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September 30, 2010

Don't Worry. I Am Alive.

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I received a phone call today that renewed my faith in humanity.

In the past few weeks I have been followed by two separate television production companies who wanted to show the strange gaijin (foreigner) who not only eats rice, but also grows it in a small rural village. (when I know the air dates, I will let you know.)

One of the thing they, and every other reporter, customer, and passerby asks me, is "What do you like about this place more than Tokyo?" My main answer (among others) is to talk about how we lived in a small apartment on the second floor of a two-story house. The land-lord lived below me, and there was another apartment with a middle-age woman whose door was just a meter from ours -yet, we never saw them.

The neighbor lady would run inside and hide when she heard us coming out the door, and we were not allowed to speak to the land-lord directly. Instead, we had to go through the real-estate agent who helped us find the apartment. This is despite the fact that we would often pass the landlord on the street as she walked her dog.

I am certain that if we had both died, it would be a week before anyone even thought about investigating, and even then, only to see what smelled so bad.

Our first winter here, Tomoe, a friend, and I went for a three day hike on what turned out to be the snowiest day of the year. I had given the neighbor a map showing our intended route, and told him that we have appropriate gear and food for up to six days. We had our cell-phones off so the signal would not interfere with our avalanche beacons. When we arrived at camp, I turned on my phone to find that the neighbor had called me at least once an hour. I called him and assured him that we were fine. He informed me that, as they couldn't get ahold of us, and they had never really heard of anyone camping in the mountains in winter, the community had gotten together to discuss how to come rescue us.

That would never happen in Tokyo.

Today I was proven wrong when a complete stranger (living in Tokyo) called me to make sure I was OK. He was worried that I had not posted anything on my blog since I wrote about my evil urushi rash. Granted, this is probably more a commentary on a person's "blogging community", than on people who live in cities, but still, it made my day.

For anyone else who was worried, this is what was up:

So I was attacked by a walnut tree. Some of the neighbors swear it was urushi, but it is most definitely not, unless there is another variety that is much less common than the one that I am familiar with. After researching, I found that it looks much like a walnut tree, and that walnut is known to be poison - not the nuts, but the green outer shell, and the liquid from the bark. In fact, people here tell of when they were kids they would peel the green layer off the nut, throw it in the river, and collect the fish that came floating to the surface.

I went to the doctor twice, but each time they stabbed me with a needle. I got some anti-histamine pills, which may or may not have made any difference, but they also gave me lots of hormone cream to rub all over my body - because the blisters were all over my body. Problem was, I play with Mona all the time, and I didn't want her licking me, or her own hands after she touches me and they are covered with this slimy medicine, so I only used it when I knew I would be away from Mona. It didn't seem to make any difference either way.

I spent a few days just laying on the floor. Even the thought of typing or holding the camera was painful. I would wake up at night (strangely, it was usually at 3 AM) to insane itching, and bloody arms from scratching in my sleep. I still have huge scabs all over my arms, and tiny little scabs over the rest of my body from scratching.

Once my arms and legs started feeling better, my hands and feet swelled up. I would soak in a tub of luke-warm water each night when I woke up. Sometimes for over two hours. I think this was what is causing my current itch. Just plain dry skin.

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I still wake up at night with itching, but I have wrapped myself with Mona's diaper cloth to prevent me from scratching and drawing blood. I am fine to work, and, after helping organize for a group of computer "dorks?" "nerds?" "geeks?" (I am not sure what term is politically correct) have a hackathon for Open BSD here in the mountains, have been spending the last few days catching up on the rice harvest.


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While I had hoped to do the harvest by hand as we have the past two years, with Mona, we were not comfortable to have many helpers come and stay this year, and then this debilitating rash, so I ended up borrowing a "binder". This is a machine that, like a lawn-mower, mows the rice. I am probably just as fast when I cut it by hand, but the main point is that the "binder" binds, or ties, the rice into bundles instantly. This saves hours and hours and hours. It is also a bit fun to use. Tomoe seems to enjoy it as well.

We have finished all but one small field, which we could have finished today had it not rained in the afternoon. The plan is to clear that tomorrow morning, and do all the small cleaning up of missed rice stalks in a few days, after we come back from our birthday camping trip tomorrow. Its Tomoe and my birthday so we thought we would take Mona for her first camping trip and hike. And we will get to try out the gift from the Open BSD folks - a backpack that you can stuff a baby into.

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September 13, 2010

Would Your Woman Wipe Your Pus?

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I have no photos of the urushi rash, unless you want to pay me, but you would have to be into some sick stuff to want to see them. Maybe I should make you pay *not* to see them. Instead, a photo or two of Mona.

I got some topical creams from the doctor today, but for the most part have been bed-ridden. I didn't sleep much last night, waking up every few minutes to soak my arms in cool water.

Today I spent the afternoon laying on the floor in front of the soothing cooling effect of the fan. When I finally moved there were puddles of pus indicating the exact position of my arms - and that is even after Tomoe wiped some up while I was asleep.

Would your woman wipe your puss?

Its just been getting worse for the past 24 hours. I suspect I have not seen the worst of it yet. Still, Mona is fine, and the neighbor girl, whom I held hands with and picked up when she wanted to see the chickens in the "tall cage", has no signs of rash, but Tomoe has a few spots where she is breaking out. Possibly from my touching something she later touched.

The rash has been spreading quickly. On the one hand, it is a relief - there is no place left for it to spread to. I have no idea what will happen ion terms of scars. I am hoping it will be like one of the evil sunburns I had every summer as a child, but it feels worse than that now, and puddles of pus are not a good sign, I guess.

A TV crew was supposed to come out here Thursday to film us working in the rice field. I called them today to say that even if I am able to work (I doubt it), I will not be the handsome foreigner they were expecting (not sure their audience, or our possible customers, wants to see my pus oozing onto the rice)

In the end, I know I will not die. I chalk this up as one of the amazing experiences in my life - even if it was not on my "100 things to do before I die" list.

September 12, 2010

My Penis Is Itchy

No photos today. I have been struck down with a bad case of poison oak (sumac) - all over my body. It hurts to move (not just itchy). It is on my face, my eyelids, my hands, my arms, my back, my stomach, my thighs, my calves, my toes, and (I know it is out of order but...) my bum and my penis.

Mom never told me to wash my hands *BEFORE* I go wee-wee.

Yesterday Tomoe and I were working in the yard. There was a tree growing out of the stone wall dividing our property from the neighbors property below. We thought we should cut it down, lest it grow too large and the roots damage the wall.

I did it with bare hands. In shorts and a t-shirt.

It did not look like Urushi (Poison sumacl) It did not follow the recognizable patterns. A neighor had told us that is was kiri.

I cut it, and we discussed the possibility that the leaves may be useful for tea - "lets check it out later."

I stripped each branch and leaf off of the tree with my bare hands.

This was the morning. I use my t-shirt as a rag. I wiped anything form my hands on my t-shirt, (including the oils from the urushi tree) and through the day used that same t-shirt to wipe sweat from my face.

It is not a good situation. I peed. I pooped. I got urushi oil on the places you least want to get it.

I have had Urushi rash many many times. Usually it is just an annoying itch. This times it HURTS. Whatever you do, do NOT strip leaves from a poison sumac tree with bare hands and then caress your entire body.

The worst thing is that, if past experience is any indicator, this will last for up to a week.

September 07, 2010

A Year From Today

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I realize I have not taken many pictures of the state of our house and its surroundings, and since I am determined to get everything in order this year before the snow comes, I need this for a record to see how bad it was compared to this same time next year.

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Or how good it was in some cases - such as Tomoe's paper pots which are now growing seedlings and almost ready to be placed directly into the soil where they will simply decompose without having to disturb the roots by taking them out of the pot.

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September 06, 2010

Mona Likes Noodles

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And she likes to play in her pee.

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And she is teaching me how to use my Polaroid 340 Land Camera

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