Friday, 29 April 2011


U ran some errands this afternoon and as I was waiting for him to come home with lunch I got a text message from him. He sent me this photo...

Its Colonel Sanders outside the local KFC - dressed in his traditional Boy's Day finery... with the addition of an eye patch(?!?) and a KFC "Ganbare Nihon" (a lets pull together and overcome the earthquake/tsunami damage) sign.

Thursday, 28 April 2011


- the sound of bearbells in the morning
- compliments on my cooking (last night's triple mushroom cream pasta sauce got rave revues AND there's three lunches worth left in the freezer!)
- improving my skills at the guess-who's-getting-off-the-train-next game (a seat ALLLLLL the way home - wahooooo!)
- being a hockey fan during the playoffs, even from afar
- both U and I having a three day weekend! (unfortunately I have to work through much of the rest of Golden Week, but hopefully I'll get a few dinners cooked for me??)

Monday, 25 April 2011


After what has seemed like endless weekends eaten up by moving (packing, moving, unpacking, furniture shopping, furniture deliveries, more unpacking...) we finally had a relaxing weekend. We got away for a night, ate delicious food, had some hilarious conversations, and he voted.


We went to his parents place for the weekend. U came home from work early on Saturday and after a late lunch we headed out there, arriving in time for dinner. A weekend at the inlaws may not seem the most relaxing of times, but we had good fun. It was nice being cooked for, we were taken out for a delicious lunch at a historical microbrewery, and we came home laden down with gifts (plates, glasses, le creuset baking dishes, bowls, and a SEWING MACHINE... wahooooo!)

I spent most of my time there laughing - U is sooooo much like his father in so many ways and it cracks me up to see especially when his mother and I commiserate over certain habits and the two men vehemently deny that either of them do that particular thing...

But now it's Monday again and, I'm beginning to run trough my mental lists of everything that needs to be done at work - it promises to be a busy week!

Friday, 22 April 2011


This week, more so than most, felt really long despite speeding by. Work has been busy - we're preparing for a rather important event in a few weeks and I have been heavily involved. Despite Wednesday being "No zangyo Day" (no overtime day), I clocked out two hours late after finally finishing a project juuust in time. There are lots of little (and not so little) things to be done and lots of details to be remembered - resulting in me constantly feeling like I'm forgetting something important.

Commuting has also been extra tiring - three mornings in a row I nabbed a coveted corner seat but the first two I was robbed of a nap when a salary man decided to nap standing up and shove his ass in my shoulder and his elbow in my ear through the bars on the end of the seat. Not quite the most comfortable of situations, to say the least! I tried elbowing him a few times but to no avail. The third morning I was hit in the head when a very polite but obnoxiously exhausted goth couldn't stay awake or stand upright and swung into me while holding onto the handle above me. He only grazed the top of my head but my annoyed ojisan growl scared him enough that he shoved through the mass of commuters to run to the other end of the train car!

By Thursday I was no longer tempted by the corner seat and ended up having a better nap - albeit punctuated by the guttural back of the throat honk-sniffle of the salaryman beside me. Allergy season brings out the most disgusting of noises despite (because of?) lingering cultural disapproval of blowing your nose in public - at least for some. The elderly man sitting beside me this morning demonstrated his modern sensibilities and the healthiness of his lungs by blowing his nose evenly and continuously for a good few minutes, pausing only to take a breath and blow again. Lovely.

Last night I ended up passing out on the couch while U was watching TV (something I very rarely do) and woke up in a start at 3 am to an apartment ablaze of lights and U sound asleep in our bed upstairs. He insists he woke me when he went to bed to tell me to follow him, but I have no recognition of anything of the sort!

Bring on the weekend!! (with a few glasses of ume-shu to welcome it in, I think!)

Thursday, 21 April 2011


- meal planning advice from my host mom in Kagoshima
- cooking dinner for somebody
- doing a good job (and being recognized for it) at work
- joking with co-workers
- coming home at the end of the day

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Bathroom Before and Now

Before we moved in and now! The bath and sink / washing machine.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Operation Happy Belly

I remember going to a party in high school held at the house of a new friend. I was rather wary of going at all as I didn't really know (in the sense that teenage girls don't "know" other girls they've spent years in the same classes but never actually shared a conversation) anybody but the hostess. I want to say it was a movie night, but I honestly don't remember. All I remember is that we were going to cook our dinner, or at least part of it. We were going to cook guylan, a Chinese green veggie. The problem was that nobody seemed to know how to cook it properly. Not that we hadn't eaten it before since it is a staple in North American Chinese food, both in restaurants and at home and of the half dozen girls there, a couple had been born in China, a couple had been born in Canada to Chinese parents, and the hostess was half-Chinese.

When I, the lone white girl (and newbie to the group), stepped up and started to cook the guylan (and properly too!) the kitchen fell silent. The other girls suddenly focused their attention on me - and it wasn't friendly. I wondered if I was going to have to start watching my back in the halls at school.

But the hostess dissolved the animosity with a single sentence - "her stepmom is Chinese!" the other girls laughed. Suddenly I was accepted, it was as easy as that.

Nowadays I'll sometimes say that gastronomically I'm half-Chinese. From when I was 13 to my early twenties my father was married to a Chinese-Canadian woman who happens to ne an AMAZING cook (urm... of Chinese food that is... her tofu quiche was significantly less than amazing... less than edible really!!)

Anyways, C makes a mean mapo tofu. And a really good chicken and cashew nuts. And... And... And...

Annnyways. This means that now Chinese food is my comfort food. Whenever I feel over-tired or stressed I get a craving for mapo tofu.

There was a great Chinese food restaurant near where U used to live and we went often. We found a good little Thai restaurant near our new place right away but good Chinese is proving harder to find. We're both committed to finding a good go-to Chinese restaurant, however, so Operation Happy Belly was born.

Stage one to come...

Monday, 18 April 2011

Keeping afloat

Work has been busy and stressful and settling into the new place has taken longer than I had expected. With the added stress of the aftershocks that just keep coming (nowhere near as bad as it must be up north, I realize, but still I find myself constantly seasick, wondering if that was another aftershock or if its just in my head...) Add in a few pro-bono translations that I keep forgetting about until I'm falling asleep at night, and it has all left me feeling like I'm only just managing to keep my head above water.

Our last furniture delivery arrived yesterday, however, and although we still have a few piles of boxes left to be sorted, things are just about all put away. Our new place is finally feeling like home and I love it. (and yes, pics are on their way!)

My new commute was, as expected, a welcome change in many ways. Fewer transfers and the chance to sit most of the way. I was very optimistic about all I was going to accomplish... I was going to zoom through knitting projects!! Read a whole library of school-related books! Catch up on all the magazines I have stacked up as yet unread! I was going to be Productive with a capital P!!! The first morning I got on the train for my new commute I was practically humming with all the productive energy flowing through my veins!! Then I got on the train, settled into my seat (we're at the first stop on the line) and fell sound asleep.

As I discovered that very first morning, my body was not amused about suddenly being awoken an hour earlier than normal. The simple solution would be to go to bed an hour earlier, of course, but seeing as I get home an hour later than I used to...

So the morning nap remains. Ah well.

After an initial slightly rocky start, U and I have settled into a routine. In the morning I get up and head to the shower, turning on the washing machine if needed. By the time I'm out and dressed U has staggered downstairs, made coffee, and passed out in front of the TV. I'll make & eat breakfast, do my make up, and as I'm heading out the door he'll finally fully wake up. When I get home the morning's laundry is drying on the rack and the breakfast dishes are washed. (and the days when his pjs are in a pile by the sofa and the disposable contact cases are sitting on a wad of damp kleenex on the coffee table are slowly decreasing). I make dinner, put away yesterday's laundry, and hope he comes home before I fall asleep.

Given the stereotype Japanese guy who doesn't do anything round the house I am super thrilled with the fact that so far it really has been an even sharing of things. Perhaps that'll change in a few weeks or months, who knows. I make sure to make an effort to thank him for what he does, and he has been very keen on his praise over my home cooked dinners.

Sickening, I'm sure! Give us a few months and there'll likely be piles of dirty dishes in the sink, dust elephants roaming the halls, and not a clean piece of laundry to be found! ;)

Thursday, 7 April 2011


- naps on my morning commute
- early morning cuddles
- cherry blossoms and blue skies
- lamb chops and strawberry daiquiris
- FB birthday messages
- the new apartment

Monday, 4 April 2011

3 & 1


It has been over three weeks since the earthquake.

Yesterday my Girl Scout troop teamed up with the Boy Scout troop and went to the local train station with hand decorated posters and money boxes to collect for the Red Cross. It was cold. Me and my girls, in our skirts, were shivering in moments. But, to use a cliche, my heart was warmed time and time again.

The Japanese have the reputation of not donating to charity but a disaster of this scale so close has changed that. When we've collected money previously for other reasons we were lucky to collect maybe twenty thousand yen (really roughly $200). This time, however, even cutting out time by a third we raised nearly seventy thousand yen, and that doesn't even include what the Boy Scouts collected!

Whereas before primarily older women would stop and put a couple of coins in the box of each girl, this time people of all ages were giving, and most quietly folded a bill and slipped it in one box before thanking us and heading off to catch their train. There were seniors in wildly age inappropriate clothing (seriously do not need to see that much, or even ANY wrinkled cleavage!), couples with young children, young professionals, and even a group of junior high students in their soccer uniforms who teased each other as they opened their own wallets and gave us a few coins.

I don't know how long these types of donations will continue as there are boxes and baskets and bottles for donations in every store, restaurant, and business. But it does show that donations can and do happen here, and it is pretty impressive.


It has been a week since I handed in my keys and left the old apartment. The landlord's wife came by before I left and brought us a gift. She then asked when we were holding the ceremony... I paused for a second but gave in and just said we hadn't set a date yet, and thanked her for the gift.

The new place is still a mess of boxes since our new furniture has yet to be delivered. Our studies are covered in piles of books and papers, our bedroom has clean laundry piled everywhere, and the kitchen floor is being taken over by random stuff tossed aside as we search for something from one of the boxes.

On Sunday U picked me up from GS and we headed out to the newly reopened Ikea - us and everybody else, as it turned out! The parking lot was worse than the mall on Christmas Eve, we had to stalk a poor family to secure seats in the cafeteria restaurant, and there was a 10 minute line for carts in the warehouse. But we picked out a bed-frame and mattress, a dresser for me (no more plastic drawers!!), and various storage bits and bobs and then enjoyed super cheap soft ice cream to recharge.

We're learning how to live together too - U is (hopefully) learning how to be quieter when he goes to work on Saturday morning, and how to call or text so I have some idea of when he'll be home in the evening. I'm learning to give up nagging him to do something instead of "resting" (aka falling asleep in front of the TV) because as soon as I announce I'm going to bed he'll jump up and start doing whatever it is (and then wake me an hour later when he comes to bed).

I spent Friday night at home alone while U enjoyed himself at what I am sure was the first of many drinking parties, but on Sunday night it suddenly occurred to me that U wouldn't be heading back to Tsukuba, that he'd be coming home on Monday night after work, I was thrilled... until I realized that meant I was expected to cook dinner!