Thursday, January 31, 2008

I'd like to share a story that my former co-workers at Martingale would get a kick out of. Last week, when I was visiting Seiko, we were talking about crafts and how much we like them. Seiko likes to sew, and she's made quilts and dolls and other really cute things that she showed me pictures of. She's also volunteered at one of the big quilt shows in Tokyo. While we were talking, she said she wanted to show me her favorite calendar, and she brought a copy of the 365 Quilt Blocks a Year calendar to the table. I know Martingale sells products around the world, but it was still a big surprise to see the calendar in Seiko's home, and she was even more surprised when I told her that I used to work for the company that makes the calendar! Seeing the enjoyment that the calendar brings Seiko was great, and I thought you guys would think it was great too.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Zach and his new friends outside the zoo

Entrance to Ueno Zoo

Me with my new panda buddies

Here's the real panda, and he didn't seem very happy.

Sea otter! Don't worry---he wasn't trapped inside a small box. He could move between the box and his pond through the tube you see in the background.

This is called a dhole.

Mmmm---bones. Tasty.

Mom and Baby. You'd be snuggled together too if you were as cold as they were.

Japanese paparazzi. I was amazed at the photography equipment people were carrying around the zoo.


Click on the picture so you can read the sign. I couldn't believe it either!

This is called a Shoebill. I thought he was kind of cute, but Zach was deeply disturbed by him and thankful that the bird was in a cage. We didn't stay at this exhibit very long.

Ellen's translation: Don't feed the monkey oranges or tomatoes, or he'll get really sick and his belly will explode.

Ellen's translation: It's fun to play on the railing, and Mr. Bear will give you a great big handshake if you do.

My new giraffe pillow

Howdy! It's still cold here, but it's not snowing today. I forgot to mention that another reason why our house is so cold is that Japanese homes aren't insulated very well. So, even though our home is brand-new, we don't have a lot of protection from the elements. But, that's the way it goes, and in a few more months, I'll be talking about how hot it is.

We had a really fun weekend. Zach had the whole weekend off from work, and we signed up for another tour through the base. This time we went to the zoo in Ueno, which is in an area of Tokyo about an hour and half from the base. We had a blast seeing all the animals. It was chilly, of course, but the sun was out and the animals were cute. They had your usual selection of elephants, tigers, and giraffes, but they also had some animals we had never seen and some signage that made me double over laughing. I've posted some of the photos so you can see. My favorites are always the giraffes, and the zoo souvenir shop just happened to have pillows in the shape of them. I know what you're thinking, and no, it's not time for an intervention. Yet.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tori gate with snow; located near base entrance

Brrr!! It snowed today! Big white flakes that were really wet. The snow gave everything a nice white coat. I had to go to the base for a dentist appointment this morning, and luckily Zach gave me a ride because he had to work. Unfortunately I had to walk to the train station after I was done with my appointment, and darn I was cold. The combination of wind and blowing wet snow didn't make for a very fun walk. Right before I left the base, I snapped a photo of the tori gate at the base entrance so that I could prove that it really did snow!

On Monday this week, my Japanese friend Seiko invited me to her house for lunch. We met through another mutual friend. Seiko is really nice, and it was fun to visit with her. She made a traditional Japanese meal with soup and toasted rice cakes. Everything was yummy. She speaks very good English, and she teaches English to kids two days a week. She wants to work on her English skills, though, so I'm going to help her and she's going to help me with my Japanese. I think that's a great deal!

Tomorrow I have to go back to the dentist. Yuck! I'm still learning the ropes when it comes to military medicine and overseas clinics. I thought they were doing my cleaning today, but today was just a "meet the dentist" and x-ray visit. I have to go back tomorrow for the actual cleaning. I also get to go back next week to fill a cavity! Woohoo! I like the dentist though, so that is a good thing, right?

So, that's about it. Keep staying warm. :-)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Heating/air-conditioning unit mounted on wall near ceiling

Remote control for air unit

Hello! I hope everyone back home is doing well and staying warm. I have been learning to deal with being really cold. The weather here is mighty chilly right now. I wear sweaters a lot and constantly apply lotion because my skin is so dry. All of the rooms in our house are heated individually by heaters that are mounted on the walls near the ceiling. They are operated by remote control, and luckily we have a translated diagram of the buttons (the navy housing office gave it to us). These air units also provide us with air conditioning in the summer. They work well in each bedroom because the area that needs to be heated is small. The living room is a bit more challenging because the room is the largest in the house. We try to keep our heating costs down by only turning the heat on when we are in a room. This makes for a very cold house in the morning!

Stay warm everyone!

Monday, January 7, 2008

My hero, Anpanman!

Evil Baikinman!

Anpanman fighting Baikinman

I want to introduce you to a superhero and cartoon that I have grown quite fond of here in Japan. His name is Anpanman, which basically translates to BreadMan in English. You see him everywhere here. Kids run around with Anpanman tricycles. His image is printed on clothing. There are pictures of him on the side of traincars. He has his own museum. I've even seen Anpanman diapers and shampoo. I am the proud owner of Anpanman tissues, plus I have my own Anpanman figures too.

So, what's so special about Anpanman? His head is made of bread filled with red-bean paste, and he loses his powers if his head gets damaged. However, his baker dad can bake him a new head and Anpanman regains all his strength. Plus, if he comes across someone who is hungry, he lets them eat part of his head! Now, I know there are many superheroes who can do amazing things, but Anpanman can help the hungry! That's a really cool thing in my book.

Anpanman isn't alone in his quest for justice. There's a bunch of other characters who have similar food-related ties, included Shokupanman, whose head is made of sliced bread. And Currypanman, whose bread head is filled with curry.

You can't have a superhero without villains, and Anpanman's main enemy is Baikinman, or GermMan. He wants to destroy Anpanman with bacteria. His weakness is soap, and he has evil helpers called Kabirunrun who can rot Anpanman's head with mold.

If you want to know more about Anpanman, there are lot of people on the internet with websites devoted to him. There is some basic information on Wikpedia: There is also a Japanese website, but of course it's all in Japanese:

At Christmas, we were channel surfing and came across an Anpanman special. It was all in Japanese, but the main storyline was that Baikinman was stealing yarn so that he could make a giant Christmas stocking and steal all the Christmas toys. There was a yarn superhero who used his knitting needles as weapons. I've been trying to find more information on it, but I'm not having any luck. I'll let you know if I do. :-)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Cute Japanese kids with their decorated cart

Check out the Pooh cart. Why don't they make these for grown-ups?

Inside the cart

That's a dog in a stroller!

You say "tamago," I say "egg."

Happy New Year---a little late! I can't believe I've already been here in Japan almost four months. Craziness. The new year is off and running. Things are getting back to normal around here. All of our decorations have been taken down and put in boxes, ready and waiting for next December. I always hate the way my home looks after the Christmas decorations go away. It's amazing how a few lights and red and green can really brighten up a place. But, we can't have a Christmas tree hanging around in our living room in July, even if it is fake.

Garbage collection resumed today, thank goodness! It was quite the gathering down at the collection point this morning. They haven't been collecting garbage since December 30 because of the new-year holiday, and the whole neighborhood has been storing their garbage up for today. There was hardly any room to put my bag, and this elderly man was pretty annoyed because people hadn't been pushing their garbage back far enough to allow for other people to put theirs in. Or at least that's what I could figure out from his hand gestures and conversation he was having with two other women this morning!

Zach is working a 24-hour shift today, but I've been pretty spoiled these last few weeks because he's been home several days and it's been really nice. He'll go back to his regular schedule this week. We got out of the house yesterday and did some shopping at two local malls. One of them is called Oak City Mall and we've never been there before. I was tortured because there were at least three LARGE Sanrio stores (they make Hello Kitty stuff for those of you who don't know) and even though Zach was very sweet and patient, I didn't get to spend nearly enough time in them. I plan to go back on my own or with another Hello Kitty fanatic in the future. :-)

While we were at the malls, I took some photos of fun stuff we saw. At Oak City, they offer these carts with decorations on them for kids to sit in. They were everywhere! I know they have similar ones in the states, but these carts were decked out with all kinds of entertaining stuff. At Grandberry Mall, I was hoping to take a bunch of pictures of Dachsunds since the place was just loaded with them the last time I was there, but there were only a few dogs this time. I snapped a photo of a woman with her dog in a stroller. You see that a lot here. People really love their dogs.

We also walked by a McDonald's at Grandberry Mall, and their newest creations are these hamburgers with loads of meat, and one of them has egg ("tamago" means "egg" in Japanese) on it. I of course had to take a photo of this as well, and Zach couldn't resist being goofy. :-)

Well, that's it for today. Take care.