actually LIVE here! Somebody visit me, I have so much to show you!!!!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Itadakimasu!


Ethan brings home a weekly lunch menu every Tuesday. This was last week's menu, it doesn't vary too much from week to week.

Monday - fish croquette w/ curry, spinach saute, fruits jerry (no idea what this is)

Tuesday - egg & shrimp spaghetti, green bean salad (green beans, tomatoes, mayonnaise), onion and seaweed soup, apple

Wednesday - rice, teriyaki chicken, fish paste & onion soup, yakult (kind of like yogurt)

Thursday - parsley spaghetti, vinegar carrots, fish paste & potatoe soup, banana

Friday - rice, steamed fish dumplings, cabbage saute, tomatoe shrimp chowder, strawberries


I probably don't need to tell you that Ethan does not eat lunch at school! I just make sure he eats a big breakfast, he usually does okay with snack and he eats as soon as he gets off the bus at 4:00p. I've tried not feeding him b'fast in the hopes that he'd be so hungry he would eat at lunch...not a chance. They give him buttered bread, which he does eat. I thought about letting him take a lunch, but he'd be the only one eating something different and I don't know how much havoc that would wreak at lunchtime. For now he seems to be doing okay with what he gets.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Happy Hinamatsuri!



Today we went to a Hinamatsuri party in Kodaira City, about 10 min away by train. The party was at a local elementary school with about 15 Japanese girls and 15 American girls + parents.
Hinamatsuri means "Doll Festival" and is celebrated as Girls' Day in Japan (kind of Mother's Day but for girls). There was an exhibition by a guy with tops (the spinning toy) and we learned a traditional Japanese dance, the girls got to put on kimonos and have their pix made with the doll display and we did a small gift exchange. It was a lot of fun and a great chance to experience some real Japanese culture.
I got some great pictures, click here to see the rest. It's hard to really tell in the pictures, but there are 6 different sashes around the girls' waists; it took 2 women 20 minutes to completely dress 1 girl.

Hinamatsuri Videos

This is the Top Man from the party today. In this first video he is spinning a top on the EDGE of a sword! Really cool!

video

In this clip he's spinning a top on the edge of a fan. It doesn't look like the top is spinning, but it is.

video

We got to learn a traditional Japanese dance about Hinamatsuri, you can't tell in this video, but both girls picked it up really quickly (in case you can't tell, Gabi and Megan are right behind the dancer)

video

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Coocoo for CoCo's

Tonight we had dinner at CoCoIchibanya, better known as Coco's, a really popular Japanese curry restaurant. The one we ate at is directly across the street from a McDonald's which has seating and a playplace on the 2nd floor. The kids ate at McD's, the seating and play area are right in front of a huge window and we could see them from our table at Coco's; this is a great way to eat dinner out on our own but with the kids at the same time :)

This Coco's is tiny, only 3 small booths and maybe 7-8 seats at the counter. At Coco's you choose what type of curry you want, they have several different plates with things like chicken, pork, beef, crab cakes, eggplant, fried quail eggs...then you choose your toppings, everything from garlic chips and cheese to fried oysters and natto (fermented soy beans)...then you choose your level of spicyness from 1 - 10. Each level had it's own description/warning, level 1 says something like: For those who enjoy spicy food but also enjoy tasting the flavor of their curry. The menu tells you that only people who have eaten a full plate of 5 spicy are allowed to order 10 spicy! I got level 2, it was spicier than I like but not too bad, O had level 3. It was good, everyone talks about Coco's all the time so I really wanted to try it.

Curry really isn't my thing, but it was good and I'm glad we went. The very best part was topping off the meal with a Choco Bite from McD's!!! So f****** yummy!!