Now we know why Craig hates cats.
Yes, it's been quite a while since posting. In the mean time, the vice-mayor won the election to became the new mayor. My cousin was here to witness the historic occasion and hear the announcement over the village-wide intercom.
In addition to local politics, he also witnessed us getting ready for our first year of farming. He witnessed us buying a wheelbarrow, some gloves and hoes, and even Tomoe trying on some very stylish old-lady gardening caps. In the end, I think she decided to get the old fashioned umbrella hat, like the one our neighbor is wearing in the photo below.
Craig was a hit with the ladies
As always, I am stressing out about too much to do, and as always, getting nothing done. We have such big plans for the farming, the chicken keeping, and also One Life projects, not to mention tours already booked and reporters coming. While Craig (mycousin, and incidentally, the name of our new fish) was here helping us to dig out rocks from an unused patch of land in our yard, Saito-san, from the village office, stopped by with a group of reporters from a large Nagoya newspaper. We had known about it, but completely forgotten. They were happy to get some candid shots of us in our real life.
Craig patiently waits while Tomoe picks the night's dinner from along the road-side, and not even one complaint as we put him to work "burning stuff" in the yard.
I feel a bit bad that we did not give Craig the type of service that we give customers, show him all the great little places in the village, but I am happy that he got to see our real life in all its glory (or lack there-of). He is about 7? years older than me. When we were young we used to play together at grandma's house (or so he tells me), and I remember regular trips to their home a few hours away. The trips I remember, though, were when he was a bit older and often hanging out with his school friends elsewhere. I do remember lots of ping-pong, some b-ball in their front yard, and as I write about it, the very distinct (in a good way) smell of their house. As we got older, we apparently saw each other less, only major holidays. I remember lots of board-games and some card-games - one of my favorite parts of those holiday visits. I remember staying in his room (or was it Andy's - at the end of the hall past the kitchen and bathroom)? I remember spending a lot of time playing a game on theirCommodore 64 in the basement (alone). Though I forget the name of the game, I clearly remember the line "Stay a while. Stay FOREVER..." and the sound of my guys feet as he runs down a metal corridor.
While Craig was here, helping us out, the hoe he was using (Tomoe's brand-new hoe, which she had yet to try out) got mangled on some rocks. She freaked out a bit, but Craig fixed the hoe. This, however, reminded me of the time we threw darts at a wall-sized mural of deer in a forest in his dad's basement - one of my worst memories from their house, as it is the only one I can think of when his dad got mad at us.
We had a great ride in the morning, but Craig expresses his disappointment when I decide to turn back after climbing a big hill. Looking at the clock, I realized that to push on would have us getting home tired and late, maybe even missing the hot bath. My over-ambitiousness is one of the reasons Tomoe often declines to follow me when I say "It'll be fun!" I didn't want to make the same mistake with Craig.
Seeing him also gave me a great chance to remember grandma. Though we did not talk a whole lot about her, she came up and remembering her gave me the best feeling I had all week.
Craig, the water-systems engineer, shows us how to (try to) put together two pipes.
Of course, all these memories are made a bit more valuable by the fact that I have gotten a chance to get to re-know Craig a bit more, and he us. It was great to hear about his family, and his job and just how he spends his days. I am a rather shy guy, and even with family, large groups shut me up. This is the first time to have so much time one-on-one with him. Though I was still nervous (I used to be tremendously nervous about meeting Craig and hisbother Andy - they were always so much cooler than we were), I was more nervous this time about making his detour (he was in Japan on business) worth his money, effort and time away from his daughter.
Helping to create fertilize from Tomoe's secret recipe required gathering clean water and lots of mixing.
While I wish I could have shown him more, we still got in some good bike-rides, lots of hot-baths, some working in the field,fertilizer-making (photos above), lots of Tomoe's home-cooking (while I had a desire to show him "traditional" Japanese food at the restaurants, we also wanted to give him a taste of our life, so opted for eating at home). He was here on three of the most beautiful days this year - completely clear skies, the cherry blossomsliterally came into bloom as he was here, and the light-green leaves are starting to bud. Every day was different, and even today we can see anoticeable change over yesterday. I would have liked to let him try some high-class sake, but was happy that he enjoyed drinking cheap potato booze ( shochu) with me.
As a memorial to his stay here, we have named our new fish Craig. We have been keeping a rescued gold-fish (Lil - named after Lil, whose photos I was looking at when we decided to name her), in a bottle all winter, waiting for the weather to warm and to release her into the pond. We released her when Craig was here, checking her regularly, once finding her struggling for her life as the current pressed her against a grate covering the pond out-flow. With Craig's (the cousin, not the fish) help, we fixed that problem, drank lots of potato booze, and went to bed. The next morning I went to check on Lil but could not find her. Craig (a pond-fish expert) did a search as well and caught something I had totally missed - a small trout or iwanalurking in the shadows. We had no idea he was there, nor when/how he arrived. He must have been washed down from someoneelse's pond (if it is trout), or directly from the river (if iwana), and somehow, miraculously, made its way through the narrow tube into our pond. He is big enough to have eaten Lil, so that is what we assume happened. Sorry Lil. Welcome Craig! At least Lil's last day wasrelatively free, compared to the 4-liter bottle we had been keeping her in.
In the backyard. Craig (the fish) is in that pond somewhere.