Welcome Home!

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And we are back!

The last month’s radio silence has covered a frantic period of packing, posting and rushing around, but we’re finally here (albeit homeless) enjoying a sunny Australian winter. At the moment we’re staying with my family in the country, which is nice when it comes to birds and fireplaces, but not so easy for Kin to get to university. So, last week, on a bright sunny day when Kin had classes, we ventured to Newcastle to visit friends, have a proper coffee and take care of a few things like library visits and collecting a few possessions.

It was a lovely day. The breeze was light and scented with eucalypt and Hamilton was sunny and wintry warm. Mid-morning, Kin trekked off to class and I sat in the sun in a friend’s backyard, with a purring cat on my lap and an occasional avocado rocketing down onto the shed from a nearby tree. After lunch, I ran our errands, then headed out to the university to meet Kin. On this carless day, that meant catching a bus. Luckily, the 226 runs straight to the uni, so I flagged one down, hopped aboard and looked around for a seat.

I had a lot of bags, so I decided for a change to sit toward the front, in one of the four person bays. The lopsided gentleman facing toward the back of the bus appeared to be a little too drunk for that time of the afternoon (but who’s judging?) and I didn’t feel like having someone fall on me every time we took a sharp turn, so instead I sat in the opposite seat, next to a pretty lady in a hijab and her two curly-headed baby boys, one toddling, the other perched on his mother’s foot, using her to support wobbly knees that weren’t really ready for standing. I smiled, she smiled, I settled my bags, took out my knitting and felt that it was truly a beautiful world. Knit two, purl two, keep on to the end… and then a sudden gush of warm fluid drenched me from the knees down and splashed the pretty lady (the older child was in the aisle and the younger had
swung to the side, so both were thus far dry).

It took a second to work out what had happened… We looked down at our dripping legs, looked across at the now suspiciously owl-eyed and wet-chinned man sitting opposite, looked at each other… had a simultaneous realisation and both frantically swooped to retrieve bags, bundles and babies from the spreading pool of vomit, not caring which belonged to whom. And then we were trapped, our burdens safely off the ground with only minimal drippage, but so awkwardly gathered and gripped that we were completely unable to relax our clutch on any one item in case another landed in the soup.

Then, while the two of us watched in horror, completely unable to move, the vile, intoxicated beast leaned forward, right over my legs… and vomited again! And again! With each gush, as my stockings soaked, my shoes filled up and the end of my red skirt turned maroon, the pretty lady’s eyes filled with equal parts sympathy and nausea and I began praying to any gods of public transport that she wouldn’t start throwing up as well. I was having enough trouble containing my own stomach. For several minutes, this awful minion of beery darkness threw up on me, my shoes and my ball of wool, then, having wreaked sufficient havoc for one day, blinked a few more times, stood, and as the bus stopped (sending a frothy wave rushing past again and seriously testing my control over my turbulent stomach) he staggered to the door and was gone.

The elderly gentlemen who boarded the bus en route to the RSL were very helpful. The hijab lady and I each passed them a child, then began rearranging our other burdens sorting out what belonged to whom. Both she and they got away from me as quickly as possible, though, and I couldn’t blame them. I smelled awful. My shoes were full of horror. My skirt and stockings dripped. A nightmare-ridden, beery tsunami had washed away my beautiful day and all I wanted to do was cry. And shower. And throw up. Probably while crying some more. While I threw up. In the shower.

Since I could do none of these things, I just sat in silent misery until the bus reached the university, then stood up to disembark…. And it was horrible. My shoes squelched. Trying to hold my bags as far from me as possible, I splashed off the bus, and dripped my way over the crossing then saw Kin, who, expecting the warm, cheerful, bakery-scented wife he’d left in Hamilton, was surprised to open his arms and have a miserable, vomit-sodden wreck fly into them, wailing bitterly about the awful man on the bus.

Kin is a good husband. He just hugged me and didn’t even say “Yuck”.

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I’m laughing (a bit) now that I’m back in the country and my stockings, shoes and wool are soaking in separate buckets by the clothesline. But the experience was surprisingly distressing. I’m no stranger to wearing the odd bodily fluid or two in the line of duty (hospital work is good for that) but to be repeatedly assaulted with the noxious expulsions of a total stranger, in what I had expected to be a fairly hygienic setting, actually resulted in a bit of mild trauma, only slightly dissipated by repeated doses of white vinegar and eucalyptus oil. I don’t mean that my spirit has been blighted and my life is now a ruin. But I feel as though I’ve been doused with a hefty dose of reality, as well as second-hand Toohey’s.

For months now, Kin and I have looked forward to coming home and we’ve been so focused on the wonderful things about Newcastle (our parks, our beaches, the wonderful food and interesting shops) that we’ve been ignoring the fact of our beloved city’s dark side. In particular, we’ve been forgetting that Newcastle definitely has a drinking problem, with all of the social nasties that implies. I’ll admit that actually being vomited on is a new one for me, but any health and hospitality workers, or other denizens of late-night Newcastle have at some point experienced side effects of the city’s struggles with alcohol.

Experiencing them again so soon, and so forcefully, has rubbed a certain amount of bloom off our triumphant return.

There’s good and there’s bad everywhere in the world I suppose, and it’s not as though vomiting drunks are unknown on Japanese public transport either. But I’m already feeling less open and more cautious about moving around my city, even before I’ve officially made it back there. On the other hand, my generally solitary nature is now fired with community-building ambitions; I don’t want anyone to be vomited on again, and the best way to prevent it is to make our neighbourhoods as safe and friendly as possible. Even if that does mean interacting with people more often than my semisocial character would normally choose!

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So, all of you community-minded Australians, I raise my glass to you (cup of tea, actually) and swear to join your ranks in the coming months. I will be active, I will be supportive, I will work until our community is green, helpful and free of antisocial behaviours. And, until that day, I will always wear gumboots on the bus!

In the meantime, soak it all away….

 

Gem

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June Was….

Apologies for two gallery posts in a row, but it’s that time! We’ve bid farewell to June and are gearing up for a frankly horrible July… so we’re lucky we have such wonderful things to remember!

June was lovely meals, trips to Kyoto and wanders at wonderful Fushimi Inari; this time with Gem’s older sister and family who came to visit early in the month (our last visitors in Japan!) Nagahama has resumed regular warm-weather routines and we received more visits from our friends, the rat snakes. Kin’s school also had a much more exciting visit from sumo champion Hakuhō Shō and several members of his stable. And, of course, June was Gem’s graduation ceremony to a slightly higher grade of tea ceremony practice.

June was warm, family-filled and very, very busy… but was still nothing compared to the madness that will be July. Wish us luck, everyone!

(Gem will add a more complete gallery to our Facebook and Flickr pages later in the week!)

Gem and Kin

 

 

May Was…

Adventure time!

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Or in other words: Our last chance to run out and about, without any worrying about packing, posting or looking for jobs back home!

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Long walks (at Fushimi Inari in Kyoto)

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The return of outdoor life.

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In more than one environment!

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Happy times for Gem in her pots.

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And for other gardners as well! (Wisteria festival, Shiga)

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A return to green fields.

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And outdoor living. And it’s always time for tea!

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May was also a long, long time ago now! We’re sorry for our longish silence; as you may have guessed, June has thus far been very, very busy! May was outside-the-house time and a sudden jump from “Soon it will be warm enough to wear kimono” weather to “Good God, it’s far too hot to wear kimono” weather. May was also busy-time at work, so our jobs and our running around meant we’re both a bit disgusted with ourselves: not much drawing time for Kin (although he did lots of pottery!) and not much writing or music time for Gem.

Most importantly, May was Kin’s birthday! His brand new birthday-gift travel bag, helped make our May the runaround time it was. May was also time for long train trips, with all the time for thinking, planning and talking things out that they allow. You’ll see some of the results in June and July!

Kin and Gem

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Look Who Came to Visit!

Contemplative frog

It’s spring alright! The rice fields are green and full of joy (for frogs) and the nights are dark and full of lurve… also for frogs. As well as having bats to watch, every evening we can also listen to the chorus of croaking from all directions.

Of course, all of this activity means that other creatures are becoming active too, including this fellow:

Snake I, swimming

This is a Japanese rat snake (Elaphe climacophora) that I spotted while watering the beans. It seemed pretty determined to work its way up the canal, so we figured it was heading out to the big rice fields to find frogs like the one above. Being Australian, I immediately yelled for Kin to grab his camera and he raced up the canal in pursuit.

Lurksnake

Unfortunately, his model did NOT feel cooperative. Rat snakes are quite timid (and, apparently, very bitey) so it decided to try and pretend that it wasn’t there and wait for the camera to go away.

Kin was a little disappointed but, as it turns out, he didn’t need to be! When I went for a run along the same canal, I found another friend for him to photograph!

Snake II; full length

Another rat snake! They must be everywhere at the moment! This one seemed a little less timid than the first and allowed Kin and his camera to get quite close. It was proceeding in the same direction as the other fellow, so there must be something attractive (to snakes) in that part of town.

Snake II, head, higher angle

Hello, snake II!

It seems that Japanese people respond to rat snakes much the same way as Australians do to carpet pythons, so our friends should have a safe journey, wherever they’re going. It was lovely to see these beauties and we wish them well on their travels. It’s also fun giving our U.S. friends the screaming heebie-jeebies with these photos!

Is anyone interesting out and about in your area? Have they come to say hello?

We’ve just made a Flickr account, so I’m gradually uploading our photos there (including our Facebook albums). If you want to see more snake pictures or others (soon), please come and visit us!

Gem,

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