Sunday, June 27, 2010

A little slice of Americana

Days 10 - 14 (June 28, 2010)

Apparently 9 days is enough of the blog every day trick. So now you just get a bunch of days running into each other.

Dish Shopping
There is a warehouse in Japan that sells dishes that look like china, but are made in Japan. The ladies in the ward call it the "Dirty Dish" shop, because the dishes are dusty from sitting in a warehouse. They have 50% of sales every so often, and all the ladies go and stock up.
I rode a different subway line, which meant I had to enter our station from a completely different place, and then I switched subway lines to meet up with one of the ladies in the ward. Thus I accomplished my goal of switching subways.
The friend I met up with lives in a very nice part of town, with low-rise apartments and homes. Alot of ward members live in that area, three in her building!
This is the third time I have ridden in someone else's car here in Tokyo. They all have GPS systems in their cars, but they call them "navi's". They don't have touch screens like the ones in the U.S., they have a remote control that you can click through destinations and options. I think this would be an easy thing to loose in a car :)
Don't ask me where the dirty dish shop is, the navi is all in Japanese, and I am just barely recognizing the main roads right around my house.
So we got to the dirty dish shop, and basically, you just wander through the tables, and sort through the piles of dishes, and pick out what you want. There were some really neat patterns, mostly blue and white, but some pinks and reds. We had gotten a set of bowls and small plates as a wedding present, so I found the same style for dinner plates, and then got a different pattern for salad plates and serving dishes.

Little America
We (the U.S.) has alot of military bases around Tokyo and in Japan in general. The prime minister of Japan just resigned because he had campaigned on the promise to get the U.S. military presence out of part of Japan, and failed to do so. The nice thing is, we can have ward activities and use the facilities at the base.
Going to a military base requires you to have id, and to be checked in and escorted. Imagine going to the DMV, but have a smaller room for the crowds to wait in, and no number on a piece of paper, and you have the first hour of the ward activity. We all crowded into a small room, handed our passports to one person, waited and waited and waited for our pictures to be taken and the passes to be printed. Then there was the car search.
Once we were in, the kids were all hungry for lunch (yea, so was I :) ) so we went to the food court. Part of the food court was a rack of candy and chips, and all of the kids were asking their moms if they could have american candy because you cannot find it in Japanese "conbeenies". I laughed when the one mom said, yes, you can pick out one bag, but you must brush your teeth really good tonight because all that is is sugar. Then there was the store that looked exactly like Target. When I talked about shopping last week, and going to a place similar to Target, it was similiar in that it had many different types of items, but it was set up like a Japanese store. On the base, it was set up like an American store. Honestly, you have to come and see this to understand the difference, because I didn't really think there was, until I got such a stark contrast. We stocked up on some drinks and snacks.

An aside. Have I mentioned the drink situation here yet? First of all, there are vending machines EVERYWHERE. So you would think that you could get any beverage you wanted at any time. WRONG! The only beverages you can get are coke, coke zero (a different kind of diet coke), and tea. Sometimes water, but sometimes the water is sparkling. Once in a while grape soda, but be careful because you might end up with grape juice that has aloe chunks in it. So if you don't like coke, you basically have water as your only beverage option. In restaurants, the ginger ale is very dry, which means it is the more bitter version of ginger ale. Rarely is lemonade an option. On the base, I drank two different things of lemonade. Joy!
Many of the ward members commented on things... like the fact that you could see grass growing next to the buildings on the base... and there were trees.... not every inch of usable ground was taken up by a store or shop or apartment building. Also, the concrete had grass growing between it. You could get unlimited refills on your drinks, you saw alot of non-asian people, you heard english all day.... Basically, it was a mini-vacation to the U.S. without the 14 hour plane ride. Fantastic!
The men played softball, while the women visited and watched the kids play at the park.

The best part was seeing Toy Story 3 for $4.50. Have I mentioned movie tickets in Tokyo cost $20-$30? Yea...... makes you think twice before deciding to go see a movie.

We spoke in church. Everyone said our talks were good. The topic was "talk about your spiritual experiences". If you know me, you know I don't like to share personal stories about myself to strangers. I know, then why do I blog? It is different. Trust me. So I was stressing out about this topic, but I finally picked a couple of conference talks, and wove in a few stories, and it was good. Tim talked about his mission, which was great. Another plug for anyone who wants to go on a mission, it provides good stories for talks for the rest of your life :) Plus, endless ice cream on Wednesday and Sunday. The fun part of church was watching one of the little kids crawl around, and try to get on the stand, and his older sister (a toddler), grab him by the ears to pull him down. I guess she thought they were handles!
We had some friends over for dinner. Tim cooked some good shrimp. The marinade I did for the salmon was too salty, but everyone said it was fine. We cooked the salmon in the toaster oven because we don't have a real oven. Theoretically there is a fish cooking drawer under the range, but it didn't stay warm, so I am not sure what the point of it is. Unless you just put the fish in there and call it "sushi".

Medical Adventures
Tim hurt his foot a while ago, but figured it would get better on it's own. Since it hadn't, he talked to his friends in the ward, and they explained how to go to a Tokyo clinic. It was just like a clinic in the U.S., but way cooler. First, we took the bus up to midtown. This is exciting because there isn't a direct subway to midtown, but the bus was really easy. Midtown is a collection of sky scrapers, so it is very new and modern. The clinic is very modern looking, and the doctors sit in the exam rooms, and you get a number, and get called to a specific exam room. So you move around, not the doctor. Tim says the x-ray machine room was really cool. I just sat in the waiting room, so I don't know exactly what it looked like. But basically it was really easy, and affordable. Then we went and got lunch, and Tim went to work, and I walked around Roppongi Hills. This is another huge sky scraper surrounded by shops that is fairly close to midtown. The stores are all very expensive, there is a Giorgio Armani, for example, and a Tiffany's. This is also where the Banana Republic is, but unfortunately, I didn't find anything great there to buy.
I went into a book store at Roppongi Hills. Bookstores all smell and feel the same. It is that comfort of being surrounded by books, even if they are mostly in a language you don't understand. I bought a picture book because it had really beautiful pictures.
Then I took the bus home, from a different stop than the one we got off on at midtown, so I felt pretty good about my ability to get around.

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