Saturday, October 28, 2006

Culture Mama

So here's what I did today. I helped carry heavy tables from the fourth floor of the Deaf School, which I may have mentioned does not have an elevator, to the first floor. I did this in preparation for tomorrow's Culture Festival. I signed up for the P.T.A. Culture Committee because, to me, culture is books and music and ballet, things that I love. My duties, however, as committee member, are to work in the udon tent. I don't really know how to prepare udon noodles, but that's my job. Today we set up tents, washed all of the pots and cooking implements, and hauled those tables around. We had them all lined up, and then a teacher came by and said, "You can't use those tables. Put them back." So we had to carry the heavy tables back up the four flights of stairs.

Meanwhile, Lilia was helping to clean the school and practicing her one line in the elementary school production of "Ali Baba," in which no one is beheaded and no one gets boiled in hot oil. As of this writing, homegirl is most looking forward to selling coffee from the drink booth.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Teahouse Fire

My review of The Teahouse Fire now appears at Japan Visitor, although the book won't officially be in print until December. I predict that this novel will be huge. I think it'll be the next Memoirs of a Geisha. I'm sure that movie rights have been snapped up already. I imagine Gong Li in a leading role, and Japanese audiences rejecting the film because a Chinese actor is portraying a Japanese woman, although they can accept Liam Neeson, an Irishman, playing a German (Schindler) or Charize Theron (a South African) on screen as an American. Anyway, I see this as a major book, a major film, and maybe it'll even set off a tea ceremony boom. In which case, I'll have to dust off my bamboo tea whisk.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dr. Jazz

A few things Lilia's teacher should know about her:

1. She doesn't like school.
2. She likes going to the doctor. (Even if she has a just a hangnail, she starts signing that she wants to go to the hospital.)
3. She's a good actress.

Nevertheless, the teachers at the deaf school remember the days when a runny nose would put Lilia in the ICU, and they want her to be healthy for the all important Culture Festival this coming Sunday. So, this morning I brought the kid to school with a cough and a runny nose, and an hour later, the teacher called me and told me to come pick her up because she had a fever. When I got there, the teacher said her temperature was 37, which in my opinion, isn't a big deal. She seemed tired, which isn't surprising since she was doing homework* till 9PM last night and had a hard time getting to sleep after that. But I took her to the doctor anyway, because I figured she could do with some cough medicine. By the time we got there, her temperature was perfectly normal and she was wriggling all over the place.

We got some meds, and I got the story behind the grand piano in the waiting room. See, actually the good doctor is a jazz pianist. and at the end of every year he has a party at his hospital and invites all his patients to come hear him play. I told Yoshi that I'm definitely going if we get an invite.

Oh, and the good news about today is that Lilia doesn't have any homework.

*this involves much staring into space and sharpening of pencils, which is why it takes such a long time

Monday, October 23, 2006

Straw Poll

For the past few years, I've been working on an anthology of literary writing (short stories, essays, poetry) on parenting diabled children. I've finally got the book together and an editor at an esteemed publishing house is preparing to propose this book to her colleagues for publication. She has confided, however, that the publishing house director is concerned that parents of children with X disability don't want to read about the experiences of children with Y disability. I'm sure that this is not true, and I'm going to prepare a report to that effect, but if there's anyone out there who can back me up on this, I'd love to hear your voice.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Boy With Beans

While I was surfing around the Net, I happened to come across the illustrations for a story that I wrote for Jio. Click on recent work and then images 3-6. I love the pictures. I showed them to Jio, who's already heard the story. He complained that there weren't more of them, and then he wanted to know what happened to the scene with the gorilla. "Well, honey," I had to say, "it got cut in the editing process." If you look closely, you can see that the boy is writing his name - "Jio" - in the second image. Pretty cool, huh?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Dinner Party

Last week my mother-in-law was feeling neglected and unappreciated and said that she wanted to move out on her own. It probably had something to do with my not wanting her to bring drinks to my friends, and to my irritation when she started not only taking down my laundry but redoing it. Anyway, in an effort to mend family relations, my husband suggested a weekly "dinner party," to be held on Tuesday, my work day. Yoshi will come home early on that day, and my mother-in-law and I will take turns cooking. She got to go first. The night before she asked Jio (the boy!)what he wanted to eat. In restaurants, he adores tempura fried shrimp, so she suggested that and he said "yes." Well. She apparently went to several different grocery stores in search of the perfect shrimp and then knocked herself out putting together a fabulous dinner. Everything looked very pretty and was delicious. And of course, Jio wouldn't eat the shrimp.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Small Victory

I'm always going on about homework here, I know, but today something wonderful happened. Lilia corrected my Japanese! She has to write a picture diary every day, meaning a picture of something that happened during the day and a few sentences about it (who, what, when, and where). Usually, I ask her via sign language what her picture is about, and then write out a sentence for her to copy and learn. Today's was "Today at home, I did homework. Math and kanji were interesting." (Sometimes she is totally uninspired.)I spelled math (in Japanese) incorrectly and Lilia fixed it and told me to remember! I was so happy, I was ready to uncork a bottle of champagne.

Also, last Friday, her teacher told me not to help her with math any more because Lilia tends to turn off her little brain and wait for me to more or less feed her the answers. Yesterday, I didn't help her at all. She did an entire print by herself and got only one of eight wrong. Today she did just about as well. So now she can do at least part of her homework by herself - a big step

Now if we could only get those kids to stay in their own beds all night long instaed of crawling into the Mommy and Daddy bed...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Since my kids started school I have encoutered a lot of diseases and illnesses that I'd previously never heard of or only read about in books. If you look up impetigo on the Internet, you'll find that it's a skin disease common in Third World countries where nutrition and hygiene are inadequate. But, hey, I know a kid who rides around in a Mercedes who has it. Several kids at my son's school, including Jio, were recently afflicted with impetigo. We've been treating it with a topical bacterial cream, but it's itchy, and the bandages come off, so I broke down and got him some oral medication. The doctor told me not to touch it, and if I did, to wash my hands, and inwardly I was thinking, "I KNOW, I KNOW, I KNOW!!!!" Well, Jio woke up in the wee hours, and in a gesture of affection, I brushed his arm with the back of my hand. Almost immediately, I felt a kind of burning sensation, and I knew I should drag myself to the sink and wash my hands, but I didn't. Within two hours, I had an open sore on my knuckle. Eew! It's so disgusting and it spreads so easily and quickly. It's like flesh-eating bacteria or something. I can imagine someone making a horror movie about it - "Impetigo!"

Monday, October 09, 2006

Mountain of the Gods

Today the weather was beautiful and Yoshi had a rare day off, so I lobbied for Nature Time. We drove 15 or so kilometers from here, into Kamiyama, which the locals translate as God's Mountain. (I prefer Mountain of the Gods.) Anyway, it's not all that far away, but you have to travel twisty, narrow mountain roads without any guardrails in places. I've never been all that keen on driving up myself, though the mountains are lush with greenery and the air is fragrant with kimokusei. Also, I wanted to take Lilia to see the paintings of Hello Kitty that I'd heard about. See, there is an artist residency program in Kamiyama. Every year, three artists from Japan and abroad (this year's participants are from France, Holland, and Tokyo) spend a couple of months on the mountain, creating art inspired by the environment. A couple of years ago, an artist from Malta created an installation out of sudachi, a small, green indigenous citrus fruit. Anyway, we found out that the former school which houses the art left behind by these artists was farther than we thought, but we were led to an Art Walk closer by. The path was on a mountain slope with lots of pine trees. It was lovely, but not wheelchair accessible, and Lilia is pretty darn heavy. We took a look at a mummy made of sticks and gave up on the rest of the walk. Jio said that the whole day was boring, except for when we stopped by the river and threw stones into the water for about half an hour. Lilia, on the other hand, drew the stick mummy in her picture diary. (And dang, if I didn't bring my camera!)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Spelling Test

I'm feeling a big depressed after having had a look at my son's latest English spelling test. He's the only kid with native speaker proficiency in his class,and yet he only got one out of ten words correct - "up." Some words he spelled incorrectly: "down," "small," "in." Same story with his first ever spelling test. I don't get it. I've been reading English books to the kid since birth, and I've been pointing at the words as I read along for the past three. He loves stories, loves books, and yet he has never tried to read an English book on his own. I'm beginning to think he might have some sort of learning disability...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Library Books

Today there was an open class (math in English!) at my son's school, followed by PTA committee meetings. I signed up for the library committee, although I had no idea what it might entail, simply because I love books and love to be around them. I must say, however, that I am appalled by the state of the books I've seen in Japanese school libraries, both public and this private one. None of the books are bound in that plastic library binding. At my daughter's school, some older books are mended with duct tape. At both schools, the books are in pretty bad shape. The climate doesn't help, of course. There is no climate control in the libraries here so the books are at the mercy of the humidity. I suppose, as a committee member, I could suggest book-binding as a project, and maybe I will, although it would be A LOT of work and all the other mothers will hate me. I'm surprised, however, that in a country as literate as this one, libraries don't take better care of their books.

Second Semester

This afternoon I started my second semester as a part-time university instructor. I have a brand new batch of fresh-faced, affable students from all over Japan. One came from Okinawa! One boy graduated from the high school where my husband teaches and had him as P.E. teacher. Small world, eh? This boy aspires to be a kindergarten teacher, which is cool. It must take a certain amount of individuality for a guy to pursue a career as a kindergarten teacher in this country. As elsewhere, it's stereotypically a woman's job, and I suspect that some parents in my home country would be uncomfortable having grown men around their small children. There was actually a male kindergarten teacher at my son's preschool. He was very popular with the kids and with certain parents who figured a man could control their wild children better than a woman. In my class, I also have some male students majoring in home economics. I bet they'll make good husbands.