Sunday, 29 April 2007

Soup fog, 3 hours of dishes, and a new roomy - Sun 29 Apr

No yoga this morning - there was the understanding that if there were lots of guests and no room for us, the plebs would be sent off - better not to get out of bed!

It was a cold and soup-foggy morning.

The troupe of 20 guests were out for the morning eco tour. Just as the tour was concluding, the fog rapidly lifted.

It turned into a warm and beautiful day, the best weather since I arrived in Nagano.

I vacuumed, and picked leaf shoots from a tree that were turned into tempura tonight.

I delivered about 20 pizzas at the restaurant, which was fun. In between pizzas, I watched Mami san's base-making technique, practising on my leg. Hopefully I'll get a chance to make one for workers' grub before I go.

During the break, I went out with Ai for a walk to the post box, and posted some post cards. I was feeling like I hadn't made enough of an effort to get outside and explore a bit.

We walked by this unusual scene on the way.

We walked back via a different route, and came across a gallery. Entry was 800 yen, including a cuppa. The art felt a bit more like an unaffordable lighting and furniture store, with some nice decorating art thrown in in a couple of places.

I learned the Japanese phrase, "There's one too many zeros." There was a broad green view from the cafe out to the mountains. The coffee I had was dreadful, but at least the presentation was interesting.

It was a lovely walk on a beautiful day. We traipsed through this scenic little bit of woods on our way back.

I met Yumi tonight, who I'm now sharing my room with. Tall, a deep voice and very capable, she reminds me a little of Sam Bell from Deloitte. I've had to do some tidying to make room amid my greedy mess.

There was a special guest speaker tonight from India, complete with translator, so the pension is packed and dinner at the restaurant was consequently interestingly hectic. I had an opportunity to work on my fast-forward dish drying skills for three hours. I'm now very, very efficient - a skill I can use always.

One of the dishes for the workers' dinner tonight was Pork Kimchee. Got the recipe for that one too, it was deee-licious!

Saki san went to buy alcohol for us to have a little party from 10, but the gathering in the restaurant would not disperse. They were still at it till 11:30, including an acapella Ave Maria, by which time our party mood had evaporated. We're now hoping for tomorrow night instead.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Bulding, the end of high places, onsen, and carrot dumplings- Sat 28 Apr

This morning was very cold and bucketing with rain. For the eco tour after yoga, I rugged up in a self-fashioned scarf and the Tiger beer cap mum brought me from Vietnam for extra warmth.

Again with the high-place cleaning, then some plastic slipper wiping with Ai (and the odd bit of silliness).

I helped Usui san with some building today, using the electric drill to screw in supports for a wall surface - nice macho work.

The part-finished project, looking woody on the left. It's an enclosure to protect the pizza and break making oven from the occasionally strong winds.

When that was done, more high place cleaning. Today, I could finally say I'd cleaned ALL the high places available to clean. I got to have a look in all the different rooms in the pension while cleaning, each differently decorated with home-made objects and interesting old furniture, and named things like 'Mountain Boots' and 'Nepal'.

Yama chan and I got a letter from Iwasa san, a guest who arrived at Shalom Hutte the same day as us, and chatted with us in the car on the way to Shalom Hutte and over dinner and after the slideshow. She offered for me to come to stay with her and her husband in Tokyo - a very generous offer, after one evening! She said she's keen to talk to us both more about our experience at Shalom, and she's envious of our long stay here.

Kimi san made us some chai (sweet spice) tea with milk and honey. Our pizza del giorno was napolitana, held here by Nobi who couldn't hold back from the first slice.

During our 2-5pm rest break, my suggestion to go to the local onsen was accepted, and six of us headed off by car to Holiday You (their website has pictures here). This time I had a pal, as Saki san came along too - no guys came along to on our trip to Fine View Onsen after the night hanami. Holiday You were great baths, with outdoor rock pool baths with hot cascades, outdoor sun lounges for to sit on for respite, two massagey jets that fall from a high, and a sauna with a cold-water tub beside. One very bold man took the plunge into the bath - Saki san had been impressed that I'd been willing just to douse myself in some of the water. Saki san shouted us some iced coffees afterwards, from a vending machine with a crate next to it to take the glass bottles back to the vendor - clever.

Helping with the group's dinner tonight, I took down a recipe for carrot dumplings, a traditional recipe from Suzuka-ken in Nagano, made by Maki san. The dumpling shell is made from leftover cooked rice, flour and water, and the innards are mashed steamed carrot and miso bean paste. You steam then grill them, and they turn out with a shiny patina and a slightly sticky shell, and quite sweet due to the carrots, nearly a dessert.

My suggestion to go to karaoke tonight took hold, but was dashed by last minute consideration of how much work there will be tomorrow - there are twenty guests at the pension tonight. There is a tentative plan for a trip out for a drink tomorrow night, and talk of a visit to a soba noodle restaurant in the near future. My departure from my current home is near - only a few days now, on Wed May 2, then I'm off to Wakayama to travel a bit with Take, an internet friend who showed me around Nara and Kyoto over a couple of days when I was there a few weeks back.

So instead of yowling out the tunes, I wrote out some of my laggard postcards - don't forget to send me your postal address to my gmail address if you'd like a postcard and haven't already got one!

I scored a good back massage exchange with Nobi san before bedtime :) Sweet dreams!

Novelty dogs 3 - Poodle scam

I got this great link from Ashley and Emily's mum Lynette today by email, about a poodle scam going on in Japan. You might read my posts (1 and 2, here) on novelty dogs to get some context and warm up your mouth.

I'm going to have to take a collection of poncey pooch pictures when I'm back into Tokyo, because I'm loving the Japanese novelty dogs.

In case the external link dies, see below:

Japanese fooled in poodle scam
Friday April 27, 2007

Thousands of Japanese have been swindled in a scam in which they were sold Australian and British sheep and told they were poodles.

Flocks of sheep were imported to Japan and then sold by a company called Poodles as Pets, marketed as fashionable accessories, available at $1,600 each.

That is a snip compared to a real poodle which retails for twice that much in Japan.

The scam was uncovered when Japanese moviestar Maiko Kawamaki went on a talk-show and wondered why her new pet would not bark or eat dog food.

She was crestfallen when told it was a sheep.

Then hundreds of other women got in touch with police to say they feared their new "poodle" was also a sheep.

One couple said they became suspicious when they took their "dog" to have its claws trimmed and were told it had hooves.

Japanese police believe there could be 2,000 people affected by the scam, which operated in Sapporo and capitalised on the fact that sheep are rare in Japan, so many do not know what they look like.

"We launched an investigation after we were made aware that a company were selling sheep as poodles," Japanese police said, the The Sun reported.

"Sadly we think there is more than one company operating in this way.

"The sheep are believed to have been imported from overseas - Britain, Australia."
Many of the sheep have now been donated to zoos and farms.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Blue skies and scrubbing - Fri 26 Apr

It was a freezing night last night, and there was frost on the ground this morning during our pre-breakfast work. The mountains behind Azumino were shrouded in mist at their bases, and during our work, the frost turned into devilwinds of fog.

Nobi and I constructed a hoop frame with netting for climbing plants.

The other experience workers got stuck into a keyhole garden.

This is one of the first days there have been beautiful clear blue skies during my stay in Nagano.

Today was my turn in cleaning the pension. I enjoyed my traditional vacuum + headphone singalong. It still surprises me somewhat that I get praise for my headphone singing, rather than copping flack. There have been requests that I sing at dinner. :O I guess this explains the karaoke phenomenon in Japan, and the embarrassment about the same in Australia - we know deep inside that all our friends are itching to bag us.

Then I got to clean the communal bathrooms for the first time, lifting the floor boards from their concrete supports to scrub both sides, using just hot water and a scrubbing brush. Collected human detritus goes into the rubbish.

Scrubbing was interrupted for some delicious grub, a potato, anchovy and rosemary pizza on a tomato base. YUM!

After lunch, I had a nanna nap. I burned the oil a bit last night with vocabulary and blogging.

I helped with the team's dinner again tonight. We made a salad of slivers of radish and carrot, raisins, mandarin and fennel greens, drizzled with balsamic (warmed to sweeten it by evaporating some of the vinegar) and olive oil. Should have put the mandarin on after the dressing though, it nicked all the balsamic flavour, leaving the salad tasting a little naked.

I asked Saki san, who studied a year of French cooking and works in the kitchens, to help me out with some knife technique tips for cutting strips of vegetables, and also for very fine slicing. It's quite an art, and the practice was not unlike learning to drive a manual car. Hopefully it will eventually fall into place. I've always admired fast kitchen work, and it sure would be handy to operate at about 5 times my previous vegie prep pace.

I got to see wasabi plant turned into the only variety I'd seen before coming to Japan, i.e. paste in a tube Yasuyo san ground the vegetable into a paste against a dimply grating dish. (I've also eaten wasabi flowers and I think I've had it in tempura as well at Shalom Hutte.)

The mains for dinner were soba noodles, and tempura greens. Truly delicious. After eating our fill of soba, the water from the soba noodle boiling was poured into the sauce remains in our bowls to create a soup for us - the water contains most of the nutrients. It's like two courses for the price of one.

Yasuyo san ate the leftover prepared wasabi to avoid wastage. Brave.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Natural beauty, and lumber clearing in the valley - Thu 26 Apr

This morning, there was some drizzle during the eco tour. It created a heavenly vista out over the town Azumino and the mountain ranges fading into the distance.

The three women on the tour today were cluey with the answers to Usui san's questions, for once. One of them reminded me distinctly of Terri Gillespie from Coles Group. Sorry Terri, no picture, should have thought of that!

Usually, Thursday is the day off for everyone (or at least an easy day), as no reservations are accepted for guests for Thursday night. However, hands were needed at the lodge today. I was off for another day of lumber lugging and burning with Usui san and our new helper Ai.

I'm continuing my new frenzy of hand-written note taking about vocab and phrases, and during discussions in the car, I was rather surprised to uncover the fact that the vehicle doesn't use tempura oil in the engine, as I had previously thought and blogged - it uses tempura oil as a FUEL, instead of petrol! As the burning tempurature (sic, joke) of tempura oil is 180 degrees as compared to 45 degrees for petrol, there is a specialised fuel injection system. The oil needs to pass through a centrifuge to remove impurities. (Remember this conversation is in Japanese, so there was a fair bit of stopping to explain vocabulary. I was impressed when I finally grasped 'centrifuge', then less impressed to find I couldn't remember the English word to write down.) The centrifugal process happens in an inconspicous little refueling station next to the pension, onsite at Shalom Hutte.

On the way, we passed big bare dirt mallet golf course, novel. We also passed this beautiful peach grove in flower. The fields are rapidly being filled with water in readiness for rice planting, and this scene was particularly beautiful.

One of the peach trees in blossom.

Meet the two workmen, who chainsaw the logs and drive a digger. I had a fair bit of difficulty understanding them speaking. Here we're having morning tea - bottomless green tea, sticky rice balls with sweet beans on top, sliced pickled radish, and sweet-and-savoury black sesame biscuits. The morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea dished up at the lodge is delicious and gives my stomach something to smile about while the rest of me is busy lugging wood.

A narrow but deep valley runs beside the lodge, and a small stream runs over a concrete ledge down to a lower level on the property. The valley is choked along its length with fallen trees, and the group's task today was to clear it.

Although she was wearing a bandanna, a couple of bits of Ai's hair that escaped the bandanna took a turn for the worse at some stage during the day near the fire, taking on the air of a crimping iron disaster. Here, hair all tucked safely away, she meets a sapling.

In an unhappy plastic bag, really nowhere in the valley, we found someone's long forgotten stash of decomposing adult videos.

During lunch of unintentionally spicy Nepalese curry mix, the weather grumbled from occasional drizzle to raining quite heavily. This meant that Ai and I followed our lunch with an hour's nap on the rug in the lodge.

Toward the end of the day's work, the valley was mostly cleared of fallen trees. (Taken upstream from the previous picture, there's no good before-picture comparison. I'll learn.)

A good day's work done, we were off back to Shalom Hutte at 5pm.

We had apple pie folds for dessert tonight, and Usui san sat with the six experience workers during dinner. We all had a couple of glasses of draught beer each with dinner. Consequently, three of the girls were in bed by 8pm.

I spent a bit of time translating my vocab notes - I've managed 7 pages in a couple of days. The pen is mightier than the brain, so I'll be a while yet stuffing all the new permaculture and farming and fire-related vocab in there. I use an extensive, free online Japanese-English English-Japanese dictionary. If only I could have it in my pocket, it would make my conversations flow much more smoothly.

I noticed pile of the extremely professional cookbook the owners have put together among the items for sale. It's odd to see what are now such familiar meals, activities, scenery and people in a cookbook. It's like finding your bedroom and front garden in a book. If only it wouldn't be such a struggle with the language, I'd get one.. I may get one all the same as a memento. Something else to bring a ring of truth to 'luggage'.

Another day of being very grateful for hearty activity outdoors.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Rakkenhou = massage by foot - Wed 25 Apr

We had a reprise of Rakkenhou massaging tonight after dinner, this time unguided. The six experience workers (we have a new girl since yesterday, 'Ai') paired up using rock, paper, scissors and got to work.

I'm giving Ai a good treading.

I'm very happily getting squished. Unlike a normal massage, which feels like just the muscle is massaged, in Rakkenhou, it feels like all your insides get a massage as well. When Ai was getting near the knee, I had to hoik up my trackies to show her where it was, because she wasn't sure where they were on my bizarrely long legs.

I have been flattened into the floor.

Ponds and logs - Wed 25 Apr

No yoga this morning - Kimi, who takes the 6am class, turned up with a sore throat and asked if we'd mind if we had a rest for the morning. I went quite happily back to bed for another 45 minutes before the eco tour, led almost entirely today by Nobi san. An interesting answer turned up during the customary customer grilling in this morning's tour.
Q: Why are the Amazon rainforests being cleared?
A: Is it to make golf courses?

I've started wanting to improve my vocab, rather than just sitting with the big picture of what people are talking about, so today I got taking vocab notes with a little book and a pencil. The smart phone is good and all, but it was too much of a hassle, taking too long to open the file and get to the right spot, and then fiddle about with the little keypad. I took down four little pages of new vocab and phrases today.

After some high-places-cleaning in the restaurant, I did a little gift shopping before breakfast :)

Meanwhile, Nobi, Taguchi san (a guest who'd rather be an experience worker) and Ai, front, dug the little permaculture area where water gathers from the tap into an area that will be planted with a little rice.

The working folks gathered over breakfast.

After breakfast, Nobi san and I headed off with Usui san by car to his lodge guesthouse in Ikeda, to help move chainsawed logs from an area he's clearing on the property.

They have a digger there as well. The digger triumphed in several battles with tree stumps, as well as carving a curvy driveway. Here, it loosens a dang big stump.

Nobi and I had to push roll some of the larger bits of wood. In hindsight, the pictures suggests more of the danger of a legume-rich diet, but it's actually smoke from a fire burning the twiddly bits.

Usui san and I take a well-earned break atop the log pile, formed using the digger.

In Australia, land of dangerous spiders, every log you lift could be your last. I was in the midst of wondering if there were dangerous spiders in Japan while carrying a log, when a telepathic spider ran up to the top of the log, bigger than an Aussie 50c coin. It must have been sending me scary thoughts in self defence - Usui san advised there aren't dangerous spiders in Japan.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Eco tour guiding, massage-by-foot, and croquettes - Tue 24 Apr

There was no yoga at 6am, because it's Tuesday (I haven't quite worked out the system here yet..) so I got to sleep in for a 7am start on the eco tour with three guests. Being our third tour, Usui san has begun to ask us to do some of the explaining of various features of the farm's approach instead of himself. This meant that, as Usui san usually asks the guests a sharp-edged question about each feature, the guests got an easier go of things today.

I was asked to explain the significance of the tempura-engine-oil car to the guests on the tour. It came out something like, "Please look here. This is a very special car. There is tempura oil inside. It is much better than other cars." :D Not quite the elegant expression Usui san uses.

Later, explaining permaculture and the relevance of spiral rock gardens went something like, "Permaculture means a permanent culture. Please look at this area. There is a low spot. Water and leaves gather. You pick up the gathered things and put them here, and higher areas are made. This is a spiral rock garden. Over to you, Usui san."

I took a picture today of the device that Usui san referred to yesterday on the eco tour as a "chicken tractor" - without turning the soil or weeding, the chickens loosen the ground and remove all weeds. In the background, you can see Usui san's hand-made palaces - the pension (left), the shop (the little dark-roofed building, and the restaurant (a flowering cherry tree in front starting to drop its blossoms, left of the white-faced tall building that is the next-door neighbour's).

After brekky, a new dad joke was coined - the Japanese word for cloth, i.e. for wiping tables, is 'fukin', so I've taken to asking Nobi, who has spent some years in English speaking countries, "Where's the fucken fukin?" Too easy.

I was earmarked for more high-thing-wiping this morning.

Yoga was taught after all, at 10:30am, by Usui san's wife Tomoko san. Yoga opened with some Shanti Shanti singalong, but it was too much for me to expect to keep up with and maintain any serenity, so I just observed that bit. It was hoping for something from Madonna's Shanti song to come along, but it didn't. The body of the class was identical to the 6am one, taught by Kimi, but a little slower paced. The class concluded with nostril-blocking breath control, left then right, right then left, like I've done a few times in classes back home.

After the yoga finished, we paired up and were taken step by step through massaging a partner using our feet, called Rakkenhou. It was great, a very different kind of massage. We only got to legs and arms due to the limited time - I'd love to have a step-on back massage!

Afterwards, work. I cleaned out an extremely dusty food storage cupboard with Yama chan, while broadcasting a bit of gyspy strings from my Pocket PC to get us in the russian cleaning woman mood. We then cleaned the people mover, as always using only water, a cloth and elbow juice. No cleaning products here at all, except for getting oil off your hands in the kitchen, and some liquid body soap and shampoo in the bathroom. Hot water and a cloth washes dishes, the floor, windows, I believe the toilet (still haven't landed that to date), pretty much anything.

There was a bloody big bee-like insect (possibly because it was a bee, who knows), which was of interest. What do you know, a day of cleaning feels a little less spectacularly full of news when you've been hopping towns for four weeks.

After lunch, I got started on some of my backlog of postcards bought on earlier travels. If you haven't got a postcard from me yet and want one, leave a comment with your name and postal address and I'll see what I can do!

I helped make mashed potato and boiled vegie croquette patties tonight for dinner. The masher was not of the modern kind. It looked like a weapon. The croquettes turned out delicious! I'm hoping to grab some more recipes from Mami san, for the croquettes and tonight's side dishes again, before bed.

I'm off for a bath. It's only 9:30, but I'm ready for bed :P Strangely enough, without wearing antiperspirant while I'm here, and all this vegan food, my armpits have stopped smelling like B.O. and started smelling distinctly of a nice curry. Please explain? I found it very hard to believe myself.

Happy Birthday Jovita! - Tue 24 April

Happy birthday Jovita!

A recent enough photo, in Melbourne in March 2007, but it feels like ages ago now!!

Monday, 23 April 2007

An excursion with Usui san, a primary school, and side-dish recipes - Mon 23 Apr

A guest turned up at yoga today, for the first time since my first morning at Shalom Hutte.

That same guest had a good ridiculing at the hands of Usui san. From the midst of another couple of guests an hour later, he targetted her for all the questions he asked on the eco tour, and ribbed her mercilessly about not being able to answer them. He started off saying that the questions were answered easily enough by primary school children, and landed on a theme of the joy of the blank canvas.

It was a cold morning out this morning. Happily, being the second time around, I got some more of the detail of the eco tour, but I still don't know how he got the double glazed windows for free.

Kaoru san is sick today with achey joints. Hope I don't get sick, we're all in pretty close quarters and there's been lots of chopsticks going into serving dishes.. Eek, the germs are coming!

I vacuumed to more Evolution 80s playlist, thus escaping toilet cleaning in the restaurant so far. (I know which I'd prefer!)

There was some pita bread in the breakfast. Japanese uses the French word for bread, 'pain', pronounced near enough like the English bad joke 'pun'. I spotted a very good opportunity for a dad joke when there was mention of "pita pan". Usui san suggested I might spend a day at a local primary school, as a bit of a cultural exchange for the kids (unrelated to Peter Pan discussion).

My post-breakfast morning was spent with Usui san, obstensibly as his helper, though he didn't need much help. We drove to a Walmart-like megamarket for glue to try to fix my glasses frame, which I snapped on the bridge a couple of days back. Usui san treated me to a self-inking calligraphy brush.

He drove to his other place, a lodge with mainly western rooms, bought one year ago.

There was an earth mover clearing trees on the property while we were there. The tilled fields in the areas we drove through on the way there would soon all be flooded seeasonally for rice, he explained.

We dropped in to a primary school for 20 minutes, to meet Minemura sensei and suggest my guest appearance. It was nearing the end of recess. I was an immediate celebrity. The grade 6 boys were very impressed that I spoke Japanese, and peppered me with questions about whether I knew of this cartoon character and that. One asked me whether I was poor. When I asked why, he pointed out I was wearing the plastic sandals from Shalom Hutte. (He spared me mention of the socks I was wearing with them, which would merely have indicated poor taste.)

I later spotted the boys in what initially looked like a snow fight, but it's spring in Japan. The seasonal projectile isn't snow, it's recently fallen cherry blossoms.

The school was very beautiful, if I compare it to Aussie state schools, and flowering annuals were everywhere, clumped in big patches in the gardens, and in buckets outside the classrooms.

There was a bunch of very cute really little kids all in white hats in the yard, holding hands in pairs, then squatting at the instruction of their teacher.

Also entertaining was a young class learning to cross road in pairs under the their teacher's instruction. Holding hands in pairs, they crossed with their spare hand raised above their head as a warning to any traffic. Usui san confirmed that they actually do this when crossing the road.

We dropped in to the 100 Yen Shop. They had better things there than the $2 Shop back home, and everything was actually 100 yen as promised. I bought lots of chocolate and chips to supplement my recent monstrously healthy diet.

On the way back to Shalom Hutte, there was very varied architecture, from traditional Japanese brown tiled roofs and eaves, to log cabins and strangely shaped apartment buildings. I always find buildings are interestingly varied in different countries.

We passed a great collection of carp flags. When boys are born, a carp flag is strung in their home, symbolising a hope for the boy to grow up strong as the carp that swim upstream to breed. After the flag has done its time in the newborn's house, it gets added to this mass of flags above the river.

When we returned to Shalom Hutte, more wall prep, bolting wood together as retainers to pour walls into. We made another excursion out to a lumber yard with an office somehow like a children's storybook gingerbread house.

I helped with dinner. I'm not good with timing and portions with large groups.. We made soba (buckwheat) noodles, which I often make at home, but also other side dishes, including BLOODY mountain potato to mix with the soba while eating. It took an AGE to grate one damn hard mountain potato against a grating bowl, and I was sweating freely and had very itchy hands from the mushy sticky mess left as an aftermath. To pour salt on the wound, I didn't eventually like the texture of the stuff - it was frothy in the mouth, icko. I was so tired at dinner, my Japanese skills left me and I couldn't be bothered to even try.

After dinner, Nobi kindly went through the recipes with me for some of the sides we'd eaten. I'm determined to pick up some more Japanese cooking skills while I'm here.

I had a shower, standing up western style, in the Japanese bathroom today. My tiredness made me want a reprieve from the constant departure from my familiar customs, such as not squatting and washing myself with a wet towel.

Poo, chickens, blackboards and fush'n'chups - Sun 22 Apr

There was rodent poo on the bare slats of the bunk above me this morning, and on the floor. Weee're watching yoooou!

Proper yoga was on this morning, lovely.

I saw the new chickens. Yama chan gave a very entertaining impression of the sound that roosters make in English, "Cook-a-du-luu-luu-luu."

I vacuumed the restaurant, then got to enjoy picking flowers from the garden for the tables.

Cleaned windows, listened to Jason's Evolution 80s mix on my headphones and sang along. Yasuyo san, the head of staff, jokingly told me singing was banned, and asked if I'd like to go to karaoke.

My window washing was interrupted by an important request - to write up today's lunch menu on the blackboard and make it pretty. I drew the vista from the window of the restaurant :)

Delivered more pizzas to tables. These customers seemed less daunted.

Yasuyo san asked me to "clean the high places" - got to make use of a tall foreigner who takes other orders only with a lot of careful explaining while he lasts.

I did vegie prep in the kitchen for dinner. I peeled very reluctant skins from leek-like vegies with a less-than-effective peeler, and threw the skins in the vegie scraps bin. Yasuyo san then asked, "The skins? The skins?" It took me a while to get her meaning, as she's a woman of few words, but I can read facial expressions in any language, and knew I'd done something wrong. When the message was eventually transmitted, I retrieved and rinsed the skins for soup stock.

Yasuyo san lived in Sydney for years, and taught the girls in the kitchen the usage of an English word of the day, "Gorgeous." There was a big chorus of questioning "Goojesu" until the pronunciation evened out. I chimed in with some applications - your friend is gorgeous, that dress is gorgeous, you look gorgeous.

I can't have done too shabby a job of the lunch board, because I got dinner board duties as well. :) It was a rainy night.

Battle Against Japan's Low Things #17, a stainless steel corner on the range hood. I'd seen it earlier, but it's hard to keep everything juggling in there. It hurt less than my research had led me to expect.

Dinner for the workers included an "all you can drink" soup bar, because there was lots of different soups left over. I mentioned a craving for draught beer with the delicious dinner, and Yasuyo san offered my first small glass of draught for free*. It was lovely.
*Subsequent small glasses to be 200 yen.

At dinner, it was claimed by Yasuyo san that me not having a bath the previous day was the cause of the mouse appearing above my bed the previous night. This suggestion nearly caused soup to come out my nose.

Nobi entertained us, explaining that when she arrived in New Zealand, she thought, "What? What are they saying?? Is this the English I've been studying in Canada?" Yasuyo san said the first words spoken to her in Australia were, "Go to gate eight." Compare that to an English accent, and you'll understand why she had no idea what was going on either.

I explained the slight difference between Australian and New Zealand accents, resting arond the "i" sound, and the Australian tradition of rushing out the phrase, "Fush and chups," to every New Zealander encountered. Nobi laughed up a Japanese person trying to make the same fun of the accent, "Fashu ando chappsu." The image of a Japanese person trying earnestly to put on an insulting accent and rushing up to be rude to a New Zealander, and coming out with this, was too much, and I lost it. My inside-out manic laughter broke up the table. :D

After dinner, we made the left-over white rice into triangular onigiri (rice balls). Put in some filling, then push down the triangle, squeeze the sides, shift, repeat. Mine was a big of an ugly little sister.

A day of inn work, and dished up Spicey Ricey - Sat 21 Apr

Ugh, morning.

No guests showed up to the yoga. The instructor Kimi was feeling a little sluggish that morning too, and we just did sitting meditation. I did some of my own more dynamic yoga afterwards.

For work in the morning, I planted radishes, and potatoes into little submounds. I swept and wiped the kitchen floor and stairs in the pension.

A little melody plays in the pension kitchen to alert staff when someone comes in the front door. I realised the melody was "(You Left Me,) Just When I Needed You Most." The folks at Shalom hadn't realised the significance. :)

Made beds, with Kaoru,

vacuumed, watered plants on the balconies in the pension. Washed radish leaves, skinned little nobiru onions.

I took in a couple of pizzas to startled-looking diners, fresh from the pizza oven.

I did some blog and email in some spare time.

I made a mountain of spicy ricey for everyone for dinner, a recipe I came with at home one day when I felt like something more exciting than plain boiled rice. It almost all disappeared in the one sitting, to a chorus of "Spaishii raishii!"

Dinner was pretty darned good tonight. We also had bloody delicious marinated pork on shredded raw cabbage, served with pan- and oven-cooked onions. So good. And a lovely vegan millet soup. And vegan apple jelly and custard dessert. The food here can be so good. Flute music played while the wind howled in the dark outside, it was very moody and austere.

So tired, off to bed at 9pm!