I’m at home today because it’s rainy out and I would prefer to not go anywhere. We’re still waiting for our belongings (including my rain boots and jacket) to complete their pleasure cruise across the Pacific.
Since we don’t have a television (nor radio, sofa, table, chairs, etc.), I spend a lot of my time reading, taking photos, and taking care of the house. I’m in a race to finish reading this 530 page novel; I’m on page 320 and it’s due in four days. Since I never registered for an online account at the library (rather, I couldn’t be bothered to figure out how to do it just yet), I will need to go to the library in order to renew this book, but I feel like it’s better just to finish reading it in time.
This rain is so refreshing and great though. In California, it never really rained much, except for maybe a month or two during the year. Here, I am told, we will get more than our fair share of rain in the next month or two. I am told that I shall surely be sick of it. While that may be true, I do love hearing the raindrops spattering against the trees behind our house and to know that my sad little porch plant is getting some much needed water.
(I can never seem to find the time to water the poor thing myself.)
The rain alternates between pouring buckets and a heavy drizzle. There hasn’t been much foot traffic on my little street today, mostly just a couple guys picking up a rolling cart from next door. As always, right on time, the postman arrived this morning on his scooter covered head to toe in rain gear. He stood outside the boxes next door, quickly sorting the envelopes into the correct slots. And then he was off again.
(He’s terribly efficient like that, so I feel lucky when I chance to see him in the mornings.)
And of course, I’m also thinking today about the neighbourhood cats and how they are probably huddling somewhere waiting for the rain to stop.
PS - I thought I should mention that I have been pleasantly surprised to find that people are reading this little blog. I really appreciate the likes and comments, and wish that Tumblr had a better comment-reply system. Thank you for reading.
12:25 pm • 20 May 2013
From behind the yellow line
Every day I stand on the train platform and listen to the various announcements. They talk about the trains that are coming, the ones that are leaving, and the ones that are passing the station so please be careful.
One of the first things I learned outside of my textbook was the phrase, “Mamounaku, [enter number here]-ban sen ni, [enter destination] ga mairimasu.” It means “Soon the train on XX platform going to XX will arrive.” It’s what I listen for when we’re trying to figure out if we should rush down the stairs or not. The train announcements are pretty smart too. One direction is announced by a woman’s voice, the other by a man. If you take that platform everyday you will know which announcement is for you just by the voice that speaks.
Three times a week after the kiddo is down for the night, F and I sit down and do Japanese homework. He usually has class the next day, so we spend the evening studying our lessons separately. Sometimes, one of us will learn a new word and announce it to the other with a story about our everyday lives and how it applies.
Just the other day, he showed me a list of colours he learned and when we got to yellow (黄色、きいろ), he reminded me that we hear this word everyday at the train station. They say, “あぶないですから、黄色い線までおさがり下さい,” which means “It’s dangerous, please stand behind the yellow line.”
Ah, vocabulary in action! It’s a huge difference learning Japanese in Japan, compared to learning Japanese in America. First, you can immediately apply new knowledge to everyday interactions. When I was learning in America, I had so little chance to speak except to practise with F at home. Second, you can practise reading much more readily, even if you’re just trying to figure out a few words on a menu by standing outside of a restaurant for far too long. Third, total strangers are sometimes nice enough to correct your blunders so that next time you can say the correct word that they’re expecting.
I am constantly pleased with how kind people are when it comes to my halting Japanese. Even sales people will try their hardest to understand what I’m looking for instead of trying to tell me that sorry they can’t help me. We play a game of charades and random keywords (which may or may be the correct word to say to them), and somehow things just work out.
8:22 pm • 19 May 2013 • 4 notes
I always imagined that writers sit down and write when it’s darkest out, maybe during a constant rainstorm, with the lights low and a glass of sherry nearby. Maybe I’ve been watching too many terrible movies based on Edgar Allan Poe.
When I sit down to write, it’s typically the middle of the morning. The filtered sunlight is streaming through the curtains, sometimes warming me, but right now it’s still too cool in the mornings even in the sunshine. I can hear the sounds of the trains coming through my station, that mild electric whirring under the sounds of people hanging laundry, greeting each other with a cheery おはようございます, and otherwise performing their everyday rituals. By the time I sit down to write, the children are off to school, the office workers are settled comfortably at their desks, the housewives cleaning their kitchens or perhaps sitting down to have a warm cup of tea while ticking off chores in their heads.
This morning in particular, I can hear the sounds of the three gardeners who showed up to tend to the neighbour’s yard. All three arrived via bicycle about an hour ago, carefully parked the bicycles out of the way, and removed their tools from the rucksacks attached to the bicycles. Now they’re all crouched on the ground in front of the flower beds, diligently pulling weeds by hand. I can hear their low conversation, but of course I can’t understand anything they’re saying.
I should note what I don’t hear here. I don’t hear the jarring racket of a leaf-blower whipping dust around. I don’t hear cars passing by our house because our street is too narrow to allow cars to pass. I don’t hear other people’s televisions or radios blaring noise.
It’s peaceful here, but you don’t feel isolated.
10:34 am • 17 May 2013 • 3 notes
Out of order
I took the kiddo to the doctor the other day to see if I could still get the 6-7 month checkup in. She doesn’t need to see a doctor, but I figured a free checkup was a free checkup.
If you don’t already know this, I’m a born cheapo.
After researching which nearby clinics would have a higher chance of English-speaking doctors, I set out on my way to find my clinic of choice. I studied the location on the map before I left and didn’t think to do a street view to see what the building looked like from the outside, resulting in erroneously visiting one senior centre and an internal medicine clinic before finding the pediatric clinic.
Of course, once we arrived, I failed to have any of the correct paperwork I was supposed to obtain from the city office before going there, but the doctor was kind enough to explain everything to me and then perform a cursory examination to assure me that kiddo was just fine, not that I was worried.
(I am the most un-worried mother I know.)
So I will start all over again, first going to the city office and then going back to the clinic, foregoing my visits to the senior centre and internal medicine clinic.
9:51 am • 16 May 2013 • 2 notes
Since we have no furniture in our house, I’ve been sitting on the floor everyday. I sit to use the computer, I sit to study Japanese, I sit when I get tired of standing, and then I have to get up and sit down again every time I want to get a glass of water or check on the kiddo. At first I thought it was a huge pain the ass to do this, but now I’m thinking it’s not that bad. It means that I keep the floor much cleaner since I’ll be sitting on it, and the constant rising and sitting helps keep my legs and hips limber.
I’m also much more active here in general. We live about 1.5km away from F’s office, and since we walk together in the mornings, I get 3km at the least for the trip, usually tacking on a couple more km exploring the neighbourhood or going grocery shopping before heading back home. Later in the afternoon, I’ll usually head out again, adding on another few km. I never noticed any of this until I checked some tracking software that said I was talking more than 10,000 steps (typically more than 8km) a day. Crazy huh? And of course, since we don’t have a car, I end up carrying the kid on my person, and she’s getting hefty at over 6 kg these days.
I always thought I was walking a lot more here, but I never thought it’d be this much! Now I don’t feel so bad about eating all that melon pan.
12:04 pm • 13 May 2013 • 2 notes
I’ve only taken a few hours of actual study with a tutor, and am otherwise self-taught from a book. F’s company is providing him with private at-work tutoring where a teacher from the Meguro Language Centre comes to his office twice a week and coaches him in Japanese. They expect him to become everyday-fluent in 6 months or less. I also want to take Japanese classes so I can at least function conversationally everyday, but I am also saddled with a baby who doesn’t always want to cooperate with what I want to do.
I’ve seen a couple options so far. I could take a class at night after F gets off work, but lessons can really add up (anywhere from ¥2000-4000/hr).
Then there’s Kumon. Have you heard of Kumon? I’ve only heard of it in the states for teaching kids math, but apparently they also do Japanese language study here. Instead of having a lesson where you sit with a teacher, you go to the Kumon centre and go through a self-study course. Then you complete a worksheet testing your knowledge and hand it to the teacher who will then go over it with you. It’s a highly affordable way to learn something. It costs ¥8400/month and you can go to the centre twice a week to study and have the teacher consultation.
What I’m wondering is how different Kumon would be from just learning on my own and finding a Japanese conversation group on the side. Right now that seems to be the best option for me. If I can even find some kind of language exchange partner who also has a baby, then we can even do parent-child things together while practising. I think it’ll get easier for me to think about taking a class once the kid is a bit older and I can enroll her in daycare for at least part of the day, but for now I’m just not sure what to do.
10:37 am • 11 May 2013 • 2 notes