Wednesday, August 31, 2011

raw fish

I've eaten raw fish of some sort almost every day since I've been in Japan (including right now, as I eat an afternoon snack), and I haven't even died or gotten sick.  I also haven't seen any of the ubiquitous signs from the US that say "eating undercooked seafood will lead to dysentery, malaria, and death" (though, admittedly, I may have seen the signs and just not understood them...).  I usually have no idea what I'm eating and today was no exception, but it was yumm-o.

I've run a few times since we've been here.  To give you a sense of where we are, here is a map of where I've run so far.  This weekend I'm hoping to get up into the mountains to our immediate east.  It has cooled off a bit (only 29°C today, not 33°C).

Sunday, August 28, 2011

In spite of the fact that I keep hitting my head on things that are designed to be in the sky, my life in Kyoto is working out pretty well.  I can take the bus to where I need to go and can usually make myself understood.  No one really expects me to speak Japanese, so when I do, they are very appreciative (for my one or two words).  The kids started school today, and they were a little apprehensive, but after an hour of filling out forms, W and I were taken to their classrooms so we could see how they were doing and they both seemed fine.  M was head and shoulders above everyone else in the class.

On Saturday we went to a famous zen temple just east of us.  Amazing gardens to walk through; we'll be back.  N took 100 pictures on his ipod; we will have to download them. Here are two I took with my phone (since we of course forgot the camera).

We went to a children's celebration/ceremony on Saturday night with W's friend in downtown Kyoto. We started with a home-cooked feast that was so good.  I have no idea what any of it was, but it was a mixture of salads, eggs, vegetables and lentils. At the ceremony, we passed a giant prayer bead circle around while the ... priest(?)... chanted a lot of words and numbers.  Then we had ice cream and beer, while the kids did a Japanese piñata... WATERMELON.  I could get behind this religion...  Then we did sparklers.  Here are some photos:

It's weird to have absolutely no understanding of anything, but this is a very welcoming culture and religion (I believe from the coloration it was Shinto, but I could be totally wrong). Several people told our host that they were very happy to have us attend their ceremony. I need to practice kneeling though; my legs were in agony.

On Sunday we took the train to Osaka (only about 500¥ each, really cheap) to visit another friend who was giving away a lot of things from is mother-in-law's house.  We loaded up a suitcase with dishes and kitchenware, while the kids scored on a big box of plastic toys and animals.  They happily played with that while we packed up the stuff.  Then we had an excellent sushi lunch and B drove us back to Kyoto (THANK YOU!).  Everyone here has been generous and helpful!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

living without understanding

This morning I learned how to pay a bill in Japan.  I had 2 pieces of paper; one in English, one in Japanese, and I had to ask the building manager what to do.  He suggested that I could go to the bank on the paper, or go to the post office (there is one right by the kid's school) to pay the bill.  He printed us a map, and I decided that the post office was a closer option, so N and I headed down there. When I got there, the nice person behind the counter spoke at me for a while, I showed her the papers, said "chotto Nihongo" (which means little Japanese, but I think they get it...) and she said something else.  Then she held up a finger and took the papers back to someone else.  In a few minutes, she came back and said some more things but was shaking her head.  I took this to mean that I couldn't pay the bill there.  I asked her "kore wa?" (which might mean where, but might also mean what) and pointed to the bill.  She said some more words.  I nodded, pointed to the bank and said something presumably unintelligible.  We ended with "Hai's" all around.  Interesting.

On the way out of the post office, I got some cash at the ATM, so at least we won't starve to death.  I can get money!!

I went home, traded kids with W and took M up the street to the bank.  When you go to a Japanese bank and walk up to the teller, they say "no no, go get a ticket" (in Japanese, so you don't actually know what they are saying) and so you go take a number and sit down.  We had sanji go (35), and the teller was helping sanji san (33), so we only had to wait for 2.  There was, again, a lot of yammering back in forth in two languages but eventually I wrote my name in カタカナ and signed it a few times and wrote my address in a few spots (thank goodness I typed it into my phone!!) and then she took my money, plus 350¥ as a payment fee (not sure if its a percentage or a flat fee) and disappeared.  She pointed towards the chair as she left so I sat.  La-de-da, and in a few minutes, she gave me part of the paper back as a receipt and I was done!  Easy peasy.  Don't even need to know any Japanese (but it helps to know a few key words like "ticket" and "bank" and "money").  Exciting times.

I have spent the last 2 hours catching up on email and working on some things in my office. I don't have a lot to do here yet, but I do know that I will be giving a research presentation here (and hopefully at Kyoto University as well) So I need to convert my old powerpoints and data into a 50-60 minute talk.  My host came by earlier while I was working on my talk and we decided that we would talk science on Monday, so I should probably at least skim the abstracts of his last few papers by then.  It's been on my to do list since February....

Here is my lovely view from my desk at work (taken from my cell phone):

the kids have been retained to create art.


In typical Waggenheimer fashion, we have now officially made our first trip to a Japanese hospital.  All we have to do now is clog a toilet and get moved out of a hotel room, and our trip will be complete.  N was acting very sluggish all day and when we got home from the elementary school to begin the registration process (10 pages of unreadable kanji, and 6 people yammering on in Japanese... plus 2 shoe changes to get to the princapls office... its going to be interesting) he was feeling worse.  We put him in the A/C and he was super hot but not sweating.  W thought it was heat stroke, and we were cooling him with cloths and ice, but eventually I called the RA in the building and he got the building manager, and then we called my sabbatical host and he took W & N to the Kyoto University hospital.  M was inconsolable as they drove away; I'm sure she thought he'd never be seen again and die in the hospital, but they were home in less than an hour with antibiotics and a fever reducer.  Not sure what it is, beyond a severe cold.  He didn't eat much yesterday and has been a little quieter than usual today, but he seems fine now.  I crashed after lunch today and took a 2 hour nap, so maybe I got some of the bug too.

We bought some of the gym clothes for school today at the local corner tobacco/school-supply store (?).  3 shirts, 2 pairs of shorts, 2 hats, and 2 pairs of shoes. They didn't have M's size in pants and we have to go back in 2 days.  It was about $125 for that, but they're very cute!  here is the gangsta' picture of our darling children dressed up in their new gym clothes.

We need to get 2 more pair of shoes (or possibly slippers) and $40 worth of school supplies (that one of the teachers is nicely going to pick up for us and we will pay him back).  Everyone at the school was VERY nice and I got an email from one of the teachers or assistants today and she offered to help us fill out the forms and purchase items (we will need the help).

It continues to be HOT today.  W and I spent some of the day figuring out our phones; I think I can send texts now.  And the phone is set to English, which was a big help.  Tomorrow we hope to begin the supposedly 1 month process of opening a bank account here.  We will need some cash before then.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

getting settled.... more.

We have now officially registered with the Kyoto government office. This means we can (hopefully) open bank accounts and get cell phones now.  We also know where the kids will be attending school; very very close to our place (see map!).  It is extremely hot here today, 31 °C (88 °F).  It is supposed to go higher, and continue to thunderstorm, but right now it is hot and sunny.  I bought a fan on the way home yesterday so we can sleep without using the A/C.

My first day of work

I was supposed to start at KIT on Monday, but since we don't have cell phones (yet) or internet in our room (yet) and no easy way to make local calls (yet), I couldn't arrange for my host, Harada-san, to pick me up.  So, after a few email exchanges yesterday, he picked me up at our apartment this morning and took me in.  Very low key, but I now have an office, a key to the office, and I am ON THE GROUND in Kyoto.

After getting set up, we walked over to the Sakyo-ku ward government office to begin the process of registering us in Kyoto.  We needed photos, and W needs to come to sign some documents, so we didn't do that.  Without the paperwork, we can't get phones, or a bank account, so we want to do this quickly.  I found a place to get passport photos taken, and then I went to lunch with Harada-san and his collaborator (whose name I can not remember right now) at a tiny little traditional Japanese restaurant just north of KIT. Its a very beautiful area with some nice old looking buildings (but was told that they are relatively modern... not sure what that means).

My office is giant; larger than our kitchen/dining room, and completely bare.  We bought the kids some paper so they can help me decorate.  We got passport photos taken after dinner at Kyoto University (right by our apartment) and tomorrow, bright and early, we will head back to the Sakyo-ku office to register and hopefully begin the process of bank accounts and cell phones.

The adventure continues!

p.s.  I had yummy grocery store prepared sushi for dinner.  I haven't had restaurant sushi yet but am really looking forward to it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

day 2

Today was our second full day in Kyoto.  We were at least somewhat adjusted to the time today;  I slept from 830 or so last night until 230.... thought I was up then, but somehow managed to sleep until 5 or 515. I made coffee (thank goodness we found coffee, ground, and a filter thingy to go on top of a cup).  We puttered around and got out of the apartment around 9 or 10 to wander around in the pouring rain.  We saw some temples and shrines (don't ask me which ones, all the syllables are sounding the same to me right now) and walked down a cool little canal and a cool little 400 year old street and then crashed until dinner. Then, we left the kiddos at the apartment to make our THIRD trip in THREE DAYS to Izumiya (departmnet store) and bought even MORE household items, and food (including 3 kinds of cereal, cream cheese for the bread, and ritz crackers as a special treat.  Mia is basically starving to death but the rest of us are enjoying the cuisine).

As requested, here are some photos of the new digs.  Are you ready????

First, the "master suite."  Think:  college double dorm room.  Note the Lucy/Ricky bed arrangement.

The view from where I'm sitting looks about like this:

Here is the kids room;  think college single room...

and the view from where they are...

hey, behind them... its the DINING ROOM! (and further back you can see the "master suite" again)

The dining room must be close to the KITCHEN!
(Note, I know Mia is tall, but this is not one of those funhouse pictures where Mia is supposed to look like a giant. the fridge is shown to scale)

And finally, the crazy bathroom sink.  This is a new one.  The first time I turned it on, all of a sudden I am standing in a pool of water.  Uh-Oh, I say.  That can't be good.  I look down, fearing the worst, only to discover that is a "feature" and not a "bug."

Yep.  The sink drains to the floor.  The entire bathroom is plastic and slopes to the drain there in the middle of the room.  Its fun to brush teeth and shave.  We need to get one of those wooden slatted door mats to stand on while doing those things.

And, thats all for now.  I am going to bed.  Supposedly I have my first day of work tomorrow, but I don't know how to make a phone call from our room (or if its possible) and I haven't gotten an email reply.  Maybe tuesday...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Getting here

Both kids passed out on the flight to Osaka, and it took four flight attendants to help us off the plane. But the good news is that by the time we got to passport control, everyone else was long gone. We spent the night in the hotel airport in Osaka, and then took the shuttle to Kyoto.
Our apartment is very small, but we are almost completely unpacked. The kids are sharing a room so tiny you can hardly walk between the beds, and they have two bookshelves for everything they brought.

It's hot and humid, but there was a lovely breeze when we took a walk along the river on the way to dinner, our first evening in Kyoto.

day 1 in Kyoto

We got up, each of us had a shower, we hung laundry all over our apartment, and then walked to a convenience store to buy and eat breakfast, then we spent 5 hours wandering the streets of Kyoto.  Now it's 10 15 AM.

Oh, yeah.  We got up at 3.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

International travel with 2 insomniac children...

San Francisco.  1:00 PM, August 17th, after tearful goodbyes with K.

Twelve hours later:  Natty has strewn the contents of his backpack all over the airplane, Miriam has poured her orange juice on her shirt, no one slept, Adam watched four movies, Miriam sobbed when the flight attendants asked for the headphones back for landing, neither kid ate any airplane food, Miriam got lost coming back from the bathroom, and then broke out in a rash all over her body.  Just another typical travel day for our family.  And we're not even there yet.
Seoul.  6:00 PM local time (2:00 AM for real), August 18th

We're taking bets on whether or not the kids will be walking by the time we arrive in Japan.  There will only be an after picture if the people request it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Goodbye USA!

Goodbye San Francisco.
Goodbye California.
Goodbye USA.

We are off!  It doesn't seem real.  I'm not nervous, I'm not panicking.  I'm in total denial I think...
The adventure begins!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Goodbye Claremont!

A little out of order, but here is our "official" Goodbye Claremont photo.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

in San Francisco

Somehow, we made it to SF with everything we currently own, and we made it without leaving the kids by the side of the road.  We got out of Claremont by 11 (9am, HA!) and arrived up here by about 8.  I'm on my first beer.

empty house

the house is empty, and we were only up until 1130 last night.  Special thanks (and door prizes) went to K&N, S, and B&L for taking our leftover food, and bags of garbage.  K&N get a special shout-out for being the best possible friends and helpers EVER.  I've been tossing and turning in bed since 5 so I got up and am about to go off in search of coffee.

What a difference 15 hours makes:
530 am yesterday

830 pm yesterday

Friday, August 12, 2011


Supposedly we are driving to San Francisco tomorrow.  If we're still awake in 18 hours packing and cleaning the house, can someone please bring over something strong?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

8 days to go

First of all, thanks to Leslie Ward for suggesting this great blog title.  As she said on Facebook, "I can't wait to hear the updates on what I am now calling Project Hellokittyhappyfuntimes, i.e. your upcoming move to Japan."

We just got back from a week in New Mexico, where Wendy graduated from her Alexander Technique training program.  Now we are frantically packing our house and attempting to get ready to get out of here. We drive to San Francisco on Saturday, and fly to Osaka next Wednesday.  Wow!