31 October, 2016

Cross cultural communication in English

On Saturday after the cross-country finals we had lunch in the restaurant on the US recreation "base". An American restaurant with American friends. I was surprised at how much "translation" was required.

Our waiter was a trainee and drew a little diagram on his notepad to help him remember who ordered what. One of the Americans suggested after the waiter left that we could all switch seats. I said, with feigned admiration, "You're wicked!" That was met with confusion! We had to explain it meant "a bit naughty".

This led into a discussion about Australian humour, and that teasing, being "mean", or "paying out" was a sign of friendship.

Then another parent came over to say hi. He's an Aussie. His son had gotten a medal earlier so I congratulated him saying, "Good onya." That also required explanation for our American friends: "Well done"! 

Chips or fries? In Australia those words a synonyms (except at Maccas)
When the Aussie finished talking to us he said, "Well, I'll leave you to it!" That one also needed interpretation, it means "I'll let you get on with what you're doing."

The menus required some translation the other way. Hoagie rolls and Kaiser rolls! I'm still not really sure what they are. The waiter also asked if I wanted fries or chips. I looked at my friends and said, "Fries are hot and chips are cold, right?" They looked confused for a moment!

David was asked whether he wanted bacon or ham with his burger, he said, "ham" and deftly slipped in, "American bacon is too chewy!" (Lucky they let him get away with that virtual slander!)

Language is a fascinating thing. Finding Americans untouched by our brand of English can also be fun. But I'm still not interested in going to America, I think communication might be harder than I want to try.

We also discovered that none of them have tried Vegemite. I'm thinking we might need to do some more educating!

30 October, 2016

Final cross-country race

Yesterday was our eldest son's final cross country race with CAJ. He's been doing this since he was in sixth grade (barring the year we spent in Australia), so that's six seasons we've doing this. Here's one of my early blog posts about this yearly trek, here's one from our third season.

It's become our normal for Saturdays in September and October. I'm so glad that he's stuck with the sport and also that our younger sons have also taken it up. 

Cross country is a good sport for staying in shape. It's a team sport that is very individual at the same time. It's also a sport with a good reputation for sportsmanship. Runners and spectators encourage and cheer for one another.

The runners learn about perseverance, mentally challenging yourself, setting goals, etc. They tackle a hard thing each meet (this course has a particularly punishing hill in it) and have to get past that.

The venue's pretty impressive too, I have to say! There aren't any other sports played by international schools in Tokyo that have such a beautiful location! There aren't many places that look like this in the city bounds of Tokyo!

Even if you aren't spectacular at the sport you can have success: by competing against your own times and seeking to improve. I like the way the sport is run in this league, a lot better than the way it is done in Australia. In Australia you get one chance to get into the school team and that continues up the ladder of representation. The courses you run are different at each meet. I'm sure our school teams here have much better team spirit because they run together for two months. They get to do the same course several times over and work on their technique and strategy.

It looks like we'll be doing this for another six years also! Our middle son ran well this year and our youngest is also pretty keen. I don't really mind. It's tiring to get up early to go and watch them, but the meets are short and we're usually home by the early afternoon.

Alas now the season is all but over (there is a Fun Run hosted by the cross country team tomorrow at school), wrestling will be taking a hold of this household very soon. Hold on to your hats!

28 October, 2016

Choose your own transport

Today I went out four times, using four different types of transport. I thought it was a classic day to illustrate how and why we use what we use.

At the start of the day I walked to school for a prayer meeting. We all walk to school, because it is so close. It's simply not worth getting our bikes our for 300m.

Around lunch-time I rode to get groceries. It takes about the same time to ride or drive that short distance in our relatively flat city (1.1 km). Besides I like riding (unless it's raining) and it is good regular exercise to ride home with a bike loaded with groceries.

After lunch I walked 600m to the train and rode two stations to meet my language exchange friends. It's about six kilometres from my house and door to door took me a little more than 10 minutes to get there. Train is simply the fastest way to get there, it would have taken more than 20 minutes by car. Plus the place we meet has no car park, so there isn't much point in taking a car.

Towards the end of the school day I drove our middle son to the orthodontist, a 30 min or so drive (about eight kilometres). You can take the bus, but I find driving less stressful and faster, and also cheaper than the us fare. The bonus is the orthodontist has a free car park (not to be taken for granted in Tokyo). 

In Australia you drive almost everywhere, that is the fastest and easiest thing to do in most situations. Tokyo life is different. I like it, there's a nice variety and it gives our family more independence too, not to mention built-in exercise. Today I didn't have to worry about picking up boys from school, they simply walked home. Neither did I need to worry about how David got to work (approximately half an hour before the boys went) because I needed the car during the day. 

27 October, 2016

Photos of our city #3

Our street during a flash flood in August.
You might have been concerned after reading my last post about our city. We live very close to a river, actually two rivers run through the city of Higashi Kurume. Tokyo itself is on a flood plain and more than 100 km square of the plain are under sea level. Are we at a flood risk? 

The answer is pretty much no. We get flash floods on our street when rain dumps on us more than 50mm per hour, but they don't last much longer than the extra heavy rain itself and haven't come close to getting into our house.
The water came up over the gutter and into the carport, but not
up the three stairs that lead into the house.
Tokyo has built an incredible underground system of flood control and one of the major pieces of infrastructure is right here in our city. Check out this ABC video (12.37min) for some great footage plus explanations.

In the video at the 7 minute mark it shows a huge "surge tank". We have one of these in our city. But you hardly know it's there, except that there has been construction going on for some years now. We know it's there because we have friends who live just across the river from the entrance to this place and when they'd finished doing the underground construction they invited the locals to go and have a look.

This is all we can see of the underground flood mitigation  infrastructure. But from the photos we've seen (and the video) it sure is much more impressive down there than this photo might suggest. You can see bunches of dead plant material caught at the bottom of the grills, that was from a rain event during the summer when the river got up that high. In the background of the photo is the gym that I go to regularly to work out. This is only about 850m from our house.

26 October, 2016

Today's park ride

So, as I planned, I rode to the park today. It was a superb day. The temperature was about 10 degrees Celsius higher than yesterday (26C), the sky blue, and the air still.
Some of the trees are just starting to turn, a few have already
lost their leaves, I think those are mainly the Sakura.
This time of year the shadows become long quickly. This
was only 2pm.
I was there! I had a simple picnic under the tree. You can't capture birds tweeting
in a photo, but there was plenty of that. The serenity was delightful.
Lovely trees covered in moss.
Then I stumbled upon a bed of dahlias. Look at this gorgeous flowers.

I wasn't the only one enjoying them.
Beautiful sunlight.
And then at the end I discovered this cool dude enjoying the sun too.

25 October, 2016

Nothing spectacular here

My backyard view today. It's grey.
I'm feeling grumpy. Actually I was last night, but less so today. Playing catch-up isn't that fun. It makes you feel like you haven't achieved anything. 

I had multiple things going on yesterday that were unsatisfactory and unresolved, capped off by a headache and some unsatisfactory parenting concerns last night. It was grateful to call it a night on yesterday and start anew today. I was greeted with more bad news this morning, but thankfully after a good sleep was in a better position to be able to take it all.

I just want to keep things real here. I had someone tell me last week that I'm always very cheery to others (this was in response to my apologising for whinging about my kids to her the day before). I have a dichotomy going on: I want to be encouraging to others, but I also want to be honest and real. If you've read this blog for any length of time you'll probably know this.

So yesterday didn't have a lot going for it. I got to the end of the day wondering if I'd achieved anything of worth. I certainly didn't feel as though I had, even though I'd written more than 20 emails, and spent nearly two hours in meetings with people face-to-face and on the phone. At least the dinner I made was a success!

So what's going on (while trying not to offend anyone)?

  • overseeing organising a senior parents and student's banquet (when such a thing isn't really my thing)
  • complaints from teachers about a boy
  • complaints from boy about teachers
  • writers who write me long emails about their latest thoughts or make multiple changes on articles that are about to go to print
  • an overly busy design team who are struggling to get done what they want to get done
Plus other things: 

  • trying to stay on top of my boys and keep them responsible for their household jobs as well as their school work, not to mention feeding them and ensuring they get enough sleep
  • trying to track down information for people who contact OMF Japan via our website
  • trying to get my head around photo releases/licences for non-commercial website use
  • trying to finish a course before I lose permission to access the online material (failed on this one)
  • trying to keep a lid on my schedule with multiple demands for various sectors of my life
  • trying to source a photo for the cover of the magazine
  • trying to satisfy my bosses by producing the work they have for me that I've already agreed to do
Oh, and I've got a prayer letter to write this week too...

I'm still tired, despite a very quiet Saturday evening and Sunday. And it's a grey, cool day (winter weather for Qld: 18C). Autumn often gives me the sense of being sucked into a dim, dark, and depressing hole, especially on days like today.

This afternoon I'm thankful I have a massage planned, along with coffee with a friend.  Tomorrow I'm also planning on going for a long ride. It's forecast to be sunny and warm. 

Hopefully I'll be able to get out of this hole soon and back to a normal emotional level. In the meantime, please forgive me if I seem a little grumpy and out-of-sorts.

24 October, 2016

More links to free photo and graphics sites

Today I'm playing catch-up. It's amazing how much work can build up in just six days of being away from my computer. So many things to follow up on. I'm trying to remember to repeat: "Do the next thing, don't worry about the rest." But figuring out what the "next thing" is isn't always easy.

I've also been doing an introductory graphic design course over the last five weeks. It's a little scary how adding just a few extra hours of things I have to do into my week has made things very crowded at times. I think I learned some good stuff but was disappointed that I apparently needed expensive software to fully participate, something they didn't say upfront. I will lose access to the course material in the next 24hrs, so I haven't actually been able to listen to all the lectures either. Thankfully this was a free-deal that I got on a course that usually costs quite a bit, so I've gotten what I can out of it.
This cutie came from pixabay.com.

I'm most interested in inDesign as software for the design of layout of print documents and I do have that. The course has convinced me that more than doing courses, I just need to practise and be patient in looking up how to do things that I want to do. But practise over and over again is vital so that I can do things more automatically.

But they have given me a couple more links to free photo/icon/graphics sites:


http://dryicons.com for icons and graphics (vectors, if you know this terminology)


https://pixabay.com (over 700,000 free stock photos, vectors and illustrations that you can use anywhere).

For my own reference as much as anything, here are two other lists that I've found that are also helpful (and I've posted these links before):




23 October, 2016

Thrift Shop Bargains

I give you one of my favourite posts: Thrift Shop bargains post. 

This hat I wore for a while during setup on Thursday, its very comfortable. It eventually came home with my dramatic youngest son for the Post-Thrift Shop Youth Group. A tradition whereupon leaders and youth dress up in whatever crazy things they've been able to find at Thrift shop. I didn't get the whole outfit, I was in bed when he left at 3 this afternoon. But I believe there was also a gaudy gold chain and a long slim red jacket. The effect was somewhat Willy-Wonker-ish. 
The same boy is an amazing bargain hunter. He needed a torch and found this new LED one for ¥200. 

He nabbed some comic books and other bits and pieces, all in free-shopping time just before we cleaned everything away yesterday. 

I found some DVDs (I got the rest of the West Wing series at last Thrift Shop) and David found some single flannelette sheets.

And some books: some for free. 

This was a surprise and also free. The Indian version of this little book. 
This was a freeby at the end. Two candles with cute candle holders and a snuffer. 
Our lounge room clock had died, this one is a great ¥100 replacement. 

A couple of ties, sports shorts and shirt. 

A new Christmas tree and a replacement umbrella. 
Something else I've been wanting: electronic scales and only ¥100.

Ever since I had my ears pierced a couple of years ago I've bene on the lookout for something like this:

And one of my favourite finds of the week: a back massage tool. You lie down with this centred on your spine and allow your body weight to press this into your muscles either side of your spine, then shift your body so that you get this right along your spine. I brought one of these back from my physio in Australia and it's called a BakBall, but it isn't as firm as this one. This one's better and cost way less than my BakBall!
That's not all our bargains, but I think it's enough to show you. 

After a snooze this afternoon, I think I'm closer to being ready to get back to ordinary life again tomorrow. 

22 October, 2016

Grand finale day of Thrift Shop

I'm done in! Feeling frazzled. Quietly quivering on the inside! It was the grand finale of Thrift Shop today. The day when anyone can come and shop from 9 till 1. 

It was exciting to hear people excited to see what the campus looked like. I heard one mum explain to her daughter that it was a place where a lot of people speak English. I heard of another couple of ladies who were found wandering in the neighborhood who wanted to come but had trouble finding the school. They weren't interested in shopping, just seeing what the inside looked like. Thankfully my friend was able to show them where to go. Another local lady I served at the register said it was her first time, she seemed very impressed. 

One of the families I sold goods to had a little boy who was intrigued by my "register". We use old fashioned calculators that provide a printout of your calculations on a long strip of paper. I made his day by allowing him to type a few numbers and then giving him the printout!

It was also great to see a number of new parents at CAJ joining in as volunteers during the day. It's a great way to get to know other parents, especially if you have older kids. 

We spent the afternoon restoring the gym to its former state. I'm glad it's finished. But it was and almost always is an enjoyable and definitely worthwhile event. 

I'm also thankful for friends who helped me personally. One brought me coffee at 11, just when I was waning. Actually I was so tired at breakfast that I messed up making my toast, I was concerned about how I was going to manage handling other people's money (and speaking in Japanese) for four hours and not make some big mistakes, but it actually went fairly well. This morning I missed going to our sons' second-last cross country meet for the season. A couple of friends assured me yesterday they'd cheer extra hard for my guys. Gotta love having friends!
People everywhere you look. These are the registers.
 I spent most of four hours there today. And almost six
there yesterday. 
The view straight over the head of the register. We served people continuously
for at least three hours straight before we got to the end of the line
and had a break.
This was the foyer of the gym where the seniors were selling hot food.

20 October, 2016

Fun while working

Thankfully I had a great sleep last night and enjoyed my day much more. But I'm still tired. I'm typing this on my phone while sitting in my "lounging" chair with my feet up and ice on my knees.

So, today I feature a couple of fun things about Thrift Shop.

1. Silly fun with other people.

Half of the Senior (Yr 12) class came in to help us this morning. They were in fine spirits. They did do some work, but there were some hilarious moments. Especially when one of the guys put on this tiny, sparkly shirt (it took help from a couple of others to get it on). He then added a black wig, a furry shoulder shrug, and picked up a guitar. The effect was stunning!

This is my son with a transformer mask.

We asked this friend, and fellow hard-worker to take the "triplet" photo below but first he tricked us by taking a selfie!

The red aprons indicate "responsibility". Thrift Shop committee members wear them. I thought three of us in red shirts was a fun coincidence and tried to get a photo with all three of us together but it was surprisingly hard to get us all in the same spot at the same time. Running Thrift Shop is a big job but fun moments like these help it to be a joy too. 

2. Crazy/interesting/unusual things that you find.

I think these are self-explanatory. 

I also did a bit of sign-work, especially late this afternoon. I couldn't resist taking this photo as an example of someone taking signs into their own hands. She obviously got a bit frustrated with what had been going on with the set-up of this table.

So now we rest and tomorrow is the fun, social day of Thrift Shop, when the CAJ and wider missionary community come to shop from 10 till 4. I get to sit down most of the day too as I work the registers, a great contrast to today. My knees will love me!

19 October, 2016

Signs and rubbish

Some of the signs we put up. Telling you you must put your PTA number
on the goods you donate (two on the left) and listing the things the money
made from Thrift Shop has been used for in the past (two on the right).

I'm feeling exhausted after a full day of helping with the school's Thrift Shop (garage sale). Yesterday afternoon/evening we set up the bare bones of the shop, meaning all the tables, clothes racks, and signs. It's the last of those that is my main job. Signs and rubbish. These two things are the main responsibility of me and another mum.

This is what the gym looked like yesterday after we'd finished setting up
the tables etc. Today we started filling those tables and racks. When I left
 after 6 tonight there wasn't much white space left.

We have hundreds of signs. No kidding! We have signs to tell you where you can put your stuff and where you can't, when you can put your stuff there and when you can't. We have signs to tell you where you can put other people's stuff and where you can't. There are signs about what sort of stuff you can put there and what you can't. We have signs for volunteers and visitors, members and non-member. Signs for cars and carts, rubbish and non-rubbish. Signs for calculating and sorting, pricing and tossing. Signs about entering and exiting, signs about staying and going. Signs for sections and subsections and sub-sub-sections. Well, maybe the last one is an exaggeration.

Yesterday evening we put up a lot of signs, maybe more than half of them. Today I've periodically heard my name together with the word "sign" mentioned. I tried to run away when that happened but they usually found me and wanted me to find another sign in the black hole that contains our signs. 

The problem with Thrift Shop is that there are lots of people helping. That's a blessing too: otherwise this would not be possible. But the problem with lots of people helping is that things don't always go as planned, so there can be inefficiency. Someone does something wrong that needs fixing up by someone else later. Someone doesn't know there is a sign for something, so makes one, and we therefore end up with multiple signs. Someone tells someone else to do something and then someone else tells someone else to do it differently. Yes, it happens. Just yesterday I had about four or five people tell me to do the same thing, something I'd already done.

The problem with signs is that they're out there for anyone to work with, so they often get put in places that are hard for someone else to find, even in the files that are supposed to be organised, but are hard to keep as such because so many people can access them.

These are, however, the prices we pay for working with many volunteers and at a speed that inevitably produces exhaustion and inaccuracies.

Then there's rubbish. Mostly consisting of plastic bags and damaged or dirty clothes. These seemed to multiply faster than rabbits. Both of us were picking and sorting up bags of rubbish from around the gym at regular intervals throughout the day.
At one of the two entrances. There are two ways to give goods to
Thrift Shop: as a donation (all the money goes to CAJ but the
volunteers on Wednesday have to price all the items
ourselves) or as a "tagged item" which means the donators have
to price everything themselves and the volunteers on Wednesday
and Thursday have only to sort and put everything out on the floor
in the appropriate places. But the "donors" get a percentage of
the sale price back if their goods sell before Saturday.
The white signs are about what you cannot sell at Thrift Shop.

On top of that I helped supervise students from PE and home ec classes who came to help sort, price, fold, hang, arrange, carry, wheel, and distribute goods to their correct place in the gym. You see this is a highly organised process and where most things go is well documented with signs!

In th midst of all this I managed to have fun talking to people. Three of us had a spirited discussion about the fact that two of us think we're ENFP (Myers-Briggs), but there are some significant differences in our personalities. I worked and chatted with another friend who also brought me coffee when she heard that I'd been awake for more than an hour during the night (my mind didn't shut down so well last night, I had signs running through my thoughts). I had lots of little fun exchanges as I worked alongside people.

But now I've run out of words and bed beckons. Because there will be more signs tomorrow. And more rubbish too.

18 October, 2016

Thrift shop craziness begins

Thrift Shop is about to begin (i.e. the set-up, the shop doesn't open until Friday). I'm feeling that normal pre-Thrift Shop tension: get-as-much-work-done-as-possible feeling because I know that I will barely sit at my work desk until this is all over. I know that there will be emails come in over that time that I won't adequately deal with. I know that at the end of Thrift Shop I'm going to be exhausted and it's going to take some time to get back into the work I'm doing now (mostly editing today).

But a friend put this photo up on Facebook today. It was a spontaneous group hug during set-up a few years ago.  It reminded me of how fun Thrift Shop is. It is a place to catch up with old friends and make new ones. It's a place to connect into the CAJ community. See here for an example.
Here's one of my friends and her two daughters,
all in teal and soaking up the atmosphere.
Here's another time when you can connect into the CAJ community: supporting sports, especially basketball and volleyball matches also in the school gym.

The seniors sell snacks, curry, hot dogs etc. at these home games. We often go down to mid-week games and have dinner. This particular occasion was heavily promoted, it was "Dig Teal Day". Everyone was encouraged to wear teal and they raised funds for ovarian cancer (I think the money was given to a school family who fighting ovarian right now).

It was a great night with lots of students and parents. But especially students: very loud students. A great night of school spirit.
Volleyball in motion. Even the photographer was in green.

This is the gym foyer where they set up shop

But now I'm feeling that panic monster on my shoulder again, "Get back to work, Thrift Shop is coming." So it's bye for now folks.