Archive | July, 2014

Kiwiana Exchange

31 Jul

So we have my Japanese English student her for just over two weeks. She arrived last Sunday and the first thing she did when we got home was flood the toilet. Poor thing. It really brought memories back because the first thing I did when I got to my host family’s house for my year of high school exchange in Shikoku was…. flood their toilet.

Well, not exactly flood. I wasn’t used to hi -tech Japanese toilets and faced with too many buttons to press I completely missed the flush placed in a normal flush position and pushed the water jet bum washing button instead. Had to sneakily run to the bathroom for towels.

Our toilet was fine all last week but on Sunday the kids all went in quick succession, al pressed the half flush not quite properly and then it started leaking up through the floor at the back – plain water mind you. Thank god. I cleaned it up, went myself and it was fine so just presumed would be fine when student went.

Apart from that she has settled in really well. She went straight into school the next day. Was super nervous in her blue school uniform and tie, which I miraculously remembered how to tie.

Today is half way through her school experience. She talks about girls who she has become friends with, was super excited when one of them started showing an interest in learning lots of Japanese words, and when she first came out with a mixture of Japanese and English. She picked up a hot cup of tea and said owchi – mixed from Ow! and Acchi!. Fortunately owchy is a completely acceptable word here 🙂

I am trying to keep food new and kiwi-ish. We’ve had meat pies, sausage casserole, chicken roast, hokey pokey ice cream, she gets a small pack of cheezels or rashuns or twisties in her lunch, have also had burritos, lots of garlic aoli, honey and super multi grain bird seed bread 🙂

We are off to Rotorua tonight for two nights to get away, see some of NZ (as much as possible with three small children), see a sheep show, ride some tractors, experience some Maori culture, maybe Luge and maybe jet boat. The weather isn’t looking to flash hot but.

Then next week I need to try and get my nieces to come babysit for a few afternoons after school so I can take her shopping and for a pedicure! I mentioned it and she was super excited. Can’t pedicure in Kunimi thats for sure 🙂 She has finally told her friends in Japan where she is and is feverishly LINE-ing them in the evenings – apparently photo bombing her whole class with pics of seagulls and ice-cream.

Good times.

SDGH&QL

Feeling Blessed

30 Jul

Feeling very blessed – and not because of health, children etc. (that’s a given)

No, Ryu’s teacher is just awesome.

A couple of days ago I went to see a woman about literacy and teaching the three kids phonics for a morning before school every week. She was lovely and everything but her homepage said she charged $35 per lesson. Yes, I was asking her to do my three kids for the 45 minute lesson – all at once, seeing as their literacy level is about the same. She said she would lower the price to $30 each and then wrote $90 on her pad. We were just nearing the end of  our meeting and I didn’t say anything but thought really? You usually get $35 for one on one and you are going to charge me $90?

I’m a teacher and there is no way I would charge that much? I’m cheap I know but come on, my kids aren’t being tutored in technical essay writing. Its flash cards and consonant sounds and singing for fucks sake.

Stuff I know I actually teach back in Japan but I was ‘hoping’ I could find someone to do it with the kids, not here at home, for a reasonable price.

This morning I was talking to Ryu’s teacher about it. As is, the ESOL teacher at the school takes all three kids out of regular classes several times a week. They go into a separate room and do English – not really phonics and basic reading and writing. More oral stuff by the sounds of it. Ryu’s teacher does a lot of phonics in class – just because it is the new entrants class and all the kids need it.

She showed me her phonics stuff and CD and it is really fabulous and she is going to get copies of all of it by Monday and I am going to try and do ten minutes at home every morning. Ten minutes I think I can manage. The mornings are pretty hectic – especially at the moment with the Japanese student here too and plumbers coming to fix leaking toilets and men coming to install broadband etc.

She then offered to give up an hour of her Saturdays to teach the kids phonics. She is just so invested in them reaching their full potential and its almost like they are becoming her personal little project. She has grand children the same age as Ryu and Marina.  She is the perfect mix of kind and firm and of course fabulous.

I have really been blessed in the teacher department. Shou’s teacher two years ago was pretty much the opposite. Just kind of put up with the kid who can’t speak English for a term. Ryu’s teacher wants to see how much they can achieve and was visibly upset when she found out today that they were only here for two terms.

Wahooo – just having a quiet celebration for one here, with my latte from down the road at the Ahuriri Cafe. And the internet man just rang and said he’ll be here in five.

Right, have an editing deadline today – and need to get out and pound some steps. The fortunate thing about living at the bottom of a hill is that I have a  workout right outside my front door.

SDGH&QL

Kiwi School

30 Jul

So much for post bombing! It’s like time is part of the Bermuda triangle here. That shit just disappears.

The kids started school last Monday – less than 48 hours after we got to Napier. I hadn’t really really thought it through. It was all just part of the planning process. Book tickets, contact schools, rent house, buy car, get to house in time for kids to start term 3. In a completely new school, with no friends, surrounded by English and strange things like kids running round with no shoes on, apples and pears being eaten whole and everything, and lots of Yo’s, and ‘what the hecks’ and ‘nahs’ being thrown round left, right and center.

Ryu had a mini panic attack it was all just too much for him. Marina spent some time in his classroom but every time she went back to her own classroom he would start crying and it was too much for the teacher too and so at lunch time I went and picked him up.

The other two coped – just. Shou said he didn’t say anything but understood everything and Marina just did everything in Japanese and pretended like the rest of the class could just take her lead on this shit, cause she sure as hell wasn’t going to get this whole English lark.

Come Wednesday and they were all fine and Ryu’s teacher said the difference was amazing and he was coming up to her and asking for help with stuff and joining in.

Come today, a week later yet, and Ryu has two star awards already and spent all afternoon barefoot, Marina got the class medal and I when I saw her this afternoon just before home time she was singing a Maori song with the class, and Shou has two friends and a girl he ‘likes’…. he is also throwing ‘what the heck’ around like ya wouldn’t believe.

All of them like school and there is no dragging of feet in the morning which is a huge relief as it must have been a hard week for them last week. I thought it might take longer for them to fit in and like it but apparently not! Kids are amazing resilient and adaptable creatures.

They have the school disco next Friday – theme is white winter so if anyone has cool costume ideas that don’t involve me plaiting Marina’s hair and taping carrots to Ryu’s nose then do tell.

In soon to come (I hope) posts – still not drinking and now doing lots of exercise but not losing weight as NZ home to kebabs and yummy sauces and licorice, and trendy cafes on every corner…

Will also post about work and the Japanese girl currently in residence – who is having a fabulous time.

Hope everyone is Japan is managing the humid humidity.

Right, off to do the kids readers and have some Feijoa and peer juice…

 

SDGH&QL

 

PostBombing Part 1 – the Journey

22 Jul

Beware, I am about to post-bomb gaijinwife with as many posts in a row as it takes to ‘catch you up’ on our transition to life in the Land of the Long White Cloud (Aotearoa – tis mystical Maori name for NZ) once again. Apologies to people who end up here after searching the web for something like how to send a bomb through the post. Piss off.

The Journey…

For some reason mothers, myself included, enjoy hearing about how hard it is for other people to take their kids on long haul trips. What embarrassing perils will unfold. Lord knows I hate people that post shit like ‘my child slept for 13 hours of the 12 hour flight. In fact I had to WAKE THEM UP to go through customs.’ ….

To parents of really small people, oh, within the age range of about 5 months to 4 years, it does. get. easier. I say 5 months because ‘in hindsight’ traveling with boob sucking babies that can’t walk, don’t want to crawl down the entire length of the plane, press everything, spend three hours playing scream slash peek-a-boo with the old Korean woman five rows back yaddah yaddah is EASY shit. The worst that can happen is you might end up flashing a shadow nipple on the big screen (in the day of the big screen and I ‘think’ it only happened twice and I was so tired I didn’t even care) or end up standing at the back of the plane for ten hours singing ‘100 bottles of beer on the wall’ over and fuckin over again – or whatever your lullaby might happen to be.

Toddlers are hard shit. Those bastards are into everything.

Three also sucks monkey nuts because you might possibly have a baby as well and trying to change a toddler in the 1cm by 1cm toilet cubicle with a baby on your hip slash boob is just about fuckin impossible – but not completely – cause I know.  I’m going to brag and say I’ve even done it with a baby, a one year old AND a two year old – while hub was back in his seat drinking a beer. Cause you know, the kids HAVE TO GO WITH MUMMY.

Oh the joy.

And I question why I started drinking so much.

But I digress. This post is meant to be about our trip home this time – with a 5, 6 and 8 year old, and 3 Nintendo DSLs.

We had to wake the kids at 4 in the morning. Got them dressed and into the already packed car. I think Ryu and I fell asleep for about half an hour but the other two were wide awake. We were first in line to check in – not because I’m teacher’s pet but because the airline had told me to get their early because I didn’t have the credit card I used to pay for the tickets with – because remember my bank automatically cut it off after someone in Merica tried to use it to purchase something to the value of 67 cents. There was a bit of confusion but fortunately the kids were being naughty enough (hence I was looking stressed enough) for them to let me off with a ‘warning’. I still don’t get how the airline can demand the card after the amount has already been taken out of the account. They have their mula so what do they care?

We spend an hour waiting with daddy – the boys game and Marina and him go and eat ice-cream floats at 9am in the morning. Last date with daddy for a while.

We go through security and then spend forty minutes playing silly games, including something with Ryu that included a really long run up and then that leap like the one off dirty dancing where Patrick Swayze holds Baby above his head – only I couldn’t quite do that and Ryu ended up pulling my top down and I think I flashed a tour group full of Koreans.

The first flight to Seoul is only an hour so it’s up, eat sammy, down, disembark. The Incheon airport is pretty impressive but a money pit if you are walking around it with children, so I opted to pay for the transit hotel. You pay in 6 hour blocks and we only needed it for 4 but still I think it was the more economical option and as it turned out, Ryu, Marina and I slept for two hours and I even had a shower so win win.

The big plane has a 3-3-3 seating arrangement so the three kids are together and I am across the aisle. We settle in, seat belts on, games ready to be started as soon as we’ve taken off etc.

A mother and her two children (my guess would be 5 and 8) were sitting behind my three. After the seatbelt sign has been switched off I watch as, in unison, my three start playing electronic devices and she takes out some paper plates and some craft modeling clay slash foam. It probably wouldn’t have interfered with  the airplane controls so she probably could have taken it out a bit earlier but nevermind. I’m surprised she even got it through security as she had 5 different pottles that had more than 50ml or grams in each one.

The foam stuff is pretty cool and it leaves me feeling slightly inadequate – especially when she leans over and asks me to tell my children to turn the sound down on their devices. They all have earphones on (cool ones with penguins and frogs on the ears – super cool, awesome, so cool in fact I’d probably make them wear them even if they were crafting) and am amazed she can even hear games. Must have superman hearing because when I get on a plane, any plane at all, I suddenly can’t hear and have to shout.

Despite resembling children of the corn my kids play contentedly for an hour. Crafty kids craft for 15 minutes and then the older one starts singing a song and the younger one curls into a ball and sucks on a huge muslin cloth.

Tick one for gaijinwife. My kids don’t suck on muslin, or thumbs.

NOT that I was comparing…

Then it was dinner time and I had ordered the kids meal for my three. Spag and meatballs. Wahooo. They eat at least half of everything. Crafty kids’ mum has ordered them a special meal that comes with a green lid marked with SPINACH. After approximately 39 seconds of random picking the kids declare they have had enough. I can only presume she had to spend the rest of the evening feeding them raisins and chia seeds.

Miracles of miracles, my kids slept about 6 hours and I had to wake them for breakfast which was pork cutlet, blueberry muffin, yoghurt and some kind of brownie. Fortunately crafty kids got a similar version – well it had the muffin and brownie at least as the girl started yelling excitedly that she had two sweet things, two sweet things, and could she have both. By the time her mum had decided whether it would be OK or not my three had scoffed down said sweet things, had the yoghurt, discarded the pork cutlet for breakfast (fair play), and were animated and excited over having found the plug to recharge their games – down near the bottom of the seat would you believe – found by Shou by sheer chance as had to tunnel under breakfast trays to get out and go to loo.

We arrived in Auckland, got our bags, found a taxi and arrived at my sisters at 9am ready for coffee and a trip to the scooter park, lunch and a 4pm booking at JUMP – which is wall to wall trampolines. Bloody fabulous place and a great time was had by all, self included – although I tried to do a back flip but obviously last time I did a back flip I was 30kg lighter and body rotated faster. Only just made it to my knees. Ah well, fortunately the trip didn’t start with my breaking my neck.

Need less to say we all had a great sleep that night!

and actually, despite my eagerness to get five posts out to you in one go I am feeling sleepy.

Will fill you in tomorrow on our digs and our car, and how the kids managed their first few days at school…

fun fun fun

SDGH&QL

 

The Car

13 Jul

Hub has a little van. Its a nice van I guess, only a couple of years old and very very popular – which means if I’m doing a pachinko run to see if hard earned money is going down the pit into noisy, brain numbing, silver ball hell, then I actually have to go into the car park to check the number plate.

My car is an 8 seater dark-purple family wagon. Its a nice car too I guess, only a couple of years old and the right size to be ferrying kids and bikes and soccer teams and lots of suitcases to the airport.

3 children and clean car are not two things you would see in a sentence together are they? Hi, hows it going? My name’s Katy and I have 3 small children and a spotless car… …

fuck off.

Anyway, my car, on any given day (up until it annoys hub so much he has to clean it), has an assortment of shite such as books, umbrellas, odd socks, cracker wrappers, bike helmets, hats, homework, sticks, rocks, and if you’re really lucky maybe even a bloody grasshopper.  I do try and remember to take stuff inside with me and the kids are getting better at it too but damn, I swear shit just magically appears in there every bloody morning.

Today hub was going to take Shou to soccer, so yesterday he decided to de-shit the car and polish the hub caps, which are his pride and joy and the fact that he got them on my car and not his is still a mystery to me – because its not like I give a shit what hub caps are on there. Well, I do know why they are there but think tis stupid waste of money when he only drives the damn car once a week.

I digress.

He was clearing shit out of the car and visibly getting more and more pissed off every time he came in the front door to dump down more shit – all the time muttering shit like, THAT’S where my hat was, there’s the bloody nine of spades, how can one person have so little pride over the car they drive, yaddah yaddah.  I was in here translating and trying to ignore it as he had just gotten back from four hours of drinking at a wedding and I knew any conversation had the possibility of leading to an argument.

And then, you wouldn’t fuckin believe it, the sky is falling, Marina walks in with $10 and a huge smile on her face. She said daddy gave it to her. I asked him why. He said he could do what he wanted and if I was going to leave $10 in the damn car then she could have it.

Are you delusional husband?

I didn’t ‘leave’ $10 in the car. It wasn’t stuck down the back seat and even if it had been would you not think ‘score!’ and pocket it, shut the fuck up and not give it to our 6 year old to spite me? Guess where the money was?

In that little pocket slash drawer thing slash COIN HOLDER that a lot of cars have down beside the steering wheel. I admit that it is also sometimes home to tampons, lip gloss and rogue LEGOmen heads but for the love of god man. I put petrol in the car on Friday and it cost $90 and that was the change. I like knowing I have enough money for milk and bread or pickled daikon and seaweed or whatever – in the car. So that if I run out I have a back up and don’t have to raid the emergency evacuation bag.

I explained the situation to my 6 year old and politely got her to give me the money back, telling her that if her pissed father just randomly gave her money again to run it past mummy first. She then went back out to the car and I could here her and daddy saying something along the lines of ‘silly mummy’ and giggling like retarded hyenas. Grrrr.

Anyway, 3 more sleeps till we leave for NZ.

 

SGH&QL

PTA Bollocks and BBQs

5 Jul

I would have liked to have put Bollocks, BBQs and Beer but that would kind of defeat the purpose of Dry July now wouldn’t it!

Yesterday was the end of term one PTA bollocks – for the entire day.

In the morning I had to hustle to get a translation in that wasn’t due till 5pm but damn, when you have to be out of the house by 9 it has to be done by 9. Then had to head to the kinder to make pizza with Ryu, do twenty minutes of traffic safety and then have an hour-long talk from the teacher on how the kids have grown over the first term and how the kinder and primary school are working at getting kids to play and study more in groups so they experience arguments, and misunderstandings and learn problem solving and resolution skills and don’t turn into one of the teenagers slash young adults you see in Japan today – who is socially retarded and has problem with authority and either cracks it and runs round Akihabara stabbing people, or becomes a politician and cries hysterically on national TV and quite possibly embarrass self so much that perhaps walking round Akihabara waiting for someone to stab him is preferable to continuing to be a politician.

This is of course a direct result of the technological age and children spending too much time on various devices. Am completely for the schools promoting more group work and more outdoor activities. Currently the kinder has cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants and watermelons in the garden, all the kids are growing their own morning-glory flowers, and there is always a huge bucket with countless crabs. And yesterday a snake slid through the sand pit and Ryu came home with dango-mushi or something in his pocket. Which have since gone through the spin cycle 😦

Morning kinder PTA finished just before 12 and was followed by an afternoon of Primary School PTA bollocks starting 50 minutes later. Glad I had heaps of time to whip home and have lunch, clean the house and get ready for English…

First up was class observation. Hub took the afternoon off – quite common for people to rearrange work schedules to fit around PTA duties and participation. In NZ nobody would turn up. He went to Shou’s class and I went to Marina’s. Both classes were doing stories on the war and Marina’s class had the heavy material of a mother who lost her daughter in the Hiroshima bomb and disintegrated into a pile of ashes which the mother scooped up and held, sobbed, and then buried.

We then had a skipping competition in the gym with kids vs parents in the giant skip-off, during which time I had to whip to the kinder to collect Ryu and during which hub nearly put his back out.

Shou’s class (2nd and 3rd graders) won.

I drove Ryu home and left him with Granny K while I went back to the school for the boring bollocks part of the PTA – for which I am head of the student life and publication division. Had to get up and say my bit about dangerous tiles perching precariously on roof tops just waiting to fall off and smack a kid’s head on the way to school. We then got into our little hamlet groups and discussed who would go where this year to request child-safe spots. Places with a yellow ‘child-safe’ spot sticker are places kids can run to if they are in trouble or see a man driving round the area trying to entice them into his car with sweets and a good time in the bamboo grove.

It was then time for individual year bollocks where the teacher talks about the first term and what she expects for the summer holidays, including kids getting up at 6am to do the early morning stretches that are shown on national TV at the same time every morning. I said I’d just take my kids to the park in NZ everyday and let them off their leashes for an hour or so instead.

I had to excuse myself at 4pm to get the English class kids, bring them home with me, teach for an hour, take them back to school, pick up my kids, take them home, make 8 rice balls, chop up some onions and pumpkin, pickle some cucumber, spray the kids with mozzie spray and then head back to the school for the PTA summer BBQ.

Hub was very excited to see the PTA had acquired a keg and beer tap. I was not so excited.

After stuffing selves with meat, chicken wings and sea snails (seriously, I had to detach the poo and insides sack from about five ‘sazae’ for Shou), it started to get dark and all the kids got their torches and headed to the school.

Crazy fuckers.

The 6th grad teacher was inside ready to scare the bejeezes out of them and they all ran back with tales of moving bones, thumps and thuds, and a girl on the stairs….

Here’s hoping they can actually go to school on Monday without shitting themselves!!

SDGH&QL

ALL foreigners speak English. All of them. Every single one.

2 Jul

Had that NZ speech today. Went fine, considering I haven’t done a speech like that for about 8 years, since I started popping small people out the saloon doors and lost all inability to speak coherently.

Upon arrival  I heard the last of the lead up to introduction to today’s guest speaker (me) which went something along the lines of Queen Elizabeth and the British Colony… … I wasn’t really concentrating as camera crew lady was putting pin mic cord up my top and I was in state of shock that hadn’t actually been told was going to be filmed. Would have written down exactly what I was going to say and perhaps taken out the pics of my kids from the presentation if I had.

Anyhoo, none of the vestlings fell asleep, and in fact appeared to be genuinely interested in 3m tall Moas, bungy jumping, buildings that look like a bee hive, oversized art installations of a humungous carrot and the fastest sheep sheering record, oh, and our plastic NZ money which is great for shock value.

After I had finished and was walking out to the car the organizer lady said she had thought NZ was a lot colder (strange as I usually get people thinking its part of a tropical sub continent) and that hopefully she would get to NZ during the 6 months I was home.

Yippeee, I’ll get right onto that showing you round shit, in between ensuring my children get a good kiwi education.

I decided to do my shopping on the way home and good fortune would have it that Mr. kebab man was in his bright yellow van outside the supermarket – where is sometimes known to be on Wednesdays when Marina ‘used’ to have dance. I txted hub to see if he fancied one with me seeing as was literally 50m away from his work. Unfortunately impromptu lunch dates with the wife are not on the Japanese man’s top ten list of things to even think about doing at lunch time. That, and he had already ordered his lunch :p

As I was chatting to Mr. kebab man – in Japanese because I spoke in English the first time I ever met him and he replied in Japanese so Japanese has been our lingua franca ever since (he is from Turkey, or Iran, or Iraq, or some other country in middle east that makes yummy kebabs). Anyway, there were 3 older construction dudes having a coffee and smoko break on the bench beside the van. One guy steps up and comes around and expresses his amazement that two gaijin are speaking Japanese when quite obviously we should be communicating in English.

Mr. kebab man explained he wasn’t from an English speaking country which all together is sometimes just a little bit too difficult for some narrow minded Japanese people to understand – 3/4 of the nation.

Construction dude then took a wild stab in the dark and said I must be from America. I said No, New Zealand..

to which he replied ‘damn, soooo close’

to which I replied ‘fuckin miles away mate’

Sometimes I just want to enjoy a kebab in peace ya know!

SDGH&QL

 

Mrs D Is Going Without

Too much wine in rural Japan