Tuesday, 2 August 2011

still here

Despite the length of absence, I'm still here and so is the blog......... just about. It's August now, so there's been a long gap since the last post. No apologies, no excuses, just carry on....... lol
It's hot and muggy outside and floor and ceiling fans aren't quite doing the job, so the a/c gets put on while bracing for an expensive electricity bill... yikes. I do not like the heat, and even more so the humidity. I'm much happier in the autumn or winter. October is perfect, November even... Currently, it's about 28C but feels like 31c and humidity is about 75%.
Typhoon No. 9 is winding its way up towards us at the moment. If we're lucky, it'll veer off westwards (meaning either China or SE Asia will get hit instead ... sorry guys). If it goes on its current path, it will probably go through Korea, giving us a sideswipe. This typhoon keeps changing course, so we don't know yet what it's going to do, but it looks like it might be the weekend - as all good typhoons are! Hah!
As a comment on the heat, one of our cats sleeps like this - has to air out the parts, you know......
The other one finds places like this
or this.....

I don't know whether she's lonely or just likes getting in the way, but she burrows her way onto the desk of whoever is sitting down and then starts to stretch and push books off left right and centre. If the person leaves the desk, she does too..... weird cat......

Friday, 29 October 2010

As I said ......

......... an irregular blog...

Lots of things going on, but no energy, time, motivation to write it up. I haven't given up on the blog, just ........... being irregular........ The intentions are there, and "I'll be back."

Friday, 3 September 2010

Come on, enough already! Turn down the heat!

It was 35C today! It's September already, isn't it?!?
Often, by this stage, we're on typhoon no. 19 or so, but this last week, there was typhoon no.s 6, 7 and 8 - all at the same time, but at least they were all on the small side. Everyone is expecting a conveyor belt of typhoons, including big ones, from here on in.......
We've already broken the record for hottest August, maybe also we'll get the "highest number of typhoons in a short period" or the "latest typhoon ever" or the "biggest" one, or......... okay, okay. I think my brain is sizzling here.
Our living/dining/kitchen air conditioner broke down late July, just before we were to go to Ireland for a holiday. We got a guy out to look at it when we got back and were told that the circuit board was gone and that that model was no longer being made, so we'd have to buy a new a/c! Lovely! A week later, we got the new one put in - heaven.
It's bigger, it's better, it's cleverer than all those preceeding it - that's called progress! ;-)
This a/c follows you around! You can tell it to go away, if you want, and it can tell you that you're burning too much CO2! It can also tell you that it's burning a hole in your bank account so unless you wish to live in debt, you'd better turn the temperature up, or turn the whole thing off! An a/c with an attitude! Is that reverse progress?
We also "had to" replace our TV. It's been acting up since spring last year and all the hitting on the side has caused it to buckle, so we reckoned that rather than hit our way through the casing, we'd better replace that too.....
It's bigger, it's better....... but unless the programmes improve, it's not going to get any more use than the last one..........
Now, my car is also acting up........... if it's not one thing, it's another.......... teenage machines!! You can't live with 'em but even more so, you definitely can't live without 'em. More's the pity.

Monday, 26 July 2010


17 - the number of years I've been in Japan - as of yesterday.
14 - the number of years I've been married - as of 2 weeks ago.
10 - the number of years I've lived in this house.
04 - the number of hours till I finish work this evening ;-)
64 - the number of hours till I start flying back to Europe.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Summer has set in

Well, the rainy season is finally over. But there have been thunderstorms practically every day because of the heat and humidity. We live on a hill so we get a bit of a breeze and it's a bit cooler than surrounding areas, but it still goes over 30, and has gotten up to 38C, though not this year so far - touch wood. If it weren't for the thunderstorms everything would be brown unless you watered the garden.

The first summer we lived in this house (or rather, I lived, as Y was still living in the previous city), you could see the thunderstorms coming in from the mountains to the south. The tops of the mountains would be covered with dark cloud and the lightning would flash left, right, left, centre, right. The sheet of cloud would move towards the house, rather like the huge UFO in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, taking up the whole sky. There'd be thunder and lightning and torrential rain - for about 30 minutes and then the whole thing would pass off north - until the next day. If the rain lasted longer than 20 minutes or so it would cool the place down, especially if the storm was late afternoon. However, the last couple of years most of the storms have been only in the mountains, with the occasional one dropping in. The lightning is amazing, but the rain isn't enough to cool anything down.

The image of summer in Japan, for people raised here anyway, includes things like 風鈴 (fuu-rin, or wind bells); トンボ(tom-bo, dragonflies); 祭り(matsu-ri, festivals) and 花火 (hana-bi, fireworks). Less romantic images are beer gardens, sweating away in a really hot kitchen and thereby losing your appetite altogether to eat whatever you sweated to make, typhoons, food poisoning and just getting really run-down because of the heat and the inclination to eat only cold foods that are quick to prepare and nice at the time, and I'm not talking only about icecream! Wow! Three of those mention food! No, I'm not obsessive about food, but I do get really tired in the summer and rarely want to stand in the kitchen without the a/c on and a floor fan standing in the entrance. Even then it's difficult!

In the summer months here, the dragonflies are so common that sometimes it seems you have to beat your way through in order to walk in the garden. The most common ones I've seen are red, but there are other colours and I found this guy/gal attached to a stick near the front door. Gorgeous colour.

Dragonfly images show up in summer interior goods - towels, curtains, dishes, hand-held fans, and many many more items, including the summer greeting postcards that some people send.

Summer is also a 'gift-giving' season with 中元 (chuu-gen, mid-year gifts) being sent to friends, acquaintances and people who you "are in debt to" for something or other. This tradition isn't as common as it used to be, but I get presents from some people, and in the past have been given such presents as olive oil sets (6 or so bottles of different grades of oil); packs of noodles (good summer food!); washing detergent sets (detergent and conditioner - 3 or 4 packs of each); cheese baskets (very nice present ;-) ). Winter has another gift-giving occasion with year-end gifts being called お歳暮 (o-sei-bo). I have one student who gives me both mid-year AND year-end gifts!

Monday, 12 July 2010

It is STILL raining!

We had a couple of reasonable days, reasonable being defined by the fact that we could open the windows and not get either blown out of it, or drenched by the rain. But overall, it has been raining for the better part of the last few weeks. ENOUGH already!
Today is no exception. Currently, it is pouring out of the heavens and is quite windy at the same time. It's dark, and humid and I really just want to curl up in bed and sleep it out. Preferably with the a/c unit on its dehumidifier setting, and the ceiling fan on, and a nice mug of coffee when I wake up. I know, I know, there is such a thing as ice coffee, but no matter how hot and muggy it gets, I want my coffee hot.

This picture is of the water runoff area across the road from our house. It's quite deep and the grasses are tall. You rarely actually see any water in it, but these past few weeks, after some of the really heavy rain, the water level rises. It's not too bad here, but at times you can't see the grass because of the water.

In summer, this place is a haven for frogs. They're especially noisy at night, and sometimes it makes it hard to sleep. The bull frog chorus isn't exactly a lullaby!

Because of all the rain and the heat, the garden looks like an untamed swamp. The weeds are practically knee-high, and while many of them can be taken out with a good pull, the weather is totally uncooperative when it comes to free time. You have time? It pours. No time? Only a drizzle. Don't forget, you need your wellies (so you don't sink) and practically full armour to protect yourself from all the mosquitoes and other biting insects.

However, this morning while I was vacuuming the room, I spotted two female pheasants wandering around the garden. I think they were happy because the weeds gave them some sort of protection. But, one of my cats spotted them, and started crying at them (window was open slightly) and the birds ran off. NOT however, before I got a couple of photos.

So, here they are, my Monday morning guests:

Please ignore the state of the garden - afterall, the pheasants like it ;-)

Friday, 18 June 2010

Rainy Season is upon us - and the wildlife knows it!

Barring Hokkaido up north, most of Japan has a "rainy season." Officially, this is a 6 week period, from June to mid-July of, guess what - rain! At times, torrential rain. And thunder, and lightning. And humidity. And mould. And bugs!!!!

The Meteorological Agency puts out "Warnings" and "Advisories" coloured respectively red and yellow. At the moment, most of the prefecture I live in is yellow. Yellow for heavy rain, floods and thunderstorms. Ah yes, a sign of things to come........ though there were rumours that this year's rainy season might be a "dry" one. The last couple of years, it has been starting late, starting out dry and then well and truly making up for it in the latter half of its alloted period.

Japan sits along a line of volcanoes (and we have an active one up the road - more another time) and so is very mountainy, the soil is not very stable, and there are lots of earthquakes. So, every year, during the rainy season, and then during the summer thunderstorms, and then during the typhoons, there are a lot of landslides. These can be little things, blocking a bit of road, or these can be huge disasters, where the side of a mountain slides and villages or parts thereof can be basically wiped out.
When I first came to Japan I lived in Minamata, in the south of Kumamoto, and 7 years ago, there was a huge landslide which killed 19 people. A bit too close to home.

Rainy season also brings out the wildlife. Animals are said to be able to tell the weather, and there are lots of old wives tales that say, if you see so-and-so doing such-and-such, it's going to be a hot/cold summer/winter or a bad/good rainy season.
Well, all I know is that before every rainy season and before every winter, the bugs, especially the horrible ones, try to get away and come inside.

There are the usual spiders - of various sizes. Some are the size of a fingernail, others the size of your hand. Then there are the "mukade" - poisonous centipedes that seem to travel in pairs. These things can be long, and fast. Some of the ones around here have orange or purple legs - lots of them, obviously. Then, there are the gejigeji, for some reason translated as "house centipede" and its name shows up in the Japanese translation of "bushy eyebrow," so that'll give you an image of what they look like! These are horrible things. And they are fast!!

And then, my most recent shivery sighting was a snake that must have been close to 3 metres long!!
Ugh. Thankfully, it wasn't anywhere near the house and so wasn't trying to come in (others have done so - tried to come in!) but still, ugh!

I was driving to work on a road with wooded hills on the left and fields on the right. It was just after some really heavy rain and the bamboo was bent over under the weight of the water. Some way ahead of me I could see there was something on the road, and thought it was some broken branches or grass. There were a couple of cars parked on the right, so I couldn't change lanes.

All of a sudden, the long thing reared up and slithered off into the grass on the left. Brrr.... I probably avoided driving over the snake by a couple of seconds. Thankfully its radar was working, but I really wish it had considered somewhere else for a rest spot.

The closest to a BIG snake I've been was through the front door, so, what ... a foot or so?
I was inside and Y had gone out to the shop. I went down to the front door to unlock it for him, but saw something weird on the outside of it. Our front door has a window in the upper half and there is a lattice covering it. Spread across this lattice, was a big, fat snake!! Obviously, I couldn't see how long it was, so I went into the room beside the entrance and tried to look out without opening the window - didn't want to risk opening it....... Couldn't see it. So, I tried to bang on the door from the inside to scare it off, but it wouldn't budge.

I knew Y would be home soon, and didn't know if it was a poisonous snake or not, so I waited at the room window ready to yell at Y not to go near the door. When he got back, he never noticed the snake (?!!?) and couldn't work out why I was frantically gesticulating at the window, but wouldn't open it ;-)
He then saw it. And got a stick to make noise to get it to move off. I was watching the door from the inside and saw it start to slither away, it took a good while to disappear off. Ugh.

Now, one of those old-wives tales involves snakes. Apparently, a sighting of a snake means there's money coming your way .................. I'm waiting...........

Just so nobody leaves the blog with images of horrible slithering snakes, I'll post an image of one of our cats spread luxuriously out over 2, not 1, but 2 cushions, on the back of the sofa - so comfortable looking!