Sunday, August 24, 2008

get a cup of coffee and settle in for lots of news...

updated 26 Aug, new photos added

My apologies for not posting any news for so long. So many readers have told me how much the news from our family helps them feel closer, even though we are on the other side of the world.
Where do I begin? Swim lessons have ended, thank goodness! Base schools start back Monday the 25th, so we are making plans to get out and see what we can since the crowds will have dissipated. Story time at the library isn't scheduled for the whole month of August. We have begun the sign up process for Simon and Mia to take violin lessons on the base. Hopefully we'll have an early lesson time so we can do story time and violin on the same day. I am looking forward to being home nearly everyday of the week and working on a few skills with the kids (don't say the 'c' word - curriculum, ewww!) A few times a year I do like to check a list of what's age appropriate for each kid and try to work those skills into our daily life.

But the last few weeks have been busy with new Japanese friends. There was the Manta Matsuri (festival) at Manta Park near our house. We all took our own cameras to capture what we could of the little Japanese boys dancing with drums, and the little girls in their summer kimonos with their dance. There was a stage at one end of the park, and booths and tents with games and local festival food at the other end, with open area in the middle for watching, milling about, sitting (although it was wet from recent rains.)

We had a great time, staying till after dark. We gave each kid a 100 yen coin and they each bought a cup of shaved ice with strawberry syrup.
And while we were standing there waiting for the last one, a Japanese woman approached who seemed to recognize us. Indeed, we had met once before in the street at the end of our block. She is an Air Force wife (heretofore referred to as My New Friend - MNF) who lives in an apartment on the opposite side of the park from us. She speaks English and her boys, 4 and 8 years old, can understand English, but are timid to speak it. We chatted for quite a while, wandering over to the basketball court to watch the teenage boys (and maybe one or two girls) break-dancing! Oh how I regret not getting pictures, although videos would have been better, the light from the streetlamps was poor. These dancers were amazing! I also discovered that this new friend is a fellow crochet-er and she makes these amazing basket-style handbags. We eventually had to get home, but she offered to take us to the Awase Fish Market, which we had heard about but had not been able to find.

So the following Wednesday after swim lessons, she came to pick us up and we went over. She brought another woman who also lives nearby, and Mia and she were fast friends (Mia's blond hair serves her well). Mia and this woman wandered down the end of the market while MNF and I looked over the organic veggies, the fresh whole fish, grains, bottled sauces, etc. When we made it down to the end where there was a small restaurant, we found Mia and Rosa-san munching from a big grease stained bag of deep fried octopus tentacles! On the way to her van, we popped into a tent filled with tables of books. They appeared to be all about local (Okinawan) subjects - Chas bought a reference card about tropical fish, which was written in Katakana, and Simon bought a hardcover children's storybook, about a town in the northern part of the island. It is written in mostly hiragana, with a few katakana and kanji translated into hiragana. We may be able to read it one day! This same day we also went for a quick stop in at Comprehensive Children's Park, just to see where it is. We fed the ducks, fish and pigeons, before heading home to cool off and rest.
We made a date with MNF to go to Mona Kids Jungle the following week on Wednesday. I invited Yoko (whose husband works with Tim) and MNF had invited two other Japanese women, one of who is my neighbor to the rear and has a 10 y/o girl and 7 y/o boy, and the other is a Marine wife who lives just up the hill (and crochets too) and has two boys ages 10 and 8 and one girl age 5! We had a grand time at Mona Kids, a giant indoor play area like at a McDonalds, but way bigger. Three hours playtime for only 600 yen per kid. Plenty of seating for moms; these ladies I was with looked like professionals as they marched right in and gathered up enough tables and chairs for our rather large group, brought out their yarn projects and just chilled out. We talked about where to buy yarn, the difference between Japanese and American crochet patterns, the merits of project polygamy vs. monogamy, and about the knitting group that meets at Starbucks on the west coast of the island every 2nd and 4th Tuesday nights. Lunch was available, although the food, according to the women I was with, was 'nothing special.' They had choices of soba, curry, onigiri, and, of course, corn dogs and french fries (did I mention there were lots of American women and children there?)
After we left Mona Kids, MNF and the other neighbor came by to see the house (good news - the housekeeper had been by for the biweekly cleaning). Interesting bit here: MNF thinks that the house was added on to sometime recently. It is a big house for the neighborhood, definitely bigger than most Japanese homes (we knew that.) She thinks that the master bedroom upstairs was originally the porch, and had been closed in, and that the bathroom was added on too. And downstairs, the built in desk area and large closet behind our kitchen were added on later too. It is amazing to think how small the house would have been without these extra areas. So there were seven kids in the house. My kids room served them all well enough, and they even managed a game of hide and seek. And our three kids were more than happy to clean it up (all by themselves) later that night. They were exhausted, though.
Mias birthday party was this past Saturday, and we had guests - our first dinner guests - Shawn and Yoko and their kids. Check out the movie...

They are coming back over to visit today - should be here very soon. We gave Momo a birthday gift of crochet books and hooks and some yarn. So she and I (and her mother, who helped translate) found a quiet corner to work on it late in the afternoon. She had a good long bit of crochet chain finished but it was uneven. Generally, I say keep your mistakes so you can go back and look at them. Shawn pulled them out for her, she was angry with him, but she soon had another chain just as long and more even than the first. This worked better for the next step which is single crochet and is performed by sticking the hook through the stitches in the chain. Before they had to go she had five or six beautiful single crochet done and was very excited to come back today and work some more. I am glad for the company.
one more thought then I'll let you go... because you probably need a bathroom break by now.
Tomorrow, MNF and the other Marine wife who was at Mona Kids with us will come with me to the knitting group at Starbucks. MNF has also told me about a Starbucks on this side of the island. Inside a giant extended version of a grocery store. There are two floors of store and three floors of parking. The store has everything from books (where I found Momo's crochet books) to clothes to groceries to household items. Plus an arcade and a stage area where I presume they have performances of some type. Aaaaaaannndd.... a Starbucks, where I have invited some ladies from Okinawa Hai to meet me on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays to chat and knit or crochet and consume legal stimulants.

Okay. That's all. Well not really, but, anyway...
Hopefully I can keep up with blogging a little better instead of this marathon style, which is quite exhausting, for both of us I am sure.


The Wilson Family said...

Happy Birthday Mia. She is so big!!!Devin was watching and he said this makes me get a tear in my eye and I asked him what makes him get a tear and he said I remember going to her house last night,then he said I dont want to watch it again. So sweet. Love you guys

The WilsonFam said...

Sounds like you've been busy lately!!! Thats exciting that you met some fellow crocheters. I am expecting to getting a knitting urge anyday know...havent been interested lately?? Love ya and miss you all