Are we driving on the sidewalk?………………..AGAIN?

Konnichiwa! 

On driving in Japan:

So this pretty much sums up the excitement of recent driving adventures 🙂 We have taken some evenings to drive around, explore, try new foods (Steak and Hamburg-very tasty and an homage to Lindsey Hamburg!!), sight see, etc. So aside from trying to drive on opposite sides of the road/car…we can’t actually read any signs. This ones means stop…
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Plus there is writing all over the roads. Have no clue what it says. 
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Now, this is a typical stop light and street sign. 

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If you are interested in looking at all the various road signs…there are MANY then follow this link
http://www.yokota.af.mil/shared/media/document/afd-100329-005.pdf

We have managed thus far to navigate fairly easy despite being illiterate. And many thanks goes out to the lovely google maps for being most helpful finding our way around. However, the one thing google maps doesn’t seem to indicate…is what is and isn’t a sidewalk…and if it allows vehicles (which come on, they usually don’t). The first time we mistook a sidewalk for a road was when we were driving past Kozoji station. We followed directions indicating to go straight, then turn left. We reached a dead end, and turned left. It wasn’t until I got to the end of the “road” when I realized we were on a sidewalk. Luckily the honda fit fits in between posts. 

Tonight, we hit sidewalk #2…at least I think it was a sidewalk. Again, google maps said to go straight (oh and did I mention trying to avoid large ditches on the sides of the road…usually on streets that are “2-way traffic” but really only one car fits at a time…so narrow that I have to push the automatic button to close the side mirrors…ya. Just saying. 

So maps tells us to go straight, and turn left ahead. It was dark, pitch black actually and I see a bunch of flashing, moving, circling lights up ahead. Apparently the road ends, and you can only go left or right. Directions say to go left…so I do. Other cars ALL go right. As I am driving down, I realize there are no more road paint (many roads have words painted on them) and there is an older couple walking down it. To the left is the river…to the right is the ditch? Not sure, but both sides were pitch black and deep drop offs. I stop…Paul, is this a sidewalk? In the end, I reversed it all the way back (go me, I kept it straight), and went the other way. We of course made it where we were going…but seriously. I need to learn Japanese (Kanji, katakana, and hiragana. Look it up). So, I have become fluent already in sidewalk driving. If you want a lesson, let me know. 

Now, the first day of school! 

Kids weren’t supposed to arrive until 8 and for the first day only they came straight to the room. Glad I was there early because several showed up at 7:45! BY 8:45 all kids were here. I met most of the parents, only those whose children came in on the bus (which actually pick up students from the local train stations! So the kids come from allll over!) I didn’t meet. I have a very talkative group. Teachers know that usually the first day is quiet. The kids are excited, but nervous and maybe sleepy. Nope, not here. They were vibrant and wide awake. 

I received some cute gifts from a couple students-you probably already saw the skull bracelet. It was cute. I promised her I would wear my other skull jewelry so she would know that I really did like it. When she saw me today, I could tell she was eager to find out. I showed her my bracelet and earrings, and she grinned big time and hugged me hard. It was precious! 
My day was relatively short. Because we are a small K-12 school (350 kids), we have crazy schedules. The kids were with me for only 15 minutes before we had the welcome assembly in the commons. Following that they went to music. From there, they split into Japanese classes. Then, we went to lunch/recess. I finally had them with me at 1:15, but on Wednesdays it’s early dismissal, so they left at 2:00. We hardly got anything done, but had a great day. 

Today was day 2, and they came in just as eager, but followed directions and listened better. That was nice. I was sleeeepy today. Today I had them until 1145-they had lunch, then Japanese again. After Japanese, I had them until dismissal at 3:25. Dismissal is strange! No bell, no announcements. Just watch the clock. Some parents start hanging out by the door, and when we are ready, and it’s close enough to 3:25, I send them off with their parents. Then one group goes out my back door to car riders, and the other group out the front door towards buses. It’s strange, but it works. 

Tomorrow they have art, lunch, then PE back to back. Will I ever get used to this? This is just the week 1 schedule. Next week is a week 2 schedule. It alternates all year. 

Overall it’s been great having the kids. I have been so excited to move here, and learn, and experience the food and culture…but I came to teach. And finally, that’s here. 

The kids are fairly quirky, and come from all over. I know many of you have been waiting to hear about my class makeup, so here goes. 

About 4 from USA, 2 Korean, 1 Dutch, 1 South African, 1 British/Japanese, 1 Korean/Japanese, 5 Japanese. They come with so much knowledge, and fascination with everything. This will certainly be an exciting year!

For those following my FB posts, you might have noticed me posting about yoga. This is only my second time ever doing it, and it’s led by our new secondary art teacher. She does a nice job, I feel relaxed in there with everyone. There are only about 7 of us who go, and everyone else has a bit of experience. I am proud that I am able to go, and somewhat keep up. I try what I can, and when I can’t, I watch and stretch. It’s super hot in the area we do it, but there are lovely views of the mountains. And it does help me relax. If nothing else, right now, that is nice. I took a nice walk around the neighborhood the other night. I really enjoy looking at the houses. It’s so peaceful here. Quiet, and peaceful. It’s strange though, some of the houses. It’s a mix…mostly traditional Japanese houses, with private driveways with gates and lovely gardens. Then, peppered every so often, is a pastel colored, victorian modeled house. Complete with pointy tower windows and scalloped siding. I mean, really? Strange. 

Last weekend was great exploring Nagoya castle and seeing traditional Obon dancing. I am looking forward to visiting another castle soon, one that is older and un-touched. Less touristy. 

I made my first Asian dish…an attempt at Pad Thai. I successfully located fish sauce and soy sauce (you wouldn’t believe the amount of sauces they have!), got everything for it…I thought. Apparently, what I thought might have been tamarind paste…was in fact some extremely hot sauce paste. SO it looked right, but it was missing that other taste. Still ok though. I was just excited to have found the right sauces!

That’s pretty much it for now. Late night, long hours prepping…and trying to fit in some me-time to balance it all out. I usually am only work work work-so let’s hope for some relaxing through yoga and walks…and maybe a bike ride. I am getting the courage up to try it out! 

For now,

Oyasuminasai
おやすみなさい

K + P

 

ps-Paul is doing pretty good. Trying to figure out his schedule too…they keep changing secondary. We have figured out a bit of a system…he goes home after school’s out and picks me up about 615. That works for now! 

 

Pss-Please view the pictures below for more tales from Japan. See foods, sightseeing, and a hostess dog named Chester. 

photo (6)image (16)image (15)image (14)image (12)I think people were carried in this. Ummm…I am waay to big 

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Ok, it’s messing up. More pictures later! Look for second post!

Y

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Why isn’t there an Undo button??

こんにちは

So I had just spent 45 minutes telling you what’s happened so far this week with some GREAT stories and descriptions. And I somehow deleted the WHOLE freaking thing. Really? UUGH. WHY isn’t there an undo button? Why doesn’t it save automatically??? SO, here is the recap.

We are alive. Doing very well. Very well fed. Lot’s of meetings at school this week. Lot’s of freedom to teach/plan/decorate/monitor how I want. Yay.

Went downtown. Shopped, ate. Drank-ladies night, all you can drink, 1,300 yen ($13). Like whoa-great night. Somehow we made it home from downtown on the trains/bus by ourselves 🙂

Temples. Ancient, full of history, beautiful. Swanky coffee bar/cafe (no booze, but treated like it was). I think the owner was Yakuza. Made friends, took pictures.

Drank beer/wine and had pizza and sushi at school last night for official welcome back dinner. Drinking at school. Wowza.

Yummy coffee today at Pelican. Love that place. National holiday so school “closed.” Spent most of the day there. It was nice…my own key-no alarm. Decorated-organized. Getting there.

Yoga-did it at school for the first time today. New art teacher taught it. Very relaxed. Might go again.

Paul fixed dinner. MMM.

See photos below and make your own stories.

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Good night. Maybe more pics tomorrow when I don’t feel like throwing my computer and cell phone out the window.

Sayonara
さようなら

Land of the rising sun

Ohayo!
おはよ

I know it has been a loong time since my last post, and a LOT has happened…mostly…oh you know…MOVING to JAPAN!

WE are here 🙂 I am going to break this post down timeline style so here we go!

 

Saturday, Aug 2

Going away party
Thanks to the hard work of my family (my parents, my aunts, my sister, and my mother-in-law) we had a smashing party! Great weather (finally!) and lots of love and memories shared and made. That evening I spent time with my family. With my sister I watched the much anticipated Outlander (novel) TV premier. It was soo good and I am so happy I got to see it with her before we left. Later I went out with my mum and dad for margaritas 🙂

 

Sunday, Aug 3
Up bright and early for our first flight! Landed in Chicago around 1230, rented a car and met Paul’s aunt and uncle for pizza! Oooh Chicago has some nomnom pizza! Instead of staying in a hotel, we prefer to use AirBNB. If you haven’t heard of it, look it up. We have done this several times, even hosting once, and it’s so great. We headed to our BNB which was 10 minutes from the pizza joint and got settled in. It was a lovely home with a lovely couple. It was also a great place to relax before meeting up with our friends (Paul’s childhood friends I might add) at their home (about 15 mins away). I love spending time with Ray, his wife Jessica, and Angelo. If only we all lived closer! They fixed us a terrific meal-steak, corn, asparagus, potatoes, salad…the list continues. The hottub was, well hot, but it made for great relaxation and conversation after dinner. We said our goodbyes with promises to see each other soon…literally! Angelo visits in October and we have tenative plans to meet in S. Korea with Ray and Jessica to show us around sometime in the future! After midnight we crashed!

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Monday, Aug 4

With another early day, we awoke with the sun and headed for the airport. Tokyo Bound! The flight wasn’t actually so bad as I made it out to be. Yes, 12-13 hours…but when the clock said 4 hours left I said…really? I guess I was plenty entertained. I watched 4 movies…Divergent, Harry Potter (hehehe, thanks ANA airlines for that solid!), The Grand Budapest Hotel (strange but good), and The Other Woman (very funny indeed). I actually slept a bit too without needing my medicine! I suggest bringing a bigger pillow. They provide a blanket and small pillow…but an extra regular sized one would help cushin you when you lean on ‘someone’ or the window. Paul enjoyed the aisle seat so he could stretch his legs. I like the window to cuddle with. We had 2 meal services. Both were pretty good-ummm, the first was a hamburger type meal, no bun but a dinner roll. Potatoes, carrots and broccoli-then I had something with noodles and chicken? ANA (All Nippon Airlines) was a GREAT flight. The flight attendants are some of the best, and the planes were top of the line. Take the time to fly them if you get the chance!
At some point Paul and I played games-tetris and something else against each other on our monitors. Overall, super easy flight.

We arrived in Tokyo about on time (I might check with my dad on that as he stayed up all night tracking our flight…I love you daddy!!!) 1:00 pm ish…strangest thing about the flight…? It was daylight the whole time! It never got dark. Silly timezones!

We made it through immigration with a breeze where we were issued our Residence Card (green card…we are legal now!) then headed for customs…again, another breeze. From there we took a connector flight to Nagoya in a smaller plane and landed about 6ish pm. After collecting our luggage we saw Matthew (headmaster of our school)! He met us at our gate, exchanged big hugs, attempted to get a rental phone (waaay too expensive so nogo-luckily Matthew loaned us an old flip phone that belongs to the school-came in very handy!), exchanged some cash money, met Judy who is Canadian and recently left and England teaching post and headed home!

It was about an hours drive from the airport to our apartment, most of which I don’r remember. 30 minutes into the ride Paul passed out (snoring so loudly I might add) and I was zoning in and out.

Once in our aparment (and after the air finally kicked in) we passed out…only to wake up at 4 am.

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One meal on plane
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Tuesday, Aug 5

4 am is not a good time of day. Ever! We were starving so after trying to get into our bags for bathroom stuff, I fixed breakfast. Luckily the fridge was stocked with some basics, including eggs, fruit, bacon, cheese, yogurt, milk, butter, etc. The eggs are so good…and the yolk is almost orange-but they taste almost better to me! I took a couple hours after that to unpack and try to organize a bit. Move some furniture around etc. At some point we decide to brazen a walk to the Aeon, a typle of 2-story (as most are built up rather than out) shopping complex for some more food. Matthew had said it was close by…but where? No internet, no cell phones…no car (it was at school). So we walked out and Paul had the bright idea (no really, it was!) to look around and saw the big tower that said Aeon. It was brilliant! We headed that way. Luckily it wasn’t so long of a walk, but it was hot. Saw some cool buildings along the way-lots of things we couldn’t read 🙂

The store (which we have visited often) has a grocery on the left, a bike shop on the right, a clothing store above the grocery, and 100 yen shop (dollar store) above the bike shop, and a Sports Authority next to that. Once inside, I watched what others were doing, somewhat followed suit, and made our way through the aisles. Though everything was in Japanese, we were able to find what we were looking for. Sprinkled within the local products were western (like Febreeze). Our first shopping experience was great actually-got what we wanted, waited in line, sort of communicated with the cashier, paid for our food with yen (without making a mistake!), and made it back to the apartment (only getting slightly lost trying to go a different way) without any problems. Paul wasn’t arrested for anything and I don’t think I offended anyone!

Our IT person, Sylvia, whom I spoke with a lot before we arrived came over to meet us officially and say hi! She Scotish and a hoot! Can’t wait to hang out with her more! Then Reiko came over to show us how to work things in our place, sign some paper work, etc. She took us up to the school-I saw my room! We did more paper work, tested out our car (didn’t drive it until the next day), and found the room holding our stuff we purchased from teachers who were leaving NIS. Sylvia then met us at the school to take us back to her house to use internet (yay!), have coffee, and hang out before we went to dinner with the gang (well, those of us who were there).

 

Kappa Sushi-conveyor belt 100 yen sushi. A wild experience. Basically sushi of all kinds comes out on a conveyor belt by your table. It’s all the same price, so you just grab the plate you want. If you choose to, you can order something from the menu using the touch screen computer at the booth. Your food then arrives on a bullet train-so cool! Pretty tasty! We both started to nearly pass out during dinner and soon passed out at home…it was only 8 something.

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Thursday, Aug 6

Sylvia picked us up early-though it wasn’t so early as we were up around 430 am! Stupid jet lag and time change had us up early and eating breakfast. Once we got to the school we loaded up the car with stuff for home and I ventured out to the Japanese roads for the first time in our Honda Fit. I was terrified! I won’t lie…but today I feel like a pro. It was strange, very strange at first. Everything is different, it’s hard to tell depth perception on the other side…or at least it’s different so you have to adjust. The blinker is on the right instead of the left, so only a couple times I have accidentially turned on the wipers instead. After some early hesitation, it got easier. The worst parts to look out for are the drain ditches that are uncovered on many roads…you can get tires stuck in them (eeeek) and the “two way streets” which are really only suitable for one car at a time, which means someone pulls over slightly, avoiding ditches, to let the other car pass. All while being on the opposite side of the road. Sheesh, it’s a lot to think about.

We came back to the school and decided to load up a huge, long and skinny work van with the rest of our stuff, plus two other teacher’s things. I hopped in, backed it up along a curvy road, then drove it to all three apartment buildings where Paul, Judy and I helped deliver furniture. I can’t beleive on my first day driving I drove (very well I might add) a utility van. Ah well, seize the day and all that.
We met up with our translator who helped us aquire phones…which took 4 hours. They are so very efficient in Japan…really, they are. That’s why it takes longer…they go through everything.

We were late to our official welcome dinner because of that…made everyone else wait an hour 😦 We felt so bad (there were 5 of us doing phones). We had a traditional meal, Okonomiyaki Honpo Kozoji…which is a tabehodai (all you can eat, timed meal). We take our shoes off, sit in sunken tables, and the grill in on in front of you. We all have a total of 17 minutes to order food, from the first time someone makes an order. Basically you just point to the dishes you want, but we had someone who spoke Japanese order most everything as she knew what she was about.

It’s also unlimited beer/soda in that time. Paul was a happy camper after moving all day. We had so much food…chicken, pork, octopus balls (a type of hushpuppy with octopus inside), egg pancakes (the raw bowl comes out with egg, rice, veggis, seasonings…all different. You mix it, then pour it on the grill. Each side cookes for 6 minutes and then you use two spatulas to expertly flip it over. You top them with mayo drizzle, a ‘bbq’ type sauce, and fish flakes. They were all quite yummy. Again we all (the newbies) started falling asleep, and it was hot-so after we finally left it was time for bed. Again it was only 9 something.

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                                                                              Octopus ball

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Getting cell phones!                                            Does everyone know how to order?

The past two days were filled with many adventures and activities. We went to McDonald’s for breakfast…sorry America, Japan beats you! Their food is so much better! Did you know American meat is banned in Japan? Don’t blame them. Meat comes from New Zealand mostly, and some other places. Orientation Friday was about opening checking accounts, taxes, health insurance, bill pay, etc. We took a tour of the school-it’s huge! And beautiful! And small all at the same time. I was in my classroom a bit looking through cabinets, hanging up my Norton Park shrine as Paul calls it! Friday night was Karyaoke. They do it so different here. You rent a private room for your group and it has unlimited sodas and strange bar drinks. We sang for 3 hours staight, all (15?)  of us who were there…but it was really fun. I usually don’t like karyoke…but this was great. Will definitely do it again! Paul stayed home…needed some quiet time.

Saturday we met my sister’s college roommate, Akika, who was a Japanese foreign exchange student who happens to live close by! Small world! We met for coffee and her family is so sweet. We have plans soon for a meal at her home. Our apartment is finally coming along after our adventure to another ward/city to go to a home goods store that is like a smaller Ikea (since the closest one is 3 hrs away). Finally, we have a place that looks brighter and more like home. I hope to fill shelving space not with trinkits from the store, but interesting things from our travels. I can’t wait!


We have settled in well as you can read. I have met some truely amazing people and I can tell this will be a great school-I am so thankful for this opportunity to learn and grow and share my excitment and love for learning and teaching with the community! Sadly, there is bad weather this weekend and the traditional Obon festival and BBq this weekend was cancelled. We shall see what Sunday has in store!

If you have made it this far, thanks for sticking through this post with me! I had to type it offline and use my personal hotspot from my iphone to upload it. If I waited much longer I would forget everything!

 

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Singing! I promise I am having fun!                       Akika-my sister’s college roommate

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Love you Norton Park! You are with me!                This place is sooo good! Pelican

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Pelican motto…best coffee ever!       Most restaurants have a service button!

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The best granola. Period.                      Interesting samples, the toffee especially!

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270 yen is about $2.00                             Serious about karaoke 

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Keys to my car, keys to my room, and copy card!             A whole aisle of rice

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Noooo Kelli, ye’ve got it all wrong! (say in a Scottish lilt)    This meal. Nomnom

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B
eef, rice, spicy green beans! Yum                       Cooking my first breakfast!

 

 

That’s it! 
Sayonara
さよなら