Class, Navigating, and Pearls

Japanese class starts tomorrow! First day of school… I am lining up my pencils, pre-packing my backpack…. (kidding) In fact, I’m only moderately sure of where I’m going. But on the way to class, everyone in the embassy speaks english, so that reduces the challenges of navigating.

Speaking of which, I really wish the Japanese would name more of their side roads. There are so many signs for stores etc that picking any single one out is difficult, and there aren’t a lot of road signs — only the big roads appear to be named. Fortunately there are maps in all the subway stations, which help a little, but I’m still hunting through very similar looking kanji trying to pair the ones that match where I’m going. Fortunately I’m like the leaning tower of gaijin out on the street — the locals give me a little bit of space so that when I stop abruptly and stare about like a guppy I cause fewer problems.

Vida and Vicky (A friend of Vida’s from Yokosuka) took me out to a pearl shop this morning which was quite an experience. I got an education on how pearls are made, why some cost so much more than others, etc. Apparently I have cheap taste when it comes to pearls, I like the uneven flattish fresh water ones. Jen gave me a big kiss on the forehead for that. But the fellow in the shop regaled me with his stories of selling pearls to all the first ladies when they come through, the ambassador’s wife, famous celebrities etc etc. So if any of you are hoping to buy some really nice pearls on your visit to Tokyo, I now know where to take you.

I spent a while this afternoon floating in the compound pool, which was wonderful. And by floating, I mean, doing the backstroke so energetically that I’m not sure I’ll be able to lift my arms tomorrow. 😉 Living on the compound is a little odd — it’s kindof like one of those company-towns where everybody works and plays together, there’s a shop and a preschool attached to the housing, and there’s a strong “tow-the-line” group dynamic — but having a nice big heated pool is a definite plus. It seems like some people do sortof hide out on the compound, interacting with the Japanese as little as possible, which I just don’t understand. I’m sure as the culture shock starts to settle in, I’ll appreciate this little bubble more, but at the moment we’re having a great time out exploring.

I made a cold soba salad for dinner this evening with cucumbers, shrimp, green onions, shiso leaves and a nice sake-soy-chile dressing. Really loving having all these cheap and delicious ingredients so accessible.

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