Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Still here...

Corona Virus still here.
We are still here.
Okaasan still there...in her care home, where no family visits are allowed.

Dear Son called the other day, the staff said all is good.
Okaasan came to the phone for a brief chat. Well, I expect DS chatted and she listened. She knew who he was, so that's good.

Times like this - ARE there "times like this"? - dementia is a bonus. She doesn't know whether we have been to visit, or not. Her world is the right now - the TV, the drink on the table in front of her, the smiling face of a staff member.

Yesterday in Hokkaido there were no new cases reported...in a 24 hours time frame. But, of course it's still out there...today a few more people will feel bad and go to a big hospital and have a test...then the numbers will be back on the evening news.

The practice here is that if you are a low risk person, then stay home and self-quarantine. The beds and the tests should be for the elderly and sick.
Some schools are letting kids back on a rota system...certain grades for a few hours on certain days. Just gives the parents a break and lets the kids see friends.

But, going around in public you feel some areas are very quiet...and then into a supermarket...and life as normal.
We've walked a lot, shopped and eaten locally.
Our most risky trip was to Costco yesterday, suitably masked-up and using the sanitizer sprays everywhere. Lots of handwashing after that, before and after unpacking the shopping.

Europe and America are entering the CV zone now. My Facebook feed is full of it.

Funny how a month changes things. I sent my step-aunt in the UK an e mail this morning.
My last e mail to her was FEb. 15th...reassuring her that we were ok despite what she was hearing from Japan.
Now a month later, it is me sending HER a mail to check that she and the family are ok.

Stay safe and healthy, wherever you are. Handwash, handwash again.

Monday, 9 March 2020

Living in a State of Emergency

No....not my life with Okaaasan in the same house...which often FELT like a State of Emergency...

The real one. As ordered by the Hokkaido Governor 10 days ago.
Not compulsory, the authorities in Japan haven't gone the way of China...or Italy. 
Yet.

But we were all asked to stay home as much as possible. Refrain from unnecessary travel. Stay away from crowded places..unless we were foolishly doing the toilet paper craziness...schools closed, people working from home, grandparents suddenly working every day for childcare, baseball played in an empty stadium, pop concerts cancelled.

How is it for you, in your part of the world?

The Hokkaido case numbers have crept up over 100, still the highest infection rate in Japan. Hopefully this voluntary restraint period will change that...

Our life has become quieter...but not so different.
I work from home anyway. Dear Son is continuing his TV game show monitoring job. Interspersed with the beer tasting job. Then some shopping and cooking.

We have stayed away from Okaasan.  Apart from falling out of bed one night, she has been fine. The staff said she had no injury and was on the floor laughing when they went in.

Actually our MAIN concern has been one of the cats. A  fight injury (they scrap in the evening when they can't get out and burn off energy) turned bad and we have been to the vets 3 times, with a variety of problems. I'm on lack of sleep mode because of two cats, a barrier at the bedroom door...night time demands.

For me work is about half, or less. Kind of a peaceful time...but if this goes on for longer my finances will look bad. At the moment ok.
Some students coming.
Some students doing SKYPE class.
Some students cancelled because of infection concerns, or busy with grandkids.
No tours at the moment, anyway.

Luckily a large editing job for local government and a tourism leaflet. Very thankful to get that now.

And so...onwards into spring. Usually a hopeful month, spring coming etc.
Although this week is also full of memorial programs on TV about the 9 years ago north-east Japan tsunami/nuclear meltdown crises - another time when all Japan was battling through a disaster.

Oh. And yup, it'll be my birthday.
My birthday month in Japan....not always so good, really.

Stay safe and healthy everyone!


Friday, 28 February 2020

Corona Virus arrives....

Hokkaido, north Japan. My home.

A wonderful land of flowers, sushi, snow and nature...chocolate, cheese, foxes, eagles, onsens, beer...

And Corona Virus.

It arrived here big time last week. One day we were all goggling at the Tv when they said two men who'd worked in the Snow Festival had it....and now only days later there are 56? people who caught it, and two elderly people have died.
Yesterday the Japanese government announced school closures nationwide until April.
My community center classes have been cancelled and private students are switching to Skype...or cancelling. Thank goodness March is the quietest month for tour guide work here....

Hokkaido has far more cases than any other area of Japan.
Is it the cold? The influence of the 1.5 million people who came for 2 weeks for the Sapporo Snow Festival? Foreigners?

All around is quiet. Events are cancelling. Public places are quiet. Masks, hand cleaning sprays, gloves....it's a depressing time.


On Monday this week Okaasan had a fever of 39C
The care home got the doctor in from their hospital downstairs and Dear Son was informed, cut short his planned visit to her.
We fretted.
Next day her fever was down, she was eating and carrying on as normal. MAYBE nothing wrong, just a passing fever that she has sometimes.
Gosh. Hope it stays this way. Apart from the obvious concerns of CV, just moving Okaasan to a different hospital with different people and a whole battery of tests would be awful for her mental condition....

We have decided to stay away from visiting her. Just too much risk of us taking the virus into the care home. Risk to her and the other residents. We are a little surprised that the home hasn't banned outside visitors yet, like they do with Noro Virus.

I've stopped going to the gym. Lots of cute young men stretching and flexing for me to watch (it's mainly used by local high school and college sports guys)...but too worrying with all the shared spaces, sweat and stuff.

Going to do a WHOLE lot of walking in the fresh, hopefully virus-free air!
Yesterday, with no work suddenly, Dear Son and I took advantage of the sunshine and the Seniors Discount day at the local ski area...to ski...

Joking apart. It's a sad time here in Japan.

The third crises I've lived thru here.
The Fukushima earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.
The Hokkaido earthquake and electricity blackout.
Now: a virus that is hard to spot, can apparently come and go, is probably carried around by people with no-symptoms, very very bad for the elderly and sick.

Debate about wearing masks, or not.
Alcohol sprays
The value of closing all the schools - families all over Japan have a huge childcare problem now. Japanese companies are unlikely to do bring-your-kid-to work.
Yesterday we stopped off at a revolving sushi place. They had compulsory hand sprays at the door and didn't have the little plates on the counter for anyone to take.
But....I watched the young chef take a paper order from a customer...put the paper on the counter and then pick up the fish and rice he was making for someone...all in 10 seconds. He wasn't wearing gloves...

Human to human contact is so easy.
So, Okaasan can stay safely in her care home...Tv, food, day care hours on the 3rd floor, toilet trips...and hopefully stay isolated from all of this.

Where ever you are in the world, stay healthy and safe. Protect weaker members of our society from this thing.

Love and hugs, everyone.
Well, love and waves, maybe.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Karaoke (reprise)

Added a few more songs to my repertoire for the care home karaoke.

Last week kicked off with "My Way", then "Top of the World" and then forced Dear Son, by handing him the spare mic, to join me sweetly in the Neil Sedaka song "Close to You".

Las Vegas dates will be announced soon.

Our audience loved it. I think. Clapped along, bobbed heads, smiled when it was done.
That "My Way"...of course well known in Japan. In fact, at karaoke parties it is often the only English song many Japanese men will try. It also has a Japanese version.
But the lyrics. As I warbled my way  thru it to a room of elderly, I realized the lyrics are all about imminent dieing! "the end is near....the final curtain".

Anyway. Okaasan isn't near dieing. At all.
We've visited her twice in the past week. She is sleepy and pretty silent. But fine.
Yesterday, as we sat in the empty cafe area of the care home and hared a can of coffee she really didn't say anything, but looked from him to me and smiled, pulled faces, laughed.
Once she commented on the blue sky out the window, and twice  she appeared about to say something else - but it was gone in a moment. We prattled on about winter and snow, and can coffee companies and karaoke....

Corona Virus has arrived in Japan this week. Many more cases now, and worryingly among people who have had no apparent China contact.
We are washing our hands and hoping to stay healthy.
Of course, if either of us thinks we are at all at risk we won't go to see Okaasan, at all. For us (we hope) it would just be a week of bad sickness and then recovery. For her and everyone in that care home it could easily be fatal.



Meanwhile....here are some pictures of the winter festivals in my part of Japan.
Dear Son and I have enjoyed a rare winter of together time (he is still off ski work), so we've taken in ice and snow statues.



It's been fun to do this kind of stuff. 
I've also done a lot of teaching, a little bit of tour guiding and even the main voice of an upcoming NHK television documentary. If you see a programme about the head chef of the G8 Summit hotel in Mie. Her voice...is my voice!
It was a fun job to do, specially because there were many scenes of gorgeous food being tested and prepped. It was my 2nd main voice job for NHK. Hope to get more.

Anyway. Dear Son and I are off today on a road trip adventure. Camping car and skiing. Hopefully.
But a blizzard is coming, so we don't know how far we will go. Maybe even just our own parking area tonight, if it is very bad!
Maybe time to practice a few more songs for our next performance.