I have been desperate to go and see Brenda and baby Amelie ever since I heard she was born and today was my chance with no classes until 4:30. Now, I'm sure most people would have just jumped in the car, entered the midwife clinic's name in the satnav and cruied up the highway. But you see that's way too uncomplicated for me. And it would also necessitate driving on the highway which still freaks me out- I hate merging traffic with a passion and consider 60km/h hair-raisingly dangerously fast driving so you see the highway is no place for me! The lure of seeing Brenda and Amelie almost tipped me over thatfear until I remembered that, even if I conquered the highway I would be left with the battlefieldthat is Kawanakajima. It really is an old battlefield but I'm pretty sure the war started when someone tried to turn right from the wrong lane or got in the way of one of the crazy bus drivers. So yeah, driving wasn't going to happen.
No problem, left early and drove to the highway bus terminal and got on a bus to Nagano. Easy peasy Japanesey and I got to read my book while the bus drivernegotiatedmerging traffic and the Kawanakajima road warriors. Got to Nagano station and I needed to change to the subway- yup, Nagano has a subway system. But it has two trains an hour. And in doing my good deed and helping two lost snowboarders I missed my train by a minute. Where's the karma in that, hey?
Never fear, caught the next train and-very proudly- made the 10 minute walk to the midwife's without even a whiff of uncertainty over where I was supposed to be going. I have hopeless sense of direction but I had emailed myself pretty exact instructions 'turn left at the 5th side road just before the stationary shop and across from the izakaya' And so a mere three hours after I left home I got to see Brenda and baby Amelie!!
Brenda looked fantastic and sooo relaxed and as for Amelie, well turns out I didn't even rate as worthy of opening your eyes, let alone waking up. Oh well. She certainly is a cute sleeper and she has such a 'high' nose. Definitely going to have all the other mums jealous there.
The return pilgrimage wasn't quite so gruelling as the wonderful A, Brenda's husband, drove me to the station on his way to their 2 year old's kinder observation day. What a guy- he braved city traffic for me! Oh and he even had his slippers in the car for observation day. And the camera and video camera. And his kid has only been in kinder less than a year. I still forget my slippers more times than I remember them... I'm not worthy!
I had some time to kill before my bus back to reality so I grabbed a coffee and sat in the bus station office where it was nice and warm and settled in to read my book.
Only that karma thing wasn't with me again.
I was soon joined by two men. One in about his sixties and one who turned out to be his father. I moved over and the father sat down. He said thank you. I said no problem.
The son said (around a gobstopper of a candy) "She can't understand what you're saying. She's a foreigner."
The dad said "She understands, she said your welcome."
I tried to read my book.
The son wouldn't let it go "She's a foreigner. They don't speak Japanese."
I couldn't concentrate on my book so I looked up, smiled and said "I understand Japanese."
"You're a foreigner. You're reading English. I hate English. I love Japanese. Look at her book- all English!"
"She understands Japanese."
"Wow Dad, you're always making friends everywhere you go. Look at you, you just sat down!"
"I was just being friendly."
"I went to Tokyo and didn't talk to anyone for the entire trip. Noone."
"You just need to be friendly."
I was just picking up the thread in my book again and tuning them out-
"Do you like Japan? It's a great country. Much better than America. You like Japan? I hate America."
I was torn here between my desire to point out that what he knows of America is likely at best half true and incomplete and to assert that all foreigners are not American. I went with the latter. "I'm not American."
"You like Japan? Japan's the best country. You're not American? What are you?"
"I'm Australian and yes, I like Japan."
"Good girl. Japan's a good country. You should appreciate Japan. Do you want a candy?"
Call me overcautious but I didn't want anything from this man so I declined.
"They're good. They're apple candy. Nagano's apple's are good."
"Thanks but I'm drinking coffee and they probably don't go together."
"She's drinking coffee. Foreigners all drink coffee. I like tea."
"I like tea and coffee."
"Is it black? Foreigners drink black coffee."
"Nope, it's a cappuccino."
..... "Do you know Kan Naoto?"
"I've never met him."
"Do you know him?"
"You mean Prime Minister Kan?"
"Good girl. You should respect the Japanese Prime Minister. How long are you visiting Japan?"
"I live here."
"You live here? Do you work?"
"Ahhh just like the North Koreans and the Chinese. Working here and sending all that Japanese money back to your country and making our economy fail."
"Hmmmm. Nope, I spend my money on groceries and things right here in Nagano."
"Those North Koreans and Chinese get 100,000 yen and they turn it into 400,000 wan and then they're rich back there and they took all our money out of the country. You by yourself here?"
"No, I'm married."
"Bet your husband's tall. All American men are tall."
"Yes he is. But nope, my husband's Japanese."
"Ehhh? Hmmm.... Good girl. Japanese men are the best. Better than American men."
Thankfully at this juncture their bus came. Seriously, what a crackpot. The dad was a sweetie but the son conducted that entire interrogation/ brain washing session around a huge candy that kept clacking against his teeth as he talked.
After that getting home and teaching and getting the girls and going home was a little of an anti-climax!
But today was February 3rd and and that means demon day. Meg was relieved that the demon that came to her class was just her teacher in a mask. Amy had the more full on be-costumed and be-masked and be-truncheoned demon duo there to terrorise the little kids. She had headed off in the morning full of bravado- "I'm gonna throw beans in his eyes. The eyes hurt the most, right mummy? I'm gonna throw all my beans in his eyes!" Turns out she panicked a little and dropped her beans when the moment came so luckily the poor lacky from city hall who does the demon thing didn't have to worry about his eyesight.
They got home all excited and raced around the kitchen throwing socks at each other and yelling 'Demon's out! Good luck in!' This breaks my strict no running in the kitchen rule. Little demons!
I harnessed their energy for good and for dinner we made sushi rolls. I know it's a fake tradition made up by the sushi association but I so rarely make sushi rolls that it's a good excuse and the girls love making them so that's what we did:
(soft focus care of a cold camera and a warm kitchen)
And that was my day of a pilgrimage, a baby, some racists and some demon day fun.
Happy Demon Day!