Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Doodle Dump! (1)

Today I've got just a few quick comics from this past week to share.  Moving back to the Tsurumai apartment this weekend, fingers crossed for a smooth transition!

It's pretty rainy here recently.  
Mac has quite an internal struggle when we get hit with rain whion a walk.

The walking paths here have these chained gates every hundred feet or so to keep cars from using them as roads.  I got cocky on a walk last week, and my hip is still paying the price.

Mass transportation is so handy unless it's a weekend where some 
rando boy-band is playing at the mall nearest the train station you use.  
They really do have people that are hired just to push as many people as possible into the train (and blow a whistle in your face at the same time).

I don't have a comic to go with this photo, but it's cool to me.  
Apparently it is koi-spawning season.  
I cross this bridge on my walk every day, and there's always at least five or six HUGE Koi (carp-like fish) swimming around.  That guy in the photo is 20 feet away - he's easily two feet long.  And he's just average!
big fish, little river.

No comment needed for this one.
This particular flavor of Kit-Kat actually comes with directions to put them in the freezer, then just before you eat them, stick them in the toaster oven so the inside stays solid, but the outside gets this golden-brown crispy crust and oh I need to go eat one right now.

Have you ever moved?  Were you excited to unpack?  
Tell me in the comments!  We're so close - all our stuff is AT the Tsurumai apartment, 
we just need the construction to wrap up so WE can be there! 
I'm having dreams about unboxing my plates, guys.  

ALSO - how do you feel about this doodle dump?  
I might do this more often if it pleases the masses.  Tell me!

little language lesson
watashino neko wa, ima suki ga chipsu.
my cat likes chips now.
(I have no idea why he randomly decided to steal these tortilla chips, but he ate two before I took the bag away)

Thursday, March 19, 2015


**A little over a week left until we're back in the Tsurumai apartment and our internet is restored to full strength!  Thank you for your patience!**

Before The Mister and I moved out here, we jumped on a bandwagon.  A FITBIT bandwagon.  
To be fair, The Mister’s been all about FitBit for a few years.  For the uninitiated, a FitBit is more or less a souped up pedometer that can sync with the internet. The Mister’s very fancy FitBit will also tell him how many stairs he’s climbed, how many miles he’s gone, how many calories he’s burned, how well he slept he night before, and also his heart rate.  Mine does a little less, because I don’t feel like I need to know just how close I am to a heart attack at every moment of my life.  Long story short, it’s an easy way to help you keep track of your life.

I got a FitBit prior to our move, knowing that we were about to go from a convenience-based society to a very pedestrian-based society.  I was curious to know just how much of a change that is.  

For the curious - FitBit tells you a person with a desk job (or in my case, a couch job), 10,000 steps per day is a recommended goal to maintain a decent level of activity.  In fact, this little bracelet of doom actually vibrates and displays tiny pixel balloons on the screen when you reach that number.  I was instantly addicted to the idea that I MUST see that little bracelet-party celebrating me not being as much of a tub of lard as I could’ve been. Every. Darn. Day.
wrist party!
In the states, this was admittedly difficult some days.  There were honestly nights where I would find myself at 9PM with only 6,000 steps, and I would spend an hour power-walking in circles around the house.  I looked like a SIMs reenactment.
less slapping, more running in circles, but this gif took hours to find.

I’d venture a big part of my laziness in the states - I need to have a purpose. I struggle to bother exercising if it’s just for the sake of exercising.  The wrist party was *just* enough to tip that scale into “get ‘er done” territory, but it’s nicer to have a legit reason for the activity.

What does 10K steps look like here?  It looks like sometime around noon every day.  That’s me having to walk to the grocery store daily so that we can have dinner, because our fridge is too tiny to stock-pile food like one might during a U.S. bender at your local Costco.  And of course, there’s walkies with Mac.  I try to get him out for a few miles a day because our living space is small and the big goof has got to get some opportunities for leg-stretching here and there.  And then there’s walking to the local 7-11 to pay our bills (that is in fact, how it works here), walking to the mall to pick up a few odds and ends, walking to the train station to meet up with The Mister for whatever social function we have signed ourselves up for that evening.

Said social functions are almost always dinners where the main course consist of delicious things, and sometimes things that might be delicious but I just haven’t quite gotten myself to that level yet.  Like these adorable, entire, squid babies.  Also note to self - you can spend an hour styling yourself to fit into Japanese culture, but when you get to the restaurant, you will ruin all that effort in an instant because YOUR SOCKS DON’T MATCH.  Ugh.

Tangent.  Reel that back in, Kipper.  Walkies.  Talking about walkies.  I’ve learned a few things about walkies in my time here that seem like common sense, but I didn’t pick up on until now.  Allow me to share them, won’t you?

Expect the unexpected.  I stumbled upon this lovely gent while on my way to the large mall the other day.  The mall, which is located in the middle of a busy city, on a busy road, near a large casino.  This was a weird place to just randomly meet a Rooster, is what I’m saying.  

Learn some basic language tid-bits that might help you in your journey through a foreign country.  The word for cute -“kawaii,” and frightening-“kowai” are REALLY similar in sound.  Pairing that with the Japanese style of stifling out body language, I get a lot of walk-time with Mac where someone will either call my dog terrifying or adorable, and because they always just stand with their hands at their sides as they say it, I’m never really sure if they want me to walk toward them so they can pet Mac, or away from them so they can stop crapping their pants.  I have been trying to remember to respond in this scenario with “he’s big, but he’s friendly."  Sometimes I forget to say that in the heat of the moment, and instead respond with “thanks!”  It would work if they said cute… but these almost always turn out to be the times when they said he was scary, and then I get REAL weird looks.

In addition to the above, I’ve learned that kids tend to unabashedly love big dogs, and adults tent to be very cautious around big dogs.  The other day at the park, a bus from a near-by preschool showed up, and as the kids filed off the bus, almost all of them pointed and shouted “wan wan!” at Mac (“wan-wan / わんわん” is both the sound that dogs make in Japanese, and the way that small children refer to dogs.  Like little English-speaking kids might point to a dog and say “woof-woof!”)  I had Mac sit and wave hello to the kids, and the terrified teachers then tepidly allowed their tiny charges to approach Mac.  We only stayed with the kids for a few moments before Mac was starting to get overwhelmed with little hands, and then we went on our way.   Which is not to say we didn’t make an impression on their itty-bitty minds.
Yesterday, I was out on my grocery run (so, sans dog), and stopped at a crosswalk to wait with a mother and her child.  Said child happened to be wearing the uniform of the preschool from the park, and the little dude apparently remembered the weird American lady and her dog very fondly.  He looked up at me, made the connection, and then pointed at me shouting “wan-wan!  wan-wan!
The best part of this whole story is that I do not have the language skills to explain context to the mother of why her son was pointing at a stranger screaming “dog!  dog!”  She was horrified, and before I could even say a meek “It’s okay, I have a dog”  she had shuffled him off across the street while chastising him in hushed tones.  Whoops.  Sorry little dude.

Lastly, check the weather.  In particular, check the weather BEFORE you say the word “walkies” out loud in a house that contains a dog.  Because the dog will insist you go for that walkie.  And so you will spend 5 miles of your life in a downpour.  Your dog won’t regret this until about 3 miles in.  And then you’ll spend the rest of your day in a house permeated with wet-dog smell.  Today is a good example.  It’s gonna rain all day today.  So my first walk will be to the convenience store to buy a cheap poncho, which I will rig to fit the dog, and THEN.  Then there can be walkies.
the beginning of the walk
the middle of the walk
the moment he regretted insisting on the walk
the aftermath of said walk.

What are your tips for enjoyable walks?  
How do you make yourself be active?  
Tell me in the comments!

today’s little language lesson
inu wa ooki desu, demo shinsetsu desu!
the dog is big, but he’s friendly!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Can't Sleep. Clowns Will Eat Me.

  1. I put together a quick survey to help me ensure I'm creating entertaining things for KpQuePasa which everyone can enjoy.  I’m really appreciative of the responses I’ve gotten so far, and they’re proving very helpful in honing the things I write about and/or post.  If you haven’t taken a moment to fill out a quick 8 question survey … might I suggest you do just that?  Thanks!
  1. You'll remember, we’re in temp housing while repairs are made on our apartment, and unfortunately, the internet is a super struggle in a house this old, this out in the boonies.  Without reliable access to do things -like check in with friends and family, watch stupid youtube videos, catch up with KpQP updates, translate the mail we receive (is it a bill? is it a flyer?), work on FINvites paying jobs, and pay bills- I promise I’m just as frustrated about that development as you are.  Thanks for sticking with me and the sporadic things I post, but if you’re looking for more constant interaction - it’s easier for me to catch an internet gremlin long enough for a quick tweet or insta, but uploading entire blog posts require a lot of stars to align out here.  We anticipate moving back to Tsurumai in about 15 days.  Not that I’m counting.
Moving On.

Our temp housing is, as the Mister would say "not perfect, but we can make anything work for a few weeks."  I can logically get behind that, but emotionally I am starting to get a bitter taste in my mouth about the this place.  Like parents who give their kids lemons for the first time and record it for all of the internet to watch.  Also, I haven’t slept properly in over a week, which might be helping that bitter taste mix with some low-level hallucinations and strengthen my dissatisfaction.

There's certainly some charm to this place, but for the purpose of sleep... it’s a drafty old house.  The only way to keep heat in the space where we sleep is to shut these sliding doors.
The space where we sleep.  Or really more accurately, the space where
the pets sleep until the five hours at night where we try to share the space with them.

As you can see, this leaves approximately .2 inches for Mac to sleep on the ground. For the three seconds we can usually convince Mac to sleep between the beds on the floor (we put some carpeting down for him) he will inevitably start to dream, and because he’s too big to really fit in that space, when he dream runs, his feet hit the beds.  Over.  And over.  And Over.

 I don't blame him for disliking being made to sleep all alone, squished into such a small space.  I mean, I can relate - I'm sleeping on a twin size bed (and for the record, twins in Japan are smaller than twins in the US).  Thus logically, he tries to insist on sleeping in one of the warm, soft, beds with one of his pack-mates.  Because the heater is above my bed... I am the obvious choice.

Mac's technique is to wait until you've fallen asleep juuuuust enough that you don't notice him putting a paw up on the bed.  Then he eases himself up and lays down in the tiniest little ball he possibly can, so that when his massive weight does wake you as he plops down, your first instinct is "oh, but he's not really taking up much space, it'll be fine," as you fall back asleep with a false sense of security.

Do your pets sleep with you, even when you'd maybe prefer they not?  
What's their technique?  Tell me in the comments?

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a pet that likes to sleep next to you, but waking Mac up in the middle of the night to ban him from the bed equals two to three hours of just listening to them aimlessly pace around on the hard wood floors waiting for you to fall asleep enough to crawl back into bed with you.  
Which won’t happen because your eye twitch is back after listening to two to three hours of “click click click click click click click” from their nails on that stupid hardwood floor.

So I begrudgingly let him stay.  Except, as we covered:  Twin size beds in Japan are, in fact, smaller than twin size beds in America.  The dog is still the same size he was in America.  Which is huge.  He’s huge.

It’s a fat guy in a little coat situation, except more like Big dog in a little bed.  It's all kind of adorable until you wake up to find he's used his legs to smash your face against the wall.  It's cool, who doesn't like dreaming about making out with a plank of wood?
Even that is doable until he gets cold.  You know what a dog does when he gets cold?

He puts his adorable face under the covers and finds the small of your back with a nose that feels like it's been frozen on the outer banks of Jupiter for a light year of twelve.  So then I'm awake.  My options at this point (somewhere around 3-4AM daily), are:
  • a. to kick Mac out of the bed to start the whole cycle over again and wake up The Mister, who needs to get up for work in a few hours or
  • b.  to play 1010 on my phone for a while until The Mister does get up for work, at which point I can tell Mac to get in the other bed.  Then I can sleep uninterrupted for a little less than two hours until pet breakfast time.  You can't skip pet breakfast time, it's the most important pet meal of the day! 

*legasp!* Are you awake!?  YOU'RE AWAKE.
(this is every. day.)

How do you make yourself sleep (I mean, like, minus drugs.)?  
Tell me in the comments!

today's little language lesson
Nemuremasen. Piero wa watashi o tabemasu.
Can't sleep.  Clowns will eat me.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Well Sh*t. Part 2 of 2

Earlier this week, I wrote about trash in Japan.  Mostly so I could set the stage to talk about dog poop in Japan.  That’s what we’re going to do here.  If you’d like to read part one of this post, click [HERE].  If you’d like to read about something more pleasant than poop, I suggest [these little cuties].

If your dog is roughly 10x the size of a normal Japanese dog…  we’re stuggle-bussing when it comes to Mac’s poop, is what I’m saying.
(get it? ‘cause they’re on the magic bus and we’re talking about poop so...?)

The first few times we took Mac out to poo here, we picked it up in a plastic baggie, and failing to find any public trash cans, we brought it back to outside our apartment, put it in the combustible pile at the trash pick up space, and called it good.  This got rid of  the poop, but we started receiving extra scrutiny from our neighbors about how we were putting trash in the trash spot on not that kind of trash’s day.  Dogs poop every day folks, what am I supposed to do?

I asked our relocation experts, but somehow this was not a question they had previously fielded in their years of bringing families of expats into Japan.  They said they’d do some research and get back to me.  Mac wasn’t exactly going to hold it for research.

The third day we were here, I took Mac for a walk with the express purpose of finding another dog owner and tailing that person and their dog until the inevitable happened… so I could learn through observation.  Not creepy at all.

 don’t worry, I’ve only followed you for 10 blocks because I want to see your dog poooooop!

You know what happened!?  That tiny dog pooped, and while it pooped the dude who walked her made like he was too busy on his phone to have noticed she just dropped a dookie.  WHICH WORKED JUST FINE FOR HIM BECAUSE HIS DOG IS SO TINY ITS POOPS LOOK LIKE SOMEONE DROPPED A PIECE OF ADORABLE DIRT-FLAVORED GUM.  It was too minuscule to spot unless you actually watched the dog make her deposit, so he safely walked away without cleaning up after his pup.  That dude is a bad example of a Japanese personality.

My dog makes poops bigger than this dog.  Poops that will not go so unnoticed.  
(This dramatic reenactment is to scale.)

Meanwhile, I got Mac registered with the ward office (I also got myself registered.  So we’re official residents.  That’s fun), and got his ADORABLE Nagoya dog license.  

(he's a legit dog now.)
I also got a “dog starter pack” from the ward office, which included a pack of flushable tissues.  I asked why, and the office worker was nice enough to explain (without looking at me like I was an idiot for not just knowing), that you use the tissues to pick up dog poo, then flush it down your toilet.  

AH HA!  I have unlocked the mystery!  I was so excited that I almost skipped home.  And then I started to think about the logistics of that set up.

...Okay, so if you have a tiny dog, your tiny dog’s poops maybe fit in one handful of tissue.  And maybe they wouldn’t be super offensive to hold onto while you ride an elevator up 11 floors with other people from your building so you can flush it in your toilet.


I know that’s not the case for anything this dude makes.
(side note: I’ve gotten really into knitting in the last few weeks, 
because it’s the year of the sheep, so yarn is stupid cheap.)

I said as much to our relocation people (who were STILL researching… do they think he poops once a month like a sloth?)
(actually, considering how much he sleeps, he could be part sloth, I don’t know.)
and their immediate suggestion was “why don’t you just have him use a potty pad in your apartment then?”

One more time, Mac is a big dog.  I’m not keen on having him pee on a pad inside the house.  I managed to prove this point to myself by buying a whole bag of the biggest size potty pads we could find and putting them on our balcony.  He is too big to properly aim.  He missed… ALL of the potty pads.  He tried.  He really did.  But everything ended up like an inch too far to the right.  hm.

When I finally heard back from research, I didn’t get much more in the way of answers beside “oh yeah, you totally are expected to just hold an oversized handful of dog crap in a tissue on a ride up the elevator to flush it in your own apartment.  Good luck with that.

It’s too much for my puny American mind to fathom!  So I improvised a different system:

Step 1:  In a frustrated huff, walk to the pet store with Mac so they can see just how big he is (optional step 1.5: show off his tricks, have everyone gush over him).  Explain to the store clerk in the most disgusting game of charades ever how massive your dog’s poops are, and how you just holding it in a napkin on the elevator ride is probably not going to work well.
Step 2:
Step 3: Profit!
(this joke will never not be funny) Have the clerk show you the most miraculous set of pet supplies ever:  Flushable poop BAGS, and a vinyl coated “discreteness drawstring bag”
Step 4:  When Mac poops, I pick it up in the flushable bag, turn the plastic inside out, and place it in the discreetness drawstring bag to take home.  Then flush and throw the plastic piece away in burnables.
Step 5:  Finally feel normal about picking up after my dog!
Horray!  Bring on the poop!  

Which is good, because Mac has been having some jet-lag issues in the bowel department.  His internal poo-clock has yet to adjust, so he does really well most of the time, but every once in a while he just “OMG HAS TO GO RIGHT THIS SECOND.”  He’s kept it all outdoors, but we’ve had close calls.  He even managed to poop on this really old tree in the park that is so special it has it’s own dedication plaque… in front of school children… while making a horrific cartoon-style fart noise just so everyone would for-sure notice him.  We’re never going back to the park.

Have you ever had a pet related faux-paux?  (or faux-paw if you’re punny?) Tell me in the comments!

today’s little language lesson

ごめんなさい! 私の 犬は 作らうんち
gomenasai! watashi no inu wa tsukura unchi!
I’m sorry!  My dog made a poop!

In closing- I saw this ad in a pharmacy near the house and I had to physically make myself not laugh out loud.
I'll be really honest that I'm not 100% on what it's advertising, but I'm pretty sure it's a laxative.  
Or a poop to poop dating website.  One of those.  (OMG don't google that.)

Monday, March 02, 2015

Well, Sh*t. Part 1 of 2.

We're in the temporary house, and getting back into a groove.

Disclaimer: this post is long… and largely about poop.  So I split it in two - part 1 now, part 2 in a few days.  Now you know.

Japan is a small island nation. I think that’s pretty common knowledge, and a horse that I’ve rather beaten to death here already, but I want to make sure we’re all on the same page.  

There are some societal rules which come along with being a small space holding a LOT of people.  Trash is one of those things.

When you don’t have space to create landfills, you HAVE to recycle what you can.  And what you can’t recycle needs to be burned.  And in order to keep the burning at a minimum, you have to be careful about how your trash is sorted.  This is all obvious and logical.

Great.  I’m a bit of a hippie, I can get behind recycling.  But let’s take a peek at the track record of my homeland: in a country where recycling programs exist everywhere; even in states where they will actually PAY YOU to recycle your cans and bottles… Americans are super poor at allowing themselves to be inconvenienced in saving the earth.  
(less a cartoon and more a documentary from our future.)

Because it’s easier to just toss whatever you’re holding in the nearest trash can (of which there are plenty in the states) and move on to the next fast-food restaurant.  Relying on people to do something good just out of the goodness of their hearts has not proven to be a widely successful way to implement recycling efforts.  Or any effort, really.


Our trash schedule, and our sortable trash bin. Cat for scale.

Super-nerd bit from my grad degree:  How do people develop morality, learn right and wrong versus how they decide to behave? Morality isn’t something that comes built into a person, and just like bodies, they develop and grow, lead to horrific, unspeakable things during their puberty years, and then sort of mellow out with adulthood.

If you’re curious, here’s the Campbell’s Condensed Soup Version of how people develop decision making in regard to morals:
Stage 1: How do I avoid punishment?
Stage 2: What’s in it for me/ What do I gain?
Stage 3: What does society expect of me, so that I can fit in?
Stage 4: What does the Law require of me?
Stage 5: What are my values and beliefs, and how do they fit with this decision?
Stage 6: I will act justly because it is right, not because I fear consequence, aspire to gain, or have any previous expectations.

Stage 6 is some Dali Llama shiz.  Most people don’t ever get there.  Seriously.  

So.  When you can’t rely on any one person’s strong moral ethics, how do you drive an entire society to faithfully recycle and trash-sort every day, 365, 24/7?  Well, I’ll tell you how Japan does it:  Guilt/ intimidation/ peer pressure.

If ever there was a society that adhered to rules and regulations, Japan is it. In regard to trash, it means there is a startling scarcity of public trash cans - you are expected to bring your trash home and sort it.  

All the trash is sorted into different bags according to what exactly that trash is.  Those bags, with color coded printing, are largely CLEAR.  Since all the trash is put out in those clear bags on the curb for collection (though only on the correct day for that kind of bag!) boy howdy, people will not hesitate to judge/ shame/ tell you off if you put the wrong thing in the wrong bag.  (aka Stage 1 or kinda 3.  So you hit everyone at the lowest level for 100% good moral behavior saturation. Gold Star on that, Japan) 

I tell you what:  The fear of being told off in Japanese works for me as well.  I’ve got that stupid trash sorting chart so committed to memory, I have nightmares of bottle caps flying around my head screaming about how I didn’t rinse the milk carton well enough.  I’ll be damned though if I don’t spend a few seconds every time I have to throw something out standing in front of my fridge to double check.

(fun fact: Don Cheadle made this Captain Planet spoof a few years back. You should watch it, but only if you don’t mind a laugh and a swear or two)

TLDR: Trash is complicated and frustrating for an American in Japan.  
Even more so if you have a dog that does what dogs do outside.
We’ll discuss more in the next post!

Meanwhile, I’m curious - how do you make your morality based decisions?  
Have you become the next Dali Lama?  
Have you seen great examples of kids showing off their 
own morality development (they’re SO good at it)? 
Tell me in the comments!

today’s little language lesson:

gomiwa, doko desu ka?
where is the trash bin?
(answer: nowhere near you.)