Archive | July, 2015

First Week of Kiwi School

27 Jul

The first day at school – last Monday – went well, and it was in fact day two that caused a few tears and ‘I’m not going’s. A week in though and all is grand. We definitely haven’t got the fabulous teachers we had last year but Ryu is at least in a class with kids he knows. Shou was put in year 4, with a new teacher this year and kids who weren’t in his class last year 😦

BUT on the upside the class has 11 iPads so… ….

and the new young man teachers is quite hot – so much in fact that I get ‘middle-aged-dowdy-fat-mother’ syndrome, whereby I suddenly can’t speak and I keep trying to suck my self in – like not just my stomach. Try and suck your calfs in. Go on. You end up with stupid knees.

It’s strange realizing how I feel about my weight both here and in Japan. In Japan people are blatantly un-PC (non-PC?) with their comments. Oh Katy, haven’t seen you for ages, you’re look old. OMG your tits are exploding, you need to lose weight, haha, isn’t it amazing you used to run marathons etc etc.

Here I just feel a LOT more self conscious – which is odd, as there are people a lot bigger than me everywhere. Tis probably also because people here use more eye contact than Japanese people do and I get that ‘why is everyone looking at me’ thing. Trust me, it happens in Japan being a foreigner but here it’s like people are ‘actually’ looking at me and I’m just thankful for the nice sunny weather and an excuse to wear big black sunglasses 🙂

But, back to school….

Shou seems to have assimilated better than last time and I have yet to have a phone call saying he was called into the principal’s office. Winning. A lot of the staff and kids and parents remember them and we get a lot of waving and people calling out their names which is nice.

I told both their teachers that 5 weeks is just too short to really worry about any progress in reading and writing and that if, especially for Shou in year 4, there was an exercise that involved a lot of reading out loud to the class or something then perhaps they could get something else instead. They aren’t dragging their feet to school so I presume their days are going OK!

Shou has approximately 150 pages of Japanese summer homework to complete, on top of going to school every day. I’ll have to do a separate post because really the amount of homework Japanese kids get is quite unbelievable. Might need photographic proof. There are basically 6 things (textbooks or booklets of questions, a diary etc) that need to be completed. I told him that if he could get 2 of these 6 completed by Thursday then he and Ryu could have Friday off school.

We are going to Rotorua to meet my sister so I was taking them out of school anyway but ya know, if I can work it so he does more homework then hey, win win.

He did about 15 pages of math problems yesterday because we started having a competition  – the kind the parent plants the seed, the kid ‘invents’, and then the parent works in whatever way to their advantage. Yeah, that kind.

It was Sunday morning. I had cleaning and washing and shite today so for every ‘chore’ that I had Shou would try and do his two pages of math problems fastest. It was going so well, and I was bloody well losing everything, that when all the chores were finished I said damn it, I still have to have a shower AND get dressed. That sucked another 6 pages up 🙂

Definitely less painful than my memories of getting him and Marina to do their homework last year!





The trip over…

20 Jul

So we are here, in the land of the long white cloud again, to learn us more kiwi, to drink triple shot lattes and local wine, eat kebabs and mince pies, walk around the town of my upbringing and basically just try and get some more memories into the boys. I’ve realized that more than the English language factor, I really want the kids to be able to come to NZ later in life and feel that sense of ‘natsukashii’ and like they belong. Because they do.

Unfortunately in order to get here we have to travel long distances, transcend the skies of the pacific, sit through turbulence and try not to think of missing Malaysian airline planes. I’m not a good flyer. I used to be – planes used to excite me, like it does the boys now. But then I nearly died on a flight in the Philippines (well the food trays hit the roof and that’s close enough to think you are going to die right?), then I had children and then the whole planes-falling-from-the-sky shit started to get real.

We managed to avoid the impending typhoon on Friday – it looked like we would hit it -or rather – it would hit us, and the airport at approximately the same time we were due to take off. However, it decided to veer northwards at the last minute and thus our drive to Fukuoka and subsequent flight to Korea were relatively uneventful.

We had a 4 hour layover, as per usual, in Korea – so I booked us into the transit hotel where I napped and the boys watched ‘How to Tame a Dragon’ in Korean. We boarded the plane, the plane got into position to take off, the plane started moving, then moving really fast, then the front wheel was just coming off the tarmac when the pilot slammed on the brakes and the entire plane just about got whiplash. Everyone was looking around wondering what was going on when the pilot announced that we had engine trouble and had to park up and get checked over.

Soooo, really really happy that he noticed before we got in the air ya know! Not so happy about the two hours we had to wait in the aircraft before being told to get off, get on a bus, go back to the terminal, gate 27, wait another hour while our bags got transferred, and then get on a new plane sans a bad engine.

It didn’t stress me out too much – the boys are older now and while I knew it would mean a very long day, over tired-ness and some grizzling it didn’t have me wondering about feeding times, nappies, longer plane time equalling longer potential for screaming baby yaddah yaddah. I also didn’t have a connecting flight in Auckland so I just flipped the car rental place an email saying we would be four hours late for pick up.  Some other people weren’t so lucky and it appeared to fuck up quite a few people’s schedule. The lady behind us was going to miss her flight from Auckland and was packing a tanty – only very slightly  helped by the 10 bags of free honey roasted peanuts the air hostess gave her as we disembarked the faulty plane.

When we got on our new plane there was an announcement that I had never heard before saying ‘please remember that smoking, anti-social and disruptive behavior is prohibited by aviation law’ – or something to that effect. I wonder if it is an announcement kept for those times when passengers are more likely to be fucked off? I also wonder if the air hostess was encouraged to be generous with her wine servings. They did the whole juice, wet towel, dinner routine pretty much as soon as we boarded – as you would expect as everyone was  hungry and now the schedules were out of whack. She asked if I would like red or white wine (I didn’t even ask for a drink, perhaps she could just tell), I said white and she filled that sucker pretty much to the rim, smiled and said ‘enjoy your meal’.

Which I would have done if the wine had been sav blanc and not bloody chardonay. I know, I know. 1st world problems and all that. The only reason I drank the entire glass was because we started going through some bad turbulence and it was either wine down my throat or wine in my face.

There was a bit of clapping when we touched down safely in Auckland and baggage claim and immigration was uneventful. We picked up the rental car, I got completely lost trying to get out onto the motorway but then by a stroke of pure luck came across a road I recognized from my print out of directions – and away we went. Our delayed flight meant we arrived after what appears to be some shit weather, including a small tornado in Auckland. I could see the aftermath on the roads, broken branches and what not, but we missed having to drive though it so perhaps the engine trouble was a blessing in disguise.

Shou had been bleating on about a bloody mince pie for MONTHS and I promised him that as soon as we got out of Auckland a bit I’d stop at a servo and we’d get him one. But then they both fell asleep, so I decided to keep driving through to Matamata – half way to our destination for that night.

We got to Matamata and drove the length of the town only to see that every shop was pitch black. It was 1:30 in the afternoon and I was wondering what the fuck everyone was doing closing up – until I realized the servo had no lights on either, so we drove back down the stretch of shops and stopped at a bakery – possibly the longest bakery in town and right down the back was a man with a flashlight welcoming us in. The whole town central had a power cut due to the weather. Power had been off for an hour. The pie warmer was luke warm, the coffee machine down and EFTPOS unavailable.

But when a boy wants a pie you get the boy a pie. 9 year olds are easy to please. He was stoked with his luke warm pie in the dark. I wasn’t so stoked that I had been in the country more than 4 hours already and hadn’t had a coffee yet. Desperate times and all that – so I bought a cold coffee drink think with gurana or whatever. Putrid stuff. I think its still in the car.

We got to our destination, had a lazy afternoon, pizza for dinner, got the kids to bed early and then my friend had a quiet party with 18 of her friends. I knew nobody so it felt a bit like high school until I’d had enough drink to not give a shit 🙂 We got to bed at 3am. I woke up at 11 – both things that haven’t happened since pre-getting married. My friend was not in a good state and couldn’t move from her bed. So her hub took us to the ‘best pie shop in the country’ – where Shou got a HOT pie – and Ryu got a Rasberry bun.

We drove the four hours here, dropped our suitcases off, went and got groceries for school lunches and breakfast and then went to my brother’s for dinner. The kids had their first day at school yesterday but I’ll post about that later.


PTA Bollocks – End of Term

14 Jul

This Friday is the last day of term 1 here in Japan. Tis also the day me and the boys fly to NZ and also the day Typhoon number 11 is due to slam directly into the airport we leave from, so whether we actually make it out alive or not is another matter. My kebab and cheap wine extravaganza may get delayed by a day.

Our school had the end of term PTA bollocks ten days ago – the Friday before last. The kinder next door kindly has their’s on the same day so parents with siblings at both can just take the one day off work – because yes, kindergarten PTA warrants taking a day off work. And parents do. Sometimes even the FATHER takes the day off work and both parents turn up to watch their child sing ‘Under The Spreading Chestnut Tree’ and such.

This year the kinder PTA kicked off at 9:30 with  a class observation slash parental help involvement lesson whereby the teacher wanted parents to help their child write a wish for ‘tanabata‘ – an annual Japanese festival celebrating the one day of the year two star crossed lovers can reunite. People around the nation write wishes on pieces of paper and string them onto pieces of heavily decorated bamboo. The wishes ‘should’ be things like ‘I wish for health for our family for the next year’ and ‘peace on earth’ kind of stuff.

But if you do this kind of shit at a kindergarten the wishes are a bit more colorful – like ‘I want to catch the biggest fish in the sea’ – of if you are really lucky ‘I want to BE the biggest fish in the sea’ and if I can’t be that then ‘I want to be a power ranger’, ‘Preferably the green one’… ….

After helping Ryu trace my letters (his English letters are officially better than his hiragana) , it was time for the road safety 30 minutes – for which I was BOSS – as per the role of traffic safety leader this year. I read a story and we practiced walking over a stick on zebra crossing mat. It was Deli Lama worthy enlightenment, I tell ya. The kids then got sent next door and the parents had the PTA part – how the term had gone etc etc and what to prepare for the 6 week long summer vacay. The kids are meant to take their morning glory plants home and fill in a chart – coloring in circles for the number of flowers blooming each day. I think I will pass this homework on to Granny K, who will no doubt use organic special flower juice stuff and have 15 flowers each day.

Kinder PTA finished at 12 o’clock and primary school PTA started at 12:40 so I rushed to the supermarket to get something for lunch and then scoffed it at home and headed back to whence I had come.

Hub, who took the afternoon off – as he is from the camp that thinks kinder PTA bollocks is for mummies but school shite is for daddies too – on occasion – when he feels like taking an afternoon off. Shou had a fabulous class observation lesson on how far a plastic car could go using a rubber band. Really, I was fascinated. I love physics.

and wine.

I can’t remember what Marina’s class was doing – which equals obviously not very fabulous.

After class observations it was year meetings with the teachers. Marina and Shou have the same teacher so hub and I sat in on the same meeting – for which I (capital letters and bold) am 2nd year  parent rep. HTB’s MUM is 3rd year parent rep. The teacher got confused because I was there but both the FATHERS were there. She actually tried to pass the initial greeting, which the class reps do, over to the fathers – who sat there going no, no, you go first, nooooo, you go first, giggle giggle giggle, like two fuckin school girls.

So I gave hub the ‘stern look’ and said “Good afternoon everybody, thank you for taking the time out of your ridiculously busy schedules to come to today’s PTA meeting. We will now start our meeting. Sensei, please, go ahead”

I had to leave part way through to pick up Ryu from kinder and go home and meet a translation deadline. I then headed back, with Ryu in tow, to the tail end of the overall PTA meeting. I then left that at 4:15 to take my English students (whose parents were all at PTA and thus unable to ferry them around) back to our place for English. At 5:30 I took them all back again to the community center beside the school where the PTA secretariat (or whatever) were setting up the keg and sorting out the coals for the evening’s PTA BBQ.

I then drove home, sprayed the kids ten times with mozzie spray, packed up my BBQ bag and headed, with hub and the kids, to the BBQ.

EVERY household was represented. ALL 30 kids came and in total there were 89 people, including teachers, siblings and local old people’s group men – who I think just came for the beer.

We had a grand ole time. My mystery meat was a great hit – kangaroo patties and crocodile skewers. The kids got shit scared during the haunted school – a couple of the teachers open the three storied school back up and sit in the dark in a couple of the classrooms. One teacher plays his guitar. A father of one of the kids, a fisherman, took a tank of air in and squirted bursts of air out. It was pitch black and all you could see from the BBQ was kids with their flashlights, screaming. The first graders, and Ryu, came back crying but in the same breath declared it the best part of the BBQ.

The pissed parents then lit fireworks into a row of trees and then all patted themselves on the back that nothing caught alight.

Really, a great night.

We had to leave the car and walk the 2km home as both hub and I had been drinking. He was a level ahead of me on the ‘drunk and jolly’ meter and wanted the whole family to sing ultra man theme songs the entire way home. It got to a point where the kids were giving him so much grief and telling him to just shut the fuck up…. we then got picked up by some people that live near by. They had been at the BBQ too. We couldn’t all fit into the van so we opted to kick the drunk fathers out and make them walk the 500m back in the dark.

I got home, grabbed a flashlight and went to light the way for hub – who was still singing ultra man songs and only just missed staggering into the rice paddies…

fun times.