For those new to my blog, I’m a Canadian man married to a Japanese woman living in Winnipeg, Canada. We have one child – an energetic boy who is quickly approaching his 5th birthday. For the purposes of the blog, he is named Tiny Dog after a nickname in The Secret Life of Pets.
It’s important to both of us that Tiny Dog grow up comfortable in either one of his countries. We’d like him to be fluent in both English and Japanese, and to understand the culture of Canada and Japan. At home The Penpal speaks to him in Japanese and I speak to him in English.
Living in Winnipeg, it’s much easier to have him exposed to English. He speaks it at preschool and hears it just about everywhere. Many of his friends speak English exclusively, with a few speaking English as their second language.
Keeping Tiny Dog exposed to Japanese takes a bit more work. Fortunately, even with the small Japanese community in Winnipeg, there are quite a few Japanese or half-Japanese kids of a similar age. When they get together, we try to keep them speaking Japanese as much as possible. There are enough kids to support a Japanese kids reading group, where the kids go to hear stories in Japanese. This group also organizes a book exchange, which is a nice alternative to everyone ordering Japanese language books from overseas.
At home, we subscribe to TV Japan and try to make sure that some of Tiny Dog’s TV time is spent watching Japanese language shows. His grandparents have enrolled us in an educational program called “Kodomo Challenge“; every few months we get a new educational DVD, workbooks, and some really cool toys. We also talk to his Japanese grandparents every weekend on Skype.
Our bilingual home has produced a few fun quirks. The first is that Tiny Dog refuses to watch any Studio Ghibli movies in English. He gets seriously upset if we try. The second is that Tiny Dog angrily reminds his mother not to speak Japanese around English speaking adults or kids. “No Mommy, you speak English now!!”
I expect that as Tiny Dog gets older, we will experience some of the pushback that other parents have reported. At a certain age, the kids don’t want to speak any Japanese at home because their friends don’t do that. I’m hoping we can find a way to work through this.
If you are raising a bilingual kid I’d love to hear some of your experiences. Let me know what has worked for you! In the meantime, I’m off to watch some Peppa Pig in Japanese.
Most of what I post on this blog happened years ago, but today I’m posting about something from the present. Yesterday was the first time I watched a wrestling match with my son.
One of my favourite things about being a parent is taking my son Tiny Dog (obviously not his real name) to different places and events. We have seen museums, theme parks, playgrounds, the circus, and live music, but I’m really looking forward to the day when I take him to his first wrestling show. I’m planning to take him when he’s a bit older (he’s only 4 now), but thanks to the wonder of Youtube, I decided to give him a bit of a sample of what pro-wrestling is all about.
I was lucky enough to grow up during the Hulkamania era of pro wrestling. The show was cheesy, over the top, and something that the family could watch. At the time I suspected, but didn’t know for sure that I wasn’t watching a legitimate athletic contest. It was a fun time to be a wrestling fan! My parents took my sister and I to see WWF (now WWE) every time they came to Winnipeg.
The good memories from my youth influenced the match choice for my son. I decided on a Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage match from 1985. This is during the second year of Hogan’s title reign; it was so old that he was still using Eye of the Tiger as his entrance music! The match itself is a textbook example of a cowardly, cheating heel vs. a superhero babyface. There were probably about 20 moves in total performed in 20 minutes and the crowd went nuclear for each one of them.
Tiny Dog’s reactions to the match were hilarious. He was upset that Hogan tore off his shirt and threw it at the start of the match. Why would he rip his shirt? He thought Macho Man was the good guy because he had a sparkly cape and a pretty girlfriend. He kept asking me where Hogan’s girlfriend was. There were some kids in Hulkamania gear in the front row – Tiny Dog wanted to invite them to our house for a play date. When I asked him who he thought would win, he picked Macho Man. What a mark – Savage never beats Hogan!!
I loved Tiny Dog’s reactions, but my favourite part was Randy Savage’s changing name. During the match, Tiny Dog referred to him as Macho Man, Macho Guy, and Macho Friend. Macho Friend was pretty cool, but I’m not sure that it would sell a lot of t-shirts.
After our viewing experience, I’m even more excited for the day that I can take my son to his first wrestling show. If we are still in Winnipeg, I expect we will see Canadian Wrestling’s Elite, a modern take on the classic wrestling territory operated by wrestler and booker “Hotshot” Danny Duggan. I’m looking forward to an afternoon of cheering the faces and booing the heels with my kid. Hopefully this will not be followed by any chairshots to daddy at home.
Long Live the Macho Friend!
Our wedding ceremony was held at St. Theresa’s Roman Catholic Church in West St. Paul, just north of Winnipeg. We picked the location because of the priest, the fantastic Father Mike. The small town prairie church also fit with our modest, sensibly sized wedding. Neither one of us wanted a lavish, fairy tale ceremony with hundreds of people. We ended up with a humble, intimate gathering of about 100.
Father Mike had known me for years, and when he learned that I was engaged, he insisted that he perform our wedding. I was raised Catholic, but I’m not what anyone would consider “active” in the church. The Penpal was not raised anything close to being Catholic. I brought this up with Father Mike, but he was not deterred at all. He even promised to learn Japanese if we asked!
During our marriage prep Father Mike contacted Catholic priests in Japan to get recommended readings and suggestions for a good bilingual bible. BTW – bible translation is a subject big enough for its own blog post. We didn’t end up making him learn Japanese, but we did teach him how to say “stand”, “sit”, “kneel”, and “pray” in Japanese to help The Penpal’s parents through the ceremony.
The ceremony itself was short and meaningful. We had readings in English and Japanese, and then Father Mike gave a brief speech about how The Penpal and I could share love with the world by being a good example for others. A common criticism of Catholic weddings or funerals is that the ceremony can be more about church and not enough about the people. Father Mike is an excellent speaker, and his sermon was just right for the occasion.
Other than being surrounded by family and friends, one of my favourite things about the wedding ceremony is that our photographer managed to capture what is possibly the only picture in existence of my father-in-law smiling. We obviously did something right 🙂
After an eventful start to my day which included communication problems and property crime, I returned home to start getting myself mentally and physically prepared for my wedding. The bride’s side of the family went to my sister’s house to get ready, while I was joined by Best Men Hippie and Triple D at my apartment.
We played video games and enjoyed a beer while slowly getting ourselves presentable for the wedding. (No, I don’t usually drink in the morning). Hanging out with my friends was a great way to keep me calm. Eventually we were all dressed and looking good, happy that our rented tuxes still fit despite getting measured a few months earlier. Right before we went out the door, Triple D decided to show us how comfortable and well fitting his pants were by jumping around. He assured us that there was no way the pants would possibly rip.
With an hour before the wedding, 30 minutes by car to the venue, one of my best men had completely ripped the crotch out of his rented tuxedo pants. We surveyed the damage which one of us accurately and inelegantly described as a “pants vagina”. The place we rented the tux was completely in the wrong direction from the church. I didn’t own a sewing kit, so Triple D suggested that we should try to buy one at the nearby Shopper’s Drug Mart.
Osborne Village Shopper’s Drug mart is always very busy. Hippie circled the parking lot while Triple D ran into the store, pants ripped wide open, to find a sewing kit. By the time we finally found a parking spot he had returned with purchase in hand. We were starting to seriously run out of time, so Triple D decided to make his repairs while we drove.
For anyone who hasn’t had the “pleasure” of driving in Winnipeg, the roads are generally in terrible shape. The temperature ranges from -30 in the winter to +35 in the summer, which is not easy on the road surface. On any other day, the cracks and potholes are merely an inconvenience. For Triple D, who was trying to stitch up the pants he was wearing while jammed in the front seat of a 2 door Toyota Echo, it presented a bit more of a challenge. Hippie, being a good friend, drove as fast as possible, suddenly swerving around the biggest holes. Somehow, despite the additional difficulty, Triple D successfully repaired the giant, gaping hole in his clothing just before we arrived at the church.
With a few minutes remaining before the ceremony started, Hippie pulled out a small football. Inspired by the cinematic classic “The Room”, we spent our last few minutes before the ceremony throwing the football very short distances to each other while wearing tuxes. Success!
This morning, the day of my wedding, I suddenly woke up at 6:30 am with a panicked thought: “what are my in-laws doing about breakfast?”.
This is unusual for two reasons: I don’t usually wake up before 7, and I rarely consider the breakfast choices of my in-laws. However, somewhere in my subconscious my brain realized that The Penpal’s parents (who don’t speak any English) had moved from a hotel with a breakfast buffet to a hotel where you needed to order breakfast from an English only menu.
I woke up The Penpal and she tried unsuccessfully to call her parents’ hotel room while I got dressed. I knew that my in-laws were early risers, so I assumed they would be trying to eat soon. Since we couldn’t get a hold of them on the phone, I decided to go to the hotel.
I rushed out to the car trying to wake up the Japanese speaking part of my brain when I noticed that I was unable to open the driver’s side door with my key. Waking up early without coffee, it took me a minute to notice that the lock had been damaged by an unsuccessful break-in attempt. I added “police report” to my already brimming mental to-do list and went in through the passenger door.
I got to the hotel, parked, and went directly to the restaurant. I told the hostess at the door that I was looking for my in-laws. She said that there was nobody in the restaurant other than an older, Chinese looking couple. Since “Chinese” is the default guess in Canada for any Asian looking people, I correctly claimed them as my family and was shown to the table.
In the entire time I have known him, The Penpal’s father has never looked happier to see me. They had wandered into the restaurant expecting to see a buffet and were given menus instead. After an awkward conversation between themselves and the waitress, they had managed to place an order for bacon, eggs, and tea. The food arrived as they were explaining their side of the story.
Does everyone’s wedding day start of like this, or is it just me?
This blog has been the story of my 3 year journey to teach English in Japan.
I originally kept a blog from 2003-2006 to keep my friends and family up to date on what I was doing overseas. Starting in 2013 I began reposting my original blog, but with all of the posts rewritten to add more detail and information that I couldn’t discuss at the time. I had the best intentions of posting everything exactly 10 years after it originally happened. Thanks to a combination of life changes (primarily new job and becoming a parent), the whole process took about an extra year and a half.
My original blog only covered my time teaching in Japan. Since that time The Penpal moved to Canada, we traveled, had some run-ins with immigration, got married, and became parents. Some of these events have already been covered, but I haven’t written about others yet. I’m planning on writing posts on some of the more memorable things that have happened after my original blog ended. Stay tuned – there’s more to the story yet!
Prior to my return from Japan to Canada, my parents had found an apartment for me. The apartment came with two sets of keys. Each of my parents took one set so they could have access to drop off my stuff.
My mom had given me her set of keys when she took me shopping yesterday, however my dad had forgotten to hand over his. Instead of making a trip into Winnipeg to drop them off, he gave them to his friend Randy who was coming to Winnipeg and would deliver them to me.
I arranged to meet Randy at the Second Cup coffee shop at the corner of River and Osborne, just down the street from my new apartment. I got there early and grabbed coffee and a window seat. As I was drinking my coffee, my friend Junk just happened to walk by the window. He noticed me, stopped, and came running into Second Cup to say hi.
Since my return to Canada 2 days earlier, I had been busy and jetlagged so I hadn’t yet reached out to any of my old friends. Junk was the last of my friends that I had seen when I moved to Japan. He had surprised me by coming to the airport to see me off when I left Canada 3 years ago. It was fitting that he was the first friend I saw when I came back to Canada; I felt like my travel had finally come full circle!
It was coincidental that Junk just happened to be walking by at the same time that I was in Second Cup. Even more coincidental was the fact that Junk and Triple D were sharing an apartment just down the street from my new place! I was happy to be living so close to some of my old friends; it truly felt like I had returned home.