Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Learned All My Curse Words From Elections - And Other Important Lessons

Image courtesy Elections Canada

There is a federal election going on in Canada right now and I want to take the opportunity to teach Big D about the importance of voting. But how do you teach a four year old about the democratic process?

There are four early memories I have about elections during my childhood and since they left a big impression on me, they might have the same affect on Big D.

In no particular order:

I distinctly remember my elementary school gymnasium being used as a polling station and how the teachers almost gave themselves aneurysms trying to get us to keep quiet in the hallways. What on earth was going on? Why were there big black “X”s on the doors? Why were so many cars driving up to our school? It all seemed very important to a kid. I hope Big D’s school will be used as a polling station so he can too get a sense of the importance of the day.

Regardless, I’m going to take him with me when I go to vote. My parents did this with me and while I initially didn’t understand what was going on it was still pretty cool being taken into the voting booth with my mom or dad while they marked their ballots. Hmmm, interest piqued. Must find out more.

My whole family always discussed politics in front of the kids (and not just at election time) and for that I am very grateful. Just by discussing it, it was made clear that they paid attention and took the issues very seriously. I even learned my first swear words listening to my relatives discuss a certain prime minister!

And finally, as a family, we sat around the TV on election night and watched the results come in. The excitement and energy of that night seemed to come right through the TV screen into my family room. It felt like a big deal, especially for a kid.

And of course there was always the chance of hearing more curse words if our candidate wasn’t winning.

I’ll try to keep it clean with my own kids but I’m not promising anything.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When The Going Gets Tough...

…the tough get baking? I just figured out that has been my response to all the stress surrounding the disaster in Japan. So far, I’ve made Red Velvet Cupcakes, Cinnamon Bread, and now Petite Vanilla Bean Scones.

Pretty soon it will be: when the going gets tough, the tough gain a few pounds.

On another culinary note, I’m making Sloppy Joes for dinner tonight and the recipe calls for a cup of beer. So this morning I went into the liquor store to buy some dark beer but felt buying just one can would make me look like a wino. So I bought two cans instead. Yeah, muuuuch better optics.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I'm Ready

In the last two posts I had started to write a little bit more about Japan and my five years there. I have so much I could write but had been reluctant to start because of the feeling of natsukashii. Loosely translated, it means the feeling of nostalgia. It suggests both a happiness and fondness for a memory but also a sadness that it is no longer.

The feeling of natsukashii has overwhelmed me almost every time I think about writing about Japan, so for the most part I just haven’t written about it.

Well it has now been a week since the horrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan and I have just been sick watching all the destruction on TV, yet I cannot turn it off. I have been very saddened seeing other disasters but this one has impacted me more than the rest because Japan is like a second home to me.

Strangely enough, being exposed to the hundreds of images of the devastation has sort of helped me deal with the natsukashii. I now feel like it would be wrong not to tell the funny/annoying/bizarre/endearing stories I have of living in Tokyo. It will be my modest tribute to the place that became such a part of me. So when an appropriate time has passed, when people are ready to see a side to Japan that doesn’t involve tremors, tsunamis, and radiation, I will finally be ready to share.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hina Matsuri

March 3rd is Hina Matsuri (literally 'doll festival') in Japan. There is a long history to this day but I’m not going to explain the customs other than to say girls display ornamental dolls representing the Imperial Court. If you care to learn more, follow this link.

While I was teaching in Tokyo a student presented me with a handmade set, made by her mother, of the first tier of the display. The Emperor and Empress, along with their storage case, are made out of origami and the other parts are hand-painted. I marvel at the work that went into this and I am particularly touched that she gave it to me.

Unfortunately, I lost contact with my former student but I wish she knew that I display this precious gift every March 3rd and think about her and the thoughtfulness involved.

It is things like this that make me miss Japan very much.