Tuesday, October 24, 2006


What I have been up to lately

1. Pretending to be a lady who lunches. I had lunch with the Mina's classmates' moms last week. We went to a little tiny Italian restaurant that sat the nine of us and one other table for two. Everyone ordered the course lunch, so I did the Japanese thing and ordered what they were ordering. It was a large meal of a salad plate, pasta course, meat course, dessert and coffee. The food was great and well, you pay for what you get. Lunch set me back about $35.00. I won't be doing that very often!

2. Pretending to be a writer. I have been meaning to contribute to the AFWJ (Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese) monthly journal for months now. This time around the topic is reading, so I may actually manage to send something. We will see if they actually print it.

3. Pretending to speak Japanese. My skills are experiencing a strange lapse. I have been having trouble communicating recently, trouble understanding people and making myself understood. I don't know what is going on, but I will muddle my way through and just as with my kanji studies, hope that it will one day click. One day soon would be nice.

4. Pretending to clean my house. We have a guest coming this weekend. It is always frightening to see your home through other peoples eyes, at least it is for me as I don't even pretend to be a good housekeeper! I have made an effort this week though, to make our home presentable. The person who is coming will probably read this and think, "she actually cleaned before I arrived? I'd hate to have seen it before that!"

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Things I Love - #1

Downey. It is the name of the new cafe I have discovered. It is near the major station on the way to Mina's school and I plan to become a regular. The shop is named after the Southern California city and claims to offer California cuisine. I had to try it out to see if their claim was true and it is!!! They offer wrap sandwiches and bagel sandwiches (billed on the menu as "bagle" sandwiches, you have got to love those endearing English errors) stuffed with fresh vegetables. I have been twice now, once having the avocado and shrimp "bagle" sandwich and on my second visit trying the teriyaki chicken wrap. YUM! The lunch set comes with a drink, a small dessert and your sandwich is served with two dollops of different salads, for about $12.00. If there is something a little off with the fact that my first entry in the "things I love about Japan" feature is a California style cafe well . . . that is just the way it is.


Things I Hate - #1

That a root canal procedure takes SIX visits to the dentist. Yes, six. Yes, for one tooth. As if getting myself to the dentist even once isn't traumatic enough! That is six times I had to arrange child care. Six times I had to muster up the courage to overcome the sick feelings in my stomach. Six times I had to pay about four dollars round trip in train tickets. Six times I had to sit in the waiting room for approximately 20 minutes (honestly though that part didn't bother me so much as I'll take any chunk of uninterrupted reading time that comes my way, even if it is with the back ground noise of dental drilling). Six sessions of open, endure, rinse. Everyone says it has to do with the way the national insurance system works here. Whatever it is, it sucks.


Aisatsu - Greetings

There are certain phrases in Japanese that have no appropriate translation in the English language. The words that the station master uttered to me as I passed through the ticket gates fall into this category. There are several awkward translations, but to me, they fail to capture the feeling behind the words. He said to me, as I returned from escorting my daughter to school, “Otsukare-sama.” It is something you say to someone who has finished their work, as they leave the office, or complete a task. I have heard it directly translated as “you are the tired one,” but I don’t think anyone one would ever say that in English and if they did the person they were talking to would look at them like they were nuts. Anyway, I smiled to myself as he said it to me for several reasons. First of all, I love that we live near a station small enough that the station master is aware of the comings and goings of his regulars and that he is kind enough, that we live enough on the outskirts of the city, to freely acknowledge this. Second of all, I appreciate the fact that he recognizes my taking my daughter to school everyday as work. Women may not enjoy as much respect as they deserve in the workplace in Japan, however traditional “women’s work,” which is often invisible in the USA, is considered work here and a respectable, valid occupation of one’s time.
There are several books and articles in publication now about working moms facing off against stay-at-home moms. This is a tragedy. As if women need to be criticizing each others choices. I am thankful we have choices. Both women who focus their energy on their children and mothers who successfully maintain careers are deserving of commendation. In a collection of essays titled Because I Said So, Beth Kephart wrote about “the mother who gave her child both all she had and not enough.” I think that is all of us, it just looks different the way we each manage to individually accomplish it. Now I am waiting for my copy of Confessions of a Slacker Mom to arrive from www.bookmooch.com so I can get into some reading I can really identify with.

Monday, October 09, 2006

As a foreigner in Japan, you tend to be asked the same questions over and over again. Can you eat raw fish? Can you use chopsticks? Do you like natto (smelly, viscous, fermented soy beans)? Though it can become tedious, it is generally believed that these questions are just a way that the Japanese have of reaching out to you. I have noticed that the mothers at the pre-school have similar set phrases and patterns that repeat themselves, too. After the sports festival. It was “your husband seems so kind.” Now, I am aware that the correct response in Japanese is to deflect any thing that at all resembles a compliment. When you are told you are good at speaking Japanese, you say “No, no I still have a long way to go.” So when mothers said this to me about my husband I wasn’t sure what to say. I tried the blasé, “Really?” Then I tried the vague, “No, it is different.” With a mother I know a little bit better I said, “No, he has two faces.” She said, “Only two? Mine has four or five!” “Well, then, I guess I have it easy!” I replied and we laughed, which went a long way in developing my relations with that mother, however I felt like I was short changing Toshi. The fact of the matter is that things have been wonderful between us recently. We laugh, we touch, we jump in and help one another out with the kids when rescuing is needed. This month we will celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. I guess it just took us that long to learn to live with each other. So when yet another mother said to me “Go-shujin yasashi so.” I said to her, in my broken Japanese something like this: “I know that I am supposed to say, no, no, not at all. But recently my husband has been helping me out so much and we have been so happy together that I want to say, YES! I am so lucky! He is great!.” To my honesty she replied with the standard phrases that are always bandied about “Really? I envy you.” And even though I hadn’t said what was expected of me, I felt as though I had said the right thing. Now I just hoped I haven’t jinxed it.

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