29 May 2009

Shh! Don't Talk About It

I wanted to make this post, to be able to rant and/or get some things out of my mind into words. So here' goes.

Ever since Takeshi and I were married last year, the occasional thought of having children has popped into my head from time to time. I feel it's kind of a natural progression of thought for women in a way, you think of marriage - and then the next usual step in life is to have kids. So I couldn't help thinking about it, wondering about it. The thing that annoys me, is that whenever I try to, innocently enough, talk about the idea of having a baby with people who are close to me - they freak out on me, in varying degrees. So, so far, I feel like I shouldn't even daydream about having a baby - or at least telling people about my daydreams. Y'know? Like it's taboo or something. I am not ready - we as a couple - are not ready to have a baby, but I still like to....yeah! day-dream about. I view it as a positive future goal. But whenever I start to lightly comment about my feelings on it - the people I know think that because I'm wanting to talk about it - that I want to have a baby RIGHT NOW. And that is totally not the case. But I don't like feeling like it's a bad thing to talk about, whatsoever.

I try to talk to my mum and dad about it - the reaction is "NO Laura, you are not financially ready to have kids, and you still need to get your degree. And you need to get your career going first."

I totally agree with that. But I wish I could just ask my mum questions about "girl-things" such as this, without signaling alarms. By the way, I know mum and dad read my blog, so when you guys read this, please don't bring it up when I talk to you again....I'm just thinking aloud, here.

Once or twice I've tried talking about it with friends of mine, (ok, only Todd). And he thought that since I mentioned it, that I was actually pregnant or something... No, not really.

I know Takeshi wants kids someday. We've even spent one night having fun with wondering, which boy and girl names we would really like to use, and the ones we definitely don't want to use. He says 1-2 kids would be fine. I feel the same way. But then again, he is a guy, and my husband, so I even feel like when I try to talk about "baby-future" topics, I can see him starting to ease away from the subject - and then wants to talk about something else. And the conversation dies very quickly. I think he acts that way because, he's ALSO scared that I'm ready to bully him into having a kid right now, or something. Sigh.

I guess my problem is that I need a FEMALE to talk to about this sh*t. I haven't had contact (in real life, not internet or phone) with a girl friend of mine for EVER. Actually, I've never had an abundance of female friends, in my life....hmm.

I have just been having these thoughts of annoyance in my head, recently, because I've been reading Sara's blog, with her pregnancy, and GaijinWife is pregnant too right now, and NOW Lulu's pregnant too! One girl I knew from high school already had her daughter - and she had a kid when she's my age! It seems like some people just CAN'T wait to have kids. Where here I am, feeling like an old married hag, who's childless already. It's weird...

I definitely don't want a baby right now, but I can't help but feel jealousy when I read about you other girls getting pregnant and such. It's a weird mix of opposite emotions and feelings about this subject. I hope Takeshi wants kids some day - in all the time I've known him he hasn't been one of those guys who just "loves kids and wants to be a father SOO bad." He's not that way at all. But then again, we're both still young at 22 - and have other goals to reach, before we look to anything more.

But, I guess I just want to say to my friends, family, and Takeshi (though I know he doesn't read this blog) --

"HEY! I just want to talk about it. I know where I stand financially in life, and all that crap. I am totally aware of it. I DO NOT want to have a baby right now, OR in the soon future. So PLEASE STOP freaking out on me."

But I guess if everyone's going to go ape-sh*t on me about it, then - I just can't talk about it, until I'm set up in a mansion somewhere, where both of us have jobs that bring in 6 figures each. Then, it should be ok to try it again.

Besides, before we're ready for kids - I know we both want puppies, for sure. ;)

25 May 2009

Midnight Bus to the Concrete Jungle

(Thanks to everyone who commented on this last post! My blog-motivation has been given a little boost.)

We are getting closer to the date of our second interview at the American Embassy in Tokyo. This time around, instead of taking the shinkansen both ways (wallet burns up and dies in my pocket), Takeshi found a midnight bus service to the Shinjuku area of the city. Here how the plan goes: On the 7th of June (Sun.), Takeshi gets off of work at an (can't remember) earlier time - we leave home in the evening and ride the train from our Hiratacho station in town, to Nagoya Station. After we arrive in Nagoya, we may eat dinner there. We are to meet the bus at a huge fountain in the middle of the city (which we've been to before) - and at 11:00pm, the bus starts driving towards Tokyo. We are told that we will be arriving in Shinjuku, the next day, the 8th, at about 6:30am. Tadaa. And it's a lot cheaper per head, than riding the shinkansen - I think Takeshi told me that we're only paying about $80 for each of us, so about $160 total. Unfortunately, we'll be needing to take the shinkansen back to Nagoya from Tokyo the next day, after we're done with everything. Takeshi needs to be back at the work the next day, so we don't have time to wait around for another overnight ride back to Nagoya, then spend about an hour from there, to get back to Suzuka. I heard that there's a bathroom the bus (choir sings hallelujah), so that's one worry that's gone. The biggest frustration for me will be, hoping to get even a wink of sleep on that bus. I am terrible, terrible with being able to sleep on any forms of public transportation i.e. planes, buses, trains, boats, and even cars sometimes. Takeshi, on the other hand, has no problem falling into a deep sleep, within seconds of being there - with me next to him, wide awake. I actually have a plan of some kind, which I hope will work - I still have some motion-sickness medicine that I bought a few weeks ago, which has the annoying side-effect of making you sleepy. AHA! She has a plan! Hopefully, with the combined factors of being really tired to begin with, and the sleepy side-effects of the medicine, I will be able to go unconscious for a couple hours. I can only wait and see. Fingers crossed.

So, I am totally excited to be going to Tokyo again, because this time we have been able to buy tickets for the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka! Hell yes. I've always wanted to go there, because I am a big Hayao Miyazaki fan. I cannot wait to go! I don't know if you can take photos inside or not, but I'll have my Nikon with me either way. Last time we went to Tokyo, we tried to get tickets beforehand, but it was all sold out. We underestimated how popular this place was, year-round, and we tried getting tickets too late in the game. I was bummed out a little, and didn't know if I'd be able to go at all, before leaving Japan this year, but, lucky us! Takeshi isn't a big fan like me, but I do believe he relatively enjoys Miyazaki stuff, so it'll be nice to know that I won't be dragging him to the museum, to shuffle around the building, uninterested, the whole time we're there. All in all, I hope to come back with another post in the future, with lots of cool photos of our visit.

Onto other subjects. I am annoyed about how expensive certain items in the grocery store are getting here - mainly fruits! Anyone else living in Japan have the same ridiculously-priced strawberries at their local grocery store? I thought the price would go down closer to summertime, because they might be more in season. But, no, I look today at the price while at Jusco's and people still have to pay about 300-400 yen for a pack of 12 strawberries! I miss strawberries...

I miss eating fruit! Or at least, I miss the variety of fruits, which I can afford right now. I met Takeshi at the mall today for some grocery shopping, during his work break, and I was determined and desperate to find SOME kind of fruit item to bring home. We need more of it in our diets! The only things that are reasonably priced right now are grapefruit, and oranges (though these are starting to be out of season I think). I saw that the kiwi were about 67 yen each. That's still kind of...eehhh...I dunno. And kiwi are so small too. I wanna get more for my money, if I can. Today I just ended up buying one of these V8-ish drinks they sell in 2 liter bottles, that combine about 8 vegetable, and 4 fruits juices together. I hope it's the next best thing, to eating actual fruit.

Things which are seeming to be going down in price are eggplants, and cucumbers. Things which I buy, that are always low in price are tofu and natto. Can't beat paying for a chunk of tofu for only 47 yen, and paying for 3 little trays of natto for only 88 yen. I also am grateful for the section in the Max Value, which features all locally-grown vegetables. You can buy a head of lettuce for only about 100 yen! And a while ago (before they started going out of season), you could buy a HUGE daikon for only 120 yen. That's a lot of daikon, dude.

Is Anyone Out There

I'm taking another count of people who actually read this blog. Please respond, if you do.

I have a hard time knowing how many people actually care to read this blog, because I so rarely get any comments on posts.

If I know that people read this blog, then that gives me more motivation to keep it going

15 May 2009

A Good Choice

This past Saturday (the 16th) was our first wedding anniversary, but since Takeshi would be working that day, we decided to do something this past Thursday instead. We had been thinking all of kinds of things and places to go to, but the first choices we had put on the table, ended either being too expensive or too time-consuming. We wanted to go to Kobe for the first time, but it would mean way too much time spent driving there and driving back (poor Takeshi), and not enough time left for wandering around town and such. So we let that one go.

In the end we decided to travel to the 'Meoto Iwa' site in Futami, in Mie. Then we would travel to the Naikū Shrine, which is a part of the "Ise Shine". These two locations were relatively close to each other, in driving time. It probably only took about 30 mins. to drive to the Meoto Iwa, and then about 45 mins. from there, to Ise. In the end, we were very glad we had chosen these two places to visit on our "anniversary-celebration" day, especially the Meoto Iwa, since it gave the day, and our first anniversary, much more meaning, than just going somewhere fun. We woke up at around 6am and left the apartment and rode our bikes to pick up our rental car for the day, at about 8am. Then we sped off down the road towards Futami, after stopping at a conbini to buy some onigiri and drinks. Takeshi's favorite conbini onigiri are the ones with spicy salmon roe in them, and he has turned me onto them as well! I still enjoy my tuna/shrimp with mayo onigiri.

We finally reached our first destination, driving through a few teeny tiny streets of a small neighborhood. On the other side of this residential area was the ocean! There was a small parking lot for us to go to, and we got out and made our way towards the site's opening, marked by the usual torii gate. It was so windy that day and very sunny! I was worried about all of my photos being way too overexposed, but I managed. We thought that there might not be anybody else there with us, almost, but we ended up seeing a good number of people there already, so early in the morning! Never underestimate the "insanely-early-rising" Japanese. Wow. Especially the elderly! I've been around town in the past, at some ungodly hours of the morning (in my 'night-owl' opinion), and I will always see elderly people up and about, riding bikes, gardening, and in the rice fields. Oops! Digressing, here.

There were 2 shrines there along the raised walkway, against the shoreline. We stopped at both of them! I didn't think we would (I don't know why, we've never done it before), but I suppose that day was a special for us. We stopped at each one and Takeshi brought me up to speed with the proper way to do the prayer business, after throwing 5 or 50 yen coins into the wooden box. I felt very strange doing the hand-prayer clasping move, and neither of us are very spiritual at all, and I doubted there was a goddess (at this site specifically) to pray to - so I treated each shrine as a wishing well. I made a wish to be able to have a happy marriage, and such. There were two places where we decided to stop and wait for someone to grab and ask politely to take our photo, with the Meoto Iwa in the background. One spot had another, smaller torii gate, which if you stood in front of it, the rock formations were neatly framed within it. How innovative. :) Several stone frog statues were scattered along the walkway, all of them different sizes, and all them different from each other. Frogs are known to be viewed as good luck in many cultures, and the Japanese also must view them this way. I personally like frogs a lot and enjoyed taking photos of them all along the way.

There were indeed, other couples there wandering the walkway, who were of all ages. For the two sets of couples who took our photo, we in exchange, to their photos for them as well. I thought this was amusing, as I figured that this place will always have couples helping each other out with the other one's photo with the Meoto Iwa. A photo for a photo in return! I couldn't help myself and bought a small charm for 500yen, with the image of the Meoto Iwa stitched into the backside of it. All in all, we felt very good about going to that site, for marital good luck, as it were.

The start of the walkway to the site

One of the frog statues

More frog statues placed at the shrine's water trough

Backward glance of the first shrine area

First photo! See the rocks through the gate?

The 'Meoto Iwa' (夫婦岩). The rocks are joined by a heavy rope of rice straw, which is over 600 years old. The larger rock is said to be male.

The second shrine.

A huge moth I spotted on a stone lantern! Pretty colors

Second photo! Tornado-winds blowing our hair around

The second part of our day - the Naikū Shrine at Ise! By the time we arrived there it was about 10:00-ish. I had always wanted to go to the famous "Ise Shrine", since I had been hearing about it, and having to study it in Art History classes, since freshman year of college. So I was really jazzed to see the place in person, with a little bit of art-history-geekiness coming out in me. We made it to the area near the shrine's entrance, and parked in a local garage. Evidently they were in the process of building a new bridge, across a river which connected to the shrine area. We glanced over at the construction work a couple times while walking across the older(?) bridge.

We wandered through the shrine grounds, marveling at the beauty of it all (like in any other Japanese shrine!), and even though there was a good amount of people there that day, we were still able to view everything with relative ease. There were a couple gigantic herds of tour groups roaming the woods, so we pretty scooted ahead faster, whenever we saw them! It was just a really nice time for the two of us to indulge in photography too. That was great. The only weird part of the day was then we were walking past the main traditional-style building (which you could buy more charms at, etc.) - this old Japanese dude came out of practically nowhere and came up to us, to talk. As Japanese people can be with foreigners, this guy was interested in knowing if I spoke any Japanese, where I was from, what we were doing there, and oh hey, let me give you a small history lecture about that building over there. At this point, I can speak a minimal amount of Japanese, but I didn't want to talk to him. Takeshi stood there and made grunts, murmurs, and small exclamations of (fake) interest, while the guy was talking to him about the roof on the building in front of us, and such. I was a little indignant when I vaguely heard the old man ask Takeshi if I could speak Japanese, to which Takeshi said hesitantly, "Eh...sugoi sukoshi" ("Umm...very, very little") Well I know enough Japanese now, and know that if you put "sugoi" in with a description like that - I took that as, meaning that I know next to nothing. Which made me puff out my chest a little in annoyance! But afterwards (after we had finally ripped ourselves away from this dude), I asked Takeshi about his statement - Takeshi explained, "Yeah, I know you know more Japanese than that, but if I had said, "Oh she knows some Japanese", then he would have started to ask you questions. So I just said, no, so that he'd leave you alone." Oooohh. Such a nice hubby. :) Who knows what to say, so we don't have to talk to creepy old Japanese men for hours and hours.

A unique feature of this shrine site was the fact that they seemed to have a large "family" of roosters and hens wandering around - everywhere. The birds seemed to have clustered mostly around an area of the site where we found a large pond of koi. I thought the roosters would be kind of hostile, but I accidently almost stepped on one of them, and I didn't get pummeled. After that, I stood a few centimeters away from it, to take photos of the koi in front of me, and the bird still seemed unafraid. They almost reminded me of pigeons in the big cities, which become accustomed to humans walking around all the time. But I was still thinking I'd see some brat kid come up to one of them and try to grab it - then there would be carnage, I'm sure. Seeing a rooster make off with a pinky finger in its beak, or something.

Torii gate at the entrance

Trees over the river's edge

A smaller bridge leading to another shrine building

Metal-gilded banister

Shrine priest with a small drum. He was drumming a steady beat as he walked

Hiding from visitors

Mr. Yellow Koi

We left the shrine after a good many hours, and decided to take a short trip through 'Okage Yokochō'. This is a strip of stores in Ise that we have been too about 3 times now, but it was only a minute's walk away from where we were. We stopped at a small restaurant there and got soba for lunch. We shortly left that area, and headed back to Suzuka. Just to kill some time, and get some more money's worth out of our rental car for the day, we visited the Mie Art Museum in the city of Tsu. It was a neat little museum - totally different from the grand, cathedral-like museums of Washington D.C., which I am used to. We thought that there was an exhibit going one, of one man's art, and then the rest of the museum was mixed. It ended up that the museum was so small that about 90% of the whole building was showcasing that one artist's work. It was like he bought up the museum just for his art, for a time! While we were there we bumped into Takeshi's friend Kato-san, who was on a college field trip there! It's a small world, I tell ya'.

One of the sculptures outside the museum

After the museum visit, we decided to get back to Suzuka and drop the car off at the rental business. We ended up eating yakiniku for dinner! :) You can never go wrong with yakiniku. We ate at one of the large yakiniku establishments in town called "Misaki Ya". We were seated at a table on the lower level of the restaurant - and guess what little decoration we had at our particular table? A small frog statue. Pure coincidence - but it gave a small bit of symmetry to the day - coming full circle. It was a lovely day, and we had a lovely time!

05 May 2009

Mini Koi Pond

I saw that Sara had this in an older post from her blog, "Sakura Flavored". It's so neat. :) Click anywhere to feed them!


It's been pouring down rain all day long, and with it also came more chilly temps! Bleh. Bring back the sunshine, please.

Yes, it is May! On 16th of May (in about a week+4 days) marks 1 year since we got married. :) Our first marriage anniversary. Wowza time flies when you're....alive. Hehe. The 16th is a Saturday, and Takeshi (being the culinary business) can never hope to have the weekend off. So we're going to do something on that Thursday, the 14th, which are his only days off right now. I'm not sure what we'll do - we haven't had time to talk about it yet, since more debating and brainstorming has commenced after getting the approval letter from the embassy, yesterday. I'm sure we'll go somewhere by train, perhaps Nagoya, or Osaka - we can putter around town and then have din-din somewhere. There's not much to do in Suzuka for an anniversary, that's for sure!

Today I promised Takeshi that I would get info online about some FAFSA and college stuff, which will go towards more debating on where to move to. Now that we've gotten that letter of approval, things have been kicked into high gear, with all the planning and such. Nothing solid has been though up yet, but Takeshi is now saying that he figures we'll move to the States by around July or August! That's....like.....reallysoon! (bites nails)

We already requested a date for the final interview at the embassy, last night, online. We requested it for the first week of next month, June. Interviews at the embassy in Tokyo are only on Mondays, so Takeshi will be asking for that Monday off again. This time we are thinking of having Takeshi go alone to Tokyo. My presence, as the petitioner, is not required. Shinkansen tickets aren't cheap, and I'm sure we'll be spending enough money on moving our crap to the States, getting an apartment in the States. etc. etc. etc. sooner than we know it. After the second interview, we were told that our visa will be mailed to us within a week after that! (pretty quick, again, for the government...) After we have our visa, we have 6 months to move out of Japan, before it expires.

I'm fine with the speediness of the process so far, but now I'm getting really anxious about the whole thing. Not about making everything work out in the States when we get there as much, but, more about leaving Japan so quickly! It makes a little sad. If it were an ideal world, we would have more of a "grace period", kind of. It just seems so fast.

I'm going to miss TONS of things about Japan, never mind being close to Takeshi's family. I hope we can buy, like, a crap-load of nonperishable grocery items, and just use one big box for that stuff. I gotta have my dozens of different rice-toppings, and mochi, and instant Blendy mix! Takeshi says that we'll probably take our rice cooker with us, anyway.

Also, we figured out that when we get to the States again, I will have to be the main driver again! Well, at first, anyway. Oh-my-gawd. That's going to be so weird. I haven't driven in about a year, since we came to Japan. Oh - it's not like I think I've forgotten how to drive. It'll just be...weird. Hehe. I'll manage. My Pennsylvania license is still good, but Takeshi's old Alabama license has expired. He said he's planning to get an international driver's license before we head over. And I'm sure it'll be fun to go through the process of exchanging my PA license for another state's license (if we don't end up in PA again, anyway).

Still raining.... :(

I was going to go get some groceries today, but the rain has not stopped all day long, and I'm not about to get drenched (and drown my groceries) while trying to ride a wet bike home. Sigh....gotta' think of something unique for dinner tonight. Tomorrow better have nicer weather! Grrr.

04 May 2009

Wow That Was Fast...

At about 3:30pm today, a letter from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo slipped through the door. Our application for Takeshi's greencard visa has been approved. Wow that was fast...

I called him on his break and told him about it. He was very pleased to hear it, since he's been asking me, since the beginning of May, (every night when he gets home), "Did we get any mail?"

It's getting warmer outside, which has brought out more insects and nighttime critters to life again. Since our apartment is near a big area of rice paddies, little peeper frogs have begun to fill the night with their extremely loud "peeping"! I personally like the sound of the peeper frogs, and it reminds me that summer is coming soon. Takeshi, evidently, finds the noise to be very creepy. It's not a big surprise, since I know he greatly dislikes any kind of insect, amphibian, or reptile. Who knew my hub was so squeamish when it came to those types of things. I used to have a bunch of tree frogs as pets in grade school, and I personally find frogs (and sometimes toads) to be very cute and pretty. :)

On our last grocery trip at Max Value, I decided to buy a pair of squid! It was my first time buying something "whole" from the grocery store. Obviously you can't buy whole chickens or pigs from the store, with their whole body untouched! But, I had had a lot of boiled squid dishes at Takeshi's family's house in the past, and I quite enjoyed them. I wanted to cook some squid on my own! And they were fairly cheap! I got two whole squid for about 260yen. From tip to tip, they were about as long as my forearm, and thinner than the size of a coke can, in circumference. It was a little weird, twisting off their heads and such, but after the head and de-gutting bit (the guts actually come out along with the head), it was fairly easy. The only bad thing was that after I threw the nasty bits into the food bin under the sink (the apartment doesn't have a garbage disposal), I found out about how much decaying squid STINKS to high heaven. As much as it was stinking up the whole hallway, every time I had to open the bin again to throw food out, I still had just replaced the trash bag, and I wanted to not use up another bag already. Takeshi made the decision for me though. Last night he proclaimed, "Ok - NOW we are going to throw this out - I don't care - it stinks!" Which I can't really argue with... So now we are breathing non-stinky air again. :)

One of our little squid friends

Yummy boiled squid pieces! Marinated in soy sauce for a bit, beforehand