Friday, March 23, 2007

something to do

Thank you all for your ideas for things to do during Spring Break. I took Emi shopping on Tuesday and we rented some kids videos (Robots, Mulan and SpongBob SquarePants) and then went to the 100yen shop and bought some interesting things to keep them busy. So far this week they are doing great.

I, on the other hand, am realizing that my tendancy towards procrastination is more deeply rooted than I would have previously believed and the house has completely fallen apart because of it. The only reason my husband hasn't complained yet is because he is too busy to notice which somehow seems wrong. My procrastination is usually kept in check by the fact that if I don't keep up with the things that need to be done then our existence cannot continue but with the girls on break and Chikara so busy this has ceased to be true. Did you know that if your kids stay in their pajamas all day then there is less laundry to do? Did you know that if you make extra pancakes at breakfast that you can serve them for lunch too?

I think part of the reason I'm choosing to do nothing about this is because from April our lives will become more complicated and scheduled than we have ever been before. Emi & Misaki will have different schedules and events, Sakura & Natsuki are at home but on different schedules, Chikara's schedule is pretty much the same but with more responsibility and I will be going back to teaching English two afternooons a week. It's the first time we've all been headed in different directions and although I know we'll figure out how to manage eventually, it's the time inbetween that has me all tied in knots.

For example, today I took Misaki to the preschool to find out what class she's in and buy any school supplies that she needs for next year. I did it all wrong. We woke up late, I couldn't find my ID Card, as we walked out the door I realized that I hadn't turned in our pictures for next year's ID cards and spent 20 futile minutes looking for them, took Misaki in her regular clothes instead of her UNIFORM, forgot the piece of paper I was supposed to turn in and so on and so forth. I managed, all by myself and in Japanese, to accomplish all the stuff we had to do at the school like find out which class she's in, buy more PE clothes and school supplies, get her name tag, find the places she puts her stuff away but when I asked for new ID cards because I couldn't find ours I got the "raised eyebrow". Sigh. I could've made my husband go with me and probably everything would've been done better but eventually I have to be able to do this stuff by myself. I guess I'm learning by trial and error. One thing about living in another country is that my ability to find humor in my mistakes has definitely increased.

On this note, in an attempt to embrace the procrastinator in me, I will not stop here and clean my house but instead do an Expat 54321 Meme (I don't know what a meme is so please don't ask me!).

Name five things you love in your new country:
  1. Convenience stores. They are open 24 hours and you can pay your bills there any time that is convenient (hence the name). When I was pregnant the fact that you could buy food at any hour came in really handy.
  2. Preschool. They do amazing stuff with the kids here. You would think it was high school for all the effort they put into it. They really teach the kids the protocol needed for elementary school (but no actual studying!?). Plus they're so cute in their uniforms.
  3. Sense of community. Our neighborhood is very friendly and helpful. We have sports days and summer festivals together and everyone helps out with keeping an eye when kids are playing outside.
  4. Fall. October and November are a welcome respite from the hot summer. The weather is fabulous and it doesn't rain very often. This has got to be my favorite season now.
  5. Costco. I know it's not Japanese but I'm glad that Japan is westernized enough to have some familiar stores.

Name four things you miss from your native country:

  1. Clothes. I miss being able to buy clothes that fit and match for me and my family at a reasonable price.
  2. Food. I miss Taco Bell, Olive Garden, Newport Bay and Elmer's. I miss being able to find food that I want.
  3. Snacks. I miss my favorite snacks. When I go home I gain weight because I lose all sense of self-control in the snackfood aisle.
  4. Family & Friends. This should really be first because I miss my family a lot. Plus I miss being able to converse easily and feel like people get me.

Name three things that annoy you a bit (or much) in your new country:

  1. Smoking. For such a health conscious society they sure do not take smoking and it's harmful effects seriously. I get in trouble all the time for giving the girls a little pop because the carbonation is bad for them. Seriously? If I was going to have a problem with pop it would be for the sugar and caffeine, OK!
  2. The System. Everything in Japan is regulated and organized sometimes to the detrement of the people it's supposed to be helping. It gets overwhelming sometimes, the paperwork, the waiting, the looks of disgust you receive when you ask a simple question, and my husband puts up with it on my behalf a lot. Thanks, sweetie!
  3. The lack of support for the family. The birthrate has gone down in Japan and I can tell you why. There is not a lot of positive support for the family. The government is trying to throw money at the problem but that's not going to change a thing. Dads need to be able to be home more, you need to be able to get around in a stroller easier (don't get me started on this one), nurses, doctors and public health people need to be nicer and more encouraging, parents need to be able to take a break once in awhile (ie. babysitters) and the school experience needs to be a little less stressful.
Name two things that surprise you (or surprised you in the beginning) about your new country:
  1. How nice people are to me and my daughters. I really expected some discrimination but so far we've experienced the opposite. People go out of their way to be friendly because we are not Japanese.
  2. How people feel powerless to change their situation. I find that having a difficult life is really valued here in Japan. I hear people (especially women) say that their life or a certain situation is difficult but everyone else is experiencing the same thing so that makes them feel better. What a bunch of hooey! I feel like screaming every time I hear this sentiment. We actually get picked on because our life is "easy" but actually we work very hard to resolve issues in our life.

Name one thing in your new country that you would miss terribly if you had to leave it:

  1. Probably the sense of community. Being from Canada where neighbors are more friendly and then moving to the States where we hardly saw our neighbors, never mind talk to them or have a BBQ together, I have found that I really appreciate the friendliness of our neighbors. When the kids are outside, it's reassuring to know that all the neighborhood moms and grandmas are keeping an eye out for the kids and for strangers lurking around, etc.

You're supposed to tag people to do the meme next but I won't. If you'd like to try it yourself, go ahead and put it on your blog or post it here. It was surprisingly hard to come up with things I genuinely liked about Japan. I can see that I'll need to work on that.


Mom said...

I think you do amazingly well in Japan, and are really appreciative of many aspects. I think you like the cooking there, because it is simpler and the portions are healthier. What I like about Japan is that everyone knows their place in society: more and more that is missing from our society. What would kill me would be to be stuck in a place and not be allowed any latitude. I see that people respect you for the effort you make to learn the language and train your family in a culture in which you are unfamiliar. I love you for that myself,
love Mom

coarse gold girl said...


I'm writting this in my p.j.s and the girls are still in theirs too! I made a batch of banana oatmeal bars and we just finished up our second serving (the first serving was breakfast). I hear ya on the procrastination part! It's like I need to sign up for a "weekly visitor" or something to get me motivated! Did you know that if you never fold and put away the laundry you can start to just grab whatever you need right off the line?


cara said...

ha! i laughed out loud when i read your comments about pajamas and pancakes. i'm still in my pjs, but at least i got ayva dressed. i, too, found it difficult to come up with 5 good things about france. i could have come up with a great many other things for the annoyance factor though. and 100yen store? love it.