Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Train riding tutorial

So you'll be ready when you come to visit!
While I'm still not at the point that I can just go to the station and figure out where I need to go, if I plan my route before I leave home, I do fine and I can get to the places I go regularly w/ out needing to plan ahead. I haven't gotten lost or on the wrong train yet, but sometimes my timing is a bit off and I have to wait longer than I had planned for the next train.

This is Higashi Fussa (East Fussa) station. It's the one we usually leave from, it's a few blocks closer to the base than the bigger Fussa station and it's cheaper too. You go up the stairs in the foreground, then down the next set of stairs to the platform.

This is the map at Tachikawa station of the JR lines and stations in the Tokyo area (in Japanese) and their fare amounts from Tachikawa. Most of the bigger stations have maps in English as well.

This is an alphabetical listing of all the train stations with their fare amounts, in English. The cheapest fare is 130Y ($1.30) to go one stop. The most expensive is about 1900Y ($19.00) which will get you all the way to Narita airport, about 2 hours away.

Ticket machine.

Insert your money (coins or bills) on the right, select the fare you need from the touch screen; your ticket and change are dispensed at the bottom.

Heading towards the ticket takers at Tachikawa

Ticket taker machine.
Insert your ticket above the arrow. If you're entering the station, your ticket will pop up on the other end, grab it as you walk through. If you're exiting the station, your ticket will not be returned.

This is the train time board for the Ome - Itsukaichi Line, heading towards Haijima, Ome & Oku-tama, this is the train we take home from Tachikawa to Higashi-Fussa. To get home via Fussa station, take the Ome/Chuo line.

Hop on your train.

The red "Priority" seats are for the elderly, handicapped, pregnant and people w/ small children. You have to turn your cell phone off if you are in or near these seats. You are encouraged via frequent public announcements to put your phones on vibrate while on the train, and discouraged from talking on it as well. Its also rude to eat or drink on the train.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pu-re boru! (Play Ball !)

Saturday we had the Opening Ceremonies for baseball season, and Meg's first year of softball. It's interesting to note that the Japanese national anthem is always played first at every event on base, including Reveille.

Meg's team is the Angels, all 9 - 11 year old girls. They don't keep score or play actual innings, they just play for 1.5 hours, which gives each team just about 2 rounds at bat. During the entire first game only two hits were made (the pitchers need a bit of work), both by Megan's friend Sarah. But Meg had a lot of fun and loves being on a team.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sayonara Culture Group

Today was the closing ceremony for my culture group :( I only got to attend 3 events, I wish I had joined sooner!! The culture group year runs from October - April. I'll definitely join again next year. I'd love to join the same group again, the Japanese women in my group join every year, I'd love to get to know all of them better. We have one more event planned for next month, a group tour to Kamakura (home of the Big Buddah). It should be lots of fun!
The entertainment today was by an international cultural artists group called Manjushaka. They were really great! We got a mini version of their normal show, about 30 min w/ scaled down acts, due to time constraints and the small size of the stage at the O'club; the full show is supposed to be spectacular, I'd really love to see it. Below are a few grainy clips I took:

The dragons were definitely my favorite. In the full show they have 5 dragons and they shoot real fire!

As a parting gift our Japanese half gave us all a string of fresh water pearls!!! My first pearls! They're really pretty. We all felt a little sheepish because all we got them were aprons w/ their names painted on them and a cookbook the YOSC put together. We also gave them all brownie mixes, but some of them don't have ovens (the Japanese don't bake much of their food). I think I'll bake a few batches for the bus trip to Kamakura.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Brenda Sensei

Today I taught my first English class!! I teach at the community center in Akiruno, about 15 minutes from the base, every Wednesday from 10:00 - 11:30a. The class is 8 adults, mostly in their mid-40's and 50's. It went really well. It's just conversational English, we alternate between working in a workbook one week and discussing a topic they're interested in or playing a game the next. I hope to take on 1 or 2 more classes a week, that'll give me a nice chunk of pocket change while still leaving me plenty of time to do all the things I want to do (my list is getting longer and longer!)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Dance, Dance...not so much the Revolution

Yeah, it's in their blood. They feel the groove, they've got the vibe....

As you can see, Ethan's signature move is the "Hopping-jogging-in-place-hop-hop-hop". He can literally do this for 30 solid minutes. And he routinely does. Sometimes, all he needs is the music playing in his head.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Nothing, nothing, blah, blah

Nothing blog worthy going on the last week.

Megan is playing softball, her first practice is this Saturday. We got her registered for 6th grade, I just can't believe that she's starting middle school! I swear she's only 6 years old!!! She's still my baby, I can't imagine her in junior high mixing with all those teenagers!

Gabi is still doing really well with track, they have a meet with a really tough team this Saturday and she's feeling nervous. I think that's a good thing because it means she finally taking it seriously, up 'til now she's always just run for fun with no thought to how well she's doing or times or anything. Of course there's nothing wrong with having fun, I wouldn't push her to stay with it if she wasn't enjoying herself, but I think she's got real talent and it's time for her to start working harder and putting forth a bit of effort with it. (And of course I'm starting to think "Track Scholorships!")

They both made the honor roll with all A's and 1 B each.

Ethan is doing great at his new school, the first 2 weeks they've only gone 1/2 days to give all the new kids time to adjust, they'll start full days on Monday. He's already saying 4 words, I doubt that he knows what he's saying, but he says them at the appropriate time and he knows to raise his hand and say "Hai!" when the teacher calls his name for roll call in the morning.

I've been doing some subbing for a few friends' English classes and will be permanently taking over a Wednesday morning class next week.

We're waiting to hear whether or not Otis will finally be able to go an Infection Control class in Denver the middle of June. He's been approved to go, but they keep telling him they're still trying to find the money to send him. If he gets to go he's planning to stay an extra week to go visit the kids in Florida and his family in South Carolina.

Fennigan has settled in so well, it's like he's been with us forever!

That's about it for now, I'll post some pictures soon!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

He likes it! Hey Mikey!

Ethan had a great first day of school! Although he's not normally the best source for information on what he did at school, he says he played with his friends, colored and ate a snack. After I got him dressed this morning he said "Wait, I need my hat!" I was sure he'd refuse to wear it because he's always hated hats, but he loves his school hat. He very happily hopped on the bus this morning, that's a good sign that he does indeed like his new school.

Monday, April 7, 2008

And so it begins......

He's got a long way to go in the "Yes, my mom's the idiot who dressed me like this" world of doggy fashionistas before he catches up with his cousins Monty and Bazzle, but he's on his way!

My little mishuugakujidou

Ethan started at his new school today. I drove him, but he'll ride the bus home. The teachers meet the kids at the gate and walk them to the courtyard where they wait for all the kids to arrive.

Once all the kids have arrived, they all bow to their teacher and say "Ohiogozimasu Sensei" (Good morning teacher), then bow again and say "Ohiogozaimasu minasan" (Good morning everyone). At the end of the day they'll do the same thing except it will by "Sayonara" instead of "Ohio".

This is the view of Higashi Yamamoto-shi from Ethan's school. The school is perched right on the tippy top of a hill in the middle of the city.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

These are ETHAN'S school supplies!!

In Ethan's box of school supplies were instructions on labelling all the supplies. His name had to be written on everything, not just every supply, but every single piece! Every box and its lid, the paste jar and it's lid, the crayon box, the lid and EVERY crayon! I had to write is name on every crayon! Gabi wrote it on two in Japanese. I wrote his name 32 times! I practiced writing it in Japanese a few times.

Ethan is pronounced IISAN. The "I" makes a long "e" sound, like in meet, double vowels like "II" are held for twice a long as single vowels. The "a" sounds like a in father.

Blog Design

I'm tinkering with some blog design stuff. I don't understand most of instructions and tutorials, so I haven't gotten very far. The new picture in my header was taken from the monorail as we passed over the Tama River, heading into Tachikawa.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

School Days

Today was the Welcoming Ceremony at Ethan's school for all the new students. Me and my American brain were thinking "open house at the beginning of the year", casual, visit Ethan's class, meet his teacher, etc, etc. Remind me to stop using my American brain for anything Japanese! It was a huge, formal ceremony! All the moms and girls were in dresses, the dads and boys in suits, it was a very long, drawn out affair. Very typical Japanese style, I've heard graduations are a hundred times worse. Of course Ethan and I showed up in jeans and Ethan had spilled chocolate milk all down the front of his shirt! I was mortified! But again, in typical Japanese style, everyone was extremely polite and friendly and made us feel very welcome. Ethan is in the Himawari (sunflower) class, his teacher is Nyuuda Sensei. He spent about an hour with his classmates and teacher and seemed to be enjoying himself.
This is Ethan's winter uniform, it's just a smock. But it has the cutest matching hat and all the kids wear matching backpacks. Don't worry, you know I'll be taking tons of pictures of him on Monday! In May they'll switch to a lighter weight smock. The little duck pin on the left says "Welcome to school"! (in Japanese).

This is Ethan's name badge, he'll wear it everyday for the first month or so, it actually says Ethan Baker (Gabi read it for us!!); there's also a little tag w/ his bus number on it.

These are the school supplies, every child has to have exactly the same supplies, so the school puts together these "craft boxes" and you just buy them from the office. In the box (clockwise from upper left): box for clay, scissors, paste, castanets (weird), crayons, clay, clay molding sticks. To the right of the box are his gym/outdoor hat, drawing pad and 3 different books for communicating different things b/w home and school. Each class is color coded, the Himawari class is orange. Next year he'll be either pink (Otis is very nervous about Ethan getting a pink hat) or yellow.

Ethan in his gym uniform.

Friday, April 4, 2008


We had our first "appreciable" earthquake tonight! It was really......quaking!! I've felt 3 or 4 since we've been here, but they've all been barely perceptible and they all happened in the middle of the night when everyone else was sleeping. This one was about 7:00p; it lasted about 15 seconds, the front door was really shaking and banging, even Ethan got scared and jumped into my lap.

A beautiful spring day!

Today was such a beautiful day! There's a really great playground on the other side of the base that has a big dog park right next to it, so we packed up the kids and the dog and headed over for a picnic.

Here's today's view of Cherry Blossom Street:

The blossoms are beginning to fall, it's so pretty. It really looks like snow!

A rebel:

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Our newest addition...

Meet the newest member to our family......

Fennigan Blues Clues

He's an 11 month old Boxer, we got him from a family on base that is returning to the states unexpectedly and couldn't take him.

He can look pretty ferocious, but he's the biggest, cuddliest teddy bear. He very sweet and thinks he's a chiuaua, constantly trying to sit in your lap! At his last vet check in December he was 50 lbs!!

The kids adore him and he really loves them too. The girls have been sleeping downstairs with him until he "gets settled in".

I really wanted a Japanese name for him, but just couldn't come up with something that fit. On the base we have a television network called AFN - Armed Forces Network, which broadcasts all our American programs. When I lived here as a kid it was called FEN - Far East Network. From that I came up with Fennigan, but we call him Fen. Ethan insists he's our very own "Blues Clues".

It's Cherry Blossom Time

Sakura sakura
Yayoi no sora wa
Miwatasu kagiri
Kasumi ka kumo ka
Nioi zo izuruIzaya izaya
Mini yu kan

This is "Cherry Blossom Street", otherwise known as the street that runs behind my house. It's lined with close to 100 cherry blossom trees. This picture most definitely does not do justice to how beautiful they really are.

This is the cherry blossom tree in front of our building.

Today the Japanese side of my culture group took us to a park not far from the base, along the Tama River, to see the cherry blosoms.

Cherry Blossom season is a huge deal in Japan. There are big festivals and everyone plans for hanami, "flower viewing". Every where there are cherry blossoms blooming you'll find people on blankets picnicing under the trees. Oddly, a lot of Japanese people like to come on the base to see the trees blooming and all week there have been people picnicing on "Cherry Blossom Street". Here are all of the pictures I've taken this week.