Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pajama Sunday

Last night I made an Indian fare for my yoga teacher and the librarian from one of my schools, both whom I am enamored with.  Making an Indian meal never feels the same without Cora or Natalia, but it was such a fun challenge to do it in Japan!  Finding the right ingredients was like a culinary scavenger hunt - I found tumeric at one store, cumin and cardamom at another place across the city, lentils at an organic market, but forget finding basmati rice! The Japanese seem to be so enamored with their rice that few other kinds of rice exist to them.  

Cooking Indian food for my friends was somewhat of a relief because even though I knew what dishes I had royally screwed up, they did not.  I miss eating with my fingers, oooh and when you eat something so spicy that it burns when you shit (excuse me).    What did I cook?  Bhangan bharta, daal, puloa, keer, and raita.  It was surreal to have these strong, wonderful spicy smells in my kitchen, in Japan.  We looked at a few of my pictures from India and as expected I felt like boarding a plane to Delhi that moment.  

(Above, the librarian, Miharu, and I with inevitable post-Indian food glazed eyes)
The aftermath.
Bubbling pots of nostalgia.
After enduring months of sweltering heat, there is no way to describe the physical and mental relief brought by an overcast, chilly Sunday.  To celebrate, I am spending the day in a new funky sweater and leggings tucked into my socks.  We all need a lounging Sunday!
A Sunday to contemplate dish drainers full of last night's dishes over cups of hot tea and cinnamon toast.
Something Unrelated to Japan
My most recent favorite children's ullustrator is Miroslav Sasek, a Czech illustrator who did a series of books that give tours of cities around the world. Check out his books!  (They are a really good Christmas present to send me... ) While being of the vintage caliber that I so visually admire, I love that they are images from all around the world.

Wall art from the Swedish and Finnish ceramics movement in the 1950's.  An Ekeby tile and a fish mosaic from Gustavsberg Studio.  Delightful! I am brainstorming ideas within this format, but using Japan-related imagery.  A rice ball mosaic?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Friday, October 24 Pictures

Absentee ballot! Voting with an absentee ballot was the most exciting thing! It felt so much more official than voting has ever felt, but perhaps that is also because I have so much more emotion around this election than I have ever had.  I had to call my parents to get the skinny on a lot of local issues, but come on California! Please allow same sex marriage and dear God vote for Obama!
These are a couple pictures from the bottom floor of the Yamakataya mall.  I always forget to check it out because it isn't in my consciousness yet that department stores will always have grocery stores on the bottom floors and restaurants on the top floors, but what a wonderful surprise!  These are different kinds of mixed rice that you can purchase by the kilo - some have different kinds of seaweed or chicken broth or pickles mixed into them.  Delicious!
These are toppings to eat with rice - they don't look so appetizing in the picture, but I think they are tasty.  Different types of fish and pickled root vegetables.
In the grocery section there are lots of these sort of booths that sell specialty items like really fresh sashimi or grilled chicken.  Mmmm, how can one cook when there are so many foods available?
People reading manga (Japanese comics) in the bookstore.  There are lots of bookstores all around the city where at any time of day you can expect to find people of all ages reading manga - its amazing! From young kids to senior citizens, everyone loves their manga.  There are manga about all kinds of things - Adventures of radish man, sci-fi, sexy manga, house-wife related manga, teenage girl/boy manga, business man manga, historical, you name it they have drawn it.
One of my favorite students drew me a self portrait.
Some funny cookies.  It sounds more like a dish washing detergent than a snack...
One of the English teachers in my office.  We all usually eat lunch at our desks and most of them brush their teeth at their desks.  I haven't started doing this yet, mostly because at 7am it is still a huge challenge for me to remember all the things I need to take to school in a day, pack myself a lunch and remember to throw away my garbage and recycling on the right days, so let's not even mention remember to bring a toothbrush and toothpaste.
One of the English teachers I work with.  All of my female teachers eat the tiniest lunches imaginable (those two pink boxes held her entire lunch!) and I usually eat at least twice as much of them.  I have resigned myself to the role of giant foreigner so I tuck in without any qualms.  This teacher told me that she is on a diet and I asked why in God's name she was on a diet (she's about 5'2" and weighs at most 95-100 lbs) and she said she was getting a little heavy.  Right, so I'm working on not developing a complex.
It was Show and Tell in English day and my students told us about their hobbies.  Most of the girls said things like "I dance hip hop for my hobby because it is cute!" (Hahaha! That just reminded me that the other day I was leaving school and a group of boys said hello so I turned to them and they started yelling "I am potato! I am pooootaaato!" No idea what that was about)
But this girl showed us a demonstration of kyudo, traditional Japanese archery.  If you are at all interested in Zen philosophy and you haven't read Zen and the Art of Japanese Archery I really recommend downloading the audio version of it and listening to it in the evening while you do something crafty.  Kyudo is hella tight and I wish I had a stronger sense of discipline or the energy to stay until 7pm every day to take kyudo classes with the students at my school.
Another girl shows us her stamp collection!
The neighborhood around my school.
My girls in their PE uniforms doing funny faces.
The view from the top roof of the high school.
A dramatic text messaging moment. (Side note: in Japan everyone has a cell-email address and for some reason it is cheaper to send cell-emails than it is to send text messages so my students don't say they are texting, but that they are emailing)
These are the outfits that painters in Japan wear. Genie pants, I don't know why.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mid-October Peekings

You have probably been wondering: Kelly, what are you eating these days?  To visually answer this question, I pulled a few things out of my fridge for you.  I have been cooking a lot more for myself (as compared to the month of August and beginning of September when I ate out every single night), but to be honest I rarely cook Japanese food because I eat it for every other meal and my attempts at Japanese cooking fall so short of what is available.  

This is one of my new favorite ingredients for when I do take a stab at cooking Japanese food.  It called miyoga and is the flower bud of a ginger plant.  You slice it thin and put it on top of tofu with some soy sauce and its delicious! The flavor is more subtle than the ginger root but still has a little punch to it.
Elementary school kids wait for their bus.
Easy rider, Kagoshima style.
This is amai miso, sweet miso and its my new favorite flavor.  It isn't salty like the miso paste you use to make soup with, so you can spread it on slices of cucumber or tofu and eat it straight up.  
A local miso paste.  I am trying to learn more about the different kinds of miso, where and how they are made and how this changes the taste.  So far, just stabbing in the dark, trying whatever has the most attractive packaging.
Japanese yogurt.  So far, yogurt in Japan is a mixed bag of decent and funny interpretations of yogurt.  A lot of the "plain" yogurt I have bought comes with a packet of sugar to mix into it and they are really into aloe yogurt (sweet yogurt with chunks of sweet aloe plant) which I never would have thought to mix together.  Personally, the richer, the more full cream you can give me in yogurt form the better, so so far the only thing that comes close to that is called "Borgaria" (Japanese interpretation of Bulgaria) yogurt.
Ginger-cucumber pickles.  Mmmm.  Very satisfied with the pickle options here.  I could live off the multitude of deliciously pickled items.
And mushrooms!  So many kinds of mushrooms and so cheap!
I recently sent off a whole mountain of small packages, so watch out - one may be coming your way!
I have gotten very accustomed to the amazing availability and incredibly quality of pre-prepared foods.  I was never so much a fan of food on the go at home, but here I can buy incredibly fresh sushi for quite cheap just five minutes out my door.  What will I do when I don't live in Japan?
Nashi, Asian pears. Crunchy, juicy, cheaper than most of the rest of the fruit available here (I suppose fruit is really expensive here because most of it gets shipped in from somewhere).
Hey, I have to keep my hippy cred up somehow.  Delicious on toast with butter and honey.
I finally found unfiltered apple juice which will soon lend itself to some spiced apple and brandy fall delight.  Also, my favorite plum jam from Italy, brought to me by Philip.
The math teacher who I sit next to at one of my schools.  His wife makes him these amazing lunches every day.

My job is solely "team teaching," meaning that I am paired with a Japanese Teacher of English and we work together to teach the class.  Mostly, this means that I provide the comedic relief and tidbits of information about American life, pronunciation, idioms, and slang.   This is one of my teachers who I call Renaissance man because he has mastered a kind of origami where you make something like 50 cranes out of one sheet of paper, comes to and from school on his bike and arrives early to practice the recorder, rode his bike from NY to CA, and has and incredible knowledge of almost anything I ask him.
My favorite Japanese teacher, who on occasion gives me tea ceremony lessons. 
Another one of the teachers who I work with, who I found out had a love for animals and have since spent hours telling stories about my dachshund to.
Students in the library.  I try to hang out in the library when I am not teaching classes because the librarian and I are bff and also because it gives me the chance to interact with the students when they aren't worrying about how their "real" teacher is going to react to them.  The other day a group of boys in the library remembered that they knew the word "vagina" and started yelling it and turning it into a song and hopping around "vaaaaaginaaaah vagInUUUUhh!"  As their teacher I was supposed to not find it funny and tell them to stop, but as me, I couldn't stop laughing at them.
They are always on the phone. ALWAYS.  Especially in class.
My librarian friend.  We give each other small presents and show each other interior design blogs that we follow.
The teacher who sits next to me during his daily nap.  I have so much admiration for people who can nap like this and not constantly have their head dipping/neck snapping.  He looks like he is deep in mediation (and maybe he is?).  It's really funny when students come by and want to talk to him and look at me for help in waking him and I just shrug.
Most of my students LOVE having a camera pointed at them.  This is a little frustrating if I try in any way to get something candid.

What hams! Every day after lunch the students have various cleaning duties they have to do.  Instead of hiring janitors, Japanese schools get the kids to pitch in, which is s pretty good way to cut costs and I suppose ideally give the kids a sense of appreciation for the school... but it also means that the school is never super clean (maybe it's just my schools since they are both pretty lax).

For some reason a good majority of city buildings seem to be horrendously ugly and strange.  I have no idea why or how such a huge departure from the beautiful traditional Japanese architecture came about, but every day I am in awe of how ugly a lot of the buildings are here.
The girls love a picture too.  This is taken right after school when the girls are all starting to roll their skirts up once they are away from the teachers.  The girl in the middle left has her skirt at about the height that most girls want them to be at, while the uniform dictates that their skirts should be below the knee.  Its really funny to watch them rolling their skirts up and I couldn't care less about school dress code...

There seems to be little regard for a pretty skyline.  Sometimes I try to blur my eyes so and pretend I am in San Francisco, but the power lines here have such a different feel.
What? This building is so strange!  Castle/lego/a Swiss barn for the smurfs?
A street on the way to one of my schools.  
Pretty typical looking buildings, not too distinct, not too offensive, just sort of murky.