Friday, June 08, 2007

Earthquake Storm

My house is shaking! They are pulling down the house next door, but at the same time, the earthquakes are still going(I've counted eight definite ones in 24 hours, and a couple of smaller possibles) and I honestly can't tell which is which now! Earth moving or Earthmover?

Either we're having a lot of after-shocks after Wednesday night's moderate earthquake, or that earthquake has set of an 'earthquake storm'. I just wish it would stop. One is okay, but it's very un-nerving when they keep coming, because you just don't know how long it's going to last. Just when you think it's over - bam - or was that the bulldozer?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Change and shaking

Change comes at you from the most unexpected quarters! There I was, getting ready for the major change of a new baby, and BAM the house next door comes tumbling down. There is one interesting little effect that this event has had on me, one I would never have expected.

Since about six months ago, when I watched a TV documentary on the Kobe earthquake, I've been worried about our house's earthquake safety standard. In the documentary, they commented that a lot of the losses were traditional two-storey wooden houses. The pictures of them toppled over made me uneasy, as our house is quite old. During the last big one, we were in the hospital - but I felt it less than the next one, when I was at home. The difference between the gentle side-to-side movement and relative quiet of the earthquake while in a safe building, and being rattled about like you're in a maraca is quite striking! Like the difference between our old Hunter St house with its concrete foundation and the shacks I lived in at Uni!

Anyway, watching the house next door come down, I was struck by just how HARD it is to demolish a house! They whacked and they banged at it, shaking our house as well until they forced their way through the floors and roof. Interestingly, I saw that the upper floors were steel-reinforced concrete along with the wood-frame. I hadn't realized they do that, so now I am wondering if our house is constructed like that too.

The upshot of all of this is that I have a renewed faith in our little house, just in time for an earthquake last night! Everyone else slept through it, but I woke up for it, and stayed awake for the three aftershocks...then Kanji snoring...then Amy coughing so I got her medicine and checked the TV to see that the quake was local...finally got to sleep about and hour and half later! I think I'll go have a nap.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The House Next Door

The elderly couple who lived in the house next door died several years ago, leaving the place vacant. It's a very old house, which just makes it intriguing and romantic to me. The most intriguing part of it to me was the old-fashioned 'dozou' or storehouse nestled in the front corner. Japanese houses being built of wood, are very vulnerable to fire, and various Japanese cities have been destroyed by fire many times over. One solution was to construct these free-standing, earth or plaster-clad buildings and use them to store the household's expensive items, like kimonos. They are only a few metres square, and two stories high, with a secure door in the upper part, as their other purpose was to protect against theft.

They are very rare these days, so I was always intrigued by the one next door. I imagined going into it and finding all sorts of amazing ancient treasures no-body else valued. Little did I know how little they valued them!

Finally, a grandson of the elderly couple decided to move in. They have a three-year old son, so I am very happy to have another child in the neighborhood. The boy and his Mum appeared at our door bearing a decorative packet of towels as a new-neighbor greeting, and apologized in advance for the the renovation work they were planning.

Well, what renovation work! The first thing to go was the old storage building. I learned from the woman, who I met in the street as she and her son came to watch the 'dinosaur' at work that they planned to remove the whole newer part of the house, the part on our side, including the two-storey section next to our kitchen. The workmen have been busily destructing this past week, meaning we have had to park our cars at the bank to protect them from the dust and debris. On Saturday we felt some huge tremors as large parts of the two-storey section came down. With any luck, they'll be finished by today - and then the building can begin, because they are going to replace the old building with a new section for their family.

This technique of taking down part of a house and re-building is pretty common here. In Baachan's childhood home, there is one room dating from the 100-year old house, a 50-60 odd year section, and a new two-storey section with bedrooms and a new kitchen.

They have left the traditional old half of the house, but it is a shame they had to remove the old storage house. I'd have kept it and, well, used it for storage!

A kick in the chest

Amy had a better time at swimming today than last week, when she was kicked very hard in the chest by one of her 'friends' in the changing room. Apparently, they were calling each other 'snot' and other such creative things, and Amy protested - she is a confident child and not afraid to stand up for herself and answer back. Then the girl, who is a good 10cm taller than Amy and very solid - a little overweight, kicked her in the chest. It winded her and left her in pain for about an hour afterwards.

I was waiting in the car, so we went to see Daddy, who called the swimming club to make sure they knew, and to watch out for it happening again. I was afraid they were going to want to sweep it under the carpet and call it 'just one of those things kids do', which is a response I hate from teachers, etc, because while it is true of many of these situations, it's also true that it's our responsibility as adults to tell the kid in question that that kind of behaviour is unacceptable. I don't expect her to be kicked out or anything, just to be told to not do that. Often that's all that's needed.

Anyway, they were all the best of buddies again this week, but nevertheless I stayed for the whole lesson. (I ususally go home to prepare dinner). Amy didn't want me to come into the changing room, as she felt she would be even more embarrassed if I did. That's a bit sad, because I have always feared the day she became ashamed of me because I underline what is different about her. But it couldn't be helped, because I needed to go in there to help Lena, who was in the class before Amy.

Plus I know better than Amy - hiding is not the answer. A big smile and a conversation is the best method to stop people thinking you're weird. If I chat to the kids like any other mother or teacher, I'm not so strange to them. Usually everyone know's who Amy's Mum or Lena's Mum is, and call out to me or point, and I have to be all friendly and sweet, no matter how stupid the things are that they say!