Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Off to England...again.(J)

Just about to go to bed now.
We are setting off to the airport at 6 am.
Last day at work and swollen knee. I am looking forward to the TLC of the airport staff and the assisted passenger services.

Some CouchSurfing guests are at my English School tonight and wanted to go out to dinner with us. But I had no energy to get it together for strangers - however nice they are. They have the key and can look after themselves. But they gave us chocolates for letting them stay.
I scoffed a whole box while packing. Going to the UK takes me all of 20 minutes to pack cos I have lots of old clothes in dad's house too.

So. A quiet evening. Dinner with Okaasan...some chat about vending machines and things.

And off to UK.
Dad has no computer and I am not renting a car this time, so getting Blog access may be hard. I'll blog if I can....

Thankyou to everyone for so much support over the past few weeks.
Now I go off to see what's happening in my parallel universe...
back July 10.

Monday, 29 June 2009

I wanna dry my kimono! In Saitama...(J)

Oh gawd.
Okaasan wants to go back to her house in Saitama - to dry out her kimono...among other things.

And Yujiro thinks she can go on her own while he stays here in Sapporo and job hunts etc.

This plan all seems rife with potential problems to me...but I have my OWN family dramas. So I really am not going to get into THIS one!

Apparently this first came up last week. We don't know why. Maybe she saw something on Tv about drying kimono in summer sweaty heat in Honshu.

Yujiro thinks she'll be fine!!!!! He'll take her to Chitose Airport here in Hokkaido and send her off and she will be at home in Tokyo and can negotiate her old routes round the Yamanote Line etc to her old house. And then she'll stay there a few days and dry out her kimono?

And then? She will WANT to come back to Sappporo?
And she can make her way back to Haneda Airport and GET back here?

I don't believe this at all. He thinks she can. Why?
I think she'll get into the house in Saitama with all the old memories...and we'll have a hard job getting her back out. The kimono drying could take for ever in she's on her own.
Useless older brother is supposedly working in Yokohama.

Hmm. All a recipe for disaster to me.
I know she is operating well on old memories. But I think she'll get back into the old groove of life there...and we won't be able to get her back....

Anyway... I am 2 days away from getting on an airplane to England. So what do I care?
I am more worried about the cat and his kidneys...and Yujiro remembering to water all the garden...NOT to mention all the stuff about my Dad and step-mum....hospitals/prognosis/future care/dangerous driving.....

BUT ...one bright spot: Yujiro's called ANA and Chitose Airport. He's fixed me up with wheelchairs and electric cars for all the travel!!! I am secretly hoping that ANA will decide I am a frequent flying customer who needs TLC and they will upgrade me somehow....

Anyway I have one more day of classes to go. And I have to hand-off the classes to other teachers who will sub for me...textbooks...class payments etc....countdown to departure.

Drying kimono in the old house in Saitama?

私、着物の虫干しをしたいの! 埼玉で・・・ 

Sunday, 28 June 2009

BBQ and Okaasan. (J)

How to have friends over for a BBQ and accommodate the needs of an elderly Japanese lady?

I had my doubts about this, particularly when Yujiro said Okaasan wanted to eat BBQ with us...I didn't quite see her sitting down swilling the beer and wine with us 30, 40 -year olds....but actually the layout of the house worked well for it.
We had the space to do our thing and Okaasan's Sunday wasn't too disturbed.

We and our friends...and the cat...were outside in glorious, hot sunshine with stuff piled up in the hallway and access to the toilet and kitchen. Okaasan ate a few pieces of pizza at the kitchen table and then I took in some of the BBQ meats and salad into her room later.

The hardest part of it all though was evening meal. Okaasan went out for a few hours in the afternoon, but amazingly came home by 6 pm. So at 7 pm she said she'd like dinner...I had to get my slightly hung over brain into gear and put together a simple dinner for her ( soup/rice/vegetable croquette/pickles/salad)....while the hangers on in the BBQ were outside in the garden getting ready to eat heated up pizza and chips...

But I did it. And I managed some kind of dinner chat with Okaasan as she ate at the kitchen table and I heated the pizza etc. Then I grabbed another beer and headed back outside...
savoring some time with friends before I head back to England next week for all of THAT family stuff.

Susukino Okaasan....(J)

We've enjoyed two dinners this week as a couple because Okaasan didn't come home till 8 or 8.30 pm...she was busy walking the streets of Susukino!

Susukino is the nightlife area of Sapporo - lots of bars and clubs and sex businesses, touts on corners, lights and action...

We see on the GPS that Okaasan has been wandering THERE this week. Round and round she goes in a 4 block area - obviously enjoying the nightlife. I think maybe she used to go out late afternoon in Saitama, shop and have dinner somewhere...so she is repeating that habit here and often doesn't set out until 4 pm.

I refuse to wait dinner until she appears - I've been working and I'm hungry. And waiting would mean we'd have no evening ourselves of TV or anything else. And of course...I'm delighted to have a dinner without her....we can chat about stuff.

If this was England I'd be more worried about Okaasan wandering the adult entertainment area at night, but in Japan it really is pretty safe.

And Yujiro had a great comment: in Susukino the bad men are looking for YOUNG women, and the touts are looking for MEN! Nobody is interested in an old lady!

I started re-reading the book about Dementia. I bought it in England in February, but at that time we weren't living with Okaasan. Now I have more daily contact with her, I think it is time to read it again and review its ideas.
The other day I suggested to Yujiro that we buy sticky labels to put on Okaasan's chest of drawers (another great piece of trash station furniture!). Okaasan is always standing in front of it opening and closing draws because she can't find stuff. I thought labels "Socks", "Bras"..."Lilly Bulbs" might help her.

But he suggested this to HER very badly - kind of rushed into her room, threw down the labels and almost ordered her to do it. I love him lots, but sensitivity is NOT his style. Not surprisingly she was a bit surprised and countered that if she labeled drawers then the burglars would know how to find her valuables!
AGHHHHH...to both of them!!

But now having read the Dementia book again I think maybe trying to get her to label drawers and put things away would be a bad idea. Having clothes all over the sofa and carpet is some kind of reassurance for her maybe. Something from her past as a Super Housewife that is familiar: washing, drying and sorting through clothes.
Her rooms look a mess and she often can't find stuff - but maybe it all makes sense in her little world?

でも、彼はお義母さんにこれをまずい形で提案したわ――大急ぎって感じでお義母さんの部屋に入って、ラベルを放り投げ、お義母さんにそうするようにほとんど命令したのよ。ワタシは彼の多くを愛しているわ。でも、神経の細やかさは彼の得意とするところではないの。思った通りお義母さんはちょっと驚いて、もしタンスにラベルを貼ったりしたら泥棒がお宝を見つけてしまうって反論したのよ! あああああ・・・・二人共ったら!! 


Friday, 26 June 2009

Trash station thief. (J)

Sapporo is in the grips of gomi-fever...or trash-fever.
From July 1st there is a new system coming in where we all have to buy special yellow bags for certain non-recyclable trash (at least I think so, it all seems confusing to me).
The upshot is that everyone is in a last glorious throw-out unwanted stuff week and the trash stations around town are huge!

This is the trash station across the street from us one morning.

Actually, I spotted some garden chairs in the pile...so I flung on some clothes early morning and went down to investigate. I picked 2 chairs out of the trash and brought them back to check they were ok and just needing cleaning. Perfect for the BBQ we are planning on Sunday!

Okaasan came rushing out, chatting away about how I couldn't take things from the trash station because the stuff belonged to the city council. I said it wasn't the city's until 8.30 am when the trash truck comes - and the neighbors didn't want these chairs...so they were in ownership limbo - and thus fair game. I kept it all light and friendly: saying it was ok...no problem...I am not embarrassed to go rooting through trash and recycling unwanted things. (Some of my best bits of furniture come from the trash...). Okaasan retreated inside in befuddlement.

Yujiro told me later that in Okaasan's home city in Saitama there is actually a local law that it is ILLEGAL to take stuff from trash stations! (I wasn't understanding the key word for "illegal" in Okaasan's twittering, I just thought this was yet another Japanese manners/shame/public behaviour thing). So. That's why she was so twitchy about it. Apparently this is an unusual law. And when Okaasan heard this fact she apologised to me!!! Sweet...

and the garden chairs? They will be great for the BBQ.


Thursday, 25 June 2009

Luck and Happiness. (J)

Look what I found today!
GOT to be good hasn't it?

I told students Tuesday that I am going to England again etc and someone said: "Amanda-sensei's life is hard"...but I don't feel it now...this past year had too many events beyond my control...I'm taking my pleasures in small things and not worrying about the big stuff (my step mum's condition, Dad's future, Yujiro's job hunting).

Today was an Enjoy the Small Things time.

Beautiful weather. My day off.

I worked in the garden for a few hours: weeding and watering, tieing up plants, fighting the comfrey that pops up through the lawn...I cheated and poured weedkiller down the hole on the roots.

Yujiro fed Okaasan so she could trot off to Hula dance class.

And we went to Makomonai Park, threw down a blanket and ate McDonald's huge double quarter-pounder hamburgers and great greasy fries...and then lay out in the greenery for 3 hours to have couple time.

When we first sat down I joked about finding a 4-leaf clover. One of my students did on Monday and brought it to class.

Just as we were getting ready to leave I spotted it - a perfect 4-leafer!

Things ARE going to get better. I know it.


Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Freeze! Sapporo!...the video! (J)

Had 2 days at work...felt bad today for some reason. Bad stomach ache. Maybe I ate some of Okaasan's kotatsu food stores and didn't know it...my students are lovely people and they make going to work fun. But it felt like work.

Good thing was the knee felt much stronger and I finally walked 3 blocks to my bank at lunchtime and registered my new address. It feels so good to walk normally through the city again. I feel like a joined society again a bit. And maybe I can walk in airports next week.

I went and got my air ticket too...so off to England next Wednesday. I've almost lined up substitute teachers for the NHK classes. The managers have been understanding.

But came home tonight to find 2 nice surprises: a letter from my uncle in Spain...I haven't heard from him for ages and rather feared the worst. He's my mum's brother.

AND! The video for the Freeze event we did in Odori Park a few weeks ago.
Only 18 people and it was raining...but this will be a great recruiting tool for the next Freeze.
I am wearing a green coat and standing on the grass with another woman looking at my broken umbrella.
Thanks Jeff for making the video!



Sunday, 21 June 2009

Daddy's daughter (J)

I decided to go to the UK.
July 1 to 10.

I've been going back and forth on this one for the past week, and finally decided. Now I think it was a good decision.

Dad sounded so down on the phone last week, maybe Jane's condition isn't getting any better and he is beginning to realize quite how bad she is and how long this could all go on for. She still can't eat normally and she's only been up and sitting in a chair once.

I will go and keep him company on the daily hospital visits, help him cook and shop. Just hang out.

Now I have to find substitute teachers to cover my classes at the NHK community school classes. My own classroom I can just close for 10 days. But the NHK classes I have to find cover. And I have to apologise to the managers for doing this again.

But my visit will give Dad a big lift. I'm an only child and he doesn't have any family apart from me. My step-mum has a big family. But Dad only has me.

Here in Sapporo all is well.
Yujiro got one night of food poisoning from something he ate on Friday night: we decided it must have been the dried fish he had as beer snacks. Okaasan bought these, but she had forgotten them in a bag on the carpet near her heater for we-don't-know-how-long...and maybe the fish had gone bad!
Poisoned by your own mother..,poor guy!


Friday, 19 June 2009

It's my laundry! (J)

Here is a casual picture Shibata-san took of us when she came last week to take my picture for her photo project: Foreign Wives.

Her photo of me is me only and that was in the local park - but when she came back here to the house to interview me she snapped a quick shot of us all in the kitchen. I look tired...Yujiro looks mad...Okaasan looks great!
The kitchen looks...err...lived in.....

Quiet day here. I didn't have so many classes, so I had a quiet morning at home - catching up on computer stuff like accounts...and cramming in a few more episodes of the American Tv drama LOST. Season 5 starts tomorrow on cable TV. I am trying to see Season 4 back-to-back.

I had a little tussle with Okaasan this morning over How to Hang Laundry. Afterwards I felt guilty for being snappy. But I REALLY don't like being told how to hang up my laundry! She came out to join me at the laundry poles - initially because she thought her laundry might be taking up too much room. It wasn't, and I said she didn't need to move anything. THEN she started telling me how/where I should peg up the jeans and the towels...she does it in a nice way. But it just rubs me up the wrong way. I'm almost 50 years old. I can hang up laundry how I like!
I tried to be nice and smiley later at lunch to ease my guilt.

Not good news from England. My step-mum is still unable to eat through her mouth. She is hardly reacting to Dad when he goes into see her. He sounds so sad. They are moving her to a rehabilitation ward. She has only sat up out of bed once. She can't move herself in bed still.
I asked the travel agent to check me an air ticket for maybe the week after next. Time to go I think.


Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Gardened like crazy. (J)

Today was NOT raining. Amazing.

Today the knee was okay...ish. Amazing.

It was time to get gardening after a long break.

Here are the Before and After shots of my5 hours of work!
I did major battle on the dokudami and the comfrey...and anything else in sight!

Okaasan went off to Hula Dance class and came home at a reasonable time. And she joined us for dinner, yesterday her gums were sore again. She'll never go to a dentist - her way of dealing with it is to skip a few meals and wait for the body to right itself.

* News from England not so great again...Dad said my step-mum wasn't so great again yesterday. She is still being fed by tube. But 2 days ago she was well enough to make phone calls from the hospital bed.
I am tussling with whether to go to England now...in August during my summer break...or when? I feel Dad would love to have me there now. He sounds a bit down. But I also think a worse time is coming and I'll need to go again.....

  • イギリスからのニュースはまたかなりよくないの・・・父が、継母は昨日またかなりよくなかったって言っていたわ。彼女はまだ経管栄養を受けているの。でも2日前継母は病院のベッドから電話をかけるほどよかったのよ

Okaasan and festivals (J)

Okaasan has been getting out and about in the early summer festivals.
Despite the rain. Strong lady!

She wandered around downtown and enjoyed the Yosakoi, then she was down in Nakajima Park to see the Shrine Festival food stalls.

"Wander" is the word. With her short term memory issues she probably forgets where she's just been, and so she walks to the same places again and again.

The other night we checked on the GPS and saw that she was in Susukino.
"Great, she's in the festival, but heading home..." we thought.
Nakajima subway station. "Great, she's getting on the train."
Back at Odori and Mitsukoshi????? Why??
(this was at 7.30 pm).

Finally she got home about 8 pm.
Of course she has no idea what she just did or why.
It's funny..but also sad.
She is physically strong enough at the moment to do all this wandering. I wonder though about the future as her mental ability gets worse.

Anyway. She's been shopping too.
She called Yujiro yesterday to say: "should I buy anything?".
"No! No!" he said...because he was just in a supermarket doing the big shop.

He came home and found she'd bought various vegetables etc.....
At least he found them on the kitchen table...the other day I found a bag of leeks under the kotatsu (table heater).


Sunday, 14 June 2009


Oyome-san's best laid plans for a happy family outing got scuppered by the weather: rain, rain, rain ...and cold enough for a coat and muffler!

The last few days in Sapporo has been the Yosakoi Dance Festival - a huge community dance event with over 300 teams whirling around the streets in colorful costumes and make-up to the sounds of booming sound-systems and drums.

I'd bought tickets for us to go to the Sunday afternoon stage performance in the park.
But it was SO wet and cold we decided that it wasn't a good outing for Okaasan at all. I went with friends..but Yujiro and Okaasan stayed home.

It doesn't matter - Okaasan had seen various parts of the event when she was downtown this week. But I was a little sad that we didn't get to do the nice little family outing I'd planned. We don't do much together and I thought it would be good. Oh well, next year maybe.

Anyway I had fun with friends, despite the cold.

At 11.55 am I got together in the park with friends and strangers to stage Sapporo's first ever Freeze event. These have become a worldwide thing - have a look at this one in London!

I'd reached out to anyone I knoew, and many people I didn't...to try and organise it. Today in Sapporo 18 people did it - freezing in position in the center of the park and puzzling people walking by...

We held the pose for 5 minutes and it was such a great rush when we finished and cheered. 18 was not great, but enough as a first try. People walking in the park turned and looked and wondered what was happening.
We'll try to do another event later.

After that I wandered (gently!!) through the park with friends, ate lunch and enjoyed the Yosakoi show from our stand seats for 90 minutes...then thawed out over coffee in a nearby hotel.
I love Yosakoi.
So many of my students say they don't go to this event - they say it is "too commercial, too noisy, not traditional, too crowded" etc etc. Well, if THEY were on holiday in another country and this kind of event was out in the park...I think they would go and love it! Take pictures, enjoy the show and the crazy atmosphere. But because it is in the home town...somehow that isn't interesting.

I don't get it.

Anyway. Fun day.
I came home to have dinner with Yujiro and Okaasan. He make simple fish and rice and salad. And soon it will be the finale of OUR favorite Tv show American Idol...it starts at 9 pm. I'd better get tomorrow's classes sorted out now...call Dad...iron work clothes.

Another week is about to start.


Saturday, 13 June 2009

Noooooooooo!!!!!! (J)

Last week we had a huge water bill.
We realized that (I had been right all along), the outside tap leaks badly.
You can see it on the right...next to the hose pipe.
Sadly it seems that not only have I used a lot of water for watering the fertilizer/grass seed. But a scary amount of water has leaked away...continously.

The water company came to check.
The plumber came to check.
Next week there will be repair work to the tap....and they might have to...


I think I might cry.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Okaasan and cooking dinner. (J)

Last night we went out to dinner with some Couch Surfers http://www.couchsurfing.org/?user_language=ja who are staying at my English school.

Okaasan stayed home and seemed to have managed some kind of dinner. Yujiro told her to help herself to anything in the fridge.

Of course Okaasan doesn't remember what she ate - but looking in the trash can later and around the kitchen, I am guessing she ate an instant noodle pack, some miso soup and maybe made up some of that amasake paste. Hardly exciting or nutritional - but enough. She snacks away on yogurts, bananas, rice crackers etc...so she won't starve.

Back in the winter when we all started this new living arrangement one of my big worries was that we'd be tied to the kitchen and cooking for her. But - she can fend for herself enough. Either ordering food delivery or doing something simple in the kitchen.

Relief! We can actually have a social life!

This weekend in Sapporo is the Yosakoi Dance Festival http://www.yosakoi-soran.jp/- a huge community dance event with hundreds of teams and thousands of spectators. Okaasan has already realized f rom TV that there is a food court out in the park - I think she'll be there every day from now.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Out and About (J)

Sometimes it takes a stranger to kick start you again.

Today the photographer came to take my photo for a project she is doing on Foreign Wives in Japan. I had a lot of doubts and wasn't looking forward to it. But it was fun!

In the morning I did some gardening - well weeding really. Even Yujiro came and helped me pull up the weeds. We both sat on chairs on the LAWN to work. It actually is deserving of the title LAWN now!!

Then Reiko Shibata arrived and I took her by car to the near bye Tenjin Yama Park where I hobbled along slowly while she enjoyed the Hokkaido greenery. Then we did photos all over the park - with flowers and trees and Sapporo city as a backdrop.

She has travelled all over Japan taking photographs of 100 women - all married to Japanese men. Her photographs are beautiful and she hopes to have an exhibition in the Ginza Nikon Salon http://www.nikon-image.com/jpn/activity/salon/index.htm in Tokyo. My only disappointment was that many of the women appear in their national costume : Philippines, India, Thailand, Kenya or China. Me? England has NO national costume. I appeared in slacks and a shirt...

She came back to the house to do an interview over tea, (and meet Bob cat) and Okaasan and Yujiro enjoyed the photographs of all the beautiful women all over Japan who have ended up falling in love with Japanese men...

Anyway. Thanks to Shibata-san's visit I felt very much revived. My knee seems a little better and I enjoyed being outside. I have no idea if she'll use the picture though...I think I looked a bit windswept.

And tonight?

Okaasan amazed us by not only asking to eat tacos with us ("I went to Mexico years ago, I ate tacos there you know!")...but she tucked into FIVE tacos shells with mince meat, sauce, lettuce etc. Yujiro had a small curry on the cooker ready in case she backed out at the last moment...but no - she seemed to enjoy tacos.

She always says she doesn't like mince meat. So we didn't think she'd ever eat this!


Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Life goes on...and on...(J)

Sorry. Haven't blogged.

Sunday a friend came round bearing wonderful cheeses, sausages and bread...we hung out at home and escorted the cat around the street for territorial yowling. She helped me get stuff at the Home Care center. I came home, rather late, and cooked chicken stir fry for Okaasan and Yujiro. It was ok, cos I added lots of soy sauce.

Okaasan had a good weekend - she went twice..or maybe more times ...to the Hokkaido University Festival. She enjoyed all the food stalls and people. I know she came home Saturday with dumplings or something, but she couldn't remember what she'd bought.

Yujiro's been job hunting. He's getting a bit down about it all. Season work for a 50 year old man in the middle of an economic downturn is hard to find. Rather worryingly he is also feeling down about his chances of ski teaching next season. I think it's more a confidence thing after the events of last winter (1 day work and then injured again), but it worrying. He is such an UP/positive person...it worries me when he is pessimistic. Skiing IS his life. He will ski again of course...but making a winter, earning life out of it who knows...I think he WILL. BUt he is feeling down about it. I thought going to the wedding with all his ski buddies would give him a boost...but no.

And in England my step-mum came out of ICU. Good. 2 nights later she fell out of bed onto the hospital floor. Bad. Many bruises and pain and more mental confusion.

I just spoke to Dad and he sounded sad. He seemed to think Jane was turning a corner, and this fall has set her back again.

So. I feel a bit down today. My knee is feeling better than yesterday - GOOD. But Tuesday is quite a long day of work. I should go for the electronic pulse rehab tomorrow.

I went to an old student's office tonight to pay her and pick up some tickets for a Simon and Garfunkle concert in July. I wondered...will I be able to walk into Sapporo Dome in July...all the way to my seat? It's 5 weeks away.I can't imagine what I can do.

Tonight I'll go to bed early to get in enough sleep before the cat wakes up at 5 am.
Tomorrow that photographer is coming to take my picture for a book about Foreign Wives of Japanese Men. I've never felt less ready for this kind of thing. I feel fat, slow and old. I wish I could cancel this photograph thing. Maybe she won't use it.

Just a lot of life at the moment.
Sorry. Very boring Blog. Just life. I used to feel carefree and happy. I wonder what happened.

Sorry. Very boring Blog. Just life. I used to feel carefree and happy. I wonder what happened.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Conveyor belt wedding (J)

Here we are - a handsome couple in our best togs...trying to forget forgetful old ladies, bad knees, unemployment and sick family the other side of the world!!!

After work today we went to a local hotel for the wedding of one of Yujiro's ski school buddies Murota-san...it was a very typical wedding. There was a ceremony first in the hotel chapel for family. Then about 150 people arrived and handed over $130 per person as our party fee (this is a Hokkaido custom, in mainland Japan it is a much more expensive, but unspecified money gift), then we all packed into an event room at the hotel and sat down for a 2-hour vaguely Chinese lunch.

There was a video show of the couple's baby photos shown with loud pop music.
There were speeches from boss, old school friend etc
There was bad karaoke.
There were two guys wearing stockings doing a strange dance...
There was a candle lighting ceremony at each table.
There was a tearful reading aloud of Letter to Dear Mother and Father from the bride.

It was all a bit strange really, seemed so rushed and non-personal. I don't want to get married. But if we ever did, I'd hope for a more unique, special day.
Anyway...good luck to Yoshitaka and Keiko.

There was a notice on each table to say that the second party was at a bar in town and would cost $30 a head. But I'd already decided the knee gave me a good excuse to duck out of that one and come home. Yujiro will have more fun with the guys.
And I can have a rare evening alone at home watching MY kind of Tv programs.

He'd told Okaasan that we would be out and that she should eat out or order in...or cook for herself. She wasn't home when I got back...but while the cat was mooching around on the doorstep she arrived back...I said a quick "Good evening" before retreating upstairs with some of the wedding cake. No way do I feel like cooking for Okaasan or making chat tonight. I just peered into her room and she's got yogurt and dumplings on the table...she won't starve.

He and I deserve a night off from Okaasan duties.

ワタシたちは―― 一張羅に身を包んだ素晴らしいカップルよ・・・物忘れのひどい老婦人や痛む膝、失業や地球の裏側にいる病気の家族を忘れようとしているわ!!!