April 29, 2009

What’s Goin’ On

1. Visit to Iwakuni
My last post was about Lady E’s auspicious start to the school year. We were so proud of her poise and delightful smiles throughout the morning at her new pre-K class. To celebrate Lady E.’s official debut and take a break from our everyday life in Hiroshima, we opted to spend that afternoon in Iwakuni. The nice weather that day was absolutely stunning…Spring, baby, spring!

Iwakuni is about 50 kilometers southwest of Hiroshima. Its most famous tourist attraction is the Kintai bridge, which is a steep-looking bridge with five arches that spans a rocky riverbed. First constructed in the late 1600s, it has since been rebuilt a few times. The grove of cherry trees surrounding the nearby riverbank also makes the park area a major draw when the cherry blossoms bloom in late April.

We’ve been to the Kintai bridge and park a few times this time of year because the cherry blossoms bring with them a festive air, it’s an easy day trip and generally a lot of fun for Elena. We strolled around the Nikko Park and went to the Iwakuni Castle. Check out the view!

The warmer weather has wrought much activity. The Rising Family is busy…I am presently enjoying the “Golden Week” spring vacation from work, which affords more free time to spend with the ladies in my life! Meaning Lady E and my darling wife, of course.

2. Bitter Bob -- 'Run, Chris, Run'
I am slightly bitter about one thing. Having allowed myself to slide into rotten, pear-shaped complacency over the past year, I decided in early February to get back into shape. Since then, I diligently restarted my jogging regimen and entered the Kintai half marathon (21K), held every year at the USMC Air Station at Iwakuni in the third weekend of April. I’ve done three full marathons and three half marathons there since I began living in Hiroshima.

This year, I followed a careful and deliberate training regimen. I was all ready to go, but about three days before the run, I caught an awful chest cold. I attempted the run anyway, but did not finish (DNF). Aaarrrrgggghhh %$#(&**#! Turns out I had a bronchial infection, but no excuses. I am a little disappointed about this still, but looking forward to another race this year to exact my revenge.

3. Thinking positively. Still learning.
The visits to the hospital to heal my chest infection reminded me how positive my experience with the Japanese medical system has been. Many expats bitch and moan about medical care here, mostly due to language barriers and differences in treatment methods, but my visits to Hiroshima’s health facilities have always been first-rate.

To address my chest ailment, I got the same diagnosis and treatment as any other outpatient at a local hospital, but the docs took extra care to explain to me in very simple Japanese what was wrong with me, and what they were doing to restore my health. The prescribed treatment was effective and I am feeling much better. The few times we’ve had to bring the Rising Daughter to a hospital or local clinic have been equally effective. Plus, the ongoing health care we’ve received since she was an infant has been great. We’re lucky to have access to this health care system.

Still learning: On a whim, we went to Miyajima this past weekend. I’ve been to Miyajima many times for personal and work purposes since my arrival in Hiroshima. During this most recent tour we went to the Daishoin Temple (http://www.japan-guide.com/tss/miyajima/m02daishoin.html) which, for whatever reason, I had never visited before nor really had much interest.

So we went to the temple and I really enjoyed the experience—something new and really quite remarkable. Lady E. was an excited little blur, running around the temple structures and the main courtyard, tossing coin offerings, and ringing the bells at the foot of the altars before cutely clapping her hands in front of the figures of Buddha. It was a great family day. We also found a stone carving of Anpanman, Lady E.’s favorite TV, DVD and book character. A very cute pic resulted!

The moral of this post: you may think you know everything about something, but it's quite likely you don't, and you'll miss out if you don't keep an open mind.

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April 20, 2009

The Learning Begins II: Les Miserables

Lady E enjoyed the recent pre-kindergarten school spring break: we partied at the playground many times. But all good things must come to an end, and our manic toddler reluctantly donned her school uniform again when we escorted her to the pre-K’s school entrance ceremony.

Japan loves ceremony and protocol. In early April, school entrance events for pre-K anklebiters through to college students are held across Japan to celebrate the start of the new school year. This is also roughly the same time that cherry blossom viewing is rampant throughout the nation.

The blooming cherry petals blowing in the wind are supposed to represent a new start to the natural order of things, and so does the school entrance ceremony. That’s the ideal. What follows is the account of our reality.

We snapped a few pics at a local park to mark the occasion.
Then, it was off to the school itself. We entered the brightly decorated classroom that was quickly filling with harried parents (mostly moms, but a few dads, to my surprise). Cute little chairs were laid in neatly organized rows. The kids, oblivious to protocol, were climbing all over the chairs, but were behaving relatively well, while nervous parents furtively made small talk with other parents. I gather that there were some who knew each other, but most of us were new to the school and wanted to put our best family foot forward.

The teachers came out and lined up. A short welcome speech ensued in English and Japanese, and each shiny new student was marched up to the front of the class with mom or dad to receive his or her welcome gift and generally be recognized. This was followed by a short welcome from each homeroom teacher to their class.

Les Miserables
Time went by. Little children kids have short attention spans. Common knowledge, right?
One kid was wailing inconsolably throughout the whole ceremony. Other kids sat there passively, resigned to their fate. Others wandered around -- highly curious about what was going, looking at all the other little persons -- despite their parents’ protests and whispered admonitions. And the row of video cameras captured every moment for posterity.
Lady E. likes to rock. She does not like to stay still. To my shock, though, she behaved during her official entrance ceremony and we didn’t have to administer the kiddie Xanax we’d brought along just in case.

After about an hour, the formalities were over, and we left. Lady E, temporarily liberated from her new educational confines, began to sing joyously, and quite incomprehensibly, to the Disney songs playing on our car’s CD player. Maybe she thought that she was going back home for another spring break?Re: Don & Scott--Just want to see if anyone is reading this far....heh heh.