About Me

maker, creative, living lightly, local, craft, minimalism, and taking joy in the small things

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Calligraphy Update

So as I mentioned, whilst in the calligraphy class a couple of weekends ago the Hagi Cable Television crew filmed me. I sort of understood from their Japanese that the film would be shown only once, on the Monday immediately after the class. However, it appears I was wrong. Many teachers from the different schools I teach at have mentioned seeing me doing calligraphy on TV - and it seems from their comments that my calligraphy film has been shown at least 3 times! Even worse, the teachers all talk about how kawaii (cute) it was!

Monday, 28 January 2008

For the health!

"For the Health" is a phrase I hear often in Japan - used to excuse terrible school lunches on the whole, but today I learnt 2 new things that we must do for our health

1. students must gargle between each class - there is a special solution called "husu" that sits in a pump pack, with piles of small disposable paper cups, in each room for this purpose.
2. the air in the classroom must be changed regularly - this means that in the middle of the class all the windows must be opened and the heater turned off, and this in sub 5 degree weather. Seriously. And of course the students don't want to do this, so what happens is they slide the windows back and forth, arguing about who has to have the cold air blowing on them. Apparently new air is good for the health. However, I tried to explain that maybe freezing cold air was not so good... not sure if I was understood!

Sunday, 20 January 2008

I am a calligraphy master!

Today the Hagi International Volunteer Club had its fourth Calligraphy Class. The aim was "to paint your new year hopes." However, my kanji skills are fairly limited so I let Isa sensei (left) choose a kanji for me - I started with 'dream.' Luckily it ONLY has 12 strokes, and he drew it out, and marked the stroke order.

So he made me practice that kanji a few hundred times... and then he gave me a new kanji 'fun.' Even though it had less strokes, it was way harder, I kept making it look like a stick figure rather than a kanji!

After we had drawn our hopes we were interviewed by Hagi Cable Television - and will be on the news next Monday at midday apparently.

After class a couple of the Club members brought out sushi and beer and we had a little party!

Saturday, 19 January 2008

The bowing phenomena

So there is a LOT of bowing in Japan. People bow whilst they're on the phone, in their cars, on their bikes, and whilst walking.

Today was the first time though that I have been to a sporting event - a Junior High basketball tournament and before and after each game the whole team (all the subs etc) come and stand on the court and bow to the scorer, to the umpires, the timekeeper, each other and the crowd at each end of the court!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Aah, Engrish

Over the course of time in Japan I have seen some beautiful examples of Engrish (or Japlish as it is otherwise known). Most days I see someone wearing a ridiculous tee-shirt, or carrying a pencil case that says things like "Sweet Happy Best". While they are funny, I generally don't share them as they are fairly commonplace. However, I bought an exercise book the other day with a BRILLIANT engrish slogan that I had to share!

"Dear Sweet Dot: For the life that is ordinary with fabric of a dear sweet dot an accent."

First person to explain wins a prize!

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Erin & Teresa come to play

So just before the winter vacation Erin and Teresa came to visit Hagi! They were on a whirlwind trip around Japan - Tokyo, Kyoto, Hagi and Hiroshima in 10 days over Christmas

I had sent them directions for the train/bus combo from Kyoto to Hagi, but someone at Japan Rail lied to them - so they skipped the Bocho Bus and took the later Japan Rail bus. The JR person told them that the JR passes weren't valid on the Bocho service, but that is wrong because other people use the passes on Bocho all the time!

Anyway, the driver also told them to get off at the Bus Centre, but I was waiting at the train station! Luckily Flick was on the bus, and when she got off and saw me she mentioned the foreign visitors, and I put 2 and 2 together and rode off and found them! Flick didn't actually know that the foreign visitors were my friends, but given there are 12 foreigners in Hagi (population 50,000 Japanese people) we generally notice any new foreigner, and speculate on why they are in Hagi!

So while they were here we drank sake poppers (yes you can buy sake in a box juice package in this country), did purikura (sticker photos) and they came and saw one of my schools - and the vice principal was rude, but let's not dwell on that. He wasn't rude to their faces, very unJapanese, but explained to me the in and out groups and that they were in the out group and thus not welcome in the staffroom - even though 3 foreigners in 1 place (myself and the 2 girls) was causing chaos in the corridor! Apparently permission for them to visit the school didn't include permission for them to be in the staffroom, at my desk!

Aside from that, we had fun, though I think they were cold in my little apartment because I didn't know how to work the heater (kanji for 'heater' is something I was yet to learn). On that note, I took the remote for the heater (really a reverse cycle air conditioner) to my office and they showed me how to make it a heater - no you don't just turn up the temperature! They also showed me the setting for drying clothes, and a setting for 'health' - symbolised by a heart!

Anyway, back to Erin & Teresa. I took them out for Hagi cappuccinos - cappuccinos with glace mikan instead of powdered chocolate on the foam, and we went out for dinner, and in to every bakery we went past so Erin could sample all the varieties of sausage in a bun! By the way, mikan is like a Japanese mandarin, and there are mikan trees EVERYWHERE in Hagi. It's the one fruit that normal people can afford to buy in the supermarket! I mean, usually an apple is around $3, but you can buy 10 mikan for $4 if you know the right fruit stand!

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Back in J Land

Well I am back in Japan - and there are a few things I didn't miss
- being stared at for being a foreigner
- squealed irrashaemasens (those people who work in shops in Japan squeal irrashaemasen at people when they walk in, effectively, welcome to the shop) and hearing 5 people squeal it at you can be a little disconcerting, especially as social custom dictates that one ignores the squealers!
- the cold!
- lack of spicy food
- katakana english (how are you? i'm goodo!)

Monday, 7 January 2008

Shopaholics Unanonymous

My holiday in Singapore also afforded me ample opportunity to indulge a love of mine, shopping! Living in Japan has meant that I have done very little shopping, which has been probably a good thing for my bank account though!

So in Singapore shopping is a national obsession, along with eating (which I have already posted about) and there are malls everywhere! In fact, when you exit an MRT station you will find a mall, or sometimes 3 or even more. From City Hall MRT you can get to the City Link Mall, Raffles Mall, Marina Square, Suntec City and the Esplanades Mall - and they are ALL connected.

Despite all the options we didn’t really do that much shopping, though Geoff may disagree and think we did too much.

I bought some shoes – to fuel my obsession, and a few tee shirts. Geoff didn’t really buy anything except a tee shirt when he didn’t want to do laundry.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Christmas bells are ringing!

Christmas sparkled, was whimsical, and was generally strange. It was my first Christmas not in Melbourne, but Singapore was beautiful. Most streets were all lit up, and all the shopping centres had made an effort to christmasify the mall, some with more success than others.

On Christmas Eve Geoff and I went down to Orchard Rd – which may have been a mistake! The streets were jammed with cars, and the footpaths with people - we ended up walking along the garden walls to get around! We also had to avoid the fake snow. There were little stalls along the streets selling cans of fake snow, 6 for $10, not silly string, but more like shaving foam, and Geoff and I got fake snowed a couple of times each!

On Christmas day we woke up, and it was just like a normal day for Singapore! Most shops and every second restaurant was open, and the shopping centres were full of people – the ‘post Christmas’ sales in Singapore start on Christmas day apparently!

Geoff and I found a Balinese restaurant for lunch, and ate cupcakes for dessert! Back in the hotel we called our families back home, and I opened up the presents people had sent over!

Eating our way through Singapore

The food in Singapore was something to behold, especially coming from Japan where there is almost no such thing as spicy food! Geoff and I ate our way around the country – though Geoff ate a lot more than I did!

We had curry, and dumplings, and stir fries and many, many fresh juices. Also, to round out Christmas we bought Mince Pies from Marks & Spencer – which were fabulous.

We ate in a lot of food court/hawker centre places – where you can get a meal for less than $5, but we had a couple of fancy meals too! Geoff’s parents shouted us a meal at a fabulous Italian restaurant for our Christmas present (and I ate rabbit!). We also ate at a Brazilian BBQ restaurant, where Geoff went crazy over the meat selection: lamb, beef, ham, pork & chicken, while I ate the lamb and a mountain of olives. I have really been craving olives…

We had made a rule not to eat at the same place twice over the holiday – and we were going pretty well, trying different hawker centres and little restaurants which were all amazing, but then we went to Din Tai Fung – a dumpling restaurant on Orchard Rd.

Din Tai Fung was listed as one of the top ten restaurants in the world by the New York Times and it was totally fabulous when we went there for dinner, so we went back for lunch! Even though we had to wait at least 40 minutes for a table each time. On the chopstick wrapper there were instructions as to how to eat a dumpling – at least 6 different steps. So when Geoff and I went back for the 2nd time I filmed him doing it properly and have put it on facebook for those of you with access.

Also in Singapore we saw some live delights – turtles, frogs, that we chose not to eat!