Archive for category The Penpal

June 15, 2017 part 2 – So much purple

My sister dropped The Penpal, TD, and I off at Winnipeg’s James Richardson international airport bright and early. We checked our two large suitcases and I slung the airplane approved car seat over my shoulder in its travel friendly carrying case. With the carrying case it was just over 10kg, and I instantly noticed the weight.

Usually when The Penpal and I fly from Winnipeg to Japan, our fastest and cheapest option is Winnipeg – Vancouver – Tokyo Narita. This time the cheapest flight was Winnipeg – Toronto – Tokyo Haneda. We would spend two extra hours in the air, but would save some time getting from the airport to Numazu after landing.

After clearing security we had about 45 minutes before boarding. The Penpal and TD spent most of this time in the children’s play area that should be standard in every airport. I spent most of the time in the slowest Tim Hortons line in the entire country. We ended up carrying muffins and bagels for breakfast onto the flight.

On our flight to Toronto, I was seated next to TD on one side of the aisle, with The Penpal just across the aisle. Right before takeoff I tried to insert the earplanes to help TD’s ears adjust to the pressure changes during takeoff and landing. This is something we hadn’t practiced at home. He managed to remove and lose one of the earplugs just before takeoff.

Takeoff itself was uneventful – all the long hours of playing “airplane” at home had prepared TD for the sudden acceleration and lift off. He was actually really enjoying takeoff while I had him sipping on apple juice.

Spoiler alert: For anyone who has problems reading about kids puking, I would recommend skipping to the next blog entry.

As we neared our cruising altitude, TD started to look uncomfortable. When I asked he told me that his ears hurt. I pulled out our secret weapon – a purple lollipop to suck on which would hopefully help his ears. After a few slurps on the popsicle he suddenly coughed and barfed all over his Ipad before bursting into tears.

I passed off the Ipad to The Penpal and took TD to the tiny airplane bathroom to assess the damage; there was only a little purple barf on his shirt, The Ipad had taken most of the blast. We got cleaned up and headed back to our seat where I kept him in my lap.

The crying had helped his ears and TD was now just looking a bit nauseous instead of in pain. We started watching the now clean Ipad again just as I started to feel pretty good about how things were going. Surely the worst was over and we could enjoy the remainder of our 2 hour flight.

Without warning a purple geyser erupted from TD all over the Ipad (again). I turned him towards me just as the second wave came, coating both of our matching Winnipeg Jets shirts and hitting giraffy the giraffe. I picked him up and rushed him to the bathroom, but the show was already over. I was covered in purple barf from my neck to my crotch.

As The Penpal cleaned up the car seat and Ipad (again), I did my best to clean up TD and myself. Despite my efforts, there is only so much a person can do in an airplane bathroom when covered in barf.

The Penpal came to check on us and asked if we wanted to change our clothes. Not knowing if a third wave of purple awfulness was yet to come, I declined, not wanting to use up our only change of clothes until necessary. We dosed TD with children’s Gravol (which we should have done BEFORE takeoff) and returned to our seats.

The rest of the flight was incident free, however by the end I became aware that even with my cleanup, we didn’t smell very good. We were seated in the middle of a group of junior high school kids from Brandon on their way to the maritimes. After landing, as we were waiting for our turn to deplane, the kids started asking each other what the horrible smell was in our area.

That, my young friends, is the smell of parenthood. Pay attention in your sex ed classes, it could happen to you.

, , ,

Leave a comment

June 15, 2017 part 1 – Ready to leave

The time is finally here – we are ready to leave for our 3 year old son’s first trip to Japan to meet the The Penpal’s side of the family.

For those who haven’t been reading the whole mixed up, out of order story, here’s a quick recap: I taught English in Japan from 2003-2006 and returned to Canada with a fiancee who I have referred to in my blog as The Penpal. In the years between 2006 and 2017 we got married and have visited to Japan several times. Our most recent visit was in summer 2013, which some readers might notice is about 9 months before the birth of our son.

Everyone in this blog gets a nickname to protect / obscure their identity. For this story he will be known as TD, the short form of “Tiny Dog” from the Secret Life of Pets, one of his favourite movies.

The Penpal’s parents have not visited Canada since the birth of our son, but we have talked to them every week on a Skype video chat. They are looking forward to meeting their grandson in person for the first time, and we are looking forward to a vacation.

A two week long international trip with a 3 year old is an intimidating idea, but we have several friends from Japan who have done the same trip and survived. We decided to learn as much as possible from them before leaving, and to prepare for every possible scenario.

For the flight we are bringing a change of clothes for everyone, an airplane approved car seat, an Ipad loaded with kids movies, volume limiting headphones, TD’s favourite stuffed animal giraffy, toys, games, colouring books, earplanes (pressure adjusting earplugs), snacks, diapers, wipes, and children’s gravol.

Leading up to the flight we made sure to play “airplane” at home with TD. This is a game I invented where I turn our laundry basket into an airplane and simulate takeoff and landing to get him prepared for the idea. We also watched the Peppa Pig vacation episode about 4 times in a row.

We did everything possible to prepare for our trip, and we have high hopes for everything after the flight. With all of the prep, what could possibly go wrong?

, ,

Leave a comment

En route to Japan 2017

At the time this entry is posted, I will be en route to Japan with my wonderful wife (aka The Penpal for those who have been reading a while) and our 3 year old son. This is his first time to visit Japan, and his first time to meet his Japanese grandparents in person. It’s also the first time that The Penpal’s parents have had a 3 year old in their house since The Penpal was a child. Overall it should present some good blog material.

Blogging about my trip as it happens will put my overall story out of order (again), but you can always refer to the chronological list of all of my posts here.

For those who are sitting next to us on our long flight – my apologies in advance. We’re going to do our best to keep the little guy entertained. I will accept donations of sympathy beer once we land.

, ,

7 Comments

August 2, 2006 – Friends

I worked an early shift today and got to spend my evening with The Penpal. We ordered pizza and watched Friends. Believe it or not, there is a lot of material to cover on both topics, so I’m breaking this up into two posts.

As an English teacher, students are often asking me what they can do to improve their English. One of the things I recommend is watching TV in English, and I specifically recommended watching Friends.

I was a fan of Friends back in Canada. It’s a fun show and it was always easy to find reruns on almost any channel. For those who have been living in a cave, Friends is a show about 6 friends who live in New York City. All of the action takes place in only a few main locations, and the stories mainly revolve around relationships, family, and jobs.

In addition to being a fun show, Friends is a great tool for learning conversational English. The characters speak the kind of English that many students want to learn when they go to a conversational English school. The language is casual without being overloaded by slang, the conversation is about things that people actually talk about (the aforementioned relationships, family, jobs), and there is a lot of movement and physical humour to help provide context to the spoken language.

English students in Japan can all find something to relate to in the characters in Friends. Overbearing parents? Check. Working an office job that your friends don’t understand? Check. Divorced parent? Check. Apartment life in a big city? Check. While not everyone has a pet duck or an evil twin sister, there still are at least a few things in the characters that everyone can identify with.

As one final advantage of the show, Friends is easy to find. Reruns are shown on TV and the DVDs are easily available to buy or rent. The DVDs come with audio and subtitles in both English and Japanese. I’ve been encouraging students to watch in English with English subtitles if possible, and only to use the Japanese subtitles if they had trouble understanding something.

What’s not to understand?

I know a few students have taken my advice so far, and I have been enjoying rewatching the show with The Penpal as a fun way to practice her English before she moves to Canada. That’s when we’re going to graduate to The Simpsons!

 

 

 

, , , ,

1 Comment

August 2, 2006 – Pizza!

I worked an early shift today and got to spend my evening with The Penpal. We ordered pizza and watched Friends. Believe it or not, there is a lot of material to cover on both topics, so I’m breaking this up into two posts.

Living in Winnipeg you are never short of options for pizza delivery; the market is competitive and prices are low. Pizza delivery in Japan is harder to come across. The best option in Numazu is the country’s largest chain, Pizza-La. The pizza is much more expensive than back home, but the quality is great and the range of toppings is impressive. Also, they deliver the pizza on a cool motorcycle / scooter thing, perfect for narrow Japanese roads.

Screen shot of a Pizza-La English menu – it’s free advertising so please don’t sue!

A rough translation of the price would be 100 yen to the dollar, so a large Sweet & Sour Chicken with Tatar Sauce would be about $35 delivered. Usually we order the Italiana, which is even more delicious than it looks.

Although there are a lot of interesting variations involving different sauces and toppings that all look delicious, I usually end up getting something pretty familiar. When I am paying $30+ for a pizza I want to make sure that I’m going to like it!

One important note: in Japan corn is considered to be a normal pizza topping. I am an open minded person who loves trying new foods, but I will never, EVER order a pizza with corn on it. It’s just wrong.

, , , ,

2 Comments

July 29, 2006 – Walking in a yukata is HARD

Happy Birthday to me! As part of my birthday present, my roommate Klaxman switched his early shift for my late shift so I was able to go to Numazu summer festival with The Penpal. I went to her house after work, and her family helped me to get dressed in my new yukata which we had bought a few days earlier.  Overall it was comfortable, but the bottom of my robe was fairly tight around my legs.

I’m not a tall person, so I usually have a long stride in order to walk quickly. The bottom of my yukata prevented me from taking big steps, which took a lot of practice to get used to. Things got more difficult when I put on my geta; thong sandals with wooden blocks on the bottom.

The combination of the yukata and geta slowed me down quite a bit. Stairs were a very unfriendly sight for my restricted legs and awkward wooden sandals. When crossing the street to get to the train station I held on to the railing tight to avoid rolling an ankle or tumbling down the stairs and wiping out the rest of the people like a pale bowling ball.

We survived the train ride and walk into Numazu’s overcrowded downtown area, and watched an amazing fireworks show surrounded by tens of thousands of people, most of whom were also wearing yukatas. If you ever have a chance, see fireworks in Japan; they blow away anything I have seen from back home, with the exception of Canada Day fireworks in tiny Wabigoon, Ontario, a town that seems to spend their entire budget every year on airborne explosives. Numazu’s fireworks are launched from either side of a central bridge, offering great views from downtown and along the riverside, and amazing views if you are lucky enough to be on the bridge.

It was a very cool experience to see Numazu festival in traditional Japanese clothing. When I first moved away from Canada to teach English, I wanted to experience Japanese culture. Thanks to my wonderful fiancee and her family I have been able to participate in things that I wouldn’t have dreamed of when I left Winnipeg behind.

Although I had a fun evening, I was very, VERY happy to get back into my comfortable jeans and flat, safe shoes.

 

, , , , , ,

2 Comments

July 26, 2006 – Yukata shopping

Today I worked an early shift. When I was done, The Penpal’s family took me out for dinner followed by yukata shopping.

I’m often confused by the differences between a “kimono” and a “yukata”. Usually I have heard the term yukata refer to a less formal robe like garment. I have worn yukatas before while staying in hotels, but I don’t have my own. My birthday and Numazu summer festival are coming up shortly, so the Penpal’s parents decided to get me a yukata for my birthday.

Buying a yukata was a lot like buying a suit; someone takes your measurements and then gives you a lot of different options including colour, fit, accesories, and price. We ended up with a fairly simple yukata set, complete with magnetic obi (so I don’t have to tie it) and geta; traditional Japanese wooden sandals. I expect that I am going to fall a few times using those.

Yukata shopping with my finacee and future in-laws really made me feel like part of the family.

, , ,

1 Comment