Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Google me!

I just checked out Google Earth for the first time in a long time.......WOW! It's so incredible! If you haven't downloaded it yet, DO IT NOW!!! It will totally blow your mind!Enter Fussa, Japan in the search box, towards the east you'll easily spot the runway that cuts right down the middle of the base from north to south; our neighborhood is to the southeast of the runway.

For those who aren't up on Google Earth, double-click on the camera icons to go a "street view", you'll get a "bubble view", double-click that to get to the street view. There are street views all the way around the base and if you pivot the camera view using the arrows, you can actually see right on the base. Too cool! The views look like they were probably taken last Dec-Jan. Now you can actually see where I live!
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Big O! Oh yeah!

At the end of the cross country season every year, the high school and middle school teams run "The Big O", a 10.5 mile run around the entire base!! Gabi ran it last year, and Megan did it this year!!! (Gabi was on an ROTC field trip to Camp Fuji). Meg waffled back and forth for several weeks about whether or not she would try it, in the end she went for it and she was AWESOME! She finished the 10.5 mi in 1hr 35min! You go girl! I still can't believe she really did it! I followed her for almost the whole route in the car, she hardly walked at all, she ran almost the entire other 10.5! Amazing.
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The route.

To give you some perspective, down in the southeast corner of the loop, between points 10 and 1 (you'll probably need to click on the pic to look get the bigger view), you can see the oval track, inside of which is the 100-yard (about 92 meters) long football field. The group of white rectangles at the top, at points 3 and 4, is our neighborhood.

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Pushin' through!


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Rounding the runway, 9 miles down, 1.5 miles to go!

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Gabi rounding the runway in last year's Big O.
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Finished and freezing!


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The finish-line adreline rush wore off quickly, but she perked back up when the team headed out for ice cream!
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Starlight Mike's

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On Sunday the kids and I went to a Halloween party at Mike's English School in Tama. We had a lot of fun and plan to go again next year. We had a Halloween parade around the center of the city and trick-or-treated at local businesses like McD's, KFC, Starbuck's and Baskin Robbins. There were about 40 Japanese kids and 20 native English speaking guests, plus the Mike's staff and some parents, it was a big party! Mike's has lots of group events throughout the year and they always love to have native English speakers attend to give the kids a chance to practice speaking.
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Gabi was dead set against wearing a costume, I forced her into this sorry-excuse-for-a-cat getup at the last minute. Ethan wanted to be a Transformer, but is terrified of the mask, so he's just wearing his Transformer pajamas. Look at Meg's tatooed arm, doesn't it look real?
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>Our group parading through town.
Meg and E are towards the back, and Gabi is bringing up the rear with Edward Scissorhands. The whole group of 60+ people was screaming "Trick-or-Treat! Happy Halloween!" at the top of their lungs the entire time. We were literally stopping traffic.
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Mike's staff and party guests

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Me, Meg and Ethan.

Check out E's jack-o-lantern bag crammed full of loot! They got so much stuff! E is still trying so hard to do "peace" fingers.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Cute new kicks


I really don't do shoes, they're just something I cram on my feet because "no shirt, no shoes, no service" (where I come from it's not at all unusual for a guy to walk into McDonald's without a shirt on and well into my teens I regularly went in grocery stores and restaurants barefooted).
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It's been nearly a year since I bought myself a new pair of shoes, close to two years since I bought anything other than tennis shoes (except for a pair of knock-off crocs I bought for Y700 earlier this summer). But while we were in Yokosuka this weekend I fell in love with these Sketchers, O got a very similar pair (from the Men's section). I love them!!
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Oshiko!!! Sweet freedom!



This is a very Japanese (read: super cute, slightly weird) potty training video..................that we don't have to watch anymore!

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>Ethan is completely potty trained!

He's wearing big boy undies, standing up to wee, staying dry through the night, everything! I will never have to change another poopy diaper as long as I live!!! I'M FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

That boy just ain't right


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The title of the post is a quote from Hank Hill, it's what he always says about his son Bobby. I've blogged before about how much Ethan loves the show "King of the Hill". I have no idea why, it's not a kids' show at all, it's an "adult content" cartoon with very grown-up jokes and innuendos, I was sure he couldn't possibly be following what goes on. Shows how much I know!
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I was preparing some materials for my class tomorrow and E comes over:
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E: What are you doing?
Me: Fixing this stuff for my class.
E: You're a teacher.
Me: Yep.
E: Peggy Hill's a teacher too. Hank Hill sells propane.
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D'oh! He's 3!!! He got it all exactly right: Peggy is Hank's wife, she's a substitute teacher! And Hank is a propane salesman! It's kind of scarey to realize just how close he's watching what's going on around him, and how much he actually picks up and understands.
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Monday, October 20, 2008

Do you speak English?

I've been watching Skins on BBC America, anyone seen it? It's about a gang of high school kids who live in Bristol, England. It's pretty edgy by American TV standards; it took me a while to get into it, but now I like it. I wonder how popular it is in the UK?

The funny part is that the show airs with English subtitles! The actors' accents are so thick and some of the slang is so foreign to us Yanks that it seems like they're speaking a completely different language! Words like slag, bint, dosh, cobber, todger and shonky? Then there are words that we use in the U.S. that mean something entirely different outside of America, like tit, twat, fag and pissed. According to the subtitles a tit is a stupid person, twatty means stupid, a fag is a cigarette (think I already knew that), pissed means drunk and piss off means go away (knew that one too; my best friend, whose hub is from Australia, is always screaming it at her dog). Without the subtitles I'd miss out on about 1/2 of what is being said.
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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Samuel!!!

This afternoon the dog was chewing on one of Ethan's toys, E sees him and yells "Feniggan Samuel! Dame!" I laughed and said "He's not Fen Samuel" E replies "He's bad, Samuel means in trouble!" (E's full name is Ethan Samuel). And yes, he actually spoke Japanese! Dame can mean no, don't, that's bad, etc. How worried should I be that he's hearing "Dame!" enough at school to have picked it up? LOL
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Saturday, October 11, 2008

I think I may vomit

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Tonight my baby girl attended her first homecoming dance. It wasn't her first school dance, but it was her first high school dance and the first dance where we had to buy a dress and do all the hair/make-up stuff. And it's the first dance she's gone to while having a big crush on a classmate. And he likes her too. Really, I'm feeling nauseous.

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I was restless and anxious all night, wondering what she was doing, how things were going. Boys in general are dorks, but pubescent, high school boys are a breed all their own. I was worried (or maybe secretly hoping?) that he'd be a jerk in typical 14-year-old-boy fashion and that she'd end up disappointed and hurt.
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It pains me to no end to tell you that she came out of the dance absolutely giddy with excitement, bubbling as only a high school girl in love can do. He asked her to dance. Slow dance. Twice. Yeah, I'm definitely going to be sick.

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I'm ecstatic to report that although she did dance with him, and is over the moon with happiness, she told him: "I really like you, but I'm not allowed to date."! She's such a good girl and she really has her head on straight. Even though she's head-over-heels for this boy, she's commented several times that she's seen what a drama-fest dating and the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing can turn in to, she told me before the dance that she didn't want to ruin their friendship with a bunch of "mushy, kissy-kissy stuff" and that doing the bf/gf thing seems awkward and would make her uncomfortable. THAT'S MY GIRL! Maybe I'll hold on to my dinner after all!

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I heart MickeyD's

Some people rag on me about how often I eat at McDonald's while I'm living in Japan. To them I say "Kiss my McGriddle!" McD's has been in my life..... my entire life. It's a tried and true favorite that has never let me down. And in my defense, Japanese McD's are truly a Japanese experience. Yes, they have most of the usual menu items, but there are also lots of Japanese originals:

Shaka Shaka Chicken Black Pepper

The chicken comes in a bag and you "shaka, shaka" it to coat it with the seasoning

Ebi Filet - o (Shrimp burger)

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Teriyaki McBurger


The McFlurry options include Kit Kat and Caramel Macchiato. The Filet-o-fish is available on both the b'fast and regular menu and an there's a stack of mini-panacakes that are considered a side/dessert item. And here's my new favorite:



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The Bacon Potato Pie! It looks like an apple pie, but it's so not! The package says:

"Now, Come Back! KARI KARI outside, TORORI inside. ATSU ATSU mashed potatoes and tasty bacon...Good for your snack time!"

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Kari kari means crunchy, torori is referring to the texture of the inside, kind of thick and pastey and atsu atsu is very hot. OISHII!!!

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Rededication

When I lived here as a kid I was in Girl Scouts and I have really great memories of fun things we did with Japanese Girl Scouts, so when I found out we'd be moving back, I knew I'd be getting my girls into scouting.
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Both girls joined a troop last year, Gabi as a Cadette and Meg as a Junior. G's troop wasn't too active and she didn't enjoy it much (none of her friends are scouts and they all think it's kinda lame) but Meg's troop was lots of fun and a lot of her friends were in her troop. This year Gabi decided not to continue, but Meg is still really having fun with it. Last Friday, her troop held their Investiture & Rededication ceremony. This is when new scouts "invest" themselves in the scouting program and returning scouts "rededicate" themselves.

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Through the last scouting year ('07 - '08 school year) Megan and her troop worked on their Bronze Award, which is the highest award a Junior GS can earn. Meg fulfilled all the requirements and was awarded her Bronze during the ceremony on Friday. As she advances through the GS program she can earn the Silver and Gold awards as well.





Monday, October 6, 2008

FD Open House

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Yesterday Ethan, Meg and I went to the base fire department's annual open house. It was really a lot of fun. The event was a collaboration between our FD, and two Japanese stations from Fussa and Tokyo.

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Tokyo FD's mascot, Kyuta-Kun. On his chest is the Japanese emergency number: 119

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There was gobs of free food, door prizes and free stuff like coloring books and magnets. They had lots of different trucks open that the kids were able to climb all over. Ethan was in absolute heaven and in complete awe of every firefighter, he'd go up to every one he saw and ask "Are you a real firefighter?" He actually says "firefighter" not "fireman".

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They also had lots of really interesting displays, like what happens when you throw water on a grease fire...very scarey stuff. And they were giving rides in the bucket of one of the ladder trucks. That sucker went really high, nearly 40 feet in the air! We all took a ride, both kids loved it.

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Looking down from half-way up on the ladder bucket. That's Ethan standing with one of the techs that works with Otis.

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There was a moon bounce and the "smoke house", which teaches kids how to escape from a building filled with smoke, Megan went through about 10 times, until she reeked of smoke and her eyes were all red and watery. The Fussa FD brought their earthquake simulator, it was really neat.

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Meg in the earthquake simulator

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There was also a competition between the U.S. and Japanese firefighters. They competed in several different timed events, like a bucket brigade and carrying a victim on a stretcher through an obstacle course, below is a race to see which team could get their full set of turnout gear on the fastest. The winning team got to take home the big trophy that gets passed around each year.
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Turnout gear contest

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

I've waited so long!



I am a huge Sex and the City fan. I love, love, love that show. I was so sad when it went off the air, but I'm still enjoying it on DVD. Carrie Bradshaw is my idol. When I heard 2 years ago that they were making a move, I was ecstatic! I couldn't wait! Then I found out we'd be in Japan before the movie ever came out. Then I found out it would be coming to our base theater, but only for 2 showings. I missed them both, and knew I'd just have to wait for the DVD. It finally came out on Sept. 23 and I grabbed the first one on the shelf.
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So, last weekend I sent the kids to the library and gave them money for lunch, locked the dog in his crate, turned off the phone and settled in with my popcorn and soda.
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It was so good, I watched it again before the kids got home. I adore happy, sappy endings and I was so excited to find out what had happened with Carrie and the girls since the last episode 4 years ago (Wow! Has it really been that long?) And now I'm hearing rumblings of a sequel!?!? Please tell me its true!

More classes

I've picked up two more teaching gigs, bringing my total up to 4 per week. Last month I started the Kodaira class. The class is 10 students, all women, and I think they're all over 50 years old! This class hase been meeting for 30 years!!!! There are 3 or 4 original members still attending!








This is the Kodaira/Chuo community center in Kodaira where I teach, we alternate between this one and the Josui community center.


Last week I also started meeting with my one and only individual student. She's 27 and lived in San Diego for a year. She hopes to move to Hawaii sometime in the next few years, so she wants to maintain her English skills. She's alot of fun, I'd almost be tempted to meet with her for free! I pick her up from the train station and we just have lunch and chat, she asks lots of questions and I correct some of the things she says. Pronouns seem to be pretty difficult for a lot of my students. Nearly everyone of them, no matter how high their level, constantly mix up he and she.


I teach a total of 24 hrs per month (my Fri class is only 3 times a month) and make pretty decent money. Some of my friends teach upwards of 10 times a week, but that is a really full schedule. Although I could definitely use the $$$, my time in Japan is going to be way too short, I don't want miss out on anything because I'm so busy working!
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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Used chi

It seems like every time I get one step ahead with my finances, I get knocked 10 steps back. One of the reasons I wanted to come overseas was for the chance to get my finances straighteded out: get rid of a huge load of debt and get some decent savings (any savings actually, I've got about $6 in the savings account). It's been over a year now and I'm almost exactly where I were when I got here. I've had a few unfortunate incidents that have contributed to my financial woes, but mostly it's just a lack of discipline and willpower, mixed with an over abundance of laziness.

I blogged about my lucky money frog a few weeks ago. My friend Cici is from Tawain, her great grandfather was a feng shui master, she saw my frog the other day and gave me the low down. In Mandarin he's chian wa. Because I got him at a recycle shop, his good chi is used; to regenerate his chi, I have to soak him in a sea salt bath (the ocean would be best, but a bucket of sea salt water is okay) then let him dry in the sun. For extra good chi I can place a small bowl of uncooked rice in front of him. And it's very important that he always face the front door. Another good money chi tip she gave me was to keep the corner that sits at a 45 degree angle (to the left) from my front door clean and free of clutter at all times.

Maybe the combination of recharging the chian wa chi and posting here for some accountability will help me buckle down, stick to a budget and get things on the right track.

So, you're all my witnesses: Starting today I will pay CASH for everything I buy. If I don't have the money readily available, I won't make the purchase. There's an awful lot of traveling I want to do over the next 2 years, but if I can't pay cash, I won't be going. I will also be putting a MINIMUM of $50 from every paycheck ($100/mth) into savings (I'd like to eventually get that up to $500/mth, but I've got to start with baby steps).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Oh yeah!

A while back I blogged about the tuition assistance available from the city for daycare. I found out today that we qualify for Y39,000 (about $375) per semester! Woo hoo! That's basically 2 months of free tuition per year with about $40 left over. You can't beat that with a stick!
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