Monday, November 9, 2009
One family member is off in search of snacks, the other busy flinging themselves into my internal organs.
We are in Kanzawa, something-or-other prefecture, central Honshu. It's pretty cool actually, the train station is spectacular. I'm no architecture-nut, but I like a building which looks like it's been made of Giant's Mechano.
Our hotel is called 'Dormy Inn'. I was a bit 'hmmm' about the hourly 'refreshment' room rates, but actually it's fine and no sign of dodgy goings on at all. Also, they have a 'natural hotspring spa' (presumably they pipe the water in from elsewhere, as it's on the 14th floor), which I would like to get up the nerve to go in if I can stop feeling like I look like a hippo compared to Japanese women. You do the spa thing in the nude you see. And, apart from being a normal Western size, I also have quite a tummy (which is fine) and boobs which have taken on a life of their own (which is not fine).
Our room is much nicer than our apartment which is just a little depressing. Still, won't be in it a whole lot over the next 6 weeks as we'll be off travelling for half that time... or at least that's what we'd like to be doing. At this point, we're not entirely sure we can afford it.
We've spent the day wandering Kenroku-En, one of Japan's 'top three' gardens. Actually it was really lovely. I had mentally prepared myself to be disappointed, as the gardens I have seen so far have mostly been a bit 'woteva'. This one was full of trees in full Autumn flight. Lots and lots of running water. A few cute little teahouses, and not so many people that we got annoyed. Not like the other day in Nara when after one too many Little Old Ladies elbowed us out of the way, I deliberately charged into one in return (she deserved it, pushy old bat).
So, that'll do (Pig, that'll do.) for now, going to attempt to hire a car tomorrow and drive about the Noto-Pensinusla and look at fishing villages.
Cheers, Big Ears.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Shikoku anyway. Arrived yesterday on the bus. It's quite nice here, sort of provincial. Well it seemed small anyway, until we caught the cable car up to the top of the nearby hill and looked out and realized that, no, actually this city is freaking huge. Grey and grey and grey as far as the eye could see, grey sea blending into gray horizon and overlaid with a hazy quilt of more grey. Sounds terrible but it is nice. We've walked around a couple of parks, some castle 'ruins' (would have been better described as a 'site' as no ruins were to be seen but there was a decent view and lots of nice trees, and thousands upon thousands of mosquitos.) Many interesting sculptures about, my favourite was a giant ant stuggling in a pond.
I was going to say more but the enthusiam to write has escaped me.
Tomorrow: whirlpools at Naruto.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
I can hardly believe we are halfway! Where did the time go?
The first 11 weeks are a blur, from not knowing for the first four, to passing the next 7 in an exhausted haze. At the time I was thinking, 'I'm not that sick, I can't complain, I haven't even vomited once' but now that I think back I realise that, actually, I felt like crap. Trying to pack to go to Japan was such hard work, I would sit staring into the suitcase with dismay, I could hardly concentrate on anything and just wanted to curl up and sleep. I forgot we even had a packing list. I forgot to take my trackies. I forgot my bathers. I took sheets for our bed, but forgot to take pillowslips. It’s impossible to know if it was just the hormones, or withdrawals from my medication as my GP halved my dose, either way I felt beyond ordinary, like having a 7-week hangover.
When we got to Japan I was just tired, but I didn't expect any less, even short plane trips are draining. Once that initial tiredness had worn off, I felt better immediately. It was like a switched had been flicked, from ‘crap’ to ‘fine’. The switch seems to have one extra setting: ‘great’. I feel so contented right now; it’s really quite a strange feeling for me. It seems those ‘happy hormones’ have cranked up a gear and I am very steady right now. In fact, I’m not anxious at all. I seem to be feeling very blasé about having a baby; I’m just convinced that it will work out fine. I have Dylan, I have my mum and brother, and I have Dylan’s family and my friends (including here on SIC) all as backup. Even my father has come to the party and sent me an email asking how I was, and telling me he was excited to hear that we are pregnant (I wrote him a letter from Japan).
Then, as you know, Dylan’s grandmother passed away a week ago after a long struggle with motor neurone disease (although it was a stroke that struck the final blow). I think this is a great relief to everyone as this way she, and others, did not have to see her go through the end stages of MND, where she would have been a prisoner in her own body with full cognition of what is happening around her but no way to control anything at all, no control of eating, talking, bowel movements and so on. At least she was spared that final indignity.
Dylan’s dad brought us home for a week and the funeral was yesterday. Ikingut twitched through the entire service, especially at the end when we stood around the coffin. I was surprised at how much I cried, I just kept thinking of how, in some ways, Nanny and I were quite similar. We both had a love of craft, of art and design, and we both have suffered from anxiety and depression. In her case, it was not until her 70’s when she had help from medication with this. I consider myself very fortunate that I was able to start getting better from 22. It’s taken five years but I feel good now, I actually feel good, and normal, and rational. I don’t expect to stay this way forever, there are ups and there are downs to go along with them, but I’m very grateful for this time of level-headedness and clarity.
We had a scan in Japan on Monday and the doctor told us everything was fine, but he mentioned that the placenta might be a little low; he also smirked at the size of my tummy. When we came back to Australia the other day we rushed around and were able to see my GP who said, ‘oh, you’ve put on hardly any weight at all!’ which was very reassuring (22 more weeks is plenty to time to add it), and we were also able to have a scan in Australia which was much more comprehensive than the Japanese one, this time I was told that the placenta's position is fine, it is low but well out of the way as well. Ikky looks totally normal and I am so relieved. Much as I like having minimal medical intervention when you have a totally normal pregnancy, it was still good to see and hear that the baby looks fine. I was just thinking about how S had mentioned her friend who’s child had DS and even though that was OK it would have been good to know beforehand so she could prepare. I realised then that forewarned really is forearmed.
I met up with my 37-weeks-pregnant friend and her husband today for coffee, they were quizzing me about nappies and so on, and I realised I have no idea anymore what I want. The irony being that they are going with cloth nappies, and I was the one who convinced them they should look into this in the first place. I still think I want to stick to as basic a set-up, and as green a set-up, as possible. Cloth nappies, no pram just a pusher, sixteen different types of slings, Ikky in a cot next to the bed so I don’t have to get out of ours when they wake. What I do have is a short-list of names (I keep adding names to it, Dylan keeps taking them off)
When we get home things will be interesting. We have no house. We have no car. We have no jobs. We don’t yet know which hospital we should even (theoretically) be going to. Luckily my GP is a very relaxed sort of person (perfect for me), and just said ‘oh, we’ll just sort that out when you get home’, she’s also planning on sending me off to a psychologist for a proper review before Ikky is born so we can see if I can reduce the medication, or stop it completely for a month or so beforehand so the little-one doesn’t have to withdraw from it.
Now my mind is consumed with ‘what will they look like?’ Will they have Dylan’s blue eyes, my hazel eyes, FIL’s grey-green eyes or MIL’s brown eyes? Will they have blonde curls like my brother, or dark ones like Dylan did? Will their hair be dead straight and white like mine was? Will they have one dimple like my brother, two like Dylan, or none like me? How big are they going to be? Will they be a waif, or a roly-poly? Will they be a sleepy baby, or eternally awake? Is Ikky a boy as I believe, or a girl as everyone else thinks? Are they going to be born in summer, or in autumn? I can hardly wait to find out, I’m so excited even if reality has not entered my brain at all (but then, as my latest book says: “You’re quite sure that reality and fantasy are opposites?”*)
Well, that’s my update. It’s ended up a lot longer than I intended, and much more about me than about the baby (oops) but oh well.
*Brave Story (p 120), Miyuke Miyabe
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
So, moving on and attempting to be less bitter about it...
We are living in Matsuyamachi, which is 10 minutes walk from Shinsaibashi and like another world in comparison. Unlike Shinsaibashi, which is neon lit and very busy well into the night, all the shops and restaurants in our area seem to have closed by about 8pm, except for the ever present Lawson`s Convenience store (there are 2, about 150m apart, and very convenient they are indeed). Even the homeless men have gone to their cardboard beds in the doorways by about 9pm.
Our apartment in on the 6th floor and overlooks the main road which is crammed with shops selling the most unbelievebly cheap and nasty plastic toys - bottom of a crappy showbag things - and fireworks. Don`t worry about the fireworks, they`re quite safe; every shop has two small buckets of water out the front in case of an incident. Fortunately, our building is over a takeaway shop and a pharmacy so no undermining the foundations with exploding stores for us!
We`ve started working, it`s OK. It`s work, and the bank account is dwindling alarmingly fast. Good thing we paid our rent for several months at once! Everyone at work is friendly, but our schools are a really long, and more importantly, really expensive distance away. If we go out to work for just one lesson, the transport cost takes almost all the money we make. So, looking to make ourselves very popular with the `clients` quickly! (all the corporate-speak in our company makes me want to roll my eyes、but I don`t, that would be unprofessional and we can`t have that...)
Our apartment is good apart from the strange smell from the new tatami. It`s like straw, which is fine, and like fish, which is not fine. It`s killed my romantic notions about tatami. Everyone says, `oh! new tatami! Isn`t is a lovely smell?` Um,no, sorry, not at all. We have the windows open as much as we can trying to air it out. Probably some El Cheapo B-Grade tatami or something....
Anyway, that`s all for now. My original was much longer so I expect you`re all glad I had to rewrite it!
Photos on Facebook :)
Friday, August 14, 2009
Thought it was about time I sent a proper email update (or blog update, if you are reading from there), rather than just tidbits via facebook.
So, most of you know we went off again, and to anyone out of the loop: D and I have moved to Osaka for a little while. Just until just before Christmas, and then we'll be home, back to normal life until we get sick of it again and repeat.
The story so far:
In around about April or May, when I was supposed to be concentrating on my thesis, we applied for jobs with an English Instructing company here in Japan just to test the waters... and each landed a job first go! Slight hitch... we're 'employed' (actually, apparently contracted as independant instructors) in different cities, I'm supposed to go to Kobe, Dylan to Kyoto. The upside? There's another humungous city right in the middle of them and given the fabulous transport system here (Transadelaide, take note) they're only about half an hour, give or take, from Osaka to the CBDs of the other cities. Slightly bizarre to have three cities that close together when you come from Adelaide where the next sizable city is an 8 hour drive east.
Anyway, before we'd even organised the jobs, we'd booked flights to Tokyo (yes, we know we could have gone straight to Osaka, yes, we know that would have been a whole lot easier, but we weren't sure at the time where we were going to end up). So, to Tokyo we came about a week ago.
We spent a grand total of one day in the neon lights, wandered around the oldest temple in the city which was nice, worked out where to catch the Shinkansen (bullet train) from, ate Indian curry for lunch (when in Rome...), got lost trying to find the station home, and found out what the 'semi-double' bed we'd booked really was (a very small double bed, wouldn't recommend it for the taller or bigger of us).
Next day... off to Osaka, new home city! We caught the Shinkansen, which was surprisingly boring and uneventful. Biggest drama was trying to figure out which carriage we were supposed to be in and hoping like hell it was a non-smoking one (it was). We found our way to the hotel... well, actually, a gentleman on a bicycle spotted us looking bemusedly at the map and led us the way there, and then peddled away without a backward glance.
Day after (saturday by now) we met with a real estate agent called Madoka, who had impeccable UK-learnt english, who drove us around the city and we looked at a number of apartments and chose one on the spot. It was a bit of a blur, all I can remember is that it had a tatami room with a head-height ceiling lamp, another room, and a bathroom and midget kitchen (ie a single burner and a bar fridge). I know this new place is in the Namba area, and if I look at the map I can work out which stations are nearby but one of our jobs in the next few days is to see if we can find it ourselves because neither of us have a clue where it really is. It was all far too easy really, we gave Madoka a full quarter of our holiday savings, she gave us a reciept, and that was it! We can't move in until late next week however because it's getting new wallpaper and the tatami is being repaired... personally I could have coped with the couple of holes in the paper but it's nice to have it done even if it means sharehousing until then.
Ah, yes, sharehousing. We did have the option of living in a sharehouse the whole time but quite frankly, the couple of days here have made me glad we opted for the extra expense and chose to go to our own place. We're not in our own room for a start... and D and I have a bunkbed to sleep in. We're both sleeping on the bottom level, we'd rather still share the bed, but even if we had chosen to go one above and one below we couldn't have done so as there is only one mattress. The other 'person' in the room is a Japanese girl whom I am just going to assume is very shy, as she hasn't said a word to us at all and I don't even know her name (she does smile at us now, however). I say 'person' as there is actually 2 other people in here, the girl, and her boyfriend whose name nobody knows as he just seems to be bunking here and isn't supposed to be around, apparently. Oh well. They have their stuff scattered over 3/4 of the room and like to burn incense. So our room smells of bad Indian incense, as does the entire house as multiple people seem to burn it. Tonight I detected through the window an undertone of 'other' smoke, don't know why you'd bother with that really, I'm told it's ridiculously expensive and hard to get (for example, I'd have to work about 30 hours here or at home [same same] to cover the cost of a baggie, should I want to), but whatever floats your boat. More expensive than cocaine apparently.
Anyway, everyone is very nice and friendly so no issues there at all, just that the actual house is dark and dusty, and there is one toilet and one bathroom for 9 people, so will be glad to move into our own, brightly lit, place in the not too distant future.
Won't bore you with details of getting phones, bank accounts, and alien registration slips. All I will say is that if you are ever here and need to do any of these things firstly, take along a Japanese speaking friend to help you fill out the forms otherwise you will have to do it at least 3 times over before you get the details in the right spot, and secondly, give yourself lots and lots of time, plus extra. Even with the phone salesman being American so we had a clue what was happening, getting a pair of phones took almost 2 hours of sitting and waiting for things to be scanned and so on.
So, now D and I have four whole days off in which there are no appointments, and no official visits to anywhere to be made! And we can sleep in without fear of missing the bank being open, or being too late to do anything. We thought we might go to Kyoto, and Kobe, maybe Nara. Or maybe we'll just catch the free shuttle bus to Ikea out in the port :P
Before I go, some things I like:
Giant cicadas, which look painted with blacks, whites, and greys, in all the trees shrilling all the time.
That there are more trees than I expected.
The public transport system... great connections, have not yet waited more than about 5 minutes for a train.
Girls' glittery nail polish, and the way showing your bra is in vogue, and hair bleached out the other side of blonde and teased up so high it looks like a wig.
Babies in slings, lots of them, and babies in teeny weeny prams, they make Aussie ones look like trucks!
Prayer slips of paper tied on trees.
Giant naan breads, udon noodles in curry sauce, free glasses of water in every restaurant, the huge variety of creme caramels available.
Little temples squeezed in between house or highrises.
Incredibly patient people.
The toilets (can't help it, fascinated by the buttons, although I'm not into the heated seats in 30c+ degree heat)
The car 'lifts', and the way that if there is a space for 2 cars someone will call it a car park and charge people to park in it.
That everyone rides bicycles everywhere with their children on the front or back in a basket, did not expect that at all, especially such old-school bikes!
Not so keen on:
Curry flavoured gravy on rice, mashed daikon, or Lipton Yellow Label tea (I brought my own tea bags because I am a tea-snob - or nerd - and know how much I hate LYLT and refuse to subject myself to 5 months of it).
Almost fainting in the subway, complete with close up examination of the ugly brown tiles and rolling nausea. Not embarassing. Not at all.
The tamarins for sale in the petshop :( Totally unaffordable, I hope, for most people at 3 million yen (each or a pair? not sure?), but totally inappropriate pet in my opinion.
Not yet knowing how to say 'no plastic bag/disposable spoon thanks'.
Anyway, that's it for now, thanks for making it to the end, maybe the next installment will be shorter?
Monday, June 29, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Unfortunately, these people don't ship internationally but their products do make it to Aus somehow because I found the most lovely diary/journal today in my local bookshop, Matilda's (support your local small businesses people!).
Lovely paper, every page with a picture on it. I'd give it as a gift, but prefer to keep it myself :P
I can't read a word of the site so I'm going to try and get my Japanese speaking/reading friend to find the address on there for me so when we visit Japan soon (less than 7 weeks to go!) I can seek them out myself :)
So, check them out for yourself at www.comes-graphic.jp , it's not so hard to find the pictures.
Well, I'm just impressed.
I've stumbled across the absolutely a.maz.ing papercut artworks by Hina Aoyama. I'm astounded, really, the amount of time, skill, and patience that must go into these works belies words.
If I could create things half so good...
This work is called 'Baud-petit 2', click the photo to find some more beautiful things by this artist :)
I'm trying out flickr's 'blog this' thingo, let's see if it works!
Monday, June 15, 2009
Well, I do some work, all in the night time hours. I'm such a night-owl I find I never seem to get going until the sun has gone down. I have been sewing quite a lot. I have made good progress on the queen quilt for our bed and finished the top-patchwork section of a baby-floor quilt I'm making on a whim. Soon, I'll need to make a couple more baby-quilts as there are several due within the next 6 months. Unfortunately it's likely I'll miss the birth of all of them and won't get to meet these children until they are a several months old, but I suppose you can't put off your own life for the sake of other people.
Want to know how the Laos Girl painting is going?
Well, I'm about 80% happy with it, needs quite literally a few more dabs of paint about her nose and skirt and then I'll be done I think. It doesn't 'pop' quite like I wanted, and actually it took quite a different, more subdued turn, than I had envisaged but still, quite impressed with myself really :)
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I started art classes the day after my thesis was in. Time for a new phase in this life,:a creative one. I've started a painting as part of one of the classes, in acrylic. I've never painted in acrylic before and I struggle a bit with the blending and fast drying time, but I think I'm slowly getting a handle on it. The painting is based on a girl I photographed in Laos on our first long trip away in 2002. She was the only girl in a big group of boys, crazy loud kids who lived in the dust, smoke, and noise of the Pakse bus station. She was not lively and loud, however, she was still and quiet and she had a big, stuffed toy bear. Her flip-flops are too big. Where on earth does a child like that get a soft toy? In the shot below she is looking directly into the camera. She seems to be asking me, 'what are you going to do about kids like me?' Well, paint them, for a start! At least I hope so, I do have a good feeling about this picture.
I've only done a bit of a base but it's coming along OK. I've put a pic of that below too. You can see where I'm going with it...
Ages ago, my mother-in-law bought the most beautiful etching by a Northern Territory artist, Winsome Jobling (see left). It's entitled 'Spear Grass'. Unfortunantly it was already framed and the glass broke in the cargo hold on the way back, but it's up on the wall now for all to enjoy as you do the ironing underneath it!
Intrigued by the brochure that came with the artwork, I've looked up the gallery on the net and found a little goldmine of gorgeous artworks. I've tried to limit myself to just putting up a few, or I'll be here all afternoon, I got a little carried away anyway, but please check out the gallery link and see what else is being created up there in that amazing hot wet dry dusty fecund area:
The gallery is 'Nomad Art' and is located in Darwin:
Next up, 'Kinyu', an etching by Eubena Nampitjin.
'Green Ant Nest', an etching by Fiona Hall.
'Rulyapa', a lino cut by Dhuwarrwarr Marika.
'Fog Dreaming', an etching by Marita Sambono.
'Syaw', an etching by Regina Pilawuk Wilson.
The Stand Off', hand coloured screen print by Dion Beasley.
'Gapu I', an etching by Thomas Ashley
and lastly, 'Spear Grass', a photograph by Peter Eve.