Tuesday, March 27, 2007

little dog in a big city

Our pooch is sleeping next to the desk as I type this. We've begun to bond in the 28 hours she's been here. But the poor thing is very scared so it's going to take awhile for her to settle in.

I just hope she doesn't wake us every night with wolf-like howls at 2 a.m. No, I think it was just that she woke up and forgot where we were (upstairs, she didn't want to come up when we went to bed) or maybe she even forgot where she was. After all, in her nine short months, we're her third, but thankfully final, home.

She seems particularly afraid of going outside (perhaps she came from a quiet suburb of Osaka) but we already see progress. Twice today I was able to get her to go up the stairs on her own 4 feet, without me having to carry her. And just before dinner Alain took her out and apparently she dragged him straight to the park right next to the embassy where I took her last night.

I'm just anxious for her to feel at home amongst Tokyo's ever flowing rivers of humanity so we can sniff out new adventures together. Welcome, Grace.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

biggy not too far away

If you heard about the earthquake(s) in the Noto peninsula and aren't familiar with the Meteorological Agency's link I included on my web site shortly after we arrived, please don't worry about us. The opposite coast was hit quite bad: one dead, hundreds injured, buildings down, the whole bit. But we're fine here in Tokyo, 300 kms away.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

four-legged comment magnet

Well it seems my new furry pal has prompted more woofs out of you than usual. My regulars are as excited as me, it's too funny! Here's an update for all you anxious aunties: she's arriving Monday afternoon (Sunday your time).

So, though it's Alain's birthday on Saturday, I must find time this weekend to do some cooking (she's going to be a homemade food eater) and shop for some toys. I also want to sew her a bed out of some old curtains and pillows. But the birthday boy has been such a brat lately, maybe I'll just forget his darn birthday and concentrate on my pet activities!

On the naming front, I had asked my shelter rep if Gries was her name from her previous family and she had told me no, she thought the shelter staff had come up with it. But yesterday she corrected that and said it was her original name. And last night I had a thought: I'm pretty sure the shelter took the spelling down wrong when they received her, because Gries doesn't mean anything in Japanese nor in English (unless it was an attempt at Grease or Greece). I think it most likely should have been Gureisu, the romanji spelling of the Japanese pronunciation of Grace.

And so I thought, maybe it would be best to stick to that. It's not so bad (better than Grease). Kind of pretty. I tell Alain this over breakfast, though I should've known better than to bring it up with him because he's been doing nothing but hassling me about the name, dissing all my ideas and coming up with nothing but dumb/joke names of his own. Well jokes aside, he said he refuses to call her Grace because it's snobby or pretentious or something. NOW he likes one of my original ideas which he previously dissed: Kumo (cloud, but it also means spider). I know one thing: I'm going to teach her to come to whatever name I do choose AND I'm going to train her to bite him in the nuts at my command for just such occasions!

I’m kidding of course. So be it Juuki (treasure/invaluable person but it also means machine gun) or Momo (peach, thanks JJ), Pepper (thanks Lia) or even Tortilla (gracias birthday boy), you can be sure a lot of thought went into her name. Because though I wanted to give her a Japanese name, I didn't want to give her a popular pet, nor a 'people' name. And choosing a Japanese word is tricky because one pronunciation can actually cover many words/meanings (each being written with different kanji), as you see with a couple of my examples.

But then nothing is simple when you overthink it. Grace?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

new moon

I am so zonked that I was gazing around trying to think of a post title when my eyes alighted upon the calendar, noting that tonight is officially moonless and the vernal equinox is just two days away. Shunbun no Hi is actually a national holiday in Japan but unfortunately the embassy doesn't take it.

Aside from that useless info, I have not much to say other than we discovered yet another neighbourhood today and sampled its famed signature dish/dining experience, monja-yaki. This crepey-like concoction is eaten, using a tiny metal spatula, right off the mini flat grill that is your table. The 'hood, Tsukishima, has some charm and a quirky history: it's a little island built from earth they dredged up when building a shipping canal in Tokyo Bay in 1892.

Lastly, a woman from ARK is coming tomorrow to do a "housecheck" and pick up my application to adopt Gries. Crossing fingies please. Also, I have a list of names I'm working down because we're not wild about hers. Any opinions about whether it's too late to rename an 8-month old?

I bought her a leash today, I hope I didn't jinx it...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

help, i want her

C'mere girl, c'mon
I have fallen for a white female.

Since we arrived here and I have more free time than ever, I've several times toyed with the idea—and have normally been shot down by Aran—of getting my long-desired canine companion. I was checking the ARK (animal shelter) website this morning and fell upon this gorgeous thing. Aran said it was up to me. As would be all responsibility, he was sure to underscore.

But I can't decide. He's planted the, oh what a hassle when we travel, etc. doubt in my mind. Whaddya think? Her name is Gries...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

here comes the sakura zensen

Blossom forecasts are saying that I'll get my first peek at cherry heaven in a couple of weeks. That's if the national meteorological agency's predictions, spouted on the nightly news, are correct about the sakura zensen, or cherry blossom front.

For the first time in the seven months that we've been here, I've started to see an (almost-Canadian) focus on the weather, to which the Japanese normally seem quite oblivious. The warm winter—the first snowless one since they began keeping track of such stuff in 1876—followed by a recent cool snap has apparently screwed things up somewhat since sakura-related hoopla is a huge deal here. In fact, hanami (flower viewing) parties have been going on for many centuries because the cherry tree has historically been imbued with much mystical and symbolic importance.

But no matter when the petals start to pop, I've got a prime spot not too far from our place in mind (local cemetery) so anyone who likes my flower photos, worry not, I'll be hunting those big blooms just like all the other millions of sakura hunters.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

minor miracles and mundane mischief

I've been astounded by the quality hothouse Japanese produce that gives us a consistent stream of beautiful large clean carrots without dirt. If I'm lazy, I don't even have to peel 'em! And that's not to mention my glee at gnashing the perfectly formed and forever fresh cukes and sumptuous strawberries all winter. At a price of course, but hey I'm now a firm believer in the you-get-what-you-pay-for cliché. Just don't make me think about GMOs and chemicals because organics are next to impossible to find here (and totally unaffordable).

On a non-food note: since we arrived, Alain's talked about starting a list of little conveniences discovered daily, like train window armrests (why don't they do that in Canada?), foldable plastic vases for the office and other smart little Japanese attention-to-detail inventions that we've now begun to take for granted, I think.

Of course there are down-sides to that obsessive attention-to-detail, or so this environmentalist opines. The over packaging of food drives me totally berserk. Fruit and vegetables are very rarely to be found in their naked form. Some are even cupped in protective stretch weave-foam, then put on a styrofoam tray and then wrapped in plastic. We've bought cheese that was wrapped in plastic wrap, then foil, then sealed in a box. Crackers and cookies are usually individually wrapped, then placed in a clear plastic tray to hold them in place and then enveloped in a bag. Arrgghhh! The worst of the torture is having to throw all this stuff into our "non-burnable" garbage bin (as opposed to the organics and paper in our other bin, which is incinerated) since it is not recyclable here in Tokyo--only PET bottles and #1 plastic are.

And that same freshness obsession has tainted my new favourite snack, which I've had to give up in a quest to end my migraines. Sembei, or Japanese rice crackers, contain nitrates, a common migraine trigger. I just do not have the words to cover a) the variety of kinds available nor b) how addictive those light crunchies are. Sembei, I miss you!

Lastly, I must say that living here has opened my eyes to how prevalent stereotypes can be. I'm beyond tired of hearing non-Japanese making blanket statements about Japanese people (how they're shy, reserved, quiet, serious). Grrrr!

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