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Friday, June 13

A Bit of Everything

There has been so much I have wanted to say and as usual, no time to write about it. So this post will be a bit of a mix of things. Forgive its randomness.


I haven’t said much about the baby here because I am still deathly afraid of jinxing things. So far, so good. I’m doing wonderfully. This second trimester stuff is pretty great. Tons of energy, only rare nausea when I catch a strange whiff in the air, and best of all, I finally am starting to look pregnant for real and even got to feel the baby move for the first time last week. It hasn’t happened since, but that isn’t rare when they are yet as small as this critter is. And I don’t have to call him a critter anymore… he is indeed a he. He’s doing wonderfully and was quite active for us during the most recent ultrasound. With my “advanced maternal age” (man, I gag every time I think of this phrase which has been attached to me), we were encouraged to do some of the extra tests to ensure everything was alright. Not that we would have done anything even if we had gotten a serious prognosis. As it is, everything came back negative. This doesn’t guarantee that there won’t be any problems discovered later on, but it does give us the first step towards relief of mind. Now we only have a lifetime left to worry about every other thing that could possibly go wrong. EDIT: Just for Michele, I added this picture. I'm looking a bit exhausted, but it isn't a bad shot of the growing girth.


In other baby related news, after much frustration, I think we may have ordered some baby furniture today. Sure… this is sooo easy back in the states. Here… not so much. I have spent countless hours (and I’m not even exaggerating this time) on the phone with American base suppliers both here in Japan and back in the states, as well as driving back and forth to the base trying to get someone to order what I wanted, which has proved confusing and impossible. As of today, I may have shed my last tear. I think I finally figured out how to order it and if all goes well, the process will be complete later this evening. Of course, I now have 4-6 months to wait for my things to arrive. If you have run any tiny calculations in your head, that time falls on my due date or two months past. Wish me luck! At least I have a crib from a friend. As for rest, I will just lay towels on the floor and change the poor kid since the military customer service people certainly couldn’t care less to speed up the process. If you are wondering why I didn’t just go with Japanese furniture, than you obviously haven’t seen it. Not only is it typically on the extreme contemporary size, it is also on the small size. With hauling a kid around, the last thing you need to add to the already strained back is to lean over constantly to get things out of the drawers or to change him. So ordering from the states was pretty much the only option.


School is officially over. I couldn’t be happier not to be subbing for the next two and a half months. I was really done towards the end. What will I do with all my free time? Well, everything I haven’t done in the past few months. More culture, more travel, more fun! Oh and more cleaning. Dag this house is dirty.


This also has become the moment of every year when I am officially sick of Japan. It really has nothing to do with my life here and EVERYthing to do with the fact that it rains pretty much every day. When the sun does come out, it is warm and beautiful. But mostly it is damp and cold and I can’t stand carrying an umbrella out the door with me any more. Not to mention, this time brings indoors these big, brown, jumping spiders. I made my first kill today. Now, usually I catch a bug and set it free outside, but I just can’t do this with spiders. Too many damn legs! And these brown ones are fast. I hosed this one down with Raid while trying hard not to breathe in the chemical vapors. Then, just to be safe and sure, I stomped him with KH’s shoe. I wouldn’t want to get guts on my pretty shoes.


My neighbor has taken even more of an interest in my Japanese cultural advancement lately. In late July, she got us tickets to a traditional tea ceremony in northern Tokyo. I was another nasty, wet and cold day out. She was wonderfully concerned about my health traveling so far in such conditions, so she made extra preparations for our trip. Her husband drove us to the train station and later picked us up from there. She bought green car tickets on the train there and back and didn’t let me pay for a thing. She also paid for a cab to get us to and from the event at Edogawaheisei Garden “Genshinan” in Edogawa Gyosen Park to the Nishikasai train station in Tokyo. This was my second full tea ceremony, as I have done some smaller ones along the way. Sitting Japanese style on the floor was a bit more challenging in light of recent belly growth, but I managed to remain in the correct position… at least while we were presented and passed the tea to and from our neighbors.

This event was actually established as a 15th anniversary tea gathering for the group called Urasenke International. They are similar to the group I belong to, Ikebana International, in that they were created to share their cultural experience, the tea ceremony, with foreigners like myself. I had been given a paper on taboos of tea ceremony, so I did try to behave suitably and show the good side of Americans. The rules say to dress moderately and avoid colors that disturb the calm in the tea room (I wore the last black dress in my closet that fit over my belly… well, when hiked up a little higher than it normally sits), remove all accessories to prevent damages to the tea utensils (I removed my wedding rings, watches and bracelet prior to entering the room), not wear perfume so as not to spoil the delicate scent of incense in the room (perfume free!), not get lipstick on the tea bowl (like the other Japanese ladies, I removed it inconspicuously before returning the tea bowl to its position).

I should really talk about the way a tea ceremony is done, because there are a lot of rules about the ceremony itself. As usual, I was pretty nervous to do this because I really would hate to make some faux pas that would give Americans a bad name. Thankfully, the Japanese hosts were as gracious as they usually are and do give the gaijin in the room a bit more leeway. But here are the directions on how to do a tea ceremony, as printed from the form they gave me prior to the event: :When a bowl of tea is placed in front of you, bow to the person serving you. Place the tea bowl between you and the next guest and say “Osakini” (Excuse me for going before you). Place the tea bowl in front of you. Bow and say “Thank you for the tea.” Then, place the tea bowl with your right hand on your left palm and bow slightly in appreciation. Turn the tea bowl clockwise twice to avoid the front in humility. After drinking the tea, wipe the part you drank from with your fingers (wipe the fingers with the kaishi) and turn the tea bowl counterclockwise twice. Return the tea bowl outside the tatami edging.” So that is all of it! And I did not have this paper in the room with me. See why I get nervous? So many rules to follow!

For this tea ceremony experience, there was an extra tea from the one I was used to. At the last one, we apparently only had the sweet with a thin tea, called usucha. At this tea, we went to a second room and had a thick tea, called koicha. The rules for this tea are a bit different. With the first, you drink the entire bowl by yourself. With this one, you share it with three people, so you must be sure not to drink too much and not too little. Again, I made it through with limited mistakes… as far as I am aware anyway. After both tea services, there was a bento lunch served, which was delicious as usual, but unfortunately very heavy on the raw sushi. I must admit I was a bit hungry upon getting home later that afternoon. The baby just cannot live on four pieces of vegetable sushi and a few sweets with tea for a meal.

The generosity of my host and the tea ceremony were not the only beautiful experiences of the day. The building which it was held in had the traditional glass viewing room which overlooked the meticulously manicured gardens and pond. Koi swam past the window, becoming the brightest spot in the dreary day. By the time we were leaving, the rain stopped long enough to let us walk around the gardens for a bit and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. While it was quite a hike to get to the place and I was more than a bit grumpy about going so early in the morning when we had guests I had to leave behind at home and it was raining (again), I am so glad I took the trip.


Like I said, my neighbor has been very friendly lately. I should tell you that, while her English is pretty good, our conversations can get a bit lagging because we run out of words due to the language barrier. That doesn’t stop her from pressing on and inviting me to other events, like the pottery and lacquerware viewing this past weekend. A friend of hers collects items and shows them for a few days once a year. So I was invited to take a look at these pieces… known for being so splendorous in their simplicity. The host even borrows so pieces of which you may buy if you like. While I would have loved to, the prices were a little high for me. Plus, I hadn’t totally understood what I was coming for, so I didn’t have an exorbitant amount of cash on me. Probably a good thing. Still, it was nice to not only see the beautiful collection she had, but also to see her exquisite Japanese style home. I always love a peak into places of residence. When given those opportunities, I rarely pass them up.


Ikebana International ended yesterday for the 2007-2008 season. Our last program was a mix of things – a demonstration be chapter members (of which I nervously participated), installation of next year’s board (of which I am doing again for some crazy reason) and also a performance by a more modern Biwa player than the last I heard a couple of years ago. For me, the best part of the day came when I finished my arrangement, stamped with my sensei’s approval, and then went off to check out my friend’s artistic expressions with flowers. One close friend used a large vase and a small vase and wrapped the plant from one into the other, forming a circle. She later explained that it was a mother and child and the circle of love between them. See why I eat this stuff up? Beautiful! I happened to be sitting at the table with the Biwa player himself, a rather young guy who was very open to the many questions he received. Despite it being yet another horribly rainy day, it turned out to be a pretty bright day while inside at this particularly well done good bye affair.


Speaking of goodbyes, I must be saying one myself for a few weeks. I am traveling with a lot of here and there going on and for once… I just do not feel so obligated to rush to the computer for email checks and blog updates. All will just have to wait until I return. It’s time to unplug and unwind for a bit with my family and friends. Until then, please be well and happy! See you in July!


Anonymous said...

Have an awesome trip and make sure to post some pictures of you and your belly when you get back!

Anonymous said...

look at your belly! so cute!can't wait to see it in person :)


Anonymous said...

I cant wait to see you! yay! hurry up and get here!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Well done for continuing to get yourself - and the "bump" out - out and about.

Why can't you buy your baby furniture in Japan?

Hope all continues to go well for you,

Mike S said...

Somehow we managed to get all our stuff in Japan for the one child born there. Didn't realize how much I missed my dose of Japan until I couldn't find time to read it. Soooooooooooooo nice to see you again, and quite expectant to boot!! You're on the downhill slide now. I foretell many, many photos in your future!! Looking forward to the 1st posts of the little fella:)

Kimono Karen said...

Baby furniture in Japan is like all other furniture... short. While I am not overly tall for American standards, I am for Japanese. Even the strollers make me hunch a little more than necessary. So we have been buying some things here and having the rest shipped from home. A good healthy mix of both worlds!