Tuesday, November 29, 2005


After almost three years of being in the same class, Lilia and Y. seem to have made a bit of progress in their relationship. Up till now, Lilia has been very wary of Y. He has been known to sit on top of her, and Lilia, who is unable to read his intentions, believes that he has come to take something away from her every time he appears in her space. But last week, she let him push her wheelchair when we were on our way to the car after school. And today, he pushed her to the classroom in her SRC (walker). Later, Lilia's teacher cut a persimmon into quarters for a snack for her and Lilia wanted to give one quarter to Y. Maybe one of these days they'll actually be able to play with each other.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Kingston by Starlight

So here's what we' re reading Chez Kamata:

I'm three-fourths through Kingston by Starlight, Christopher John Farley's rollicking tale of girl pirate, Anne Bonny. It's full of adventure and written entirely in pirate-speak. Although the book is fiction, Anne Bonny really lived and sailed in the West Indies. Interestingly, she passed through Charleston,South Carolina, my favorite city in my adopted state. I love finding these little connections.

My son is enjoying The Big Bazoohley by Peter Carey, as read by yours truly. He resisted mightily at first, as there weren't enough pictures for his taste, but I've read Carey's novels for adults and I knew that this book would be full of weird and wonderful details. And indeed it is! This kid, Sam Kellow, gets locked out of his hotel room and goes in search of the mysterious Mr. de Vere, who is supposed to buy one of his mother' s paintings. Only, he gets kidnapped by an ambitious couple who want to enter him in the Perfecto Kiddo Prize contest in order to win ten thousand dollars. That's about as far as we've gotten.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Nature Lover

Went to another party today. The children were outside playing in the yard, and Lilia picked up an insect and held it up for me to see. I thought it was a grasshopper or something, but when I got closer I saw that it was a bee! I was a bit alarmed, as bee allergies run in my family. We got her to put it down and our hostess's adult daughter smashed it with a shoe. Lilia began crying over the death of the bee. I'm amazed she wasn't stung. Could my little girl be a bee charmer?

Monday, November 21, 2005

To Market, To Market

This morning Lilia and her fellow deaf kindergartners went on a mini field trip to the local market. Originally, the moms were not scheduled to go, but a couple wanted to go along and take notes, so as to make sure they'd be able to reinforce the new vocabulary of the day. I decided to join in as well. All the kids got a little spending money (taken out of school fees). Lilia decided before she even left school that she would be buying a tangerine. While we were looking at the slabs of meat at the butcher's, she signed "tangerine." While we were looking at the fish, she signed "tangerine." For some reason, she was afraid of the large, albeit dead, fish, though she thought the smaller fish would be good to eat. The children enjoyed poking at a live octopus and crabs in a net. I was surprised to see mahi mahi. Isn't that a Hawaiian fish? Lilia finally got to buy a bag of tangerines, which she signed she was going to give to her grandmother, not to her mom or dad. Her classmate Y., who is autistic, bought a pineapple. His mother said that he really likes pineapples - the shape or color, I guess - but he won't eat them.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Birthday Party

We just got back from a birthday party an Australian friend and her Japanese husband threw for their five-year-old daughter and a couple of her international friends. Here are some party stats:

Number of children: 9

Number of languages used among children: 8 including English, Japanese, Italian, Chinese, Korean, German, Thai, and Japanese Sign Language.

Number of heart-shaped chocolate cakes: 3

Number of husbands in attendance: 2 (out of 5)

Number of drinks spilled by my children: None. (Hooray, hooray!)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Why am I not surprised?

According to a report from Kyodo News in today's editon of The Japan Times, the deaths of 12 kids in Japan may be linked to Tamiflu. The article goes on to say that "Japan uses the majority of the world's supply of Tamiflu distributed to treat seasonal influenza."

Tropical Fish

Just finished reading Doreen Baingana's fab collection, Tropical Fish:Stories Out of Entebbe. I was inspired to grab it off the shelf after hearing about my brother's recent houseguests from Uganda. I enjoyed the whole book, but I could especially relate to the last two stories, "Lost in Los Angeles," in which an expat tries to figure out what she's doing in another country, and "Questions of Home," in which the same woman goes back to her own country after a long absence and finds that she no longer fits in. After 17 (or is it 18?) years in Japan, I still find myself committing gaffes. Just a couple days ago, while serving lunch at Lilia's school, another mother (the teki-paki nurse who smokes in front of her asthmatic child) told me that I should never heap rice in the bowl because that is how rice is offered to the dead. Also, my mother-in-law informed me that one does not keep one's broom in the entryway! It's bad form! Who knew?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Desperate Housewives in Japan

Now that "Desperate Housewives" is airing in Japan, I can't help wondering what Japanese women make of it. I have yet to speak to any who are watching it, but I doubt that viewers here identify in the same way. Sure, most Japanese women can probably relate to Lynette, with her husband being away most of the time, and her kids totally out of control. (Japanese kids tend to be pretty wild, jumping on furniture in public spaces, etc.) While I'm watching, though, I keep thinking that Bree seems to be the ideal Japanese wife. Her gourmet cooking, her attention to detail, and her obsession with housework is made out to be some sort of psychosis, but she is eerily familiar to me. She reminds me of all the women I've seen hanging out their laundry or washing their doors and front steps at the crack of dawn. She reminds me of the mothers at my daughter's school who vacuum their houses every morning before they leave to take their kids to school. She keeps up appearances, and isn't that what Japan is all about?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Deaf School Culture Festival

So today was the annual Culture Festival at Lilia's school. My mother-in-law went in her own car was late, missing the "Dinosaur Samba," because she went to Jio's school, where another culture festival was in progress, albeit a university one. I can't figure out if communication is really that bad between us or if she is just forgetful. At any rate, she was in time to see Lilia's performance in "The Mitten." Unlike me, Lilia loves the spotlight and instead of getting nervous and forgetting her lines in a gymnasium full of spectators like I would, she started ad libbing and at one point had to be literally dragged off the stage! But for the most part, she stuck to the script and did a star turn as an old man's dog. Many people praised her afterward, and every time I got all choked up. Only a year ago, she could barely answer questions, and this month she memorized quite a few lines and delivered them with flair.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Innkeeper's Apprentice

I read in The Japan Times that a paperback copy of The Innkeeper's Apprentice by Lewis Libby is going for $2,500 on Amazon.com. And then I thought, hey, wait, I have that book! I own a copy of the first hardcover edition put out by the estimable Graywolf Press. Although I had to part with piles of books in our recent big move, I kept this book because I liked it so much. It's in great condition with no writing in it, unlike another hardcover copy on offer for something like $400. I'll sell it for a hundred bucks. :-)

In spite of the snarky readers' comments on Amazon, I thought it was lovely in a gothic sort of way and it remains one of my favorite Japan-related novels, Libby-written or not. Another plus: he incorporates references to my favorite Japanese folktale, "Yuki Onna" ("The Snow Woman").

Thursday, November 10, 2005

if everyone else is doing it, why not me

Okay, so I figure it's high time I hopped on the blogging bandwagon. It may take me awhile to find my stride, but I intend to use this space to promote great writing, to explore issues of living and parenting in Japan, and whatever else comes up.

At the moment, we are gearing up for the annual Culture Festival at my six year old daughter's school, the Tokushima School for the Deaf. I sat through the three hour dress rehearsal yesterday (not altogether by choice) and will sit through nearly the exact same thing on Sunday, when the real deal takes place. Highlights: my daughter appears in the Dinosaur Samba and the play "Tebukuruo," aka "The Mitten" in which she is a dog. The mothers at the deaf school have spent the last month or so making costumes for the play and handmade refrigerator magnets for the bazaar.

My daughter started coughing a few days ago, which led all the mothers and teachers to urge me to take her to the hospital right away. I did take her to a pediatrician, who prescribed antibiotics (!) among other things, but the mothers told me I should get more and stronger medicine because what if she gets worse and can't make it to the culture festival????? I suggested that she take a couple days off of school if they were so worried about her. They thought I was out of my mind.