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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?

image

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Categories: Gaijin Chronicles

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

Girl Who Cried Wolf

October 21, 2010 42 comments

So my wife calls me a lot. My cell phone history displays an average of about 3-4 times a day. Ordinarily I wouldn’t mind too much, but she has this habit of calling me at times when I’m not really in a position to be having a regular conversation on the phone. For example…say…at 2:15 PM on a Tuesday.

*phone rings*
Me: Hello?
Her: Hi.
Me: Um, hi. What’s up?
Her: Oh, nothing much. How about you?
Me: Um…working. It being Tuesday afternoon and all.
Her: Right, yeah. What are you doing at work?
Me: Um…work. Did you have a point to this conversation?
Her: No, just wanted to talk.
Me: Okay, hanging up now.
Her: …Why?
Me: Remember that whole work thing we just discussed?

Unfortunately my wife is a woman of extremes. So if I tell her not to call me at work, she never calls…ever. And then I feel all sad and neglected. Yes, I know this is all very counter-productive. These are the things that happen when a guy gets married. So my solution is to let her call, and when I can answer, I will. When I can’t, I won’t. She knows this system and is also okay with it. For the most part, it works pretty well.

However, the monkey wrench here is that my wife is now 9 months pregnant. The phone call I ignore may very well be the phone call alerting me that a baby is emerging out of her. Maybe one day in the future, we’ll have cell phones where you can actually preface your call with a title or something. Imagine how convenient that would be! If you got a call from your shift manager on your day off with the title “Work Related”, you could always just throw the phone in the lake you are hanging out at and then claim it fell out of your pocket when you tried to answer it. I could also utilize this system to distinguish between “Just want to say hi” and “Giving birth to child.” Unfortunately, we don’t yet have this feature, so I had to change up our calling system. It was a simple change – if baby is coming out of you, call. If not, don’t. I felt this was a straightforward yet effective approach to the situation.

Now let’s jump back to last Friday. It’s lunch, and per our Friday ritual, some co-workers and I headed out for some Indian curry. While my wife’s anticipated due date is still two weeks away, the baby is quite big (doctor’s response to wife: well, looking at your husband I suppose that’s to be expected) so labor could happen pretty much at any moment. Just as we settle into a table and put in our orders, my phone begins ringing. It’s my wife. I suppose lunch could be considered “not working”, but it also happens to be the time when I like to use my mouth for eating food and not talking. At any rate, our system is in place and I don’t feel like I can risk not answering.

Me: Hello?
Her: Hi. So…
Me: Your water broke?
Her: …No. So I went downtown, and I want to buy this bunny rabbit stuffed animal for our baby, and I found a really cute one! But I’m not sure whether I should get the 20cm or the 30cm one. Smaller is better for babies, but the bigger one will last longer into her childhood…
Me:

I remind my wife of our new system (don’t call me unless babby is forming), inform her that I’m on the verge of eating, and recommend the smaller 20cm rabbit. A few minutes later, I get email – a picture to help in my stuffed rabbit deliberations.

Eventually our food comes, and as I am enjoying my Indian cuisine, the phone rings again. Literally, I have a mouth full of tandoori chicken and I feel the phone call ring vibrating in my pocket. Well, the last call was trivial…but I did remind her of our system, and by now she should realize I’d be right in the middle of lunch. Besides, do I really want to tell my daughter a few years later that I wasn’t at her birth because Mommy asked me about stuffed bunny rabbits and I was eating Indian chicken? No, that’s the kind of conversation she’d re-tell to Johnny, right before he laid her out a nice line of coke and threw her a rolled-up $1 bill, before lying to her about going out with the guys while he really goes out to hustle on the corner of 3rd and Vine. How did this happen to you, sweet little girl? Because Daddy didn’t care enough about me to help choose my bunny rabbit, and he missed my birth. …I’d better answer.

Me: Hello?
Her: …I also found a nice black bunny, and now I don’t know which one to buy.
Me:

Between chewing, I tell her to get the black one. You first-year psych students may want to analyse why I choose the black rabbit over the white one, and what that says about black men who live outside of their home country…but the simple answer is that black is the easiest to say with a mouthful of chicken. …That answer also sounds wonderfully racially loaded, but that’s just how it was. You try saying “white” with a mouthful of Indian chicken and see how well it comes out.

Again, a few moments later she sends me a picture of the rabbit in question.

We finish eating and are on our way out of the restaurant. Yet again, my phone rings. What now, a turquoise 40cm rabbit? I move to ignore, but having finished eating I don’t have a real reason not to answer it…and the image of my daughter doing coke lines flashes through my head. All right, better answer it.

Me: Hello?
Her: …I bought the 30cm white rabbit. Just thought you would like to know.
Me:

…Do I really need to post the image again?

I do find it interesting that of all the rabbits she proposed, the one she bought was the one I never actually recommended. Which confirms my suspicion that when women ask men a shopping question, they either don’t care what you have to say because ultimately they’re going to do what they want, or they are making a concerted effort to do the exact opposite of what the guy suggests. But hey, at least my daughter has a cute, white, 30cm bunny rabbit to play with?

But I think I need to have another talk with my wife on our new phone call system. Something tells me that she doesn’t quite get the concept.

Categories: Gaijin Chronicles

Message From A Father To His Unborn Daughter

September 29, 2010 94 comments

Hey. It’s me. Daddy.

You probably don’t know me that well yet. But I’m the voice you hear every now and then that’s not your Mommy’s, and sometimes you probably feel my hands as I search for your head, arm, leg, or whatever body part you happen to be kicking Mommy with. Once you are born, you’ll see me a lot more often.

And in less than a month, you’ll be out here, in the real world. And it’ll be my responsibility to take care of you, make sure you are always safe and sound, and guide you on the path to becoming a strong, good woman. …I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but right now, I’m absolutely terrified. I’m your Daddy, but in many ways I still feel like a child myself. I haven’t always made the right decisions…went west when I should have gone east, didn’t act when I shouldn’t, acted when I should have just observed…its a fairly long list. If you ever let me ramble on about my various adventures, you’re probably well aware of many of my mistakes. You also have probably noticed that I made a lot of big leaps in my life. I moved away from the warmth and security of my parents home to go tackle this thing called college. And I left behind friends, family, and everything I knew to go to a land where I barely understood the language and school children wanted to poke me where the sun doesn’t shine. I agreed to share my life with a person from that strange land who doesn’t speak my native language. All of these things came with their own set of anxiety and fears, but let me tell you, what I feel now as you get ready to join us out here eclipses all of that.

I’m scared…but don’t worry sweetie, Daddy will always be here.

When you learn to ride a bicycle for the first time, I’ll be there to pick you up and bandage up your scrapes. When you get the lead in the school play, I’ll be in the front row taking video and embarrassing you by making stupid faces. When you get your heart broken by your first real crush, I’ll be there with a box of Kleenex and a bucket of ice cream. When you graduate from high school and beyond, I’ll be bragging about my smart baby girl to anyone in the stands who hasn’t run away from me yet. When you get your first job, I’ll help you open up your bank account. And when you do find the guy you decide to share your life with and start up a new family, I’ll be there to hand you off to him with my blessings.

Like I said, I haven’t always made the best choices, I haven’t always been right in the end. But I promise to grow up alongside you.

Right now you are still a moving mass inside your Mommy’s stomach. But I know that you are the future. And I want you to have a good one. I want you to be strong, able to take care of yourself when the time comes to strike out on your own. I want you to feel like you can do anything, achieve anything, so long as you want it and work hard for it. I never want you to feel that because you are a woman, there will be things you can’t accomplish. Don’t sit around and wait for life to come to you – go out and grab it.

I want you to be whoever you want to be. Don’t let anyone tell you to behave or think in a certain way. If you want to play with action figures and video games, Daddy will save you a seat next to him and show you how to throw hadoukens, and how to make Optimus Prime transform into a truck so he can run over his enemies. …Of course, if you want to play with dolls and dress up, that’s fine too. I may not understand it as well, but I promise to attend all your tea parties.

I’m not ready to be a father yet. I don’t know if anyone is ever truly “ready”. So I ask you now, forgive my mistakes. Understand that my fear is born from not wanting to fail you. But know that I’m here, and I will always be here, no matter what happens. So sit tight, continue to enjoy your time with Mommy, and when you are ready, I’ll see you out here.

Categories: Gaijin Chronicles
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