Thursday, May 27, 2010

Garden surprises

This year I am trying my best to keep the weeds under control mainly because last year I saw a few too many poisonous snakes in my garden under piles of weeds. Today I had a few spare hours so I attacked one area - making sure I jabbed the ground to check for any movement before pulling out the weeds. Fortunately no snakes jumped out, but I almost jumped out of my skin when this lovely BIG bullfrog that had been hibernating in the soil literally jumped out at me. I was glad there were no old ladies passing by at the time as I screamed a little too loudly considering it was just a frog! I really like the cute little green frogs that appear everywhere at this time of year, but am not so sure about these ones.....

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Trip away

This weekend we had a date with Nathan and Megan to go camping. I had managed to convince the in-laws that they would be able to cope without us for the annual rice seed planting conveyor belt so we were all set... the only problem was that the weather forecast was for rain, rain and more rain. I was determined to go though so managed to find us a cabin to stay in on top of the biggest caves in Japan - Akiyoshido. We started the trip by walking underneath the ocean between Kyushu and Honshu islands - well actually Megan, Nathan and the kids did - I drove through a different tunnel and then met them on the other side! Next were the caves and then games, games and more games while we listened to the torrential rain all night. Thoughts of perhaps venturing to a castle town nearby, or even as far as Hiroshima were thrown out the window in the morning when the rain was still coming down and the thought of spending more time than absolutely necessary with the kids in the car meant we came home early and had a very lazy afternoon! Unfortunately my camera's batteries weren't charged so I don't have many photos... I'm sure if you check on Megan and Nathan's blog in the next few days they will have some good cave photos up. A good outing for a very rainy day!
The chickens seem to have grown a few more centimeters in the 2 days we were away and are now getting lots of their feathers, starting to perch and a few are even getting their combs. Of course they are also eating more, making more noise and making more poos! I can see yet another change of house will be necessary in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Spring visitors

Spring has almost been and gone... unfortunately one of the joys of the countryside of Japan in this season is the appearance of these beautiful beasts. There are some years when we see virtually none, and then others when you come home and open the doors to let some fresh air inside and you discover a huge one like this on the INSIDE of the screen door.... yuck, yuck and more yuck! The children have been warned to check their shoes before putting them on each day and chances of me sleeping on the sofa in the very near future are very slim as this was discovered on the door by the sofa! For anyone unfamiliar with these beasts they are centipedes and their bite is not at all pleasant... as I found out one year when I pulled on my trousers that I had been drying outside and was unpleasantly surprised!
We may need to invest in some kind of repellent before various members of my family arrive at the start of next month....

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Atari mae

There is a Japanese phrase that I have difficulty translating appropriately into English. It is "atari mae" and most dictionaries translate it loosely as "ordinary, reasonable or obvious". I think it is slightly different and the latest group of boys we had to stay had me thinking a lot about "atari mae". In general they were really nice, but some of their assumptions got me to thinking about what kind of family they have been brought up in. For example...
  • they thought it was "atari mae" that I didn't eat. I am usually worried that there is not enough food so I generally wait till they have finished and then eat anything that is leftover. Most groups comment and ask if I want some, but this group never even noticed, let alone worried about it. I know that for a lot of Japanese families this is very normal - often the wife cooks at least twice a day to feed the children and then the husband whenever he gets home and often just "snacks" in between, but for us mealtimes are a family time.
  • they thought it was "atari mae" that they could eat a meal fully prepared by me (usually they are meant to cook together, but I took pity on them one night) and not even think of saying thank you.
  • they thought it was "atari mae" that if they chose to stay awake till 2am that they should be allowed to sleep till late and not have to work most of the day because they were too tired... unfortunately for them I am a little too strict to allow that!
  • they thought it was "atari mae" that we would spend 3 days with them - thinking of things to do, feeding them, entertaining them (my husband even took the day off on Friday to help out) and that there was no real need to thank us. Yes, we are paid for them to come and stay, but it is still a lot of work.
I could go on a bit more, but I've been summoned to go and help put the first swarm of bees for the year into our new hive. Here's hoping they stay this year.
Having said all the above about the boys we did have some good times - more bamboo digging, fishing, planting sweet potatoes and of course wood cutting! Only one more group to go before my mother comes to visit..... here's hoping they have been taught the word "thank you" before they arrive.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New Classes

Justify FullOne of the reasons I haven't been updating my blog as much as I should be is that from April I started teaching 11 different English classes - some continuations from last year, but mostly completely new classes. I always seem to spend far too much time preparing and then doing something completely different during the classes....
The standard reaction from new children when I start teaching them is "why do you have blue eyes?". My standard response is "why do you have brown eyes?" - to which they look at me as if I am from Mars.
This year I have had two new reactions - the first was from a kindergarten child who stared at me with huge eyes and said "WOW - you have such a tiny face, and such a BIG body!". Honesty is great for the self esteem.... The second was from another kindergarten child who commented on my blue eyes and then proceeded to ask me if I could actually see out of blue eyes.... I guess internationalisation hasn't fully hit the countryside here!
On a completely different note, the chicks are all still growing at an amazing rate and my children are enjoying playing with them every day. We also just had a phone call asking if we want a goat.... can't wait to start a petting zoo!

Monday, May 10, 2010

New friend

Yet again I have fallen off the blogging wagon, and yet again I don't have time to catch up properly before I go to work this afternoon, but I do have some very valid excuses.... come back again soon and hopefully I will have gotten around to writing about them!
Just to give you a small taste though... today I went and picked up my new little friends. This is not a great photo as it was taken just as they were put into their new home, but we now have 12 tiny little chicks cheeping away in our living room (well that is where they are now, but I'm sure my husband will ask for them to be shifted after he gets home from work!). I'm not really a "cute" person, but these chicks are REALLY cute! They hatched this morning (not from our hens) and are slowly adapting to their new environment. I have absolutely no confidence in my ability to raise them till they are big enough to be put out in their outside hen house, but hopefully there will still be a few left when it is time to say goodbye to our older chickens. They seem to be eating okay - now I just need to get them drinking... and perhaps sleeping.