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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

City vs. Countryside Part 1

There were certain things that came with living in the countryside that I didn’t have living in the suburbs. The obvious ones were peace and quiet, room to breathe, and beautiful scenery. The less obvious things had to deal with a well and a septic system, the extreme closeness with nature, and the inconveniences. I mentioned a well and septic because these things were vital to have in the countryside. I’ve lived in the city where the water and sewer were something you took for granted. It was always there when I needed them. I discovered that well water was something that needed to be watched and cared for. In the city, the water was treated with all sorts of chemicals to ensure that it was safe to consume. When I drank the well water, I had no idea what to expect. No chemicals or additives made the water drinkable. The water was pure and right out of the ground. That fact was both reassuring and scary at the same time. It was reassuring because I was drinking water that was purified by nature. It was scary because I was responsible for the water that I drank. If I did anything to harm the environment, it could harm me! A similar observation was made with the septic system. In the city, I could flush whatever I wanted down the toilet. As long as it was out of sight, it was out of mind. The septic system opened up a new way of thinking for me. Septic systems break down debris by using beneficial bacteria. If the bacteria were harmed, then the septic system wouldn’t work properly and an unhealthy, smelly mess would be created. The septic system depended on me to insure that no harm came to the bacteria. By protecting the septic system, I was protecting the environment as well as my bank account. I had to become aware of what I was eating and using around the house. I think we should all live like this. Maybe we would become aware of our impact on the environment and treat nature with greater respect, because in the end, our lives depend on it.
I quickly learned that living in the countryside was inconvenient. For example, when I purchased an item from the store, I had to be aware of how I was going to dispose of the packaging material. Manufacturers love to over package everything. My guess…it’s because it makes the item appear larger than it actually is, it makes the item more attractive, or it keeps the consumer from stealing it. Some packages require a degree in surgery to open them. Anyway, packaging must be discarded somehow. This isn’t a big deal in the city. Just throw it in the garbage can and it’s taken away…out of sight, out of mind. In Japan, they must use a city approved bag. Certain trashes are picked up on certain days. Disposing trash was not only expensive, but also inconvenient in the countryside. The garbage collector doesn’t come to your curb and pick the garbage up. I don’t even have a curb to begin with! The garbage has to be taken to a collection area. Some farmers burn their garbage. The problem is that a lot of the packaging materials are made of plastic and Styrofoam. Burning these items adds harmful chemicals to the environment.
Stores are not readily available near our home. The drive to the store requires a 15 minute drive down a steep, curving, and narrow road. This isn’t a big deal when the weather is nice. The narrow, winding roads in Tsukahara highlands do not have streetlights like in the city. The roads are pitch black and you never know what you might encounter.
Overlook Beppu and Oita
Along with inconveniences are some great conveniences. The best soft-serve ice-cream that I have ever had is within walking distance. Another convenience is the hospital in Yufuin. I was ill for 3 days after drinking some bad tea at a bed and breakfast. I went to the hospital near closing time. I had no insurance. They required only one page of paperwork. Amazing! I had to wait only 5 minutes to see a doctor. This wasn’t just any doctor. He was the assistant director to the hospital. The doctor sat down with me and spoke in English. He listened to my symptoms and showed me a drawing of the gastro-intestinal tract. Then, he explained what was wrong with me. I was given a choice of procedures based on my ability to pay. The doctor then wrote a prescription and continued to chat with me. He wanted to know me as a person, not as a statistic for data on some computer a hundred miles away. I felt as if he cared about me. I had to end the conversation with the doctor because I felt guilty for taking up too much of his precious time. When was the last time you had to do that? The office visit cost an unbelievable $40. I’m looking forward to going again…just kidding.  To be continued…George

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