Ramen with Ramon

This week was one of little joys. 
I will share them with you as I encountered them: In a simple, small, joyful way. 
We recently visited a small church in Machida (one town over from ours) where we immediately felt at home. There were no more than 30 people at the English service that afternoon, but it was one of earnest worship and humble love to these two newcomers. We weren’t able to attend the following week because Oakie had to work and I lost my set of car keys (hold your laughter, please), but later in the week we received an invitation to lunch from a man we’d met at the church. Thank you, Jesus, for brave & selfless people who reach beyond themselves to hold onto us because we all belong to each other.
Enter Ramon (or Ramòn maybe?). He remembered us from the service and also works on Camp Zama, but as a civilian. He bravely followed up and offered to take us to lunch on Wednesday. He drove us to a shared parking lot for 3 restaurants and let us choose: Sushi, upscale Japanese lunch, or ramen from a shack. I’ve mentioned before that Oakie’s been into noodles lately, plus, shacks tend to be the homes of the best hole-in-the-walls I know……..so ramen it was. Now, I realise the role that ramen has taken in present-day American society. 
It’s the package of choice for poor, broke college students who just need to make it to next week; it’s the just-add-hot-water-and-stir staple of the down-and-out. But here….it’s an art form.
The shack seated about 12 people side by side on low stools at a bar facing the kitchen. Your order is placed at the vending machine by the door and the water is self-serve (come to think of it, I don’t think there were other drink options…). After a brief volley of bows and arigato gouzaimasu-es, we took our seats and waited. Watching these chefs was like a Food Network segment. They grabbed big bowls and added a small ladle-full of this and a dash of that and a big dipper of milky white broth and then the famed ramen which cooked as they topped it all with a slice of ham and a sheet of dried seaweed. This is then placed in front of you with chopsticks and a spoon while the bubbles of the boil are still subsiding. AND IT’S AMAZING. It’s creamy and savory with just the right amount of crunch and chew and all the ramen realities you know are burst with this perfect pin point dish that you’re already pencilling in your calendar to have again. SPOILER: If/when you come to visit, we will be taking you to this place so you too can be disappointed in American ramen in a whole new way. 

Funny thing we learned from Ramon/òn: The Japanese borrowed the word ‘mansion’ from the english language and have attached it to apartment complexes. 
No amount of correcting them will change their minds. 
Apartments are mansions. 
So just shut up about it.

[Enter clever transition here]
So, as many of you know, I had a birthday this week (thank y’all for the greetings and well-wishes!!!). I highly recommend you try this whole Japanese-birthday thing. Little secret about birthdays in Japan…they last a whole lot longer than regular old American birthdays. I (justifiably) started celebrating 14 hours before y’all and then got a 14 hour extension too! Henceforth and forevermore, I will be celebrating in this fashion. 38 hours of birthday privilege! It’s a lot easier to sell than the birthday-week or birthday-month thing. These are cut down by the fact that birthDAY has a set time limit within the name, but if you play the time zone angle, it’s STILL your birthDAY for 38 hours because science. You’re welcome. 

I had a lovely 38-hour day complete with a make-your-own-Pad-Thai at the Pacific Rim restaurant on our housing area where they sang “Happy Birthday” and gave me a cupcake with a candle and this lovely picture:

And speaking of pictures, [note to self: transition nailed] I GOT A NEW CAMERA AND IT’S FANCY AND I DON’T KNOW HOW TO USE IT, BUT I’VE ALREADY TAKEN 78 PICTURES. To celebrate this addition to our family, (other than to use all caps, obviously), I will show you some pictures of our house and my birthday baking efforts and the candles.
But first, the first ever pictures taken by my camera:

 Our sitting room/sewing room/display room for my #taylorswift magazine: 
(didn’t think I’d get it in there, did ya?) 
[note to self: nailed it. again.]
My favorite spot in the house (sorry, Taylor) is this Christmas still life. 
A little place where my decorations make me happy.
Baking Chewy Chai Spice Sugar Cookies on my birthday because it delights me to put something undone into a hot box and then take it out deliciously done. 
Plus, they have cream cheese in them and I basically NEEDED them.

And then Oakie put 26 candles into 26 cookies and sang to me. #blessed

And then, perhaps the highlight of my week, starts with a confession:
Hi. My name is Caroline Elizabeth Osborne née Garcia (I just learned about the word ‘née and I want to take a moment to congratulate myself on smoothly squeezing it into my blog… OKAY OKAY, we’re getting back to the confession) and I had never seen a single Star Wars movie until Friday night. 

Now before you go all “I’m gonna unfriend you on Facebook and ruin your reputation and kick over your trashcans” on me, please know: I have now watched ALL SEVEN OF THEM. One each day until the midnight premiere here in Japan when I watched Episode III right before Episode VII. I…I…I’m a fan. There. I said it. You know what they always say, “Late is great.” Right? …guys?

Another thing you need to know: I have formally committed to pronouncing it so that Wars rhymes with Star…go ahead. Give it a shot. Star. Wars. SO FUN RIGHT? So there’s that…

But seriously, I am a fan. And I will not espouse my new-found opinion on the movie so as not to spoil it for other die-hard fans like myself. 

To prove my love, I did my hair Princess Leia-style for the premier and I was NOT ASHAMED.
 I also used our wrapping paper tube as my light sabre.
 And yes, I know that Princess Leia doesn’t use them.
#artisticlicense
so that was our week.
it was small and simple and wonderful.
plus, I met a Japanese lady, Chieko-san, who offered to teach me the traditional Japanese tea ceremony and I am SO excited!
love from Japan.
and may the force be with you.

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