Thursday, September 30, 2010

Creatures of habit

I love routine. I was not born with a spontaneous bone in my body, even though being married to Nathan these 11 years has helped to open up to a little spontaneity in my life. But there's just something so comfortable about a good routine. I've been this way since I was young and it's definitely carried over into my own home. Come home from work, eat a snack, watch a little TV, make dinner, spend time with the boys, read with Ethan, put him to bed, watch a little more TV, in bed by 10:30. This was my schedule back home, and I rarely strayed from it. It's not as if I strictly adhere to it, it just sorta....happens.

And so it's no surprise that I've created my own little morning routine here in Japan. I know exactly when I need to leave the apartment (7:10) in order to walk to the subway station (10 min. walk) and catch the 7:21 train. I get off at Odori Station to catch another subway and I naturally go to the same car every day. Then I get off the subway to catch the 7:46 bus, which will get me to my school at 8:20. See? Clockwork. And I love it.

And apparently the Japanese love it too, because I've noticed in the past month that I've created this routine that I see the exact same people every day - they too stand in the same place to get on the same subway train. I look forward to seeing the same business men in their white shirts and black suits. The same high school students take the bus with me, and always sit in the back (and they'll never sit next to me, even if there are no other available seats). This one little girl takes the bus I take going home every Wednesday, and she always smiles at me, like we're friends. I find comfort in seeing these people every day. I've never talked to any of them, but I feel almost as if I know them, and when they're not on the subway or the bus, I have to admit that I wonder where they are.

And I'd like to think that they do the same for me.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Meet my school: Higashi Yonesato

I love this little school. The staff and the students are so nice, it makes me sad to think that I only have one more month there.

Monday, September 20, 2010

We like books

Here in the Robinson household, we like books. We're quite the bibliophiles and had quite an extensive collection coming along back in the States (those who have seen pics of our NJ apartment may have noticed that I arranged them by color.) I'm more of the magazine reader - before all my favorites were cancelled - with Nathan and Ethan being the more avid book readers. One of our favorite things to do back in NJ was go to the nearby Barnes and Noble, buy a coffee, and read for hours. It was a family affair. Thank goodness we were told about Kinokuniya, a really great bookstore in Sapporo, with a large English section. We've already been there several times, and Ethan's used his allowance money to buy a few things. Here's some things that Nate and I have bought:
Nathan found this city guide to Sapporo by Phaidon, and it's great for those who have a more artistic flair. The places they recommend are not your regular tourist traps, and shows the more modern, artsy Sapporo. As a fan of modern and mid-century design, this book has several inspirational photos. I can't wait to visit some of the shops they recommend (although I probably won't be able to afford anything!)

Next up is my recent purchase, Solanin by Inio Asano. I'm not a manga reader, but something about this story just drew me in. I could not put it down! There's nothing significant about Asano's characters, just a bunch of average 20-somethings that don't know what to do with themselves now that they've graduated and have to go out into the "real world". I guess that story hits a little close to home (although I'm no longer a 20-something).
Sorry this is sideways**
And now, a magazine!
Japan has some beautiful interior design magazines. Homestyle caught my eye because the homes they showcase inside are much like the style I admire - modern and eclectic, simple and natural. This magazine really inspired me to work on our little hand-me-down apartment, and to try to make the best use of what I've got. Simplicity is the key, especially since our time here is so short.

Anyone have any book (or magazine) suggestions for us?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Week in Review

Another week come and gone. The weekends have been so nice, and we've been so lazy. Sleeping in, staying in our pajamas 'til noon while we skype friends and family. Not the most exciting weekends ever, but sometimes you just have to take it easy.

An Indian Restaurant we found while walking around Sumikawa. Excellent curry and nan, Ethan's favorite.

No dogs allowed. A sign while walking around Sapporo University.

Sumo wrestling on the TV. It ain't the Dallas Cowboys, but it's pretty entertaining.

I received my cell phone this weekend, and so I feel connected with the world again. I'm still trying to get used to it - it's a lot of technology, after all. But I love the Hipstamatic camera app (thanks Fay!) I love the wash it gives the photos - it reminds me of photos from the 80s.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Only in Japan: Ramen

Now I'm fully aware that there are ramen places in the States, but before I moved to Japan my experience with ramen was the 4 for $1 packages at the grocery store. The stuff all college students live off of. Never ever had I experienced the deliciousness that is Sapporo ramen. The above bowl was eaten at Ramen Shin, a little place around the corner from our apartment. I'm not exactly sure what the name of this is, as the menu is completely in Japanese, but I do know that it's a little spicey and super delicious!

I don't know if the contents of a bowl of ramen change regionally in Japan, but here in Sapporo, ramen comes in a HUGE bowl that consists of a piece of pork, an egg, bean sprouts, bamboo, and ramen noodles. It's considered rude not to finish the entire bowl, so we usually eat ramen when we're really hungry. It's also perfectly acceptable to slurp your noodles, which has taken some getting used to on my part.

I have to admit, eating a huge steaming bowl of ramen on these hot summer days has been a challenge, but it's just so good! I'm sure it's going to be even better during the snowy months!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The best things in life are free

From my previous post, you can probably tell that I am really enjoying Higashi Yonesato. The love continued today, as I was given a warm greeting in english by the junior high students. The four of them seem very interested in speaking with me, and the adults seem eager to hear them speak with me. Everyone is still so friendly - they are all so interested in me almost as if I was some exotic bird or cute puppy. Today when I had some free time, I was working on writing my hiragana, and the vice-principal sauntered toward my desk, as he often does when he wants to talk to me. He noticed I was writing and I told him I was practicing for my class later tonight. He became very excited and told me that my writing was very good. He looked through the pages of ka, ga, sa, and so forth, almost as if he was grading me. I told him I was taking Japanese classes and that soon we will be able to speak Japanese together. He laughed.

The nurse is another one who has much interest in me. Besides all the tea and cookies she gave me yesterday, today I was given a Japanese pumpkin from the school garden.
But that's not the only free produce I've been given today. Tonight, Nate, Ethan, and I ate gyoza at this cute little restaurant around the corner from our apartment. I had gone there a few weeks ago before Nate and Ethan arrived, and had told the owner - this wonderfully sweet lady who likes to speak english - that my family was arriving soon. This was the first evening we've all seen her as a family, and she was so excited! After serving us our meal, she asks us if we like tomatoes, and brings out this container of tomatoes for us to take home! Now, what to do with them all!

But wait there's more!

Sarah, another JET living in Sumikawa, gave Ethan a mountain bike that's been taking up space in her stoarge space for who knows how long. And we also discovered and repaired another bike in our storage space, so now we have two bikes - rusty and a little creaky, but free nonetheless.

So we seem to all be adjusting well to our new lives in Japan. And if people keep giving us free food, I know we're gonna be just fine!