Saturday, May 28, 2011

Super Typhoon

They've been saying on the news that the rainy season in Japan came a couple weeks sooner than usual this year. Well apparently it came with a major bang in the form of a super typhoon that's supposed to plow over okinawa today. But with the rainy season here, you know what that means...

Shogun! Bring out the umbrella brigade!!

I've determined that Japanese are, contrary to popular belief, descendants of the wicked witch of the west. Whenever it even so much as mists, every person in this country whips out umbrellas sometimes out of nowhere!

Ok actually theres an old wives tale in Japan that if you get caught in the rain you'll catch a cold. Apparently this is super effective (50 dmg!), because you can generally spot the foreigner as the only person in a crowd without an umbrella.

Here's an example - one evening on my way home from the supermarket, I was was waiting at a stoplight while it was a tad bit sprinkling out. In front of me stood a mother and her two young children, both huddled under their (slightly overweight) mom. When the boy got tired of trying to fit underneath the umbrella (which didn't seem that effective anyways), he stepped out for a moment, only to have his mom quite literally yell,


Now don't get me wrong, I commend her for being a good mother, it's just that from my position and given that it was barely raining it seemed somewhat silly. By the way, I had no umbrella at the time, hah.

You should see the scramble crossing in Shibuya when it's rainy out though. It really looks like two umbrella armies clashing against each other. I'll have to find and post a video later.

Edit: Delivered!

Anyways, although theres been a ton of talk on the news about generators and solar panels selling like hotcakes, so far no updates on whether or not we're going to be doing planned outages in the summer or not. The whole country is pretty much in full blown energy saving mode, with trains and stores cutting the lights still. I have a feeling we might just barely get by since the culture is incredibly cooperative, but we'll see. Fortunately it's still cool outside, so I'm trying to enjoy our current cool weather + electricity situation while I can.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Two Good Weeks

Well I kind of disappeared for a couple weeks there, but for good reason. It's been a rough year for my family. We lost my mom's best friend less than a year ago, my grandpa 6 months ago, and my grandma just recently. It's been really strange being on the sidelines on the other side of the world. I can email, IM, and Skype till I'm blue, but that's still not quite the same as actually being there.

But I was able to be there for these past couple weeks, and it was really great. I haven't spent that much time in the US in over a year, and not that much time at home for a couple years. The last couple times I've gone home as well I was usually busy the entire time with family and/or holiday events, giving little free time. Combine that with the jet lag that I would usually get used to just before I went home again too.

This time was a little different though. And while in town, I was able to do all those American things I've been missing - like ribs, pizza, beer, ranch dressing, bbq sauce, buffet, tex mex, cereal, etc... I was also get some much needed shopping in, you know, at stores where the clothes and shoes fit me. I also stopped at the supermarket and bought a few things... like... 20 lbs or so groceries I brought home... What?! You can't get this stuff over here!

Also, all you can eat ribs!

And a good ole American barbecue. Drool...

And finally, we had a ton of brush and fallen branches from some recent storms, so we had a huge bonfire in our backyard.

Complete with marshmallows.

Yea, it was good to be home.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

What a Week

This past week has been Golden Week in Japan, but for some reason or another I couldn't/didn't quite put together any plans to go anywhere and do something. I decided to not take any vacation days, and come in on the Monday sandwiched between this year's golden week, saving what vacation days I may want for a return trip to the US in Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Well, perhaps it was a good thing after all that I was without plans for this golden week. On Tuesday afternoon I learned of the sad news that my grandma, after a long 4 or 5 year battle with cancer, passed away at home, surrounded by my family. I'm told they sang Amazing Grace, my grandma said she loved them all, and within half an hour she had gone.

While I'm Indeed sad she's gone, and sad I couldn't be there with my family, at the same time I'm happy that she is at peace without pain, singing and dancing in heaven. I also had the means, and the time to get on a flight home the very next day, to be with my family. Within hours of hearing the news, I booked a ticket, packed up my things, cleaned up my apartment so it could sit for a week or two, and was out the door to a hotel near Narita Airport. Surprisingly the prices for tickets weren't too bad even though its Golden Week, but I bet that's because I left in the *middle* of GW. It's amazing how things seem to work themselves out like that.

So here I am, at home in Milwaukee, within 48 hours upon hearing of my grandma's passing. How grateful I am to be here. And of course I'm getting my fair share of reverse culture shock again (geeze, what's up with some restaurant staff being so rude???). Although I was very happy to be able to just jump in a car for the first time in half a year, and start driving it as if I had been every day. I didn't even have trouble driving on the right side of the road.

Oh, and what was my first meal in the US? Golden Corral baby. Nothing like all you can eat unhealthy American buffet. Oh the ranch dressing, the toppings, the cheese, the pizza, buffalo wings, bbq wings, fried chicken wings, chips and dip, fish fry, potato salad, pasta salad, cheesy potatoes, cheese cake and ice cream!! Sure glad I was able to destroy my stomach on the very first day..... nah, it was worth it.

Anyways, I'm not here for all of that (but am still enjoying what I can). I'm here because it's important for me to be here, for my grandma, and for my family, who were also very happy to see me. Actually, my house in Milwaukee is a rather unique situation where my grandparents, aunt, uncle, and 2 cousins all live in the same house. When I was in high school, that made 9 of us total (including me). But this was nothing new to my grandma who raised 7 children on the farm. So as my grandparents lived with us for... wow 10 years or more, we as a family were very very close to them. Having her gone is very difficult for us all. The distance, with being on the other side of the world and all, is also strange. I'm just so glad the world can be a small place after all if you make the effort.

More information on my grandma on her caring bridge site for anyone interested.

Gonna miss you grandma.