Thursday, April 22, 2010

"How is the Weather?" 'It's crazy!!!!'

I’ve lived in a total of 5 cities in my 25 years on this Earth and every place has had a distinctive set of weather phenomena that seem to define my time there. Auckland = brief afternoon showers every day in summer and 3 months of straight rain in winter. McLean, Virginia = pretty stable with the odd heat wave in summer and cold snap in winter, if I remember rightly. Dunedin = sunny, crisp frosty winters. Wellington = WIND, nothing like a good bit of wind to make your walk down Willis Street to work and enjoyable experience. Takaoka, Toyama, Japan = unpredictable as a woman with PMS and windier than Wellington at times.

Now, I am no meteorologist but I know what I observe and this post is going to be about what I observe comparing Auckland, Wellington and Takaoka.

A grand total of 18 years of having a home base (more than that now if I count the number of years my parents have owned a house there) in Auckland taught me what to expect there. Never leave home without your umbrella but if you do it’s ok because it’s just a passing shower.

8 months (yes it was that short) based in Wellington taught me the following. Never leave home without your hair tied back, hairbrush in your handbag and coat over your arm because if the weather changes, and it will, you will need to be prepared for it. Always leave home WITHOUT your umbrella though. The second you open it there will be a massive gust of wind rendering the umbrella dead in a second. Upon arriving at work your hair will require restyling and the outer layer of your clothes may need to be placed over a heater to dry out.

Takaoka is quite similar to Wellington in many ways except for the fact that the wind swirls and gets stronger and stronger and stronger with each gust. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Even Wellington’s wind is not as crazy as Takaoka’s. It feels like it blows constantly here. Every nice day you get there is at least a little bit of wind. Rain without wind appears to be almost impossible. That in itself creates issues for me because I hate breaking amazing umbrellas, and a lot of Japanese umbrellas are fantastic. There’s a cultural aspect to it too. Umbrellas have always been a status symbol here so if you give up on your umbrella you clearly have no class. The idea that there is no point in using your umbrella if it’s windy would never occur to Japanese people, nope you must endure the best you can. I quite often cruise into work wet to the sound of nervous laughter. I don't mind though, I'm from a place that's also windy and raining, 'tis only water, I won't melt.

There is not much more I can say about the weather here in Takaoka other than that my time growing up in New Zealand as a kid has taught me to appreciate that if you live on an island you must always be prepared for anything. Auckland taught me to expect rain. Wellington taught me to respect the wind. Takaoka is teaching me that if you expect rain but then disrespect the wind by opening your umbrella, you are going to have fun times fixing it (my umbrella was a gift from my father when he was last in Takaoka so it will be getting fixed, I just need the right tools). In conclusion; crazy weather makes life interesting! Yesterday was fine and slightly windy today is wet and very windy... my life is interesting...

This photo is not the umbrella that broke this morning, this was taken last April around the same time. :S It actually did bend like that, but it was only ¥100 and not a gift, so I tossed it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I'm just going to come right out and say this now before anyone thinks I'm a freak. I am in fact a freak. I do in fact LOVE going to the dentist!
My dentist friends back home are probably reading this thinking 'finally! someone who loves us!' I don't just love going to the dentist because I know a whole heap of them and probably taught (cell biology labs) some of the up coming graduates from New Zealand's only dental school. I love them for other reasons. I think going to the dentist is the best thing you can do for yourself because without your teeth you can't chew! If you can't chew, you can't eat!!! I love food!!! I love eating! Therefore, I love my teeth and who looks after my teeth?? My dentist! So I heart my dentist. I also heart my orthodontist, even though a little over 10 years ago she inflicted much pain on my choppers. There is at least one person in this world with the same shaped smile as me thanks to that wonderful woman! Seriously though, you only get one set of teeth so look after them.

Last night, I thought I was using my teeth for what they are supposed to be used for, eating raw carrots, when all of a sudden I noticed that some of the cement (glue, bond, のり, CR whatever you want to call it) holding my well hidden and very useful permanent/semi-permanent lower retaining wire in place had chipped off. It was most annoying. You know when you have a little bit of sharpness or pain or anything sticking out in your mouth that doesn't usually stick out? It was that kind of annoying. My tongue just would not stop playing with that darn bit of chipped cement. I decided, despite having used a few hours of my holiday at Christmas to go for a check up, to go to the dentist and make sure it was a) not going to fall out and b) that it got fixed!

An hour of surfing the interwebs at work hunting down a dentist later I asked a colleague to a) help me figure out if it was close and b) call them to check if there was a person who understood English on hand should my Japanese fail me. Straight after work I literally walked 300 meters from work to the clinic where I was the only patient and was seen immediately. I was so happy. They noticed that I spoke Japanese and decided to not bother with English and just got straight into it with the easy Japanese. I explained, using easy Japanese and gestures and with my tongue, which tooth it was, my colleague having explained what had happened on the phone. The nurse/dental assistant assessed it then got the dentist who also assessed it and asked the other woman helping and her to prepare some シアル (shi-aru [CR]) which was then applied straight onto the affected area after it had been cleaned up and dried out.

I've been through this procedure before at the orthodontist back home. Would you believe that this has happened to me before? Basically, what they do is whack some more cement on top as a quick fix until I decide to get the wire whipped out. However, usually when they are re-cementing it and they use a blue light to set it, they wear safety goggles and have me laying right back. Nope, not today, I was sitting up right and they were blue lighting with no goggles. However who am I to question it.

The whole experience was quite comfortable. There was some nice instrumental music playing on low volume in the background the whole time and the dentist was a man in his late fifties/early sixties. You bet your boots he probably understands English and appears very good at his job. The chairs weren't the most modern and there certainly weren't TVs on the roof like at my last dentist in Wellington but when I think about it the max-fac who took my wisdom teeth out didn't exactly have the most modern stuff in his consulting offices either.

Today was fast. In and out in about 20 minutes. Two people felt the area, decided the wire wasn't going to actually fall out and the quick fix that I expected came and went the same way the chip did. My tongue is happy. It's not running over something sharp any more. But the best part of the whole thing is that it all cost about ¥2400, bless the government health insurance scheme that I pay into.

So folks, if you want my advice. Look after those teeth. Japanese dentists can be good or bad it's trial and error but the facilities are never likely to be too bad. The people are kind and genuinely want to make sure your teeth are in good condition, heck they even gave me a blanket to keep me warm when I jumped in the chair and told me to look after myself when I left (I'm taking that as a subtle hint to lay off the raw ニンジン [ninjin/carrots]).

Make sure you get a check up annually, it may be the best thing you do for yourself. I know this because my uncle didn't go to a dentist for 50 years. He had to have them all out. He now has dentures that he actually uses, but before that the guy who took the teeth out and made the first set of dentures which were uncomfortable kicked the bucket with cancer, quite the long story there. You only have one set of teeth, be careful with them and if you have a retainer on your bottom teeth, make sure you bite your carrots using the back teeth, might be safer.

Trip to Japanese dentist. Check!! (even if I did cheat and it was for something that didn't need x-ras or drills.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Why I like Hello Kitty

For many years now I have liked Hello Kitty. I have enjoyed her oval head, slightly rounded ears, round eyes, whiskers and no mouth since I was a child. I have been known to spend large amounts of money to acquire Hello Kitty merchandise and I have been known to be critical of some of the tackier franchises of her. But why? Why am I so passionate about this small, white, Japanese cat with no mouth?

The night I arrived at home in New Zealand to surprise my mother for her 60th birthday the family friends who picked my sister and I up from the airport to deliver us asked me why I like her so much. My first response was ‘why does everyone ask me this?’. I then replied with ‘I like what she stands for.’

So what is it about the cat that has no mouth that gives me such an affinity with her?

The first thing is that Sanrio say that she has no mouth because she speaks from her heart. I love that concept. Saying what you mean is essential in life. I can’t lie very well. In fact I am honest as the day is long and often that is seen as me not having tact. In the past that has gotten me into biggest trouble and I’ve learned from that (I like to think). However, I will never compromise on the things that are close to my heart, though, nowadays I enact that in much more tactful way.

The next thing that attracts me to Hello Kitty is that she is just so incredibly innocent. She’s clean. She’s cute. She’s just had her 30th anniversary and she hasn’t aged a second! She is kind to everyone. She doesn’t appear to have been tainted by some of the seedier elements of society at all. I think that’s why a lot of people like her actually. She stands for youth and innocence and I wonder if society isn’t trying to get a little of that back just a little. I like the innocence that she has. She seems as though she wouldn’t hurt a flea.

Another thing about her that I have loved all along is that she is a symbol of and de facto ambassador for the gentle side of Japan. There are some elements of Japan that are a tad stubborn and frustrating; occasionally on the world stage the Japanese government appears as though it is looking for a fight. Hello Kitty gives me hope that through her spread across the globe people will come to trust Hello Kitty, Japan and that Japan will come to trust the world.

When I was a child she was also that ubiquitous symbol of a country I was fast learning to love (ie Japan).

So there you go, there are a few of the reasons why I like Hello Kitty. There are more, but they are hard to articulate. Basically what it comes down to is that I just love what she represents and will for quite some time. And if you don't like that, that's your beef, I ain't changin', though I have been less inclined to display her merchandise in obvious places in recent times... except that hoodie. ;-)

They even have Easter Bunny Kitty! (Too tacky was not purchased!)