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Monday, October 21, 2013

Odds and Ends

Japan has experienced multiple typhoons over the past few weeks. It has been difficult to get anything done around the house. We managed to finish lining the septic system drain area with railroad ties. Erika collected a few bags of Cosmos seeds from around the neighborhood. She sprinkled the area with the seeds and hopefully we’ll have some colorful flowers in our yard next year.

We managed to dig a trench from the workshop to the house. The trench is for running electricity to the workshop.

All this work made Lucky tired.
We’ll have 20 amps and 30 amps available for my tools and lights. A power line is also going to my future observatory. I had to install an access door in the ceiling of the bathroom in order to reach the back of the circuit breaker panel. The door allows access to route wires from the panel to the outside of the house without disturbing any of the finished walls. I was shocked “pardon the pun” to see how the wires were routed above the ceiling. I couldn’t find a single wire clamp. This would never pass inspection in the U.S., but this is Japan, and this is how it’s done. I’ll tidy the wire installation up as most of what is hidden from view will be visible after the house is remodeled. It’s kind of scary to think of the wiring practices that I have uncovered. I found a junction of 12 gauge wires wrapped in electrical tape. They wires had wire nuts, but no junction box. A few of the wires were just hanging in the air without any support. I don’t like these kinds of surprises. Surprises equal more work!

A couple of weekends ago, we managed to squeeze in a small community “get together” with a few families at our home. The families provided the food and we provided the place to barbeque. The kids had fun running around. We toasted some marshmallows and took at peek at the moon with my giant binoculars. They signed the guestbook and we called it a night. This will probably be the last barbeque for the year as the nighttime temperatures are quickly dropping. It was 4 degrees (Celsius) last night.    George

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Two Years

This month marks our 2nd anniversary in Japan. This post is a hodgepodge of my experiences over the past 730 days. Please excuse the lack of continuity in my writing. We have finally settled into our daily routines. I still can’t speak the language. I’ve become a very good interpreter of gestures and broken English. I’ve grown accustomed to the slower pace of life. It was easy to adapt to the foods that are available in Japan. I still can’t believe I can purchase school lunches for only 4100 yen per month. I love teaching and watching the kids have fun with English. I don’t miss my former occupation at all. Erika misses the big paychecks, but she doesn’t miss the stress that went along with it.

Driving on the wrong side of the road now feels like the right side. The weather can sometimes be unbearably hot and humid, although for the most part, I love the weather in Tsukahara. We have only used the air-conditioner one time when we had guests. Living in the countryside means living with nature. Living with nature means living with insects. It has become second nature to spray on the insect repellant in the summer before walking the dogs. Living at 2500 feet  means that a hat and sunscreen are a necessity. Springtime is the season for finding wood that’s suitable for burning. Autumn is the season for processing firewood. Winter is a magical time in Tsukahara. The air is fresh and crisp. The landscape is clean and frozen. It’s remarkably silent.

Any complaints? Sure, but…hey, this is reality. I don’t like the way animals are treated here. Some of the cultural policies are outdated. Students have to spend way too much time with activities away from home. The speed limit is insanely slow. Cars and trucks are allowed to spew clouds of black smoke as they climb the mountain to Tsukahara. Farmers like to burn their fields on the clearest days of the year. We have English teacher meetings in Japanese and these meetings are about why the students don’t speak English. I can go on, but what’s the point?

Any regrets? Other than not moving sooner, nope. Living in the Japan countryside is hard work. It’s inconvenient. So, why live there? I have a million dollar view for a fraction of the cost. Most importantly, medical is affordable and easy to access. I don’t have to worry about any medical issues taking away my life’s savings. I can walk in the neighborhood without a second thought about my safety. Everyone knows everyone. I never get tired of saying “hello” as I’m greeted by neighbors and friends. We are often given fruits and vegetables that are grown by the neighbors as we walk the dogs. There is a sense of community that I have never felt living on the west coast of the U.S. It’s a priceless feeling to go to bed without the worry of a noisy neighbor keeping me up all night. I love to wake up to the neighbor’s rooster signaling the start of another beautiful day in Tsukahara. I can go on, but you’ve heard it all before in my earlier posts.

It’s been two years, but who’s counting? We still have a long way to go before we can comfortably call Japan, “Home Sweet Home”, but we’re headed in the right direction. Thank you for reading our blog and please feel free to comment. We’d love to hear from you.    George