Tuesday, September 30, 2008

aaaaand I'm an idiot.

I totally forgot to mention the second best part of Kendall's care package in the post below! She made me a "Turning Japanese" mix cd which has become my favorite music in the car and in the kitchen. Kendall has a sixth sense about mix cds - her "Two Ems" cd is still a regular for me. I love it! B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

In other news, a big box of cocoa and peppermint sticks from everyone's favorite Maine retailer, L.L. of the Beans, arrived today! Thanks, G&P for the cozy gift - it has become drizzly and chilly here overnight, so this will be a treat.

Monday, September 29, 2008

It's the stuff that counts

I mean, if you're thinking about sending me a care package, how would I know? It's the stuff that really gets the job done. :)

I have gotten some great mail since we arrived here! There was the darkness and light package from my mom, some much-appreciated letters and cards from Jess, Grammy and Pappy, and my Tnellecxe Tnua Arabrab (she knows who she is). Then last week I got another surprise - a big box from my friend Kendall, artist extrordinaire. I was going to wait to post about it until I had pictures, but I cannot hold back any longer.

Kendall sent me two books, one of which I've forgotten the name of(Grammar! It's not for everyone to learn it good!) and the other of which is I was Told There'd be Cake. Also in the box was a couple skeins of yarn, always a big winner with me, a card, and a big bag of black and white kettle corn from Lesser Evil Snacks. This company is great - check out their site. Even Josh succumbed to temptation, by which I mean he stole it and ate half when I wasn't looking. Health nut, my foot.

But best of all in the Kendall Box was tucked away in the bottom - three original pieces of art, about postcard sized, to hang on my wall. You see, I was smart enough in college to hang out with the art and music crowd, despite posessing no artistic talent and thus selling out into a Public Affairs major. (And yet I'm the one with no job now. Karma.) Many of my friends are incredible artists, and I am a grateful mooch. So thank you, Dirty Monster, for the delicious/beautiful/fuzzy/enlightening/entertaining care package. You rule!

Around the same time that the box arrived, Christie asked what we'd like in future care packages. I asked Josh, and he replied "Anything from Trader Joe's*!" If you don't live in the D.C. area, Boston, or on the West Coast, it's likely you haven't experienced Trader Joe's, you poor dear. Our choice of venue for retirement will be heavily influenced by proximity to the TJ.

Also too, we have had trouble finding all-natural, hypoallergenic soap here (since we can't yet read Japanese), and good espresso beans are always a hit with Josh and me. But mostly, we want to hear from our friends and family and get the scoop on what's up back home. We miss you all. So send us a note, and start thinking about what kinds of odd Japanese treats you want for Christmas. Tnua Arabrab, yours will most certainly have suckers on it.

I don't want to jinx it, but I'm told we will have Internet access at home THIS WEEK. Look for streamers and confetti soon.

*Yes, he speaks in hyperlinks. What of it?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Working for the man

I need a job.

AAAGH! I forgot Josh reads this thing. I was kidding, I swear! I don't want a job!

But seriously - it's been six months since my last actual working day (March 29 at the UUA) and while the move has kept me fairly busy, I'm afraid my brains are leaking out my ears at night.

See, last week I met up with a friend of a friend - a Navy officer who is attending school in Kyoto. Turns out he's the friend of two of my friends, actually, two who have never met. Small world. Anyway, we had lunch with a couple other people and started talking about politics, the Middle East, U.S. military policy and foreign relations - it was a good conversation.

About an hour later, I realized that it may have been the first conversation I'd had in months that wasn't about the move, cooking, Josh's job, or books/movies/knitting. All of those are important things, but it shocked me to think how fully they had taken over my life.

Here's the thing: when we decided to move to Japan, we thought it would be a good time to start a family. I could work part time, teaching English or the like, while focusing on our baby and our home life. Well, here we are two months after arriving, and that isn't working out like we planned. We still want a baby, and soon, but we've had to accept that our schedule isn't the only factor in play here, and the baby will have to come on her own schedule.

So for now I'm thinking a job - something with decent pay and enough intellectual stimulation to keep me from melting into a tub of goo. I've taught a couple knitting lessons, which fit the first criteria and are fun, but not so much intellectual.

Thoughts?

Monday, September 22, 2008

She got the moves

Did you know that moving is not the hardest part of moving?

It isn't, truly. The last move we did before Japan was from our abominable apartment in Mansfield, MA (and I'd like to take this opportunity to send a big FUCK YOU to our landlord from there, whose name I can barely keep myself from typing now. I just typed it and deleted it twice. Internet, you wouldn't believe that guy) to our gorgeous, incredible apartment with the wonderful landlord in Newport, RI. That move wasn't so bad, mostly because Josh did it while I was out of town on business. This move was another story.


Our movers were great - they brought 6,000 pounds of our crap in from the truck, in the rain, and never once let their shoes touch the floor. Seriously! In the States you're lucky if the movers wipe their feet before grinding lit cigarettes into your antique rugs, but here they take off their shoes and move the boxes around wearing toe socks.

The movers wear the toe socks, not the boxes. OR SO YOU THINK.

Still, Josh was working all day, so I had to decide where everything went, and communicate that across a fairly distinct language barrier. It was kind of fun at first - Mary and Baby Poppins were there for the morning, and we got excited seeing all of Josh's and my stuff. But by midafternoon, I was a tired gaijin. Josh showed up just in time to capture me at my most alluring.

Ah, the mysteries of the female form.

The only major challenges besides fatigue were the piano and the sofa. The piano fits in the entryway, which is great, but requires professional piano movers. Our sofa would have been fine except that the house is kind of upside down - the kitchen and living room are on the second floor - and the sofa is a big, heavy, gorgeous piece given to us by my parents. (Thanks guys!) It weighs a ton, so the movers told us they'd let the piano movers bring it upstairs.

Over the balcony.

With a crane.




It was unreal! Now everything is in, and we're still trying to dig out from under the paper.

this message brought to you by the Yokosuka Base Library and a lack of internets at home.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Series of tubes

So everything has arrived at our house! Everything, that is, except the series of tubes that brings me to you. Fingers crossed for installation next week.

We have a car! After over a month of searching the lemon lot and finding only, well, lemons, and after weeks of calling about every advertised car on the base, we decided to seek help from a used car dealer. He's a retired American sailor who runs a shop in Japan, and he found us this little gem - I'm thinking of calling her the QE2:


It's a 1996 BMW 328i with 45,000 kilometers or about 20,000 miles. The previous owner took impeccable care of this little baby, and it looks new on the inside. We're still getting used to the vroom-y engine and the turning radius, and we are LOVING the BMW handling. Not bad for under $5,000!



Since we can't call anybody, I'm going to say my hellos here:

Kendall, you RULE! I love the cd, and can't wait to tuck in to the books, yarn, and yummy snacks. Pink Lady is hilarious.

C2 girls: are you there? I think of you all the time, especially when I hear "Sweet Caroline" or wear my beadazzled apron.

Mom and Dad, hi! Miss you, love you, can't wait to talk.

Grammy and Papa, we miss you! Please give our love to Bum and know that we're thinking of you. You can send us emails if you like, though we can't check them very often. We'll call as soon as we can.

Christie, we miss you too buddy. Wish we could go get a falafel.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

House of paper

Our stuff has arrived, and we are living amid piles of boxes and paper packing material. So from the Yokosuka base library, hello!

We are alive and well and trying to dig out from the paper. More news as soon as the internets arrive at Sullins-san's East Asia headquarters.

P.S. Gram - congratulations on figuring out the comments, and welcome!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Home. Sweet. Home!

It's finally true! We have SIGNED a LEASE. We have PAID the RENT. I am HOLDING a KEY!

Okay, that last part was an embellishment. The key is in my purse, but still - I haven't had a key since June 30, and having one is a big accomplishment. The move is scheduled for tomorrow, and we love love LOVE the place.

First of all, remember Feel Wood? That was more than a month ago, and that was the first day we saw the house that is ours for the next three years. That was before we got our driver licenses, before Tokyo, before everything! Now, after renovation delays, vacation delays, inspection delays...it's finally ready! So without further ado, here it is.

The first three shots are of one of the two tatami rooms. Tatami is Japanese straw mat flooring - the mats are very thick and comfortable to walk on, but also fragile. No furniture in here! We're thinking multipurpose room - knitting, reading, or a relaxing cup of tea. This view is looking toward the back garden:

...and this is toward the courtyard. That's where I'll grow some vegetables and herbs in barrels.

The last one from this room is of the built-in storage, which I find incredibly beautiful. We'll have to choose some special pieces to display there.


Next we have something a little more utilitarian: the bathroom. In Japan, that actually means a room for baths - there is a separate room with just a toilet, and a sink outside. Here's the bath and shower room:

Can anybody tell me why, in the U.S., we poop and bathe in the same place? And keep our toothbrushes there? I like this way better.

Now let's go upstairs, where we'll find the kitchen, living room, and dining room. And oh yeah, the ocean! Three views from the living room: ocean, garden walkway, and balcony over the neighborhood.




I'll be working hard on the move for the next week or so, and we don't know yet when los internets will arrive at our new place. Send good thoughts for intact belongings.

Turns out NEWS is good news

I don't want to jinx it, so I'm saving our big news for after the bell rings. Noon today will be big!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Engrish from America!

For real. What is this about?

I love Newman's Own. The salad dressing, the salsa, the charitable giving - it's a great company! And while J and I usually make our own pasta sauces, Newman's Sockarooni is a good, tasty alternative when (for example) we're stuck in a horrible hotel room with atrocious cooking facilities. It is not, however, "an intimate companion my pasta will never forget."

Seriously, what is that about? Is the sauce going to make sweet love to our whole wheat angel hair? Angel hair which apparently has acquired a memory? And will survive long enough to not forget the sauce?

This is the strangest marketing choice I've seen since, well, since the last Japanese commercial I saw.

In other news, I got my first care package in Japan! It was so great. Mom knew I had a hankerin' for some levity, and so she sent these:

and a truly depressing book which she advised I not read until I'm feeling better. Maybe I'll put glitter fairy stickers on every 50th page to lighten the mood! Also, my parents live in South Cackalackie, so I will use the word 'hankerin'' as often as I please. I reckon I might use it again in this paragraph. Hankerin'.

Josh is doing this thing where he makes fun of me for typing. He thinks I look like the fat gamer guy from the South Park World of Warcraft article when I blog. This guy:

I think he should get a care package with coal in it. Don't you?

AAAnyhoo...I had lunch yesterday at a friend's house - let's call her Dorothy. Mary Poppins and another woman were there, and Dorothy made delicious alfredo with spinach, and oven-roasted breaded veggies and chicken fingers. Oh my goodness, we had such a great time! Mary P brought blueberry cheesecake too. I am all about food!

I stopped at a florist on my way to lunch so that I could buy a host gift, and found a nice little hanging plant with pink and yellow flowers. (Dorothy and the Oz's have a balcony). Here's a bad picture, taken on the bus and down into a plastic bag:

Cute, huh? It was not expensive, not at all. But after I paid the florist, he indicated that he wanted me to wait a moment. He made me a present!

Isn't that the best thing ever? It made my whole day - well, so did the lunch, but the flowers were a good start.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Taking the cat for a walk


...is not uncommon here, apparently. This cat was just chillin out on it's owner's shoulder, looking around and not trying to get away at all.

Those of you who have cats will understand why I had to surreptitiously snap a photo.

Damon on Palin

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On the injured list

Hey y'all. Josh is working a lot, we're STILL in house limbo, and I've had pretty serious back pain for a couple days. In order to occupy your hours of boredom and misery while the blog is quiet, do what I've been doing: laugh at stupid internet jokes.

PEACE.

Monday, September 8, 2008

B Ur Self

Josh this morning: "I think I might apply to B.U."

Me: "I accept applications every fall, but the race is very competitive."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

SOY

Great galloping stilettos, Batman! We've had an afternoon. Today was the American Sounds of Yokosuka (SOY) concert at the Yokosuka Arts Theater. Each year at this time the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra comes here and plays a concert with the Seventh Fleet Navy Band. They ROCKED. And my toozle? Rocked HARD. I, unfortunately, wore high heeled sandals and had to walk a little less than a kilometer to the theater. Ouch.

Meanwhile, back at the concert, a chatty introduction (in Japanese, of course) ensued, after which Lt. Wrenn came on stage with a conductor's baton, but no band. Then a travel spot hit the second balcony - and Josh, in his dress whites. They did a funny schtick where Josh played "When The Saints Go Marching In" incorrectly a couple times, then did a featured solo from the balcony while the Dixieland ensemble backed him up on stage. Check out a clip:
video

During the second half of the clip, Josh is running down the back staircase to get on stage and trade solos with the other trumpet player. He's so good! He and the big band played a set, then the symphony orchestra took the stage. They played a Leroy Anderson tribute, which was really fun, and a couple other pieces. Eventually a choir, then a children's band joined them on stage, and the Navy Band was interspersed with the orchestra. It was remarkable.

I spent most of the concert in the 'cry room,' which is yet another excellent Japanese innovation. Do we have these in the U.S.? It's a soundproof room behind glass, in the back of the orchestra section. Audio is piped in, and there are folding chairs and tables for parents with small children. That way, they can all watch the show without the babies bothering other patrons. Mary Poppins and another of the band moms and her two kids were in there, so I visited with them.

After the show, Josh got a fancy pen and Subway sandwiches (with shrimp. I know.) and I had sushi with Mary and Baby Poppins. Happy four month birthday, Baby P!

Chicken balls

are surprisingly delicious!

I went into town with some new friends yesterday and tried tsukune yakitori for the first time. Chicken balls are, of course, meatballs made of ground chicken. What were you thinking, sicko?

We had a good time, though their search for awesome cell phones was unsuccessful. My new friends are a new band member and his family of four - Dad, Mom, and two kids. Josh and I are officially no longer the new people in the band! Too bad we're in the Lodge still. More news Monday, we hope.

We also met with a used car dealer yesterday, and we hope to get a used BMW relatively cheaply. The little Japanese cars we've been looking at are incredibly unsafe - feels like riding in a tin can - so we have agreed to pay a little more for a safer sedan. I hope this was a good move, although the dealer hasn't inspired much confidence yet. He called me by accident after midnight one night, showed up 25 minutes late to our meeting, and lost a piece of paper containing some of our financial information.

Ah, this is the life.

Update: Oh yeah! I almost forgot - last night one of our two weak burners stopped working. Unfortunately, yet somehow inevitably, this occurred in the middle of my cooking dinner. So it took two hours, but I made mashed sweet potatoes with peanut butter, topped with curried eggplant, onion, and red pepper and a couple crushed peanuts.

I know, right? Just think what I can do in with an actual kitchen.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Spaces and loops

Oh, the knitting! Since I've arrived in Japan I have knitted two mesh market bags and a set of knitted sushi for a toddler's birthday. What fun!

But even better, today I received my first package: a box of twenty-eight skeins of merino wool yarn in two colors. It is GORGEOUS, incredibly soft, and I have already started working on a special gift for a special lady...one who is currently cooking a baby in her belly! No more hints on the project or the recipient, but I am really excited.

Off to knit!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Parking garages can be fun

Did you know?

Mary Poppins and I went shopping for bathing suits today, but we bought baby toys, a polo shirt, pastries, tea, and peaches. Whoops!

There wasn't a bathing suit to be found in the department store, but we found a lot of great stuff. The baby toys and accessories are wonderful here - high quality strollers are lightweight, easy to fold, and are not covered in characters from television. Ms. Poppins picked up a couple things for Baby Poppins, and I found a polo shirt for Josh.

After the store, folks, I DROVE. Mary Poppins, in an act of faith, let me drive her car (in Japan! off base!) to the coolest parking garage ever, while she entertained Baby Poppins the Car-Hater in the backseat. Wheehoo! Check out the garage - the camera is not moving, the floor is. Try to watch the green car in the back right:

Amazing, huh? It's underneath a public park and fountain. You just drive down a ramp and straight into a spot, and they move the car up into storage on a second level, then bring it back when you return. The U.S. could learn a lot from Japanese efficiency. Oh, and this video was from a previous trip - Josh wasn't with us today.

After stopping by a tea shop for some o-cha (green tea) leaves, I had a pastry with a veggie croquette baked right in. On the way back to the car we passed two men selling peaches from the back of a truck - only in Japan would I wonder if they were selling contraband FRUIT, but whatever.

I asked for "go," which means five, and they were advertised at five for 300 yen - that's an incredible price! Unfortunately, the guy started rattling off Japanese to me, pointing at various peaches, and obviously asking me a question. I gave him 300 yen and kept repeating "Gomen nasai, wakarimasen" (I'm sorry, I don't understand) until he handed me a bag with five peaches...plus two! He threw in two ripe yellow ones for free!

I love Japan.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Good day, long day

Emily, Josh respectively.

Joshua has been performing all day, starting with a 6:30am muster for a ceremony and ending sometime later tonight after a dress rehearsal for Sounds of Yokosuka. Sounds of Yokosuka (SOY - how appropriate!) is a joint concert with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, set to take place Sunday evening. I even get to go, woohoo! Poor Josh is all tuckered out, though, and not expected home until after 10:00pm.

I, on the other hand, feel great! I met with Mary Poppins and another of the band members' wives for coffee this morning. Other Wife had to pick up her son fairly early, but Ms. Poppins, her baby girl and I spent the afternoon eating sushi, talking, and shopping for veggies in the basement of Daiei Mall.

Well, come to think of it, the baby couldn't do any of those things. She spent the afternoon being carried, cooing, and pooping. Lucky bug!

I'm off to have a nice long bath, a cup of tea, and a pleasantly quiet evening alone.

UPDATE: Please disregard everything written about poor Josh, above. He waltzed in at 7:30 pm, feeling great.

Got 12 minutes?

Watch this. You can skip to the five minute mark without missing too much substance.


That's leadership I can believe in.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tokyo takes Emily


For REAL, people. Took me out in a single afternoon. Is it any wonder, with the size of the intersections?

Josh and I had been meaning to go to Tokyo for some time now. It's not far by train, but between househunting, me being sick for a while, and just general craziness, we hadn't been able to make it. August 30 was the last day our friend Natonya from New York was going to be there on tour, so we decided we had to go.

I love that nature lives within the metropolis. It's like Central Park, but bigger, holy, and clean.

We hopped a train in Yokosuka, transferred once, and were at the door to the theater where Natonya's group was playing in less than an hour. How cool! We joined her and some of her cool friends for lunch at Pepper Lunch - you order from a machine, and the cook presents you a 500 degree (Fahrenheit) plate with steamed rice, sauce, and raw beef or salmon. The plate cooks the meat while you eat, and the flavors are great.

Natonya, Josh and I walked around for a bit, before she had to leave for the second show of the day. So cool to see a U.S. friend in Japan! Josh and I had planned to spend the afternoon sightseeing, and we started at the grounds of the Imperial Palace. It is so beautiful! Here's a lawn outside, with impeccably manicured trees and lawn.

Don't step on the grass! There's also a big moat with swans and ducks, and ancient, beautiful gates and bridges. We loved it.




Then this happened:

...and a couple minutes later it started to POUR on us. Buckets of big fat rain fell, and Josh struggled to avoid admitting that bringing raincoats had been a good idea. We bundled up and headed for the subway.

No more pictures though; it was too wet out! We spent a couple hours in Akihabara, a technological district with miles of TVs, cameras, DVDs, even mopeds for sale. We stopped for refreshment and Josh had some kind of cold, sweet green tea drink with ice cream on top - ew! I got luckier with the picture menu and had plain yogurt drizzled with honey and blueberries, and a scoop of blueberry sorbet. Yum!

We were tuckered out from the rain and my feet were dyed brown from my leather sandals, so we came back to Yokosuka at 7:30 and stopped for dinner. Guess what we had.


Tokyo can kick my butt, but it can't take away my ramen.