28 February 2008

Day 27-29 - never ending city of cuteness

All of a sudden it got warmer then it got very cold and then the wind arrived. Some days it is so windy the pram literally takes off, people's hats blow off and crowds are huddled inside their coats and scarves while waiting to cross the road. I have not been riding the snoop mobile during these windy days as I am sure I will blow over, even though it easier to ride and balance with the mooch on the front basket than I thought it was going to be. This city never ends and its true it also never sleeps. I have not lived in a really big city. Melbourne is not a big city compared to this big city. I love my small big city Melbourne and even more I love that is was designed using the grid system. A nice, organised, symmetrical grid. Tokyo is literally a rabbit warren of curved, criss crossing and hilly streets, imagine a bowl of noodles and thats what the downtown map looks like. In addition, land space is at a premium so most businesses and restaurants and shops are found in multi level sky scrapers. Just to go to the bank I needed to go to the 24th floor. I like learning about how a city is made up, what is natural for so many people and still seems so foreign to me. The cool thing is, every time I get lost, or turn another corner, I find something new. It is very exciting. I get the feeling that you could spend many years here and still have that happen.

I found these wooden cut outs today. They also had some very cute animals but I thought I needed to stick to the things that are big enough not to put in the mouth of a child. These cut outs are approx 4-5cm high. Never ending cuteness.

25 February 2008

Day 23-26 - language awareness

My Japanese is at a level where I can get by day to day without too many hassles but I cannot have a good conversation. My vocab and grammar understanding is not developed enough to have a complicated conversation and I find this very frustrating. I am looking at finding a place I can do some study to get to the next level. I used to get a thrill when I could make myself understood but now I need to get the thrill back by having a good, decent conversation, which Im sure will take some time. It is quite easy to live in Tokyo and not meet any Japanese people which, considering the population of Tokyo is that of all of Australia, is quite amazing. When I was living in the Japan countryside it was impossible to meet a foreigner, so exposure to the language was just a part of the day to day experience of life. I now actively seek opportunities to speak Japanese. I had a huge realisation too, one that everyone studying a second language realises sooner or later, Im sure. There is really never a direct translation because the nuance of language is not easy to quantify in actual words. I havent grasped this yet. So, when I speak Japanese, I use a lot of Australian habits. I often find these are the times when I am most misunderstood. I guess the learning of a language is more than just the vocab and grammar etc, it is also about getting the nuance and timing correct. And having exposure to the culture and peoples in conversation is the only way you can pick these things up in a natural way. Best go find me some friends!!

22 February 2008

i think spring is here

I took the mooch to the big park.. This big park is like the central park of the city. It is very large and even when there is a lot of people there, it still seems like there is room for everyone. Part of the park houses this amazing shinto shrine as well as various other historical things to see. It also has the dog run I mentioned in another post and LOTS of space!! I think the winter has finally ended because it really was coatless weather. I remember the weather when I lived in Japan, how accurate the weather forecasts were and when it says snow tomorrow, it will snow....It is the same for the seasons, very accurate and on schedule. Im not too sure how global warming is going to effect the accurate predicitions?! However, I am very happy that it feels like it has turned the corner. I can see some small buds already blooming into flowers while out walking. We are very lucky to have a garden and in it a ready to burst camellia tree. I dont know what colour the flowers are so I am really looking forward to see it bloom. The photo above is one of many I took while to mooch was grovelling about. You can see things look a bit barren after a cold winter and the ground is very dusty and cold. I snapped this in a second where the mooch just stopped and knelt down and looked up at a small white plastic bag tangled in the tree top. If you look closely he has his finger out ready to point. It captures a lovely moment.

20 February 2008

illustration friday-theory

Day 21 & 22 - cute

They might look like pencils but they are really chopsticks. There is no end of super dooper cute stuff.
These are also the cutest little cutlery for a little mooch. These guys come from the $1 shop, can you believe it?
I have started quite a collection of cute stickers now I just need to write some letters to stick them on. It is my small goal to do so, so you might get a postcard or letter soon.
I have been exploring around my neigbour hood and have found that there are quite a lot of very large old style houses on big pieces of land. These really must be very valuable. It feels like I can step back to another time when I see them with thier beautifully manicured gardens and old trees in the yard. I even saw a house with a garden full of bonsai trees. I used to live near an old guy who grew them and I liked to stop on my way home from school just to look at them all. It was like everytime you look you can see another one. I was so happy to see a garden just like it, around the corner. There would be several hundred immacualtely cared for little trees. The beauties at the moment are all the minature cherry blossoms which have already come out. There are also lots of mosses and various pines and many I dont even know what they are but they are so lovely to look at. I plan to be a lurker around there - its not like I dont stand out with my huge pram (compared to Japanese standards), my white face, wild hair and whippet in a blanket. I might just make a new friend if I hang around there long enough!!

19 February 2008

belated appreciation - sorry

This is the best news I have heard in a long time. I rarely, ever, get excited about Australian politics. It seems like forever that an inspirational word or deed has been spoken or enacted by our most prominent 'leaders'. Leadership, which is think is the most overused and abused word in our current vocabulary, has been so sadly lacking for so many years it was a sweet shock to read and know of such a great act by the current PM. I am not too sure what will happen from now in terms of actual progress and benefit to Aboriginals and stolen generation peoples, but the words spoken are heartfelt and really capture what I think, many people believe. It is a start. While reading these words I actually started to cry, yes, moved by the words of a politician, a modern one, and the PM of Australia. Hard to belive I know. I think I wasnt the only one. Being out of the hub bub and hype, I can only see what is promoted through my own channels of news access. The International Herald Tribune had it on the front page two days in a row, The Economist didnt seem to pick it up, but they are a bit busy with the US at the moment I guess. I am a lurker on a few peoples blogs, that is, I read them but the authors dont know, and this guy Mark Lawrence is an articulate and great writer of many things. I really loved his post about the apology . I feel very proud to be an Aussie in a time where I actually really believe change for the better can happen, that the goverment has a vision that is exciting and is not afraid to do things that go against the previous goverments thoughts, policies and deeds AND the deputy is a woman (and a cool one too)!! Go Aussie Go.

18 February 2008

Day 19 & 20 - textures

I used to find looking at the water everyday my time to relax and get some exercise at the same time. I didnt think I could feel relaxed by looking at hard things. This staircase is nearby my home. It is part of a centre that has other calm areas with water flowing and nice, simple shapes and lines. I have found that because Tokyo is so full, noise, people, smells, there are a lot of areas that try to counteract that busy-ness. There is an excellent place called the Roppongi Hills (with an awesome art gallery, Mori). It has many areas that have running water, like water falls, so you cant hear all the noise, just the water. It has a lot of seats in that area so you can take a rest, eat your lunch and just relax. There are also trees, shrubs and flowers (and cool sculptures) so it feels like a minute to catch your breath. I like this attention to detail when planning and will keep looking for those 'quiet' places inside the hubbub.

This is a self portrait of the mooch. He was getting very restless in the taxi (and there are no car seats) so, on my knee I gave him the camera to play with (it was a last resort after the keys, purse and many other things failed to impress him).
We will get a car soon. I am planning our first road trip to the beach some where. Will keep you posted.

16 February 2008

Day 17 & 18 Japan love/hate

Japan is a rule obsessed country with guides for how to do everything. You dont need a lot of initiative because things are spelled out for you. This helps to maintain a certain staus quo and explain to a degree the Japanese character. To an outsider these rules sometimes seem so infuriating and can make a bad day unbearable. But in order to live here you need to accept them as the way things are because surely at home there are things that equally irritate, annoy and make a bad day unbearable. This is not about rules though its just about to constant flip flop the happiness of being somewhere new and exciting and of being away from home and family and friends and really feeling it. This day started out pretty well, I went to see another international preschool which , as it turns out, is a bit too far. The taxi driver took my map and drove on...and on........until we got lost.....and then I was running late. So I called the school and eventually we found it. The orientation was good and then I thought it might be easier to catch the train home as it wasnt rush hour and it was sunny. I didnt rush home but one the way I all of a sudden started to feel that horrible ache of the flu coming on. It was getting worse, quickly and it seemed all of a sudden that it was very hard to get home. The train that I had waited for was not boarding so I had to wait again, it is just one stop but I needed to sit down. I got off and still have not found the easy access to the elevator so since the escalator was close I just took the pram up. But as I am fast learning, if you make a choice at the station it is a one way ticket, no turning back. So, at the top of the escalator I turned the corner and was confronted with a huge wall of stairs. You cant go back unless you walk down the stairs, scan your card and pay again. I thought, one set of stairs couldnt be bad. So I dragged the pram, baby and myself up the stairs and found the elevator. But realised that elevator takes you to the side of 6 lane highway that I didnt want to be on. It is at least a 500m walk to a crossing either left or right OR there is a crossover OVER the road which means a huge flight of stairs up and one down. (Did I mention I was carrying a sleeping 12kg kid and was also wearing my heels?....dumb, dumb, dumb)I was getting a bit beside myself by now so I made the choice to go over the stairs way. I dragged up the pram, baby and myself and then made it to the down part, which wasnt going to be so easy. I began, while my basket emptied and tumbled down the stairs and a stream of people walked past without helping me. I was getting so poff and said 'thanks so much for helping me' to anyone who would listen. I wondered what happened to all those lovely Japanese people? Less than 2 minutes later a young guy, talking on a mobile, came past, picked up the pram with one arm, kept talking on the phone, took the pram to the bottom of the steps and just keep walking and talking. I was speechless. Interrupting my mean thoughts and words was this incredibly lovely Japanese person, the one I was just hoping for......then, I did manange a thankyou. As I dragged my weary body homewards I looked into my bag and realised I had dropped my purse, which also had my train card in it, freshly charged with $200 of travel. I really was about to lose it. There is a cop station near the bottom of the stairs so I was going to ask if I could leave the pram and go and look for my purse BUT ANOTHER LOVELY JAPANESE PERSON had already handed it in. I started to bawl my eyes out. They thought it I was crying because someone had stolen my things but it was just that I felt sick and had been proven so wrong and I was so happy to see my purse....so, I dragged my flu ridden body home and took some asprin and just layed on the floor all afternoon while the mooch was a legend and played happily. My darling bought home dinner and took the next day off and the flu is under control. I am so lucky in so many was xxx

14 February 2008

Day 15 & 16 - cold things

It has been a bone chilling kind of cold the past two days. Lots of layers are needed even for a short walk. Luckily the sun comes out mid morning so you can warm up a little.

This ice block was in the basket of my bike. Some rain has collected and froze.

This is just a small puddle crystalised.

Ice and crystals everywhere you look. You can see the ground is frozen under the trees and shrubs. We are so lucky to have a warm house to live in, there are many homeless people in the nearby parks. They must be so cold at night.

12 February 2008

Day 13 & 14 enjoy

I was laying on the floor and the mooch decided to come and lay on me. It was so sweet as he rarely does this because he cannot sit or stand still for longer than 1 second. He is getting to be a big boy these days. Im about to check out the first day care centre of what will probably be many until I find a suitable place. This one is walkable and offers two or three mornings a week, which for the first few months is probably good to get him settled then increase the time as my time become more limited. We will see.

This is the snoop mobile, as it is sponsored with snoopy branding all over it. Very cute. We just had a few rounds in the street as there is no helmet yet, and there is no expectation we get one. I want one for his sake as people ride on the footpath here along with all the foot pedestrians and it is a hazard. The basket is very solid however, once he is out of it the foot part fold up so you can use it as a shopping basket. I have seen most people with these kinds of baby seats. Some have one on the back for older kids, some have one on front and one on back. Good balance and exercise I say!!

10 February 2008

illustration friday-blanket

This is actually the theme of last week oooops....but it is very appropriate to me right now.

Day 11 & 12 - settling in

The mooch has discovered mandarins or "mikan" in Japanese. He is eating about 2 or 3 a day. They are a winter fruit and people like to eat them while sitting around with family/friends watching TV and keeping warm.
A bit more snow has fallen. It looks blue very early in the morning.

This beautiful jug was given to me by my sister. It is from my favourite shop, dinosaur desgins. She also gave me a very gorgeous red bangle. Wow how lucky am I?!
You can buy just a couple of flowers from the supermarket, about 2 or 3 dollars, to make a small arrangement. I love that you can do that. The flowers are all selected so they match, there are berries, leaves and flowers you can choose from. There are also very tiny bouquet you can buy from the florist. I will get one soon.

I am a bit scared to try this chocolate????
I left the mooch with the baba for a few hours so I could go and do some exploring. I had a list of things I wanted to do but, it was very busy and I didnt really know where I needed to go to buy those things so I ended up forgetting the whole point of the trip and just get a coffee and enjoy being in Tokyo. I didnt get anything done, I did buy some stickers from a favourite shop LOFT and I did enjoy myself xxx

7 February 2008

Day 9 & 10 - niceness

Hooray I found a place that sells nice coffee, but it doesnt open until 11am and the coffee is $6 for one cup, so I guess I will be going every second day....it is in a nice place and is very quiet and has a gallery upstairs. Through this cafe I found out about this magazine called Bien Fait
so I hope to get a copy the next time Im in the bookshop (or hanging around the kids playroom at the department store-the magazine section is next door)...
The sun was shining today as we could play a lot. The playpark at the end of street backs onto a major interstate but when it is sunny and kids are all having fun you dont really notice all the traffic sounds.

This is a typcially manicured tree which lines one of the areas we have found to walk in the mornings. It is traffic free and has lots of trees. Kind of like a big version of bonsai. I found myself today dejavu-ing when in the middle of having a weird Japanese conversation. I am so rusty, so in the post office I realised she was looking at me in such a weird way because I was asking for a postage stamp for my mural. I meant my postcard...oops. The words are similar c'mon................ he-ki-ga (mural) ha-ga-ki (postcard).........xxx

5 February 2008

Day 7& 8 - Getting into it

The snow is really melting, enough to try out the new wheels, but not ride, just push it with the mooch in the basket. Its like a mary poppins bike, huge handlebars with the mooch in a big basket in between. Its still a bit slippery on the road so until it dries out a bit more Im a bit scared to ride. He also needs a helmut, which I havent got yet. It is so easy to get around here and things just are available. I waited for less than 5 mins for a bus to the city, which only takes 15 mins and costs less than $2. Its easier to catch the bus as there are few elevators at the stations and finding them can be a trick for those stations who do have them. Both the bus and train systems are excellent. However, I havent strayed far from home yet so the day trips have been pretty easy.

I met a friend in the play park, she happens to live right next door. I guess its likely when there is only one blonde headed foreigner in the park nearby, she is bound to live nearby...she happens to be very friendly and nice, so maybe we can hang out and she can tell me her Tokyo tricks.

Did I mention my stomach ache has gone away so now Im back into the full swing of eating. Japan just does the best food. It is so easy to throw together a feast without much sweat. We are still cooking with one pot and waiting for all our spices etc to come from home so we have Japanese food every night. I made a huge bowl of kimchi flavoured soup noodles with thin slices of beef, shiitake and enoki mushrooms, carrot, chinese cabbage, spring onion, and a few other bits and pieces and a plate of sushi (not in the noodles) and it took about 10 mins to put it all toegther and cook up the soup noodle, yumness. I love Japanese food.

I am coming along with my childcare research. The myth (?) about the hourly changing of nappies and clothes has been busted, the lady looked at me in horror when I asked her if it was true. It must be in some areas but not this one, thank goodness. You do have to take home your own dirty nappies (so you can check how many wee's and poo's). There is no myth about the cost, it is very expensive for the private foreign ones and works on a sliding scale according to your income for the public ones. It is still a lot more affordable to go the public one and the mooch's Japanese will be so good, he can help me!!

4 February 2008

Day 7 & 8 cold

How cool is this, well, very, actually. We are so lucky to see so much snow, I heard it has not snowed this much in 8 years. It is very, very pretty, silent and beautiful. Not living in a place where snow (or rain) falls it is such a delight to see such a beautiful thing.

It is super dooper slippery especially on the steps where ice is clear and looks very innocent, until you step on it with 3 bags of rubbish and skid on your butt and elbows ouch.......Long Long is very unsure about this snow stuff. He did not do a wee until the end of the day as he couldnt hold on any longer. We have invested in a large hot carpet which is like a heated floor rug, which he has over taken as his own, now he is lying in the sun coming through the windows and lying on the heated rug, he is like the ham between two bits of warm bread. The mooch was also unsure about the white stuff, he was most unimpressed at being locked inside for most of the day. We will go and play today as it is much warmer. The head of the house (so titled by our alien registration) has gone to his first official day at the office today and so we are going to get into the swing of things. I found out there are 24 child care centres in this area so I hope I can find one that is suitable. In the meantime I am hanging to go to starbucks, I never thought I would say that!! Only 20 mins walk to downtown Shinjuku, Im sure I can find one pretty easily....I get a bike today, a big blue one with a big basket for the mooch to ride in. Cant wait to go for a spin!

2 February 2008

Day 5 & 6 - Finding things out

Tokyo has been so good this far, even though it is coming up one week it feels like we are very comfortable already. Except that we are missing some useful furniture, clothes and familar things. We have done some shopping these past few days to get things like plates and other things to eat off and cook with. I will be so glad when our pots and pans arrive as I am making everything out of one small pot. The food has been awesome, Japan knows about food. But we still have yet to eat sushi, I guess we are busy trying to get our lives in order and settle in, these other things will come. And now my week long stomach ache and twitiching eye have settled down, I can get back into some serious eating of good foods!! The 100 yen shop is excellent for setting up a house as they sell all kinds of stuff like cleaning things, plastic bags, scubbers, all that stuff that costs a fortune if you buy it from the supermarket. I have found a little local 100 yen shop, but it is downstairs on the way to the subway so I will have to reserve those visits without the mooch as it is not pram friendly.

So what have I found out? Well, life actually does go on, despite sometimes it feels like it wont. Things are easier than they seem, especially when you think they are going to be impossible. Having life experience and knowledge helps when making big changes in life less scary because you have some secure backup knowing that things are going to be great and fun and wonderful even when small hiccups seem big at the time. Life is easier and more fun than you expect it to be as long as you keep positive, interested, busy and engaged with what is going on around you and with your family and friends.

A trip like this helps to reflect on these things. Really, the only thing I am finding difficult is re-adjusting my usual routine. My morning routine is usually a big walk and a coffee and a play at the park. So I have been unable to find a good play park or a good coffee shop just yet. But I have seen some cool houses, some amazing parking of big cars in very small places, some very polite litter, many bikes, dogs and surprisingly many very quiet streets.

This was someones front gate. Beautiful wooden sliding doors opening onto a garden. I have learned our street etiquette of the porch light. You should leave it on, until you go to bed. We have a small lantern in the front garden which I think looks so nice, so I have left that light on and hope it is enough. I have only seen one neighbour even though Im sure they have seen us as we have no curtains yet. I bought lots of shortbreads to give and neighbourly hellos so will distribute them when they arrive and hope they are not in crumbs. I do have some anxiety about the rubbish as you have to sort it and then put it out on the right day. If you do it wrong they leave it or bring it back to your house. My bags have been sitiing there for a few days now so I must have it wrong. I have bought 3 small bins all with labels so when I throw it out hopefully it will be in the right bag.

This is the kind of 'kids play park' I keep finding all over the neighbourhood. It is no wonder there are never any kids playing in these places......old, dirty, depressing..........I hope to find a nice bright and safe looking place with some laughing kids soon. In the meantime there is the best facilities at the department stores. The Mum's room is also for Dad's and has these amazing set ups like a nursery with 5 or 6 change tables, microwave, feeding rooms, changing rooms, sinks with all kinds of water, couches, high chairs, food and drink machines and the best is large carpeted areas for the kids to play on (with books and toys). It is so good for interaction and to give the kids (and parents) a break when shopping. I have found most department stores in the downtown area have them. They also let you use their store prams (which makes sense as it sucks bringing them on the train - most people use a baby bjorn or sling). And the best part is everyone respects the place and keeps it clean and neat and cleans up their own mess.
Long Long is doing fine, the stairs are quite narrow and floor is very slippery so we are attaching some non slip stuff to the stairs and hopefully he can use them without him or me having an anxiety attack.
The mooch got his first pair of walking shoes today. White (pearlised) leather boots with blue stripes and velcro srips, what a tendsetter.
It is said to snow tonight, I will keep you posted xxx

1 February 2008

Day 4 - mooch and pooch

Long Long arrived safe and sound. He didnt make a mess in his cage so he must have been holding on the whole time. He is such a good boy. He was very happy to see us. This first Tokyo walk was very successful, just like any other day.

The tempearture in the mornings and afternoon/evenings is soooo cold. Im sure its going to snow every day, but it doesnt.

We are very close to Yoyogi park which has a great dogs area, even a dog run (which is a fenced off area). Check out the rules below.

Tokyo is awesome. So convenient, easy and fun. I didnt notice how clean the air is at home, going for many walks a day, I just took it for granted. I really notice the air if it not full of car fumes then it is full of someone elses cigarette smoke. Gotta take the good with the bad I guess....