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April 29, 2010

Indoor Rain?

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I love rain. Today was the 2010 opening ceremony for the volunteer fire department. It usually takes hours and hours, with marching (that is actually fun) and listening to people who are erai, or "honored" talk and talk and talk, and giving awards to people who have been in the group for a long time, and people who are retiring, and new members, and on and on. I was expecting it to go from 7:30 until 1:00, but thankfully the rain forced us to cancel a good chunk of the "festivities". I was home before 11 am! I love rain.

From next week, though, I have to go to two hour practices every night at the local ski-hill cafeteria. I am waiting for someone to invent indoor rain.

Volunteer Fire Department Trumpet GroupVolunteer Fire Department Trumpet Group

Tonight I have to travel to the next city with the rest of the volunteers from my hamlet for a big drinking-fest complete with "companions" - women hired from the big city an hour away to come pour our drinks and laugh at our jokes.

Volunteer Fire Department Trumpet Group

April 28, 2010



Just finished three great days with Linda, a client from Okinawa who was on vacation trying to see the rest of Japan. As she described herself in her initial email, she has "gumption" this means that she was fine to ride up up up for a full day only to find the downhill covered in snow - so we walked walked walked down the hill.


The home-made sake from the inn took it's toll, and headaches on the second day were not ideal, but like I said, she has gumption.

Our biggest worry is that she may steal Mona from us. She was a great baby-sitter. I feel like we should pay her instead of the other way around!


April 23, 2010

Something for Everyone

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This post has something for everyone - people who read to see life in Japan, people who read to see Mona, and people who read to see me and Tomoe. Perhaps too many photos, but it has been an unusually busy few weeks.

For one thing, the Volunteer Fire Department practice has begun again, luckily only a few nights a week now, but in a month or two I will have to go every night. I am happy though to have been moved to cymbals, which is much more fun than the bugle. Apparently my patient plan to suck at bugle playing for two years paid off.

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The house is slowly getting into order, but it needs to get into order much faster. I have a customer coming in three days, and a week after that we have two volunteers coming to stay for four days to help with the rice field preparations. Tomoe is stressed because everything is such a mess, but taking it wonderfully. I assumed she would say no, but Today she said she wants to try, so she can get used to having people stay here again. It helps that they are a couple of college kids probably used to eating instant ramen every day and living in small Tokyo apartments. How much worse could the four giant rats living in our ceiling be?

Mona is growing and growing and growing. She is working on her roll (I give her two more days) and frothing at the mouth like mad. She rarely cries - usually only when she wakes up to find herself alone in the room, but once one of us walks in she is all smiley. She never cries at night (no Shannon I am not just saying this make you Jealous). She lets out a wimper when she is hungry, and it is enough to wake us (often times just Tomoe) up so I guess she has no reason to cry because the boob is always on call.

Spring is here (or at least near) and we took a nice long walk the other day. Some of the shots from that walk are here. It was nice to get out, and I can't wait until we can get started on the fields and gardens. So far, the only farm work we have done is to build a new compost bin, and yesterday I turned the compost pile that we left in the rice field since last fall. Unfortunately, there is nothing "composty" about it, and we can't just leave it there, so one of the jobs for the volunteers over golden week is to help us carry it 800+ meters up the mountain to our other field where we can give it another year to rot.

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April 15, 2010


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Finally makin' farm and business plans for the year while Mona sits nearby looking cute.

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April 12, 2010

Somebody please show me the way!

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So I have this video, all in Japanese that I want to translate to show my parents (or anyone else interested).

I have downloaded or tried to download various free video editing software to my macbook, but either the installation process makes me give up (I have other things to do too) or the software doesn't have the seemingly simple ability to JUST ADD TEXT and I would like to be able to cut the video length.

I never thought I would see the day that I became "one of those users" who don't have time to read the manual, and want everything to "just work", but in this case I am.

Anyone know a free or cheap plug and play video editing software for mac that can help me add subtitles and crop video?

Photos are of Tomoe's niece and Mona from our visit to Tomoe's parent's house.

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April 07, 2010

The Park Where Tomoe Played

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More shots from the new film camera and my walk around Nagoya. This is the park Tomoe grew up playing at. Apparently nothing has changed. When I was showing these photos to Tomoe's niece, she acted surprised and said, "I didn't know it looked that nice!" :)

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And, of course, Mona.

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April 06, 2010

Mari vs Mona

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Today was a big day for Mona. Mom went to the dentist an hour away in the "big city". Menwhile Mona joined me as I joined the local second-grade class as they joined Mari the goat on her trip from the teacher's house to the school for the new school year. Mari is due to give birth on the 25th, so you can look forward to some newborn goat photos soon.

The trip from the teacher's house to the school is a fifteen minute walk, but even so, the local police were out makig sure the road was cleared for Mari's cage. Even the local news-paper reporter was out to cover the event.

While most of the attention was on Mari, the goat, Mona also got her fair share of attention. One boy in particular seems to be on the road to motherhood. He would not leave her alone, insisted on pushing her cradel, and stroked her cheeks every time she even mad a hint at crying. When I told Tomoe, later, she knew exactly who I was talking about even before I told her his name. Apparently, he has a reputation as a (good) stalker.

After the goat arrived safely at school, Mona and I went to tea at the mother's house of the teacher's cousin, who was along to help bring Mari to the school, and has a rice field next to ours and we refer to as "the good man". He and his wife are always a great help at the bath, as they love to hold and take care of Mona while we are bathing.

Today I met the wife's 89 year old mother, who had a good time with Mona. Its great that Mona has so many default great granbdmas.

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Nagoya Green

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My father-in-law gave me his old film camera last week. I spent the week documeting the nature of Nagoya. At least in my in-laws' neighborhood, everyone has at least some nice potted plants in their yard, but most people have very nice gardens, and there are even a fiew fields around. I was surprised that people were so open and talkative when I asked if it was OK to photograph them or their gardens. Even more surprised to be invited for tea once.

I took five rolls while I was there, and not-amazingly, I was satisfied with a much higher precentage of the final shots than I am with my digital. When each shot costs money I found myself spending up to 5 minutes trying to find the best angle, etc. Its a lot more fun this way.

The full collection can be seen a a large size slideshow here, or a small slideshow below. I recommend the large.

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April 04, 2010

The Truth About the Dream Life

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Following my sister-in-law's "truth in blogging" movement, I have to come clean. Everything is NOT paradise here in the Japan countryside. Its been a very stressful week (and we knew it would be). On Sunday we drove 5 hours to Nagoya where Tomoe's parents live. A full week would be our longest stay at their house ever.

Now, before you get the cliche images of "hell with the in-laws", know that I personally am (for the most part) able to handle them without any stress. Her dad seems to hate silence, so is always trying to find something to talk about even when I just want to sit there quietly, but he has good intentions and I really like him, so I can handle it. Her mom is going through some rough times of her own, increasingly showing signs of alzhimers. She has a peculiar way of expressing herself, complaining about most everything, even if she doesn't have anything against it. I am fine with this, as the negativity is hardly ever aimed at me, but it stresses Tomoe to no end. A stressed Tomoe, of course, leads to a stressed Kevin.

Before Mona was born Tomoe was talking about going to Nagoya for two months before and after the birth. I was very much against it, knowing how she gets when she even spends and hour talking to her mom on the phone. I couldn't even imagine her spending two months with her mom, let alone with a new-born baby. Oh, how right I was.

Tomoe's parents are both in their 70s and taking care of their granddaughter (Tomoe's niece, 9 years old). It adds to the stress to see the niece struggle with life there. Aside from no one to run and play with, dealing with her gradma is tough on her. She is very noticably introverted when grandma is around, due to constant scolding and negtivity, but when Tomoe or I are alone with her, she is active and talkative and smiles a lot.

We have long assumed that one day we will be taking over as her leagal guardians, originally thinking it would be when either Tomoe's mother or father dies, but after this last week I told Tomoe's father that we are ready for/want her anytime/as soon as possible. It stresses me to see her living there amongst the clutter and suppressed life, but there is also the issue of her father, who lives nearby and she stays with on the weekends. If she were to come live with us here, she would be happier in all regards except that her father is so far away. He would also be upset, I think. Then there is the grandma. I am not sure, but it seems that the one thing that keeps her going is taking care of her granddaughter. Given her worsening illness, I wonder what would happen if we were to take the girl away.

Still, I believe that it is in the girl's best interest to get out of the situation, as does her grandfather and Tomoe. What is the best thing to do here? It causes Tomoe stress and causes me sadness. She has her whole life ahead of her, and I want it to be the best it can be, but I don't want to ruin her father or grandmother's hope for living.

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