Thursday, 31 March 2011

Caring at home.....

Doing our bit at home.
While the world is worried about nuclear reactors we spent a quiet day attending to our nearest and dearest.

Nearest is Okaasan - we took her to lunch at a Chinese restaurant which she loved. And then we shopped at a cheap, amazing vegetable shop. Yujiro managed to get Okaasan to sit in the car and wait, but JUST as we were emerging with the shopping she started getting out of the car because she said she wanted to check for some vegetable. Yujiro just about managed to head her off at the shop door and get her back in the car.
This sounds cruel - like - why can't we let her go into a shop? - but believe me, Okaasan in a vegetable shop would take hours and hours and hours....this is the main reason we don't shop with her, because she examines everything, looks at everything and then goes back and starts all over again. If she is on her own, or we have all-the-time-in-the-world it is ok - but after the lunch we were worrying about toilet etc.
Anyway - successful family trip.
In the evening I amazed all of us by cooking the nimono dish which is a stable of Japanese homes, simmered vegetables in a soy sauce/sugar/sake soup. It actually tasted ok, Yujiro told Okaasan NOT to complain because this was the first time I'd cooked it - and then he and she made encouraging noises!!! I think when he heats it up for another meal he'll add more soysauce and sugar though...Japanese traditional food is heavily overdosed on soy and sugar.
But, Oyomesan cooking success. A rarity really.

Popo in healthier times.

Dearest was Pop-chan, our black and white sick furball. We continued monitoring his food/miracle water intake and poop/pee output. All so-so. He sits around looking morose, and then surprises us by getting all active and going outside to see if the grass grew any more since he last looked.
We tried putting drops of water on my hand and he licked it off.
Actually, I feel guilty that I may have contributed to his kidney problems. Since he was a tiny kitten he has loved licking any part of my skin he can get to...hand, neck, ankle...I thought it was an annoying custom, a kind of nursing/mother complex, but quite cute and obviously relaxing for him.
Now, I wonder if he was desperate for salt - and the salts on my skin overloaded his system??

Taking him to the vet constantly is a stressful experience, because it's a 15 minute car ride. We took him there twice last week. We constantly debate what to do. He eats a tiny amount and we are relieved. He sips the miracle water and we hold our breath.

And elsewhere: well it all goes on and on. No contact yet from the homestay charity group, but I detect on TV that official and public attitudes are changing about the evacuees living in the evacuation centers: 3 weeks on, many people seem to think it is time to accept a move to a better way of life, whatever the emotion. Time to leave the sports hall floor, even if it is near your old home area, and take up the offers of public housing/homestays whatever.

Another friend in Tokyo asked me to send her water.
She said Tokyo shops have random shortages: this week natto and yogurt. Last week toilet paper and batteries. Water in bottles a constant shortage.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Charity begins at...

That's where charity begins, according to an old proverb.

So, while we are thinking to offer up my classroom apartment as a home for a nuclear crises evacuee...we are also turning our attentions to our very own Saitama evacuee. Okaasan.

She had a so-so week. Yujiro feels she is ok. He's been home cooking and chatting. I feel her conversation abilities have slipped one or two notches down.

So Sunday we did Family Duty and took her out for a walk round the neighborhood and tried out a local ramen place near the subway station.
Felt odd to be ambling round the neighborhood streets as a threesome. Yujiro holding Okaasan's hand over tricky bits of ice. Me pointing out amazingly interesting things - wow! Look, a bud on a tree! Look! A sign about a lost canary! Anything to create a relaxed mood.
Okaasan tripped along with us, she seems to walk on the front of her feet a lot. Kind of tripping forward all the time.
Anyway. We did ramen for lunch and tripped home.
All ok.

Yujiro and I spent the afternoon watching TV and worrying about Popo-chan's health. Poor little cat still isn't very bright. Not eating much. Yujiro's found some miracle pet water on the Internet which various people claim has made their almost dead cats super-bouncy within days.
We've ordered some and we'll see what happens.

So, while I am buying bottled water to send to a pregnant friend in Tokyo because the tap water maybe or may not be dangerous (depending on which Tepco staff member is counting his fingers)...I am also buying special miracle water for the cat. Okaaay.

And then.
Late afternoon Okaasan threw a nasty little something into an otherwise nice day.
Nasty toilet accident.
I won't get too graphic...but she was in the toilet a long time. And tried to clean up the floor and stuff, and mat...and then she went out and we swooped into her room to look for the soiled clothes and throw them away and wash the toilet mat, and the toilet bowl etc etc.
She didn't say anything. We didn't either. Not sure if she remembered or not. She went out at 6 pm again and came home after 8 pm. We'd already eaten dinner. Yujiro heated up stuff for her in the kitchen.

Don't know what we can do about this incontinence. Becoming double incontinence really.
My suggestion is to get the nurse at the free health check in the spring to broach the subject and suggest diapers....

and so, that was Sunday.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Are we suitable evacuee homestay "parents"?
We've applied. Now we wait to see if we and our offer are acceptable.

Strange feeling.
Like trying to be an adoptive parent I guess.
Will the adoption agency turn us down because we are too old/the wrong ethnicity/sexuality?
Who will we "get" for a maximum of 3 months?
A young pregnant woman whose home is near a leaking nuclear power plant?
A mother and an over 10-year-old child whose house is earthquake/tsunami destroyed?
That's the kind of evacuee we've said we think our offer is suitable for. I can't have a young child in my English classroom with all the touchable/breakable things around.
But an adult and an older child. Yes. Absolutely.
We can put our spare microwave in the kitchen, I have extra towels and bowls and an old TV.

I worry that the whole "English classroom use times 3 days a week - foreigner host" thing may push our offer down the list of offers that I hope are flooding into the citizen's group that are organizing this.
But the accommodation is VERY well located and ideal for someone to live in privacy.
I only use it as a classroom 3 days a week. I can rearrange class times to free it up as a home.
I so hope we can help someone.

Yujiro filled in the application form and we faxed it back to them yesterday.
Now we wait.

What will happen? Will there be a meeting of homestay hosts? Will someone come and check our accommodation with a clipboard? Will we be interviewed? Is my Japanese level ok? Will we eventually all go to a hall somewhere in Sapporo and be matched up with a stranger? HOW will this work in Japan, where the lives of strangers hardly ever interact.

My mother and her brother were evacuees in wartime Britain. As London children they were sent to live with families in the countryside, sent off at the station with their names and ages written on labels round their necks.
What does it feel like to BE an evacuee? Going to live with a stranger? Going to be indebted to a stranger? Not knowing when your own normal life will ever start again? I'm trying to imagine.

*  Last night we had a farewell dinner with probably our last Couch Surfers. The young Czech ski instructors, who have finished their Hokkaido visit and are heading south - by ferry to avoid disaster zone and Tokyo.
We last met them March 8th. Had dinner with them in a local restaurant. That was before.
After March 11th Japan changed.
Now we had dinner and talked of power cuts, radiation, must be odd to be travelling in a country while a national disaster happens.

Couch Surfing has introduced us to so many interesting people, many of whom have emailed me recently to ask: Are you ok?  We have welcomed young people travelling the world for an experience. Now I hope my little classroom can be a place to stay for a very different kind of person. Someone who needs a home.

Okaasan did her usual Vampire Excursion: waiting till daylight has gone to venture forth into the world and suck supplies from a local supermarket.
Yesterday was a cold, but sunny day. Just a hint of spring.
Okaasan stayed home all day in her pajamas, being fed lunch and watching TV. Letting that nice day escape.
From her window she can see sunshine and people walking in the street, but she doesn't feel the interest to go out.
Just after 6 pm, as the light is fading and then temperature is dropping. She got up off the carpet, put on clothes and announced she was heading out into the world.
Why oh why oh why????

We were just thinking about what kind of dinner to leave her while we went out. So in a way we were pleased.
Yujiro gave her money and suggested she ate out or bought something herself. He apologized to Okaasan. But she wasn't too bothered.
We'd already decided that dinner with a young foreign couple who don't speak much Japanese probably wasn't her scene. About once a week we think she is ok to be left at home with something on the table or cooker. Or with the money to go out for dinner.

When we came home at 9.30 pm she was already home and asleep.
In the entrance of her room was a supermarket box, with random bits of food (a rice ball, a fried piece of pumpkin, a pot of pickled seaweed, a can of sweet sake). The shopping receipt was timed at 7.50 pm.
So we don't know if she ate in a restaurant or not. Or just shopped, came home and fell asleep. And ate nothing.


I don't like living with my partner's mother. But I do know that what we are doing is right. Okaasan can't look after herself.

Friday, 25 March 2011


"What can I do?" is probably the most common thought in Japan right now as everyone watches all aspects of this national tragedy develop.

The nuclear situation - with Tokyo drinking water and babies....the evacuation centers lacking basics still 2 weeks into all of this...the aftershocks daily...the death toll heading ever closer to 20,000 plus.

We all wonder: What can I do? Particularly here in Hokkaido, where normal life is almost untouched by it all. Hell, this week a friend took me to the 22nd floor spa in a luxury hotel for an afternoon soak and chat with ice cream and chocolate cake. Life goes on in a very strange way....

I'm trying to stop myself spinning out of control with the desire to HELP someone/somewhere and to try and focus my efforts. Yujiro is being the kind, but realistic voice. He is a good person: left to himself he'd watch TV, drink beer and surf porn on the Internet. But he always supports my flights of charitable fancy, helping with translations, making helpful phonecalls....and of course keeping the homefires cooking while I am out battling life.
We both donated items to a local NGO that was driving a small truck to Iwate on Monday. Donated sugar, cooking sake, coffee and kids rubber boots.

A friend and fellow blogger (Vicky of Hyotenka blog) has had the great idea of a sponsored walk - Walkathon from Eniwa to Sendai on April 17th. Walkers  getting sponsored to do laps on a big inside sports track, all money to go to the Japanese Red Cross. Vicky is busy out in Eniwa holding life and business together (her husband is a Self Defence Forces member in Tohoku now), so yesterday I did the promotions rounds in Sapporo for the event - International Plaza, Community Center, Hokkaido Newspaper, Mainichi Newspaper etc
Japan doesn't have sponsored events for charities and charity work is usually done by a recognised group, so selling the idea and story took a little pushing.

And Homestays.

Trying with this one.
I've been trying to help the Couch Surfing website, of which I am a member host, make itself usable to non-English speakers and first time visitors. Japan hosts (and amazingly even people in other countries!) have formed a sub group on Couch Surfing - over ONE THOUSAND offers of accomodation, ranging from futons on the living room floor to apartments and unused houses. But the bastards who created Couch Surfers in the US are refusing to answer any of our emails and phone calls about making a special "Japan Crises Housing" box on the top page of the website.
I'm disgusted with their non-reaction.
I've drafted a press release for the Japanese media about these offers. But until the website is evacuee-friendly there is no point in promoting it.

So. Beginning to look for other ways to help.

A citizen's group in Sapporo is looking for host families for evacuees. A Facebook friend told me about it. We just called. They are faxing us details. Maybe we could help someone.
I have this nice little apartment for my English lessons. I use it about 15 hours a week. It is near downtown Sapporo. It has futons, heat, mirowave, shower, internet and lots of English textbooks and maps of England....but it could be a home to someone. I worry though that the organising group won't let someone stay in a place I am already renting...if I was the owner of this apartment it would be better.
It's a big step to let a stranger use your home or property...but these are strange times and stepping outside the usual formats of life is sometimes necessary.

Here is the info for any of YOU kind people who think you can help in Sapporo.

 “Kodomotach o hibaku kara mamoru kai” (a group to protect children from radiation).Looking for people who can host a parent(s) and children under the age of 15 for about three months. Contact: 011-272-5000 (10:00 a.m. -5:00 p.m.).

And so, and so.

Our life goes on....Popo-chan, our usually little fat and noisy, cat has been sick this week. Two visits to the vet. This morning's news not good. His kidneys are not working very well. Poor little bugger is only 1 year old. We nursed our old cat with failing kidneys for over 2 years, neither of us think we can go through that agony again.
Amid big national events our focus too is on this little fur ball and his health.

And Okaasan? Having a good week, I guess.
Yujiro is home cooking for us all, so she gets chat at lunchtime and dinner. But she is definatley quieter than before the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear. She eats and responds if we talk directly to her, and brightens up for a few jokes. But I sense she's lost her mental agility quite a chunk.
Yujiro/I have taken her out shopping etc much more to get her away from the TV. She actually went to hula dance class. But still. Much quieter and less responsive. She sits and waits for food, sits and eats, makes tea for herself. Back to the Tv.

One lighter note in all this: Okaasan and making a disaster donation.
Yujiro took her shopping to UNIQLO for yet another T-shirt. I suggested that if he saw a donation place he should encourage Okaasan to make a donation, because then she might feel she too is DOING SOMETHING to help those poor people that she sits and watches on Tv all might lessen her stress if she felt she had helped in some way.
That was my thinking anyway.

In UNIQLO they saw a donation box.
"Ahh, the president of this shop has made a huge donation, so that's why there is a box."
"Has he? What did he donate to?"
"The Tohoku earthquake!"
"Oh, that...."
"Do you want to make a donation?"
"Me? How much should I donate? 10 yen? 100 yen?"
"Err..maybe a little more? 1,000 yen maybe?"
"ONE THOUSAND yen????????!! No way, too much!!!"

So there you have it. So much for thinking Okaasan would need an emotional outlet into giving!!!!!

Okaasan is actually a very kind, caring person - when she isn't giving us hassles about domestic stuff such as food and stolen magazines. So I am not at all suggesting that she doesn't care about evacuees.

But her grasp on what happened on March 11 and the aftermath is not so strong, and her sense of money values seem to be in the 1950s!

It gave us a good giggle later anyway. The woman who happily bought a flimsy little scarf for 20,000 yen recently....not so sure about donating more than 10 yen or 100 yen to the victims of ...what was that bad event recently????

Planet Okaasan.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Never mind the nuclear...what about the knickers.

Nuclear crises ongoing.
Daily/Hourly earthquakes in Tokyo and Tohoku.

In this home in Sapporo: Oyomesan duties.
Chat, dirty knickers and cooking.....................when the end comes I will be found clutching an armful of pink knickers belonging to Okaasan.

Yujiro went ski teaching yesterday.
I stayed home and sorted out my brain.
Got Okaasan chatty at lunchtime, all about the kind of flowering bush outside her house in Saitama. I got her to tell that story about eight times. She got lost in the telling several times, grasping around for the ideas. But she was chatting.
Then I gave her some money and encouraged her to go out walking.
And I blitzed her room: found 35 pairs of knickers, 3 soiled pajamas, an old can of fish, three stale rice balls, something oily in a plastic food pack....dead flowers...a week of newspapers and stuff.
I sprayed the room with Fabreeze to get rid of the smell.

And today Monday. National Holiday...but Okaasan had hula dance. So Yujiro got her off to that and we spent the day giving to an local NPO that is taking stuff to Iwate, with me trying to track down the Couch Surfing website people in the US, and TV, and cats, and ice breaking in the street, and cooking the most DELICIOUS roll of roast pork in the oven I got from Uni Spagetti when she left Japan.
Oh...and sneaking the clean knickers and things BACK into Okaasan's room...maintaining the fallacy that she does all her own laundry...I leave enough dirty knickers in the laundry basket in her backroom so she thinks she is doing it. But I do the bulk.

So. Nuclear crises ongoing.
Operation Knickers - Mission Accomplished.

If you are in Sapporo - please donate to this NPO 3/21 and 3/22

English is first - 日本語 二番目
A friend of a friend's NPO group is collecting things in Sapporo today and tomorrow and taking them to Iwate this week. If you live in Sapporo please read and donate.

NEOS (NPO in Sapporo) has started delivering relief supplies to the Tsunami victims in Iwate prefecture. NEOS is planning to deliver the items listed below, and would like to collect these items.

1. You MUST take these items to the NEOS office in Sapporo.
2. You MUST contact NEOS what items you can bring to NEOS before you go to NEOS. Otherwise, they WILL NOT accept the items. Some items may not be appropriative or needed anymore.
3. You MUST bring the items during the time below.

March 21 (Monday) 9:00 – 17:00
March 22 (Tuesday) 9:00 – 12:00 (noon)

NEOS Sapporo Office
1-14, 2jo 14chome, Miyanomori, Chuo-ku

1. brand-new underwear: mostly L and M sizes, for men, women and children. (about 100 total will be needed)
2. brand-new socks: (about 100 of them will be needed)
3. athletic shoe: brand-new or new shoes. Around 25 and 26 cm. Big size shoes are also needed. (about 50 total will be needed)
4. Boots (Nagagutsu): about 50 nagagutsu for women and children are needed. Nagagutsu is the most needed item at this moment. They don’t have to be new. The survivors are going to the devastated area to try to find their missing family members in usual shoes. The area is wet by melting snow.
5. Vegetable: potato, radish (daikon), Chinese cabbage (hakusai), cabbage, cucumber, tomato, spinach and others which can be used to make vegetable soup. Various seasonings such as consommé are also needed.
6. Japanese tea, other kinds of tea, coffee
7. eye drops
8. detergent for kitchen
9. garbage bags
10. saran wrap
11. pants for women such as sweat. (about 50 of them will be needed)
12. Landry article (100 clothes hanger, clothespins (sentaku basami), hook, rope, detergent)
13. Cleansing foam and hand cream (a lot is needed)

This information was translated by World Youth Japan NPO

NPO法人ねおす札幌事務局 小林です。


(〒064-0952 札幌市中央区宮の森2条14丁目1-14)

下着(100着) 新品でお願いします。
靴下(100足) 新品でおねがいします。

運動靴(50足) これもできれば新品でお願いします。 サイズ25や26前後
長靴(女性・子どもも 50足)
各種調味料 コンソメなど…
婦人用のズボン(スウェット等 50着)
洗顔フォーム・クリーム・ハンドクリーム (たくさんあれば…)

Sunday, 20 March 2011

What to say?

I'm a writer. But I have no words for the past week.

Now it is Sunday morning. A 3-day holiday weekend because of the Spring Equinox. A beautiful, sunny day in Sapporo.

A cat is on the computer keyboard, Yujiro's gone ski teaching at Kiroro (people are still coming on holiday and having ski lessons?) and Okaasan is dozing under her heated table.

And thousands of people died this week.
Thousands of people became homeless this week.

We are fine. So fine.
We have electricity, gas for the car, toilet rolls, rice.
We have a life: work, the dentist, a coffee shop lunch, a movie...shit...I even finally made it back to the gym on Friday.

Can't think what else to say.
All my energy this week has gone into endless, endless conversations with students about the tragedy:  information and sister/in-laws/son's friend/golf buddy/old neighbor/fellow teacher/daughter and friend.....on and on and on.
I've donated money. I've put my classroom on the Couch Surfing "Japan Crises Housing" group, I've tried to connect NPO working people I know, I was interviewed by my old newspaper in England.

And Okaasan.
How is she coping?

Ok. We think. Yujiro took her out 3 times this week for shopping/lunch trips locally - to get her off the carpet and into clothes and away from the TV.
But I feel that her conversation abilities have slipped back a notch or two.
She just sits and eats at mealtimes, she interacts if we directly address her - but other times she just sits and eats the food in front of her or just watches us moving around the kitchen etc. LIke having a baby in a high chair who can't converse yet, but watches the family moving around.
Like having a black hole across the dinner table....our conversation disappears into it and nothing comes back.
I actually MISS the hamster wheel stories of wartime life/Nishi-sensei and his wonderful health advice/my New Year cooking routines.

Yujiro may have ski work this coming week because it is spring holidays for schools and colleges, so he may be away a lot. I will try to get Okaasan to respond to more direct conversation and bring back the hamster wheel conversations.

And so. And so.
Onwards Japan. Onwards.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


Tired in Sapporo.
It is hard NOT to get worried about all of this.
Today had work questions about March 24.
Can't think forward to March 24th.
Seems so melodramatic, but still.
So glad Dad and Jane didn't live to have THIS worry about me.
My mother's brother has been in contact. My step-aunt too.
Trying to read all the information about radiation levels and reactors.
I am guessing we are safer up here in Hokkaido than many places further south.

People look tired.
I had 4 students in my morning class. Everyone stressed.
Got a new student - a student from Tokyo who was planning to take IELTS test in Tokyo. But it was cancelled. She's come back home to Sapporo to prepare for the April test instead. Ironic that I should gain work thru this disaster.

Okaasan looked pretty low tonight. Weary around the eyes. Didn't talk much at dinner. Finally our ever-so-chatty banter about non-disaster stuff got her talking...God knows what mood she'd be in if she didn't have us as the dinner entertainment.

And so.
Got emails from the British Embassy today about non-essential travel and evacuations to Hong Kong for people who are  directly effected. The American Government is either over-panicking or better-prepped than anyone with its recommended 50 km evacuation advisory.

The Couch Surfing network has started a group to offer free accommodation to evacuees. I think it's a great idea and have signed on. But I don't know many Japanese people will ever know about this, let alone take up the offers.
I hear Hokkaido Government is preparing to offer unused public housing for people from Tohoku.
I can't imagine what this will be like: to move to another part of the country suddenly. With nothing but the clothes you were wearing last Friday afternoon.

Tomorrow I will join the Minute of Silence. I hope everyone will do the same.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Keeping it light...

Haven't blogged.
Watching TV. Going back to work. Talking, talking, talking, listening, listening, listening.
Had 25 students yesterday. 10 people (more?) had family or friends in the quake area. 
FIVE people had no contact yet from loved ones.
I feel exhausted, talking and hearing about it.
People need to, want to talk. But still - as the teacher with different groups of people I felt wrung thru with it all.

And Okaasan.
We worried about her sitting looking at the TV images all day, every day.
Worried about her mood.
Sunday we took her out for lunch in a shopping center.
Monday she pleaded "chill" and stayed home with Yujiro.
Yesterday he took her downtown for a big trip out - they walked the new underground walk in Sapporo city center, bought a thin little scarf for Y22,000 (about $200!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and food and magazines. She looked so happy when she came back. 
We can take a break from the TV and all the emotion - she doesn't naturally. She sleeps in front of the Tv and has it on all the time...she wakes and sleeps and wakes again ...and constantly there are images of death and disaster. And nuclear meltdown crises.
We feel stressed by it all. She must feel it more.

My older students in classes yesterday: not so confident at all in the Japanese government and their information about nuclear radiation. A lot of talk about 3 Mile Island.
My old newspaper called yesterday to interview me about it all. My step-aunt called. It's hard to think of the world beyond Japan at the moment. Everyone on the subways and in the shops looks tired. Downtown is quieter than normal.
I saw a young woman all dressed up in her graduation kimono, going to the ceremony with her mother. It was such a good, happy sight. I congratulated them.


To give us all a are happy memories of a silly, silly woman becoming 50 years old on Saturday night...

How's THAT for inappropriate behavior while thousands die and are homeless?
Life in Hokkaido is very strange at the moment.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

All ok here!!!!!!!

Japan got struck by a massive earthquake Friday afternoon.
Here in Sapporo 3 huge shakes in 40 minutes, but nothing fell or damaged here in the city. On the coast at Hakodate, Kushiro etc there were 2 meter high tsunamis.

We are all ok.
I was in the classroom - with a student from Miyage - when our coffe cups started shaking, coats started swinging and everything rattled...and rattled and rattled. We wedged open the door. Then she went home to check that her sister and mother were ok. They were.

Yujiro and Okaasan ok. Cats too - a bit over-excited.

Our home computer has lots its internet connection - so we are using the classroom computer once a day. Hence no blogging.
(strangely SKYPE is ok). Cell phones and landlines are only working for local calls.

Okaasan is fine...but..of course...she sits there watching the endless earthquake and tsunami coverage on TV and thinks that IT JUST HAPPENED. Constantly! Saturday lunchtime she said to us: "there's been an earthquake hasn't there?.
I was worried that she would get depressed with the constant news instead of her usual diet of mindlessly happy Tv shows. But now I realize she is thinking it's just happened a lot of the we give her cheerful chat about how lucky Hokkaido is to escape the horrors down south.

I am 50!
So strange to celebrate this while on TV are terrible scenes.....but I opened great presents of drink and chocolate and magazines from friends and students. In the middle of it of course I realized that this year there is nothing from Dad or Jane. This is sad and strange. My first birthday with nothing from them.

But the earthquake and tsunamis are taking our attention constaantly.
Everyone I know...I ok....but I fear hearing of someone a few days later...

So. 50th birthday. No photographs yet cos I can't upload them onto this laptop.
We skied in the morning.
Late afternoon Yujiro told me to come with him, ordinary clothes ok....bring your camera.
We walked from the house...strangely NOT in the direction of the subway station and downtown restaurants.
We walked.
Parked between the taxi company and the bike shop...was...a beautiful WHITE LIMOUSINE!!!!

The driver stepped out and bowed. It was my birthday surprise!!!
Got whisked away in its padded comfort with rose petals on the floor, Moet and Chandon on ice, jazz video, eats, 50 red Otaru for nightviews, a ski teachers' party to give everyone rides in the limo, to Susukino where I stood up thru the sunroof and screamed "Happy Birthday to ME!!" at everyone on the pavements, and finally home...where I had to decide exactly how to find enough pots for 50 roses.

An amazing, stupid, wonderful birthdy present.
3 years ago I took him to India. And he planned this for me: limo/dinner/champagne/roses.

It just about makes up for looking after his mother! ;->>>

Thursday, 10 March 2011


Readers in Japan will get it: "Ara-fi" means "Around Fifty"......which I guess with two days to go until the big FIVE OH - I am becoming minute by minute!
(There was a TV drama I think recently here which coined the phrase Ara-fo...for a woman who is "around forty").

Busy week as I head into it : busy but good. I am just thankful I can physically/emotionally BE busy and do things I wants to/need to. Illness and domestic dramas do that to you - make your appreciate being able to put one foot in front of the other.

So not much Okaasan news really. Bit hard for a blog entitled Okaasan and Me.

But lucky for me that Yujiro has been home, alternating between watching TV/internet porn(!!!!!! who forgot to close a window eh????!!) and shopping/feeding mother/doing the housetasks I ask him to...spring holidays start soon in Japan and he'll be back out on the ski slopes shortly.
In the meantime I am enjoying letting him take over all the housetasks, while I enjoy work and life beyond the kitchen.

I suggested he tried to interest Okaasan in the hotel hair salon by showing her the leaflet I'd brought home. Her hair is long and straggly, and often dirty and smelly.
He tried. But she said hotel salons are expensive and that she wants to try out a place near the local station..which will be great if she really does...last year she opined that the local hair salons in our neighborhood were no good...downtown salons are higher standard etc.

We don't care either way, but a haircut would be a good idea.
The hula dance class have a performance in June and she needs a haircut before then.Anyway we'll leave the topic again for a while and try again in a few weeks, or try and steer her into a salon if we are walking with her near the station.

Apart from that I've been busy with guests. We had Couch Surfers staying - two friendly, Czech ski instructors; then I took two American women out for tourist sightseeing as a friend's husband has brought them and their 10 year-old sons to Hokkaido for homestays with local Japanese families; then there is work, snow, cats - and STILL trying to get the English School website up and running.

Oh - and a local government video narration about tourists and manners....trying to politely remind Chinese tourists NOT to take the whole platter from a hotel buffet etc.....

Lots of life. That's fine.
I've watched two programs on TV about dementia, and heard from two students that their parents have had bad falls in the I feel we are VERY lucky with Okaasan at the moment.
She may smell and contribute very little to dinner conversations - but she doesn't take up much of our time!!!!

How's THAT for selfishness!

Onwards to 50. I can be even more selfish then...I think it's allowed.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Whooo Hooo!

Still here! Ok! Haven't sunk without trace under a sea of dirty underwear.

Just being a bad blogger.

Too much busy life. And Yujiro's home between ski season busy times - so he is cooking and caring and I am working and socializing. So all is well. :-)

I've had accountant and tax return - (Y32,000 refund, account fees...Y30,000); and dinner with friends, Yujiro and I did the CM Festival and a friend's party, lots of American Idol on TV, snow clearing, work, stuff ...stuff...stuff. And the English school website design is almost done and ready to be connected with the domain name and launched onto the world.

Okaasan stayed home during the heavy snow, but then got out again and used an ikebana show ticket I'd been given - took herself off to the ikebana show in a department store (we think!). So that is good. Despite sometimes doing odd things or thinking odd things, she is still able to get a ticket for something and go along and find it and enjoy it.
Her hair is getting very long and straggly. This week's task for Yujiro is to introduce the idea of How About a Hair Cut? to Okaasan and persuade her to try the Grand Hotel salon I located. She hasn't had a hair cut since she went to the family wedding in Tokyo in ...what..September? Time to go.

Anyway. Life ongoing. Bit busy really. But good because my knee is strong enough to do it all.

This is my last week of being 40-something. The big 50 is looming....

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Small confusions

Nothing dramatic...just our week going as normal really.

Heavy snow yesterday, so Okaasan stayed home.
We ate lunch and dinner all together. She seemed okay-ish. Kind of passive really and a bit confused in some conversations - latching onto a word and saying something vaguely connected to it sometimes. Other times being on-the-ball.
When we called her to the dinner table last night she started talking about making tea and looked for the teapot and tealeaves - she always, ALWAYS makes and drinks green tea at the end of the meal - so we were surprised....and after Yujiro reminded her that we hadn't eaten yet she settled down in her chair ready for the the food.

It's small things like this we notice: dementia at this stage doesn't seem to be raving craziness (although we've had our share of aggression and odd behavior), but as we know Okaasan's daily routines we do notice the small confusions.
And the repeats: I showed Okaasan the pretty flower picture on the kitchen calender and we went round and round for about 5 times in 3 minutes - "Is this cherry blossom?/No, it's a magnolia tree I think".....round and round, "Is this a cherry? No, It's magnolia".

Today is Doll's Festival in Japan, when families with daughters display dolls and eat rice mixed with lots of pink things to hope for their happiness. I've put two dolls that my student made in our entrance hall just to give Okaasan the feel of the season. Outside it's snowing - spring hasn't come to Sapporo yet.

March 3: 19 years ago today I came to Japan. Arrived at Narita airport for a planned 3 week stay as a backpacker. And stayed. Developed a whole life here I never could have imagined!