Today, Tuesday, August 30, is errand day. Some people know this, but I don’t really enjoy riding bikes. I didn’t grow up riding bikes and I am not a biker. So the insane amount of time that I have spent on a bike in the past few days is appalling to me. Not only that but I’m riding up hills and going super fast down hills. Even with an electric bike it still feels like so much work on these hills! John and I rode with the kids to school this morning, and then after that we rode around all day long until it was time to go back and pick them up!
I’ll admit, the first place we rode to was Starbucks. And it’s only one block away from the school so… I can’t complain about the first errand. This Starbucks is a hang out spot for students and teachers alike. It is open from 8:00am to 24:00pm (midnight!). An even more popular place is next door to Starbucks. It is a boulangerie called Sunny Side. This type of place is very, very popular in Japan.
Here is the definition of boulangerie (French) from yourdictionary.com:
The definition of boulangerie is a bakery, or a place where bread is sold. An example of a boulangerie is a croissant shop.
But that is really just simplifying it too much. I just thought of something. A great example of a boulangerie in Orange County is 85 degrees Bakery Cafe on Alton Parkway in Irvine. In the Diamond Jamboree center. Even though 85 degrees is a Taiwanese cafe, this is the perfect example of a boulangerie in Japan. So if you need to see it for yourself (and you do!), go there. At any rate these shops sell the most amazing variety of breads and pastries and sandwiches and treats that you can imagine. You pick up a tray and tongs and just go around picking up whatever you want to eat. The bread is so soft and fresh and the things they put on it! Yum! I had a flaky pastry with passion fruit jelly tucked into a crevice on top and it was delicious!
But I digress. Because we did not go to Sunny Side on this day. We only went to Starbucks. While we were there, Avalon’s 4th grade teacher showed up for a cup of coffee. Oh! Had she left the kids locked in the room while she stepped out for some caffeine? No, they were at PE, swimming in the pool.
One day we were at Starbucks and I asked for a mocha decaf and the barista made a crosswise X with his hands (this is the symbol for no way lady and it’s been demonstrated on more than one occasion) and said no decaf in Japan. I said, in ALL of Japan??? And he nodded yes.
After Starbucks we rode to MAFGA, which is again, about a half block away. So far my biking (after drop off) on this morning has been isolated to a few blocks but I still might have driven to all of these places back home. MAFGA stands for Minoh Association For Global Awareness. This is one of the places where they hold Japanese language classes so we went to ask for more information. At MAFGA we spoke slowly and carefully to the Japanese woman at the counter. Weee-woulddd-liiiike-to learrrrn-Japanese. I immediately felt dumb when she let us know, in perfect accented English, that she used to live in San Diego, Oregon and a very small rural town in New York. This sort of thing has happened before. But anyway, the next Japanese language class term begins again on September 6. We will be there!
At MAFGA you can pick up a copy of The Minoh Post. This is a free bimonthly newsletter that is translated into English as well as simple Japanese. There are helpful hints and announcements inside. Here are some typical headlines from The Minoh Post:
You Must Have a Bicycle Insurance Policy (True, we need to get that, too). It’s just like car insurance!
Ticket for Free Garbage Bags Mailed (oh the garbage! That’s a long post that’s coming later)
Come Join Us at “Chat & Cook” — I like this one. I hope the boys will do this. It reads, “The ‘Chat & Cook’ is an event for high school and middle school students of international backgrounds to get better acquainted with each other — where you will cook something sweet together and enjoy chatting.” Cute!
We stopped at the store Aeon (pronounced Ee-on) on our way home for some milk. John picked up a basket and we ended up filling it. It appeared that Tuesday morning is restocking day because the employees were restocking the shelves and it was very, very crowded today! There were also a number of ladies making and handing out samples. I taste tested some very yummy things! One thing I loved was a glass noodle salad with a special dressing and cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, sesame seeds and raw salmon. I decided to make that for lunch and so I went on a scavenger hunt around the store looking for the ingredients. While I was having trouble finding sesame seeds, John tried to bring up the translation on his phone but instead he got this message from whatever the Android Siri equivalent is:
After we got home I successfully made the sample lady’s salad! It was delicious!
After lunch the next round of errands included (1) biking to downtown Minoh to send letters at the post office, (2) finding the “Gymnastics Club Minoo” and (3) signing up for health insurance premium automatic withdrawal at City Hall. We have been to the post office before so that’s easy. Check!
We actually found the gymnastics club!
After asking several people for help and looking lost with our map on a street corner, we were directed to the Gymnastics Club. It is on the third level of an office area. You have to take your shoes off outside before you enter the club.
Now it’s time for a very long and possibly hilarious, possibly frustrating conversation between four people who don’t all speak the same language. On a sign outside the door it says, “Foreign children are welcome!” so that seems hopeful. But the men inside speak as much English as we speak Japanese. So we literally spent the next 30 minutes communicating with my weak Japanese, hand gestures and the translate app on the smartphone. We concluded that Avalon should come back for a trial lesson on Thursday at 4:45pm and that she will try out the beginner class just to see where she’s at. Pretty good, right! Gymnastics, check!
Next it’s off to City Hall for the automatic withdrawal enrollment. John is actually worn out from the communication debacle at gymnastics but I said let’s get this done. So we went back to City Hall. The bottom line there was that our bank was not on their list of approved banks and we were not able to enroll. It was a bust but still, we got an answer to our question, a check off the list!
Now I’m worn out but John really wants to find a very small bike shop that a man named Donald from Boston told us about. We met Donald earlier today at a stoplight while waiting to cross at the same street corner. Donald said he came to Japan 20 years ago and fell in love. And he still does not speak much Japanese. That doesn’t sound good! After biking around in the heat, John thought he might have found the shop. The sign outside is all in Japanese and it is closed. But it is about where Donald said it would be. We hop over to the 7-11 which is just steps away and ask a random person outside if they know where the jitensha-ya (bike shop) is. He says yes, it is right where John thought it was but it is closed today.
Now it is time to bike back to school to pick up the kids. I am so tired of biking! We get Kaiyo and Avalon and go home. Halyard said he’s coming home later on.
Since it’s Tuesday I’ve decided to make it Taco Tuesday night for dinner. I have my ground beef, taco seasoning and flour tortillas from Costco and fresh produce and cheese from Aeon. Plus some hot sauce that I found called Muerte! I also cooked up tofu (from the tofu man**) with taco seasoning for John and I. It was a success!
**I think I forgot to write about the “tofu man” in previous posts. He comes round in his special tofu truck every Friday evening and he is literally the ice cream man, but with tofu. He plays music as he drives and people come out of their houses to buy his tofu. I didn’t want any but Avalon really wanted to buy something from him so I gave her money and she did it by herself. But the kind of tofu that she bought is the really really really soft kind and I don’t know what to do with that other than make a dessert with tofu which I’m not doing. So I heated it up with taco seasoning and it wasn’t too bad! I’ll try to take a photo of the tofu man and his truck in the future.