Thursday, March 29, 2012

Unliveable living room

I'll do a proper "before and after" post at some stage, but for now here is a "between" post. Today our living room was de-papered and prepared for papering. I have always had a huge amount of respect for Japanese workers and their ability to keep everything very clean and leave things in an even cleaner state than they found them. Unfortunately our decorators don't seem to have inherited the cleanliness genes and our living room is currently in this state. There is a thick layer of dust over everything (I'm not sure why I was obsessed about getting the house clean before they arrived this morning...) and all the work things are just left lying all over the kitchen and living room. I think I may have encouraged this a little when I said they didn't need to worry about putting the curtains back up tonight... they seemed to take it to mean that we wouldn't be needing our living room or kitchen tonight - lost in translation perhaps!
Anyway, fortunately we have a cottage to spend all our time in, a restaurant near by and it should all be finished by tomorrow. A bit hard to tell from the photos, but the ceiling was finished today... amongst complaints that we must have had a heavy smoker in the house. After a bit of head scratching I realised that the fire must have been the culprit - or at least the person who keeps forgetting to open the vents when they put wood into the fire.... not me of course!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Anxious morning

This morning was the morning when all the teacher's transfers were announced to the public via the newspaper. I'm sure I've written about this crazy system before, but I can't find it on my blog anywhere, so I'll revisit the topic and bore you again! Japan has this amazing system in which teachers are transferred around schools at an alarming rate. Yesterday the children finished school at 11:30am (don't even get me started on that) and yesterday afternoon a fax was sent to all the schools from the board of education informing them of all the transfers that were being made this year. No one was allowed to leak this information so for parents etc. it all came down to scouring the paper this morning to see who will be staying and who will be going. It looks like our school has got off pretty lightly this year with only one teacher (my son's... phew - won't get started on that one either) leaving. Having said that though it is possible that two other teachers have also changed but as they are not fully qualified teachers they are not part of any of the announcements to the public.
Anyway, what all this means is that on Thursday all the kids go back to school to farewell the teacher(s) and then the teacher will need to clean out his desk and make his way to his new school ready to start the school year 10 days later. The whole "abruptness" of this system makes absolutely no sense to me...
Fortunately our great principal and vice principal haven't changed so now we just need to wait till the first day of school to see which teachers the kids will get... finally my daughter's last teacher at primary school!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Wedding formalities

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to a friend's wedding. It was a huge affair - even by Japanese standards, with all the important people from a major tourist town - over 200 guests in total. Most of it was really nice - great food, nice people at my table and of course the bride was beautiful in all three of her outfits.
The only thing I was a little disappointed in was the chapel ceremony before the reception began. I understand that Japanese people really want a piece of western culture in their lives, but.... I would have to say that I have never cried so much at a wedding as I did at this one. And it wasn't because I was sad... it was because I could not stop myself from laughing. As is quite common at Japanese weddings they had a foreign "priest" who conducted the ceremony in both English and Japanese, but in such a way that I still have no idea if he was being serious or actually just taking the piss out of the whole event. I really wish I had taken a video as I can't describe it adequately - just that he was a close second to Rowan Atkinson. All the words were traditional wedding words, but the delivery was like an over the top actor pouring his whole heart and soul into the ceremony with the odd wink or smirk on the side. From what I can tell anyone can become a marriage celebrant here if they go to a quick course... they then get paid very good money for "marrying" people. I thought my laughter was reasonably well hidden, but after the ceremony a friend came up to me and told me that she was sitting behind me and that the whole seat was shaking because I was laughing so much... oops! Mind you she said she was doing the same! Give me a traditional Japanese ceremony in Japan any day.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring is in the air....

When I decided that it was time to redecorate the living room area we also decided to get the toilet re-papered - basically because it was horrible and grimy.... like most of the house! The decorating man agreed that it desperately needed doing and that it wouldn't cost much - and he was right. To do all the toilet walls as well as replace the lino floor it was only around 15,000 yen, which considering it took the poor man almost all day to do I thought was very reasonable. The decorating man (I've got to think of a more exciting name for him....) admitted that he gets their toilet re-papered every couple of years just for a change and also because it is not a great place to clean all the time. We both agreed that although we will hold back a little more in the living area, the toilet could be a fun place to play with a bolder theme so we went all out and went with a spring theme.... birds in trees. The kids keep wandering into it and saying they think they are at a hotel and that it is no longer our home - in a nice way!
We also got them to replace the lino in the bathroom which was slowly rotting away and again they did it cheaply - and this time with lots of entertainment for me. I was in the kitchen listening to the guy talking to himself (he did this all day long) - the majority of the "conversations" went like this..... "Now this is a problem." "Mmmm.... not sure what to do about this" and "This really is a problem". Somehow the problems seemed to disappear though and he did a good job - I apologised for choosing a paper that required matching up trees, birds etc. and he laughed and said that he really enjoyed doing it. I guess after papering so many white or cream Japanese walls a bit of colour would make your life a bit more exciting!
The living room was also supposed to be done today, but... of course the paper I wanted is not in stock right now so we need to wait another week. Nothing like dragging it out!

A-chan - regarding our doors - we got a special suction kind of double glass that they can put into the frames that we already have. It seems to be making a difference - there seem to be a number of different options available now that don't involved having 2 sets of doors!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

The first three quarters....

Today marked the start of our renovating.... it all started with me finally getting so fed up with our yucky curtains that I felt the need to change them. And then I kept looking at the cracks in the wallpaper, the stains on the ceiling and the general horribleness that comes with a house that has never been renovated in 16 years and felt the urge to get the living area re-papered. And then when we were looking at curtains there were none that we liked, but liked the idea of blinds that can be pulled up out of the way during the daytime and remove the need for horrible net curtains. But, we have the problem that we have very big sliding doors in the living room which you can feel the outside cold air through and therefore need thick curtains to keep out the cold in winter. So... finally getting to the point.... we decided to get the big cold doors double glazed - therefore allowing us to get the blinds we wanted without freezing in winter. Can you see the difference in the photos? - the first is the before, the second is the after - not exactly obvious to look at, but you can definitely feel the difference! Unfortunately only three of the four doors have been replaced as the final sheet was broken in transit and as they are custom made the replacement won't be here for another week or so - just in time for the weather to really warm up and therefore not be necessary!
Next stage is to remove the air conditioner that hasn't been used for about 10 years and put it into one of the cottage bedrooms to prevent the sauna effect in summer.... then the wallpaper and finally the origin problem - the curtains!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

One year on and another concert

Today was my daughter's annual piano concert. The teacher was initially worried about holding it today as today was the one year remembrance of the life changing earthquake and tsunami. I think she made the right to decision to go on with the concert and there were some great songs played in memory of those effected and we were all able to have a moment's silence together at 2:46pm - the time earthquake struck.
I have been avoiding watching too much TV today. It is really hard to know whether we should be focusing on what happened, focusing on how much has already been achieved, or focusing on how much more still needs to be done. A bit of everything really.

Anyway, here are the video's of Emily's concert today for anyone interested. She said she wants to turn back time and redo the second one, but unfortunately she will need to wait till next year! Apologies for the slightly wobbly shots... we had tripod issues!

Monday, March 05, 2012

National road

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Erika asked me a question about the power pole in the middle of the garden and whether we get any compensation for having it there. In short... no we don't get any compensation because in actual fact that strip of land (shown roughly in between the red lines in the photos) is actually a national road. That's right - it is a road owned by the government.... but maintained by the city..... It is a really frustrating thing for me as every time I want to do anything in this area, like plant a tree, build a pizza oven etc. I get told by my husband that we can't do anything there as it is a national road.....I'm sure no one else knows or cares that it is a national road, but my husband is a civil servant and as such feels the need to follow every rule in the book and lots of rules that aren't in any books. Apparently we can buy this national road, but we have to wait for the right timing. I've asked what the right timing is, but get a mumble in response. In the meantime I'm pretending I have no knowledge of the fact that we have not only a big ugly power pole in our garden, but that I am doing major road works every time I touch the garden there.
And where does this national road lead to? Why to the stream of course... I just don't understand!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

For my records.....

Today I spent the morning in a very hot room with zillions of other parents trying to see their children "racing" at the pool. What I wanted to be doing was getting on with my garden renovations. The fact that it was raining (again...) made it a little easier to accept that I wasn't going to get to go outside at all today and the fact that my back was feeling the effects of shifting rocks around made me think that perhaps a day of rest wasn't really such a bad thing.
I've been playing around with an area out the back and cursing a huge power pole that is in the middle of the garden which has our meter on it that needs to be accessed every month. Gotta love Japanese power poles everywhere! I am not very good at planning things so I just tend to start and see where the rocks lead me - which is why I have to redo everything quite regularly! A good example of this is my new herb spiral. I've always wanted a herb spiral so I made a spur of the moment decision to make one in the most inappropriate place. It breaks all the permaculture rules and will probably fall down within a few weeks, but for a few weeks I have a herb spiral! Now if the rain would stop for a few days I might be able to get on with doing the rest of it.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Happy Birthday Mike!

This is my brother, Mike. Today is his birthday! When we were growing up I always thought it was unfair that, being older than me, he always got to go past all the milestones before me. He turned 5 first and could therefore go to school first, he hit double digits first, got to finish school first, got to drink first, got to drive first, got to live away from home first... the list of things he got to do first was endless and of course it was not fair!
Of course there was the minor issue that I was younger and could therefore get away with more things, but of course getting to do things first was far more important than that!
Today he hits the big 40 - and all of a sudden I'm not so sad that he gets to do this first! I can remember thinking that 40 was sooooo old, although my view of this has changed as it grows closer for me!
Happy Birthday Mike. I hope my continual pulling of your hair when I was so young didn't contribute to your lack of it now... Have a great day and start showing the world that 40 can be the best time of your life! Don't worry, I'll be joining you soon......

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Egg Vending Machine

Now that we have no chickens we have to actually buy our eggs and I admit the first time I had to I was a little sad... I worry quite a lot about the really cheap eggs in the supermarket and so prefer to buy from somewhere local where I know how the chickens are being treated. Fortunately I have found a great place just across the road from where the children go swimming that sells eggs directly to the public. You can see their sheds (although you can't actually see inside so I can't vouch for the size of their cages...) and the best thing is that the eggs are sold from vending machines so you they don't have to have someone there all the time and therefore the price is pretty reasonable. Gotta love Japan and their vending machine fetishes!