It's been awhile since the last update and much has happened to us in the interim. I started teaching english at a preschool/day care once every other week. It's a schlep up towards Tokyo but the commute has forced me to "figure out" the rail system here. Mostly, I guess which train I should go on, get on, and then ask a friendly looking person (by means of charades) if that train is going to my stop. I oftentimes get a worried look and then a furious shaking of head, followed by frantic pointing. I have done it so often that all I have to do is get on the train and the locals just start frantically pointing...
My first day at the preschool/day care was exhilirating and disheartening. I was met at the door, rock star style, by a mob of 8 year olds all shouting, "Nancy Sensei! Nancy Sensei!" (Teacher Nancy, Teacher Nancy!). I teach 7 different age groups starting with the babies (2 year olds). I walked in with my most enthusiastic teacher smile and bag of tricks: Hello, how are you--it's so nice to meet you! I must have had an overly friendly look, like a clown, because three toddlers started howling immediately. Two had to be taken away. One remained and progressed to hiccupping hysterics in a japanese teacher's lap. Two others looked at me like I was the Japanese Preschool Freddy Kruger. Eyes the size of platters, chins quivering...it was the cutest/saddest thing watching them trying to keep it together while I cheerily sang the ABC song. I am sure they were thinking, "When she gets to Z, she is going to lunge at us."
Each week has gotten better, and thankfully, the little ones are now excited to see me. Their fear-o-meters have adjusted back down to "slight" and no one cries, but a few, just to be safe (you never know when that scary white woman will snap), stay glued to their teacher's side. But at the end of the lesson, they swarm around my ankles, shouting "Bye! Bye!" If I could get away with it, I would steal them all, they are sooooooooo cute.
My sister and brother-in-law came to visit us last month over my birthday and we had a blast in Tokyo. We checked out the Tokyo Edo museum which displays the history of the city of Tokyo (formerly called Edo in feudal Japan). It is a perfect museum for kids because all the displays are large and mostly interactive. Afterwards, we visited the Koppabashi district--the restaurant supply district. There are lots of shops selling cheap dishware and plastic food. Many Japanese restaurants display plastic versions of their dishes outside their establishments, perhaps to lure customers or perhaps to cater to Idiot Foreigners like us. (Oh look honey, we don't have to murder the Japanese language cause they have 3D pictures!) The plastic food looks incredibly real. The ice cream looks like its barely melting. The fried eggs have a slightly greasy look. The noodles look hot and squishy. AMAZING! They are like works of art but are unfortunately very expensive. Lily had to be pried away. However, her enthusiasm did not go unrewarded...Uncle G. bought her a cool chef's hat and she immediately set up shop in her room with a sign on the door: "Golden Cookbook Resterant--YUM! YUM! YUM! Experense Food! Please Take Off Your Shoes!"
That night, L. and G. treated us all to a first-class dinner for my birthday. I haven't had such a wonderful meal since Paris--8 courses! After the meal, the manager took us to the back and introduced us to the sushi chef and then toured us through the kitchen to meet the chef and sous-chefs. All of a sudden, the lights went out and the kitchen staff appeared with a lit dessert--"Hoppy Birtday to yew, Hoppy Birtday to yew, Hooooooppy Birtday dear Nancy-san, Hoppy Birtday to yew." Charming is a word that just doesn't do the experience justice.
P.S. Funny Japanese translation update: Walking past a Japanese CD store the other day, I was informed of a local band's new release called: "Bump of Chicken". Perhaps they meant Goosebumps? Intriguing. I get bumps of chicken just thinking about buying it...