Monday, July 28, 2008

6th Birthday party

My son's birthday is not until the 31st, but today was one of the only days we could have his birthday party, so that is what we did. It was a really nice small party, held after he came home from kindergarten. Unlike other years (when I tended to go a little crazy) the only thing I made was a cake and the rest was from packets. The children didn't seem to notice the difference and in this heat it definitely made it a relaxing day!
This year my son was determined to have a chocolate "pinata" cake, which meant making a cake and then making a chocolate case to put over the cake which they could take turns smashing. Despite the heat (did I mention it is the hottest year on record here for a long, long time?) the chocolate stayed hard and all the kids had a turn hammering away at the chocolate and then stuffing themselves with chocolate coins. Another year down.....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

3 day camp

After getting to kindergarten before 6am on Sunday, making the children's breakfast (with help from some other mothers of course) I drove straight to Yamaguchi to run a 3 day programme for a group of 25 4th and 5th grade students. The drive should have taken me only about 3 hours, but due to the fact that I took the wrong branch at a junction on the highway I took quite a long and expensive detour (you can't just do a u-turn on the highways - you have to find an exit, pay your fee and then get on again and pay again!). I eventually arrived at the camp 2 minutes before I had to start the programme. Ooops!
It is a group that I work with every year, although there were a lot of new members this year. The main highlight is always the outdoor cooking - this year pizzas and baked apples cooked in/on an old 40 gallon drum. I'm thinking it might be faster to make one like this for our house too rather than waiting for our pizza oven to be built! Water balloons were also a big hit - the only problem being that the final game - "war" turned out to be a "25 vs 1" battle. I would have to say I came off worse than most of the children! No complaints really though as it was yet another blistering hot day!

Kindergarten overnight stay

This is my son's last year at kindergarten and one of the major events for the year is their overnight stay at kindergarten with all their classmates and the teachers. Although no parents were allowed to stay the night there were plenty of jobs to keep us busy - the children helped to cut the vegetables for the huge pots of curry and then in the evening there was dancing and singing around a bonfire followed by fireworks then a quick dip in the pool for the children in lieu of a bath. I left at about 10pm after helping to clean up all the dinner dishes etc. and starting the breakfast preparations and the children were all still running wild around their "bedroom". I'm guessing they all tired themselves out at some stage as when I arrived back at 6am to make breakfast (the joys of being the stupid chairperson) they were all sound asleep.
The next day was spent swimming at a pool before partaking in the great Japanese invention of noodles down the bamboo pipe. The fathers cut the bamboo and constructed the noodle slide and the children had a great time scooping out the noodles and slurping them down. The children all seemed to have a really good 2 days and somehow the teachers and parents survived too. Fun while it lasted, but good to be over!

Summer Holidays again

Sorry about the lack of blog entries lately... a very busy time! I'll try to catch them up a little over the next few days. Until then a little insight into the summer holidays here. My daughter is now officially in summer holidays (44 days in total....) so we are finding things to do each day so we don't drive each other crazy. Today we made "melon bread" which is very popular in Japan. I don't think I've ever eaten it in New Zealand, but it is basically a plain bread which you wrap a kind of cookie dough around before you let it rise and bake it. They weren't too bad for our first ever effort!
My son doesn't have holidays yet, but he is in holiday mode... today he jumped off the school bus holding his new pet - a stag beetle. He found it on a tree at kindergarten and played with it all day before bringing it home (in his bare hands), making it a house and feeding it a banana. Stag beetles are a very popular pet here in the summer. I have no idea why, but boys go crazy over them and you can buy them at many different shops - along with all the accessories a stag beetle could ever need. Special jelly to feed them, special houses, special toys etc. The prices of the rare beetles can go into the thousands of dollars.... a shame they never last the winter!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hidden friends

As the heat really kicks in the vegetables either take off or die off. So far the cucumbers are producing millions a day and the tomatoes are starting to do the same, with the zucchinis, okra, peppers etc. not far behind either. I pickled the first of this year's gherkins yesterday and when I went to pick some more this afternoon I discovered that the gherkin leaves are providing a nice bit of shade for my little froggy friends.
Despite falling down due to its amazing weight the passion fruit are still growing strongly too. I have managed to sneak a few that have dropped off and turned purple, but I am still waiting for the majority of them to change colour. I have no idea what I will do with them all if they do actually ripen..... but it has been fun growing them for the first time.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Kindergarten Sports Day

My son is 5 years old and in his last year of kindergarten here in Japan. On Sunday he had his big sports day - that's right in the middle of the heat wave! I am always impressed by how much the children can do and how much they can enjoy "performing". The teachers do an amazing job of teaching them and keeping them under control. This year as well as the normal relay, sprint races etc. my son also took part in the tyre pulling, the marching (this year he is playing the 3 drums - I have no idea what they are called in English, but I do know that they are heavy even for me!), and the "rhythm dance" where they showed off their athleticism with human pyramids, balances, pom pom dancing etc. Despite the incredible heat it was a fun morning which was fortunately all finished by lunch time! I even managed to make my stupid speech as chairperson of the PTA without falling off the small podium.
Next year we will be down to just one sports day a year - the school one....

Monday, July 07, 2008

Heat wave

I don't know about other areas of Japan, but in our area there are many road warning signs that also display the current temperature. As you can see from this one it was 35 degrees when I went to pick up my daughter from school today. I am beginning to wonder if we should actually start using our air conditioning rather than trying to save the environment and rely on fans as it is only the very beginning of summer here!
We farewelled our latest guests on Saturday after taking them to the big stone Buddhas and monkey mountain. We showed them how to throw stones onto the shrine gate to bring them good fortune... I'm not sure if you have to get it on there on the first try to bring good luck or not... if that is the case they may have a rough year ahead of them!
The monkeys were very cute again - with some very new babies among the group.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Repeat visitors

Yesterday we had another repeat visitor arrive for a 2 night stay. Last year Allison came to visit as part of a hiking group and this year she came again - this time with her boyfriend. They spent the day today hiking up the mountain (I stayed home to make dinner!) and then we went for a short trip to Usa shrine this afternoon. The lotus flowers are out in force at the moment and we all commented on how much their centres look like a shower head! The evening was spent getting origami lessons. It is nice to have familiar faces back again - another family booked in again for the summer holidays too so it will be fun to catch up with them again and see how they have changed. My daughter has kept up with writing letters to their daughter which has been great.
The rainy season seems to have disappeared and the heat wave has begun! It was at least 34 degrees today..... and humid! So much for spending some time in the garden....