Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Our new home - Japan

The house we live in was the Mayor's home 20 years ago. There are three bedrooms and an office, making it bigger than our place in Juneau. You can see our laundry line on the left side....One of my favorite things to do is hang laundry to dry. This is common practice.... the dryer sucks up a lot of electricity and takes for-EVER. I love the way the clothes smell when they come off the line. Every home, no matter how small, has a veggie garden, our little strip is out back.

Like all homes here, the toilet is in a seperate room from the sink and shower. If you look carefully you can see a faucet-like fixture on the back of the tank. When you flush, clean water comes out and goes into the tank. We think it might be for washing hands so I've put some soap and a towel in there but like the family before us, we've decided to wash down the hall in the sink room. There's just something about washing that close to the bowl. Please note our "bathroom shoes" just inside the door. Traditionally there are outdoor shoes, indoor shoes, and shoes exclusively used for in the bathroom. We put those there so our neighbor's aren't grossed out when they come over but we don't really wear them.

Loved our welcome sign which still hasn't come down three weeks later. Here is a view into our kitchen. We have a gas range but no oven. Instead, microwaves double as mini ovens..... it's like easy bake all over again! Since everything is in miniature, the fridge holds very little at a time. That's ok since portions are all individual. The only thing that comes in bulk here is rice as far as I can tell. I'm thinking this is because the majority of Japan's population lives in close quarters in cities? As a result I shop daily.

All the bedrooms have these beautiful tatami mats on the floors. They smell good, a little like sweetgrass. The doors between rooms slide and have beautiful murals of trees and cranes on the insides. Traditionally, the layers of futon would be folded up every morning and tucked away in these great closet spaces. We've converted Nova's futon closets into a little reading cubby and clothes space. The windows have 4 sliding layers, the screen, (imperative), the glass, a third frosted glass then drapes.

Nova and her band of street wise friends.... Sachi 3, Ryuya 7, and Wakava 5. (I hope I spelled everyone's names right). These three live on either side of our house and are Nova's best playmates.... mine too. :) I've said it before but I'm amazed at how well the children play together without common language. I guess play is a universal language in itself. It's really a lovely thing to see.

Shawn rides his bike to work on the first day of school. Book bag full and guitar case in hand. This was before he obtained his Japanese driver's license.... (I'm hoping he will post that story soon, it's a good one!) He teaches at the elementary and middle schools in Nishiokoppe and the school for all lower grades in Kamiokoppe..... a huge building where there are only 5 students and six teachers! These are small rural communities in dairy farming country but hiring an English teacher is still a huge priority to their school district. I wish we were so lucky in the states.

The middle school teachers put on an awesome BBQ for their beginning of the term party in Shawn's honor. Miso marinated Salmon, scallops, octopus, squid and cow's throat were among the tastier fare. Shawn has surprised us all with his new found love for raw seafood. I'm not quite there but if it's rolled in some rice, seaweed and fish eggs I'm more game. Nova seems to have mastered chopsticks and has traded pizzza for ramen as her favorite food. The fresh seafood here came from one teacher's father who is a fisherman. The coast is only 15 miles or so from Nishiokoppe.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

First Week In Nishiokoppe

After 9 hours, flying from Anchorage, in a 400 passenger plane we landed in Tai Pei to switch planes for another 4 hours to Hokkaido and the 5 hour drive to Nishiokoppe. How do you say exhausting in Japanese?
Nova playing at the Tai Pei airport in the children's area. This was the shiniest airport I'd ever seen. You can see where children have taken their shoes off before entering the playspace. Double click on the photo to enlarge and read a very eastern set of playground rules.
Two days after we arrived in Nishiokoppe Nova and I were covered in these spots. We presumed it was mizu boso (water blisters) aka chicken pox since they don't immunize for it here. We later discovered we are sensitive to "bed bugs". A good cleaning to the futons, tatami and bug bomb of the house has kept us spot free for three days.
Ohara-san; our gracious guide since we arrived. He works in the Bureau of Education office where Shawn has spent the last week before the start of school. Mr. Ohara speaks very little English but between charades, pictionary, and our phrase books we get along just fine. Mr. O's trademark move; referring to his phrase book while he's driving.
Nova and her new friend Sachi during their first play date. Sachi is three and lives down the street. Our neighborhood is "kid city". I love watching Nova make friends despite the language barrier. No English/Japanese needed for water gun fights and bike riding.

Wedding in Gustavus

Just a word about Gustavus.... awesome! I was glad to visit before our trip to Japan but sorry to have waited so long. Gustavus is the small gateway community to Glacier Bay and a quick 25 minute prop plane ride from Juneau. Nova with her harvest from the incredible Gustavus Inn garden, just before wild strawberry picking. A truly dreamy day.
Applying Nova's make-up just before her big moment as
flower girl.
Nova's task... to walk Oliver the English Springer Spaniel puppy across the lawn toward the guests. Easier said than done as Oliver experiences a rare lazy moment and Lindsey kindly helps. The wedding and trip to Gustavus were beautiful. CONGRATULATIONS NOELLE AND CLARK!