Will & Tracy

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Japanese Toilet

And now after learning about Japanese bowing etiquette, it is now time to talk about a much more personal subject - Japanese toilet ettiquette - and I thought Will was joking. If you click on the link above, you will see that this page of explanation is LONGER than the page on bowing etiquette.

The Japanese toilet is actually housed in it own little small room separate from the "bathroom" where you brush your teeth and bathe. The toilet area is usually found near the entrance of the house since the entrance and toilet area are "unclean" - thus the history of taking off your shoes before entering the "clean" part of the house. In real Japanese homes you also have special slippers that are used just in the toilet area and then left outside the toilet room. We have not made this rule since we have a Western style toilet versus a "squatter."

So I'll spare you most of the history since you can read it by clicking on the title link above...but I wanted to show you our toilet and toilet controls. Yes, the toilet is very and I mean VERY functional. You will see that there is not a normal sink, but rather after you flush the mini-sink above the toilet seat actually gives you clean water to wash your hands and it is the same water used to refill the bowl - Japanese efficiency at its best! Its seat is always heated and although ours does not do this, some toilets actually sense a person in the room and will lift the seat for you. You can vary the temperature setting of your "seat" and although it has an automated flush, you can also push a button (if you need a "bigger" flush since you went #2 you push the japanese symbol for "big" and if you went #1, then you can push the symbol for "little" flush). There are also different functions that you can use to "spray" different "private" areas and even a blow dry function - nope - again - not kidding.

Well, I've been avoiding these "extra" functions for a while now - but yesterday it was the weekend and I thought what better time to try one out. So I push the spray function and then wait - a few seconds later I let out a "woooooo" - yikes, I thought Will told me that was going to be warm water (maybe that is the next model upgrade). After a few seconds I'm used to it - well kinda used to it...but then I'm just waiting for it to stop. I mean everything else is automated, why wouldn't this just stop automatically. Wrong. I'm waiting and waiting - several minutes go by .... I contimplate calling Will in because I have no idea which button means stop and since the water is spraying up I can't really stand up since that would produce a fountain effect all over the toilet room. I have to be careful about what button I push because the other day when I tried to figure out how to let Will in the front gated door I pushed the emergency button - thank goodness I turned it off fast enough before the police arrived (yes, Will had that experience when he first arrived). Granted I'm using a different control panel here, but I didn't want the swat team to show up and I'm in the bathroom with water spraying on my arse. In the end, after pushing all the other buttons and getting that little blow dry in there as well, I finally decide to push the one with the red light underneath and held my breathe ... eureka... the spray stopped.

I step out of the bathroom feeling rather refreshed but still laughing. I asked Will if he had missed me and thank goodness he had not noticed the 10 minute bathroom escapade. He did however tell me that he would be happy to teach me Japanese Toilet Training 101 next time around. I said no thanks, I think I figured it out ... like figured out I wasn't going to do THAT again.

So after going back and reading up on toilet ettiquette and what the many buttons could possible be used for, I am now disappointed that our controls do not have a "music" button - which is the sound of a toilet flushing. Why do you need the recorded sound of a toilet flushing in the bathroom you ask? Well, according to Wikipedia some Japanese women are embarrassed at the thought of being heard by others during urination (what, and they are not embarrassed by pooping?) and so to cover the sound of bodily functions, many women flushed public toilets continuously while using them, wasting a large amount of water in the process. In the 1980s a device was introduced that, after activation, produces the sound of flushing water without the need for actual flushing."

Yes, yes...I'm done - you need time to ponder... I understand.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Baby take a bow....

I do have to admit my biggest paranoia living here is offending the Japanese ...and trust me... there are a million ways to do it. With everyone spitting and peeing everywhere in China you can understand why I didn't really worry about it there. Will doesn't seem as concerned as I do, but I seriously don't want to screw up. I think eventually (meaning very soon) I will just need to get over it and figure that I'm going to be "oh she is just an American" and go with the flow. Haven't I had enough practice with "going with the flow" living in China for the last 2 years?

Now lets get on to an important subject here in Japan - bowing. I thought I bowed quite often in China and I'm sure there is a technique and rules there, but not like there is in Japan. The problem is - I don't understand the rules and so whenever someone bows, I bow back - seems reasonable - but EVERYBODY seems to bow at EVERYTHING. This may be a bizarre reference to make, but anyone remember the German woman who bowed non-stop after coming in second place against the VonTrapp Family Singers at that folk festival at the end of the "Sound of Music"? I feel like THAT woman and all the Japanese are secretly laughing at me. I think I'm realizing that my vertigo lately may be the result of bowing improperly or maybe that I just have not had enough practice (ie "The novice bower" - is bower a word - besides in euchre?).

So after doing a little research online (click on title link) - I'm really not surprised that I'm still confused. Case in point - our friends Toshi and Kimiko introduced us to our 86 year old neighbor. All I knew at that point (since she was older) was that I was supposed to bow lower than she did - but since I am looking down I couldn't really tell how low I should be going and I didn't know proper hand placement (depending on if you are a man or woman) - I kept looking at Toshi and Kimiko for guidance but they were bowing too - at me and then at her - I then kept going back to the lady and bowing and she kept bowing at me...this went on for a minimum of 5 minutes. I have no idea what Will was doing at the time but it seemed that I was doing all the work. In all the websites I have read on the many many different rules to this whole bowing thing (ie when to bow 15 degrees vs 30 degrees - say what?), none of them that I found told you when you should or more importantly could stop ...and I wasn't about to stop bowing to a 86 year old Japanese lady that is our new neighbor - talk about the ultimate insult. Next time I may try to decrease my angle by 5 degrees each time and then eventually we will be standing up just nodding our heads at each other. Yes, I really worry about such things.

So until I figure out these rules I just bow at everyone which make me very dizzy by the end of the day. That and you have to be careful not to trip over something (including your own feet - no comment) while you are walking and bowing at the same time - or maybe you are not supposed to walk and bow at the same time and that is the point - ahhhhhhh! What Finn must be thinking as he looks out from his stroller at me - I'm probably glad I don't know.

Picture of Finn laughing at me from his stroller...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Finn's Hospital Card

In Shanghai I did worry about the medical system there and I actually worked for one of the foreigner hospitals - and I was still nervous. The most anxiety producing area was the fact that there was no real reliable medical transportation to get you to ANY hospital in case of a real emergency (at least in my opinion) so I felt rather fortunate that Will and I were relatively healthy folk and the biggest priority was not stepping in front of a bus. Since they tend to use their horns in SH quite often even that wasn't overly concerning that they would just sneak up on you.

In Japan, I have been told there is reliable medical transportation; however, if you need it, you need to speak Japanese (duh) to explain where you live (more complicated than I expected) and then they will decide what hospital they are going to take you to. Ok - so I'm working on that but also figured in an emergency I can go to the lovely 86 year old neighbor and figure I could get my point across. I just have to understand that I need to have a certain level of trust - the problem is I trust the Japanese with my health/well-being, Will's health, but then we get to babyFinn - I'm not so sure - but I'm sure I would panic if we were in the US too, right? :)

So to alleviate my fears, Will told me he found the Yodagawa Christian Hospital - they have a great English website and say they have English speaking doctors. So I took the translator along with Finn and off we went on a 15 minute, $30 dollar cab ride to the hospital (yikes taxi prices are like 5-6x that in SH - welcome to the real world). To make a long story a bit shorter I was a bit dismayed that it was not like walking through the doors at Parkway Health in SH. I would have been lost with out the translator and even she had some difficulty getting my questions across. We spent at least an hour there trying to figure out how to make an appointment (vs. just walking in), what to do in an emergency, etc... I had to get a hospital card made for Phineas, but they couldn't put English names/words into their system and thus his hospital card above with his Japanese phonetic name on it. Cool, huh? I also have an appointment with a pediatrician in about 10 days for his 4 month "check-up" - so I'm holding out any final judgement on quality of care at this particular place and/or if this doctor can really speak English until then. Right now I just have to believe it will be fine - but I'm not sure that is enough for a new mom. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

if you can't beat him, join him or have him join you!

This phrase must have originated with parents everywhere that have children that do not nap. And I laughed at my Dad who was having difficulty trying to outsmart my 3 year old niece Maddy - now I'm wondering how to outsmart a 3 month old kiddo who doesn't seem to like his naps. I truly understand how getting the advantage over laundry is a new challenge as well since it is now 6pm and I'm still looking at the basket of clothes I was going to fold after getting back from our morning walk taking Daddy to work. Sigh....

So after carefully putting Finn down around 4pm I started in on making lasagna in our new easy bake oven and after that - brownies! Well at 4:20p Finn starts screaming (yes I even set the timer so I wouldn't go in there immediately). So I get him up and say what the heck - and moved his new mini-seat that attaches to the countertop in the kitchen and proceed with making lasagna. I bring over some of his veggie/fruit rattles and get out a plastic cup and bowl and in the end he seemed to like my Rachel Ray impression.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Osaka baby!

Well we have arrived safely in Osaka and are still in the midst of jet lag - or at least dealing with a jet lagged baby. It is not fun at all, but really truly, our kid is a rock star. Since he was 6 weeks he was kicked out of his apartment and has been in a different bed probably every 2 weeks at most. He has been in 3 countries in 5 weeks and so I say he can be a little cranky, but oh still so cute! We thought we had his room all set up and then I started reading this montessori book that I got for Christmas and now we are going to change it up again - no more crib for Finn - we are going to try a mattress on the floor and some other suggestions in the book. Well we'll do all this when the baby monitor arrives from the US. His room is ALL THE WAY down the hall. So I'm still a freaky first time mom and what if he cries and I can't hear him. Well that is probably the key to getting him to sleep better and longer (and mommy too) if I don't poke him or pick him up everytime he makes a sound in his bassinet which is usually less than 2 feet away from me at night.

Anyway, we are trying to carry him less and with these lovely heated floors in the apartment he has found that he doesn't mind being on the floor so much - now tummy time is a different story, but he is getting better about spending more time on his tummy without screaming bloody murder and guess what - his arms are getting stronger! Go figure, right? ;) And after a couple months of should I or shouldn't I introduce cereal (is it too soon?) - we went ahead and tried that too! All these new things for him to do. Although he seemed to get more of it on himself than in his mouth. I guess that is how it works at first anyway.

Since Monday is a holiday in Japan our friends Toshi and Kimiko are taking us to THE "baby store" tomorrow. So we are getting our list and checking it twice on what kinds of toys/items we want to get and how to organize it. It is a shame we haven't organized the rest of our boxes, etc... but at least we got our new oven out and yes yes - we have made a pound cake. Boy did we miss an oven in Shanghai.

Okay - I just heard the little one wake up from his nap. We'll see how long I can let him babble...