Tyler Smith living in Japan - stories from afar


#1

The Hitachi Sunrockers have climbed to second place with four games to go. The top four teams make the tournament so they still have to win one or two more to lock in. Here is one of Tyler’s stories about living overseas:

Konichiwa lads and lassies,

I love taking Hannah to her swim and play classes on Tuesdays. It’s just me and the mommies. All the other dads are working because they have normal jobs while I generally have the mornings free. The giant white American with his little crazy blonde tornado and all the tiny Japanese moms and their perfectly-behaved kids. We blend in like a homeless person at a black tie event.

A couple of odd things.

First off, the locker room is huge where Hannah and I change into our swim wear. I don my Tommy swim suit: which by the way I was told that only gangstas and bad boys wear in Japan, thus proving my cool thuggish dangerous side. Hannah rocks her government issued pink suit. No kids get wet without properly approved swimming attire here. We brought some bathing suits for her from the US, but quickly learned that this was a no no. Rules are rules.

Anyway, back to the odd things. Have you been in a dressing room or locker room lately with others? Does the naked person stand right next to you, too? For some reason, of ALL the lockers around, Hannah and I always get the old Japanese naked guy next to us. And why do THEY seem SO RELAXED and free and comfortable in their bare nudeness while there’s all kinds of other people around? Maybe it’s just me.

Once we survive the locker room and go upstairs to the pool, I am forced to sport my really sweet blue swim cap. Mandatory. I forgot it once and tried to jump in the pool. They came after me like I just dumped nuclear waste in the water. “SWIM CAP SWIM CAP!” They freaked out. Sorry. I thought that was why we put chlorine in the water. You got 20 babies peeing in it for like an hour. I figure my receding buzz cut melon wouldn’t kill any fish.

Sadly, my blue stretchy head covering does not make me look like Michael Phelps as I thought it did. When I glanced in the mirror one day as we were walking out the door, I was like, “That’s what I look like? Man, I look like an idiot.” But I guess when you are the only oversized white dude amongst 15 small Japanese women, what’s a little more weirdness?

When the instructor tells us to lift our little ones up and down while we stand in the water, all the mommies give a nice little “weeeee” barely raising them out of the water. I, on the other hand, throw Hannah as high as I can to see if she can touch the flag markers that hang crossways over the water. For the record, I do catch her. I’m sure they’re talking about us. But, I’ll never know.

The other kids allow the instructor to hold them on the side of the pool before they jump in to their mom, smiling the whole way. “Yay, water!” When it comes time for this part of the class for Hannah, she knows it all too well and screams her face off. “Don’t lay a hand on me, lady!” You can see how we just merge perfectly with the crowd.

After swim class, the real fun begins. Gymnastics class. More like play class. Actually, more like don’t-get-run-over-or-step-on-a-tiny-person class.

It’s amazing to see how much Hannah has grown and developed and the play class has been a perfect gauge. Her first couple classes, she couldn’t climb over a shoe. Now she dives head first down the soft slide, hurdles onto mats, and walks over to turn the volume up on the stereo whenever she feels the urge.

The true highlight of the play class is bubbles. Hannah chases those bubbles down like a cheetah, plowing through any person or wall in her way. The other kids are like, “Yeah yeah. You blow em. They pop. No biggie.” Hannah on the other hand is like, “BUBBLES!!!” Her eyes get huge. She turns into some bubble popping maniac that thinks every bubble is some miraculous prize and it MUST be popped by her. When her tiny finger touches it and the bubble bursts, there’s a split second where it almost catches her by surprise. As if in her head she whispers to herself in awe, “It disappeared again.”

Then it’s time for the big finale.

Every class they play a song and dance a little jig. The song is in Japanese and we all gather in a circle to do the choreography. Some of you may have been lucky enough to witness my stellar dancing prowess. I gotta tell you… You know you have reached a whole new personal comfort level when you can dance like a Disney character in front of a class of 15 moms who don’t speak your language. Hannah absolutely rocks out to the dance and hits every move right on beat, just like her incredible dancing with the stars mommy. Daddy on the other hand. Let’s just say it looks like he is hearing it for the first time, every time.

Basketball is going well. We have 6 games left before playoffs. We are tied for 2nd after having won 7 games in a row. Still no dunks.

And, in light of the Wine to Water fundraising effort that many of you are a part of, the good news is that my stats have gone up lately. Most notably, points and rebounds. So that has a very positive effect on our pledges which I thank you for once again. Since many of you are donating based on total points and rebounds for the most part, here are the up to date season totals:

Current Total Points = 433

Current Total Rebounds = 191

Turnovers (for those of you who sickeningly donated by each of these) = 32

Intentional fouls = 1

I will briefly explain myself and the intentional foul as any good defendant would who claims his innocence.

The short version is: He started it. I got in his face. The ref probably made the right call.

He was smaller than me and I was pushing him a little. He pulled me to the ground igniting a small rage within me. I jumped up and kindly screamed in his face. He screamed back in very broken English profanities (hilarious now looking back). His coach just about ran onto the floor as he fiercely beckoned for me to come over and mess with him on the sidelines. Fortunately, I walked away before my ego tried to take on the entire stadium.

Oddly enough, I somehow got 2 free throws out of it which I made. We then also got the ball when it had previously been their possession. We scored. Then, we proceeded to come back from a 15-point deficit and beat them on the road. Maybe I should get angry more often.

Enjoy your week. Dance a little. C’mon. Just once. For me.

Got moves,
Patrick Swayze


#2

As always, his stories are greatly appreciated.

Thanks again.