Tuesday, December 30, 2008


it isn't easy for me to sit still, to focus but in 2009, this is my goal. i have to overcome a lot of obstacles that rise from within me. it will probably be the most challenging thing i have ever done.
there are so many roads at my feet, some dirt paths, some six-lane highways. i am standing on one street that in my mind most closely resembles the one in the image above. it is quiet, basic, and curved. i don't know where it ends or if there is an intersection. yet, this is the road i will be taking this next year.
what does this actually mean?
it means that though there may be other ways, i am going to focus on what i am here for. i will finish my master's degree, i will study japanese daily. my job is not the best but i will give it my best. i am designing a program that will make it more manageable and hopefully more effective for the students. i am going to finish my degree by spring of 2010. by that time, hopefully i will have passed some level of the japanese proficiency exam. in what little spare time i have, i am going to learn more about japanese history and society.
sometimes, i lose sight of why i am going through so much trouble. the core reason is simply love. five years ago i fell unexpectedly in love with japan. i am going through lengths that aren't really appealing to my nature but are part of living here.
2009 is going to be like a bootcamp. and after a year of intensity it will be 2010, our projected year to return to nara/kyoto. we'll all possess better language skills and a better understanding of our adopted home and i'll be better equipped as a teacher.
it will be most difficult to sideline those other ambitions that strive for equal attention in our lives but in the end, we will be more capable of fulfilling everything if we give to each aspect completely instead of piecemeal. if we can gain the discipline to accomplish the more pragmatic elements of our lives, then we can apply the same strength to our passions.
so those are our resolutions for the new year. last year we wrote a list of resolutions and planted them at the edge of the marsh on my parents' land. they sprouted though the harvest was different than anticipated. i wanted to either start grad school or move to japan and i ended up doing both. this next year is an odd year and typically they are my waning years. but i also turn 30 this next year so that will probably carry some weight amongst the fates.
anyway, i have to clean something now. the whole neighborhood is in a cleaning fever so i must pitch in and prepare for the new year. so, until next year.
happy new year to all of you.
and though it should wait until the new year officially starts:

Sunday, December 28, 2008

come walk along the docks with us

don't mind our giddy conversations. it has been a while since we've been outside.
oh, and don't pay attention to, um, anything i say. my droll and trite observations are evidence of a lulled vacation mind.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

magical days

hope you are having some too.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


my parents asked how do you say merry christmas in japanese:
merii kurisumasu but it sounds a lot like the english version.
these are the best not-so-blurring pictures of the kids around the "xmas" tree aka a kumquat tree. it is a good thing, the blurs. it is a sign of happy activity, celebration, excitement.
we hope that all of you are enjoying the day. take care.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


i know it is not as cold as it is in other places. other places have things like ice storms and brief periods of daylight.
but here it feels cold. it makes me very aware that i was born and raised in florida. i crave sunlight and warm toes and fingers.
i like to be able to go into my kitchen without shivering and seeing my breath. little things, really.
i'm trying to embrace the winter, to appreciate how prominent colors become under a grey sky, to face that this is part of life instead of trying to avoid it.
it is a process and i probably won't come to terms with it for a few months. you know, when it is warm and, well, spring. then, i will appreciate winter. now though it is just about working through it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


You are looking at two free people. So now there are four of us in the house. In the house that seems so big and spacious when you are alone but with two under sixes "paling" around, it becomes a little more, um, intimate. Cozy? We are working on that. First though we have to adjust to Nico and Jason's open schedule while working a little of the structure that Sebastian and I are used to into the days.
We were going to go visit Nara this winter vacation but we couldn't manage to pull all the threads together. So we are here. This allows us time to do things we can't in our regular time together. Like sew for purposes other than school goods. Or do a self-directed intensive Japanese study. So it is still good. And we will make it back to Nara eventually, hopefully at least when we move back to the Kansai area in the future. Until then, we will continue to enjoy these images that remind us of the home that we are working towards.
In the meantime, no school, no work, no lesson planning. 21 sunrises and sunsets before us and plenty of hot cocoa in between. I think we can manage.
Hope you are well. Take care.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Vegetarians: Avert Your Eyes

Part of our life on a sea island.
Just a note about the big tuna: we know about the terrible destruction associated with the hunt for this fish. (these fish were tiny compared to the picture in the article). A group of these fish were caught for the visit of Prime Minister Aso and a local grocer was doing a raffle to give away large boxes of it cut into sashimi to get people out to see the unpopular Prime Minister. It was a really cold day though so not many people made it, even with such temptations. We happened to be out and have a raffle ticket and won some. We cooked it up in a soup the next morning, as it wasn't exactly sashimi weather.

Monday, December 08, 2008

My work

The end of the semester is winding down with both my graduate classes and my preschool/elementary/adult classes at work. This week I have a few papers which, perhaps luckily, I must complete tonight as this week is parent observation week in my afternoon classes. Observations make me nervous though I learned at my job before this that they have the potential to be really helpful. This week's lesson is pretty simple: do a few workbook pages then make a Christmas card. Not exactly thrilling for tired parents in the late afternoon but at least I am honest. The teacher before believed that actions spoke louder than words (lots of Total Physical Response) and never did any of the things I do with the kids like bingo games or letter puzzles or crafts. I hope the parents see that it isn't just a big pile of messy construction paper that their children achieve but that they completed the lesson by listening to the instructions in English. Also, for the littles, craft is excellent for building their fine motor skills. Since employing craft in my classes, the handwriting of even my three year olds has improved. I spent the morning cleaning the classroom and making slight improvements (covering up some unused but unable-to-86 toys with this cute American Jane fabric in blue) and preparing for the first round of Christmas cards. I wish I had taken before pictures of the classroom but I will try to take some classroom photos later this week, maybe with the kids in action. I realize I must really be becoming a teacher when I want to boast about my classroom but the transformation in my eyes is incredible. When I arrived there were papers from teachers up to five years ago, not important, informative papers but scraps of unnecessary paper that no one had bothered to throw away. This litter was stuffed into every nook and cranny. A cluttered room equals a cluttered mind and in an English class with young learners, any distraction is a deadly for a lesson. There were also lots of unused materials and games that the former teachers for the past few years had deemed over the students' heads and yet I use successfully on a regular basis. I am not trying to suggest I possess a superior ability but rather have to express my bewilderment over how people can so often underestimate the power and potential of the human mind. For children, the language barrier is more of a river that they are learning to swim across and our role is to help their journey.
But speaking of cluttered minds, it is time to get the kids to pick up and lay our futons out. Hope you are well.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Let it hail, let it hail, let it hail

Somehow, not so catchy of a song title. And yet that is our reality right now. Two straight days of blasting winds and hail. I never knew hail could fall for so long, like rain or better yet, snow. I associate hail with tornadoes, something we don't get here. Or at least, I don't think we get here. Oh, and these are old photos, the kids aren't playing around outside in this weather.
Saturday morning and it is full of fighting kids, catching up with family via skype, and cutting the boys' hair. I didn't want to cut Nico's downy hair but it goes straight into his eyes so I trimmed it about one centimeter (for your sake, Auntie L). Right now they are playing in a steamy bathtub, having pulled the protective cover over the top of the tub so that it stays warm and secretive. Lots of laughter and I get to finally drink my cup of coffee after the fourth time of being reheated.
Jason's about to venture out to get a requested lunch and some fabric to make a head scarf and apron for Sebastian as next Wednesday is mochi making day at school.
Well, break time is over. It's time to get them dressed and head back upstairs where it is warm enough that you can't see your breath.
Hope you are all warm and well.