Posts Tagged ‘sleep’

Closer to Zero

2011年 9月 26日

Ideal commute time is zero minutes. While I am at work, my time is being used and I am being paid for it. When I am commuting, I am spending my time getting to work, but no other compensation is forthcoming. Given my choice in the matter, I would have a job where that time was eliminated or greatly reduced.

For two and a half years I chose to live in Ise for personal reasons even though my work is in Tsu. Our circumstances that pulled me to Ise vanished suddenly on April 1st and I set about contriving to get back to Tsu. September 17th – amidst a downpour – a moving company arrived in the morning and hauled our personal belongings to Tsu.

Before the move, whether going by train or by car, I needed to leave about 7:15 to comfortably arrive at my workplace by 8:30. Doing some simple math shows that two and a half hours of my precious time was vanishing in the commute. This morning, facing my longest commute from the new house, I left at 8:10 and arrived precisely at 8:30. Further, I hope to learn a more direct route which will drop it to less than 15 minutes with luck. Friday’s commute should take less than one minute by bicycle.

It has only been about a week, but the luxury of sleep is already greatly appreciated. My calligraphy study has also improved and I am able to do a lot more around the house.

Already there are several posts I want to make, but they require a lot of photo uploading so they may have to wait for my new internet connection (October 6th, hopefully). Looking forward to communicating here.


Death and Taxes

2011年 8月 29日

So, my life has really been about taxes for the past year or so. I’m trying to get all sorts of outstanding paperwork issues put to rest and get full acceptance from possibly the least-liked division of our government. The sheer volume of paperwork is overwhelming and each time we communicate with the officials, they find some more to do. I’m wondering if this has any end. (On a side note: I was shocked by my latest recalculation of our monthly balance sheets, key word: red)

Anyhow, I was expecting to take a break for a couple days and drive my in-laws to visit relatives – whom I have not yet met – in Niigata prefecture. In particular, one relative had been hospitalized, so we were really hoping to visit her. Unfortunately, less than 24 hours before departure we were awakened with a call informing us that I will be driving the family to funeral services. Another reminder of how precious and fleeting life really is.

My introduction to family will still take place; however, protocol will demand more subdued celebration. We also had to interrupt other activities today for some emergency clothes shopping: my wardrobe lacked a couple of weather and ceremony related items. We will depart in just over 4 hours, so it’s off to bed for me.

Monkey Jizo

2011年 5月 24日

Here’s another short book report from the same folk tale series as Mouse’s Marriage. I bought several books at the same time from the 100 yen shop. They are simply bound, but in traditional style; and on inexpensive paper, but printed to appear like traditional paper. Even Japanese friends are amazed at what can be had for 100 yen these days. Last time I promised I would include photos and – although delayed a little further – I will fulfill that.

Monkey Jizo (or さるじぞう, in Japanese) caught my attention early on. Many of the folk tales, although directed at children, are quite creepy (and I have no fondness for horror), so I found the more innocent appearance inviting. Furthermore, the title prompted all sorts of imaginative ideas about what the covers might contain, yet the story remained elusive until I read it. Let this not imply that the story is complex in anyway however, on the contrary, it is simply a fun children’s story of a moral nature.

Like so many Japanese tales, it begins with a poor old farmer. Working in his field in the mountain, he takes a break to eat mochi with kinako sprinkled on top. Wind blows kinako all over him, and without cleaning himself off, he takes a nap. Monkeys come out to investigate and mistake him for Jizo – a Boddhisatva whose likeness appears in small statues under little shelters along pathways all over Japan – presumably because the speckles of kinako make him look like stone.

According to the boss monkey’s orders, they haul him across the river to place him in a vacant Jizo shelter; however, while crossing the river some events unfold. First, the monkeys sing a silly work song about willingly wetting their willies in order to keep Jizo’s willy water-free. Even though the old man is awakened and humored, he toughs it out, stifling his laughter. Second, midway through the stream, the old man looses a smelly fart, prompting a discussion about the source of the noise and the subsequent odor. With a little help from the old man’s slyly mumbled comments amidst the confusion, it is decided that they heard a shrine bell and were smelling incense. Clearly they are carrying a true Jizo in their estimation.

After ensconcing him in the shelter they cast offerings of gold and silver coins before him. Outwaiting the monkeys, once he is alone, the old man scoops up the loot and heads home to share his tale with his wife. The greedy and nosey neighborwoman listens carefully and badgers her husband into a plan for riches. He agrees but stumbles clumsily through the process, ultimately bursting out laughing at the song mid-river. Outraged by the deception, and prone to rash action – as monkeys are known to be – they cast the man headlong into the drink. He finds his way home, tired and wet.

Reading the ending makes me wonder if Japanese tales have been toned down in the same manner as Western folktales over the recent decades. Did the original tale end in disaster for the husband of the greedy wife?

Mandatory Cooling Off Period

2010年 10月 1日

Bathing in very hot water is tradition in Japan. Often people will go to natural hot springs to soak in baths of various mineral content. Depending on the salts in the bath, different conditions are said to improve with regular bathing. Also, many people like the slippery texture of skin after relaxing in the spas. Although most homes use tap water in the bathroom, it is common to settle in to a 41 or 42 degree tub of water in the evening at home.

American readers might need a reference point, so 104 degrees F is considered maximum healthy temperature for a hot tub and that is 40 degrees C. Japanese people sometimes use hotter baths as well although I haven’t tried anything over 45 degrees. Health benefits and improved sleep claims are associated with this practice; however, friends who study non-traditional medicine have given me a caveat. For best health, it is recommended to cool off for about an hour before sleeping.

Check the time stamp for this post and you’ll see that I didn’t get my bath until late. We have a female house guest and a bath arrangement which doesn’t lend itself to use with multiple people milling around. Thinking it best not to expose myself to my wife’s friends, I opted to wait until they were settled in for the night. Once I cool off a little more I’ll doze off here.

One Tough Day

2010年 3月 16日

Ironic that my previous post mentioned my upcoming time off being a chance for rest. Yesterday, I woke up short on sleep and not feeling the greatest. I got myself ready for work and ran for the train. When I got off in Tsu I biked in the rain to school. Something had encouraged me to wear my ski underwear and I was glad.

Temperatures were unusually cold and my Monday school was frigid all day. Even with the long underwear, I was shaking all day long. My joints and muscles were all aching horribly by the end of the day.

Both the Principal and Vice Principal at that school go out of their way to be offensive to me, and yesterday was no exception. Fortunately, it was my last day at the school, so I could just ignore their words and pretend like I was content.

After work, it was raining harder but I couldn’t go home because I was meeting someone in the evening. I stopped by an acquaintance’s place, hoping to crash for a bit and chat, but he was out. Also, I stopped by a business acquaintance’s place and she pretended like she didn’t know me. Finally, I stopped into the city library and slept on a chair which helped me feel a little better.

When I got home about 10pm, I checked my temperature and got about 37.7C which probably isn’t too bad, but I don’t know my base temperature. I took a hot shower and went to bed, waking up at 37.1C this morning.

Temperatures are funny. When I was a kid we always learned that 98.6F was normal body temperature. This equates to 37C. However, every Japanese person learns that 36.5C is normal body temperature – almost 1 degree F different. Anyhow, aside from stomach cramping, I’m doing pretty well today and tomorrow I have the day off.


2009年 11月 4日

Whether the odd fruit of my conversations reflects on my peculiar nature or not is up to you to decide. Two terms I’ve picked up are moreru (漏れる) and onesho (お寝小).

Anyone making the connection between the two terms is a step ahead. Moreru is a verb meaning ‘to leak’. When a child has to go to the bathroom very badly and they are told to hold it, at some point you will hear this exclamation. Basically, this is the “I can’t hold it any longer” announcement: “It’s going to leak!”

For the record, I have never personally heard this, because cruelty suffered in my childhood has left me with a sensitivity to this issue. Whenever a student in my class asks to go the bathroom, they are given immediate access. If I see a student looking like they might be in distress because they don’t want to interrupt my class, I discretely check if they need a break. Now that I’ve defended my name, on to the next term plus a little explanation about remembering terms.

Onesho means “bed wetting”. This one came up because most homes air out bedding on a certain schedule, hanging it over balcony railings. When I noticed a place with all manner of bedding out on a day that didn’t seem to match their schedule, the first idea tossed out by a Japanese person was ‘bed wetting’. Although I say ‘idea’, they spoke with absolute confidence. Imagine your most embarrassing frailties having to be presented to the world. Now imagine it in a society where nothing is considered worse than embarrassment.

So my promise about learning new words. Often a new word in Japanese is just a bunch of sounds (particularly since there are so many homophones), whereas a new word heard in English provides us clues about it’s etymology. When I first heard onesho I had no idea what it meant, but when I looked at the kanji characters in my dictionary it became easy to remember. This is a great benefit of using kanji. Each character is basically a drawing that carries information. Many words are a combination of characters which carry a more complex meaning together. In this case the first character is ‘sleep’ and the second character is ‘small’. At first this may not seem obvious unless you know the terms for ‘urine’ and ‘feces’ and ‘small waste’ and ‘big waste’. Neshoben is a three character phrase meaning the same thing and a little more clear. I think I will never forget this term now. Let’s hope I don’t need it in conversation.

Full Swing

2009年 9月 3日

Today I was a little surprised to see I would teach a full five class load, but this is the serious school. The homeroom teachers are all responsible to create their own English lessons and lead them. After school today I have some extracurricular activities as well; and I’m trying to repair the crashed drive on my Ubuntu laptop. Somewhere in there I need to sleep and clean and medicate my ear.

Tomorrow will also be full schedule, but it looks like I will meet my sweetie for about 45 minutes. I’ll call that a good day.

Call Me Goldilocks

2009年 7月 3日

My primary reason for moving to Ise was to see more of my girlfriend. Because of her work schedule and my location, I had only been able to see her about once a week. After the move there have been a few good stretches, the best was when I saw her everyday for six straight days; however, things have been a little tough lately. Because of her work and some logistics she has been stretched a bit.

Since she is effectively on 24 x 7, she really looks forward to her mid-day nap. Recently, even that break has often vanished. This afternoon I managed to get home about 5:40pm. When I entered the genkan I stopped and stared at the shoes in front of me for several seconds. I thought it was very odd that she would leave shoes at the apartment, and if she did, she would certainly have put them away in the shoe closet.

Next I noticed her slippers were not sitting at the beginning of the floor. I quietly slipped my burdens off and slipped down the hall and into the kitchen. I noticed the slippers were sitting in front of the sleeping chamber and the frangrance of katorisenkou (蚊取り線香) was in the air. Sure enough, as I slid open the door, I noticed, “Somebody’s been sleeping in my bed, and they’re still there!” She was just waking up to get back to work, so it was excellent timing.

Seeing her beautiful face, hearing about her day, sharing about mine, and making plans for our time tomorrow was a rare treat. My hope is that our brief meeting refreshed her as well, I tried to be very encouraging and not break her ribs when I gave her a bear hug.

Sunday Soundcheck 36

2009年 2月 8日

We can start the ‘N’ column of the Japanese sound chart this week. The first sound is na, written in hiragana as な and katakana as ナ. The ‘n’ sound is pretty much like English and the ‘a’ part is, of course, the same as it was for a, ka, ga, sa, za, ta, and da in the previous columns. Today let’s just say, it is like when the doctor tells you to open your mouth and say, “ah.”

Like the other soundchecks, I will try to find words that start with na that don’t normally appear in textbooks, regardless of the fact that they are commonly useful.

Natoriumu (ナトリウム) means ‘sodium’ and comes from the Latin name ‘natrium’ from which we get the atomic symbol Na. Cooks, nutritionists, athletes, chemists, and engineers alike should be able to put this one to use.

Naisho (ないしょ・内緒・内証) means ‘secret’. Nuance here seems to be ‘personal’ or ‘on the sly’, this sort of thing comes up in Japan a lot, so this word gets used a lot.

Natsubate (なつばて・夏バテ) and nanohana (なのはな・菜の花) are bonus words for this week. Both of these are words I wrote about in the past… or at least I thought I had, but my search engine finds no reference to them. (Perhaps I’ll have to take care of that.) The former is a condition caused by hot, humid summer weather. Lack of sleep because of all the noise that comes into a house with all the windows open; and loss of weight caused by the loss of appetite from running hither and thither in the oppressive conditions. The latter is rape blossoms, a springtime delicacy. Drop by your favorite tempura shop in the spring and order up some rape blossoms. Then you’ll know if they are a good shop or not. Mmmm… haru no aji.

No, I’m Not Ashamed

2009年 1月 5日

I did something tonight which I can’t blog about. No, I’m not ashamed. Actually, I’m quite proud of it. If you want to know, you’ll have to ask me after the eighth. With any luck I will remember to write about it and post a photo.

It’s just after 3am and I have to be out the door at 9:30AM. After a short nap, I’ll get up and finish packing. The weight juggling is going so-so. My three extra bags are a few pounds under just in case the airline has funny scales, but one of my free bags is five pounds overweight. What to do? My baggage fees will run something between $450 and $550.

Shocking? Not really, I purged so many items from my storage locker to get down to that weight. Now that the locker is empty I can stop paying about $80/month for that. I wouldn’t have another chance to close the unit until at least fall which would be at least $700 in fees, so I’ll be happy at $450.

Having my knives and nice pots and pans will give me a little joy in the kitchen. Also, everytime my girlfriend works in my kitchen, I am embarrassed and apologetic. This will be a big relief. I was a little sad to dump several nice mixing bowls and some pyrex measuring cups at Goodwill, but along with some vases they accounted for a healthy chunk of weight. My crystal bowls are making the trip, however.

One insane purchase was about 1300 candy canes for my students. It seems that a lot of Japanese folks aren’t aware of their pepperminty goodness, so I view this as an educational tool. Also, some students were asking me to bring presents and couldn’t grasp the idea that if I spent a dollar on each student it would be as much as the airplane ticket. I picked up the sweets for a little over $10 total on a Christmas clearance sale.

Another aside: we had a freak snowstorm this evening; giving me quite a scare. Fortunately, it started raining hard around midnight, so the roads should be clear.

I’d love to write more, but am worried I’ll miss my wake up call. G’night!