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

23 February, 2010

On staleness

I'm afraid, my friends, this blog is stale. Blah. Boring. Tired. Or those could be words to describe our lives in the winter, but for fear of being very narcissistic (I'm sure that line has been crossed a dozen too many times), there just isn't much exciting for others to read. We've been in Japan for almost 2 years now and we've settled into the ins and outs of daily life, just as life might be in Oregon, or anywhere else in the world you choose to let your roots grow. If you are a die hard follower, or you just love us, read on. If you choose to spend your time on more rewarding pursuits (curling, making moonshine, whittling), we understand. I suppose we'll still put up pictures (see below) if something exciting happens, but in between those times you can just imagine us enjoying the warmth of our house, the company of good friends, writing papers for school and teaching little ones how to properly pronounce 'again' (hint: it does not rhyme with pain, my Canadian friends). We can't complain, but we can't write much about it, either. If you want to write an email or call us on skype, we love to make contact.

On that note, we had a 4 day break this last weekend. James went snowboarding with some friends back to Hakuba and I went skiing in Echigo Yuzawa. 8 of us stayed in a cabin right on the mountain and enjoyed the drone of grooming machines all night long (what James would call the greatest travesty to a snowboarder in Japan: grooming). This particular resort was full of beginner trails, perfect for me to gain my skiing legs. We skied all day and soaked in the onsen at night.
view from the lodge

With Charity at the top of the hill. First time I've ever been able to get to the top of the mountain and get down with all my limbs intact.

All I've wanted for the last 10 days is to watch the olympics! NBC blocked all content outside of the US. Not even our 100 yen per hour TV in the lodge was playing the olympics! Drat! But, we did get to watch women's curling Japan vs. Canada on our last night. I read an article recently touting the Japanese team as the "darlings of curling." The funny thing is, the team looked like all other Japanese women---well kept and groomed, without a hair out of place. While I like that the women take pride in their appearance, I don't like how much attention the media pays to athletes who "look good."

And finally, in other news, it feels like spring is in the air in Tokyo. Even though it snowed a week ago (the first snow for us in Tokyo), the temperatures are back up to the teens this week and it makes the ride to school so much more pleasant. The ume trees are blooming, too. I hope the sakura blossoms aren't far behind. Following Japanese protocol today, I went to the Setagaya Ward Office to officially change my name on my alien registration card to FOSS and to file a change in family status. The ward office is a scene out of the 50's. Each resident of the ward has a card with his/her family information stored in large metal cabinets. When any of your stats change (name, birth, move, marriage, etc.), you fill out reams of paperwork and someone pulls out your card and hand-writes in your new information. It's a trip. On top of that, my new alien card is required to list James's name as my "head of household." While my mom's generation might roll their eyes and clench their fists at such a proclamation, I laughed it off and celebrated by buying a bottle of Erath Pinot Noir (!) and some brie cheese from a nice little cheese monger. It's not everyday you are transported back to 1950.

07 February, 2010

The Part of Living Overseas You Don't Often See

We may show you glossy pictures of festivals, beautiful vistas and exotic foods and locales on our blog, but, honestly, we aren't always living it up. Those are just the highpoints of being overseas. The day-to-day is far less pretty and less worthy of the time it would take to read about it.
The truth is, when we are home, we spend way too much time on our computers trying to connect with the outside English speaking world. I spent an hour talking to my 5 year old niece on Skype today. Or rather, Walter the Monkey talked to her. Those are the moments that are so much more special in person, but we have to settle for cyber hugs.

And this is what is normally going on--both of us studying away way too much. James is juggling talking to a friend in Korea on Skype, watching the only free English show we get online (Colbert Report) and reading articles for his doctoral classes. I'm usually somewhere in the background fiddling around in the kitchen. That's the real life in a foreign country.

It's been desperately cold here this week (below freezing) and we got our first snow in Tokyo! Snow doesn't stop the school girls from wearing their pleated mini-skirts and knee high socks without any tights. Every time I ride passed them on my bike, with my scarf wrapped around me up to my eyes and my heavy snow mittens, I wonder if it's a patriarchal society that keeps them in these ill-suited uniforms, or a sort of right of passage--toughen up or be different. I'm not sure. But they don't even act cold. There is no insulation or central heating in Japanese buildings and homes and our house hovers around 55 degrees without the heater on. Each morning my classroom is 32 degrees and takes at least an hour to warm up to room temperature.