Happy 2012!

January 6, 2012 71 comments

Happy 2012 everyone!

… What’s this? An update? Holy crap, maybe 2012 really is going to be the end of the world and this is the first sign! I dunno, maybe?

Where have I been? Somewhere in between trying to figure out how to be a father, a stretch of being super-busy at work, and just trying to keep my sanity afloat (wasn’t always successful!). Plus for awhile, I really didn’t have anything interesting to write about. I just can’t be the guy who does the “hey, look at this weird aspect of Japan, isn’t it quirky!” guy anymore. I don’t even notice most of it anymore.

Well then, what am I going to write about? That is an excellent question. I don’t have a concrete answer. What I do know is that I miss writing so I’m going to try to do it more. Whatever tickles my fancy that I want to write about. That was kind of how I started off in the first place. So topics may vary wildly.

That’s all I really wanted to say for the moment, so here’s a picture of my daughter. She’s a year and two months old now. Go read some of the original posts in the archives, then think about how that guy now has a little toddler running around. Almost frightening, isn’t it?

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Categories: Gaijin Chronicles

Charity For Japan – Thank You!

April 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Thank you to all those who have passed along donation for Japan disaster relief. Over $700 was raised ($745 to be exact), which by current conversion rates comes out to about 60,000 yen.

I talked with my wife, and as there is a lot of mis-information for private relief and donations spreading on the web, we both decided that the best course of option is to donate to an official source. We will research this over the weekend and make the money transfer on Monday. Rest assured that since this is internal within Japan, your donations will go directly towards disaster relief for those who were affected.

I want to extend a very heartfelt thank you to everyone who contributed, allowing me to do something to help out in this great time of need. I would also like to say that here in Japan, we’re all gonna be okay. Between the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis Japan took some pretty hard hits – some people’s lives are forever changed, some people will continue to be greatly inconvenienced over the coming months/years. But I have no doubt in the ability of the Japanese people to bounce back and recover from this.

Please note that as of this posting, I will consider donations towards disaster relief to be closed. Any further donations from now on I will consider personal donations to me. Which I would be very grateful for (buy something nice for Anna!), but again, I wasn’t really affected by any of the disasters so don’t worry too much about me.

Disasters are a very tragic, sudden, and unavoidable part of life. It’s a bit chilling to think that you can go through life everyday, be a good person and generally do nothing wrong, but lose everything just because you or the ones you love were in the wrong place at the wrong time. With a family of my own now, it’s absolutely heartbreaking to hear about those who lost loved ones during this crisis. It is very saddening, but at the same time I feel happy that in times like these, people can come together, put aside differences, and work to help each other get back on our feet and rebuild. It’s a reminder that life isn’t perfect, but we’re all doing the best we can.

Thank You

March 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Thank you to those who have donated in the past few days. While I’m still struggling financially, my family and I were very fortunate to not have the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear situation affect us that much, aside from the trickle-down shortage of supplies.

Not long after the disaster struck, I had a discussion with my wife – she wanted to donate something, anything. I understand her feelings, but things are extremely tight financially and I have to look out for my own family first and foremost. She eventually donated 500 yen – roughly about $5 – the best we could do. She wishes we could do more.

So, the very least I can do is to pass along the generosity. I will use my bank account here in Japan to transfer funds directly to the various organizations set up to provide disaster relief. Also, my wife has been monitoring the blogs of people who are stranded in evacuation centers – people running low on food and basic supplies. We can buy things like non-perishable food items, clothes, baby formula/diapers, etc, and send it on to them directly.

As I said, my family and I were very fortunate to not be affected. But there are a lot of people who have had their lives turned upside down by the earthquake/tsunami. Even the smallest thing can help out in this time.

Still Got It

March 12, 2011 114 comments

First things first – I’m okay, family is okay, mostly everyone I know is fine.

(In case you don’t watch the news, or are reading this post in the archives, I’m referring to the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck off the northern coast of Japan yesterday afternoon.)

Kansai is quite far from the earthquake epicenter, so for us the quake wasn’t nearly as bad. I work on the 16th floor of a building in Osaka, so whatever was felt on the ground was probably magnified quite a bit by the time it got to us – there was some swaying and rolling that got stronger and persisted for 2-3 minutes (which in earthquake time, is freakin’ forever…), but nothing fell over or anything like that.

The interesting thing about Kyoto/Osaka is that unless a natural disaster strikes us specifically (such as the Hanshin Earthquake), we’re usually fine. The biggest example is the typhoons – during typhoon season a few will usually hit Japan. The initial reports will have a typhoon pretty much bowl through all of Japan. However, at some point it will either just veer away from Kansai, or hop/skip/jump over us. Leaving us with a bit or rain and wind while other areas get slammed. For some, this is a point of contention, as if the tsunami’s actually did hit, we would get days off work and school.

So my wife is sitting here watching news coverage, and on one station I see entire rows of houses swept away in the tsunami. On another, raging fires. On another, towns buried in mud and deluge. So, I understand why people are worried. Watching this makes me worried too. But as I look outside my window, it’s life as usual. Nothing is destroyed, on fire, or being swept away. The old folks are playing cricket on the school grounds. Kids are tossing a ball back and forth in the street. Just the right amount of cars are on the road for the time of day. The trains are all running on schedule. Tomorrow, I’m going to go out and film some stuff for a TV show. Everything is business as usual here. It’s a bit surreal to know that a few hundred kilometers up, it’s a much different story. But I guess that’s just part of life. My thoughts and prayers go out to any and everyone affected by the earthquake. Meanwhile, I’m relieved that I and my family are safe and unaffected.

***

Yesterday the quake hit as most of us were toiling away at work. I felt the shaking, looked at the guy next to me, and he instantly voiced what I was thinking – “Isn’t this an earthquake?” The floor rolled around quite a bit, especially unnerving since we’re on the 16th floor. Not that I’m usually afraid of heights, but when the ground underneath you isn’t exactly terra firma, being 16 floors up doesn’t really help matters much.

After the swaying and rolling stopped, people gathered around one of the TV’s to watch the news. An announcement came over the com system – there was just an earthquake (you think?), but the building is fine, please go back to work. Most people continued to watch the TV coverage of what had just happened. The foreigners on our floor – some mid-west and east coast Americans, as well as Europeans were visibly shaken by the whole experience. As an Earthquake Veteran, I went back to work. I was in both the Loma Prieta quake in 1989 and the 1994 Northridge earthquake. I actually mostly slept through the Northridge one. I remember mom waking me up and telling me we were in an earthquake. I asked her how strong…she estimated 6 or 7. I remember saying “wake me if we hit 8″ and trying to go back to sleep. …You have to understand that I’m not really a morning person.

Anyway, around 4PM or so I was kind of hungry, so I went down to the nearby 7-11 to grab a snack. As I entered there was a kid, a young boy maybe around 3 or 4 years old, playing in the aisles. He took a quick look at me, and then immediately ran back to his mother, crying while saying “scary, scary!” Unfortunately for me, this is by no means a rare occurance, so I’m actually used to it. I tried to smile and look as non-threatening as possible, but the poor kid was terrified out of his wits until his mother carried him out of the store and apparently to his safety. While paying for my goods, I had to take a moment and process what had just happened – the kid had just experienced, albeit mildly, one of the largest recorded earthquakes in human history. And yet somehow, I was the scariest thing that had happened to him all day. So either – on his priority scale, large black man outranks the Earth itself rolling around under his feet, or he was too young to comprehend the idea of an earthquake but could still process big black man = OMG he’s going to eat me!

I’m not even mad or angry at the situation (I wish the mother had taken a moment to explain that there’s no reason to be scared of a person simply because they’re different, but meh whatever), I just had to take a moment and find the humor in it. Nice to know that some things haven’t changed at least.

Categories: Gaijin Chronicles

Sleepless in Osaka

January 25, 2011 110 comments

Being a new father has taught me a lot about myself, and the world. And most importantly, babies. Most of us already know that babies are new, precious, fragile lifeforms. They have to be clothed and fed and bathed and all that. They also taste delicious with a nice guacamole-based salsa.

But perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about babies is that they’re fundamentally stupid.

Okay, maybe that’s not the best way to put it. Forgive me for my sins. But it’s true! Why did I come to this staggering conclusion? I’d say more than why, the when is more important. The other day, around 3AM, as I’m trying to put my daughter to sleep.

Usually, putting baby to bed is not my job. I have to catch the train at 7AM to go to work Mon through Fri, so I get the free pass. And if she cries during the night, I have no idea. I’ve always been a heavy sleeper. I slept through the ’94 LA earthquake. I’ve slept through dorm fire alarms. If you’ve ever lived in the dorms, you know that these are loud enough to wake up dinosaurs. If the zombie apocalypse happened overnight, I’m pretty sure I would sleep through it. Even if I had an army of zombies gently chewing on my legs.

But this particular day was a Friday, so I couldn’t use the work excuse to retreat to bed early. Also, I was trying to be more helpful in a vain attempt to get laid more and end the dry spell be a good husband and father. I noticed my wife 3/4ths asleep as she tried to rock the baby to sleep. “Here, I’ll take over” I valiantly offer, and my wife hands me the football, says thanks, and passes out in bed. Like, I think she fell asleep during the half-second she was in the air before she hit the sheets. So, I was going to be on my own here. But really, how hard could it be right?

Heh. That’s all the parents with experience who are reading this, laughing at me now. You have no idea, amateur.

She already looked sleepy. She was yawning and her eyes were half-closed. My wife had suggested to rock her to sleep, but I was feeling tired so I decided to sit down. Apparently, this was completely unacceptable, as baby opened her eyes and stared at me for 4 seconds before starting to cry. …What? Daddy is not allowed to sit down? Okay, sure. Stand and rock. Let’s roll, baby. My wife brings up my history of ballroom dancing – surely that would be a good way to put baby to sleep right? So I do a mini-waltz in the confined space of our apartment, and sure enough baby gets sleepy again. She actually goes to sleep! Nice! Now just put her down and enjoy a nice relaxing evening with my wife…

Oh, but wait! Just kinda glossed over that “put her down” part there didn’t I? You see, babies sleep fairly lightly. You know how, in the Princess and the Pea, the princess can’t get a good night of sleep because there’s a pea stuffed under like 10 mattresses or something like that? If the princess had been a baby, I’m convinced she would have felt the pea on the other side of the continent. Or maybe just a particularly biting solar wind that just happened to pass through our galaxy. Or hey, maybe God sneezed. Either way, baby’s waking up.

So I try to put her in her crib. But because my hands aren’t made of feathers, and I’m not resting her on a bed made of Scarlett Johansson’s soft fluffy tits, she wakes up. Her eyes open slowly as she looks around, and while she can’t talk yet the facial expressions are easy enough to understand. “Hold on, what’s this…is this…is this the crib? No! No motherfucker, no! Oh, if you thought I could cry before…wait’ll you get a load of me now!”

Basically, baby is crying because she is sleepy. She was asleep, but because she woke up due to a random shift in the Earth’s gravitational pull, she is now crying herself awake. Brilliant. Once a parent fails the put-down stage, he has to go all the way back to “coerce baby to sleep” stage. Like getting to the final castle in World 8, dying, and then having Bowser drop you off right back at World 1-1. This is why I call babies stupid – sleeping is the most basic of human functions, right? We sleep even when we don’t want to! And babies can’t even get that right!

It definitely gives me an appreciation for just how dependent babies are on adults for their everyday needs. It’s amazing that these small, helpless little creatures eventually grow up to become fully-functioning human beings. …For the most part.

After two more passes at trying to get baby to sleep in the bed, my wife takes pity on me (she was able to sleep for 2 hours while I struggled with the Baby Sleep final level), puts her to sleep and manages to get her in the crib as well. I think she did this within 30 minutes, but by this point it was 3:30AM and neither of us knew our own names at this point.

All I know is, if I ever get assigned to sleep duty again, I’m gonna turn on Japanese TV and sit baby in front of the tube. If that doesn’t put her to sleep then I don’t know what will.

Categories: Gaijin Chronicles

Miraculous Surprise

November 25, 2010 94 comments

So, I’m a daddy now.

There are a myriad of things running through my head, so much so that I don’t even know where to begin sorting them out. All I can really say is – thank you GOD I was born male.

At some point in our lives, we men will get into an argument over which is worse – childbirth, or getting kicked in the nuts. Women will try to emphasize the point of pushing a watermelon-sized object through one’s nostril. We men will attempt to counter with “Yeah, but getting kicked in the nuts really fucking hurts.” And indeed, it really does hurt. But you know – having been there for the whole process, I can only say this – childbirth wins. Not even close. Guys, its like having your nuts hooked up to a perpetual kicking machine for 24 hours. And THEN pushing a tangerine out of your urethra. So ladies, while we may not see eye to eye on a number of issues, you have my eternal respect for being able to endure that.

Despite warnings that I should steer clear of the actual process, or avoid inciting the wrath of my wife (who, in this highly agitated state, would have the strength of Jack Bauer fusion-danced with Chuck Norris, having gone Super Saiya-jin while activating their Devil Trigger), I stayed with her the whole time. Instead of chewing my head off, she was happy to have me there for support, and thanked me several times for being by her side. And yes, when the baby came out, there was a wonderful gush of purple goo and yellow fluid and orange marshmellows and all that jazz, but I didn’t care – the alien-like mass that had been kicking my wife’s stomach for the past few months was now an actual human being, and there I was to witness her emerging out into the world. I wouldn’t have missed it.

My wife though, had a wonderfully priceless reaction upon seeing her for the first time. “I hear her voice, it’s so cute…oh, there she is! She’s beautiful! She’s looking this way, oh such cute eyes! She’s so adorable! There you are, I finally met you. …Hey, she’s not that black.” Yes, as you all may be able to tell from the picture I posted earlier, she was born fairly pale. Fun fact: many black babies are actually not born that dark. Our color fills in later. So, my wife was probably expecting this wonderful little latte bundle, only to be surprised by a vanilla cream frappucino. My wife learned something new that day.

I also learned something new too. If, despite several attempts the baby still hasn’t come out yet, in order to help in the process a nurse may get on top of the pregnant woman and start pumping her like an inflatable tire. I’ve seen a lot of crazy things since coming here, but I don’t know if any of them compare to a little old Japanese nurse getting on top of my pregnant wife and pumping her harder than I ever have. I’m not even exaggerating, it wasn’t a small little push, she was getting her weight behind it and pushing down HARD. I wondered if the baby wasn’t going to just rocket out like that.

Something else I learned – babies make awesome faces. Or maybe its just mine? Yes, babies are very cute and adorable. But they also make really funny faces sometimes.

DO NOT WANT

Like, whoa...

...What?

It occurs to me that this might make me one of those fathers whose primary goal in life is to embarrass their children. So, to restore balance to the force, here’s a normal picture.

Aw, just look at that little Beyonce. Az’s Get Rich Quick Scheme #23 is coming along very nicely, if I do say so myself.

…I kid, of course. Little Anna can be whatever she wants to be. A doctor, a lawyer, an astronaut, daddy supports her. And if she decides to become a singer/actress/model, daddy will support her at 35% of her income. …Just saying.

Categories: Gaijin Chronicles

Hello, World!

October 27, 2010 216 comments

Introducing Anna Linda.

Born at 4:46 PM and weighing in at 3776 grams, she’s a very healthy baby girl. Both Mommy and Daddy are exhausted but recuperating.

It’s…surreal. 7 years ago, I came to this country to teach junior high school Japanese kids how to speak English. 7 years later, I’m going to be teaching my own half-Japanese kid…well…life. If you’d told me boarding the plane to Japan 7 years ago about today, I probably would have called you crazy. And yet, here we are.

It’s been a hectic couple of days and I’m still trying to let the dust settle. I’ll write more when I’m working on more sleep and am in front of a computer again…whenever that is (still don’t have one at home!). Stay tuned.

And good night, Anna.

Categories: Gaijin Chronicles
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