Calgon, take me away!

I have far to go in Japanese. I'm talking to Timbuktu and back.

Without a doubt native Japanese speakers could have plenty of laughs at my expense, and probably have!

These bath salts gave me a giggle or two, and I wanted to share them with you. Don't know if you can read what it says properly, so here it is:

"Humanity are fighting against tired. [I know I always am.] CHARLEY support you."

Week 32 Starts Now

Not long now! Hard to believe.

Once again, I'm quoting from pregnancy.about.com:

"Your baby's movements will peak this week. From now on the will change in quantity and quality. Remember to do your Fetal Kick Counts. Most of the wrinkles are disappearing from your baby's face, and there may be a lot of hair on their head! The weight gain has been fairly incredible recently. Your baby has put on about 2 pounds of weight, mostly fat and muscle tissue, since last month, bringing the total to about three pounds eleven ounces (1.7 kilograms), and measurements to 40 cms or 15.8 inches! Babies who are born at a younger gestation than this will most likely having difficulties sucking or nursing. This also applies to babies who weigh less than 1500 grams at birth. A good sucking pattern is a sign of neuromuscular maturity."

Went to the doc again yesterday (he has me coming every week because the baby is still breech) and yet again, Matthew's little bum is poking down. He's still in a V position (butt down, head and legs up). His head's on my left side and legs on the right. Must be pretty uncomfortable and cramped for him in there. I'm still praying he'll turn, though. I would much rather have a natural delivery than a c-section.

Have a Nice Trip

I think what they really need to be careful of is pregnant women's tummies bouncing past priceless artifacts.

BBC NEWS | UK | England | Cambridgeshire | Historic vases smashed in stumble

The Skies Have It

Well, The Cloud Appreciation Society has my vote for the the Yahoo People's Choice website of the year. Great cloud pictures here - particularly the wild and wacky Mammatus clouds. I just wish the site had images of the right size to be good desktop backgrounds.


Where there's a blog...

You have to have a look at our friends' blog. Mike and Andrea are an absolute hoot. I especially liked the one about the fire drill at one of the schools where Mike is teaching here in Japan. Have a seat, take a load off, and giggle to your heart's content.

Good for Your Heart

I made three-bean salad the other day, but it didn't last long.

Whoa Mama (at 31 weeks)!

That ain't no sofa pillow, folks. It's real, live, 100% Matthew. Major belly hey. I'm normally just looking down at my tummy, but seeing this side view tonight cracked me up. I just can't explain it! I haven't laughed that hard in ages! I think Stephen was a bit worried. I'm OK, honestly, it just surprised me! I was wondering why everyone I meet stares at my abdominal region. Now I know.

A Moving Experience

Stephen and I have had a big day entertaining moving company personnel who've been here (pretty much all day) giving us estimates. It kind of creeped me out when they looked in our closets (not that there's anything to hide), but we are getting an all-inclusive moving package (they'll pack everything for us) so I guess I can't complain!

Anyway, there was a huge variation in prices, which we found pretty unbelievable. We both thought the market was more competitive than that.

I was completely impressed with the pictures they showed us of how they actually move everything. They bring in a team of women to pack the boxes, then men to move the stuff. Big sheets of thick blue plastic are put up in halls and elevators to prevent damage as they carry large objects.

One guy showed us a picture of how they train their people, and I really thought it was an ad for the army (um, excuse me, self-defense forces). Very professional. All uniforms perfectly starched and sparkling, with the head guy (his nametag said "meister") giving orders to the obeisant underlings.

I'm looking forward to this expedition. Think I'll sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. I might just be moved.

Out of This World!

We're going to have the coolest space kid ever: Matthew's new curtains are dark blue with glow-in-the-dark stars!

Priest told to prove Jesus lived

The law an ass? No surely not...

BBC News Story here

Lunch with the Ladies

My Friday English class ladies took me to a fantastic French place today for a sayonara lunch (though we do have one more class together and they have all promised to visit us in Nishinomiya). I know you'll be jealous when I tell you what I had: luscious tender beef in a red wine sauce, homemade crusty bread, creamy turnip soup, and chocolate gateau with fresh fruit, homemade orange sorbet, and fresh raspberry sauce. Must be why my abdominal region is so big hey. Tummy bliss.

Things I'll Miss About Okazaki: #7


I'll definitely be sad about leaving little Shotaro and his grandpa at the local neighborhood bakery (not to mention the cheesecake). This seems to be a week of saying goodbye to people, and today it was a "see you later" to Ikuyo and Masako, my friends I made in the maternity aerobics class. But they've promised to bring their babies (both due in March) down to visit us in Nishinomiya, and I told them we'll definitely be back to this area for short trips. It's not like we're leaving the country or anything! We had all been looking forward to our babies playing together, but from now on it will have to be quality time rather than quantity.

A Word of Advice

Lovely, isn't it? That's the Okazaki city hall. Never, ever park in the city hall parking garage if you are pregnant and if you ever want to be able to get out of your car to go into the aforementioned center of buzzing bureaucracy. Never, ever park there if you want to be able to get back into your car after doing the business that needed doing. Those parking garage spaces were not designed to accommodate any car larger than a diecast model, or any person larger than a stick figure drawn on a piece of Japanese washi.

Week 31, here we are!

Time is flying! But it's all fun (except for the heartburn). Matthew's been wiggling up a storm today and keeping me entertained. I actually feel better now than I did in the second trimester. Go figure. (Actually, that is what's happening. I'm getting bigger and waddling more! Bye bye figure for now!)

Here's what's happening in week 31:

"You may worry that if you are breathless from walking or sometimes even just sitting that your baby is in danger. This is not true. Your baby is getting plenty of oxygen from your placenta. The baby's irises can now dilate and contract in response to light. Due to the deposits of white fat underneath the skin the baby's skin is no longer red but pink, and your baby weighs about three pounds and five ounces (1.5 kilograms). The finger nails may reach the end of the hands."

I am so impressed with the new birthing clinic in Nishinomiya. We had our first appointment on Friday evening when we were down there, and the doctor was very peaceful and kind. He actually spent way more time with us than any other doctor has. And the head midwife is a hoot: very energetic, smiley, and friendly.

Matthew now weighs a whopping 1700 grams (3.74 pounds). He was very happily doing his usual drinking of amniotic fluid when we saw him on the screen.

Stephen and I also attended a mama/papa class on Saturday at the clinic, and got to see the labor and delivery rooms upstairs. There are about ten patients' bedrooms, all of them private and very nice.

They also have a unique system for introducing the baby to your friends and fam. You can rent the whole dining room, bring in the guests, have the chef cook up something delectable, and then when everyone is comfortable, they will wheel in the baby to be cooed at! I don't think we'll do this particular form of party, but I thought it was an interesting idea and hadn't ever heard of anything like it in the States.

Things I'll Miss About Okazaki: #6 and Things I'm Looking Forward to About Nishinomiya: #4

I'll miss the large open rice fields around here where I take my walk every morning. But I am looking forward to the scenic hills of Nishinomiya. It will be even more exercise for me: hills + Matthew in stroller or sling.

Things I'll Miss About Okazaki: #5

Mei-chan, the absolute sweetest dog in our neighborhood. I'll miss seeing her standing up and wiggling her tail when she spies me coming.

Things I'll Miss About Okazaki: #4

My friend Naomi and my favorite Okazaki Italian restaurant, Barolo.

Things I'll Miss About Okazaki: #3

My discount grocery store, Powers Big Live, is actually in Anjo, the "city" next to ours, but it's really all one big urbanized area. The great thing about this store is that it has ground beef for 88 yen per 100 grams, 500 grams of pasta for 100 yen, a box of chocolate chip raisin cookies for 100 yen, carrots are 3 for 100 yen or so, and a bigger ethnic diversity of shoppers than your average supermarket around here. In fact, I've been warned that I should be careful, because "foreigners" shop there. Usually there are one or two other gaijin besides me, usually Brazilian. I went today, however, and I was the only "foreigner" there, so I wonder if I should run from myself? I might be a danger. You never know. I could trip and fall on my bag of groceries and smush those cookies. That would indeed be a danger to my snack time.

Nice Day for a Lunch Outing

No, not a white wedding! :) Not today. That was 4 1/2 years ago (can you believe it!).

I was just feeling sorry for myself because Japan does not have the custom of baby showers (I think it's just an American thing, as far as I can tell), and my friend Sarah took me out to lunch today (here with her adorable son Isaac) and gave me a goodie bag full of diapers, lotion, baby powder, and wet wipes! It was so sweet of her (and hopefully will help Matthew smell sweet). :)

Thanks, Sarah!

Things I'm Looking Forward to About Nishinomiya: #3

We learned this weekend that it's acceptable practice to bargain for goods and services. So different from this area.

Things I'm Looking Forward to About Nishinomiya: #2

The cherry trees next to the Shukugawa (river) blossoming in spring.

Things I'm Looking Forward to About Nishinomiya: #1

Counter space, coupled with a 3-burner built in stovetop.

(The picture's a bit blurry, but you get the idea.)

Nishinomiya Trip Report

Just got back from Nishinomiya today. Well, God has answered our prayers in many things - one of which was that we would not get any snow - and we have now finalized an apartment, the contract for which the company will now be taking care of. My next job is to get quotes from some moving companies to see who will give us the best deal. I imagine that it will be pretty close as it is a very competitive market-place. In any case, we should be moving sometime during the week between February 10th (when I complete the contract on my present job) and February 20th (when I start with Provide Cars).

Anyway, I know you are all dying to know, so here are some quick pics of the apartment:



















In case you're wondering, "LD" means "living / dining room", "K" means "kitchen", and the numbers refer to the size of the rooms as calculated using the standard Japanese tatami mat size, although only the room in the center at the bottom of the layout plan actually has tatami - and we will cover this with carpet so that we can use that room as a dining room, as per our current apartment.

This is a 4LDK apartment (= 4 basic rooms + the living / dining / kitchen, but not including the toilet, bathroom or entrance hallway), which is about as big as they get in Japan. It will give us space to grow into, and mean that Matthew and potential-future-sibling can have their own rooms when / if that time comes. In the meantime, Abigail is really excited about the space in the kitchen - specifically the counter space!

What else can I tell you about? Well, there are lots of things, but last night we had a very refreshing time attending the church that some people from Provide Cars are involved in. It was great to be in a home church / smaller group environment for the first time in a long time. I had been feeling very tired with everything that has been happening, and it was wonderful to spend some time at this oasis before heading back.

House Hunting

We're off down to Nishinomiya for visit number two today for house hunting and for Abigail's first visit to the clinic where Matthew will be born. Unfortunately, one of the apartments we had specifically had our eye on has already gone, but at least the one we really like is still available - and the owner is open to renting to foreigners (something I have already double-checked, as I know that skin-color is a ground for refusal in some cases.)

The only question is - can we get all this done before the snow forecast for this evening and during the night? If there is a heavy fall, we could get marooned in Jon's house, because there is no way we are attempting to negotiate that super-steep hill in our little Corolla when it is snowy or icy.

Have a slice of morning life...

Here's a sweet little vignette from my walk this morning:

I saw a man in a suit with a briefcase walking off from home towards the station, and wife was holding baby in the front window. They were both waving and smiling at him. The mister turned back several times to wave at them, and walked off with a contented expression on his face.

Things I'll Miss About Okazaki: #2

The Brazilian store one block from our apartment!

They have really good homemade bread, pastella (fried bready things with meat, olives, cheese, and palm hearts inside), chocolate, rice and beans, and so much more. Have I sold you on it yet? And they play Brazilian TV shows in the cafe in the back (which I can't understand a word of, but are really interesting nevertheless). Good place to meet up with friends, though you have to yell above the TV and fun music.

I just want to say a big obrigado for reading this post. (That's all the Portuguese I know, folks.)

The Old Guard Bites Back

Livedoor comes under attack from the old guard who just can't stand people who go outside the system. Too much M&A, too little back-rubbing, and the dogs of war (the Tokyo Prosecutor's office) are unleashed, unwittingly triggering a drop in confidence in a market that, for the first time in a long time, deserves to be buoyant.

More details from the BBC here.

Week 30 Begins Now

I can't believe how little time is left for wee Matthew in utero.

Here's the latest from pregnancy.about.com:

"The baby is very aware of the surroundings. We tend to think of the uterus as a dark place. The uterus actually can be light and dark depending on the mother's environment. You may be able to distinguish sleep and wake cycles in your baby. Although it usually seems as if the baby wants to sleep while you are awake and vice versa at night. This is not indicative of a sleepless newborn.

If you are having Braxton Hicks Contractions use them to practice what you've learned in prenatal classes, and know that they are a sign that your body is getting ready for labor. The baby notices the contractions, but is not adversely affected by them.

Your sweetpea weighs a whopping 3 pounds (1.36 kilograms)! S/he measures about 14.8 inches (37.5 cms) in length."

Things I'll Miss About Okazaki: #1

Being able to see snow-topped Mt. Ontake (far away in the distance between the two poles) on a clear winter's day from our front door.

Care for a drive?

Wanted: Canine car thief spotted in Okazaki, Japan. Reward: As many Scooby snacks as it takes.

Turning into Mrs. Richards

If you've ever seen the Fawlty Towers episode featuring Mrs. Richards, a deaf and eccentric elderly lady who refuses to turn on her hearing aid because it will run down the batteries, you'll understand why I laughed hysterically at myself the other day when I frantically searched and searched for my ring, only to find it on my finger.

And Matthew was His Name-O

After reading this interesting article about baby-naming in the Philippines, I'm wondering if "Matthew" is a bit too tame?

I think the British author of the article chose a pretty good name for her daughter. I'm a bit partial to "Elise" (my favorite niece)!

Random Selection for Your Perusal

So I walked into a bar the other day...and I just had to say, "Ouch!"

OK, so I didn't really walk into any questionable places (or bars), but I am walking into absolutely everything else: walls, doors, you name it. My brain hasn't caught up with my belly size yet. Wonder if it ever will, or if by the time I get used to my new size, I'll be popping the baby out and (hopefully) back to my old size soon.

Little Pickle Matthew Munday is now a whopping 1553 grams (3.4 pounds for my American compatriots). Apparently that's completely normal for an almost-30-week-old baby, according to doc. Legs are longish, though.

Still hasn't decided to move his bum, which is sitting down, down, down, and his head and legs are sticking up, up, up. I've been told to lie in a funny position every night before bed, doing some kind of scary gymnastics that haven't seemed to work yet.

Completely unrelated to anything above is the fact that I had to take Bob the Burgundy Corolla for an inspection last week. He passed, but had to get two new tires and a battery. Flashbacks to the movie "Lost in Translation": The car guy in charge of helping me (and charging me big yen, though I think we got a discount because we know him and he's really nice) was trying to explain some part of the car they had replaced. I think he meant the flare (you know, the thingymajig that you're supposed to set off if you've broken down on the side of the road so nobody will hit you but in actuality would probably cause an accident as ten rubberneckers passed by and would want to know what the heck was going on), but as that's not a word I've ever learned in Japanese class, I just had to guess. He talked about "fire" and "emergency" and something else, but who knows? Could've been the spark plugs, I guess.

I actually really enjoyed my three hours of being Cool and Trendy (for once in my life) while Bob was at the babysitter. Poor Bob, he's a wonderful, faithful, loyal, reliable, red, friendly car, but by Japanese standards, he's (sorry to say this, Bob) a has-been. He's older than 2. Shock horror. Anyway, I got to drive a lavendar Toyota Sienta, much taller and boxier than Bob. Boxy is apparently beautiful.

Not to be outbeautified by the ever-lovely Japanese minivan, the Voxy. Voxy. Lady.

Now, enough about me.

1 Month Left

If you have been following our job-changing house-moving (followed in quick succession by baby-having) story, you will know that we have decided to take the job in Nishinomiya down near Kobe.

Having made this decision, we were then pondering whether to stay here to have the baby, or to move and get all that out the way before the baby comes along. Well, I was very surprised when Abigail just came out with it one morning that she would be fine moving before as long as we could find a good clinic. Well, God being who He is (knowing everyone and everything, loving us and making good plans for us), found us a great clinic that met Abigail's strict requirements. Or at least they do as far as we can tell from extensive interrogation over the phone.

So, today, I bit the bullet and handed in my resignation. My boss did not cry or beg me to stay, which is obviously a bit disappointing. It would be nice to at least have the illusion that I was a valuable member of the team. But anyway, one month from today and I will be working my last day at Internet Support.

Now we need a place to live....

Oh Sir... It's Only Wafer Thin

I suppose you could imagine a situation like this happening, although the chances of actually seeing it are pretty small:

There I was in the Post Office this morning, mailing a calligraphy scroll to one of my customers in the States. The man behind the counter took my package and weighed it. "That will be 1,680 Yen, sir." I handed him the customs label and placed my money in the little plastic tray they have for this purpose. He stuck the label on the box, turned around and busied himself with some bureaucratic necessities, and then turned back to me and said, "That will be 1,860 Yen, sir."

Whoah! Wait a minute. Rewind. Something fishy is going on here.

"You said it was 1,680 Yen before." We both looked puzzled. Then I came up with an idea, "Maybe the label has pushed it over the weight limit?"

Sure enough, a quick experiment revealed that this was indeed the case: The wafer-thin label weighed just enough that the scales tipped over the boundary between the two prices.

So next time you are wondering whether to include an extra piece of paper in a package, just remember that these scales are sensitive, and the extra hundredth of a gram could end up costing you!

Week 29!

Today starts wonderful week 29 of Matthew's life. Here's what pregnancy.about.com says:

"Your baby is busy getting ready for the birthday! The baby is beginning to regulate his own temperature and the bone marrow is completely in charge of production of the red blood cells. The baby is even urinating about a half liter of urine into the amniotic fluid everyday! The movements that you feel will probably begin to change at this point. You once were the home of wild gymnastic parties, now as the space becomes cramped you will notice smaller movements, such as elbows and knees. Try monitoring the baby yourself, using fetal kick counts. Your baby weighs in at about two pounds nine ounces (1.16 kilograms)!"

Here's what's going on with Mommy in week 29:

"Welcome to the third trimester! The home stretch! As your baby is growing, so is your body. You may feel as if your internal organs are crowded. They are. The best way to deal with the discomforts of late pregnancy are:

  • Good Posture
  • Proper Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Rest (When you can!)

Most discomforts will occur in your back, your legs, and the amount of air you can take into your lungs. Hang in there!"

I remember my sister telling me how during her pregnancy with her first baby (and her baby was frank breech as well, go figure) the baby's head stuck up into her ribs. I'm there with you now, Sharon!

Alien

Sometimes I sit and watch my tummy moving around, seemingly on its own free will. I know there's a baby in there, but the reality of it all usually eludes me. I'm having a blast, however, playing with Matthew, and talking and singing to him.

Stephen has his own playtimes with the baby, talking to him and making funny noises for his benefit, but on the rare occasions when he feels Matthew squirming around, he says one word: Alien. (A movie I have never seen and never plan to see. Think it must be a guy-flick.)

(BTW, Matthew already seems to have a mind of his own: Usually when I call Stephen over to feel the baby's movements, Matthew suddenly stops! I've even resorted to using gestures to summon Stephen, but to no avail. This baby is a clever little chappy, but I feel bad for Stephen, who misses out on quite a lot of the action.)

Blogging Just Got Better

I have had Firefox 1.5 installed at work for a while, but I only just updated our home browser. I was perfectly happy with the earlier version in most senses (the only advantage of 1.5 in usability terms seems to be that it is much quicker going back - funny hey?), but I really wanted to try out a new Extension that allows us to blog straight from the browser, without having to login to Blogger. If you are at all into blogging, Performancing is a must-have. Try it once, and the convenience is addictive!

What Will The Insurance Co. Say?

I'm wondering what this guy's insurance company is going to have to say about his slightly-hard-to-believe tail of a pyromaniac mouse. Animal rights activists may also be interested in his barbequing methods. And the Fire Department will definitely want him to answer some questions about why he was burning leaves when forest fires have been wreaking havoc in New Mexico recently.

BBC News: Blazing mouse sets fire to house

The Bump's Progress - Week 28

Yet Another Grace Gem

Lead me to the cross

(A Puritan Prayer)

O Holy Spirit,
Have mercy on me. Move, I beg You, upon my
disordered heart. Take away the infirmities of
unruly desires and hateful lusts. Lift the mists
and darkness of unbelief. Brighten my soul with
the pure light of truth. Make my soul . . .
as fragrant as the garden of paradise,
rich with every goodly fruit,
beautiful with heavenly grace,
radiant with rays of divine light.

Be my comforter, light, guide, sanctifier.

Take of the things of Christ and show them
to my soul. Teach me more of His . . .
love,
grace,
compassion,
faithfulness,
beauty.

Lead me to the cross and show me . . .
His wounds,
the hateful nature of sin,
the power of Satan.

May I there see my sins as . . .
the nails which transfixed Him,
the cords which bound Him,
the thorns which tore Him,
the sword which pierced Him.

Help me to see in His death, the reality
and immensity of His love. Increase my
faith in the clear knowledge of . . .
atonement achieved,
expiation completed,
satisfaction for sin made,
guilt done away.

Baby Stats

The midwife yesterday who did the ultrasound of Matthew was really sweet. She also had some interesting statistics for us!

  • Matthew's head is now 7 cm (2.8 inches) across! This is in the normal range for a 28-week-old.
  • His heart rate was 154.
  • His legs are long! They are in the range of a 30-week-old's. (Thanks to the Meltons and Mundays!)
Our due date up till now has been March 28, and according to his head size, he's due March 26. So no big change. However, according to his leg length, he's due sometime around the beginning of March!

Matthew was busy drinking amniotic fluid again, and we could also clearly see his eyebrows. Must be the Munday men strong-and-manly eyebrow gene at work.

I feel so blessed to have so many ultrasounds with this pregnancy. If we were in the States or Britain, we'd only have one or two. I cry every time! The Little Pickle is fearfully and wonderfully made!

New Matthew Pictures

Here he is, the coolest kid in town hamming it up for the camera. It's amazing how clearly you can see his face in these two sonograms we had done today.

Actually, it would have been the perfect time to do the 4D one (last time he had his hands and feet in front of his face, which even the best image analysis software cannot compensate for), but we weren't able to. Maybe he can hold this pose for next time.

Matthew's in Week 28! Yee-haw!

Growing like a weed! OK, more like a big strong boy.

Pregnancy.about.com says, "Your baby's eye lashes are developing, as subcutaneous fat is deposited. If you have a baby boy, his testes will probably begin descending. Your baby is about 13.8 inches long (35 cms) and weighs about 2 pounds 4 ounces (1 kilogram)! A baby born at this time has a good chance of survival with the help of medical technology."

Is the subcutaneous fat being deposited behind the eyelashes? Hmmm.

As Matthew's entrance into the world approaches in the blink of an eye, I am noticing that the previous weeks listed on the pregnancy.about.com calendar are building, and the ones between now and week 40 are rapidly diminishing! OK. Deep breaths. In through your nose, out through your mouth. No hyperventilating, please! You're not allowed to panic! If you do, you might get me in a dither, and that would not be a good thing.

I am having lots of fun with little Matthew lately, though. He makes me laugh! Sometimes he likes to punch or kick, and other times he seems to be doing swirls with large parts of his body. Figure eights, maybe? I know that pretty soon he won't have as much room to swim around in, but for now he seems content with his space and his playtimes.

We've been receiving some cute little things for him lately. I think our favorite has been an Old MacDonald book/hand puppet set with an animal on each finger (thanks, Holly). Stephen and I have been practicing reading it and doing the motions with the finger animals, and I think we're all ready for entertaining the wee laddy.

Nishinomiya and Kobe

As you will remember if you read this earlier post, Abigail and I were invited to come and visit the people at Provide Cars in Nishinomiya near Kobe to explore the possibilities for me to work there - and for us to move down and live there. Let's just say that it was a very positive experience, and we are looking forward to moving ahead with this and seeing where it goes. I'm sure we will have future updates about this, but in the meatime, here are some pics of the local area.

Panorama from Osaka (left) to Kobe (right) - click to enlarge

Kobe Port Tower - click to enlarge

Mosaic Harborside shopping area - click to enlarge

Mosaic, the ferris wheel and dinner cruise ship - click to enlarge

The boss (Jon) with his daughters - click to enlarge

Jon's cat watches a wild(ish) Tanuki - click to enlarge

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet... Train

We were surprised to find that the major snow fall that hit to the west of us before Christmas was still on the ground as we headed through the mountains between Nagoya to Kyoto. Watch the video here to get the full sense of the speed. This was taken on the slowest bullet train, the Kodama, but is still pretty fast.

White Men Can't Use Chopsticks

Today I met with the husband of one of Abigail's students, who is a big corporate head honcho who could prove to be a useful job contact for me. Anyway, we were discussing cultural differences and he asked me whether anyone ever tells me that I am really jouzu (good) with my hashi (chopsticks). Well, if you have ever been a foreigner in Japan, you will definitely have had this experience so, of course, I answered in the affirmative.

Now, Abigail and I had taken this as some kind of cultural prejudice, kind of like "White Men Can't Jump": White people can't use chopsticks. Our self-created rationalization had the result that we would get irked every time this situation occurred. And since this is a not infrequent occurrence, the irksomeness was getting up there on the scale of one to a lot.

Anyway, my corporate friend gave me another perspective on this issue that I found really interesting and that defused a lot of my previous ill-feeling: He told me that Japanese kids are expected to use chopsticks from quite an early age - in actual fact, from a point in their development when fine motor skills are but a distant dream. The result is that many Japanese people, apparently, have vivid memories of their early attempts at chopstick mastery ending in uncoordinated failure, and a slap on the wrist from a parent irritated at their lack of propriety. So the lasting impression burned on their young minds is that learning chopsticks is a difficult art.

Of course, for the adult foreigner, already deft with his or her fingers and accustomed to manipulating similar objects such as pencils, the way of the chopstick is not such a mysterious art at all. But that does not stop the Japanese bystander superimposing his or her own early-years experiences on this situation and commenting on the foreigner's mastery.

Famous Blog Groupie

We've got a reader in Dubai, and we're wondering if it's Michael Jackson! (This assumption might have been brought on by the eighties music videos we've been watching and laughing at.)

Mikey baby, if it's you, post a comment!

Happy New Year!

Hope you're all well and happy in 2006! My belly's been celebrating. A friend of mine just dropped by and brought some special Japanese New Year food she and her family made. I had to take a quick picture before it all disappeared in the bittersweet ephemeral way all good grub does around here lately.

Happy New Year 2006

Happy new year all you blog readers! Here we are seeing in the new year in our apartment with Andrea, Mike and Lucy. Click here to see the video greeting.


 

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