Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Goin' home.....

Four days, 'til the something like 47 hour nightmare flight home.

I have been dreaming of cheese.
And all-purpose flour.
And asparagus . (there is asparagus here, but at a buck a spear it might as well not be here)

And so many other common and boring items that have come to be so meaningful for me.

I am dreaming of reading a newspaper, going to a bookstore and browsing.
Eating Mexican food.
Watching Larry King. Or just staring at the tv, mindless channel flipping with the remote. Watching others yell at their kids.

So we are finishing up the 1st leg of our life in Japan. I have to say, it was incredibly shaky at first.
I learned a lot about myself, some of it not so good.

I really had no idea that I was so fearful. There is a giant chicken inside of me that I didn't know existed. I don't really ever experience fear, back in Golden Colorado.
Life is nice. Life is as easy as it can be, with 4 kids...but when I came here and pretty much had to re-learn how to do everything, all with a baby in my arms, it was so intimidating. I was waiting for that intimidation to go away, but it just seemed new and bigger challenges came at me 100 mph every day. I cannot learn so much, all at once.
One of the biggest fears was driving. And getting lost. Or hitting someone. You cannot let your mind wander off of which side of the road you are supposed to be on for even a moment....Week after week consumed with a heightened sense of anxiety is just awful. Many times I thought to myself--"how can I get out of this.... with the least amount of pain--especially for Ira"?

Well, just too many contracts had been signed.

The wind is gonna blow. What am I going to do. Collapse?
Go home, and then what? Admit to all my friends and myself that I just couldn't take it? I tell you I was ready to do just that. It didn't help that Ira was never afraid to do anything. It made me look even more like a wuss. I thought a lot about my mom, living down in Costa Rica years ago, with a maid in the house that was stealing from her, and other troubles and misadventures.

I really don't know how I overcame it. There wasn't a big moment of enlightenment.
I remember walking home from somewhere one day, realizing that I started to feel this itty bitty sense of contentment and happiness inside of me. My shoulders felt lighter.

So, long live the fearful chicken that exists in me, just be a chicken that can fight every now and again, ok?

Here is Kevin and his class.
He is in the back row, far left.

Ira here -Katrina's waxing poetic about the mundanities she's looking forward to reminded me of one little crystalization of priorities that hit me after we settled. I realized that more than missing having a tv set in our bedroom, I missed having a full range of Tupperware sizes to choose from when cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. (C'mon guys, admit it - you take special pride in knowing exactly which one to choose.)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

a real cute guy

I just have to post this photo of what I call one of the 'tidy-uppers'. These guys are all over the parks, sweeping and sweeping--trimming, raking, making everything look nice.

He is at the park that I frequent with the baby. So happy, so friendly.

And here is another shot of a couple of the trees in the park that these guys try to keep up. Not sure if this is normal upkeep for these trees or if they are infected. If you can see, they have this wrapping around them....looks like a bandage.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Faux pas-ing our way through Japan

That's what the Bloom family seems to be at times.
One giant faux pas fumbling their way around Tokyo, all eyes (very discreetly) on us.

The Japanese take painstaking measures to not call attention to themselves or their immediate surroundings.

We naturally have that attention, first of all, because we are foreign. Nothing you can do about that one.
Then, there are 6 of us. I think we are viewed as somewhat of a freak show with 4 children. I don't think the Japanese know about or would even believe the 10, 12, 15 kid families back in various parts of Michigan.

OK, then we have bright colored clothes, the boys hair is way too long, (both boys just received notice from school that their hair needs to be cut).
We wear sunglasses. (Only the Japanese mafia wear them), and we talk loudly and occasionally yell suddenly at one of the kids in public. Especially Ira.... You should see all of us on a train platform, waiting for the next train. It's so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

Then here we come....
big hummer-type stroller bouncing down the steps, kids with plastic swords making every sound effect imaginable, baby, "bah bah bah"-Ira and I usually arguing about *something*.

"JOE! don't get so close to the edge!
KEVIN! stop waving the sword!

(me) : IRA! STOP yell-ing..... oops. shh!

But our kids are still not used to the cars and traffic. Where we come from in Colorado, you drive everywhere. So, occasionally, one of the kids wanders into the street when we are walking somewhere without noticing the cars. So as you see cars flying down the road, it is just natural to suddenly YELL at the kid to GET OUT of the ROAD!

Now the Japanese people are just not used to yelling, or loud talk (in public anyway). And twice now when Ira has made a sudden, sharp YELL at one of the kids out of the blue I have seen a couple of people, who happened to be very near us sort of do this ducking or recoiling type motion with their body in fear. Like there was some crazy type person behind them that was hurling something. It was quite funny, but actually at the time I was really embarrassed.

Then, one day, we were out somewhere and one of the kids was relentless about something---I forget what it was and they just wouldn't let it go. Ira was at his wits end, arguing, and it takes a whole lot to get Ira angry, but then finally he was so mad he just yelled and took the stroller and shoved it really hard (no, the baby wasn't in it).
There happened to be a handful of Japanese people witnessing this--and of course we just added to the stereotypical rude, uncontrollable, immature, bad parenting Americans. --oh and this all happened at an art museum--at a Picasso exhibit no less.
Eventually you kind of just start to not care so much, I mean, it's almost expected of you anyway so why not?

Here is a picture taken at an entrance to a restraunt.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007



Got a few photos posted, but I am going to upgrade to the next level--I am only allowed 3 sets of photos, which doesn't end up to be much. To view, click here.....

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Another reason to sit on your bum in front of the computer

I have decided to post photos on Flickr, a photo sharing site. I can't post so many on the blog and I also have a bit of trouble arranging them. And, with a digital camera, before you even know it, you have taken 150 shots.

So I will post that link when I get a couple sets up. Flickr is really something to sit and waste a bunch of time with! Just for fun I punched into the search bar "finnish", and came back with something like 14,000 photos that people took of anything finnish related....candid shots of people, landscapes, food, animals...really interesting! Then for the heck of it I punched in "Copper Harbor", and got something like 759 photos that came up....lots of shots of the Harbor area, some really nice ones, even a couple shots of the Isle Royale Queen were in there. Someone took a shot ---you rellies and fellow michiganders know-- that classic image from the Brockway Mount. lookout of the Isle Royale dock, and wow--the "new" boat was there, and it has really altered that image in my head....it is so big, and now dwarfs all the buildings around it. Good thing the baby started tugging at my leg and whining...I would of sat there all day and missed making dinner for everybody.

We went up for a long weekend to the Japan Alps, to a town called Matsumoto. It was spectacular and I will write about that later and post the photos as well.

By the way, all I needed was for someone to tell me to chuck the tea. Just one person! Ira didn't tell me to chuck the tea.
Thank-you for the tip, Uncle Don. The green tea has made its way back into the earth. I actually had a couple more cups and decided it wasn't all that bad. But when I have a moment with my tea, I think I should realllly enjoy it. So, if I happen to come across a lovely cup, I will investigate it, but for now I am not going to seek it out. 7 bucks a bag can get expensive afterwhile.

Haircut or cocktails?

So, off I go to my new 'flickr' hobby while the babe naps.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

It's tea time

Just recently, I decided to start drinking green tea, daily. 1-2 cups a day. I mean why not... It's supposed to be so healthy right? It's all over the place here. I've seen the Lipton green tea bags back home, but haven't tried it. And now I am here and I am going to drink the real stuff. Maybe it'll tack on a few years. It's supposed to be up there in anti-oxidants with the berries and walnuts and dark chocolate etc...and now I hear that 'white' tea is now the new green tea. Supposed to be milder, but can't find it yet. So anyway, I asked a few people about the green, but nobody really knew what to recommend and I never got any good answers so I just decided to go buy a bag.

So I went to the grocery, found the tea aisle, (there is nearly an entire aisle devoted to tea) and found about 87 different bags of green tea. I was lost, as you can imagine, quickly scanning every bag to find maybe just 1 word in English. Nothing. So I just kind of resorted to looking at the images on the bags and decided to buy whichever one had the most pleasing composition, or nicest pictures. What else could I go by? Then I thought, this is ridiculous, I will ask the stocker, this woman who happened to be right there. Now, I know the word for tea, and I know the word for 'best' and delicious...and I know how to put it into a question form.... simple. So I ask her.

Well, I am not joking here, this woman looked at me like I just asked her if I could plow my mini-van through the front store window. Did I somehow get that wrong? So I repeated...just 2 words! "tea? best?" "tea? good?" (with a smile, and pointing to different bags) I really don't know what happened, but she got totally flustered and nervous and sort of looked at the teas and back at me and then basically said in Japanese, I don't know, I am sorry, excuse me, thank-you. Followed by a bow. And another bow. The only thing I can think of is that maybe she had never talked to a foreigner before and it just put her into shock! Or maybe she just wasn't a green tea drinker *and* she never talked with a foreigner. She was kind of young, but not that young--maybe 20's. Ok, so I bowed and thanked too, she then quickly left the aisle. I hate it when I do that to people!

So here I am on my own again. My eye finally catches some roman letters. Yes! That's all I need, there's my tea. A mid-price range, $7.00. Already bought the tea ball from the 100 yen store.

I went home all excited about my tea and my new healthy habit I was about to begin.
note to self: double check the word for tea.

So I get home, open the bag and take a big whiff. Um..not so nice. But ok, it's healthy. And the bag says that the taste is wonderful. I make my 1st cup. I take my 1st sip. Hmm, it's not horrible. But it...sort...of... tastes like.....grass clippings, that's it.

I really don't have too much of a problem drinking grass clippings flavored tea, I love the smell of fresh clipped grass, but the more I sipped this tea, I decided that it is not fresh grass clippings, it is really stale clippings, like the kind that got left and forgotten about in the mower bag for 2 weeks...in the rain. Not so good after all. Especially the last 1/4 cup. Downright horrible! I actually made one of those faces, that you have no control over making when it's so bad.

But because my genetic material is of Steve Szyszkowski, I am going to finish the bag. I just have to remember to chuck the last 1/4 cup. (which is probably the really healthy stuff). I may just need to acquire a taste for this pure type stuff, or maybe it was just a cheapie bag. I don't know, but before I buy my next bag, further investigation will be needed on the tea matter.

Oh my gosh the comments I am reading from this blog are hysterical. Ira and I were holding our guts laughing so hard the other night.
And no Ben, I didn't get my toes into that sharp and crunchy sand. I didn't want to have to try and visit a doctor way out there after stepping on a rusted can. Plus I was just fascinated with all that weird stuff I was finding on the beach. I really wanted to walk on and on to see what else there might be but we really had to get the kids out.
'night all...

Notes from the Office 1

Well, after 13 years, four kids and the deterioration of many brain cells, my Japanese language skills aren't quite what they used to be. Very frustrating. Each week starts off Monday morning with four hours of almost exclusively Japanese meetings, during which I gamely try to piece together what the heck is going on through a combination of searching for English words in presentation materials, translating Japanese three sentences behind the pace of conversation, and leaning towards my neighbor and saying, "Excuse me Suzuki-san, but what the heck is going on?" I haven't been so lost since attending synagogue services conducted only in Hebrew. Usually I have Mika Tanaka sitting next to me. After some lengthy back-and-forth she'll whisper to me the gist of the discussion, which goes something like, "Because of a close business relationship that our founding president's great great maternal grandfather had with our customer's great great paternal uncle we have been funding $37 trillion yen of research and development costs performed by the customer for the past 8 years. The team would like to know if the culturally insensitive foreign barbarian will support continued funding for this important program." Of course, nobody can explain what it is we actually get out of this investment, but hey, what's a few trillion yen amongst friends?

More crow crap, this time by Ira

Don, you'll be happy to know that the other night I accidentally left two garbage bags outside our house in prep for the morning's garbage pickup and found one of them riped open by the local crows. Fortunately it was a dry nonburnable load, but annoying to clean up nonethless. The garbage pickup locations have large green netting under which we leave the bags so that the crows can't get at them. Still, these guys always seem to figure out how to gain access, and walking the streets of our neighborhood I often see garbage strewn about.

Speaking of crows and their raven cousins, little known fact about Edgar Allen Poe - he lived the last few years of his life in The Bronx, up in the Fordham section on Kingsbridge Road. My folks would take me to Poe Park, where his cottage still stands. Back in the mid-1800's it was very bucolic, now it's a slum. But the cottage is still there ungraffitied, with period furniture inside, and as far as I know the Irish bar Poe Cozy Nook is still across the street. (My parents never took me there, though.)

Lastly, having these huge birds around inspired me to rent Hitchcock's The Birds a few weeks ago to scare the kids. It worked, and of course now I can't help keeping an eye on the crows when I walk past them. It's there in the back of my head, like the Jaws music when I'm swimming in the ocean...