Saturday, August 30, 2008


Here's the hot-off-the-press, first look at my half of Nagoya International School's class of 2019. An 'interesting' bunch.

You know, for all it's worth, I am looking forward to a year of challenges that will help me redefine my teaching in ways that will only propel me (and my students) forward.

Plus, there's only 12 of them. Really, how bad could that be?


Thursday, August 28, 2008


To say that I have a completely different class of learners this year (compared to the cherubs I had the privilege of teaching last year) would be the understatement of the century.

But, in an effort to follow my new routine of 'no criticism, no complaining, no condemning' as well as 'positive mental attitude', I will try to explain my situation this year, to you, as light-heartedly as possible.

My new class is very interesting.

I don't think they'd be quite so 'interesting' if I hadn't have had a class of absolute angels last year. Smart, kind, caring, friendly angels. Angels whose new teachers (and anyone else who is fortunate enough to walk in to the third grade class during work times) say nothing but good things about what 'thoughtful readers', 'smart kids' and 'independent workers' they are (thank you very much to the EXCELLENT teaching they had last year, if it may be mentioned here!)

My new class is just so interesting.

I don't think they'd be quite so 'interesting' if I hadn't have been spoiled last year wtih kids who really listened, who worked hard, who followed the rules, and who had great respect for their teacher (thank you very much to the EXCELLENT teaching and modeling they had last year, if it may be mentioned here!).

So this year, I am just 'lucky' enough to have kids who are 'interesting'. There is really no other way to describe it.

And so, I hope that I have accurately conveyed to you, without uttering a single word of negativity, just now 'nice' my class this year really is...

Monday, August 18, 2008


Big news of the day: Gary eats Indian food (and likes it!)...

Tonight, at approximately 6:45pm (JST), Gary Thornton of Ankeny, Iowa, tried Indian food for the first time. Thornton, 49, had always proclaimed himself a 'meat and potatoes' kind of guy, preferring any table with salt and pepper and a diet Pepsi.

Tonight, in an unexpected turn, though, Thornton was asked to try Indian food, and, after trying it, with little hesitation, found it to be more delicious than he had ever imagined. After tasting the third course, Indian-styled ice cream called Kulfee, Thornton gladly exclaimed 'there's nothing tonight that hasn't been right on. This stuff is good.' and was overheard discussing finding Indian restaurants with his wife Lynne, 44.

Some of the foods eaten by Mr. Thornton at the time of this publishing:

Vegetable Pakura
Tandori Chicken
Chicken Masala Curry
Garlic Naan

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Some Random Thoughts from Japan

By Lynne Thornton, guest blogger

Wendy is letting me a “guest writer” on her blog while we are in Japan. I have never done this before and I can only hope that you will enjoy reading this so here goes.

Japan is VERY hot in August. Wendy had warned us of this but it was really the only time that worked for all of us to visit. For those of you that know me well, I don’t do heat well at all. We have been out walking in it for 5 days now pretty much from sunrise to sunset and it has been so great, we have seen so much. Wendy has been an amazing tour guide. I definitely would not want to be here on my own trying to get everywhere that she has taken us.

One of the things that I knew I was going to miss when we came to Japan were the Olympics. I really enjoy watching the Olympics and I set up the DVR at home so that I could watch them when I get home. Wendy knows how the Gymnastic team did but I have asked her not to tell me. I have seen Michael Phelps a couple of times on Japanese TV with Japanese announcers (which is funny at first and then VERY irritating). When we were in Hiroshima & Tokoyo, we were able to watch LIVE Olympics but it was all Japan participants (who knew there could be so many live Judo & Ju-jitsu matches)? I am truly looking forward to coming home and watching the Olympics two weeks late with English speaking announcers.

If you come to Japan, try not to come during their ‘holiday”. This is when a lot of the businesses close down and everyone does the stuff that WE are trying to do. We went to Disney Sea yesterday in Tokyo and there were so many people. We got there at 10am and left at 9pm and rode only 4 rides because of the lines. It was crazy. BUT…at least I am not a Disney virgin any more. Yes, it is true, at the ripe old age of 44, I have made my first trip to Disney!!!!!

Japanese woman are very beautiful AND they don’t sweat (did I mention it is HOT in Japan)??? Yesterday I was watching them in line and none of them were sweating – their hair was perfect, their face was perfect, just absolutely beautiful woman. The craziest part of this is that even in this heat, some woman wear long pants and long gloves to protect themselves from the sun. I guess this is how they stay looking so young for so long.

My last random thought is going to be about Wendy. She is not Japanese but she IS very beautiful. I have been amazed this week at how fluently she has mastered the Japanese language and culture. She has been a terrific host and an absolute perfect tour guide. Yes, there have been some issues along the way, not in her control, but it has been a wonderful week. Wendy and I can get on each others nerves when we are together for a long period of time but we always end of getting through it – we just try and leave each other alone for awhile which is what we ended up doing today. Gary and I took off on an adventure on our own to Fuji while Wendy came back to Nagoya. This gave Gary and I some alone time and it gave Wendy a chance to have her apartment to herself for a few hours without having to keep us busy. It also gave Gary and I a chance to see what we have learned (and retained) from Wendy over the past week of how to get around Japan. I will always remember the look on Wendy’s face when we made it back to her apartment. She was amazed that we had done so well. (THANK YOU Wendy for an incredible time in Japan.) Someday I hope that she will be blessed with a daughter and my greatest hope for her is that she will have a great relationship with her and she will then be able to completely understand the pride of watching your baby girl turn into such a beautiful woman before your eyes. Wendy, you continue to amaze me and I hope you know how much you mean to me and how much I Love You.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Our Diet

Two incredibly picky eaters: Lynne and Gary. I promise that I haven't starved them, seriously. But, it's just that they won't eat anything I give them.

Ok, well, Lynne isn't SO bad, but Gary? Lost cause...

Our diet this week has consisted of mainly the following:

Flavored pretzels
Any ice cream
Diet Coke
Mc Donalds
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese

So, when Mom and Gary come home 15 pounds lighter, no one will wonder why...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Second verse, same as the first

(Mom and Gary do Japan: Day 2)

An early wakening took us on a long walk to see my school, and back home for showers and a delicious breakfast of omelets and fresh fruit salad. Still 640 degrees in my apartment, Gary and Mom found the positive in my excellent showering facilities and my delicious breakfast-making skills.

And then we left the house.

The cab ride was uneventful, and the first train ride too. But, I knew the day was going to be disaster when Mom said, 'So, where do we change our money at?'

Uh... yeah. Of all the things that I FORGOT to tell Mom and Gary to do (and of all the things that I take advantage of knowing as a seasoned traveler) is that if you don't know much about your country, just to be safe, you always exchange some or all of your money at the airport. Japan is a perfect example of why to do this, as we could not find a money exchange place anywhere between my house and the most major train station in Nagoya. Which effectively put my parents on a train, about to travel halfway across Japan, without a spendable cent in their pockets.

This led to an uncomfortable discussion between Gary and myself and the Shinkansen ticket seller that went something like this:

Train guy: (in Japanese): There is a money exchange place somewhere nearby.
Gary (at the same time): Is there a place nearby?
Wendy (angrily trying to keep her calm, and not being able to believe that Gary had forgotten the getting-lost-debacle from the previous night, and remembering that the tickets we have just purchased leave in 22 minutes): Do you know how to get us there? Are you going to lead us?

(later I apologized)

As in any problem solving situation, the facts were reconsidered, plans b and c were made, and the money problem was (semi-) solved.

But then...

As we got into the train station to transfer Mom and Gary's Japan Rail Pass vouchers into Rail Pass tickets (which lets them travel throughout the country for free, and is something I'm not able to get, nor do I know much about), the two of them were dragged out of the ticket purchasing line and taken to the Rail Pass transfer line. I waited in the purchase line still, hoping they would complete the transfer before it was my turn to buy the tickets, but no luck. And then, of course, as soon as I got to the window and was told to step back in line until my parents, with their passes, were also there, they finished their pass exchange, and came on over. To the back of the line we went.


When we got to the counter, we realized that Mom and Gary's rail pass did not allow for us to take the most direct train for our three-hour ride to Hiroshima, but that instead, we would be required to switch one time. Which wouldn't have been a problem if you could read the bloody timetable. Which, of course, was in Japanese. So, back to the help desk for a transfer question which was answered by two good-looking Japanese men whose only faults were making me speak Japanese for half of the conversation before admitting that they spoke English. Jerks.

The first train was easy and effortless and we landed at our transfer station right on time.

But then...

Because of the nature of our tickets, the second train ride was to be non-reserved seats, which means everyone and their mothers crams into the first three cars (so pray to God that you get a seat). I thought I was clever to find the shortest line possible to stand in, assuring we'd get a seat, which we did, until I realized that there was a reason that the line for car 2 was quite short. And, so, for the rest of the 90 minute ride to Hiroshima, we sat in a car full of sick, smelly, Japanese smokers (and one crying baby who obviously wasn't a smoker either). Needless to say, that train ride was not as enjoyable.

Other memorable highlights of the day:

Planning our whole day around the baseball game in the evening, only to be dressed and walking out the door when we realized that the game was not for tonight, but tomorrow night.

Reading brochures during dinner and finding out that one of the biggest fireworks displays in all of the country is set to go off in two days, one day after we leave.


The moral of the story: sometimes it's just best to not leave the house.

Mom and Gary's Big Adventure

(an adventurous fiasco from day 1)

I was really excited for Mom and Gary to visit Japan. Until they got here. You see, I realized, as soon as they arrived, that I don't know nearly enough about this country to get myself, let alone them, around safely and efficiently.

Thus, the fiasco began at landing time, 8:00pm (Nagoya Central Time).

1. On the way home from the airport, the navigation system that I was using fell out of my hands, and (which we didn't know until later) the cd (that guides via satellite) became dislodged. So, as we were getting ready to merge from one highway to the next, the entire system stopped working.

(Side note - I really am not kidding when I say that you can't just 'take a wrong turn' or 'get lost' in Japan. The end result would be to be lost off o the planet forever. Only this time, It was going to be myself and my parents to never be heard from again...)

In a series of miscalculated judgement errors, I, at that time, took two wrong turns. Panicked and nearly crying, I called my friend Daniel (the master of Japan) who effortlessly led us home. If you've ever seen Apollo 13, it was like trying to get to Earth from the Moon with no computer to guide me. Daniel was my steely-eyed missile man.

2. When we got to my apartment, Gary immediately fell into a grate that was about 2 feet deep. You see, these large canal-like grates are built between the building and the parking lot to collect rain water during storms. In most places* they are not covered with metal bars, but are merely large, cement holes. Not only did he scrape his leg and elbow and twist his foot, he hit his head and mouth on the side of the cement. I mean, I guess I hadn't thought to say "Hey Gary, watch out for that really deep and large and dangerous and dark grate that is behind my car. It's a killer."

*most places = my house

3. We carried the 4-50 pound bags up to the second floor and inside. Although I had kept the air-conditioning on (only a luxury I would afford my parents), it was about 650 degrees inside my place. My apartment is plenty big for one, but is a bit of a stretch for 3 plus 4 suitcases full of stuff. But, we got fairly sorted quickly, and started packing up for the next day's journey. Except that one of Gary's suitcases would not open. At all. So we had to cut it apart. Which was sweaty and frustrating. But, at least we were down to 3 people and three suitcases.

the rest of the night (thankfully) proceeded pretty uneventfully (considering it was bedtime), until I found out that:

4. Earlier that day, Mom and Gary had to 'lighten' the two suitcases they were bringing for me by about 10 pounds upon arrival to the airport in Des Moines. Before they arrived there, anticipating such a need, Mom and I discussed that whatever she needed to take out would be fine, not life or death, and to not worry about it. Upon the arrival in Japan, she presented me the list of things that she had taken out. Obviously, when I said 'anything you take out is fine', I meant 'anything but the five things you took out'. Here is an abbreviated list:

my brand new hard drive for my computer
the shampoo from a set of very expensive, huge sized, salon style hair care (but hey, at least I have the conditioner, right?)
a bottle of shampoo that a friend asked me to bring (since she wasn't going to get to America this summer)

You know what did make it though? Four jars of homemade jam, three unnecessary towels, and a huge blanket that I didn't even want to bring in the first place.


All of this, and they had only been in town for 3 hours.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


I have decided, that for no reason than just because, the following things are perfectly acceptable:

1. When I get on a flight on Wednesday morning, landing in Japan on Thursday evening (essetially skipping most of Thursday), it is ok for me to go ahead and eat Thursday's calories anyway. I mean, since I'm ACTUALLY doing 36 hours in 24, I get to eat, let's say, 800 more calories. It make the three Cinnabons that I eat at the airport ok.

2. If I spend SO much on my credit card that I almost can't imagine how I'm going to pay it, it is INSTEAD ok to call the credit card company and tell them that my card was actually stolen. You know, get all the money back through the theft protection program. I have already practiced lines such as the following:

'H&M? Never heard of it! Nope, I certainly didn't spend $200 dollars there! And twice! No way!'


'Hmmm, I don't think I was ever in New York City or Atlanta. Des Moines? That's Idaho, right? Nope, never been there...'

3. It is PERFECTLY alright to shower* at the Bath & Body Works airport stand.

*shower = inconspicuously 'trying' three or four different lotions on your forearms, upper arms, shoulders, and neck.

4. It is perfectly ok to be proud of your US Olympians. And to be really, really, really excited when you see them in the airport... Go USA!