No curve was too sharp for them and their bicycle. No puddle was deep enough to stop them. -- Friends by Helme Hein

09 November, 2010

かきKaki Persimmon

Persimmons are not a fruit I grew up with in Oregon. In fact, I'm not sure I'd even laid eyes on one until we arrived in Japan. I avoided them through my first year in Japan because they looked strange and I didn't know what to do with them. Then, someone gave me a slice. They are sort of an acquired taste because they aren't super sweet or juicy, at least this variety anyway, but they've grown on me. James took a bite a while back and couldn't stomach it because he expected it to be a tomato (being color blind has it's drawbacks).

I love the starfish-like design on the inside. And the way they hang heavy on all the trees around Tokyo right now. My Japanese teacher plucked a couple off her tree for me this week. Who knew a rose (or kaki) could grow from concrete?

08 November, 2010


Starving for nature, James and I made an overnight trek to Nikko during our Fall Break. Nikko has been the Japanese center for Buddhist and Shinto mountain worship since before 1600. The national park holds hiking trails, onsen, and wild monkeys. But I didn't have the stamina for any of those adventures this time around, so we just ambled among the narrow alleyways and mountain paths enjoying the scenery.

I don't know what this purple berry is, but it's so beautiful against the red shed.

Mossy old trees that beckon you to hug them...

The trees were just beginning to change into their autumn coats.

Beautiful Japanese Maple (もみじ)

"Honey, what should I wear for our weekend in the countryside?"
"I hear all the country folk wear hot pants, stripper boots and a hair weave."

I stealthily took the picture of James above just to get the girl in the hotpants. A nice couple noticed me taking James's picture and offered to take our picture for us. The train station doesn't usually get the tourist love!

05 November, 2010

International Schools

Not my photo of Kobe

Something we rarely talk about on here is our work life and the international-ness of it. I guess it's become the only way we know after nearly 5 years of living overseas and teaching in international schools. After a while, you forget to notice that people are from different cultures, or that you just might stick out a bit.

A few weeks back, my school sent me and 4 co-workers to Kobe for a 3-day language arts conference. Our school uses the International Baccalaureate Organization's Primary Years Programme, a world renown curriculum that focuses on inquiry based instruction and global responsibility. The program is used in hundreds of schools in developing and advanced countries. The conference was a meeting of educators who work in countries across Asia but hail from around the world--New Zealand, China, South Africa, Australia, Canada, America, Holland, Germany, and many more. I didn't think much of it at first, but as the conference progressed, I was struck by the notion that so many people, with vastly different experiences and depths of knowledge, can come together in one room to talk about the best way to educate the world's children.

As the economy has changed around the world, so too, has the makeup of our school. International schools are usually know for diverse populations, but as companies seem to be reducing their number of overseas workers, the enrollment of our schools change. In prosperous times, our school is widely diverse. In times of economic uncertainty, our school accepts greater numbers of Japanese and Korean students to keep the numbers steady. But even with the changing enrollment, my class of 24 students still represents 13 countries including Botswana, Pakistan, India, Finland, Italy, Norway, Germany and South Korea. The girls are amazing in their willingness to accept each other, similarities and differences included, with open arms. One of my little girls wrote recently in her journal about our newest student who arrived from Thailand: "Emmi seemed a bit shy at first. My goal is to make her feel welcome at Seisen. I will talk to her to make her feel comfortable. And I can collect more information about her culture." Was anyone else thinking like this as a seven year old? Wow.

Anyway, that's all I really have to say about that. We feel pretty blown away sometimes.

19 October, 2010

Talking about Button

The baby bump definitely gets a lot of love at school. The girls are infatuated with my growing belly and make sure to say good morning and goodbye to the baby each day. Last weekend I went to Kobe for a conference and missed school on Friday. When I returned on Monday, this note was on our "discovery table".

Button is the unofficial name for the little babe, coined by the girls in my class.
Vampire anyone?
When you add up the tally marks, it seems I have 60 kids in my class....curious....seems we need to do a little work on data handling.

26 September, 2010

Neighborhood Matsuri

On a lazy Sunday morning, the beating of a large drum came down our little road.
The neighborhood matsuri (festival) parade was making its way to the temple to deliver the shrine. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the video of them carrying the shrine in uniform rhythm to load. Maybe next time.

The weather has finally changed, thanks to a typhoon off the coast, so we are no longer in sweltering heat. We tried to motivate for a hike outside the city, but we woke up a little too late. School is wearing us out. The baby is not even here yet and he/she wakes me up most nights. Last night was cook-your-own yakinikku and a screening of Iron Man 2. It takes about 3 takes for me to get through a movie these days.

14 September, 2010

Pregnancy in Japan

A few cultural differences I've noticed so far....

  1. Despite the cute little "akachan" badge on my purse, no one gives up their seat on the train for me.
  2. No food, except alcohol and cigarettes, is off limits here. Caffeine in moderation is ok. Sushi? Of course. Soft cheese...well, they don't really understand cheese anyway.
  3. People look at me sideways for still riding my bike.
  4. I'm treated with very delicate words and hands by Japanese women: "oh, please be so careful" are usually the first words out of their mouths. Pregnancy is a very special time here.
  5. Prenatal vitamins are not regularly used because it is assumed that the Japanese diet is already healthy and varied enough.
  6. It will cost an extra $100 to have James in the delivery room with me. I'm sure he would prefer to pinch pennies...
  7. I get an ultrasound at every check up. I'm currently 19 weeks and have had 3 ultrasounds.
  8. Japanese women are strictly discouraged from gaining more than 7 kilos (about 15 pounds). My doctor has told me to gain about 12 kilos (about 25 pounds) because of my height, and, as he says, he knows better. Epidurals are not, by default, done in Japan. Smaller babies = less painful natural births.
  9. The government pays up to $85 for each of my prenatal checkups. My insurance is *$#%.
  10. The "safe" mark for a pregnancy in Japan is the 5 month, whereas in America, you are considered in the clear after 3 months.
  11. In Japan, you are considered pregnant for 10 months, not 9. It seems to make more sense, really: 40 weeks / 4 weeks per month = 10 months. In the US, they count some months as having 5. The lunar calendar changes things a bit.
  12. Women are discouraged from making noise during labor. A friend of mine was repeatedly asked to quiet down so she would not disturb the other people in the hospital.

28 August, 2010

Summer of America

This summer was full of goodness, too much to narrate or list. Instead, a few photos (not in any sort of order) will have to do. Goodbye were too short and so wonderful.
We met our new nephew, Easton, in Utah.

Reunited with old friends and new additions in Portland

made the best of a missed connection in Minneapolis by renting bikes at a nearby park and seeing old friends

James got in some good mountain riding in Utah

Saw another nephew, John, in Colorado. I was so much faster than him.

Picked up a new friend at the beach in Hampton, New Hampshire.

Later we made friends with his cousin when he rambled into our Utah campspot

Saw Blues Traveler with good friends in Portsmouth, New Hampshire at the Red Hook Brewery

Enjoyed being a tourist in Boston while James went to school

Had a lobster with Cory's family in New Hampshire

Celebrated Hilary's engagement with good college friends in Portland

Enjoyed a Red Sox win at Fenway Park from the cheap seats

Even walked to Maine!

Spent the night at a great cabin on a peaceful lake in New Hampshire

Did a little kayaking on that lake

Found the yummiest country store in New Hampshire

Tasted delicious small batch soda at a New Hampshire bottling company

Had mediocre food at a true New England diner with Ude

Visited 90+ year old grandparents in McMinnville

and cousins and aunts and uncles

Saw friends leaving for big trips

and met new friends

James helped salvage a bird nest hurt by fireworks

Basked in Oregon's beauty

Visited friends in Montana (and wrote my thesis where ever I could find a chair and internet connection)

Watched the 4th of July fireworks over Whitefish Lake in Montana

Viewed gorgeous early morning alpenglow in Glacier National Park

oggled wind farms in Montana

loved camping in our truck

and enjoyed the prairies in South Dakota.

23 June, 2010

June in Tokyo

We had a few visitors to our tiny apartment in June and we enjoyed seeing Tokyo through a newcomers eyes once again.

I was almost sad to stop riding my bike to work each morning because the hydrangeas on this nice garden path were just about to bloom. Almost, but not totally. A break from the race is a good thing.

My brother Dirck, sister-in-law, Jill and James's friend, Kevin, came to visit. We took another yakatabune ride on Tokyo Bay, this time at night.

Baseball at Tokyo Dome

Sneaking a picture of a wedding at Meiji-Jingu shrine in Harajuku. I love the look of the little boy on the right. Get me out of here and these clothes!

We even took a short trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima. The tide was out this time, leaving the torii to be surrounded by visitors and people clamming.

Beautiful sake barrels at the shrine on Miyajima.