Tuesday, November 11, 2014

October and Halloween

I can't believe Halloween is over and done for the year. October saw us eating tofu cuisine, swimming at the beach! (yes it was still warm enough for the beach here!) We also visited a beautiful park with lots of fun things to do for Gabe and beautiful nature to see and enjoy...but we came too late and could only stay for a an hour and a half before it closed and we were kicked out after driving for 1.5 hours! Another time.

We also hiked up to a beautiful shrine just above our apartment. It was very serene and peaceful. Gabe complained a bit about the long hike but it was worth it once we got to the top. I just can't believe how beautiful Japan is. Every place on Earth has its own beauty and I'm enjoying getting to know Japan's.

Gabe had his Fall break and we did make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and made a few Halloween crafts. We didn't get out much but we had fun anyway.

We hit a food festival, painted pumpkins, and enjoyed the school Halloween party.

Gabe was a pirate and I was a skeleton. I didn't go too crazy but it was something. Archie and I set (Archie) set up our trunk for trunk-or-treating. I took Gabe around to do all the fun games. Haunted house, donut eating contest, the works. Gabe had a good time. He only got trampled once in the mad rush to the line for trick-or-treating.

So without further adieu here are the pic highlights of our October!

Photo Oct 02, 12 43 57 PM.edit
My tutor Yasuko San who took me to a tofu restaurant
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My tofu plate!
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Beach antics!
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Gabe loves swimming!

Photo Oct 11, 3 47 20 PM
Bihoku park
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Cool mushroom playground!
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3 puppies in a stroller!
Photo Oct 12, 11 57 12 PM

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Photo Oct 26, 11 13 32 PM
Yummy cookies and ramen dipping dinner!
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the last one says Boo!

Photo Oct 31, 4 43 27 PMPhoto Oct 31, 6 19 59 PM

Sunday, October 12, 2014

September Antics

September highlights include the Hiroshima City Park with the PTA families from Gabe's school and our trip to Bunny Island!

September also included sickness for Gabe and me...on into October as well, unfortunately. The germs are really hitting us hard here.

I joined the Hiroshima International Women's Club. It brings bilingual Japanese women and other women foreigners together to learn from each other and create a community. Our first meeting was a class on Ikebana, Japanese floral design. it's beautiful but a very difficult art to master. My new friend Tazuko san helped me quite a bit! We get together at least once or twice a month for coffee and cooking/and or other cultural exchange classes.

Fall comes a bit later here in Hiroshima. I'm looking forward to the beautiful Fall colors in the next month or two. But for now we are all enjoying the cooler weather.

Gabe is enjoying school. His reading has already grown exponentially. He went on his first field trip to see Japanese houses last week. He enjoys PE and Japanese class. He is also learning to swim really well. He loves it.

Archie is being worked to death....long hours makes it tough but we enjoy the weekends.

This week is Gabe's fall break. We plan to make a lot of Halloween and Fall crafts, bake some pumpkin bread and get outside a bit.

We are also looking forward to the school's Halloween party on Halloween. Gabe plans on being a pirate. I'm planning on a skeleton and Archie will go as himself!

I'm looking forward to healthier days! I hope! Being sick makes everything miserable.

Here are some highlights from September....

Photo Sep 08, 11 52 46 AM
My arrangement and Tazuko san's
Photo Sep 21, 2 01 17 PM
Shaun the Sheep!
Photo Sep 20, 2 01 31 PM
Beautiful Flower
Photo Sep 20, 2 54 39 PM
Train ride up the mountain!

Photo Sep 20, 3 35 57 PM

Photo Sep 20, 3 16 09 PM
A very scary but safe bridge!
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Photo Sep 06, 4 52 12 PM
bunny island
Photo Sep 06, 4 21 09 PM
Hubs feeding teh bunniez

Photo Sep 06, 4 23 22 PM

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Life Gets Busy....

I had such high goals for myself when I came out here to Japan. I was going to blog incessantly and keep everyone updated. Facebook has had to do over the last couple of months.

I've been going through culture shock and homesickness and the blahs of being sick.

I'm crawling may way back out...but in the meantime...

Gabe started school last month. He rides the bus to and from everyday. He is also in school all day. It's been a bit rough on both of us. I miss my little buddy and he hates having to go 5 days a week but once he gets there he seems to enjoy every bit of it. I get to volunteer in class for an hour, too, each week.

I spend my days doing the normal things like cleaning, grocery shopping, budgeting, bill paying, cooking and planning meals. Plus, two days a week my Japanese tutor Yasuko San comes on over and we spend 4 hours a week that way. I'm taking an online class and plan to take a few more while I'm here. I exercise, walk around and see the sites, grab a cup of Joe, etc. And I get some more reading time in, too.

Archie works crazy hours so we don't see him until the weekends. We try to get out and see new things every weekend.

There's no guarantees how often I'll post but my goal is at least once a week.

Here are some picture highlights from our adventures over the last 6 weeks or so.

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Really good pizza place with wine!
Photo Aug 14, 3 13 10 PM
Chuo Park right by our apartment. Beautiful.

Photo Aug 16, 1 33 20 PM
Hamada Beach.

Photo Aug 16, 1 33 53 PM
Add caption

Photo Aug 16, 1 34 06 PM

Photo Aug 16, 2 18 46 PM
He could have buried himself!

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Miyajima--too hot that day. Look forward to coming back in the Fall.

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Photo Aug 23, 1 49 25 PM

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Photo Aug 23, 12 31 12 PM

I'll throw in more highlights soon. But this should be enough for this post.

Japan was really hot in June and July. August was very rainy and now September has cooled off significantly with some sunny skies.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

It's Hot Tonight!

The rainy season is coming to a close and now we are into really hot weather here in Hiroshima. The highest temps of the year were recorded yesterday and many people were taken to the hospital for dehydration and heat exhaustion throughout the country. I do not like high heat and combine that with the humidity, it's pretty unbearable here to be out and about.

So I'll be looking for things to do either at home or places to go that are inside or allow us to just cool off! The family pool is a great way to cool off with water and today we hit the river just 20 minutes away. The river is shallow so Gabe was able to splash around with friends and stay cool.

Photo Jul 23, 12 41 42 PMI did drag Gabe out on Wednesday to buy some art supplies. We didn't get everything I was looking for but we got enough so we can get started on some fun art projects. The store we went to is called Tokyu Hands. Each floor has a different theme. One level is for stationary and art supplies. Another for hobbies and small crafts. One floor even has a tsunami rescue shelter for 4000.00! Just in case, you know.

The paper here is adorable. They have cute post-it notes of every type of cat and dog and cute animal shape you can think of or letters and envelopes and origami paper. It's a scrapbooker's wet dream ;) I got a few items for my own journal. :)

This month we've just been trying to get used to actually living in Japan. Where are the stores, the malls, the restaurants? Where are the fun places to go? How do I get there when my fellow expat friends aren't driving me there? Driving and biking still give me pretty high anxiety. So I'm taking it pretty slow. Biking isn't going to do me a lot of good until it cools off. I can take me and Gabe to some local parks and the local YMCA for his swim lessons, etc. But I probably won't take the bike too far from my house. Bikes aren't allowed on the trains. So my best bets for getting around far are the car and the trains and buses. But it'll come in handy for places within a 10-20 minute walk.

Last weekend we took around some co-workers of Archie's to see some of the local shopping areas. They are here for 2 weeks at a time once or twice a month to get things going for Micron over here.

Photo Jul 19, 11 26 30 AM
Before the bomb hit
Photo Jul 19, 11 26 20 AM
After the bomb
We first headed over to the Peace Memorial Museum. The first weekend we got here we visited the A-dome but not the museum. It's a very sad and yet hopeful experience. Hiroshima does not pull any punches when it comes to its descriptions of what happened to their people and city when the atomic bomb was dropped. Pictures and stories. It was a very harrowing experience but an important one. Don't forget the past or one is doomed to repeat it. They are very pro-peace in Japan and are always involved in summits to disband all nuclear weapons around the world. Gabe was a bit young for the museum but I'm hoping to take him back before we move back to America when he's 7. I think he'll be able to handle it better and take it in. This is a place I'll probably come back to alone to take it all in.

Photo Jul 16, 3 15 50 PMPhoto Jul 16, 4 08 28 PMLast week Gabe and I ventured out by ourselves on the train to the Children's Museum! It's small but fun. And it's free! Can't beat that ;) Gabe got to enjoy a large climbing tube area and the joys of sound and light. The second floor has a big train track that you can play with and lots of little gizmos that run on solar power!

Photo Jul 16, 2 57 50 PM
It went all the way up to the 2nd floor!

Sunday I wanted to practice driving---well, not actually but I need to. I've been especially weary since the last time I drove I hit a curb and my hubcap flew off. Archie had to track it down and put it back on. Doh! But I couldn't find my International Driver's license so Archie ended up having to drive but I did find it after I returned home. He thinks I subconsciously misplaced it so I wouldn't be able to drive! I think he may be onto something....We made it up to Gabe's school. It's about 25 minutes away in the car and a pretty straight shot. So I'm happy about that. I'll try it out this weekend. I'm even hoping to make it to Costco soon ;)

Later that day I had a Meetup with some Japanese people. So Archie and Gabe came along so I wouldn't get lost! The meetup is for the Japanese people to practice their English. So I got to speak English and ask a lot of questions about their language and Hiroshima. I look forward to more get-togethers with them! All so nice.

Monday was a national holiday here in Japan. Sea Day. They celebrate the ocean and all the marine life and everyone gets the day off! It's pretty cool. I really like how Japan celebrates nature. We wanted to get to the beach but we were pretty worn out from Saturday and Sunday. So we relaxed at home and then went to dinner with some expat friends.

Photo Jul 21, 7 06 53 PM
And this was dessert!
Many places shut down on Mondays, but especially on holidays so it took a bit of time to find a place open but we did! A little Mexican-American place that sells root beer! That is a tough thing to find in Japan. So Gabe had a root beer float and a quesadilla. I went with pollo mole and Archie went with a burrito.

Photo Jul 21, 6 18 37 PM.editWe definitely are having fun finding new places to shop and eat and hang out!

On the rainy days we take our tea outside on the balcony with treats, Tiggers, and a good book :)

Tea party today on our balcony with Gabe's stuffed animals and a wonderful story. Perfect afternoon :)

It's pretty lonely. We do miss our American holidays and open spaces. The States have a lot of that. We miss our cats and friends and family too. But we are giving Hiroshima our best and are loving our experiences here too!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Japan So Far....

I need to be more consistent! After our visit to the Hiroshima Castle I've been a big slacker. I'm just trying to get used to everything here and find my way so I haven't had as much time to just take it all in and write about it.

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Hiroshima Castle

I still need to take time to take some sunny day shots of our apartment. It doesn't get a ton of great natural light but I'll do my best when it gets sunnier. Hopefully this weekend and when the place is a bit cleaner ;) I really like it, though. It'll do for us over the next 2 years!

I am enjoying having so many things really close. Lots of shopping district, restaurants, and the grocery stores are all within walking distance or a short bike ride or hop on the train station, which is literally right outside our apartment door. We have McDonald's across the street too ;) A family pool is two train stops away and it's pretty nice. The Hiroshima Castle and Temple is within walking distance and if I ever decide I want to run, they even have a jogging trail! The YMCA is also very close and it offers lots of stuff for Gabe to do like swimming lessons, dance, sports, etc. I can even sign up for the gym if I desire.... And a really nice liquor store is literally next door! They have a children's museum close by which is free except for the planetarium. The library is right next door to that. And any street car or other train lines are all within another train ride away. Oh, I can't forget the Costco! Lifesaver! It doesn't have everything I'm used to but it still has plenty.

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Everyone is also so nice and helpful. Lots of restaurants have English menus and most of the menus come with bright colorful pictures so even if they don't have an English one I can just point and say please! No tipping is expected. I feel bad not doing it but it's how they roll here so I'm enjoying it.

Also everything is small and adorable. I found a little cocktail shaker that holds 4 oz maybe. It's just adorable.

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The hard stuff so far. Driving! It's on the left side. All the signs are in Kanji with a bit of English or hiragana/katakana. The roads are smaller. The signal and the windshield wipers on the opposite side. Plus there are people and bicyclists everywhere! We all share the road to some degree and it's quite scary. I fear I'll maim some poor elderly woman or some punk kid on a bike going to fast! Yikes.

Bicycling is also scary. I got one of their big bikes with a basket and a seat for Gabe on the back. They are big and heavy and durable. I've never been much of a biker in the States so trying to figure this out is pretty daunting. They are very very talented bicyclists here. Weaving in and out of traffic and pedestrians is what they do.

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Also everything is in kanji. It's frustrating to not be able to read things. My brain hurts after five minutes at the grocery store. It'll take time but it's daunting in the beginning.

I find I'm missing bread. They do have bread here but it's only white bread and it comes in blocks which they slice into 3, 4, 5, or six slices. And they are pretty big slices. I found one that had ten once but I haven't found it again. So we head to the store pretty often to pick up bread. They do have bakeries but they are usually filled with pastries which are good but something I shouldn't have everyday! So flour, sugar, etc are all high-priced commodities. Specialty bake shops carry the things I need but I haven't been to one yet. Also our "ovens" are really microwaves with ovens too. I miss my large oven. But I love their gas stoves and pans! I can't forget the rice cooker! So amazing. We will be bringing one home with us for sure :)

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Green Tea Cake! Yum!

So it's harder to figure out what to cook for the family. I usually to crock pots and breads and pasta and all that American stuff...here it's doable but a lot more expensive. I have no idea how to cook Japanese style and it looks like lots of prep. So we do what we can. But curry is everywhere and it's good and quick and easy so we've had that a few nights.

I really want to learn how to make okonomiyaki! I've written about it before but it's heavenly. It's fairly simple ingredients but looks like it'll take some practice before it'll come out all right!

Shabu shabu is also delcious! You boil your meats and veggies in special sauces right at your table. Gabe loves the meats so it's a good one to go to. Ramen is amazing here. Katsu. Curry. I still need to find a good sushi place. I want to eat out every night but we can't afford that but we do make it out at least once on the weekends and try new things.

Fun day with friends :) beautiful gardens here.
Shukkein Garden! Beautiful place.

There's more to write but I'll end here....I'm a little lonely missing my kitties and my friends and family and English...ha ha! It's culture shock. I'm in it but trying to deal with it and know it'll last for a bit longer and may even get worse before it gets better. I keep my chin up and know it'll get better as I meet more people and get new friends, figure out how to drive and bike my way around, and get a bit better at Japanese, which all takes time :)