Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Natural Disasters

Lately there have been a few typhoons hitting Japan (Okinawa hardest) but luckily there hasn't been much damage besides some broken branches. At our home, only some decent winds accompanied by more and more rain. My main purpose of this post is to notify readers we are doing fine, and let you know I plan to post as soon as possible each time we do have an actual emergency. We do have tsunami sirens all over base and coastal Japan that are tested every day at 5PM and used as reminders marking previous devastating storms. So, visitors, make sure you check your watch and calendar before panicking if it seems like a perfectly pleasant day with no obvious earthquake.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Our "Local" BEACH

Finally after over 3 months of living here, we found the "local" beach. Don't get too excited, it doesn't exactly have waves as we're bordering an inland sea. So, its more like a big lake. But all we need for flat-water activities! Next time we'll bring the floaty toys and hopefully a paddleboard or kayak. ;) Today was more about recon and just getting out! This mamma has been a single mom the last month with daddy working in another country. He'll be home any day, but we've been getting anxious. So here's the beach!

And the kids enjoying it thoroughly...
Our little water boy as happy as ever!
Our daughter had a great time too, but wasn't up for the cool water.

Sand castles and mud puddles are always a great alternative...

A perfect day for the beach, and so happy to see it looking clean!

Manners, Manners, Manners...

Japan is such a peaceful culture compared to most, and many feel it can be attributed to the value placed on manners.  If you are planning on ever coming to Japan, there are several things you might want to know before ending up in an embarrassing situation.  Here we must be mindful in everything we do, from speaking in public, to gestures and removing shoes when entering homes.  Here is a list of many respectful customs...

At the dinner table:
-Never leave chopsticks sticking in your food.  This is considered very rude.  Instead, leave them laying flat together along the side of your plate.
-It IS appropriate to make noise when sipping noodles in soup.  The air sucked in with hot noodles helps cool the noodles to avoid burns.

Japanese are very careful about showing their mouth.
-You must cover your mouth when giggling, sneezing, or yawning.  Women must cover their mouths with an open hand, and men can make a fist.
-Japanese do not ever spit in public (don't even think about shooting "snot rockets.";)

Sitting without a chair:
-Only men should sit "Indian style" with legs crossed, as it is considered the masculine casual way.
-Women must sit with their knees together, underneath or bent to one side.

In respect to pedestrians and traffic:
- Cars are much more respectful of pedestrians waiting to cross a street, and cars who don't stop for pedestrians on base will be ticketed.
- If cars are not stopping at a cross-walk, Japanese raise their arm to alert cars (like asking permission to ask a question in class)

Japanese are always very appreciative of others efforts and gifts.
-It is customary to bring a small gift when invited to a Japanese home, and often for apologies.
-Never give money to apologize for a vehicle crash.  These must be reported, and if money is exchanged, it would just be gone.

Garbage and recyclables:
-Japanese are VERY strict about sorting plastics, metals, glass, and "combustables."  These are things like paper waste, disposable diapers, food and lawn waste.
-Do not ever throw a can or bottle into a "combustable" container.  Always look for the appropriate container. This is great for the environment.

This definitely doesn't cover everything, but hopefully these "rules" help you avoid an awkward situation in Japan.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

June Showers Bring Flowers and PUDDLES!

One thing I did not realize with the wet days we had this winter was that June is the rainy season here.  It is called "tsuyu" meaning "plum rain" because it coincides with plum ripening season.  I am looking forward to eating some of those, but for now, we are enjoying the puddles...

So, it's a little extra laundry for Mommy, but its hard to replace that excitement.  Also rewarding after I just read this article about how girls who are allowed to play in the mud grow up healthier...

Soon I'll get to some photos of the beautiful summer gardens.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Language Learning Made Fun...

Learning a new language in a foreign country can be quite difficult for adults and children. However, it can also be a very fun challenge. Here are some things we've been doing as a family to make it most productive...

1. Ordering movies that have a choice of either language plus English subtitles. We have been thoroughly enjoying Ponyo, a Disney/Japanese Studio Ghibli production by Hayao Miyazaki

We first watch it in English, then watch in Japanese to learn new words. There are several other movies in the series by Studio Ghibli which we hope to either rent or buy.

2. Labeling household items in both languages (with the help of Google Translator.) In our case we like using "Romanji" Roman style letters and Hiragana, Katakana, or Kanji the Japanese character representation. You may have seen our "Welcome" window art made using Kanji symbols. We also had fun doing door signs on the kids' rooms. Fist I put their name in English, then Japanese characters, and also added words like older brother "Ani" or "onisan" son, and younger sister "imoto" or "mesume" daughter. We also have on our door, "chichi" for father and "shujin" husband, and "haha" or "mama" mother and "tsuma" wife. This of course helps parents more than kids until they are able to read.


3. Activity books. Who doesn't enjoy a good activity book with puzzles, mazes and word searches? Why not try one in the language you want to learn? Much more challenging. Many here also have outlines to draw the Hirigana or Katakana alphabets.


4. Computer games and lessons. Obviously not everyone has access, but there are plenty of good interactive games and classes for nearly any computer system, and of course Ipads and Iphones.


5. Fridge magnets. Yes, like the ABCs we put on the fridge for the kids, here they have Hirigana and sometimes other characters.


6. Listening to music in the new language. This is particularly good if you can find the lyrics translated for comparison.


Most importantly, language pronunciation is best retained interacting with those who speak it. For kids, a fun and exciting way to learn is just going to the park!