Sunday, January 27, 2013

More Photos

Report card grades and comments are due this coming Friday morning, so we have been busy finishing up semester one.  Luckily, my project 365 - a photo a day has pushed me to take a lot of photos.  One really great outcome is that I take a lot more photos of our everyday life, which I don't want to forget.  I don't always upload the photos each day, but I am definitely taking them each day.  Many days, it's a struggle to figure out which one to upload.

Here is the album to date:

 Here is our Winter photo album:
Winter 2013

Living in Japan - the Ying & the Yang

Living overseas is most of the time wonderful, but there are, of course, challenges.  Normal everyday events are a lot more "exciting", especially when living in Japan, where we are illiterate, can only speak very basic Japanese and where still after 5 years, don't understand all the cultural nuances.   After living here for four and a half years, it is definitely easier to get around, but there are often occurrences where I want to throw my hands in the air in defeat.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the hospital for a routine check up.  This was definitely one of those defeated times.  I don't know how to explain Japanese health care.  I often am negative about it, but it's only because I can't communicate and the medical options on our island are not the best for foreigners.  Otherwise, Japan has a much better system than the US, they have a national health care system and even for us paying out of pocket to be reimbursed by our international health insurance, it is super reasonably priced.  One of the other difficult things I have trouble grasping is that many people don't have their own "practitioner" - whether it be an ob-gyn, pediatrician, optometrist, etc.  Most people will visit the same clinics, hospitals or doctor's offices, but whoever is working there will be the one they see and many doctors change locations throughout their careers.  When I find a doctor I like, I stick with them, so that's been hard here.  Even finding a doctor with decent English and a bit of western bedside manner (a little more personable) is difficult.

On to my story...  I went to the hospital which has the ob-gyn offices that I visited when I was pregnant with Lola.  There were two great women ob-gyn doctors there who both spoke English and were lovely.  Not anymore.   The reason I went was to have my IUD removed (I leave it up to you to google this if you're interested or just realize this has to do with my girl parts).  This was where I had my IUD implanted.  I felt fairly comfortable using the hospital because I had been there before many times.   I could get by with my iTranslate app on my phone and they had my records, so I was confident.

It is hard to explain this crazy event (I should have had a hidden camera installed), but let's just say it was not so easy.  I was there for about 2 hours with a very nice man from the administrative offices with very bad English trying to translate...  about a very personal matter.  At one point in the waiting room, with about twenty other patients in the lobby (one of which being my colleague's husband with their sick son), they were discussing my matter in a semi-circle of nods, Japanese and gestures.  And all about my girl parts.

I finally got back to see the doctor, who spoke basic enough English, but she was clearly nervous to see me.  A long story short: I left the hospital 2 hours later, with a $50 bill and the IUD still in my body.  The whole time, I was on the verge of laughing or crying as I texted back and forth with John for my sanity and possibly to get a Japanese female colleague to get on the phone to help me out.

But then I balance something like that with many more experiences like this...

Two days after we arrived back from Bali, we were having friends over for dinner to catch up, when our doorbell rang.  It was our neighbors two flights upstairs from us with HUGE presents for the kids.  They said they had come by the 24th and 25th to try and bring the presents.  I wasn't sure whether I should have invited them in, but we have people here and the house was a mess from the kids.  We bowed and thanked them profusely and wished them a happy new year.

Immediately we knew we had to bring them gifts as gift-giving is very big in Japan.  You gift new neighbors, you gift colleagues after trips and for many thank yous in between.  It took us a few days to figure out what to get, so we settled on a potted orchid.  The orchid sat in our house for about 4 days until I found the time and gathered enough courage to bring the kids upstairs with our gift.

The Tanakas graciously invited us into their lovely apartment, where they served us cake, coffee, and apples.  We spoke in broken English & Japanese about the basics of our lives.  They turned on Japanese cartoons for the kids and doted on them.  It should have been a lot more awkward with our lack of a common language, but it wasn't at all and we stayed there for about an hour.

They are a lovely older couple with grown kids who are enjoying their retirement.  We think they just enjoy seeing our kids in the elevator and may have thought we were all alone in a foreign country celebrating our holidays, not gallivanting on the beaches of Bali.  As we left they loaded up a bag full of more goodies - produce from a farm on Rokko Mountain and other regional snacks and waved good-bye until the elevator doors closed.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Maximo's First Ski Trip

John and Maximo had their first boys trip, although they joined David and Kiyona to Okuibui Ski Resort about 2 1/2 hours from Kobe.   They spent the night in a double wide trailer, although a lot nicer than you may be imagining (at about $200 a night!).

Since it's a three-day weekend (although not for us) due to a Japanese holiday, the slopes were packed and they got stuck in a lot of traffic and lines getting started in the morning.

Maximo had a two hour lesson.  He didn't do a lot of skiing, but learned a few basics.  He came home super excited and wants to go back.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Japan Days

Apparently I can either take a picture a day or blog, but not both well.  We had a full work week and vacation feels far far away.

This week at Canadian Academy, were Japan Days.  There were many different activities at all grade levels celebrating Japanese culture.

Yesterday, Maximo pounded mochi with his Japanese teachers:

Today he and I dressed up in our finest Japanese clothing.  He wore Japananese (yukata) pajamas and I wore a kimono (untraditionally) as an open jacket.  Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures.  I'm hoping his teacher did, so I can steal the pictures!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Project 365

I am going to try to post a picture a day in this photo album.  This means that probably 95% of them will be from my iPhone, but I think it'll be a good challenge nonetheless.   Even though I think they are oh-so-cute, I am also going to try to not have pictures of just the kids.

There are so many great things we see every day.

A Photo A Day 2013

I really hope it doesn't turn into project 15.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Singapore (Changi) Airport - A way to spend a day... really!

On the way back home from our trip to Bali, we had a 10 hour layover at Changi Airport.  This was not ideal.  John tried to change our tickets or even change it to a 34 hour layover, so we could explore Singapore a bit, but it didn't work out.

John felt confident that we had plenty to do at the airport, so we wouldn't even try to venture out into the city, as that could have been more trouble than it was worth since: 1. we're traveling with a two year old (and five year old), 2. we were semi-dressed in Winter attire 3. we didn't really know where would be best to spend our time in the city.

(Note: Our friends, also traveling with small children, did venture out of the airport, and found it easy to hop in a taxi and head to the zoo for the day.  Win-Win!)

John Lemley is usually right, and after hearing about how great the Singapore airport was, I decided that this was the way to go.

We quickly realized that our stroller was checked all the way through Osaka, so we grabbed a cart and headed on our way.  There are strollers you can borrow, but between the cart and the Ergo, we were fine.

We had lunch at O'Leary's Sports Bar and Grill.  The food was good and the kids were great.

Free Angry Bird with purchase!

We then went to a play area (there is one on each terminal) and the kids ran around for a half hour.  We lost Maximo twice to find him with another boy, shoeless in the scoping out the legos in the toy store across the hallway.

We found the sunflower garden.

We did art shadings.

And checked out the fish at the koi pond:

We watched part of a movie (Open Season 2).

We had Subway for dinner and watched the airplanes.

We then went to the butterfly garden, but it was already dark and we only saw one butterfly.

The shopping in the airport was AMAZING - anything from Designer duds to toys to books (IN ENGLISH) and everything in between.  We didn't do much shopping.
Lola with the Harrod's Bear

We packed swim suits for the kids to go swimming in the pool at the airport, but we never made it there.

It was easy to get between terminals.  The airport also offers free city tours that pick-up and drop off at the terminals.  I'm not sure how that works with immigration/customs, but it's available.

I'm kind of hoping we get stuck there again another day.  It was the easiest 24-hour travel day we've ever had.  Changi Airport was great, and then our flight back to Osaka was less than half full, so we all got to sprawl out on the four-across rows to sleep.

Bali - Family Trip 2012

We spent half of our Winter Break in Bali.  There are so many great WARM locations in Southeast Asia, to pick fun places to spend our Christmas holidays.

The kids looking for snails and crabs
Kate, Maximo, Denis
Kate & Maximo swimming - Maximo insisted on wearing his swim cap,
so his goggles didn't pull his hair.  Delicate soul.

Lola and Ceri playing at the beach
With Maximo and Lola, beach vacations are the best.  They are very content swimming, eating, sleeping, repeat.  John and I are pretty happy with vacations like that as well, with some beers, massages and reading thrown into the mix.  The beach was nice and calm, which was perfect for the kids.
Lola in the pool

Lola in the ocean

The hotel we stayed at was great for us.  It was really kid friendly (without being over run by kids).  The larger pool was almost empty, except for us.  The food was good at the hotel, but we did get tired of it after eating at least a meal a day there (usually lunch by the pool, before naps).

Besides deciding weather to "beach" or "pool" it, we did a couple of things around Bali.

We went to the Bali Safari Park which was FANTASTIC.  It was a well done zoo with great natural looking enclosures for the animals, who looked healthy and happy.  It even included a safari ride through different areas showing animals from Indonesia, Asia and Africa.

Lola and Dima making funny faces
Los Lemleys Chicos
Checking out the elephants on the safari.

A few days later, we ventured off the hotel grounds again to go on a boat trip.  I saw a flyer at the airport, and we arranged for it.  It was good for the kids, because it was a half day event, but it was a bit of a crazy business and it was in a really busy area of Bali - Nusa Dua.  We were able to go snorkling and ride a glass bottomed boat, which took us to Turtle Island.  While the animals looked healthy, and Maximo and Lola enjoyed looking at the animals, we arrived at the island, where there were at least 100 boats anchored at the shore.
Baby turtle

Maximo snorkled and saw fish!

Linda spun the girls around and around over and over again to happy squeals!

And this trip was so great because we traveled with our good friends,  the Tyler-Hilbrechts and the Schatzkys.   It was relatively easy with 3 two year olds and 3 five year olds.  

Everyone had playmates!