Aug. 18, 2006: Kumagaya City

We remained “at home” most of the day, since Yukari’s schedule included several hours of tutoring her students of English.

This morning, Toshihide and Zephyr took a bicycle ride to the store, a common mode of transportation–virtually every bike you see has a basket on it.

Later, Toshihide drove Kimberly and Dennis several miles to a resort hotel, the closest location where Kimberly might be able to get her laptop online. She’s been unable to do so at the house, even though it has wireless access. And even though we can take care of our email with Yukari’s computer (the keyboard takes some getting used to), we have to use Kimberly’s to update our website–which we’d hoped to do every day while we’re here.

We arrived at the hotel and seated ourselves in the lobby, and when the laptop was turned on, there was indeed a WI-FI signal. But we still were unable to log on, even after we–well, okay, after Toshihide spoke to the desk clerk and obtained the password and instructions.

Meanwhile, Dennis ventured to buy a package of gum at the desk. Normally a decent mathematician, he’s been consistently putting the decimal point in the wrong place when doing mental currency conversion (which is really quite simple if you just think of a yen as a penny, which it almost is), and consequently has been trying to pay too much or too little for things. This time, the language barrier also came into play. He correctly asked “Ikura desu ka?” (“How much is it?”), but misunderstood the answer and left without his change, which the clerk returned to him after chasing him down.

Incidentally, the clerk carried the change in one of the little trays that are situated by just about any cashier you see. You place your payment in the tray, and your change is placed in it in turn.

On the way back “home”, we asked Toshihide about the diamond-shaped markings in the road, identical to those that designate carpool lanes in the U.S. He explained that they indicate a caution zone.

The students came, in several sessions. During one of them we sat in and helped them with their pronunciation. We also read to them and let them practice reading. We were quite impressed by their progress, especially considering their ages–two of them were seven, and one was only five! Even the 5-year-old read quite well in English.

Meanwhile, Zephyr did some tutoring with his Japanese “sister”, Ayaka.

This afternoon we did some laundry, which is a necessity in view of how lightly we packed. The family washing machine is a high-tech washer/dryer combination that weighs your clothes, tells you precisely how much detergent to add, washes, dries and even plays a couple of ditties by Mozart to signal the end of phases in the cycle. The downside is that it only holds a small load, and can take a very long time to finish–up to about 4 hours. This could make a trip to the laundromat an all-day outing–we’ve noticed that similar machines are in the laundromat down the street. But if you have one of these babies at home, and you’re not in urgent need of clean socks, it can be quite handy.