30 September, 2015

Oat Cookies

I posted a photo of these cookies on Facebook today and a friend asked for the recipe. So I've typed it up here. It's very easy and much loved by my boys. I usually double it.

125g butter
¾ cup* brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup rolled oats

1. Turn oven to 180C.
2. Cream the butter and sugar.
3. Beat in the vanilla and the egg.
4. Sift in the flour and the baking powder.
5. Mix in the rolled oats.
6. Put teaspoonful lots on trays lined with baking paper.
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Makes about 30 to 40.

*Australian cup = 250ml

From Junior Cook by Mary Pat Fergus, 1982.

City Transport Profiles

It is normal here for shops to have bike parking.
This is a local department store.
I came across and interesting survey of transport in various large cities around the world (published last year). You can see the reported stats here.

It highlights how daily life in big cities is a vastly different experience depending on which city you live in. Just by looking at transport usage alone you see one element of difference (of course there are many others).

Tokyo (inner city part of Tokyo. This is not where we live, though I don't think it would be vastly different, perhaps more private transport?)

Pop: 9.1million
Area: 623km square
48% rail
23% walk 
14% cycle
12% private transport
3% bus


Pop: 4.8 million
Area: 12,368km square

6% rail
18% walk
Our local train crossing. With so many trains, there are lots of these to
negotiate if you drive (or even cycle).
?% cycle
68% private transport
6% bus
4% others (?ferry/cycle)

The only two other cities in the report with over 50% private transport: Chicago and Toronto.

Public transport is big in Bogota (53%), Guangzhou (49%), Hong Kong (81%), Mumbai (52%), Prague (43%), Seoul (65%), and Singapore (50%).

Cycling and walking are big in many cities, but not in North America or Australia, no surprise there. Cities in those places are often spread out. Central New York is obviously the exception.

It seems that people in Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijin, Guangzhou, and Seoul don't walk! 

No cycling recorded in Guangzhou, Sydney, Hong Kong, New York, Seoul, or Singapore. Some other places had 1% recorded for cycling.

Fascinating. I could fool around with these stats for ages, but other work beckons!

Kids Newsletter: orange and blue

Here's the kids' newsletter I've written for September. If you'd like a larger copy, please email me.

29 September, 2015

Going coconuts

One of the big adjustments I find always in coming back to Japan is what I can and can't buy. It's generally not the big things that generally drive me nutty, it's little things, like coconut.

Yes, I can buy coconut in my local store, but it costs just over AU$100 per kilo!

I also find meat a bit frustrating. My choices are different and more limited here. As is bread.

Oh, I miss Australian chocolates and other lollies* too.

Mind you a limit on yummy bread and sweets is probably good for my waistline. The rolls in Australia were hard to resist, but keeping the kilos off is far easier here in Japan. I've dropped back to my pre-home assignment weight without much effort at all.

Coconut frustrates me because so many of my biscuit, slice, and dessert recipes have coconut in them. Thankfully I know someone who knows where to get it, for a lot less than this! I put my order in today.

* Sorry to my non-British-English readers. Today I've slipped into Aussie-speak. "Lollies" many of you call "candy", biscuits are of course "cookies" in the US, and I haven't discovered a term that really covers "slice" but it probably could be called a "bar". A slice is cooked in one baking dish and cut up after baking, like brownies.

28 September, 2015

Posthumous to-do list

I get to the end of the day and the to-do list next to my computer remains about the same. It's easy to feel as though I've achieved nothing of consequence. Perhaps if I'd had a better, more detailed list, I'd feel better, so instead I'm going to write "posthumous" list what I've done:
Grocery shopping at my favourite local

  1. Hung out clothes.
  2. Attended/lead two one-hour prayer meetings for classes two of my boys are in.
  3. Listened to a friend/colleague's story of how well her son is adjusting to a new school.
  4. Bought groceries for the next few days. Hauled them home on my bike.
  5. Had lunch (yes, this is worthy of a note: looking after myself!).
  6. Started setting up a project management system to help with running the magazine I manage. Sent an email to my team about this new strategy.
  7. Helped a team member with a frustrating Dropbox storage problem.
  8. Answered or forwarded a bunch of emails related to (18 in total): 
    1. a prayer calendar project I manage, 
    2. a short-term ministry enquiry, 
    3. a question from a colleague about excess icing sugar she's going to sell me, 
    4. make decisions about the next magazine issue
    5. things my husband deals with (sent them to his work address)
    6. sorted out some advertising issues with the magazine
    7. my husband's birthday
  9. Decorated my husband's birthday cake.
  10. Found a missing pair of training shorts for a boy who stopped home on his way to cross-country practice.
  11. Put dinner in the oven.
  12. Started answering questions on a lengthy questionnaire pertaining to my Two Year Review for work.
  13. Checked Facebook (yes I did...)
  14. Washed up dishes.
  15. Refereed computer use and food consumption.
  16. Heard post-school stories (not as many as some mums, but worth mentioning because it doesn't always happen without torture—just kidding about the torture).
  17. Wrote a blog post.
Yes, I knew I'd done quite a bit, it wasn't easy to pin it down until I wrote it all down. My "hats" have been well used today!

27 September, 2015

Bits and bobs

This weekend David's been in Nagoya with other representatives from international schools learning and talking about Child Safety. I, meanwhile, got to support my older two boys at cross-country yesterday morning. 

This is the middle school boys. There were about 125 runners in this race. Overall we saw nearly 450 runners from grades 6 to 12 in six races yesterday morning. One big difference to Australia is that they don't race according to age. Just middle school and high school. The high school runners were divided into the A race and B races (aka Varsity and Junior Varsity).

It rained for about 24 hours before the races began, it was only misting, however by the time they ran. The course is a hilly combination of asphalt  rocky trails and dirt (aka mud). Yes, school colours are yellow and blue.

We've been getting a lift to the venue with new friends who live close-by. The mum's a middle school teacher at CAJ. They've got four children living with them here, one's in high school and came third in his high school race, despite being only in grade 9 (the lowest grade of high school). So in the van we had four kids and three adults yesterday. Lots of fun and noise! The three runners of our two families rode with the team in the school bus.
We stopped for the essential conbeni addition to lunch (convenience store). Eating salad with chopsticks isn't too bad.
Then last night the boys all went to spend a few hours watching a movie and playing video games with the same friends who shared their car with our youngest and me. I had a quiet evening! 

It's great having friends who have kids the same age, live close by, and don't mind hanging out with us. Leaving Australia and all my good friends there wasn't easy. So I'm praising God for new friends where we are.

Today we went to church and have basically hung around at home the rest of the day. I've done baking for the week to come and more washing-up than I'd have liked.

It's been a refreshing weekend for me (not for David, who returns home from his meetings in a couple of hours and goes back to school for four days tomorrow). I'm thankful and looking forward to a good week.

25 September, 2015

Tell Your Story*

One of the things that prompted me to get into writing back when my children were still very young was someone telling me at a missionary women's retreat that we needed to write our stories down. I still very much believe this, and you're seeing it here on my blog. 

I could write several stories about this old car. I don't know that
many of them are much more than entertaining. However,
this car is where I met my first Japanese person, where I first
learned that many Japanese women who become Christians
will not marry because they significantly outnumber
Christian Japanese men.
Many writers are aiming to have a book published. I may yet have such an desire, but at present I feel that my call is to tell not just my own story (via this blog and in various other short-formats like magazine and devotional articles) but to enable others to tell their stories.

I didn't not foresee becoming a magazine editor, but now I can see that that position is indeed enabling me to facilitate others to tell their stories. Every missionary has stories. But many missionaries struggle to find venues for their stories, so they generally don't bother. 

At least these days we missionary women have venues like velvetashes.com and thriveministry.org, but these are just sharing between women who are like us: women serving outside our home cultures.

But finding venues outside of that audience is hard. Believe me, I've searched for potential venues for short stories I've written about my life, and there aren't many with general audiences. Even less for non-Americans. Avenues for publishing missionary biographies aren't numerous either.

Missionaries are ordinary people who live in often extraordinary circumstances. Just this alone, without the call from God to do this, leads to interesting stories. Because missionaries are led by God to do these unusual things in unusual places we have much to learn from them. Their stories aren't just interesting, they are often challenging, entertaining or sobering, they often have spiritual lessons for us too.

I'd rather hear the story of a missionary in the Syrian crisis than something put together by a journalist, who might have biases we don't know about (or be forced to write from the perspective of his editor). Hearing from a missionary in that situation will take us into the hearts of the people, and hopefully something closer to the truth of what's happening on the ground (admittedly someone on the ground like a missionary might not have a bigger picture, something a journalist might be better at).

I know that my blog received many clicks during the disaster in 2011. People wanted to hear from someone on the ground. I did my best to write as someone who was on the edge of the disaster.

We humans are made for stories and storytelling. That's a big way that we learn. So I challenge you, no matter who you are or where you live, tell your stories. Seek to tell your stories to people who are like you, but especially to people who aren't. 

While we were in Australia I had the blessing to be a part of a ladies' Bible study that comprised of a number of women from different backgrounds to me. We had single mums, a lady going through divorce, a former drug addict, a lady who had narcissistic parents, a mum who's husband struggles with pornography, and others who struggled with depression, anxiety, migraines, a mum with a disabled child and women with parents in aged care, one who dropped in for a week or two who'd experienced Vanuatu's devastating cyclone, and me, who came from another perspective on many things.

You get the picture. We shared our stories as we went along, prayed for one another, struggled with each other's weaknesses, but generally supported and encouraged one another. It was a privilege to get to know these ladies, though their stories.

I want to challenge you to share your stories. No matter who you are or where you are, seek to share your stories with others, especially others who aren't like you. It won't be easy, but it is how we learn. It means that your stories and what you've learned from them, don't stop with you, but can help others to learn and grow. Your experience is unique, if you can, share it.

*This is in response to a writing theme prompt for this week on Velvet Ashes' The Grove, an online community of Christian women serving overseas.

23 September, 2015

At school all day

A slightly random photo of all my guys on an escalator on Monday.
Today is a crazy day. Called "Back to School" day it is a day where the parents go to school, meet teachers, find out about important stuff, and get exhausted. . . oh, I made the last up from my own experience of the day.
This is how I anticipate the day going:

7.40 David goes to school as usual
8.30 Boys #1 & #3 go to school (an hour earlier than usual on a Wednesday)
9.30 I go to school for the Middle school programme, leaving son #2 at home alone.
11.15 I go home again for lunch and touch base with son #2 before 
12.00 Son #2 goes to school and son #1 comes home. 
12.30 I go for the Elementary school programme.
2.00 I collect son #3 who finishes early and take him to childcare at school. Then go on an errand and then home for a short breather before:
3.30 I return to school for the High School Programme and Son #2 returns home. Son #1 goes to cross-country training at school.
4.50 I collect son #3 from child care and come home to collapse.
5.30ish Son #1 comes home.

What makes this look more complex is that we only live 300m walk from school, otherwise there would be a lot less to and fro from our house!

I think what I'm most dreading about the day is that there'll be lots of people to catch up with after a year away and lots of "So how was the year?" I might ask them back, "So how was the year?" and see how they go, that's a hard question to answer. It's a day when the introvert part of me cringes. There are also awkward encounters of people who know me, but I don't know them. Oh, and I have to do a tiny bit of public speaking.

I'll add more to this post after the day and let you know how it goes.

6pm update: The day turned out pretty similar to the above schedule, so that was good. I do feel a little washed out with information overload. It's hard not to let such days make you feel like a bad parent: there's no way I can keep track of everything my three boys are doing! I guess it's good for them I can't? They have to stand on their own two feet more than if there were just one of them. 

I also didn't have too many awkward exchanges, so that's something to be thankful for. My public speaking moment was very short, I hope it gave people the information they needed, but I figured they already had so much thrown at them that less was better.  

I'm glad we're having leftovers tonight. I'm too tired to cook. I can't see how families with two full-time working parents could manage home cooked meals every night. And glad my work is largely home-based so I can do that fairly easily most night. 

22 September, 2015


It's been a little busy over the last few days. We've had a 13th birthday, a cross-country meet, and an anniversary. 

This boy was my first child to opt for a non-traditional cake for his birthday. He had a hard time deciding, but eventually chose my ultra rich chocolate cheesecake.

His "big" present was really more of a family gift. It's a board game that he can't play on his own. The boys knew we'd bought it, they convinced me back in August when we visited a board game shop downtown. They collectively decided that waiting till Christmas was too difficult, so opted to ask if we could give it to them for their brother's birthday. A little weird, but the truth is that most presents around here end up being "ours" rather than "mine". Lego's a classic in this category.

On Saturday we went to watch the older two run cross-country races, as is our usual habit in September. I'm having difficulty trying to get good photos of the boys. This time I only managed to get a back shot!

 Here's another go at the end of the race. Large swathes of beautiful green grass like this aren't common in Japan. This was a special treat. Many runners enjoyed lying down on it after their race.

On Sunday we celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. Often it gets lost in the midst of a busy schedule and birthday celebrations (we have two birthdays as well as our anniversary in a space of ten days at the end of September). This time, however, it fell on a Sunday and we decided to make the effort to do something fun on our own. Mid-afternoon the boys went to the house of friends and played games/watched movies. 
We weren't sure where we were going, but hopped on the train and figured it out from there. It was unusual for us to do something with so little planning, but that added a fun element to it, one of the things we can't easily do with our boys is a trip like this without much planning. It ends up being way too stressful for all of us.

So we ended up in Roppongi, a well known area of Tokyo. There are many embassies there and the night-life is apparently popular. We were looking at trying a Swiss restaurant, but got there too early, so we wandered around till we found something both open and appealing. We ended up at an Egyptian restaurant. Trying something novel was fun.

The restaurant included a large TV screen, which was playing Sumo. We couldn't forget which country we were in.

What sort of food do Egyptians eat? We ate Nefertiti Salad, Falafel cakes, Egyptian Enchiladas, Perch, Mint Tea, and Cherry Juice. Accompanied by flat bread. Very tasty and not too much. I'd love to go back and try some other dishes, including the roast pigeon!

We decided to make it a progressive dinner and went for a stroll after our main course to find some dessert. We found a French Chocolate shop and enjoyed these ice creams, though the caramel ice-cream wasn't as sweet as I would have liked. Do French like their ice-cream on the bitter side?

18 years. Wow! What a privilege of forging a friendship and partnership over so many years. And we're looking forward to many more to come, Lord willing.

19 September, 2015

Ageing Japan

The problem of Japan's ageing and shrinking population is a hot topic in Japan. This CBN video (and article) is one of the English-language reports I've seen on the topic.* 

Here's a statistic for you: Japan's population has shrunk by one million in the last seven years! 25% of the population is now over 65 years of age. This is compounded by many Japanese people choosing not to be in relationships or have children.

What interests me even more about this is that at about 4 minutes in to the video our church and pastor here are featured (video footage of church as well as short segments of interviews with our pastor and one elderly couple in the congregation). 

I'm just starting to work on the next issue of the Japan Harvest magazine and our theme is "Silver Society". Looking at ministry with the older members of Japanese society. I'm looking forward to reading about what people are doing out there to reach that 25% of the nation.

*It's seven minutes long.

18 September, 2015

Adjust: it's a missionary's middle name*

Our prayer card.
Adjusting. That's a theme for the modern life, isn't it? We got used to CDs, and then there were iPods. Now we're just used to one version of Facebook and another turns up. Just when we get used to one teacher for our kids, the school year ends and it's a new teacher and a new schedule.

Adjusting in the missionary life is more frequent and often the adjustments are larger. For us this year we didn't just get new teachers and new schedules, we got a different school in another country. We've adjusted to a new house, new diet, new transport, new language. Of course, thankfully all these things for us aren't completely new anymore.

I just did a search of my blog using "adjust". I found lots of examples. Here's one from our time of adjusting back to Australia last year. These are the questions I mentioned in just that blogpost:
  • Where are all the people? 
  • Why is the iron so hot?
  • Why isn't it turning on?
  • What size are my kids, for that matter, what size am I?
  • How do you cook with an electric stove instead of gas?
  • What's my PIN number?
  • How fast can I drive?
  • What month is it again?
Just a couple of months ago we said goodbye to a whole fleet of friends and have been saying hello to a bunch of Japan-based ones. And made some new friends too. All of that takes adjustment.

Colleagues are constantly changing too in this cross-cultural lifestyle. My "boss" called this morning and asked about how we were. In the course of our conversation she mentioned these people who are in our team:
We’re missing Martin, Helen, and Wera at the moment.  Wera will return and then Mike will shift sectors when he deputises for Rosanne’s HA, so it is all comings and goings.
This is just a small slice of the change that characterises our work. Adjust, a missionary's middle name.

I don't pretend that that makes us special people, in fact I rather think it accounts for some of the high stress and attrition of our occupation. 

But I think it also helps to make us more flexible. Retired missionaries are, in my mind, distinctly different to those who've spent their whole lives in the same town. They've had a lot of adjustments to make in their lives and their characters are beautiful as a result.

*This is a writing theme prompt for this week on Velvet Ashes' The Grove, an online community of Christian women serving overseas.

17 September, 2015

A very important button

I don't drive a car anywhere near as much as I did in Australia (where it was often out of the garage multiple times a day). Here it isn't unusual to not drive it in a whole week or even two or three.

Even though we don't use it as often, we're very glad for our car. It enables us to go camping, go on holidays without hiring a car, take kids (ours and others) to inter school events, and go to Costco every other month to stock up our pantry. And provides an alternative form of efficient transport when we need to get to hospitals, conferences, retreats, or even, like today, to the shop when it's pouring rain. Put simply, it gives us more options and flexibility.

There is a very important button in our car (and probably most Japanese cars).

This button flattens the side mirrors against the car. Without this function, it would be hard for us to get out of the car into our house, or to get our bikes in and out of the carport. The width of the carport isn't great and we have four adult-sized bikes parked on either side of the car.

Public car parking often rely on you using this button too. There isn't always much room between cars and without people performing this public service of "retracting" their mirrors, it would be hard to negotiate ones way between parked cars.

16 September, 2015

Picking up the threads again

Now things have settled down for us medically I'm trying to pick up the threads of various things again. I started doing this a couple of weeks ago, but it all got put on hold for a bit there.

Magazine editing
High school cross country team in 2013.
I've been meeting with various key members of the editorial team over the last few weeks. I have one more person to meet with tomorrow morning. I'm getting a positive impression, though also a sense that a bit of housekeeping needs to be done. I'm so thankful for these busy people who've volunteered their precious time to run the magazine in my absence. 

But I'm still getting back into the game. Jumping into any job like this after someone else isn't easy. Especially when this job involves hundreds of email communications between people. Putting a magazine together involves many details, and getting a grasp of where everything is up to isn't easy. One detail missed can be a big problem, for example, an author who submitted an article but it wasn't published or an advertiser who submitted a change to their ad but it was missed. 

At least I'm picking up again, so many things I'd set in place before for the smooth running of the magazine I can pick up again. I feel sorry for those I left here during the year I was away. One, particularly, was doing it all for the first time. Ouch.

There have been other threads besides work to pick up. Even though we've come back to the same house, school, and virtually the same jobs, there have been changes. Being away for a year does make a different.

Relationships. I had coffee yesterday morning with an Australian friend, it was great to catch up and hear a bit about how transitioning their eldest daughter from CAJ to university in Australia has gone. She's just one, there are many others I haven't really touched base with yet.

Sports. Last Saturday we went along to the first cross country meet of the season. There have been changes. I was reminded during at least one conversation that we've missed a year.

School. There have been changes while we were away, and our boys have "skipped" a grade. Our middle son is now in middle school, which isn't exactly the same as when his brother was in middle school.

That's just the ones that come to mind. Yes, we're still settling and it takes time, patience, and discernment. But we're getting there (especially when everyone stays well).

15 September, 2015

What do you enjoy?

Today I give you my responses to a writing prompt I saw recently on Velvet Ashes, an online community of women serving overseas, in their The Grove, a weekly place to connect (but don't ask me which post particularly I found it):

1. What time of day do you enjoy?
I really enjoy baking, but only for a couple of
hours at a time.
I enjoy evening these days, after the work of the day is done and I can relax, often with my husband and often with a DVD of a TV series episode. I also love the end of the evening, which is reading myself to sleep. Ah, the luxury of a good book in bed!
2. Where do you enjoy being alone?
In my bedroom, but also when I'm shopping.
3. What do you enjoy doing with people?
Meeting for coffee one-on-one with good friends is one of my favourite things to do.
4. Which would you enjoy more: listening to music or listening to podcasts?
Depends on the music and podcast. But generally I'm bad at both, unless I have something else to do at the same time I get fidgety and have trouble paying attention. I love going to instrumental concerts, especially one that has lots of action on stage (like an orchestra or band). I tend to be bored by choral performances.
Enthusiasm for the food I make for my family
 is one of my favourite moments.
5. What do you enjoy that might surprise people?
Watching wrestling :D
6. What do you enjoy about the culture you live in?
Efficiency, generally speaking. For example, public transport. Politeness and great customer service.
7. What do you enjoy about your family?
I love their energy and sense of humour (most of the time). Boys can be so fun. I love having them enthuse over my cooking/baking.
8. What do you enjoy eating or drinking in the summer?
Stone fruit, watermelon, Japanese corn on the cob, iced coffee.
9. What do you enjoy about this season of life you’re in?
My own increased independence from the physical dependency of children. But also watching them discover their own passions and growth in independence.
10. What do you enjoy doing for others?
Befriending, hosting, welcoming new folk, networking, baking, just in general helping.

I won't "tag" anyone, but if you'd like to answer these questions for yourself in comments below, or on your own blog (and let us know that you have) that would be fantastic.

14 September, 2015

Stability is an illusion

Today I've been out most of the day meeting with people. A great day, but not for blogging. I found this blog post some time ago and it resonated with me: Longing for a better country

A quote:

But if there is one thing this life has taught me, it’s that I must hold loosely to everything.  Everything.  I can’t put down roots anywhere; I will never find stability.   Even if I spend my whole life here, I will never be allowed citizenship of this country.  I will never be allowed to own property here; I will never grow old in one house.  I may someday have to evacuate with the clothes on my back.  Or, I could just get robbed blind.
I’m reminded that I can’t love this life so tightly.  This life is not all there is, and it’s definitely not worth fretting over.  After all, can I ever ensure the protection of my earthly treasures?  Even if I was to live my entire life in one house in America, would I be guaranteed stability and safety?  It’s just an illusion, and my transient life as a foreigner helps me to remember that reality.
Today over lunch with Japanese friends safety came up. Is it safer in Australia or the US or Japan? Disasters continue to occur in Japan, for example, some freak flooding last week, and then an earthquake out in Tokyo Bay on Saturday morning. The prediction that "the big one" (earthquake) is coming to Tokyo soon continues to be proclaimed by authorities and the media.

But again I come back to the truth that safety is an illusion. I could be hit by a bus tomorrow. There are some things I can do to prevent that possibility, but I don't have 100% control over what happens.

Stability is also an illusion. I can set up a stable lifestyle. Do my best to provide routine and put my roots down as best I can. But as the author above says, my best isn't enough. We were heading for a nice level of stability a fortnight ago when one of my kids developed an infection that landed him (and us) in hospital. Bam. Stability in the short-term smashed.

As missionaries we are confronted more than many people by a lack of stability. Many missionaries are envious of the stability in our lives currently: that we've moved back into the same house that we lived in last term. Most missionaries don't get to spend more than four years in the same house.

There is a blessing in all this, though, it helps us to lift our eyes up and find our treasure, our security, stability in our Lord. To find peace in the midst of the knowledge that our safety could be at risk, we're thrown onto our Lord.

2 Samuel 22:32-34New International Version (NIV)

For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.

13 September, 2015

Slightly random photos from our week

You may have read about my unexpected week on Friday. As you know from your own life, there's always multiple layers of things happening in any life. Today I offer some photographs of other things I've encountered on my week. 

A couple of weeks ago I made Peach Sorbet in our ice cream maker. We've been gradually making our way through it. Pity that only one of the three boys like it. Actually, no pity, we've had it almost all to ourselves. Mmmm. Very yummy! 

The medicine our son was discharged with was powered. This is a typical way to deliver medicine, especially for children. However the taste was awful, he couldn't do it and we were facing a three-times-a-day battle (one of which was easy for him to avoid: the school nurse for the lunch-time dose). I found some empty capsule cases at a local drug store and that solved the problem...except that each dose filled 12-13 cases! And took several minutes to do.

I can't be thankful that he got a second lot of infection, but one thing it did solve was this medication problem. It turned out that the bug was resistant to these antibiotics and so when faced with different medication, I was clear that we wanted tablets or capsules, not powder.

I mentioned my visit to the doctor on Tuesday. I didn't tell you that it was a very wet day (as was most of the week). This doctor doesn't have a car park, but it isn't too far from our house or a local shopping area. So I donned my rain pants and jacket and rode over, put my name on their waiting list of patients to be seen, and did some shopping. 

I stopped at a convenience store and bought some coffee. There wasn't a convenient coffee shop where I could pass the time, nor did the convenience store have seats inside or out. So I stood outside the shop and consumed my coffee (it being on the rude side to walk and eat or drink in this country).

The next day was also rainy, the day I took our son back to the hospital because he'd developed an infection in his opposite ear. We've driven that route a number of times in the last two weeks and have noticed this car for sale. A one-seater ute! For a mere 220,000 yen (AU$2,570). Nice colour!

On Friday I took our middle son to the orthodontist to have his top braces fitted. The last two times we've taken the bus, but it's a simple route that takes about 30-40 minutes and I figured I could just as easily take the car, if I could find parking that wasn't too expensive. 

Yes, another medical/doctor's clinic with no parking. Actually that's more usual than unusual here. Generally you assume that there is no parking anywhere (that includes at people's houses) unless it's mentioned. And if you want to drive and it's not mentioned, you find out before you take your vehicle.

This is the little car park just up the road from the orthodontist. Actually one-block sized car parks are very common. Prices vary according to how close the the car parks are to high traffic area, like train stations and shops. This is reasonably priced: 100 yen for 20 minutes, or AU$3.50 an hour. When will cost the two of us $11.20 for the return trip by bus, I think I'll take the car. It's definitely more convenient and saves time (you leave when you want to and can't "miss the bus").

But this is by far the best photo. After the stress of getting out of hospital, then going back on Wednesday not knowing if our son would be admitted again, this anonymous present and note arrived at school that afternoon. It was a big surprise and such an encouragement. Also, very yummy.