February 23, 2008

Catching Up

We are all falling into nice routines here in Japan. After dropping the kids at school, Ilena usually has the time to head to the gym, do her StarFish work (still working on the Japan Tour!), and to catch up with people back home by phone or email. She also has stayed really involved in the kids classes, volunteering to come into school to help out in the classroom for certain special activities and class trips. Ilena has also signed up for some neat local activities, including a hiking trip this coming Monday and an Ikebana class (the Japanese art of flower arranging) starting in April. Mike has gotten into a nice groove at work, which is busy and extremely interesting. While he has yet to be successful in locating a pick-up basketball game (still looking and there is a possibility through the school...maybe), he tries to hit the gym in the evenings a few times a week.

Today, Jacob had his Yoga class and a special session of Soccer at the local Stadium. Here are some pictures:

The kids bike or scooter everywhere, hit the playgrounds, and are starting to have play-dates with kids from their class. Lauren got invited to a classmate's birthday party in early March.

Between their school and Ilena being around to devote so much time to the kids, both kids are positively exploding with growth and learning. Its quite amazing to watch. Lauren is sitting and doing 48 piece puzzles all by herself, coloring at Jacob's level, and singing long songs that she has learned in school. Jacob is mastering reading all sorts of words, learning complex (it seems!) math concepts like symmetry and fractions, and is able to explain many of the workings of the human body (like how the brain tells the muscles to move, what red and white blood cells do, etc.). Best of all, he daily plays soccer and frisbee with Japanese school kids at the park who are twice his age, who must regard him as somewhat of an entertaining novelty. Jacob and Lauren are also playing really nicely together.

The multi-culturalism of our experience has also been so interesting. Through Mike's job, he has encountered people from all over the world, and Jacob and Lauren's classes are like a mini-United Nations. On the food side, Jacob has now expressed a love of Furikake on his rice at dinner now. And before every meal, Jacob (when he remembers) makes us all say Itadakimasu (what Japanese people say before mealtime).

This Friday, we had a nice Shabbat dinner when Mike got home from work. He picked up a mini-Raisin Loaf and we lit Shabbat candles, said the blessings on the wine (juice), the pseudo-Challah (bread), and the blessings on the children. It was really nice.

One last interesting experience to share was that of buying tickets to the Hanshin Tigers baseball game in late March. As we previously discussed on our blog, Japanese convenience stores (konbini) are ubiquitous. It turns out that not only can you drop mail packages and pay utilities bills there, but you can also pay for and pick up baseball tickets at these stores. Mike purchased the tickets online (after a lengthy internet registration process that was made lengthier by the fact that it was written in and required entry of data in Japanese!), and Ilena went to our local Lawson's, which has an ATM-like machine that you can pick up the tickets from (of course also requiring some Japanese!). With the help of co-workers and the Lawson's clerk, we now have tickets in hand. The use of convenience stores as a national distribution platform is really smart.

(By the way, speaking of baseball and Japan, check out this prank that the Philadelphia Phillies played on one of their young pitchers; they told him he was traded to the Japanese league!)

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I can't wait to eat Furikake! Maybe the kids will grow up to be food critics.