Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Day in Oguni

We drove to the edge of Oita prefecture today to visit a person I know only through email from my Foreign Wives Club. She has two children, age 5 and 2, so we were bound to have a good time. The drive was nearly two hours door to door, or would have been if I could have found the place a little sooner - it's always a bit tricky finding people's houses in Japan as there are no street names and the houses are not numbered in order, nor are the numbers written anywhere that a person could see from the road.

So we arrived at lunchtime, a little later than anticipated because I had to go back when we were just out of Nakatsu to get Amy's medicine! They had been at a school sports day all morning, so they made pizza toast, I added the marmite and cheese, and ham and tomato sauce sandwiches I had prepared.

After lunch, and a chat, and a cup of tea, we went to a nearby sports ground and went for a little walk. Then we visited an old traditional house, then went down to the river, which was the kids's favorite part. We chucked stones into the river. Then we floated bits of wood as boats. Amy really took to that, searching around for families to put on the boat, then I launched it into the river. We lost the family of course. They waded in the muck in their bare feet (the river had recently flooded so it was very silted up and there was a lot of driftwood around)

Then we came back to the house for a blueberry and pear pie. It was lovely, I love fruit pie, and it was bright purple, which worried our hostess but I thought it looked cool. After that, we went to an onsen, of course, which is how you always end your day in Kyushu!

Friday, September 23, 2005

We're going to the zoo, zoo zoo...

Lena went on her first field trip today, which was fun for her, and a major trauma for me. Let some people take my little baby away from me on a bus with no seat-belts to a zoo, with crowds and wild animals? At least I wasn't the only one going silly, some mothers couldn't help themselves and asked the teachers to please be careful and watch out for junior. Much as I wanted to say, 'Bring my baby back in one piece or I'll murder you' all I said was 'So, how many kids do you have each?' The answer was a reassuring two - 'one for each hand'. And I was impressed with the tight organization, right down to the last detail, each kid labelled, even the order they got on the bus was organized!

Amy had the day off kindy as it's a public holiday today. God knows which one, once upon a time I used to find out, but I can't be bothered now. Nothing changes, except I turned up at the PO today to find it shut. So Amy stayed home with me, drew pictures, then turned a cardboard box into a house, then painted it, and made a table out of a box. I gave her 500 yen to make up for not going to the zoo, and she spent it at the 100yen shop - she got a plastic tiara, pink sparkly rabbit ears, some pencils and a sketch pad, and a tree for her fairy house (a collection of Japanese lacquer boxes on the window-sill filled with tiny wooden furniture and shells).

Then while she played at Baachan's while I went to pick up Lena, she developed a fever again, and has now gone to sleep with a sore throat. Relapse. Hope she's okay tomorrow, and HOPE it doesn't bring on another asthma attack

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Ballet Concert

I took Amy and Lena to their first full ballet today. By coincidence, it was Coppelia, my first ballet! (That I can remember, I may have seen the Nutcracker too, but I can't remember much).

It was only a local school's performance, not a professional company, but it was good enough for us. Machiko Takita was in it, but we couldn't tell which one! You never can, they make them up with so much stage make-up it's almost impossible to spot them. I only knew Amy in her ballet performance because of her crooked eyebrows!

I told them the story before we left, but I found out that a local school's ballet performance is just about the perfect thing to take kids to. There's no dialogue that you are interrupting when you explain things to them, they music is so loud you can't be heard anyway, and the audience is full not of serious and committed followers of ballet, but relatives here to watch little Yukiko dancing, so they're not bothered anyway. In fact, the lady next to me took a nap half way through.

Once home the fun continued, with Amy and Lena setting the room up as the ballet. Amy wanted to be the China doll. The two rubber horses and a fluffly dog were the three Spanish dancers, and the two dolls Maria got them for my birthday were the Bolero dolls. Lena got to be Coppelia, sitting in the book corner behind a curtain constructed out of a guitar and a towel. They both sat perfectly still, and I had to be Dr. Coppelius, and wind up China doll/Amy and pull back the curtain to check on Coppelia/Lena. We had to do it over when Daddy got home, then again on Tuesday when her friends came to visit!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Harvest Festival

I was feeling it a bit from the night before, but even though the kids had stayed the night at Baachan's I had to get up! I had promised to pick up Lena before 10 so Baachan could take Amy to kindy. They had an event for grandparents. I took Lena to Jusco to the monthly flea market where I got HUGE brand new kitties for 100yen! Super! And I picked up some clothes for Amy, including black vinyl pants, wicked! And a fork, spoon and chopsticks set for Lena's lunchbox

Then I had to rush back to Baachan's, take Amy to her art lesson, then my own lesson. And straight after that, out to Yabakei in the mountains to Baachan's old house for the annual rice harvest festival. It's held in a shrine on the hill behind the house. The whole neighborhood comes, there are toy and food stalls, and beer. Most people seem to come for the raffles - I won a bag of sugar, Baachan won some noodles, a blanket and a standing lamp, which she gave to us, and we have more use for all three!

For me the main attraction is the wonderful kagura dances. These ancient, traditional dances honour the gods and celebrate the harvest. They wear elaborate costumes, wigs and masks. The first dance is the rice dance, where the dancer carries the rice in flat trays, and he spins around so fast that he can hold the trays vertically and none of the rice falls off.

Then there is the Princess dance, done by a very lithe middle aged lady who can bend backwards so her head almost touches the ground. And the sword dance, which is downright scary, as the dancer twirls the swords around his head and up and down and all around. Lena asked what would happen if he dropped them, something no-one could answer, I could only hope that they were blunted, despite being genuine swords that once belonged to Amy and Lena great-grandfather.

Then there is the oni, or ogre dance. This one is real scary for the kids, because, by tradition, for some long-lost reason, probably luck, the oni takes kids off their parents and whirls them around a few times, usually screaming full volume. Lena had a go last year, and was so scared this year that she did not even want to go up the stairs up to the shrine. We managed to get her up, and she relaxed as the night went on and there were no oni. We left before they came on, I bet they were thinking 'damn' cos there were not that many kids there because of the rain, and Amy and Lena were sitting right on the edge of the shrine.

We ate dinner at Baachan's nephew and niece's house - always the same thing - a huge platter of bought sashimi, and one of nigiri-zushi, home-made chirashi-zushi and/or -zushi, Junko's yogurt and fruit salad, spicy ___, gently boiled mountain fern, and fried chicken.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Bye Bye Hannah!

Tonight I went to the Nakatsu Katarukai once more, this time to hear Rich speak. I spoke there a few months ago, I don't know if I even finished that entry...

Anyway Rich spoke about rubbish and footpaths and one other thing I forgot. Then we went to a Keio Academy staff party at a Yaki-niku place I've never been to before. We took Uto with us.

It was for Hannah's farewell party. She stayed just one year. She is from New Zealand, and is going back there for now. The yaki-niku was so-so, I had already eaten so I guess that ruined my apetite! And it was open-air, which is unusual for Nakatsu. I think I would have enjoyed that several years ago, but I am so sick to death of sweat and mosquitos that it just pissed me off.

I drank beer instead, and talked to the kiwis, including new teacher Mike, who is from New Plymouth and his girlfriend Erin. I don't think there'll ever be a whole FOUR kiwis at Keio ever again. Then we went to One or Eight, the bar opposite my favorite bar Tropicoco. I got bored and wanted to go to karaoke but no-one else wanted to, so I went home. But before then I had a great time chatting with Hannah and Jess, who is also leaving soon on one side, then new teacher Kristin and Emma, who is Eoin's ex and a teacher at our rival Nova. Confused? There was also Ruth, another new teacher, and we have one more coming. Phew! Keio is expanding into Kokura, hence the influx of teachers. Long time since there were just the two of us, me and Alex, then me and Jim

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

What did I say?

Wake up in the morning to a wet, but otherwise normal day.

And that's just what we did, except that we were sleeping on the living room floor, and it was dark because of the storm doors. And Amy went out and helped the neighbour's gardenere to sweep the road clean of leaves.

Now I have to clean up again, clear the mound of coats and bags from the hall, get the bedding back upstairs.

The wind died down late evening, picking up again around 10pm. At about 11:30 I was woken by a big noise of something falling, and I still haven't discovered what it was. Kanji didn't wake at all! There was a lot of damage in the south of the island, and the NZ newspapers are full of it, so here it is from me, not a hint of a flood over here, and no wind damage at all. So far - I haven't been out of the house yet!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Typhoon Nabi

We are waiting for it.

I read that it was a category 4, just like Katrina, which is a little nerve-wracking! But hopefully it'll lose power over the cooler water. Meanwhile, we wait, sleeping downstairs behind the storm doors, trying to amuse ourselves during what is becoming one very LOOONG day. We still have power, at least.

We have water, and spare food, and torches and a radio and lots of medicine for Amy. We've got some stuff in the entrance hall waiting in case we have to evacuate, but that's unlikely since we don't live on a hill (landslide risk). But if the water comes up too high, we might have to leave, we figure we'll go to the Youme town carpark! So I've got my emergency kit waiting there, a bag of clothes, a bag of important stuff like passport, money etc.

However, we have every intention of staying right here, freaking out at the wind a bit but otherwise, there's every reason to expect we'll wake up tomorrow to an ordinary, if wet, day. Wish us luck!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

iro iro

Which is Japanese for this and that.

We have a typhoon coming over today, seems small so far, but I stocked up on bottled water yesterday anyway! I am shocked and saddened with what has been going on in New Orleans, as are many non-Japanese people I know, and no-one as scathing about the slack response than the Americans themselves. I think they're a bit shocked. That's not supposed to happen in the US. The whole event seems to have slipped by the Japanese - their news has been full of election coverage. A student I had yesterday was aware damage had been done as her company has a branch in Mississippi, but she had no idea that whole towns there were wiped off the map and New Orleans was flooded up to the rooftops.

I have spent this rainy day indoors working on another proofreading job, this one requiring me to check it against the Japanese, which I am not very good at, to say the least! But I am whipping it into shape and all it needs now is a brief going-over to check for spelling, typos, punctuation and formatting.

Lilipod is now carrying about a GB of songs, about 300, nearly twenty hours of music. When am I going to get time to listen to it all?