George has finally found his "Home Sweet Home" after 14 years of searching. George convinced Erika to move back to Japan, but it has been an uphill struggle. There are many problems that lie ahead for George and Erika before they can finally call Japan, "Home Sweet Home". Please join them as they face the difficulties and celebrate the successes. The journey promises to be entertaining as well as informative.
We are on
winter holiday for the next few days. It has been snowing and the temperature
is hovering around -4C. The time off has allowed me to catch up on a few
things. One of my projects was to turn a coffee table into a kotatsu. A kotatsu
is a heated table. I took the top off the coffee table and set it aside.
added cross-bracing and mounted the heater. The bracing also added support to
the table since the table top was no longer attached. The bracing will be
stained when the weather warms up.
A 2 meter by 2 meter futon was placed over
the framing and under the table top. Kiley was the first one to test out the
kotatsu. I think it’s her new favorite spot.
I wanted to
wish everyone a Happy New Year. I think it will be another great year for us.
It’s an exciting time and each day is full of surprises and laughter. I can
only wish you the same. Thank you for reading our blog.George
thanks to everyone for helping us make the 1st annual Y.E.S. Christmas
party a huge success. The students and parents were greeted by our surprise
guest (Santa Claus). In the U.S., it’s not a big deal to see Santa at a party.
Actually, it’s not a big deal to see Santa in Japan. The surprise for everyone
was that Santa looked like, well…Santa. In Japan, these terrible looking disguises
that look like a red Robin Hood are offered as a Santa costume. So when the
kids and parents saw a “real” Santa, they freaked out. It was a great photo opportunity
for everyone. Santa didn’t say much since his Japanese was rusty, but the kids
had a good time trying to figure out who he was. “Of course, it was Santa!” we
repeated throughout the evening to every child that asked.
provided a wide assortment of edible delights. The students provided
entertainment by giving speeches and singing songs in English. They performed
magnificently! The kids enjoyed the freshly popped kettle corn.
looking at the faces of the kids as they tried to break open the piñata. I'm sorry that you can't see their faces because of privacy issues. (Erika did a good job at adding "hearts" to the pictures.) The
youngest kids were the first to give it a try. By the time we reached the
oldest kids, the piñata was getting heavy. I think it weighed over 10 pounds.
The scene was perfectly choreographed as the last student gave the piñata a
mighty blow. The contents showered onto the floor and the kids scrambled to
gather the goodies. The super balls worked as planned (earlier post). They
bounced all over the place!
It was time
for the parents to have some fun. The Christmas Quiz Game Show was a hit.
Candies worth various points were given out as each question was answered
correctly. The one with the most points at the end of the game was given the privilege
of choosing the first present under the Christmas tree. The highlight for
me…playing the guitar and singing Silent Night in Japanese. To add drama, I
turned the lights down and the room glowed with Christmas lights. The audience
sounded like a choir and it was an emotional experience. I redeemed myself for
an earlier childhood trauma (earlier post) and I was able to sing without a
mistake. Woo hoo! It feels good to get that monkey off my back.
went home with a candy train, a present, a foam picture frame ornament, an
assortment of candy, photos, a full stomach, and many good memories. What’s
next? Santa will make an appearance on the 25th in Yufuin. It should
be a lot of fun. George
We will have
a Christmas Quiz show as part of the party activities. The questions have
multiple choice answers (A, B, C, D). Each family will have a set of answer
paddles. There are 10 easy and 10 challenging questions about Christmas traditions
and Santa Claus. Individuals will receive a reward for answering a question correctly and a
grand prize will be awarded to the person that correctly answers the most
will give speeches and sing Christmas carols in English to the parents. The
parents will have a chance to sing Silent Night in Japanese while I play the
guitar. I’ll do my best to sing in Japanese, also. I’m kind of nervous about
singing Silent Night in Japanese. When I was very small, I had to sing this
song in front of a school audience. I forgot the words and I have been
suffering from stage fright ever since. Well, maybe not ever since, but I
suffered for a long time. This is my chance to redeem myself.
In an earlier
post I mentioned that we stuffed candy and super balls inside of a piñata for
the Christmas party. The reason for the super balls: They are harder to collect
when they bounce on the floor. The super balls can be exchanged for special
candy and gifts. The party is less than 3 days away. I’m starting to get
anxious, especially about our surprise. Surprise?..stay tuned.George
Joe Reinhart invited us, along with
several other guests, to a very nice late Thanksgiving, early Christmas dinner. We had turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables, gravy and stuffing.
Lucky and Kiley quickly became friends with Joe.
Our host even
made home-made beer. The conversation was refreshing and strange to my ears. I
had become used to hearing only Japanese and broken English. This was the most
fluent English I had heard in over a year. The turkey was purchased from Yoyo
Market Online, a subsidiary of Costco. Thank you Joe!George
It’s time to
catch up on our posts before we’re too busy to write. This week we’ll have our Christmas
party so we’ll have a gazillion things to do beforehand.
clocks back to about a week ago, I installed gutters on the back side of the
house. I’m not sure why the house didn’t come with gutters. My guess is that it
has something to do with the severe pitch of the roof and most log cabins are
not used on a day-to-day basis. Anyway, the brackets which hold the gutter
consist of a large nail that is welded to a curved piece of aluminum.
Installation is straightforward.
First mark the slope of the gutter, 5/8” for
every 10’, and pound in the brackets every 24”. The plastic gutter slips into
the brackets and the downspouts are glued in. I still need to install the
second story gutter, but I may have to wait for awhile. The snow has arrived
and climbing a ladder is not a good idea. To be continued…George
One of our
neighbors in Tsukahara was kind enough to give us a lesson on making bread.
Since we don’t have an oven and she does, we visited her kitchen. Learning to
make bread was fun and I hope she will give us more lessons on baking.
can see, the bread turned out perfect. Some of the rolls were sliced in half and used as hamburger buns. Dried cranberries were baked into the loaf of bread...YUMMY.
After the lesson, I shared some sourdough
yeast with her that I brought from the U.S. My hygienist, Debbie, gave me some
yeast as a going away present. Debbie if you are reading this, I hope your
B&B is alive and well in Homer. George
some pictures of Y.E.S.? I’m glad you asked. Here are some pictures of the
neighborhood. Y.E.S. is located in the city of Hasama. Hasama is on the
outskirts of Oita City. Oita City is the capital of Oita Prefecture (A
prefecture is kind of like a state). We are located near a few public schools.
A very large medical school is also nearby. We don’t have the best location
because it’s impossible to lease a building with pets. However, if at some
point our business is successful enough, we will think about purchasing a
building near the main road. It’s one step at a time for us. Right now, we need
to focus our attention on gathering materials and designing lesson plans that
are appealing to all age groups.
Hasama is one
of the fastest growing cities in Kyushu. It’s easy to see why. Hasama offers
something for everyone. Plenty of walking trails, shopping malls, a large cultural
center, even fast food restaurants. Hasama is made up of people who want to
enjoy the countryside, but they also want the conveniences of a city. Many of
the homes are recently built and considered large by Japanese standards.
you look closely at the pictures, you’ll notice that the homes are western
style. I like to call them “boxes”. Most of the new homeowners don’t expect their
home to last more than 20 years. I think it’s because of the materials. The
construction is similar to western style homes, but the materials are thinner
and mostly made of plastic and laminate.
paths in Hasama get plenty of use from the local residents. This was appealing
to us and the dogs. Another nice feature about Hasama is that it’s close to the
bay. When the roads are too difficult to drive in the mountains, we can stay in
Hasama. It rarely snows here.
snow, Erika informed me that she saw some snowflakes mixed in with the light
rain. The first snow in Tsukahara and it’s only November. I’ll try to take some
pictures when I get home. George
Note: This view is from Hasama. Mount
Yufu is the volcano on the left. Mount Tsurumi is the volcano on the right. Tsukahara is on the opposite side of these volcanoes. It's a 45 minute drive home.
beginning to feel a lot like winter. The temperature has dipped below freezing.
The wood pile has grown to an acceptable level provided that the winter season
will not be too severe.
operated splitter had to be retired because of a hydraulic leak. It did a heck
of a job considering how cheap it was. Rather than follow the same route, we
decided to go electric this time. My goodness! What a difference! Manually, it
would have taken 10 days to do what we have done in only one day with the
electric splitter. It was almost fun to split wood. Seriously, we accomplished
ten times more work with ten times less effort. I could split oak with a
diameter of 15 inches. No problem. Maple, cherry, oak, and acacia were no match
for the splitter.
It’s a heavy duty machine (300 lbs) with two speeds and it
requires a 20 amp circuit. The slow speed does the initial work of splitting
the big stuff. The fast speed follows through and finishes the splitting
process. It’s very simple to use and relatively safe.
We ordered it from Rakuten and they delivered it within a couple of days. It's amazing how fast packages are delivered in Japan. The mail is even delivered on Sunday...after 8PM...out here in the middle of nowhere! We discovered that it's easier, cheaper, and more convenient to order online than to go to the store. Since Erika and I hate to go shopping, this is a good thing. George
be Christmas without these classics. We’re trying to incorporate these videos
into an English lesson plan for the holiday season.
Our Christmas Party will be
in Hasama on the 15th of December. Erika has been making the
invitations and I’ve been busy with the party favors. We are very grateful to
the community of Sunny Town for letting us use their community center for the
A few of the parents will help in making this a fun and successful Christmas
party for everyone involved. Erika and I are very excited to share this holiday
with the students. In Japan, Christmas is all about presents. Many students
believe that Christmas is on the 24th of December because that is
when the gifts are exchanged. I’ve been trying to explain that Christmas is a
birthday that is celebrated on the 25th.
Halloween is the kick-off to the holiday season, Happy Halloween. The kids
really don’t understand the scary part of Halloween. Most of them know that
it’s a time for wearing costumes and eating candy. We are going to pass on
having a Halloween party and concentrate on having a great party in December.
The people who know us know that we don’t celebrate holidays. We have never
given each other a present for any occasion, except for my 50th
birthday, last year. It’s ironic that we are planning a Christmas party with
all the bells and whistles. Life is full of surprises.George
have this really great idea about reusing plastic bottles that contain cleaning
products, cosmetics, sauces, shampoos, etc. Rather than sell you another
plastic bottle, they sell an easy-to-use refill pouch. The pouch contains
exactly enough product to refill the original plastic bottle. The pouches are clearly marked so that you don’t accidently put the
wrong product into the original bottle. In the U.S., I hated to throw away a
perfectly good spray bottle. I would save the sprayer, but how many sprayers
does a person need? The pouches are easy to recycle and easy on the
environment. It’s a win win situation. George