Friday, December 15, 2006

Now without further ado...

Pleix: Birds.
(needs sound -- loud is good; headphones are better)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Jumpin Jehosephat!

My first Japanese earthquake. I've felt em in Ottawa and Vancouver, and in both cases, it was one of those "Is that a truck going by?" moments, but this was distinctly different. The Vancouver one lasted a long time. I was in bed in my basement apartment in Point Grey when everything started swinging, and it just kept doing that for about 30 seconds. In contrast, the one here was all up and down shaking, like being *on* a truck with its shocks gone, but it lasted perhaps a scant 4 or 5 seconds.

The Japan Meteorological Agency had it on their website just minutes later. A 3.5 in neighbouring Aichi Prefecture, with a local, just a 1-pointer but directly here in Kitagata Cho, at 21:55, originating 40 miles below the surface.


kitagata rumble

Well, it's been awhile since I've updated. Took about 2 weeks just to transfer the internet account over to the new address. Japan is not a place for transients of any stripe. The new place is pretty cool. Or cold, rather. I'm not used to this lack-of-central-heat thing they've got going on. Call it culture shock or ethnocentricity or whatever else you like, I can't for the life of me figure out why Japanese houses and apartments have no insulation. There's no reason. They still heat em in the winter and cool em in the summer. There's no need for all that unecessary heat transfer.

My kerosene heater (just beeping at me now to say it needs a fuel refill) keeps track of the current room temperature as well as what I've asked it to hit, and lately it seems to be about 12 degrees celcius in my living room until I crank the thing on. I don't have it on much. It is kerosene, and stories and warnings abound about accidental asphyxiation. You need to air the room out every hour or two, or more frequently in a smaller space. I keep my sliding doors to the kitchen and actual bedroom (currently filled with boxes of stuff) closed so this room heats up faster but fills with fumes faster, too. So I don't use it much. But damn, it gets cold in here.

I've been sick the past few days and it's no wonder. I thought going in and out of air con in the summer was bad. Try living room (warm) to kitchen (cold) to bedroom (super cold with lots of windows) back to the living room again, or the school staff room (very warm) to the halls (very cold) to classrooms (warm again) and then maybe outside (not cold by Canadian standards, but still cold in a business suit and slippers).

The heaters are cool, retro-looking things. Here's a shot of them during a staff meeting I wasn't obliged to attend:

retro school heaters

They certainly are nice, though I wonder about the fumes, since there appears to be no venting of any kind. At any given time, there's a fair chance of seeing a teacher or two huddled around one of these things.

The move to the new apartment went alright. Julie and I worked at a pretty steady pace, and in the end it took all day. From about 9:30 in the morning when we picked up our truck, to something like 8:00 that night. Super-close move. Just one tiny one-way, maybe 200 metres worth, and we'd have had a much shorter trip for each load. But no. Instead, we had to wind this crazy path through neighbourhood roads, past a pedestrian-only bridge over the nearby closed train line, past a tiny, tiny bridge that I dared not go over more than once, to a main road, turn left, another main road, turn left, road, left, and there we are. A crazy spiral. Over and over again.

Except for the fridge. I don't know much about moving fridges, but Julie and I got in a discussion about defrosting, and looking up fridge moving on the internet, I discovered that fridges cannot be moved horizontally unless its ok'd by your particular manufacturer or else all kinds of nasty things can happen. Well, a vertical move just wasn't going to happen with our sizeable but short van, so off we went to get a dolly. Except that dollies are apparently nigh-unheard of here. At least the type I wanted: two-wheeled, with angle-irons at the bottom to tilt an appliance back on and wheel away. No, the school had one of those. On loan. And they wouldn't re-loan it. So I was stuck with one of the types common here: 4-wheeled, no tilting, and we opted for an ancient-looking green-painted one because it was lower than the modern, well-oiled looking one beside it. Then we obtained the help of a neighbourhood Australian friend and off we went. And it looked something like this.

more cool Gaijin action

You know. Through the neighbourhood and over that pedestrian bridge I told you about. Three gaijin and a fridge. (good name for a comedy troupe) A spectacle and then some in a town with few foreigners of any kind.

Another of Andrew and I crossing the old train bridge

And here it now is. A family-sized fridge, other JETs would apparently kill for. (And all I had to do was pay a family-sized rent for a few months and drop a few thousand in extras to get it) The apartment is quite lovely. A nice size. Efficiently-built. Cold as hell as I said, but nice. No tatami room (which Jules in particular misses), but a nice bay window looking out on a rice field and huge yard and gardens of some houses behind it, which helps offset the view from my front door: the parking lot of a church-like coffee/curry house, and across the road, the Circle K, not quite as bright as "Big Max" but plenty lit with fluorescents itself.

The place is still a mess. Having been sick lately, and also in denial, I haven't done much to the place yet, but it will be much comfier (and more affordable) than the last place. Barely more than a week till we leave for our Big Vacation (more on that another time) so I must put in the work to have this place looking nice before we go, the better to have a stress-free return if that's possible.

The only other recent news is that I returned home to find my living room/balcony french door ajar, screen and all -- exactly as I'd left it (D'oh!) -- so now I'm wondering if I'm going to encounter wildlife in here anytime tonight. A bat or rat or maybe one of those horrendous giant Japanese centipedes I've seen pictures of on the internet. Eeaagh. Ok, maybe not a lot of sleep tonight.