Saturday, December 17, 2011

Some simple Christmas decorations for 2011

DSCF0044I am a total sap for Christmas stuff. I love decorating and making my living space as warm, and Christmas spirited as possible while I am away from family in Japan. Of course, now I have my own family in Japan, but this is more a yearning for things back in the US.

Over the past couple of years I have purchased various Christmas knickknacks to decorate my living room. This year I added an LED wreath for the front door and some window decals. My wife as always is indifferent about my decorating but she likes it after I am done.

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This year I won’t have any presents under the tree, but at least I have a huge present that is my recently born son. Smile Hopefully I can take him and my wife back to the US to see my family for Christmas in 2012 or sooner! Sometimes its hard to live life straddling two countries so far apart.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

A new addition to the family.

DSCF0011I tend to keep this blog focused more on stuff I do than very personal stuff but this is something I simply cannot hide.
I am no longer just a man, I am a father. My son was born this day on December 2nd 2011 at 5:52am. I want to be the best dad I can be for him. Someone he can look up to as a role-model and someone he can depend on.
Waiting in the recovery room with a monitor till the baby was ready to be born.
So, here’s the breakdown of how Ron was born. It was a record cold day for my part of Japan in Yamanashi. We were anticipating snow that same night which was very unusual for so early in the winter. Especially since it snows maybe twice at most here.

It all started with a phone call from my wife after my first class of the day. She surprised me with a call telling me her water had already broke and she was in a bed at the clinic ready to have our baby. This was about 10 days earlier than the expected date so I was a little surprised and excited that it was happening all of the sudden.
DSCF0006 name blurred for blog
This photo was taken minutes after he was born. He has changed so much since!
With haste I hurried down to the clinic as fast as the speed limit allowed me to be with my wife in labor. To my surprise, my wife wasn’t anywhere ready to give birth but she was in the early stages of labor with her water already broke. I spent the next 8 hours waiting for the labor to start. It didn’t really begin till around midnight. After nearly 13 years of standing by my wife’s bedside, our son was finally born safe, healthy, and screaming.
The room where our son was born.
For the first time in my life I had this weird rush of happiness and dread. Happiness that my son was born and dread that a long chapter of my life has closed forever. The chapter about me not having any real responsibility except for myself and my wife. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was in no way disappointed that I was now a father, I just was so used to not having to be so responsible. I am sure I will learn quick anyhow.
I can’t wait till Ron gets bigger. I am really clumsy with newborns. They are so FRAGILE! Smile

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fire drill at a Japanese elementary school

NEC_0001Japanese fire drills are not too different from the 100 or so I experienced during my public schooling in the US. Kids walk out single-file with their teachers as quickly, orderly, and quietly as possible but this is kind of where the similarities end for me.

One interesting quirk about official disaster drills in Japan is that most staff or people in positions of power have a hard helmet ready for times like these. It doesn’t matter if its an earthquake drill or fire drill, the helmets are worn. I guess its great for worst case scenarios where you are a bit late in evacuating the building for clear grounds, but in most cases you probably won’t even have time to retrieve your helmet. I know I won’t as I am never at my desk when these things happen.


The students also wear something on their head. Every student has a seat cushion that doubles as a semi fire-resistant, debris protection apparatus. It looks kind of ridiculous and I doubt very much that it will help much in times of fire if the cushion is still over the fire retardant material. As for quakes with the cushion, well… it might help make identification of the victims after rescue crews pick through debris.

Differences aside, the kids are pretty well drilled about evacuating and they do a really good job getting out in an orderly and timely manner. I always enjoy the small demonstrations they have with the local fire fighters. Its fun to watch them put out oil fires with fire extinguishers. Japanese fire trucks sure are cute and tiny. Open-mouthed smile

Monday, November 21, 2011

My school’s 10th year celebration.

NEC_0009Today was my main elementary school’s 10th year founding anniversary. Most of the schools I have taught at have been at least 100 years or so old so it’s a big treat to be a part of the early history of a school. I’ve been at this particular school for about a fifth of its existence. I hope to spend at least another year there if I can.

I have gained a lot of respect and responsibility over my 3 years at my school and because of that, I was given the duty of manning the video equipment. I am surprised they gave me such an important duty even though I am a non-essential staff member at the school. I guess even the teachers and staff at the school have forgotten I am just an ALT. Smile I won’t hold it against them. I feel very glad they treat me as an equal.


The ceremony its self was kind of uninteresting to me but I did enjoy the parts where the student body sang and played a few songs they spent weeks learning over the past month for today’s event.


After the ceremony ended, we all went outside to release toxic balloons into the atmosphere with short wishes and messages attached to them. It was pretty cool to see all of the balloons fly off toward Mt. Fuji but I felt bad for the people that will have to clean the balloons up where ever they may fall. Hopefully they don’t make it past the mountain range, I’d prefer they didn’t make it to the ocean. Oh well.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

TACOS! Home made tacos. ~Squee~ was born and raised in Southern California so it is only natural that I am partial to Mexican food. So it is no surprise that I crave one of the more well known dishes of Mexico, TACOS!

Living in Japan doesn’t make this craving any easier to satisfy. Not only is it expensive to buy fresh ingredients like lettuce, tomatoes, and real cheese (not processed), its even harder to find decent flour/corn tortillas. Luckily for me tortillas have been getting easier and easier for me to buy around these parts thanks to huge national supermarkets like Max-Valu and PAX.


I recently found my hookup for my Mexican ingredients, a place called KALDI Coffee Farm. KALDI is an import food and drink shop. They specialize in all things world wide. A little bit from everywhere, especially the US. I can now get a decently priced 12 pack of flour tortillas for under 300 yen. Usually it would cost closer to 500-700 yen for 10. Its still pricey but its easier on the wallet.


My biggest help to my tacos is the best purchase I ever made at Costco. I bought a giant container of taco seasoning about 6 months or so back for about the same price as one serving packet of taco powder. I love you Costco Japan.


Anyhow tonight’s tacos were DEEEE-LICIOUS! I can’t wait to cook some up again. Maybe I can make this a bi-monthly thing. I don’t want to cause my wife to start resenting my food of the gods. Smile


Now to find a reliable local source for corn tortillas…

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mt. Sentouboshi (千頭星山) kicked our butts

DSCF0005Today I got to go out on another day hike with Joel. We decided to hit Amariyama again but head out to another summit located at 2100 meters up and about an hour and 45 minutes hike away.


DSCF0001This time around there was much less people around. No more gardening volunteers and no tour busses. The parking lot was nearly empty when we arrived at 9am. It was like a completely different place without all the extra people. Much more serene and picturesque. Smile

DSCF0011We were incredibly fortunate during the whole hike. Not only did we get to go out for another fun day hike, but also the weather behaved the whole time we were there. Even though it was incredibly overcast, it was still possible to see Mt. Fuji clearly nearly the whole way up. This gave great photo opportunities at nearly every vista we reached.


There really isn’t much to write about the actual trail besides that it starts out very easy then goes into jungle undergrowth and goes normal again. We traverse 3 separate ranges before we reach Sentouboshi. The walk most of the time is some really rough and steep uphill walking. This is where we got our butts kicked by the mountain. We really didn’t expect the hike to be so brutal but we still enjoyed every moment we were there.






I figure if it were a clear day like last time we would have even better pictures but I kind of think that the clouds that encircle Mt. Fuji in today’s shots are really neat. So it wasn’t all that bad. It also gave me an opportunity to test out my panorama mode on my digital camera. For my first time I think I did pretty well. I look forward to using it more again sometime.



So that’s all for this week/today’s entry. Enjoy the awesome view. I know we did. Smile


Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween in Kofu, Yamanashi 2011

NEC_0005-1Its been about three years since the last time I even thought of going out to a bar for Halloween in Japan. I’ve really lost a lot of interest in going out to bars most likely due to the fact it’s a fast way to kill your wallet here.

With my recently made friend Joel, we attended the Halloween parties that were being held in the two expat bars in downtown Kofu, the Rink and the Vault. Even with my reservations on spending money drinking out when I can do it cheaper at home I decided to go out again and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself having a lot of fun again.


The parties weren’t actually on Halloween night as that was a Monday and most people probably wouldn’t have been able to attend a weeknight drinking binge. So the parties were held on the last Saturday night before Halloween.




Joel dressed up as a California Park Services Ranger and I dressed up as a Ghostbuster. I really enjoyed walking about dressed up as a Ghostbuster that night. I got a few high fives for my costume and was happy that I wasn’t confused for a fumigator or janitor.



We spent a good chunk of the night at the Rink as we preferred the live DJ and the friendlier atmosphere there. The only downer to the Rink is the unisex restroom. Its really hard to concentrate when ladies are walking in and out on you. Embarrassed smile

A couple ladies even flirted with us while we were there and Joel even got a number off one of them. Probably nothing will come of it but at least it was fun! Of course I’m a married man so I stuck to my bottle of beer and nursed it good to avoid any trouble with the ladies. Open-mouthed smile Plus, Joel’s the better looking one out of both of us. I am sure they were around because of him.


There was a costume contest at both bars but I only entered into the Rink’s. The DJ ended up choosing the winner and it was an original costume hybrid of the Godfather and a fairy godmother. Pretty funny and the guy who wore it was a really friendly guy too. I got his contact info and might get him to join Joel and I on a hike sometime if I remember to get a hold of him.





We spent about 5000 yen each and had a good buzz going through the whole night. It was nice to have non Japanese beers for once. The only downside to the night was the next day when I had a minor headache that went away around lunch.