Wednesday, June 25, 2008

food & flowers

I know I probably posted about it last year, but I have really been enjoying the ajisai (hydrangeas) here this season. They come in a wonderful pink-to-blue spectrum, in many different shapes. I am confused by the array of colors, though: I was always told that the color of the flower is dependent on the pH of the soil, more aluminum in the soil produces blue flowers, etc. But there are pink ones right next to blue ones, right next to purple ones! I don't get it, but it only increases my sense of wonder at how lovely they are.


At the store with M & D yesterday, letting them pick out celebratory snacks and drinks for their last day of school, M pointed out these unlovely promotional Dr. Pepper labels:

let's take a closer look at the one on the right:

WHY do they need to market soda this way? WHY does this buxom fish-netted manga lass have a bottle of Dr. P in her cleavage?? And in the other, the same place is used as a gun holster. That seems like a very silly (and dangerous) place to store a firearm. But what do I know?

My own celebratory (or perhaps the opposite. what is the opposite word? Funereal? anyway, yesterday marked the beginning of the stress of trying to keep my kids from killing each other this summer) snack was a Haagen-Dasz flavor I had been curious about but never tried: kokuto & kuromitsu. It was quite delicious, a slight hint of coffee and burnt sugar. I had to look it up online to find out what I had actually eaten, which is apparently brown sugar & molasses, or the Japanese equivalent. This led me to research H-D in general, because I am fascinated by the array of bizarre exclusively-Japanese flavors, like Rich Milk, Affogado (whatever that is), Azuki Milk (red bean to you), Alphonso Mango (who is Alphonso?), and of course, Green Tea (click here to see them. If you actually click on the flavor, it will give you the name in English). When I went to the Wikipedia article on Haagen-Dasz, I was rather surprised to find out that it's an American company, and the name, meant to look Scandinavian, is complete fabrication and doesn't mean anything or even actually resemble anything in any Scandinavian language. Hilarious.

This led me off on another tangent: Kit-Kat. There really odd flavors for these, too, and they are usually seasonal.

These are some fun flavors, in Japan only:

Iced Tea
Caramel and Salt
Kinako (soybean flour)
Green Tea
Café Latte with Hokkaidō Milk
Cherry Blossom

click here for the Wikipedia article, with a list of flavors all around the world.

I found this blurb somewhere ages ago about Kit-Kat in Japan:

Japanese learners using the katakana pronunciation when asking for a KitKat could well get a blank look when they ask for a 'kitto katto.' Incidentally, this particular phonetic rendering proved a massive marketing success for KitKat in Japan as 'kitto katto' has a resonance with the Japanese for 'certain victory', thus making it a popular snack for those doing exams or entering sports contests.

Isn't that interesting? It is to me.

So the kids are done with school. M was very sad yesterday, having to say good-bye to most of his friends. They all seem to be leaving in the next few days for their home countries, so they won't be able to hang out this summer. D, too, was seen with his head on the shoulder of his good friend Ravindu, looking forlorn. It's hard for them. They've been here two years, and now it's likely that they won't see any of these friends again.

Me? I got away from the school with a quick wave good-bye to the small cluster of Japanese moms. A few of them had made a polite attempt at friendliness, but it was always clear to me that I was an outsider. Due to language, tattoos, general freakishness, I don't know. Only a few really seemed interested in me as a person, and not as a novelty: Ricky's mom Michiko, who always seems a little bit of an outsider herself. She has invited me over to her house in July. Janie, Hana's mom, and my first friend at the school. She is Phillipina and used to live really nearby, so once a week we would have a board-game afternoon. We are going over her house this week. Kumi's mom, who has always been very nice to me and my family, but I rarely see her anymore since Kumi & M aren't as close as they used to be. Kumi has grown up and would rather fit in with the girls, I guess. Kumi's mom is having a sayonara gathering for us.

Most of them, Michiko excepted, weren't among those who are on the playground after school. As for the rest of the moms? I am glad I will no longer have to stand around awkwardly, not talking to anyone but the occasional kids, who are easier to talk to.

And tonight, we are going over Hamza's for a goodbye Turkish dinner. Hamza has been a great best pal for M, and his mom has always been very cool about feeding him and letting him sleep over. I think this will be the hardest night for M. It's been interesting for me to learn about Turkish customs and Muslim dietary laws (I had a hard time reciprocating the dinners when Hamza was over our house). His mom is a fantastic cook. I wish I could communicate with her more (and get recipes!), but my Japanese sucks, my Turkish is non-existent, and her English is limited (though she's been taking lessons). Cynthia and her mom & sister will be there, too, so I will have someone to talk to. And I will definitely enjoy the food.


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