Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I did it!

I got behind the wheel of our van. Then I turned it on and actually drove out of the driveway. Followed my neighbor (because we were going to the church.) Picked up my friend Memri on the way and actually got there without causing any physical harm. Memri was my co-pilot, telling me when I was too close the the "wrong" side of the road, etc... Her dad taught driver's ed so that means "genetically speaking" that I had an official driving instructor. wink wink

Talk about nerve racking. I found myself leaning over to the left (those of you who have seen me play video games know I get into it.) It took a lot of concentration but whew -- the first time is over. Now if only Ryan would just hit a curb or a pole before I do.


A new favorite restaurant. Tongkatsu is a pork cutlet breaded and deep fried. What's not to like? The experience is half the fun though. This restaurant is a family business. Grandpa does the deep frying and his sons (who look to be in their 50's/60's and the Japanese age well so that could mean they are 80) keep the place running. You walk in and are seated around the main area. There is no number system. They just remember the order that you came in. We sat for about a half an hour watching the whole thing. You can order the pork cutlet with or without lots of fat. Without please. It is served with a pile of cabbage and maybe lettuce some "blow smoke out your ears" hot mustard and a sauce. On the side: rice bowl, cucumbers and miso. Amazingly everybody ate it. I was a little worried about Ben because you just have to mention the word fat and he shies away.

The place was hoppin'. Pretty reasonable for Tokyo too.
***** rating in the Young guide to fine dining.

Just made me laugh...

People are paying some big bucks for good old American JUNK!

Where every teenager wants to go . . .

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Our soccer player

I mentioned that Nathan was playing soccer two days a week. He stays after on Mondays and Wednesdays. He gets home around 5:30. He loves it! (Notice the excitement in his face! -- he really does love it.) Here he is in all his gear.

Fish on a stick . . .

These were some of the tasty morsels that were available at the Hachiman shrine. See Ryan's blog post for better pictures and a little more information.
The bananas on a stick actually didn't look too bad. They would have been much better had they been frozen. There were all kinds of stalls with interesting food, crafts for kids and crazy things. My favorite was this one. . .
Ignore the guy in the lower right corner. I saw a group of girls with these mylar things. They also had long straws. I thought it was some new fangled juice bags that were HUGE. I stood and watched them for a few minutes and pretty soon the girls all had their straws in. They all inhaled and started talking like Donald Duck. They were selling Helium. It was hilarious!!

Costco. . .

Since we now have our driver's licenses and a rental van we decided to head out to Costco. It is "supposed" to be about an hour away. Two hours later we arrived. Did I mention that we were also testing out our Japanese Navigation system. It's all in Japanese. Ryan had one lesson so he thought he could input the data. Luckily we don't have to input addresses. Just zip codes or phone numbers. Apparently it is high tech enough that it can find your destination from that info. It did work but I think it was in "cheapest" route mode. You can pick fastest route, cheapest, etc. The freeways all have tolls, thus the cheapest route option. We paid only about 7.00 because then we were instructed to take frontage roads. 

Our quick trip turned into a 6.5 hour adventure. Ryan claims he is never doing that again. Hope that navi remembers so it can get me there!! They did sell the exact same stuff at the food court though so that was fun. Sometimes you just can't beat pepperoni pizza from Costco. Sad, I know. 

I was a little bored during the ride so I took a picture from the "passenger" side. Notice the wheel on the right. I have yet to test out my abilities. Wish me luck!

Shabu Shabu

I'm sorry that this is another food post but you have to see some of it to appreciate the whole experience. We went out to dinner with some new friends. They introduced us to Shabu Shabu.
Essentially  you boil the meat and vegetables in a pot of boiling water and then dip it in a couple of different sauces. It was yummy. The meat is just thin enough with not much fat so I like it. Ben on the other hand was gagging after the first bite. I'm afraid I have passed on some of my bizarre meat issues. . . We also had to stop at Wendy's for Nathan. Spence loved it enough to make up for his brother's lack of taste. It was all you can eat and boy did he eat!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I have a valid Driver's License . . .

Ryan took the morning off so that we could go and get our licenses. We were hoping it would be fairly easy. Because we are the proud owners of Dutch driver's licenses we were able to just trade them for a Japanese version. Thank goodness. Apparently taking the written test is fairly easy but the driving test is a nightmare! Since I don't do so well under pressure in my own country taking the test I was not excited about the prospects. Some of you may even remember that I failed the first time at 16. . .

Anyway after studying our US passports and Dutch driver's licenses the man decided that we were okay to drive. chuckle. Little does he know that I have never driven on the left side of the road before. oh well.

The office was in the "burbs" of Tokyo. It took us a minute to figure out what trains to ride, etc. . always an adventure. We made it out of the train station and then Ryan had instructions that he had downloaded that seriously went something like this. Walk out of station. Turn Left. Go straight. Continue walking. Watch for Red Arrow. Cross street. We found it.
This is the IMPOSING building.

As we were walking this is one of the funny signs I saw. Pretty obvious what it means. There are signs all over the city explaining various "rules."

Three hours later I got my license. Not as hard earned as some of my friends but I will take it!
If you notice the birth date in the upper right hand corner it says 42/6/28. That is my Imperial birth year. I was born in Showa 42. I just like the ring of Imperial Birth year. Although I don't really like the fact that it appears I am in my 60s.

After our exhausting day Ryan and I went to lunch at an Indian Restaurant near his work. He had been talking about the Nan bread so I had to try it out.
You can see from the picture that the Nan is HUGE. We each got one. They are not to be shared. It was hot and so good. There was a sign in the window of this restaurant that was interesting. It said BYOB and went on to explain (in English and Japanese) that due to religious reasons the owners would be happy to have you bring your own alcoholic beverages in but you would be served a disposable plastic cup to drink it out of.

I made my way home alone and got a kick out of the sign in the station.

After that fun experience with Nathan in the train smashed up against all those men I am wishing I would have found this pink car. No men allowed during certain "rush" hours.

Here are some random pictures of the furniture in the living room. Although I really love that chair holding the DVD player we are trying to figure out a new solution.

This is a close-up of the love-seat that was delivered the day our stuff was being packed up and shipped to Tokyo. The picture above it is something I just love. There was a furniture store in Nuenen that was going out of business. I just happened to wander in. Big mistake. I always find something when I am not looking for it. It is a ceiling tile (hand painted) from a 1908 building in Antwerp, Belgium.

We have Spencer's Back to School Night this evening. He is strangely excited for us to meet his physics teacher. I think he wants some validation that the man is a "freak" as he puts it.

Ben continues to tolerate school. His least favorite class is Math which of course gives him the most amount of homework. We love Fridays!!

Nathan started "after school" soccer yesterday and rode the late bus home alone. He has his mobile phone now so his confidence level has increased. Not that I could help him if he were to get lost but he could at least hear my voice. He gets home at 5:30 on Mondays and Wednesdays. Makes for a long day since they leave at 7:30. He loved it though!! I'll try to get a picture because he loves being "decked" out in his "football" gear. All matching of course!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Whew . . .

Where does time go? I have been accused of being a bad blogger. Yowza. One thing after another. I have been taking a few pictures so I will post them all today.

Descriptions are underneath photo. I hate when I go to a blog and can't figure out which picture goes with what description . . . haha

This is a picture of my lunch! Yum. All the grocery stores have rows of things like this. Some I have no clue as to what they contain but this didn't seem to have any "mystery" ingredients. I thought the noodles would be like Korean Chop Chae. The noodles are the same but this was cold and very tangy. It was good. The sushi was delicious.

This is a picture of Nathan and Ella. Ella is our upstairs neighbor. She and her brother Anthon, who is in the picture below, came to hang out for a while. Nathan just LOVES being the "older" one. He is so cute with them and loves to play with them. There isn't a day that goes by that he doesn't ask if he can go upstairs to see them. I don't always say yes but he always asks!!

We are on the escalator leading out of the subway. On our way to finally get cell phones. We had to go through a number of different processes to get them. First we had to have an alien card. That takes a few weeks. Second a bank account and finally money in the bank account!! The boys have been asking since we landed in Tokyo when they could get their phones. Finally the big day. We met Ryan at the Softbank store in Omotesando after work. We had heard that we should plan on a few hours. They weren't kidding. Two hours later after we had finally picked out phones and handed over our alien cards, passports, bank acct. info, blood type (just kidding) the girl behind the counter inputting all the data gets a really funny face. She asks Mr. Ryan for all of the information again. I look sideways at the boys -- just be patient soon you will have your phone. Poor girl inputs all of the info again and pushes a button and poof. She swears. Funny how even in Japanese I could tell what she was saying. Immediately as if by the push of a magic button, two managers and the main English speaking helper surround us. They tell us that their computer system shuts down at 9pm and they will have to finish the processing in the morning. Ugh. Not what anybody wanted to hear. The boys were so bummed. Anyway, next day I went back and sat down and waited. Pretty soon I get the bag with 4 phones but then I also got gift certificates to spend at local stores and we also got a Wii. Now we are hoping these things were because of the inconvenience and not because we got some really fancy phones!! We'll repost after we get the first bill!!

This last picture is of the poor girl who has to stand out in front of the store and "sing" talk her little Softbank speil (sp??) No written script she just chants for about 20 minutes straight.

In other news I have a new calling. I am in YWs over the MiaMaids. I love that age. There are only two of them. The laurels have 4 girls and the Beehives have about 9. They are meeting at our house this week. They wanted milkshakes and to watch the Office. Still working on how that can fit into Personal Progress!

Ryan had yesterday off as it was "Respect for the Aged" day. Gotta love that. We thought we would explore the area a little more. We headed out for a walk and ended up going all over the place. It was fun. Only bummer was that all the shops were closed, as they were showing their respect! The boys didn't think it was fair that he got the day off and they didn't. They only get the U.S. holidays and none of the Japanese ones. Exact opposite of school in Holland. They keep asking me when they get a break from school. Because school in Holland was more like year round they would have had a holiday coming up. They were really bummed to hear that Christmas is the next one of any significance. Although they do get a long weekend for Thanksgiving.

That's enough for one post. chat soon.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Today I bring you . . .

The front entry way!!

This is facing the front door and looking left.

This is with your back to the front door. Sorry about the flash. Obviously Ryan didn't take the picture! The door to the left is the entry "powder" room. Off limits to boys unless there is a DIRE emergency.

Back to facing the front door and to the right. The SHOE/game closet.

Last but not least a peak into the hallway.

I wasn't kidding when I said I was SLOW getting things setup. I am making progress though. We hopefully will have a TV this weekend so you can see the living/family room. Maybe I can get the boys to make their beds so you can even see their rooms.

We have two air conditioners in this apt. One for the "living" side and one for the "bedrooms." The bedroom side hasn't been working properly so we had a repairman in yesterday. When he opened up the airco it was covered in ICE. No wonder it hasn't been working. Last night was much cooler! I have to say the response time from the landlord is AMAZING. We have had a few minor issues since we moved in and they have been right on it. Hopefully it isn't just the "newlywed" phase. haha

More later.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Monday Morning trek to the bus. . .

Walking to the Bus Stop.

Waiting for the Bus.

You have to be quick with these guys. They weren't thrilled that I was taking pictures!
You can't see it but the air was thick this morning. Really muggy.
Spence had his first day at early morning seminary. 5:45 a.m. Fun stuff! Ben is anxiously awaiting his 14th birthday so he can go with his brother. haha

Some Pictures . . .

Okay here are a couple of pictures of our place. I still have to straighten up the rest of the apt. before I can take pics...
This is our elevator stopping on the second floor! 

This is the front door of our apartment.
More to come!! I told you I had to straighten up first.