28 June 2012

On Choices

Let me be clear: I was never the type to buy processed squares of cheese (or cheese-like substance). While Kraft singles may have made an appearance in my early childhood, it's been decades since I picked a package up at the store. Decades until recently, that is. If you open up my full-sized Japanese refrigerator, you'll quickly find チーズ (chi-zu). White, square, individually wrapped chizu.

Scout around my kitchen, my house, and you'll see things that in past lives I was against. Things like white sugar (I liked raw cane sugar, a.k.a. Hippie Sugar), white flour (hmph, I preferred King Arthur's brown), white rice (give me the nutty, earthy taste of brown rice, if you please). Okay, basically my whole grain mojo has gone to shit.

It's not limited to my アパート (a-pa-to) either.

When we go out for drinks, Amos and I will order ビール 二つ (bi-ru futat-su), which is to say "two beers." We never specifiy which kind. They only have one on tap, and it all pretty much tastes the same. (Think of it as the opposite of the microbrew lovin' PNW.)

At the grocery store, I look around to see what's there. Tuna might have been there yesterday but that's no guarantee they will have it today. Salmon could be sold out by 2:00, and the bananas that were in stock yesterday have been replaced by pineapple. Menu planning is done on the fly.

Clothing stores? Honey, if it fits and doesn't look half bad, I'm buying it. If I can figure out that it really is dish soap, it's going in the basket.  While my illiteracy in Japanese don't help matters (Names I can usually get. Descriptions? Not on your life) it seems that my life here has fewer choices then it did back home.

It became clear to me the day I wanted to buy cheese. It's not an everyday occurrence for me, but I had been obsessed with trying Joanna & Deb's Perfect Egg Sandwich and needed. some. cheese. I could have ridden down to Dean & Deluca to try their cheese counter, but that would have required entirely too much effort and more Yen then I was willing to part with for an at-home breakfast sandwich. I went to my little Sun Ace grocery store, just down the street. There, in the smallest dairy section you'll every see, I found the squares of cheese. 

The entire cheese inventory was less then five boxes of one brand of square, processed cheese. This was all that was available.

I looked at the package. "Yup, that counts."

It's liberating. Choices that used to define me -- IPA! Organic! Free-range! Whole wheat! -- have ceased to become options. Do you want it or not? Strawberry, blueberry, or blackberry jam? They're all the same brand, price, and size. Brown or white eggs? You have the option of two, four, six, and twelve packs. Bread sliced in 4, 5, or 6 slices? It's all white, with crust, and thick. Decisions are made quickly here. I am home from the grocery store in 20 minutes. Ordering drinks at a restaurants is straightforward. Once I know what something is (or am able to decipher the menu, or find it in my size), I move fast. Do I want it or not?

Besides, if it works for Japan, the country with skinny, smart, long-living people, who the heck am I to argue?

Sociologists smarty-pants have done studies that show fewer options make people more satisfied with their decision making and more (quote-unquote) happy. While I do miss my nutty, seedy, 'healthy' bread, I can't really complain about my thick, white toast with peanut cream (not butter, but cream, which is a different, sweeter, beast). I eat it with my coffee every morning. 

Boxes I used to contain myself in don't exist here. There is a sketchy guideline at best. When I'm cooking, even from my Japanese cookbooks, I never have all the ingredients on hand. They just simply aren't available. I'm wing it all the time. Kids, it's working out. Most nights, dinner is edible. Sometimes it's even delicious. I'm becoming more confident forging my own way, looking at flavors and ingredients and saying 'Yup, this should work.'

It should work just fine.

26 June 2012

My inner introvert

My inner introvert has reared her head. Err, that's not quite right. More she looked up, saw everyone, quietly turned around, and went along her merry, alone-y, way. She is now wanting to bake macadamia nut cookies and skip out on lunch plans, especially since cookies can conceivably be lunch. Don't even ask her about getting a drink later. She is not into it.


This isn't new. To catch you up, let's skip back about 8 -- no, wait, 9 -- years 
(geez!), back to when I had just decided I was going to attend Gonzaga University. I had to send in paperwork, telling them what I was interested in studying, where I was interested in living, who I was interested in living with. Biology B.S. or History B.A.? Small or large dorm? Morning person or night owl?

I opted to live in a dorm called Catherine-Monica. CM, as it was known, was old, slightly run down, and chalked full of students. It wasn't fancy: the rooms were the size of shoeboxes and the communal bathrooms were Pepto Bismal pink. Piping was exposed, and even as a naive 18-year old I knew if there was a fire, we were royally fucked.

It was awesome.

CM was as co-ed as Gonzaga got. It was two stories, and men lived on the bottom floor, ladies on the top. The doors locked at midnight (or was it ten?) and mingling after that could get you written up for intervis. It was four wings, forming a giant square, and you defined where you lived by direction. I lived in Southeast, the hall closest to the old soccer fields. Room 291, and I'm still close with my freshman roommate.

It was really awesome.

I chose CM because it was social. It housed over 350 freshman, and our class size was only a smidge over 900. Doors were always open, and rooms were too small to spend much time in. It was the party dorm, and had been for at least one generation, if not two. It was no Welch, the all-girl dorm near the center of campus, nor was one of the smaller dorms, like Crimont or Chardin, scattered around campus. It was the place to be, especially for me.

The conscience choice to select CM was a check against my inner introvert. When left to my own devices, I could spend quite a bit of time alone and not even realize it. I like people, don't misunderstand me, but I get tired after awhile. I knew, should I pick a small, intimate dorm for my freshman year, I'd be lost, even at a school the size of Gonzaga. I needed the party to be, literally, in my hallway, preventing me from sleeping. From reading. From studying.

I have so many happy memories at that dorm, and I can't believe how long ago it was.  My college years went by fast, and, at the end, I was ready to move on. Life beckoned. The further away I get from them, however, the more longingly I feel. Maybe it was just the ability to drink without fear of a hangover or be a-okay running on 5 hours of sleep. More likely, and less cynically, the camaraderie in that dorm, on that campus, was unique.

I'm a bit older and living in Japan, far away from old Spokane. I'm married to a great man I met at Gonzaga. As much as I've grown up, I am, at the core, the same girl. I'm quiet. I can live inside my head for days.

I know, call it experience, that my isolation is self-perpetuating -- if I don't pull out of it, I can let it spin and spin and spin. I have to watch myself, simultaneously acknowledging my introverted personality while not letting it get out of hand, especially since people, I've found, can be fun. (Shocking).

I'm not always sure where to draw the line and where to say This is good for you and This isn't. That's what's funny about growing up and what no one really tells you: many times -- hell, most times -- there is no right answer. There is no white and black. If I am happy for hours reading books, watching television, going on runs, cooking, chilling with my hus, at what point do I break that routine? Get outside my comfort level? To what degree to do allow self-acceptance? When do you cut yourself off from The Wire reruns (holy shit, yo, they killed Prop Joe!) and grab lunch with people that you are almost-friends with now but who, in the near future, could be quite good friends?

As good as The Wire (or my book, or whatever) is, in the long run, relationships are the stuff that makes me happiest. Pursuing those are not might not always be my natural inclination, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't.

I'm learning to make those decisions more confidently. I think it's good that I like alone time; it certainly makes my time as an expat much easier. I know I need to be honest about what I really need, and sometimes, that's getting out of the house and grabbing coffee with friends and sometimes it's staying in and declining a get-together.

This week? I'm feeling quiet, a little introspective. I think that's okay. Especially as I've made unbreakable plans for socializing on the horizon. Boundaries, people. This is about boundaries.

Until then, hi Wire. Hello yukata. Hey there Joy the Baker and what's up stuffed cabbage (who I thought would be gross, but who is actually quite good, and I am so sorry to the years I wasted on that assumption). We get a bit more time together, before I have to shower and get dressed for the good of the general state of things. Let's live it up, no? Those macadamias aren't going to bake themselves.

22 June 2012

Matchstick Salada | スティック サラダ

Today is a beautiful early summer day. Even as of late yesterday, the forecast was for rain, and lots of it. This would be par for the course this week: We're positively drenched and windblown, thanks to typhoon Gucho on Tuesday. When I woke up this morning, however, the sun was shining, and it was clear and bright. I could see the mountains off in the distance from our balcony, something that only happens after it rains and the haze disappears.

Days like today make it hard to be productive. Things I had planned, like cleaning my pots and pans and sewing my yukata, quickly fell by the wayside in favor of ice tea and walking outside with friends. It's that beautiful time right before it gets too hot to enjoy being outdoors, and I need no arm-twisting to get outside.

The sunshine also makes me not want to spend much time in the kitchen. Specifically, I want to avoid any and all heat that might ruin the perfect windows-open breeze I've got going on up in here. These early summer days are just begging for a little something I've dubbed the Matchstick Salada (which is, literally, how you say 'salad' in Japanese. Sa-la-da. except the "l" kind of sounds like an "r." Sa-ra-da).

It requires no heat (provided you are like me and keep a couple hardboiled eggs stashed in your fridge) and takes all of 5 minutes to make, which is important, as my first order of business after making this is to sit on my balcony and watch the clouds move. This salad is fresh and light, and tastes fantastic with mugicha, which is my drink of choice. Don't take my word for it though. Given the weather, I think you should try it out for yourself.

Matchstick Salada
スティック サラダ

Ja-mericanized* from Smitten Kitchen's Broccoli Slaw and Harumi Kurihara's Mixed Salad with Sesame Dressing

You can use any fresh, hearty vegetables you'd like for this salad. I've been relying on carrots and broccoli, though I think bell peppers, red onions, or radishes could work quite nicely. Sometimes I do all broccoli, sometimes all carrots, sometimes almonds, sometimes sesame seeds. This is my favorite type of salad because it seems to taste great no matter what I throw in it.

I use a bottled sesame seed dressing, only because my little grocery store doesn't seem to carry tahini. I've included Harumi's recipe for the dressing, simply because I don't think most 'sesame dressings' in the West are very good. This is a thick dressing, not a vinaigrette, m'kay? And it's awesome. On everything.

For the salad:
2-3 good sized carrots
1 small head broccoli
Big handful of craisins
Big handful of sesame seeds
Good helping of sesame seed dressing
2 hardboiled eggs (optional)

For the dressing:
2 tablespoon tahini (sesame paste)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin (or sugar)
salat and chili pepper to taste

Wash and peel the carrots. Using a sharp knife, julienne and place in a medium sized salad bowl. Wash broccoli, chop off the stem, and slice thinly. The florets will crumble and be a right mess. Totally okay. Toss into the salad bowl with the carrots. Take a handful or two of craisins (or other dried fruit) and toss on top of the vegetables, along with a good amount of sesame seeds or sliced almonds (or both if you are really living on the edge). These are your 'crutons,' so don't be stingy. If this salad is going to be a main dish on it's own, peel the eggs, and add to bowl. 

If you are making the dressing by hand, simply mix all the ingredients together. If it's too thick, add water to adjust. Drizzle sesame dressing on the salad, and gently toss. Each carrot stick should be lightly coated, and there should be enough seeds for crunch and enough fruit to slightly sweeten.  You can eat it straight away, or let it mellow in the fridge for a bit. This salad goes great as a side dish, or scooped onto a piece of toast with mustard for a open-faced sandwich of sorts. It also works well in a bento or eaten on a picnic with a nice glass of white wine. Awwwww, yeah.

*    Jamerican = Japanese + American. Also related: Westernese (Western + Japanese)

20 June 2012

Recent Reads: a 7 Book Review

Okay, folks, I did it. I joined GoodreadsElizabeth kind of talked me into it. I'm sorry to all who have invited me to join via Facebook and were cruelly rejected. I think I assumed it was akin to Farmville, and I didn't need it in my life. (For the record, I still am refusing to play Words with Friends. As a dyslexic kid, I can tell you right now that it would not be fun for me.)

I'm still not convinced I need Goodreads in my life, but I'm willing to give it a whirl. I'll admit I can be slow to adopt to new social media. I'm wary, people. I just joined Twitter. That's right, in my world, it's 2008. How you like me now?

Back to books. One of the few perks of insanely long international flight times is the chance to do some reading. On my last trip to the US, the one where I went from Nagoya-Chicago-South Carolina-Chicago-St. Louis-Chicago-Japan, I read seven books. Yes, seven. In two weeks. 

Thank goodness for the Kindle. Wait -- before you bibliophiles cast your stones -- let me explain. I live abroad. I can find English books, but the selection isn't great. There is no 'local' bookstore I can support here. When I read books, I'm usually in transit. Airports, train stations, subways. The whole living abroad thing, coupled with a propensity to read while in transit and to read rather quickly lead me to really enjoy a light, wirelessly connected e-book. I still like regular books, don't get me wrong. I just hate moving them. Until we buy a permanent place, in an English speaking country, the Kindle has won. Stop judging, Judgey McJudgerson.

About those seven books I read: Let me fill you in, in order of my favorite to least. In return, I'm needing some recommendations, or at least the link to your Goodreads account. Pass along already!

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
I bought this one not knowing what to expect and then was instantly filled with buyer's remorse. I expected it to be slow, sappy, and drab. Boy, was I wrong. It was a beautiful fairy-tale, a story within a story, told as a daughter journeys to find her father. Huh, yup, even that seems slow, sappy, and drab. But it's not. It's poignant and tragic... but sweetly tragic. I breaks your heart, very gently and very slowly, in such a fashion that you can't help but give a deep sigh when you finally finish it.

The Family Fang: A Novel by Kevin Wilson 
Okay, you caught me (again). The only real reason I bought this book was because Ann Patchett highly recommended it. Her Bel Canto ranks as one of my favorite books of all time, so I blindly bought The Family Fang on her suggestion. I had no idea what to expect, and it was fantastic. Fanciful, surreal, charming, and dark. I couldn't put it down and found myself relating to and enjoying the characters so much, even though they were weird and twisted. It's about dysfunction, yes, but surprising, complicated, endearing dysfunction, which is the best kind.

Sleepwalk with Me, and Other Painfully True Stories by Mike Birbiglia
“First, know that this book is well written and funny. Now, know that I hate cynicism. Hate it. This book is the opposite of cynicism.” —Jeff Garlin, Co-creator and Co-star of Curb Your Enthusiasm

So funny. Like really, really funny. I bought this book after hearing Birbiglia on
This American Life, and reading it was even better then hearing him on the program. This is a cut above the standard comedian-writes-book. It's more like writer-who-is-sidesplitting-funny-tells-relatable-tales-from-his-life. When I was reading it, I kept hearing it in Louis C.K.'s voice... which was weird, but awesome. 

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, and Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling
We have now entered the books that were okay. Not amazing, just not great. I probably would have liked Kaling's book more had I not read it right after Birbiglia's. It's cute, and funny in a "twittering as opposed to a big belly laugh" type of way. However, I've read it since then, liked it more on the second go round, and I still want Mindy Kaling to be my friend. I also want her life. Man, her life is awesome.

A Bad Idea I'm About to Do: True Tales of Seriously Poor Judgement and Stunningly Awkward Adventure by Chris Gethard
I dunno. Maybe I didn't like this book because I wanted it to be a continuation of Sleepwalk with Me, which a terribly unfair thing to ask. I mean, it was funny, but it seemed a bit cynical to me. A bit depressing. I've thought of it in the past couple weeks, however, and chucked to myself while remembering some of the stories. So maybe I was just jaded. I did read it on the Amtrak, so I might have just been a sourpuss. It's a toss up.

The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided To Go Get Pregnant by Dan Savage
I'm going to just come out and say it: I like 2012 Dan Savage much better then 2000 Dan Savage. He's grown up. Been challenged in his views. Gotten married. Has a kid. So... skip this book and read Committed instead. It's better. Unless you're looking to do an open adoption. Then I think this book would be a great read. I'm not that target market.

Man in the Woods by Scott Spencer
I tend to read really fast. My dubious and unscientific opinion is that it's a nice side effect of my dyslexia. I usually tend to only read the first parts of words, fill in the blanks, and move on. It's a coping strategy that makes reading fast, comprehension questionable, and spelling atrocious. Usually, I think its fine for me, but on certain occasions, like reading this book, it fails. You guys, I couldn't even really remember what this book was about. (This could also have been because I finished it on the plane, under the influence of sleeping pills and a gin and tonic, which everyone Stateside seemed to think was terrible and every expat I knew what like, 'No, that's how you handle coach middle-seats on a trans-Pacific United Airlines flight.') I looked up Man in the Woods up on Amazon, and it all came back to me. It was okay. Bland enough I didn't really remember it later. It almost worked, except it just... didn't. I think. I don't really remember.

19 June 2012

How to make a cup of pour-over coffee

Coffee. I love it. It's my worst vice, and I have absolutely no apologies for it. For a brief moment, during my first post-college job, I considered giving it up. You always hear things about how it's not that great for you: bad for your teeth, addicting, dehydrating. I made it about a measly two days before I determined that between the grey skies of Seattle and the grey cubicle walls of my workplace, it was an asinine plan. Coffee and I have been inseparable ever since.

I have, however, moved from only buying coffee (yes, I was one of those people. It was delicious... and expensive) to actually making coffee. Now, at this point, my old college roommate Tiffany will be laughing because during our years at Gonzaga, I always relied on her to make coffee. Our whole house did, actually. Tiff is really, really good at making coffee. She could make Folgers taste delicious and it would never go wrong, which puts her squarely in 'miracle worker' territory. She'd occasionally try to teach me, but after my half-hearted attempts that were always subpar, she'd take over coffee-making duties again. I even went so far as to 'accidentally' wake her up some mornings so she could make a pot. Karma is going to get me on that one; I can see it coming. Sorry about that Tiff. You do make really good coffee.

Since we weren't living together post college (Tiffany moved down to the Tri-Cities and I moved up to Seattle), it didn't take me long to figure out I probably should have paid more attention to her coffee-making lessons. That's when I started buying it. I started out with lattes and fancy drinks, quickly realized how much they cost, and moved onto drip and americanos, which remain my favorite. Even so, it wasn't a cheap habit. I, quite literally, had a line item for 'coffee' in my monthly budget.

I didn't mind because coffee makes me really happy. Every morning I think to myself: if you get up, you get a cup of coffee... and it works. Every damn morning. I am not a complicated woman.

When I began working from home, I thought to myself that it was time to grow up and learn to make it for myself. I bought a standard drip pot, the nicest Costco had, called Tiffany, and she walked me through it. I reserved coffee shop visits for when I needed to be social and get out of the house.

When I moved to Japan, I soon learned that whole coffee beans are both hard to find here and a bit expensive. Starbucks is the cheapest place to get them, and while they may have won me over temporarily, it's not my favorite roast. (Snoooooooob). I found a couple places that have some great coffee beans, but they are not cheap. I did what anyone would do in this situation: asked my Portland-dwelling sister to send me coffee. She did too. Hi Stumptown. Hello Happy Cup. Nice to have you here.

But my pot was beginning to bother me a bit. It seemed I'd put in enough beans and water for 3 cups and only get 8oz back in return. With the price and scarcity of my coffee, it just didn't seem worth it. Oh, and it's ugly, it uses up a bunch of counter space, and it encourages me to drink several cups. It's a big mother, to be used for guests and events. It's at this point I started Googling pour overs.

I bought one for about ¥1000 (about $12), I stashed my coffee pot in a closet, pulled up a couple You Tube videos, and set forth. Months later, I'm pretty happy with it. I feel like no beans go to waste, cleanup is a breeze, and I have to diligently think about brewing a second cup, which keeps me in control. It wouldn't be ideal if I was rushing off to a job every day, so who knows if it'll stick in the States. Right now, when I'm blogging in my underwear at 9:30AM, it fits my lifestyle pretty well.

How to make Pour Over Coffee

I took clues from all around the internet and smooshed them together into something that worked for me. Some people recommend stirring the water into the grinds. I rarely do that, if only because it dirties a spoon that I then have to wash. I also skipped the fancy tea kettle that pours water gently onto the grinds. It cost over $60, and I have a tea kettle that, while aggressive in pouring, seems to get the job done fine. I think people nerd out a lot over coffee, and if you look at how-tos, you'll see all levels. Just figure out what works for you. I keep mine simple, as I'm making it first thing in the morning, and I'm a bit lazy.

Speaking of first thing in tha' morning, I took these pictures in perfect conditions. Wait, no. It's cloudy outside, the light is terrible, this was pre-coffee, on an iPhone. They will not win any awards. However, they should teach you how to make coffee, okay? Slammin' photographer, I am not.

To begin: fill the kettle with water and begin to heat on the stove. This part takes the longest, so do it first. 

18 June 2012

Stop Reading this, and go watch the Master's (Or: Happy Father's Day).

Happy Monday, you guys. Or, Happy Sunday / Fathers' Day / Master's Tournament Watching Day to those back in the States, and Happy Middle of the Night to those on the European continent. It's a tricky one, coordinating the holidays when your only real duty is to call your parents around a 10-hour time zone change. I have to say that my parents hear much more from me then Amos' parents hear from him. Chalk it up to the perks of no 9-to-5. (Or, in Amos' case, 6:45-to-5:45).

Also, a note on Father's Day: is it just me, or have the worldwide marketing departments taken the easy route with Father's Day and decided to just suggest alcohol all the time? Neither of our Dads drink, so it doesn't ring true as a 'must have' for Father's Day. I never seem to run into it on Mother's Day (no ubiquitous references to mimosas or sav blanc), but it seems like every card mentions a day drinking scotch, and every gift list insists on whiskey rocks, and come on, let's think a little broader then that, shall we?


It was a quiet weekend around here, and when I say a quiet weekend, I mean really quiet, and a bit feverish too: Amos got very sick on Saturday and spent the whole day in bed with a fever. The kid never complains about getting sick, so when he crawled back into bed by 10AM, I knew things were bad. When he got dizzy every time he got up out of said bed, I began to wonder. He was flaming hot and I was running the options over in my head: at what point to do worry about a fever and why-oh-why didn't we bring a thermometer over from the States? I made the ultimate wife call and said that until he was hallucinating, I wasn't going to fret over the fever. I forced cold medicine and water down his throat, pulled the covers over him, and then watched an entire season of Mad Men, waiting for him to get better.

someecards.com - Sorry you're feeling like such a pussy

I also might have discovered Tom and Lorenzo and spent an embarrassing amount of time reading into plot twists (Jane has an eating disorder?!) and costume changes (why Peggy's clothing probably were her sister's when she was pregnant!)

By Sunday, Mike wasn't 100%, but his body temperature was back in the normal range. Those 24 hour bugs, man. They're brutal. He's back to work today, with just a small cough, and I have begun to clean everything in our apartment. I'm on a mission to avoid the bug ma' self. Amos is a stoic man, only mentioning he felt bad a couple times during his fever. I, on the other hand, cried on Friday when I stubbed my toe. To be fair, it hurt. A lot. I have quite a bit invested in avoiding getting sick.

I'll be back tomorrow with some good stuff: books I've been reading, coffee I've been drinking, Japanese food I've been cooking. Wait for it. Until then, call your Pops and say hello.


14 June 2012

On Eggs. And putting them all in one basket.

The eggs in Japan are different. I mean, they're normal chicken eggs and everything, but when you crack them open they are Bright Orange. (This is kind of color that needs to be capitalized. It's not bright orange so much as it's Bright mother-fuckin' Orange). Amos and I think it's because they are so much fresher then the standard Tyson-chicken-factory-produced US eggs, though we are not egg experts by any stretch of the imagination, and we have absolutely no scientific proof to back up that claim. (Confidential to Tyson: please don't sue us). The eggs here are bright and cheerful and the kind of color that makes you pause and ask yourself "Is that what an egg is supposed to look like? Or not?". (It's at this point that I try not to have an existential crisis on why I'm asking myself this as a 27 year old. Perhaps in my third decade, I'll figure it out. Fingers crossed.)

The upside of this whole thing is that Amos is slowly coming around to the reality that I will own chickens one day. In our backyard. We're based in Seattle, where hippie shit like that is total kosher. Bam! Excited!

Okay, enough about eggs. I swear to God I didn't think this introduction would be as rambly as it is. I think this post was supposed to be about marriage and depending on your spouse and being a team. But I got caught up in the orange-ness of Japanese chicken eggs. Sorry. Keep reading. I get to the point... eventually.  In the meantime, here's funny picture of Amos and I on our honeymoon, checking out cheesy souvenirs. It has nothing to do with eggs; I just like it.

Focusing: When we came to Japan, we were married less then 6 months. Like many newlyweds, I'd been asked if being married felt different. The answer before Japan was kind of. I mean, Amos and I had been dating for over six years by the time we got married. Living together for two. We'd combined bank accounts while planning the wedding (it had became obvious we needed to do it when I paid several deposits and then had to write on the white board: You owe me $5,000.) Some of these changes felt "bigger" then the marriage thing... well, if not bigger, requiring more adjustment. The living together thing: how do we divide up our time so that we balance quality time together and time with friends and time alone?* The money thing: how do we reconcile the fact that Amos' jeans cost $50 and mine, well, a lot more than $50? Marriage, while bigger, was less fraught.

Now that we're in Japan, marriage definitely feels different. How could it not? I would never have packed up and moved around the globe for a boyfriend, but I would for a husband (Call me old fashioned Sally). Back in the States, our incomes were about on par with each other. Here? Amos' job is the one paying all our bills. My freelance and small projects are a way to keep busy and looped in with my work back home, but it's not paying the rent. Heck, it's not paying for drinks on a night out. Let's be honest here. I am not rolling it in.

It's a Big Transition (capitalized, naturally. Actually, when you read it, infer big hand gestures, too. It's that kind of Big). I think it's been a more confounding transition then actually moving to and living in a non-English speaking country, though, perhaps, it's because no one really talked about it in all those preparatory 'culture seminars' we attended in anticipation of our move.  What we each are able to bring to the table fundamentally changed. Yet, I feel like we are more on the same team then ever before. I know; Stick with me here.

It's hard some days: our lives here follow pretty traditional gender roles in a way I never imaged my life would. I always thought that if one of us stayed home, there would be a little person or two needing care of said stay-at-home-person. Did I imagine myself a young trophy housewife? Nope, can't say I did. I take care of the heft of laundry, cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, trip-planning, and house maintaining. At times, when I get frustrated that Amos isn't jumping up to throw in a load of clothes, I remember that all I did today was calligraphy and take a run, and for the love of all things, it's only laundry. My day was calligraphy. And a workout. Then, I do the laundry. Because, Jesus, come on Shean.

But more then roles and housework and who-does-what, we are now tied to each other in a way that we weren't before. I am, at this point, financially dependent on my husband (For the record, still scary to type out). Yes, it's his job, but "we" accepted it because it affects me in a way that past positions never did. Before we were married, before we moved to Japan, I would never have thought on giving an opinion if he should transfer or switch positions, and I think it was true on his side as well. I never would have asked the questions I've asked, or weighed in with what I've weighted in on. Moving to Japan made me depend on him in a way that I've never had to before, and in turn, he's been more open and accessible on things that, prior to marriage, were just "his." It's scary, and at times cringe worthy when we have to employ the "we" language,** but it's working out. I think it's worth it, and I think, to a degree, it's telling of the intimacy that marriage entails. You are in it. Deep, man. (I know. Can you believe I wrote that last sentence? I should be a philosopher or something.)

Growing up, I was always really careful not to put all of my eggs in one basket (ah! the long introduction, making sense now! At this point all my writing teachers are collectively sighing... sadly). With boyfriends, with school, with jobs, I was a well diversified lady. If one thing fell through, I always had options. It made me feel secure. This is the first time in my life where I have gone against this instinct. I am in this thing, all the way, and so is my husband. We've got only one basket now. (That's the sounds of my writing teachers logging off from this post because of the overextended metaphor. Too painful.)

And I think, 10 months in, we're beginning to see what this marriage business is all about.

Now, for my David Foster Wallace-esque footnotes:

* Yeah, we both are introverts. Alone time is a Must Have. I now average 10 hours a day of it, and, to be honest, I don't hate it.

** For the record, still hate the couples that say "We" all the time instead of "I." Yes, I may have to be them, at certain times now, but come on. Little goes a long way. STFU already.

*** Confidential to Japan: your plastic eggs containers are terrible. I have broken more eggs in my 4 months here then I did my entire 27 years back in the US. Come on, please.

13 June 2012

May 2012 :: A (super late) wrap up

Well, May! Now that we're 13 days behind schedule, let's just move forward, shall we? (Can one move forward with a recap? Anyway, you know what I mean.)

Recycling involves washing, drying, tearing, & walking it BACK to the store.
It sucks.

Amos didn't get the memo we were taking a photo.

Botticelli's Birth of Venus decoupaged onto a toilet. Ah-maze-ing.

The lid made it even better.

I didn't realize the grocery store would close early over Golden Week.
Since we didn't have food, I had to do the shopping at a kombini, or convince store.

Cinco de Mayo, Nihon-go Style.

Chicago has the BEST architecture.

I have really, really missed you.

Waiting for the bus. 

Family time.

Crusin' in S to the 'Lina.

Friend time. And Red Bull time. Wedding weekends are work, you know.

I always forget how big it is.

School Field Trips in Kyoto.

The Amoses take Japan (& my SIL is all legs, in a good way. Holy moley.)

12 June 2012

A note from Ms. Lazy Pants (that's me...)

Whoops. Just went ahead and disappeared on you all after Brian and Leigh's wedding, didn't I now? (Yes. The answer is "Yes, you did, you Bitch Face." Kidding! You would never say such a mean thing to me... right?)

Here is my tried-and-true list of excuses of why I haven't so much as tweeted in the past 25 days:

  • Lack of affordable wifi in the US (affordable = free. Duh.)
  • Lack of any type of wifi on airlines, airports, and Amtrak. (PS: Amtrak is so. awful. I'm looking at you, Chicago to St. Louis route. Yes, YOU.)
  • I was not in one place for more than 48 hours since mid-May.
  • When I landed in Japan on May 28th, I met my in-laws in Narita airport, and changed hats from US tourist to Japan tour guide in 2 seconds flat.
  • The Blogger interface SUCKS to update photos or posts. I am Ms. Lazy Pants; I revolt when sharing is more involved then pressing one button. (Duh, x2.)

Anyway! Sorry! Enough excuses! Stop yelling at me!

The US was lovely. It was all that I hoped for, with the exception of stuffing my face great Mexican food. I ran out of time for that. I did, however, get some killer St. Louis BBQ, so I left a happy (and pudgy) girl. The Amos family's trip across Japan was so nice; I'll have to write some travel guide updates, as I'm getting the hang of the tourist spots. (Kyoto, check! Tokyo, check! Hiroshima, check!) Finally, this past Sunday after everyone left, my Amos and I sat down on the couch, after 4 weeks apart, and we did what any newlywed couple would: We watch 4 hours straight of Mad Men (What did you think I was going to say? Get your head out of the gutter! And Oh My God, poor Joan!)

I'm sure I'll slowly update you and catch you up over the next couple weeks. The books I've read alone could make up a whole post. I'm playing catch up now: doing laundry, dishes, and unpacking (finally). I'm calling Visa to waive the late fee, as I forgot to pay my credit card bill on June 1st (My first time ever, which breaks my little former-CPA heart. Sigh.) I cooked dinner for the first time in over a month, and I dusted our apartment and bought flowers to cheer up the almost-rainy-season Nagoya. (*Update: now raining.)

I'm back, and it actually feels so good. I know I wrote a whiny, homesick-y post right before I left, but I feel better now. I spoke with good friends, and they assured me it was totally normal and I'd come out the other end fine. They were right, too. I landed in Japan, took a deep breath in, and realized I rather like this polite, thoughtful, detail-oriented country. I also really like being in the same country as my husband, so overall, pretty happy with my life choices.

Happy June, my friends. It's good to be here.
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