Sunday, February 19, 2006

Aubrey chimes in on life without Alan

I am sitting here with a box of Kleenex

but not watching any sad love story.
Yesterday while at my friend Haruno's house
for a sleep-over, we made dinner together.
Accidentally, we used a Miso soup paste
that had gluten in it (I am allergic to wheat)
and boy was that soup wonder!
My taste buds had not forgotten the delicious
taste of wheat but it was too late and I ate a full bowl
of vegetable consomme w/ white Miso paste and was
infected. My symptoms range from mild to severe depending
on how much gets into my system. This time around, I was not
too severly affected but quite inconvenienced. I have a major runny nose, water eyes and terrible sneezing fits. But, Celiac stories are best left for another time. Let's talk about the island life of Kikai, Japan.

Alan is in Norman for 15 days and he reminded
me just how MUCH we as Americans (and other cool countries) have
to be thankful for. If not for inconvenience though, I might not
write this!
My major form of transportation is a bike. His name is Frosty because he looks like well, gray and 'frosty' except he lives here on this hot island. Kikai is quite small in some aspects so we really don't need a car. I can get to the small grocery store in two minutes at normal speed. Everything has to fit in my basket or on Alan and my's handlebars. I don't think I have ever done so much biking in all my life, except when I was a freshman in high school. Now I've been up to it for about 6 months and some bananas. I like it most of the time. I've been caught in downpours, huge gusts of wind but no typhoons yet. Usually don't ride in them but walk and video in them! he he

The Super
The supermarket still feels a little bit like a puzzle to me. Each time I go though, if I am attentive, I find another piece and things make more sense. See, I don't really read Japanese Kanji. I only read Kana (Hiragana and Katakana). A lot of Japanese people say they
don't even read the Tokyo paper because they forget Kanji. Wouldn't that be horrible? I mean, sure, there are fifty-cent words (in English) all over the place that I don't know, but I can usually figure it out by the context. What about Kanji? I'm not sure. I haven't delved into that world too much but maybe someday I will know. So, I feel weird wandering around for a LONG time in the supermarket which is about the size -well, I can't think but it's not big. I buy usually what I SEE. Does that make sense? If I can SEE(clear plastic bag or container) what it is, and I need it, then I buy it. If I can't SEE what it is, well, I am gonna have to pull out Mr. Jisho (dictionary) and try to figure out something or ask someone. Japanese supers here in Kikai usually play dorky music. It's loud and annoying but I guess so it is in many American clothing stores too.
Maybe it's better I can't understand all the words in the songs yet!
Japanese supers are crazy about tape too. They tape between the handles of the plastic bag and also they are good at trying to get everything in ONE bag. I know Alan is bit perturbed by that...but it's ok to me.

Traffic-wait, there's not

Roads-We have some. Most in Kikai-cho are under construction.
I laugh and giggle at the construction signs because they are these cutsy animals and landscapes and then at the bottom it tells you how many km until the construction. Kikai 'imports' their construction workers from the mainland which means that these guys stay on this island until their project or assignment is done. I remember Alan being kind of excited that at a restaurant we saw some younger Japanese (as opposed to quite a bit older) guys. He thought he'd befriend them and then found out that they were leaving next week. They were construction dudes from Yokohama. Yes, we made many jokes of the name with ours since it sounds so much like Oklahoma.

The kitchen in our little house is about 300cmx175cm. Bathroom and Bath Room are quite smaller. We have a small range, a large silver sink and really no counter space. When I mean no counter space, I mean NO counter space. We usually cut things up on our EVERYTHING table in the living/dining/den/teaching/entertaining room. Our fridge and freezer is about 150cm tall and about 50cm wide. We have a microwave and a toaster oven. No real oven and Aubrey feels quite out of cooking rhythm without one.

How do they heat up that there place?
Well, I'm sure some people in Japan do have CHA but I would say they are quite the MINORITY and they don't really think they need it anyway. It's too expensive. During the winter or cold months, people us hot tables called 'kotatsu'. I love these things!!!! There is nothing like eating a meal with my legs and feet under a nice fluffy blanket that is heated by some heating filament underneath the table. Sometimes people(not the whole person..just their thighs down) sit under there and have tea and chat. In our bedroom, we have a hot carpet. I like them too. Ours is gray and looks like a tough-looking electric blanket that plugs into the outlet and can be adjusted by a sliding clicky thing on the side. We also have a little heater too. I heard some people up on the mainland use kerosine heaters too.

The seasons
Well, island seasons can differ depending on where you are but in Kikai I'd say that summer is the longest season next to spring. We have a rainy season in May or June but I wasn't here at that time so I don't know. Today is February 19th and spring is already here but it's still a bit chilly, overcasty, windy and rainy most of the time. Reminds me of France's weather in Clermont-Ferrand! I think that December and January were milder here for winter than they have been in the past. I can't give you any temps but I can tell you I saw NO snow, nor frost, nor any kind of that precip. I would compare Kikai's weather to that of Houston since they run on the same latitudinal line. I was disappointed in Kikai's fall though. Most things just stay green and a few things change colors or die. I miss Oklahoma's fall; that's for sure. Thanks all of you who sent us pictures of Oklahoma's fall!

What do we actually eat? Well, not Sushi and Sashimi everyday but we could if we wanted to. Alan is the cook, the main one, of our household. He is excellent and unwavering in original dishes to please me and guests. I will say that we eat cabbage salads now instead of iceberg lettuce (although they have it). We eat salads, French fries, Onigiris, chicken and or beef dishes, lots of soups, omelettes, tons of rice and rice dishes and the occaisonal treat from those back home who send us some missed American goodies. Since I can't eat wheat, Alan has had to come up with some pretty interesting but tasty dishes. My favorite this month is his Omelette-Rice dish. It's an incredible mixture of rice, spices (you can get them easily), and diced tomatoes wrapped in a piping hot thin egg omelette. AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! Now I am hungry for one like Alan makes.

Going out
Is an expensive affair. Truly, it is HARD not to pay $20-$30 bucks for two people if you go to a regular izakaya (rest./pub). They serve most things at night 'tapa' style which means that they come in tiny dishes for all to share. Alan and I had a hard time with that one since the portions are not always so big. If you go with a group, they order tons of these little 'tapas' and then they split the bill. Sounds ok but can get pretty expensive. Some of the stuff we've eaten is
eel, octopus, crab, clam, raw fish, raw goat, squid, little fishies (looks like fishing bait but saltier), seaweed, radishes(the radishes here get as big as American leeks!!! Eeeeek!), Miso soup, Keihan, Omurisu, pasta, steak, French fries (the fat kind kinda like Braum's has), Salsbury steak, Nikujaga, egg-wrapped rice bullets, and tons of other stuff I can't think of right now.

table manners
I have to hold in my giggle when we eat with tons of Japanese. It's like a monotone of Itadakimasu (let's eat!) in happy unision as they clap their hands together height of the breastbone and pause for a second until they dig in. I usually pray after that because I am already in the natural position to. Sometimes we talk and a lot of times just slurp if we have a dish to slurp. Chopsticks are handled like second nature to us now even though we used them in the States. I love the rice in Japan. I could write a paragraph on its consistency...mmmmm sticky rice is sugoi (cool)! After the meal is over, they say gososhama deshita (what a feast!) and then clear their plates quickly.
Speaking of plates, my bowl of Hamburger Lentil soup is calling my name. I will let you go. Until next time on Island Life.

So, be thankful of all that you have no matter where you are!

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