Saturday, December 19, 2009
A Trip to the Dentist, Japanese Style
Since we're not going Stateside this December, we won't make our twice-a-year dental cleanings at Dr. Kahan's office. We're pretty diligent about our oral health, so we decided to find a dentist here in Tokyo.
We found Dr. Suzuki, whose office is right up the street from where we live. A friend recommended him, noting that not only is he a great dentist, but he speaks perfect English, as does most of his staff.
There are a few things that are particular to dentists in Japan it seems. First of all, we took off our shoes at the door and wore the slippers that were provided. And second, we waited only seconds before the hygienist was ready for us. (Though that is common in the U.S. - I wait at doctors' offices, but almost never at the dentist's - hurrah for Dr. K!)
The best part about the experience was that they gave the children brushing lessons. First the hygienist took a cotton ball dipped in red dye and painted the kids' teeth. The dye is designed to stick only to tartar and showed them where they were missing spots with their toothbrushes - which of course was all over their teeth, especially at the gumline. Then they gave each child a toothbrush and literally taught them to brush so that they had to brush away all of the red dye. Only when it was all gone and the toothbrush cleaned did the hygienist proceed with cleaning their teeth.
As for Marc and me, the cleaning was pretty normal with a few noted exceptions. They measured our gumlines pretty precisely to make sure we didn't have bone loss or gum disease - each tooth was given a score not to exceed 4 or they'd have to treat the gums. They also put a towel around our heads as they worked on our mouths lest the light shine in our eyes to brightly.
It was an excellent experience overall and we'd go back again. In fact we have to go back on Thursday in order to consult with the orthodontist for Bailey. Yes, the office has an orthodontist that comes into the office weekly to see the dentist's orthodontia patients.
Enjoy the attached pictures. Be sure to note the bare feet or slippers as you look - and yes, Bailey's and Sydney's teeth were THAT red! Better oversight of brushing will now ensue.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Food Entry - Matsutake Mushrooms
Friday, September 25, 2009
Autumn in Tokyo
This has got to be my favorite season. In Tokyo, unlike in other places, it's not about leaves changing and the nip in the air or anything like that. It's about the heat and humidity releasing itself and the sunshine spilling all over the city. Buildings sparkle, streets shine and people BREATHE. Every breath taken in is a pleasure. The skies are cloudless and the temps are perfect. Often there's a breeze. Here are two sunny photos of neighborhoods near my house.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
A Random Matsuri
One of the reasons we love living in Japan is that we never know what we're going to see. This weekend, right in our neighborhood, we ran into a festival, a matsuri. The followers take the portable shrines (mikoshi) and carry them through the streets, shouting and laughing and of course, drinking. The bearers of each shrine each wear a different costume. All are jackets with white shorts underneath. Some men do not wear anything underneath except a sort of jock strap, which is interesting to observe as they bounce down the street wtih the shrine. It was a beautiful, sunny day, just perfect for a festival. The people were jubilant with their celebration and their voices rang from the rooftops, along with chantings and banging on everything from drums to simple pots and pans. It was quite a sight and we appreciate it.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
American Culture Shock
One thing that struck me during my travels this summer was these two posters inside a restaurant called "Cheeburger Cheeburger" - it's a southern chain.
Basically if an adult eats a one-pound hamburger (approximately 450 grams) then the management will take your picture and post it on the wall. The kids section (under 12 years old) is for a half-pound of meat.
Yes, they are rewarding big meat-eaters - the very essence of American ethos.
Then again, the burger costs under $10 - and includes fries, something you cannot find in Japan. I suppose every culture has its advantages and disadvantages.
Make of it what you will.
But for now at least, I'm happy to be home in Japan.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Summer in the U.S.
The kids and I are spending the summer in the U.S. visiting various friends and family, having camp experiences, violin experiences, and more rental car and airport experiences than we'd care to admit. Here's a quick few pix from our American slice of life.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
A Novel Recycling Idea
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
An Interesting Afternoon
Monday, May 25, 2009
What do you get when you cross a hamburger with a donut? See the results as advertised by Mr. Donut in Iidabashi, Tokyo!
Friday, May 22, 2009
My Favorite Place in Japan
My favorite place in Japan to visit is the Daibutsu Buddha in Kamakura; I could visit monthly and spend hours there and still never tire of it. Somehow its impressive and imposing position and serene countenance symbolize the peace that I look for inside of me. With most places, but especially here, I learn more and see something different every time I visit.
The Buddha is one of those common scenes - if you saw a picture of it, it would be something you would recognize as a symbol of Japan in general. It was built in 1252 and was originally enclosed in a temple, until a typhoon destroyed the temple. So since 1495 it has just been sitting in the open air with some surrounding areas for worship. The statue is 37 feet high. Just its eyebrow is over 4 feet long and the ear is over 6 feet. The area around it is tree-filled, and like Kamakura in general, the mountains are visible from at least three sides. Considering it resides in a small city, it is a true oasis. A few years ago when my friend, professor and mentor, Dulce, was visiting, she and I went and sat on a rock by the side of the statue and just stared up at it for what seemed like hours. By the time we stood to leave, it was after 5pm; the sun was beginning to set and the area was nearly silent so we didn’t need to talk. The serenity was palpable.
However, on that particular trip, as we got up, I happened to take one last look at the front of the statue – there were about ten or twelve people there, all of them staring upward, with one arm up, holding up their mobile phones to take a photo. It was absurd. Here was a figure from the 11th century, and people in the twenty-first century are flashing their mobile phones at it. Dulce and I sat down to recapture the mood and stayed until the guard kicked us out because the temple closed at 6pm. Tourists or not, no one was going to disturb our inner – and outer – sanctum.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Adventures of the Golfing Variety
The idea is to set yourself up and take as many shots as you’d like. You pay by the ball and the machine automatically deducts from your declining balance card. Every time you hit one ball, another pops right up. It’s easy to forget how many balls you’ve already hit! Thankfully, the machine keeps track of each one.
There are, of course, the omnipresent vending machines of every drink under the sun, from milk to water to cups of various sodas and sports drinks. Near the entrance however is an interesting vending machine that sells golf gloves. There is a ring of them on the machine to try on so that you make the proper choice out of the machine. Of course, this interesting vending machine is situated strategically adjacent to the cigarette vending machine.
No trip to anywhere in Japan would be complete without oshibori, the hot washcloth. Right before you leave there is a cabinet full of them and you can use one free of charge to clean up before leaving. After the exertion of the swing, the towel is most welcome.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Adventures in Parenting
Bailey calmly looked at her and working very hard to control himself, practically whispered, "no, we'll do this one again."
There was something in his voice that said there was no arguing with him. I didn't intervene and the teacher, with raised eyebrows simply hit the play button on the cd player once again for the same song.
This time he played it perfectly.
I'm proud of him for his perseverence. I think that type of attitude: work hard until you get it right - will take him far in life. I just don't want him to be a little perfectionist or be too hard on himself. Would it have been better for him to have simply gone on to the next song? The teacher obviously knows that he can play that particular song very well. At what point do you have to say "oops" and simply move on? And how on earth do I explain that difference to my nine-year-old son?
When he was a baby and he would get hurt, I could kiss it and make it better and life was good. We have been learning of late that as Bailey grows, there are some hurts that even a mommy can't make better. This is hard work indeed. But I wouldn't trade it.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Sunday morning flowers
Monday, April 20, 2009
An Ode to my Toilet
Friday, April 3, 2009
The trip to Bali was, for lack of a better word, amazing. It was the perfect combination of sightseeing and relaxing. We walked through ancient caves; we washed our hands in holy water; we walked through part of the Indian Ocean to get to the temple of Tanah Lot; we fought monkeys to see a cliffside temple; we crawled through bustling, teeming markets; we marveled at rice paddies terraced into the side of a mountain; we admired handmade crafts; and we even shopped a little.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Third Culture Kids (From Thursday March 19th)
Today I am tired. I’ve been under a lot of stress vis a vis the Third Culture Kid Seminar, planning the Bali trip, Passover fast-approaching, (I’m doing it for the kids’ school too – 150 kids for a mock-seder) the JCC rabbi search and the charity essay contest on which I’m working. But the seminar today made so many relevant points that I want to mention a few of them so that perhaps the people around me will understand where I’m coming from.
The talk was by psychologist Elizabeth Gillies. She’s is a British woman who has been an expat in various countries for her whole adult life. She works with the local English-language counseling center and with international schools across Tokyo. Here are a few things that she pointed out:
First: the definition of a Third Culture Kid is any person under the age of 18 who has grown up in a culture other than that of either of his or her parents. Some researchers might add that the Third Culture Kid takes the best of the culture of his or her parents and the best of the “host” culture and then creates his or her own “third” culture.
- There are many positive aspects of being a Third Culture Kid, according to the research. Among them are:
1. Being smart, alert, and globally aware
2. Mature, sensitive and excellent listeners
3. Tolerance and cross-cultural understanding
4. Flexible and open to change
5. High achieving
- Third Culture Kids are more likely to have an intact family where both parents have advanced degrees. Statistically the family moves for the job (government, military, missionary, business) of the father. Often the mother is a “trailing spouse” with perhaps her own issues surrounding that term.
- The father for whom the family moved quite often has a high-level job and works long hours. Sometimes there are issues integrating him into the family after business trips or even on the weekend when he hasn’t been around all week. Patience is mandatory!
- There are many drawbacks to being a Third Culture Kid. Among them are:
1. They feel “different”
2. They gravitate to those like themselves
3. Delayed adolescence
4. Migratory instinct
5. Rootlessness, restlessness
6. Unresolved grief
- Adolescence is a time when kids typically rebel against parents as a way of asserting independence. In the case of the TCK, often they don’t feel the need to do it until much later – perhaps after they move out of their parents’ house even. It’s about identity separate from the family unit. The opportunities to rebel in a “normal” fashion are not present in the culture that is not the “home” culture. In addition, many TCKs have a lot of independence due to location and/or maturity, so that there’s not as much to rebel against.
- Grief can be a large part of the TCK experience, unfortunately. The experience of leaving home and leaving friends can be traumatic. The transitory nature of the communities in which we live can cause grief with the constant loss of friends to new assignments. Teaching the kids about grief and that it’s normal to be sad is part of our job in parenting TCKs.
- Resilience can be taught. There is such a thing as “the new normal” – and that’s what we focus our energies on achieving, even as many of our friends leave and rotate.
- A common thread for TCKs is that they “feel” different from the rest of the kids they meet in their home countries. They often feel that they no one truly “gets” them. The same goes for adults who live in a foreign country.
- Often the extended families of expats are thousands of miles away and in varying time zones which make communications difficult so the nuclear family becomes the focus.
- Research shows that a family living abroad is necessarily more interdependent and tight-knit than the typical family living in their home culture. That is not to say that we don’t know some families with amazingly close nuclear families in the U.S. – it’s just to point out that many expat families don’t have the extended family around on which to rely, and often rely more on each other. This is also not to make light of our extended family.
- Our children need their extended family relationships to be strong and stable. This was a big point of the seminar. We love the fact that we can call you and go to you in the summer. It makes the kids feel more grounded and in touch with their own culture.
- Though we call Tokyo “home,” TCKs need a sense of home that is beyond Japan. For us it’s obviously America – we are American after all is said and done. For this we rely on our extended family and fantastic friends. Friends are a stabilizing force for our kids and they need to know that the people they loved and cared about when we lived there are still there loving them and caring about them. We are lucky that we have so many people who do love us and care for us.
- TCKs need to connect with people like themselves and friends that they’ve had in Japan (or other host culture) who have moved away.
- Whatever we do, we are doing our best. It is hard for you to understand the ups and downs of our particular life and we appreciate that you try.
These are the main points of what I took away from the seminar today. We’re going to have a follow-on one about the idea of resiliency in the coming months. I hope it’s as successful as the one today.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The Art of Dining
The Upper elementary class of the kids' school was the international school of choice this year by the charity Refugees International to participate in their fundraising event, the Art of Dining. The kids created a table setting and then showed it at the Westin Hotel Tokyo amid other tables by organizations, chefs and artists. The Japanese Emperor's sister-in-law, Princess Hitachi, was on hand to view the settings. She stopped and spoke with the children and shook their hands. Bailey was simply thrilled! Enjoy the photos of the kids, the Princess, and a few of the other tables.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Sport Stacking Japan
Sport Stacking is a great sport for eye-hand coordination, rhythm and other great skills. There are official stacks and times and "fouls" - rules and regulations. Bailey participated in an all-Japan tournament and did wonderfully - a medal and a trophy! He and his friend Shin-Won even did a doubles entry. Enjoy the attached photos.