Thursday, December 04, 2014


Katy tagged me for questionnaire thingy and usually I just ignore such requests, but as she said... I have a little time on my hands, so just this once, I'll answer for you Katy!  Sorry, but I'm not going to bother nominating anyone else....

As a background for anyone who happens to stumble on this blog... 7 weeks ago tomorrow I was admitted to a Japanese hospital with some form of auto-immune disease and am currently reducing the medication to a level where I will hopefully be released sometime next week.... it has been a long road, but a good chance for contemplation, relaxation and learning time-wasting management skills! 

Questions from Katy..... 
1. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Right now... a morning person.  I get up at 6am and start wandering the empty halls of the hospital on my 25 minute morning exercise route.  I was told there were no cameras operating, and I'm hoping that is the case.... otherwise there will be a lot of entertainment in the observation room as they watch the foreigner striding out around all the different departments, waving her arms in every direction, going round and round in circles, doing a few squats here and there and even a few laps of sideways star jumps and some skipping.... I go for an afternoon walk too, but it is much more restrained as there often a few people around.

2. What is your favorite season and why?
I would normally say spring, because I love all the new growth etc., but this year I'm going to say winter.  I am so looking forward to going home and spending this winter quietly getting back into real life, sorting out what I want to do from here on in, and generally taking it easy in front of our wonderful warm fire.  The perfect season to not feel the need to be out in the garden or rushing around doing things.  And of course winter brings Christmas... in Japan anyway! 

3. If you can chose between time and money, which would you chose?
Time.  If there is one thing that these 7 weeks have taught me it is the importance of slowing down and appreciating the small things in life.  Drinking your coffee while it is still HOT, brushing your teeth while not doing 20 other things, not feeling guilty about taking a nap when you feel the need, but most of all... making time for friends and family. 
Since being in here I have had visits from so many friends and family that I haven't been able to talk with slowly for many months or even years.  It has been great to catch up with everyone and has reinforced the importance of keeping in touch with friends, not just over a rushed coffee, but actually MAKING the time to sit down and talk.    I'm always looking for positive things from this experience and this is one of the major ones.

4. What do you think is the greatest thing about yourself?
Apart from the fact that I have managed to survive 7 weeks in a Japanese hospital without going completely crazy?  Probably my people-watching skills.  I love to observe people and I think it then makes it easy for me to make connections with people reasonably quickly.  This has been a huge benefit here - my mobile phone is loaded with people that I have met here in the hospital, that I have plodded up the stairs with, reassuring each other regarding our situations, and generally enjoying each other's company.

5. What is your favorite country and where would you like to go to next?
Japan.  Of course I love New Zealand too, but things have changed so much in the 18 years I have been away that I often feel more of a foreigner when I am back in New Zealand.
I have always dreamed of going to Turkey, but right now a holiday on a tropical island somewhere sounds rather appealing...

6. Cat person or dog person?
Cat - especially if it will snuggle on my knee.  As much as the kids would love a dog, I am just too lazy to look after it properly. 

7. What makes you most happy in life?
Support from my family and friends.  And chocolate!  I have always been a bit of a stubborn person, always trying to be completely independent, not wanting to rely on anyone for anything.  Asking for help has never been my strength.  This experience has shown me that there are times when it is important to ask for help and most importantly to accept the help without feeling guilty about it.  During this whole ordeal the support I have had from family and friends has almost been overwhelming.  I'm looking forward to being able to repay this support whenever the need arises.

8. If you could change your past, what would you like to change?
Nothing.  Bad times mean you appreciate the good times more so changing them wouldn't make my current life any better. 

9. What is your favorite color and why?
Burgundy.  Because... I like it.... can't think of any other reason!

10. Would you want to be famous?
I guess it depends on your definition of famous.  I wouldn't want to be famous in the sense of celebrity status, but I would like to be famous in the eyes of my children..... not quite there yet, but working on it!

11. The last compliment you got?
"Your face hasn't reached the full moon stage yet"..... and then I took off my mask, and was informed that perhaps it had, so I'm not sure if it makes it a compliment or not!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Taking a forced break

I apologize to those of you who have been checking this blog in the hope of a little glimpse into our lives here in rural Japan.... the lives are going on, just with a slightly different twist to them!
Unfortunately life has dealt me a few hard blows over the last month and I have been in hospital for the last few weeks.  Don't worry, nothing life threatening, but the need to slowly reduce medication means it is going to take more than another month before I will be able to be get back home.
This blog will therefore be on hold until then.  I do have a private blog where I am writing about my hospital life here so that my family and friends can get all the information they need in one place.  I'm guessing that I may eventually make it a public one (it is becoming less and less medical and more and more general Japan hospital life stuff!), but if there is anyone that would really be interested in reading it please send me a message and I can add you to the list.

Thank you for all the positive comments regarding this blog in the past - being part of a cyber community has been an interesting and supportive experience.  It will return, but for now I am just dreaming of getting back into rural life....!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Adults English Conversation

My adult conversation classes basically consist of one and a half hours of free talk in English accompanied by good coffee and even better homemade cakes.  There are always some words or phrases that people have trouble with so I use a small white board to explain and confirm things.   During the lessons I only wipe out only sections of the white board to make room for new words etc. so it is always interesting to see how the board will look at the end of the lesson.  On Monday it looked like the photo above...... art was never my strong point....10 points to those who can work out what we were actually talking about!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Trading up

No, I haven't dropped off the end of the world...... things just always seem to get a bit out of control over the long Japanese school summer holidays.  Hopefully I'll get some mojo back soon and at least attempt to keep up with happenings here and maybe even get around to catching up on some of the things that have happened in the last month or more.  Maybe!

If you have been following this blog you may remember an entry I did on the number of kilometers I travel every day ferrying my children here, there, and everywhere.  My car is reasonably fuel efficient, but still the monthly fuel costs were getting higher and higher.  After a little convincing we decided that in an attempt to cut down on some of these costs my husband would part with his beloved Nissan Safari - a big, diesel guzzling machine that really isn't necessary in our narrow-roaded countryside!  With only a few tears it was traded in for a hybrid Toyota Aqua... which has now been passed onto me and my husband has inherited my old car.  Getting used to not having to take a key out of my bag to get into it and get it started is taking a little bit to get used to, but I'm sure by next week it will all be second nature.  For now it is fun to try and see exactly how fuel efficient I can make it.  It has to be better than the 9km/litre the Safari used to use!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Off on a big boat

This morning I left home at 5am to take my son to board a rather large boat with 600 other children.  The boat is bound for Okinawa and in total he will be away for 5 days and 4 nights.  Having a son who is literally head and shoulders above all the other participants (including the staff) proved to be very useful when trying to find him among all the other white and blue uniforms!  I even had another mother from the same group come up to me and thank me for having such a tall son as it meant she could also find their group very quickly.
In true Japanese form the boat was due to leave at 8:30am and despite having to get through lots of speeches and get all 600 kids on board it left at exactly 8:30am.  If anyone is interested in seeing what they are doing there is an excellent blog that is updated regularly.  Unfortunately it is all in Japanese, but the pictures are great.   Shonen no fune   If you look very carefully in the third picture above you may be able to spot Masaki.... I could find him immediately!  Here's hoping he is still standing upright when they arrive back on Tuesday.

And yes, this is the same journey Emily took 3 years ago... only on a slightly different boat!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

What to do when you've done everything

My sister and brother-in-law have just been for a 10 day visit.  They lived in this area for a year about 4 years ago so they have seen most of the general things as well as some of the not so general things.  In an attempt to find a few new experiences we decided to go on a tour of a toilet factory - something that is not usually on the tourist itinerary!
Japan produces fantastic toilets - in fact I think they are one of the most photographed things in Japan, perhaps coming a close second to vending machines.  We were on a private tour and it turned out to be fascinating.  It was the Toto factory in Nakatsu and I would have to say we were treated like royalty.
We turned up at the gate and were immediately shown to the parking lot by a kind man on a bicycle.  We were then greeted by two people who took our photo (and later presented it to us at the end of the tour) and then gave us an interesting PowerPoint presentation about the history of the company and the basic products that they make at the factory.  We then headed in through the factory to see how they make toilet bowls and wash basins.  I think what struck me the most was how much people are involved in the process rather than machines.  Of course they use machines for some things and some of their robots used for drilling holes and painting were pretty impressive.  But so much of the work seemed to be done by people in teams.  
Their quality checks were also very thorough.  As well as checking for cracks, visible imperfections and whether every part was level or not they had a great way of checking for if the toilet would flush properly or not.  They paint some coloured water on the bowl (the pee) and then put a piece of cloth (the toilet paper), and 5 sausage shaped weights (the poo) into the bowl and then put in the average volume of water needed for a flush.  If anything is left in the bowl after this exercise then the bowl is put in the defect line.
Another thing that I was impressed with was the fact there is basically no waste produced at the factory and their focus is very much on looking after the environment.  All products which are rejected before they get to the firing stage are made back into clay and made into new products.  All products which are rejected after they have been fired are broken up and used as gravel at schools etc.
Their focus is very much on preserving water and their current toilets only use 4.8 litres of water for an average flush, compared to 20 litres when they first started producing toilets.
We weren't able to take any photos inside the factory, but if you click here it gives a bit of an idea of the process. 
Today I received a hand written letter from them thanking us for coming and welcoming us back any time.  Fantastic service from a fantastic company!  I recommend their tour to anyone who is looking for something different to do in this area.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

More athletics videos

A couple more videos of the latest athletics competition.  It was a competition to determine who will get to go to the All Japan Championships..... .Yokohama here we come again!  Finals time (100m) 12.61 another personal best.  Sorry - I haven't had a chance to edit them....