Monday, October 26, 2015

At least we have our health.

Japan's motto should be "Japan: You better have a Plan."  More specifically, have a plan multiple months ahead of time.  Because otherwise there will be no space/ tickets/ rooms left for you.

It's like that phrase some people use that's all "if you're early you're on time, if you're on time, you're late, and if you're late... don't bother at all."  I'm not going to pretend it doesn't bug me.  It bugs me.  It amplifies my anxiety surrounding travel by about a thousand percent because if something goes wrong we can't just make a back-up plan on the fly... and then everything will be wrong and the world will implode and everyone will die and it'll be my fault because I forgot to pack a hairbrush.

Which brings us to Christmas - nailing down our plans so we can get ourselves back to the states to see family, take care of all the stuff we need to do while we're in said states.  And of course, making sure Mac and Bubs are well-cared for while we're away.

Japan has a very loving pet culture - you don't find boarding facilities per say, much as you find "pet hotels."  Depending on what amenities you need for your particular critter, there's a whole range of places to look at.  First and foremost we needed a place that was willing to work with foreigner-clients, and willing to communicate with us in whatever way was needed.  For Mac, we found a great place with an owner who speaks a bit of English, where he can play with all the other puppies at the establishment during the day, and at night he sleeps in his own bed in his own safe space.  They post a video each day on their blog of the dogs in their care so you can log in and see that they're happy and healthy. We've used them a few times now and we love them.

Bubba usually stays at home by himself when we go on shorter trips, so we've been in the process of finding an appropriate cat hotel for him while we're on our impending longer trip to the US for Christmastime.  We think we found a place, thank goodness, so that should be all set.  They asked, however, that before we bring Bubs to board with them, that we take him to a Japanese vet for a check up, and so that he has some health record in Japanese for them to reference.  Sure, that makes sense.

A week ago I set off to check "Bubba vet-visit" off the ever-present to-do list.  I, by myself, without a backpack, wearing just a button-down and a pair of jeans (this is important, I promise) wandered over to the pet store and its attached pet hospital.  I used the vocabulary I had looked up just before I made my walk over  to say "I need to make an appointment for a check up for my cat.  He is healthy, but he is old, and I would like him to see a doctor."  I believed, based upon the face of the vet tech I spoke with, that my message was correctly conveyed.  When you speak to someone in a language and you know your skills are poor in that language, your best tool is to watch the face of the person you're talking to because it will help you identify the moment that you lose 'em.  She did not get that "deer in the headlights" stare of terror which would have indicated any of the words I chose were nonsensical.  So when she said "Yes, I understand.  Please have a seat and wait.  We will be with you soon"...

I did just that.  I waited for an hour.  Then I was called back to a room to be seen.  I assumed that I waited this long because they wanted me to schedule Bubba's appointment with the English-speaking vet, and so I had waited for him to be available.  Which was in part true... except then I sat down, the vet came in, started in on his paper work, and then after five minutes or so said "so... where's the cat?"

I think it's important to note what I was wearing, because I wasn't wearing something baggy like a hoodie.  There wasn't a single possible space on my person to have stashed a kitten, let alone a full grown cat.  And I had been out there for an HOUR!? No one on the staff bothered to be like "oh, she didn't bring the cat along.  We should clarify what's going on." So anyway the vet clarified for me that they do not make appointments for pets.  You are seen in the order you arrive/ order of importance (triage style) at the hospital.  I had waited an hour and was going to leave with nothing accomplished.  And thus we concluded that meeting with me apologizing for my misunderstanding.  "When should I return? Is there a good time?"  And his response: "Oh yes, anytime."  "Anytime is okay?"  "Yes.  Anytime."

yes.  any. time.

Except of course, the time I chose to return with the cat.  Which, for those who are wondering, was a few days later around noon.

Here's a fun fact about Bubba:  He used to be a super chill cat.  When we moved from Texas back up to the mid-west, Bubba spent the long drive curled around my neck, snuggled into the hood of my sweatshirt and purring.

But then we moved again.
     And again.
          And then again.
               Yet one more time.
                    AAAAAAAND then we finally came to Japan.  

Over that many moves, Bubba became highly suspect of the cat carrier I had used to get him to and from the car, and eventually we got to the point where he would get too stressed to be able to let him out of the box at all even when we were safely inside and driving and then just fighting him into the box became tantamount to wrestling a bear.  Now he's just sort of always cranky with or without the box being present.  Like the old man who doesn't allow kids on his lawn.

Long story short here, when I do manage to get him in the box these days, usually Bubba protests by immediately horking.  He's not sick when he does this; he simply amps himself up that much about the box itself.  I also slightly suspect he does it as a tactic to get OUT of the box, as I usually immediately take him back out of the box to clean the hork off of him*.

So back to the vet; I have a cat in a box covered in his own puke, who cannot be seen by the vet for 3 and a half hours.  I also got a great bonus when we walked back to the apartment because there's construction across the street from us and being that close to an active jack hammer scared the sh*t of of him.  Literally.  Apologies to the lady who rode up the elevator with us; I wasn't a big fan of that smell combo either.

We got up to the apartment, cleaned out the box and the cat, and then I had just enough time to wrestle Bubs BACK into the box and walk BACK to the vet to wait in line at 3:30.
Whereupon he threw up again just in time for the vet to stuff a thermometer into his butthole.

This poor cat, guys.  A week later and he's STILL mad at me.  I can't say I blame him.  Still, I'd rather we get past the point where he believes I need to be constantly punished for making sure he's healthy.

Do you have a silly story from a trip to the Vet?  
Tell me in the comments!

today's little language lesson:
*brought to you in AUSTRALIAN SLANG courtesy of Kp2
Aussie: Bubba is a champion of the tactical munt.
American: Bubba is skilled at throwing up for a purpose - 
in his case, the purpose of getting out of the box.

Bonus screen shot from my phone that was taken as I put this post together and chatted with Kp2:
done and done.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Foreigners at a Craft Bazaar

Kp2 took this picture as we were
loading up to head out to the bazaar!
About three weeks ago, Kp2 came to me with a flyer for a craft bazaar.

“We craft things! We should craft more things, get a craft fair table and sell our crafts that we've crafted!”  She said in a very craftily excited way, thus I also became excited about crafts, and so, we crafted a game plan, traipsed out to the YWCA (the hosts of this Craft Bazaar), and we bought some craft table space to share.  Craftitity craft craft crafting crafts.

If you know me, or Kp2, in real life, I’m sure you can see how a craft fair would totally be our jam.  You might also note, however, that we are both currently in Japan.
Where everyone would be speaking Japanese.
And where we speak… hmm, I’d say “minimal amounts of Japanese” is a reasonable descriptor.

But you know what?  We survived.  And in the process, we met these people.

our amazing table!

The 4 people foreigners will see at a craft bazaar

1.   The Lapper- This person is really intrigued by what the foreigners have to sell.  But do the foreigners speak Japanese?  Do they speak it well enough? [note: no, probably not.]  The Lapper will spend his or her time at the bazaar trying to muster the courage to find out.  They will walk past the table while side-eyeing all the goods… never quite brave enough to stop.  Maybe next time around.  And so they will walk by again.  And again.  And… I saw one guy at least 5 times, and he was never quite able to get the gumption to stop.  Missed out on some adorable tea towels, bro.

2. The Free Practice Enthusiast - I can’t mock this person because I realize I sound just like that when I speak Japanese. Also I fully admit I was purposefully using the bazaar to practice my own language skills. I will, however, say it would have been helpful if they would have stood to one side of the table or the other so we could have pulled in more potential buyers.  Because they didn’t buy a single thing, but they did block our whole set up from view.  

3. The Somehow Still Skinny Eater - the people who quickly buy 10 cupcakes without even tasting the samples and then skitter off into the shadows, having exchanged maybe a dozen words between us, total.  I envy Japanese genetics - how does one eat like this and not look like jabba the hut?  This was a surprising number of my customers.

4. The Grandma for Everyone - the older woman who enthusiastically buys a little of everything you have to offer because she’s really proud of you for trying so hard to be there and she wants you to keep coming back, even though she doesn’t quite understand us or the idea that it would be really helpful if she spoke just a *tish* slower.

Understandably, she's totes my favorite.

In conclusion, we did alright for ourselves at this bazaar!  I see us doing it again in the future, and I think we both learned some things about how to successfully be vendors in Japan 
(namely, don’t immediately say hello to people or you’ll scare them, and baked goods are gonna sell way better than your scarves, KpMcD… make some darn cookies!) 

I am super proud of us, and especially of Kp2, who was truly the brains behind getting us a table and making this a reality.  She’s going places folks.  (and she’s taking these really adorable silk-screened tote bags and tea towels with her.  If you want one of your own… [Click HERE])

Have you been to a bazaar/ open market-type event lately?  
What was your favorite “score” of the day?  
Tell me in the comments!

today’s little language lesson
okaiage, arigatougozaimashita!

Thank you for your purchase!

Monday, October 05, 2015

5 Fall Flavors that are Foreign to Foreigners

Alternate title: That time I bought 5 different drinks, took approximately 1 sip of each for the purpose of this post, then put them in the fridge so they could become flat while waiting for my husband to come home and drink them.  (...but that wouldn't all fit in the url.)

First up - welcome to anyone who may have wandered over here from my comic in NagMag this month.  If you're in the city and you haven't seen the October issue yet - go pick up a copy!  (or if you want to see it without leaving the warm safe glow of your computer screen, [click here] to download the issue - I'm on page 9), They featured a 1 panel piece of mine on a page highlighting some tips for new foreigners to the area, and now I'm clearly famous.

You might remember a few weeks back when I talked about fall flavors, and how while in the US it's ALL about pumpkin spice, here there's a whole lot of sweet potato love.

I've noticed a few more seasonal flavors pop up in our local stores since then.  Specifically in the drink aisle.  And since today I was thinking "oh god, I don't have a good topic for this week's blog post - I have failed as a writer and a person," I decided to pick up a few of these special beverages to taste test for my loyal audience.

So, under the careful supervision of the ever faithful Mac-dog, here are our contenders:

Fanta (Coke) Soda - Asian Pear flavor
Lipton Tea - Sweet Pumpkin Tea Latte
Asahi Soda - PaPaPaPa Party! Energy Juice (...jack-o-lantern orange flavor?)
Mets (Kirin) Soda - Lemon Squash Soda Water
Pepsi Soda - Pepsi Ghost, MYSTERY FLAVOR!  (why yes I am most excited about this one)

I've decided to rank each of these items on the following:
A.  Taste accuracy:  1-5 on how close it tastes to what it claims to taste like
B.  Chug-a-bility: 1-5 on how well I feel like I could chug* it, aka, this is refreshing enough that I want to keep drinking it instead of meekly sipping it and hoping I can discreetly ditch it on an end table at a party before it gets too unbearably warm.
*I have been informed that if you are not American, you may call this "Skull-a-bility"
C.  Repeat Customer-ability:  1-5 on my own personal excitement regarding the experience and whether or not I would give more money to keep drinking each of these things.
D.  Bonus Round: 1-5 on any extra thoughts I have that didn't fit into the above.
So.  In the immortal words of Mario, Ah-here-we-go!

Fanta Asian Pear Soda
The Mister and I have enjoyed Asian Pear season here - they're a very refreshing fruit, not too sweet, but juicy and crisp.  And an easy grab and go snack.  I have high hopes for this taste in my mouth.
A:  4  It does indeed taste like Asian Pears, if those pears were sweet and bubbly.  Since I like that actual pears are not that sweet, I had to take a point away.
B:  2.5  I couldn't chug this, it's too sophisticated a flavor.  Maybe if I kept my pinky out... herm no.
C:  2  I think if I was jonesing for something in this vein, I'd just go with apple.  Which is probably because I'm an American and more used to apple flavored things, but this is just enough off of that taste to be something for which I'd really need to have a unique and focused mind-set.
D:  1  The first sip was good, the second sip was like "ah no."  
Total:  9.5/20

Lipton Sweet Pumpkin Tea Latte
I wouldn't be surprised to see this sold in the states as well.
A:  5 YES.  Yes this is fall to my basic American white girl brain.
B:  4 Chug is maybe a strong word, but where I was gently sipping the Pear soda, I was taking big swigs of this.  There will be none left to share with The Mister.
C:  4 I can totally see myself buying this again, but I don't know that I would make a bee line for it when I busted into the supermarket.
D:  5 If I'm honest, this is the drink that sort of started the idea for this post because my inner basic b*tch needed justification for buying a pumpkin spiced beverage.
Total:  18/20

Asahi's PaPaPaPa Party! Energy Juice
Fair warning, I'm not real big on energy drinks (I drink multiple pots of coffee like the good lord intended), but since this was in a big halloween-style display I felt it needed a chance.
A: 1 Okay I checked, it is supposed to be citrus/ orange flavored.  It tastes not like those things enough that I had to check the bottle despite being familiar with citrus/ orange flavor.  It is instead like crushed smarties in seltzer water.  It is unpleasant.  Maybe if I was at a party I could put enough booze in there to make it not taste like crushed smarty?  But then it would just taste like booze.  Yeah no.
B: 4?  I am trying to be nice.  I would chug this simply because it would get it finished so I could drink something else quicker.  But I could chug it.  I would burp like a champ after that.  And also I would probably reenact the video of the little cupcake girl, because energy drink.

C: 1 The only reason this isn't a 0 or negative number is because the name would make it a perfect drink to serve at a "Parappa the Rapper" themed party.  But outside that very dated 90's reference?  No.  Just... No.
D:  2 I kinda wanna throw a 90's video game themed party now.
there are wings. and horns. and take my money already.

Total: 11 (8)/20 
...I am sad this horrible drink got a higher score than the Fanta soda, but rules is rules, and Spyro is my jam.

Mets Lemon Squash Soda Water
Mets puts out soda waters in a similar fashion to LaCroix.  I make this comparison specifically because LaCroix to Jenna Marbles (that link has swears, but is true to my life at the moment) is Mets to KpMcD.  A month ago they put out a new grapefruit flavor and it consumed my life for multiple weeks.  I finally had to quit cold turkey when I found myself going multiple blocks out of my way on walks because it would bring me past a Kirin (the beer company that owns Mets) vending machine on the street and I could get my fix.  Now they have this Squash Lemon flavor.  Let's fall off the wagon together.
A:  3 I taste the lemon, I don't taste the squash.  But golly it's tasty.
B:  5  I opened the bottle as I started typing the above paragraph.  The bottle is already empty.
C:  5 I need it to not be 5.  I need to not get into buying these, but I would drink every drop of this that entered my home.
D:  1 Because I already know I'm going to end up spiraling back out of control on my Mets needs, so I am punishing the drink with a poor score in this section to make up for it.
Total:  14/20

I really only like 1 kind of pepsi, and that's Wild Cherry Pepsi.  In all other respects, Coke is where it's at.  So while I'm excited about this, mystery flavored pepsi has the potential to go real wrong, real fast... plus what if Japan has weird Japan flavors for pepsi.  Oh gosh.
B:  5  We all know soda is the ultimate non-alcoholic beverage to chug.  Yes.  I can and will chug this. (Once my stomach is not completely full of Lemon Squash Soda Water.)
C:  3?  I love that I got the one pepsi product that I totally enjoy.  I am nervous that it is an absolute fluke and next time I'll get tuna flavored pepsi or something.
D:  3 I haven't had a legit cola in possibly 6 months.  INSTANT SUGAR HIGH.  Sugar High.  SUGAR. HIIIIIIIIGH.
click the picture. get the reference.
Total:  16/20

In conclusion, it would seem congratulations are in order for Lipton's Sweet Pumpkin Tea Latte, and I... drank a lot of liquid and really need to pee.  Okay byeeeeeee!

What was the weirdest drink you've ever tried?
Tell me in the comments!

Today's little language lesson
papapapa pa-tea nomimono wa, dai-ki-rai desu yo.
I greatly dislike the PaPaPaPa Party Drink.