Honesty Over Harmony

Wish I lived here

Wish I lived here

“Honesty over Harmony” was something a woman in Colorado once told me. You know how there are quotes that echo in your mind for the rest of your life? This was one of those. It was the title of a course she and her husband took after an episode of infidelity. I can’t say I agree on that front, but I do believe it has a purpose (more on that later, probably).

After my last blog, I received some “honest” comments and by that, I mean death threats… mostly from family members (aka Crazy Middle Sister). This, I expected and understood, but this is my blog, and if the truth hurts, I can only suggest some personal introspection. If anyone should be sending me nasty messages, it should be Cliff and Chase. They have oft been the inspiration for my blog and usually don’t know about it until I’ve posted. I always appreciate their feedback, listen to their pleading, but if sugar-coated family times are what they are looking for, I suggest they start viewing old Leave it to Beaver or Brady Bunch episodes. To their credit, they have an amazing sense of humor and surrender about the whole thing. It also means I can count on at least a few days of super “good behaviour” after I roast them in a blog. I love them for putting up with my rants in person and in Blogsphere.

Not Us

Not Us

I like to think I am most honest about myself. People I know who read this blog tell me how much they laugh sometimes. Do I get offended? No. I never know what makes people laugh, but if my life-adventures bring a chuckle or two, call me Mother Theresa. If you’re the type of person who is offended by everything, Freakin’ A, let me be the one to tell you, no one likes you or wants to spend time with you… and YOU WILL NEVER FIND A HUSBAND. Back to me. The other day, I went out, in my usual Brazilian, spandex workout uniform, thinking I looked pretty good. I was wearing the one pair of capri pants that weren’t black (this pair was actually a sky blue). I go to spin, do some yoga, run errands, then I get home. To my horror, I realize these capris give me camel toe to the degree that would make a camel’s podiatrist blush. I’ve been walking around, visiting my fishman (who did give me a good deal on some wild Sea Bass), looking like a Smurfette with no panties! Well, needless to say, I peeled off those pants and they were retired in the trash can.

I don't get it.

I don’t get it.

SCHOOL HONESTY: Private school admissions letters are due to be mailed out April 5th. We can access the verdicts online by the 6th, but call me old-fashioned and superstitious, but I like the anticipation of trying to use my x-ray vision, waiting for Chase to come home, and ripping an envelope open. Good or Bad, I think Chase needs to experience that for himself. My other sister in Virginia, who is a super spy during the day and yet somehow manages to have time to raise 2 girls on her own and be my personal IT support, told me she thinks I’m too hard on Chase in the blogs and making him sound academically average. That made me a little sad, because that is absolutely not the impression I would ever want anyone to have. Nor would I want him to think I felt like that once he is older and diligently reading and savouring all of mommy’s precious blog posts. I apologize if I have not accurately portrayed my son’s awesomeness. As parents, it is a fine line between being motivational while belittling your child and crushing his spirit completely. I try to ease up when I see quivering chin action.

BASEBALL HONESTY: Little league sure has changed. We (and by we, I mean Chase) are in the Majors playing on the Texas Rangers. Chase has always been The Hitter. He usually plays clean up and hits it over the fence at least once every season. That being said, I told the new coach to please not put him at #4 (Clean Up Batter) early in the season because he puts a lot of pressure on himself and ends up choking at bat. Of course, during practices, Chase was killing the pitches. Really performing well, and by the time games started, they decided to start him at #4. Chase hasn’t had a hit in 6 games. After game 4 they finally put him at #8 which was a big relief to all of us, but I’m worried the damage has been done. We are trying to stay confident and upbeat for his sake, but he cries after every game because he feels like he’s let everyone down. To be honest. This may be our last season.

Chase is #1 in our book. Number 12 on the team.

Chase is #1 in our book. Number 12 on the team.

Net-Net, I’m sorry if feelings are hurt. I try to disguise names as much as possible (not really). With everything going on in my family right now, that phrase, “Honesty over Harmony” never rang more true. I’ve learned one thing: You can eventually have harmony with honesty, but you will NEVER have harmony through lies. Peace out.

Until next time…

I’ll Stop Being Tiger Mom When You Quit Acting Like an Animal

The last few days have been tough mom days.

  1. Chase admitted to being bullied on the bus for half the school year
  2. Chase left his mobile phone in the washer
  3. Chase scored an F on his end of year math evaluation

Needless to say, besides trying to be the ultimate tour guide, cook gourmet meals, mourn, look cute and prepare for our summer stay in the US, these last few events seemed like, how do you say? “Straws on my camel’s back?” What the hell is that saying? I don’t know. You know what I mean.

1. Bus Bully

Luckily dad was here when Chase decided to finally admit the situation. Even retired, my father manages breakthroughs. Dad and I asked him why it took so long to tell us and Chase said he thought he could just handle it. God, it just breaks my heart and makes me feel so mad. I’ve never seen my dad get so angry either. He kept talking about using physical force and waving his fist around. For a man who is like “Korean Gandhi” I was in shock. I guess when you have 3 daughters, you don’t feel like you can give that kind of advice. It was also interesting to learn new things about my dad at this point in our lives, listening to him recount stories of his childhood bullies. Anyhow, we decided Chase should try to empower himself by writing an official letter to the school describing the situation and asking them “please help me put a stop to this, before I have to use my physical strength” Dad was making all kinds of suggestions for the letter, but it was starting to sound a little too Columbine, so we carefully edited just how “frustrated” Chase should sound. Next step, he would have a conversation with the principal. We also told Chase, when he got on the bus tomorrow, and when the bullies started verbally abusing him, he was to look them in the eye and say, “This stops TODAY.” The next day, everything went according to plan. The school was all over the situation and called each of the boys in for a conference. We were informed that everyone cracked under the pressure and 2 boys cried. Letters of apology were written to Chase and behaviour was documented. I don’t mind intervening in certain situations, but I am very concerned that Chase is turning into a wuss. He is always “victimized” and refuses to fight back. He has a fear of getting into trouble, which is fine, but it is crippling when you can’t even defend your honor to boys half your size. I hope once his testicles drop, maybe he’ll feel more reactive when someone insults him. Who knows.

2. Can you hear me now?

Ever since Chase was about 6 years old, and we discovered the joy of crayons left in a dryer; we made the rule: always empty pockets before putting clothes in the hamper. There were a few mishaps in the early years, but overall it has been pretty good. The other day, I put a load into the washer and went upstairs to do a little cardio. When I came downstairs, I could hear something thumping in the washer. Like a sneaker or dead body part. I waited to see if it would go away by itself, but it just kept going. Then I decided to investigate and put my face in front of the washer window and watched the cycle spinning round and round. I caught a glimpse of something silver and put my face even closer to the window. Then, suddenly, I saw it! Chase’s mobile phone smack on the window! The next thing I know, I’m seeing red and my mind is in a temporary state of paralysis. Of course I have to stop my front-loading washer, mid-cycle and retrieve the phone. I do an internet search (but my mind knows it’s hopeless) and take the phone apart and throw it into a sandwich bag full of rice. Thank God Chase wasn’t home, because I would probably be typing this blog from my jail cell after murdering my child. By the time he came home, I let him know what I found and that I would be pro-rating the cost of his phone from his allowance until it was paid for. He should not expect a replacement phone, and if he needed to call me, he would have to ask someone around him with a phone to call his mom. Then, I gave him the bag of rice and phone, and said he would have to continue carrying his “phone” with him to get into the habit.

3. The F-ing test

What can I say? I didn’t know whether to yell or cry so I did both. This was the year-end math evaluation for 4th grade students. I told Chase, “this test tells St. Mary’s, Holy Innocents, your teachers and parents what you learned in math and evidently, you didn’t learn anything!” Then I said, “You better start practicing baseball a lot more and working out because you are going to have to earn a living using your body because nobody hires people who make F’s for their brains!” Cliff and I were in Defcon 4. After a miserable evening of condemnation, I realized in bed that night that it really takes a village. I also realized that Chase’s failure was something we all had a hand in: His math teacher, Cliff and me. We dropped the ball. The next morning, I decided to go to school and talk with Chase’s teacher and see if paying these tuitions and being a private school parent I could do anything. Luckily, teacher seemed surprised as well and admitted to not being the best math student herself. She said she would be willing to give Chase (and a few other boys) a second opportunity to take the test. I was so relieved and grateful. That night, I informed Chase of this new development. We agreed we would cram and study all night. He went to bed bleary-eyed and distraught, but I knew all of this was an invaluable lesson: No pain, no gain.

The next morning, we got up early to go over a couple more things. Before he left, I told Chase I didn’t care how he scored on the re-test. I was proud that he sacrificed and studied hard. But I did say to try to at least pass.

I was so anxious all day, and Cliff kept emailing and texting me if I had heard anything. I finally decided I would meet Chase after school to show him my support and take him out for ice cream. When I got to the school, I saw Chase sitting with some friends.

  • Chase: What are you doing here mom?
  • Me: I thought I would take my best boy out for ice cream.
  • Chase: That’s nice.
  • Me: So… How’d you do?…
  • Chase: (looking sheepish) I made an A.
  • Me: (Tears in my eyes) I knew you could do it. (hugs)

I went back to the classroom and met up with his math teacher. She confirmed what he said and let me know she would combine the 2 scores and he would end up having a B-.

Was I interfering with the natural order of the universe? Was I being overprotective? Yes. No one knows what a jungle it is out there better than a tiger mom. Do I ascribe to everything the “Tiger Mom” stands for? Absolutely not. But, sometimes we need to do what we can to help our cubs survive.

Until next time…

Dad Days

In front of a men’s boutique in Omotesando

I apologize for being to neglectful. My dad came into to town for a couple of weeks and I was mourning. I have come to realize, playing the “mourning card” is a lot like playing the “pregnancy card”. No other excuses necessary. I took this picture after I convinced dad to have lunch at a veggie, organic buffet restaurant called Crayon House in Omotesando. He liked it a lot and we ate our fill. However, very soon afterwards, Dad got VERY gassy and loud and when we stopped to take this picture, he was loudly farting the whole time. It made me appreciate just how polite the Japanese are because even though Dad was obviously tooting, everyone just pretended not to notice. In Korea, people would have totally stopped and yelled, “What the hell is wrong with you?!?”

ARRIVING IN JAPAN

Waiting for my dad at the airport, I felt an increasing sense of anxiety as I saw each person passing through the gate. I guess that’s what happens when one parent dies, you just feel lucky another one’s still breathing. When he finally made it through, I felt a huge wave of relief wash over me and realized, I am probably more concerned about him traveling by himself than he is of me! He still has 2 backup daughters.

JAPAN PLAN

We hit the ground running. Dad’s flight arrived late Friday night, and early Saturday we headed out with Chase to Chase’s school carnival.

St Mary’s International Carnival

The carnival is a real high point for the school and they raise a ton of money. It was dad’s first taste of high density population fun. Despite being outside, we spent almost all our time shoulder to shoulder oozing our way through the crowds. The carnival showcased food from all over the world, and Chase actually ate his first kangaroo burger. He said it tasted like chicken.

TSUKIJI MARKET

I know. This is probably the most cliché “tourist” thing you can do in Japan; however, when your dad is a tourist and waking up at 3am it’s the perfect place to take someone where you know it will be crowded and busy early in the morning. Luckily, Chase was out of school that day and I had been trying to get him to Tsukiji Market too (he already had a t-shirt).

In front of Tsukiji Market

The person taking this photo is actually Nghi. I must say, following my mom’s death, I know now, that the people I have met here in Japan are truly wonderful friends. While my dad was here, he met Nghi, Alexandra, Nikki, Adonica, Hema and Angela. I think it made him feel good to know I had met such “good quality” people. I know I have mentioned how Nghi is my co-adventurer in the world of funky food, but did you know? that girl will sample anything and everything? Despite Dad’s surviving colon cancer, Nghi was no match for my father:

Marinated mystery shellfish off the street? No problem!

If you look up “TO RELISH” in the dictionary, this picture will probably be next to it. We had a great time and ate sushi for brunch.

NOKOGIRIYAMA HIKE

In front of a few thousands of Buddhas

Next stop Nokogiriyama, also known as “Saw Tooth Mountain”. I was really glad to get us on this highly sought after tour. However, once we were on the list, I must admit, I started to wonder if we could handle a hike on a mountain called “Saw Tooth.” Fortunately, Dad turned out to be much more athletic and fit than I expected. I don’t know if it was male bravado or what, but he kept saying things like “this hike is practically all downhill…”. I’m thinking he was probably snorting cocaine behind some statues when I wasn’t looking because I thought it was challenging enough. It has been a long time since I enrolled into one of these group outings, and at some point on the trip, I found myself chastising myself. It took my mom’s dying and my dad coming to visit, to make me step out of my hamster wheel and appreciate the fact that I am in a foreign country. Debra and I used to agree that working out/staying fit was like a part-full time job for us. How many times have we heard people say, you don’t lay on your deathbed wishing you put in more hours at the “office”. I made a promise to myself to make time to really learn more about where I am and see more of this magical place.

Making the time

IT’S LIKE RIDING A BIKE

It’s a few days into Dad’s visit now. I really thought dad and I would be taxi-ing everywhere, but given the beautiful weather and dad’s fitness level, we ended up walking everywhere. I don’t know how he managed because I live here, but being forced to walk the streets of Tokyo gave me shin splints after 3 days. I toyed with the idea of Dad using Chase’s bike since Chase was in school during the day. Neither of us could remember the last time Dad was on a bike, but he swore that it had happened in his past. I let him try my bike around our apartment complex that is located on pretty flat road and forms a continuous square. Let me just warn you, seeing your only remaining parent wobbling on a bike on public streets is enough to make you vomit. Once he was able to dazzle me with his boyhood bike mounting technique, I actually had to remind him to pedal (and of course “STAY TO THE LEFT!!!!”). I mean really, who gets on a bike and doesn’t pedal?!? I died a hundred deaths that first lap. After a few turns around the square, Dad discovered he doesn’t like turning right. He also ended up getting his confidence back and I ended up getting a sake:

My turn to be freaked out watching him behind a wheel

Until next time…

 

 

Protection and Staycation

PROTECTION

Last week I was temporarily devastated by the accidental unpeeling of my factory issued iPhone skin (Yes, it made it 7 months). Some of you know about my weird fetish for leaving the smooth plastic skin on things like, my computer, phones, TVs, etc… I don’t know if it stems from childhood or from my germ obsession. I have disgusted many who have looked at the remnants of the skin on my phones wondering what the hell that dusty, face-schmeared, flapping plastic on my phone ever was. The nice thing about getting older is you don’t give a damn. You don’t feel compelled to make excuses  for your weirdness anymore. Like Howard Hughes, your weirdness evolves to eccentricity. Another benefit to all this plastic is I am setting an example for Chase. I know at some point we are going to have “The Talk“. During said “Talk“, the use of condoms or rubbers (if you prefer) will inevitably arise (pun intended) and I feel so vindicated knowing that I will be no hypocrite. I will merely point out my shiny, intact,  items and explain how I have protected everything important to me with protective plastic skin. Still looks new.

 I had tried replacing it with Saran wrap but the touch screen interface suffered. Tomorrow will have to go to the store and see if I can find something to replace the old skin. No glove, no love.

STAYCATION

This past week was Chase’s Spring Break and we were in Staycation Mode. It was so nice to wake up and have a new adventure with him everyday. He’s at that great age where we can really just hang and enjoy one another. Of course, by the end of each day, I was telling him to “get out of my face”. Chase asked if we could go to Hakuhinkan. I have mentioned in previous blogs how this place is in the Ginza district and is the Japanese version of FAO Schwartz. I take Hibiya train to Ginza Station and go out exit A3 and walk straight ahead. It is on the right side of the street a few blocks down. Chase has revived his obsession with Dragon Ball Z Kai. He has ordered collectors cards online and discovered that there is an actual game you can play with the cards:

Videogaming 2012

In front of Chase, there is a flat surface where you place your Player cards and it somehow interfaces with the video monitor and you battle different opponents.  It costs 100 yen per game $1.21. Many of the “veterans” have portfolios full of player cards and come prepared. It’s really wild to watch. The kids love it. Every time we were there, there was always a line with at least 2-3 kids waiting their turn. The nice thing about Japan is everyone really understands how to wait their turn. I see how Chase has come to understand this and it really impresses me how the kids here don’t need to be reminded to “give someone else a turn”. They wait, they play, they get back in line. One time we arrived and I saw some guy who looked to be in his 20′s in line waiting to play. There was another kid who Chase and I have nicknamed “Vegas” because he shows up with a plastic case for his 100 yen coins.

So while Chase is in line or playing, I walked around the shop and Ginza. At the store, I came across the coolest sponges that made me feel like I was back in Atlanta:

Politically Incorrect?

I wanted to buy these sponges so badly but I’m waiting to hear comments from my readers. I really don’t want to be in The Help sequel. It wouldn’t bother me to wash fried egg off a plate with a geisha doll but hell, what do I know. I don’t wash dishes.

The last “adventure” on our staycation included going to the aquarium with our Russian friends Svetlana and Nikita. That day turned out to be very typhoonie, so when they suggested an aquarium visit we jumped.

Tokyo Aquarium

The aquarium was terrific. Not too crowded. It obviously showcased an aquarium with lots ofsea creatures, but also indoor amusment park style rides and shows. They actually had one of those pirateboat rides inside! We were also able to catch one of the shows:

Dolphin Feeding Show

When we looked for seats of course the only seats available were in the primary “Splash-Zone”. Svetlana kindly went to the vendor and purchased plastic ponchos for 100 yen each for all four of us. The boys of course wanted to sit up front. Every time we got doused with nasty aquarium water, Svetlana and I would just look at each other and laugh thinking how ironical the whole situation was. We came here to do something out of the rain and end up getting drenched by dolphins.

Good thing we came here on a rainy day

The good thing is, I found plastic to cover me from head to toe!

UPDATES:

April 2nd School Starts for Chase

April 7 Amoroso Dinner with Cliff Friends

April 13th Opening Night for Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Jacket AND Cliff & Chase go to Cub Scout Camp out

April 20th Room to Read Charity Gala

Until next time…

The Help, Media & Playdates

The other day, I bumped into a fellow expat at TAC (Tokyo American Club) who I had met before during my brief attempt at joining a book club. She asked me if I was still going and of course I had to say no. The books were terrible and forcing me to turn to iPhone app games like Plants versus Zombies to satisfy my need for escapism. Anyhow, she offered up an opportunity to join a different group with older ladies but better books. I’m obviously not an age-ist so I agreed to check out the book selections and go. The book for March is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I had heard about this book from several people. Unfortunately, I happen to be one of those people where if I know everyone else is doing something, I don’t want to do it… at least I won’t do it right away. I downloaded the book to my Kindle and within seconds was able to start reading. I love it. Some of my exhuberance may be because I just finished reading Blood Ninja by Nick Lake (I know what it sounds like) and that book was TERRIBLE. The whole way through I found it to be mind-numbing and so much the writing of a white guy who either wants to be Japanese or find hisself a Japanese girlfriend real bad. Anyhow, “The Help” is a lot better. Although, I do find it a little annoying that the author is a white woman. But who knows, maybe she “high-yellow” and I’m just being quick to judge.  The beauty of “The Help” is that I can identify with all the characters. Sometimes I feel like an uppity Southern Junior Leaguer and sometimes I feel like a sassy black house mammy. The funny thing I have noticed is the more I read the book, the more I am saying things like: “Ain’t you a sweet one to finish yo breakfast” and “Laws! you  gonna go out da house like dat?!?” I have a little money stashed for Chase’s therapy.

The irony of the book is that I have finally decided to let go of Joji (my helper) and find someone new. My last straw was Cliff finding a dirty plate in the cabinet at breakfast. My predicament is that I found her through another resident (the Coke family from Atlanta in fact) in the apartment and then, I recommended her to another neighbor who lives in the apartment next to mine. So she gone be around. For the longest time, I have been wanting to let her go, but she is really sweet and for some reason everyone in her family has been fired from their jobs and she’s the only one supporting everyone. I have a couple interviews set up for this weekend so hopefully everything will work out and the next helper won’t short-sheet my bed anymore.

RADIO & TV

As “progressive” as Japan seems on the outside, let me just inform you as a short-time resident that Japan is where old music and TV goes to die. I have my kitchen radio on the most popular station in Tokyo. Whenever they play a song, I’m reminded of some ex-boyfriend from high school. Then, when I do find myself on the couch watching TV with Cliff or Chase, on the English-speaking channels it’s all from TVLand. The Classics programming. I will admit, I have a new found appreciation for Columbo. He was a really fine detective.

Columbo

PLAYDATES

So I’ve hosted a few playdates here in Japan. A couple of things I’ve observed:

1) It is not the easiest thing to do. First, most of the kids here have so many extra curricular activities, finding “free-time” is sometimes impossible. I remember just recently, when St. Mary’s called an unexpected snow day, I called Chase’s friend who lives just up the street thinking, the mom would be happy to have someone take her son for a little playtime when they were supposed to be at school. Nope. I called at 8:00am asking if Ken could come over and play with Chase and his mom said they were busy. I know this may have been nosy, but I had to ask what they were doing. Going to the hospital to visit sick people. Probably trying to pad his transcripts for college applications already.

2) If we are able to coordinate a time together, the kid coming over ALWAYS brings something. This has taken the form of cookies, candies, and books. At first, I was a little surprised, but then it got a little weird when a particular friend came over several times bearing gifts every time. I kept saying it wasn’t necessary, but that doesn’t matter. When Chase goes to someone else’s house, now I make sure he always has something for the host.

3) It’s usually not at their apartment. In other words, it’s usually an outing. Maybe it’s because their flat is small, or cold, or messy. Take your pick. I guess it isn’t so terrible. Whenever we host, we inevitably end up at the club. That is probably one of the best points about being members at TAC. It’s the basement I used to have.

Not Inside My Apartment

Until next time…

Anniversary 2012

I know many of you will assume this blog is about the anniversary of the Tsunami and Earthquake that devastated Japan last year. I’m assuming there are better writers than myself who will cover this topic plenty, so I am going to talk about the other anniversary that falls on March 11th: My wedding anniversary.

Speaking as a woman who has been married now for 12 years (gads, how did THAT happen?!?), I understand the importance of performing my wifely duties. I feel like major holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries are good markers to remind me of such tasks. Of course, this doesn’t stop Cliff from complaining that he doesn’t think I do enough, so this year I decided to give up the pussy twice on our anniversary…

Maneki Neko

Maneki Neko from Baccarat

WHY THIS PUSSY IS LUCKY:

Many of you have probably seen Maneki Neko in your favorite sushi restaurants or Japanese shops. Depending on who you ask, some will say the right or left hand raised signifies different things. Left paw brings in customers, Right paw brings in wealth & good luck. Some say the left hand brings in the money and the right hand protects it. There are others still who say the left-handed kitty is for drinking establishments and the right-handed kitty is for stores. The collar (sometimes bib) and bell you see adorning the cats are there to imitate the common attire for cat-pets from wealthy households back in the Edo period.

When I first saw these figurines, I knew they were destined to be part of our home. I purchased them as a set and figured they would increase the Feng Shui of Cliff’s office and he could tell people he got some pussy in his office.

Orchid from 3-11-2011

2011 Anniversary Orchid

Last year, I sent a huge arrangement of orchids to Cliff’s office. I remember debating over the expense because they were seriously expensive, but in the end, I went with 5 stems instead of 3 because it just felt right. Cliff and I are often frugal with ourselves but will spare no expense with one another and in my heart I knew, if I was halfway across the world away from my family, and working hard, he would do at least that much for me. They arrived in the morning and he sent me an email thanking me for them and telling me how beautiful they were. The earthquake/tsunami hit minutes after he sent that message and we were unable to reach each other for over 24 hours. I found myself thinking about my friends in Colorado who went through Columbine. I found myself thinking about things I could have done better. I found myself while thinking I had lost my husband.

While March 11, 2000 was one of the happiest and most magical days of my life. March 11, 2011 was probably one of the saddest and longest. This past Saturday night, Cliff and I met Alexandra for dinner at Nobu Restaurant to celebrate. Alexandra asked me if marriage was all that I expected. I don’t know why, but the question sort of stopped me. Every year, my definition for marriage has changed. I have seen a lot of marriages. Some good, some bad and others unrelateable to me. I believe Hollywood/Disney has done a huge dis-service making people think there is some kind of fairytale relationship happy ending once you find your “perfect” mate. You’re lucky if you get the fairytale in the beginning. In the end, you pray you can be friends and still feel like kissing on occasion. Why did I marry Cliff? Like many women in my 20′s I had this list in my head of all the perfect features for the perfect man (aka my future husband). Looking back, I realize that Cliff was hardly anything on that list, but one day, I also realized he became the list. Is marriage everything I expected? No. But I am starting to appreciate that this might be a good thing.

Given Cliff’s reaction to this year’s anniversary gift, I’m thinking he prefers pussy over orchids.

Until next time…

St. Mary’s International School 4th Grade Ski Trip 2012

My Three’s Company Moment:

  • Boy: Hey Chase! I finally figured out how to get it up!
  • Chase: That’s great! I told you it was all in the wrist.
  • Boy: Yeah, I just had to move it up and down faster.
  • Chase: Feels good when you get it the first time…

Chase teaching a classmate how to use a yo-yo.

So I survived the 4 days and 3 nights of 17 boys. The snow wasn’t as bad as I had expected given the temperatures were very temperate and we had rain. Chase is now a confident parallel skier. I’m so proud of him. Instead of going into gory detail about the trip, I took a bunch of pictures and hope you all won’t mind an image-heavy blog this time. I do want to mention something I feel like I learned on my 3rd day of skiing.

Ski Day 3

Beautiful weather. Views are spectacular. The instructor wants to take some of the more adventuresome boys through the woods in the powder.

As I started out, I soon realized that my bearings were different in the powdery and unpredictable woods. I found myself falling a lot. So much so that one tumble felt like it just rolled into another tumble. Then, I found I was second guessing myself and feeling unsure on the groomed runs. It was like I could see every little ice chip, divot, and groove where I could potentially snag my ski and kill myself. A voice inside my head re-told a horrible story I had just heard about another family whose child had become paralyzed during their last vacation after they wanted to go for 1 last dive. By the time lunch rolled around, I was feeling like maybe I should stay back at the lodge and sit the afternoon out instead of returning to the slope. It was at this point,  I had my epiphany. I could either give up and stay home or I could make myself get back on the slopes and beat the voices in my head. Life is like this. This is what separates the pros from the amateurs. This is what defines character. I went back out for the afternoon and despite feeling tired and sore, I stuck it out. I felt good about my decision. I kept thinking to myself, this is where it all starts. The downward slide into “Old Town”. I needed to nip it in the bud. Did those voices go away? No. But they weren’t nearly as loud either.

Enjoy:

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Until next time…

India Part 5: Party Like a Punjabi

Cliff checking on a dingo

Day 3 Wednesday

This is the first day listed in the wedding invitations. Tonight’s celebration is cocktail attire and your closest 600-800 family and friends in a hotel ballroom mixing it up. The day started with 2 of Aeshna’s school friends (Sonya & Liad) and myself going to her Aunt’s home to possibly pick out some 3-piece outfits or saris for the next few days. Neena is a clothing designer and her boutique is in her home. I figured I would go and if I saw something I really liked I would get it. Hema had mentioned a good sari would run somewhere between $200-$300 (10,000-15,000 Rupees) but that I should really get a 3-piece out fit since saris are so complicated to wear. FYI, there is a famous designer named Ritu Kumar whose boutiques are everywhere and her clothes are beautiful.

So the 3 of us get into a car with a driver and head over to Neena’s. I was very pleased to have found a beautiful kaftan (picture under Day 4) to wear Thursday and I even found a sari to wear for the wedding. I had brought other clothes of course, but I figured, when in Rome and why not? I expressed my concern over not having a petticoat or knowing how to put a sari together and she said not to worry and she would make it Pret a Porter aka “ready to wear”. The other girls managed to find 4 outfits each.

Me, Neena, Liad,Sonya

I am always sensitive to the generosity of others especially at a wedding when people are going out of their way to make guests feel welcome and comfortable. I asked that Neena make certain to let me know how much my items were. She said not to worry and everything would be fine. Just as a note here when dealing with people you don’t know well, it is always wise to insist on at least a rough estimate because their idea of a fine price may not be your idea of a fine price.

Dance Shows

The evening was held at the Eros Hotel. The celebration included 3 mega buffets of Indian and Chinese food and a super stage for performances and dancing. This is what the girls and boys were rehearsing the other night. Of course, girls were practicing at the bride’s home and the boys at the groom’s. They had a choreographer pull together several different dances expressing different feelings and ideas of relationships and marriage. It was terrific. Cliff and I managed to meet a lovely couple who were long time friends of Navnit’s and they were very sweet in explaining the meanings behind all the songs and dances.

Having a great time.

We ended up calling it a night around 12:30am. The party did not stop until 4 or 4:30am. For many of the family, this was probably already their 4th or 5th day of festivities.

Day 4 Thursday

Incredibly enough, a lot of the party goers were up bright and early to go to the 12:00 event at the Bride’s home. Today was a more casual gathering and the day for Mehndi and Bloody Marys and more dancing. I also got to wear my beautiful kaftan:

Sonya & Liad (Bride's girlfriends) Bride's mom, Bride's twin brothers & me in the middle!

Day was gorgeous and the house was gorgeous. I loved all the incredible textures and fabrics of the Indian culture. My kaftan is actually Rajasthani. I had purchased white leggings and beautiful silver wedge shoes to go with. Today was also the first time we had a chance to see the neighborhood in the daylight. We knew Navnit lived in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Delhi and very affluent-looking mansions were everywhere, but just as noticeable was the lack of landscaping. It was really shocking:

Picture inside the neighborhood

Coming from two countries (Japan & USA) where curb appeal and landscaping are incredibly important, I was amazed to see such rubbish (literally). I was later informed that in India, when you purchase the house, it doesn’t necessarily include the land around it. So at any point without any notice the government can come in and do as they please with that land. Therefore, many Indians put money in their homes, but not in their lawns.

Back to Bride’s house.

Navnit's home during the day

The entire outside was beautifully decorated with bright festive colors. There were 3 sections to the outside area. In this “room” people greeted one another and you could select bangles to go with your outfits from the cart. Further in there were 2 sections. One section was completely under a tent, where the bride was getting her Mehndi applied:

and there were 2 singers singing Punjabi music behind a dance floor and another open area where tables were set up so you could sit and eat. The singer on stage acted as Master of Ceremonies and she kept calling out to family members to dance. Lots of pressure to dance at Punjabi get-togethers. I decided to get my Mehndi early since it takes about 2 hours to dry and flake off:

Mehndi with my Hindi

After a few hours, we were ready to head back. I needed a nap. There was talk of reconvening at the house for dinner and talk, but I knew I was done. Cliff and I went back and got into bed, munched on hotel snacks and watched TV and chilled. It was so nice just to do that. Plus, as buttoned up as Cliff is, it is nice to see him chasing a potato chip in bed. Funny thing about naps, as soon as you get up, you want to drink or eat again. Navnit called and invited us over, but I’m a “do-my-face-once-a-day” girl. Once that make-up comes off, if I have to put it back on, you gotta pay for the whole night. I could tell Cliff was feeling thirsty so I told him to go ahead without me.

Day 5 Friday

Wedding Day!

Day 5, and despite Indian food breakfast, lunch, and dinner, no Delhi Belly for either of us. Cliff is not having diarrhea but he is incredibly gassy. He avoids any type of gas-producing food in the real world so he had no tolerance. Coming to a country where the food is pretty much based on beans/lentils he didn’t have a prayer. We decided to do our souvenir shopping during the first half of the day. I would have liked going to an outdoor bazaar, but we didn’t have the time so we went where the quality of goods would be higher, but so would the prices. In Japan, it is considered polite to bring back a gift or souvenir from the place you have just been for your friends. Its called omiyage. Since scarves are so handy and fabrics are so wonderful here in India I thought these would make perfect gifts for my new friends. Can’t wait to distribute!

We get back to the hotel and rest a little, pack a little and wait a lot. Cliff gets his tuxedo on and now all we have left is my sari. It finally shows up and it is gorgeous! I absolutely love it. The colors remind me of Korea.

5:30pm Leave Hotel with bags

7:00pm Arrive at Former home of the Vice President’s for wedding.

Rajasthani headdress on Cliff. Punjabi Sari on Kathryn

I apologize for the picture not being in color, but the color photograph came out all red because of the lighting.

Bride's village awaiting the Groom on his horse with his villagers.

Bride's family greets the groom

Once the groom has been marked and accepted into the bride’s family, he walks down the path between the guests holding his mom’s hand. I got a little choked up during this part. It was all so solemn and festive at the same time. I kept thinking to myself, it really is a big deal when families are joined together. In America, marriages seem to be about loss. Losing your freedom, losing your money, losing a son. Even in Korea, I can’t tell you the number of times my mom tried to pressure me into another child saying “Chase is going to leave you one day!” Here in India, it was really about bringing two people and two peoples together.

Here comes the bride

10:45pm Cliff and I dash to the Airport for 1:30am flight to Hong Kong and then Tokyo.

I feel like I learned so much being in India. There are lots of similarities between India and Korea. India is probably the exact opposite of Japan. I learned there are 27 or 28 States within India and hundreds of different languages. Everyone kept telling me about the diversity of the food, but I gotta be real here: It all tasted “Indian” if you catch my drift. The Indians I met are incredibly passionate, generous, warm-hearted people. I’m glad I went, and I’m so happy to share it with you all.

Namaste

Until next time…

Adorned with souvenirs

India Part 2

Just to provide a little more background on India:

Cliff has a partner in India whose daughter is getting married. Cliff being the good Texan that he is, ended up inviting himself plus one to this wedding. At first, I was feeling a little embarrassed about our entre’ into this event, but I’m not about to look a white horse (or elephant as it may be) in the mouth and I scheduled an appointment with my internist ASAP. You are supposed to get these shots at least a few weeks in advance so they have time to “cook” in your body. Every time I go to the doctor and they ask me if I remember my last vaccinations I always say no. Who remembers that kind of thing? So I ended up getting 4 shots for things like Typhoid, Hepatitis A & B and a promise to return 6 months later for a booster. I didn’t get sick afterwards, but by dinnertime, I couldn’t lift my arms above shoulder level. Given my propensity for street food and intestinal distress, I also got some prescriptions to hopefully help me on the flight home if need be.

THE INVITATION:

Wednesday Invitation

Thursday Invitation

Friday Invitation

What you say? Three days of celebration? Yes. All the Indian weddings I have heard of have always involved 3 days of merriment. I love receiving beautiful invitations snail mail. It is part of a dying art of sending beautifully written notices on exquisite paper which has all been carefully selected with love. I think that is one of the love/hate relationships a lot of people have with Japan. In the beginning, it is a wonderful thing to watch people who take such care and time to do the simplest of things like tea ceremony, wrapping a gift, making a cocktail. After a while, it can be a little frustrating when you don’t have extra hours to wait for someone to bag your groceries, pluck the beans off a plant to make coffee, ring up a purchase and let you get the hell on with your day. The Japanese have perfected the zen of waiting in line.

GIFTS:

After Cliff and I saw the invitations and started realizing how lavish this affair was going to be, small beads of sweat began to form on our foreheads as we contemplated what kind of wedding gift is sufficient when drinks, food, and rare animals are involved? Of course I consulted with my siksaka (Hindi word for teacher) Hema. She suggested cash, gold bars, silver, and since we were coming from Japan, something Japanesey.  Evidently gold and silver are the international words for “good invitee.” Cliff insisted on consulting with his Indian friend and he told him to just give the couple $100. That’s a guy for you.

CLOTHING:

Some people told me I needed to pack a lot of clothing because these weddings are typically all day and everyday and guests need to look their freshest. Unfortunately, I have left most of my ball gowns in the States, but I have a couple of dresses that might work. I am also hoping to maybe pick up a sari to wear one night. I hope it doesn’t come off cheesy like when white chicks put chopsticks in their hair.

COOKING:

This part of my blog doesn’t really have to do with the wedding, but I have started my culinary journey into Indian cooking so I’m just throwing it in here. I was super excited to buy and fill my Masala spice set.

Masala Set

Last cooking lesson, Hema whipped it out while she was teaching and Adonica and I were so jealous. Fortunately our last visit to the Indian wholesaler afforded us the opportunity to get our own. It is so much like a painter’s palette and as soon as I filled mine, I felt like I was one step closer to creating my own Indian food art. In my mind’s eye (often referred to by yogis as the 3rd eye), I picture the American masala set:

Thursday is my next cooking lesson and we will do South Indian cuisine (last lesson was North Indian). Will try to take pictures and report back anything interesting.

Until next time…

Kathryn and Chase’s Top 10 Tokyo Revelations

1. Toilet Paper

When you first arrive in Japan, you will undoubtably be completely impressed by their systems for recycling and how clean their trash is. Your first impression is “Wow! These people are really working to help the environment!” Then, after you’ve lived here long enough, you’ll begin to ask yourself, “Where is all that unused food going?” and unwrapping your billionth individually wrapped toothpick, you start to think, maybe we’re not so efficient and earth-friendly after all? One of my biggest aggravations is going to any public restroom and finding toilet paper that practically disintegrates in your hands before you can get it where you need it. It’s hard enough trying to make sure your long scarf and purse don’t touch any surfaces while your quads are on fire from biking all day. I don’t need to wipe myself with confetti.

2. Tiny Fashionable Dogs

I ‘ve seen Chihuahuas and similar dogs. But, you have never seen so many dogs, so tiny in one place. There are dogs that will fit in the palm of your hand! I have more to say about this in a future blog, but just be forewarned. There is no limit to the level of pampering these pooches receive here.

3. Leaving Old People in the Forest to Die Revelation

(Try to read this part with your best movie announcer voice in your head)

Long ago when people reached the age of 60 and were unable to do anything, they were thrown into a mountain canyon… This was known as “Sixty Mountain Abandonment.”

[I read this part of the "legend" to Cliff out loud.

  • Cliff: Was that back in samurai time?
  • Kathryn: I'm sure it was. Then it makes sense.
  • Cliff: I'll bet that samurai work was hard.
  • Kathryn: Don't worry, I think you've got a couple more years before Chase throws you on his back. You work at a desk.]

He was getting a little too good at this

If you will recall, in a previous blog I talked about an emergency drill I used to make Chase practice with me should I ever lose the use of my legs. Since then, I have discontinued this exercise and have purchased a large stick to beat him off of me if he ever hears about this custom.

4. No Eating on the Street

It took me a little while to notice this one, because, well I was eating. Eventually, I finally realized, no one else eats walking down the street. There are even trash receptacles located next to vending machines because they want you to stand there and drink and trash there. It isn’t strictly enforced, but one time I was eating a banana in a convenience store and the clerk got mad.

5. No Tipping!

This policy is held pretty much everywhere you go in Japan. Probably because a lot of it is incorporated in the exorbitant price of what you buy. It has been refreshing to live in a tip-free environment. No more judging or being judged. I didn’t realize just how liberating it could be. What makes it really wonderful is the customer service is STILL top-notch. Anyhow, every Christmas, Cliff and I like to show a little extra gratitude and provide a Christmas “bonus” for the people who do the little things that add up to a lot. This year, I hit my massage therapist, my helper, our concierge, and our maintenance man. Since we were in Niseko for Christmas, Chase gave Mori-San and Kitamura-San (concierge & maintenance) their envelopes. When we returned, there was a very sweet note from them along with their gratuity envelops saying basically thanks, but it wasn’t necessary. I basically had to pull my Korean sassy card and insist that they take their money back and have a Merry Christmas.

6. #4 Means Death

Number 4 is pronounced “shi(or yon)”(四)in Japanese, so people in ancient days had a tendency to link 4 to death that is also pronounced “shi”(死) in Japanese. In other words, 4 means “death” to them. Often times you will notice hospitals and hotels will not have a room 4 designated:

If you are assigned Room 504 you may be out of luck

7. Blonde Asians

What the heck? I’m thinking in a few years, I’ll be blogging about the new trend of female bald heads or bleach scarred scalps.

Can you imagine what this smells like? Black to Blonde!

You’d think Japanese women would notice that on the really light hair colors there were no human models on the boxes.

8. Rakes are Good Luck and Size Matters

Our First Rake

Next year Chase says, “We’re going all out!”

9. Love Hotels

Love hotels have a legitimate place and purpose in Tokyo… so I’ve heard. Living in a crowded city where you are living in cramped quarters, no wonder there are so many single child families and so many people renting a room by the hour to get a little. Thank goodness I don’t have any reason to go… we have a spacious apartment ;)

10. Wine in a Juice Box!

Chardonnay Muscat... purrrfect.

Enough said.

Until next time…

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