Saturday, April 25, 2015

Anchors Away

The Mister is in the Navy Reserves.  You may know this already.  If not, you’re likely asking your computer screen a question we have heard about 525,600 times since we announced we were moving to Japan:

Wait, how does he report to his “one weekend a month, two weeks a year” commitment from Japan?

The US has naval bases world-wide, and in fact, we (yes, I am using the royal 'we' to imply the US of A) have served as Japan’s naval forces since WWII.  I'll let you guess why.  
When The Mister accepted his assignment with his company to send us here, the navy was awesomely easy-going to say he could just complete his weekends at the nearest base in Japan -Yokosuka- which is just a short bullet-train ride away.  So all is well.

The Mister has already completed one of these trips, and was successful, not just in getting to and from the Yokosuka base, but also in bringing me back American Cereal.  Random tangent: Japan doesn’t really do breakfast-specific foods.  They certainly don’t do frosted, flavored, marshmallow infused breakfast in a way that the Kellogg’s corporation would recommend.  What I’m saying is after The Mister’s return I spent a week in a sugar-high courtesy of Froot Loops.  Additional random tangent:  every morning I have finished my bowl of what is essentially soggy skittles in milk and immediately regretted eating them.  Apparently in the few months we’ve been here I managed to *sort of* wean myself off of crappy cereal now?  Only sort of, because every morning I look at what’s left in the box of cereal and pour myself a bowl even though I know it’ll make me feel crappy in about an hour.  That’s probably something I should see someone about.

But back to that “how does an expat assignment work with Reservist commitments” question.  A longer answer comes with the "two weeks" portion (once a year  Reservists go to a base for full two weeks to receive training).  The base here doesn’t usually work with reservists, so there is no training available in Japan.  Thus, The Mister must go to the states for that time.  A time which is… now.

Yes folks.  I am currently hanging out in Japan all by my lonesome.
Which is a really silly sentence to type while I sit in a city of millions.  

Had a bit to calm down.  No worries, I'm okay now.
Partly, it’s disconcerting to not have my daily-dose of an English speaking-partner at the end of every day.  But it’s temporary, and I’m glad we finally got him out the door on this journey.  He had some hiccups with a Japanese zip code having more numbers than an American zip code - the automated system that generates travel orders was not having it.  So it took a few tries to actually get what the Mister needed to be able to shove off on his journey.  He’s excited, and I’m excited for him.  

What will I get up to while he’s away?  That’s a great question.  I don’t have actual plans.  I’ve been trying to make some friends of other expats around here, but unfortunately The Mister’s training schedule is over what the Japanese refer to as “Golden Week.”  Golden week is a national holiday, and almost everyone goes on a vacation.  Everyone, it turns out, includes all of my current acquaintances.  

I’M not going anywhere because since Golden Week is a BFD (big flipping deal), plans would have needed to be made literally months ago.  But that’s okay because I also would have had to find something to do with Mac and Bub months ago, and I am honestly sort of looking forward to wandering around this city while it’s a little bit emptier.  Subway rides where my face is not smashed into someone else’s armpit is -honestly, no sarcasm- a fabulously sufficient celebration of Golden Week for this gal.

Also mangoes.  Mangoes are a GREAT way to celebrate everything.  But maybe in moderation.
yay poop joke!
What would you do on your own, in a foreign country, for 2 whole weeks?

today's little language lesson

Watashi no otto wa watashi nashi budō ha o tabeta
my husband ate grape leaves without me.
And then he sent a picture of them from the states to taunt me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Doodle Dump (2)

Another doodle dump this week friends!
Click a pic to make it bigger!

yay self-esteem.

I don't know why, but literally every time i have a headache, I will put off taking an excedrin as long as possible.  I will suffer for hours and when I finally give in it will take mere moments for the pill to crush the exploding ant feeling.

I'm proud of the Badgers - they did so well.  I wish I could have actually watched it.  Stupid wi-fi.

today's little language lesson.
Anata no enjin o shidō
Start your engines!

Are you watching RPDR?  
Who are you rooting for?  
(I haven't decided yet)  
Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Marketing & Earthquakes.

It’s election season in Nagoya.  We know this because: speaker cars.

A speaker car is exactly what it sounds like - a car or van plastered with promotional stickers which is rigged with an external loudspeaker.  This van drives around the major streets while a person in the backseat (almost always a woman with a 'pleasant' voice) reads a two to three sentence statement over and over again into a microphone while politely waving a white-gloved hand out the window  at street-level pedestrians.  

A video posted by Kristin KpMcD McDermott (@kpquepasa) on

All of these vans we’ve seen have people’s names and faces plastered all over them, so The Mister and I have decided they must be toting political “vote for me!” type messages.  Really though, it’s a best guess, because when we hear them, between the garbled-ness of the speaker quality, and the fact that we don’t know enough Japanese… it’s a lot like being kids stuck in a Live-Action production of Peanuts during a scene with a bunch of adults.  

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a speaker car in the US - they might exist in larger cities, but honestly I don’t see Americans being too cool with them, so maybe not.  I don’t think they’d fly in the states because they are SUPER loud.  I know they are allowed to start their driving loops at precisely 9:30AM, because I can hear them from blocks away as I sit on the couch in my 11th floor apartment every day.  They go until about 7PM.  All day.  I can hear two of them going while I type this.  I feel like most Americans would be pretty firmly in the camp of “this infringes on my constitutional right to peace and quiet! ‘Murica!”  In fact, I did a brief survey of the Americans that are readily available to me:  100% of the 2 Americans surveyed were totally over the idea of speaker cars.

Pictured: the sampling from my survey. 
So.  We’ve now established that I’m not cool with the speaker cars. Let’s talk about something else I’m not cool with:  Earthquakes. (how’s THAT for a segue?)

Also I look great in blue gingham.
They're so cute
when they're little.
Growing up in the midwest/ having never lived outside the center-line of North America, I have been brought up to be prepared to deal with exactly one natural disaster:  Tornadoes.  I’m not saying this to insinuate that I would 100% survive a tornado were it to happen, but I feel like I’ve had the time in my 30 years on this earth to amass enough information to take a pretty good crack at said survival.  Great.  

Does Japan have tornadoes?  
No, so that knowledge is useless.  They have GODZILLA* Earthquakes, and occasionally earthquake related tsunamis.  Two things about which I, KpMcD, have zero knowledge.

(quick note to my parents: I make an effort to write these posts in a humorous fashion.  I have slightly exaggerated here. I am in no immediate danger, calm down.)

We were provided some information upon our arrival regarding Earthquake preparedness, and because I’m a paranoid yutz, I have done some of my own research.  Let me share some highlights:

  • Japan is situated directly over the seam of two major tectonic plates:  the Philippine Sea Plate, and the Eurasian Plate.  Specifically this meeting is found at Suruga Bay.  The tension at this seam has proven to create a large (level 8+) Earthquake every 100-150 years.  
click to embiggen.  We're at the fancy cross.  Plate seam is at the diamond.
  • We are currently within that time window, so this tea-kettle is set to blow anytime now.
  • Because they know it’s coming, Japan has named this Earthquake already.  It is named the Tokai Earthquake, and true to Japan and it’s need for everything to be adorable, it has a “Smokey the Bear”-type cartoon catfish mascot.
  • I want to hug this mascot because he will keep me safe with his survival tips.  Also he’s pretty cute for a catfish.

  • Here’s what the Tokai Expert Fish has taught me: If I am in the house, I need to take cover away from windows.  I’ve timed it - I need 10-12 seconds to grab both Mac and Bubba and run to the toilet room.
  • If I’m outside, move away from buildings.  So I hope I’m not outside if it hits, because I’m in the middle of a major metropolitan area, thus there is no “away from buildings.”  Though the Expert-fish informs me that I shouldn’t worry too much, because the buildings here are all built specifically to withstand Earthquakes, so my biggest worry should be avoiding flower pots and other rando crap from apartment balconies.
  • It’s pretty safe to say that we’re far enough away from the ocean to not worry too terribly hard about Earthquake resultant Tsunamis.  But also I’m not going to worry about them because they tend to come with a decent amount of warning, and you better believe I’m not going to be one of those idiots who’s all “oh they issued an evacuation order for this area.  I’m going to just wait out the whole thing here anyway.”  OH NO.  Our butts will be E-VAC-U-ATE-ED, thank you very much.
  • Because they know it’s coming, Japan monitors the snot out of that tectonic seam and everything it does.  They believe they will be able to predict this beast of an earthquake in order to warn the people of Japan properly.  That monitoring agency also reports that while I’ve been here, there have already been two Earthquakes in this region.  They were "baby Earthquakes."  I didn’t know they happened until I read that on the page.  I didn’t freak out about that at all.  Nope.

Alright, so I’m feeling informed and reasonably prepared.  How does the monitoring agency and the Tokai-Expert Fish alert people to an impending Earthquake Emergency?

Which by sometime next week I will be perfectly conditioned to ignore in a “Boy who cried wolf” fashion.  Perfect.

What type of natural disaster do you prep for in your home-area?  
Are you in an Earthquake region?  
Did the adorable catfish miss a tip?  
Tell me in the comments!

today’s little language lesson:

watashiwa namazu desu.  jishin ga aru.

I am a catfish.  There is an earthquake.

*Godzilla is actually called Gojira (ゴジラ)here.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Bubba Drops the Bass

We're back in the Tsurumai apartment, and I'm feverishly unpacking things.  While I work on that, have a fun video of Bubba doing one of those weird things that cats do.

Love Peace and Chicken Grease,

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.