Does He Look Like Me?

We finally got a really good shot of our baby’s pudgy little face today at the doctor.  Here’s a lousy picture of it:

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Sleeping Beauty

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Glowing

Well this is truly a rare event.  After some major cajoling, Chieko has given me permission to post a picture of her.  So in case you were wondering what she’s looking like these days, at 33 weeks pregnant, here you go.

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We just took a long walk after dinner, over to a daycare center that we are going to look at during the daylight hours tomorrow.  It’s very close to the house and on the way to work — two good things.  In the afternoon we’re going in to see the baby doctor for our two week checkup.  It will be our second visit with the new doctor.

I started up teaching the fall semester today.  I had four classes and they all went well, and I’m feeling energized and motivated after the summer vacation.  Hopefully I can ride the wave until February, when we have our next long chunk of time off.  I have a feeling it could be busy, stressful, sleepless few months between now and then though.

That’s about it from here.

Back In the Hauzen

The rare non-picture post.

We made it back to Kanazawa tonight with just enough daylight to pick the newly ripened habenaros, tomatoes, okra, and one lonely eggplant.  It was also light enough to see that two of our basil plants had gone to seed and the rest had wilted in the sun over the last few days.  Damn!  I chopped off the seeded parts, sprayed the bejesus out of the dried up plants, and crossed my fingers.  I’m hoping to keep the basil going in the sunroom throughout the winter, though I’m not sure if that’s possible or not.  It smelled amazing though.

We brought all sorts of things home with us: sweet potatoes, onions, chestnuts, some rooty things that I don’t know how to describe, and a planter of homegrown Iguchi strawberries.  I’d like to rip out most of the degenerate strawberries that are growing in our yard to both free up some space and replenish with yummy strawberry plants.  We also brought back a few bags of potent manure that will help our garden, but left a nice stink in our car.  Our soil is basically sand, so we can use all the help we can get, stinky car be damned.

What we didn’t bring back with us was a bunch of important work stuff that I never got around to doing in Niigata, and have a meeting about on Monday.  I remember telling myself that I should just pack it in my suitcase so I wouldn’t forget it.  I didn’t pack it, and then I forgot it.  We made some semi-frantic phone calls and everything should be OK, but lesson learned.

Looking forward to hitting they gym tomorrow after a good dose of yard work.  I worked hard the last few days, but also ate and drank a lot.  One more day of pseudo vacation before it’s back the normal grind.  Have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are.

Exhale (A Little)

We were on pins and needles for most of the today because the doctor called yesterday to say the results of her mom’s tests (the ones that say whether the cancer has spread to other parts of her body) were in, and that they should come in today to meet with the doctor.  So Chieko and her father went in to the hospital this evening, and came back with some positive, if not ideal, news.  The cancer has not spread, but the doctor is recommending that she undergo chemotherapy to try and ward off any potential trouble.  In his words, via my wife, he said that if it was his mother he would want her to have the chemo.   She will getting the chemotherapy for a year, twice month, so it’s a pretty low dose that shouldn’t leave her bald or vomiting.

What I find interesting/surprising/horrifying about this event was the fact that Chieko’s mom was not part of this disclosure.  In fact, as far as I know, she still doesn’t know the results of her tests.  In Japan, with a potentially fatal illness, the patient is not initially told of their diagnosis.  First the immediate family is debriefed, and they then decide whether or not to tell the sick family member.  At the end of the meeting the doctor asked if he should tell Cheiko’s mom her condition tomorrow (they said yes).  The idea is to not stress out or depress the patient, but for some reason this seems absurd to me.  Does this ever happen in America?  It seems like in the US it would be law suit material, but what isn’t.  I’m not sure where the line is drawn, because Chieko’s mom was told about her original stomach cancer, but the hospital applied this technique when dealing with the secondary test results.

At any rate, there is relief in the Iguchi household tonight, and I hope this will be the end of posts involving Chieko’s mom and that horrible disease.

I woke up this morning feeling like I was 80 years old, or like I was my current 30 years old and someone had beaten the shit out of me yesterday.  My body was and is sore, in new and exciting places compared to the pain I endure during the watermelon harvest.  I don’t know why I keep returning to this idealized vision of farming that I have, but I always do, and it’s always shattered the day I wake up after my first day of farming.  Perhaps I’m more suited to gardening, which has a much slower pace with the added bonus that I don’t have to do it if I don’t feel like it.

But I do love working outside and being somewhat competent helping out around here, even if the communication between Chieko’s parents and me isn’t the smoothest thing on the planet.  And while I’m working and moving around I feel good; it’s when I stop that every muscle in my body seizes up and I struggle to get up off the floor (furniture would be appreciated).  A lot of times I think how happy I am to be doing physical work, sweating like a pig, and having a very unique Japanese experience, and I do feel genuinely happy to be helping Chieko’s family.  Just so you know, all of my bitching and moaning is completely tongue in cheek, but the pain, oh the pain, is very real.  So much for going to the gym all the time and being ‘in shape.’

Today, fortunately, featured only an hour of rice bagging, and then Chieko’s dad and I when out to harvest three smallish rice paddies.  There was far less standing around today though, since I was prepping the paddies so that the Athlete Pro could sufficiently navigate the tight corners.  This entailed me hunching over like a 90 year old Japanese woman with my blade of thunder and hacking out a few rows of rice around the corners, thus giving the machine a little more room to maneuver.  In between, I ferried truckloads of rice back to the house and unloaded them.

Here’s me being old.

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Despite having more to do today, there was still some down time for me to make faces and wield my scary blade into the truck mirror.

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Chieko’s aunt and uncle arrived this afternoon from Tochigi, about three hours away, to help out over the next few days.  Since Chieko’s mom has been in the hospital, a rotating group of people have been coming to help out around the house and in the fields.  It has generally taken two or three people to make up for her.

We’re planning on heading back to Kanazawa tomorrow afternoon at some point, probably after a bit more rice bagging in the morning.  I have to start up work again on Monday, but Chieko will be home on maternity leave (as I’ve mentioned).  It certainly doesn’t feel like a Friday night, but enjoy your weekend.

Rice Harvesting 101

For me at least, today was a crash course in how rice gets from the field to bag you buy it in, only in reverse order.  This morning we spent 3 hours bagging rice, which I have to say is just a sucky job.  It’s loud, for one thing, and the we were bagging 30 kilograms (60-ish pounds) at a time, so it was quite heavy.  It was surprisingly tricky work at first.  The the bags are thick, 2 or 3 ply paper, and there’s a particular way of folding and sealing them up.  There’s also a particular knot that needs to be tied with the thick plastic fasteners.  All of this generally ranks on one’s hands and fingers; hell of a forearm workout though.

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The afternoon was much easier work.  In fact, I didn’t really do anything.  After spending the morning inside the barn bagging, I was very happy to be out in the sun.  Chieko’s dad was running the machine that harvests the rice.  It’s awesomely named the ‘Athlete Pro,’ because nothing symbolizes athleticism like perching yourself on top of a 5,000 pound, tank-like machine that actually enables you to do less work, and cruising around in circles at several miles per hour.  The more traditional method, which some people still practice, is cutting the rice by hand and hanging it up to dry.  That conjures up a much more traditional image of Japan, but not too many people are doing it around here now.  There are a lot of Athlete Pros cruising around.

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It’s a pretty remarkable machine though.  It cuts the rice then gobbles up the stalks, separates the grains and expels the remains out the back.  When the tank fills up, you pull up to the truck, swing the boom around (mechanically, of course), and blow all the grains into a hopper.

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This is the point where I am crucial to the whole operation.  I drive back to the barn, hook up a hose and plug 50 different plugs in, flip a few switches, then go back to sitting on my ass or taking more pictures for the next 10 minutes while the hoppers empties into the grain tower.  Repeat.  Tomorrow I will be certain to grab my iPod before we head out again, unless Chieko’s dad intends to give me something else to do in between trips.

I might be a little paranoid, but I was uncomfortable with Chieko helping us with the bagging this morning.  She wasn’t doing anything overly physical, just hooking up bags to the rice dispenser after I grabbed the full one.  But I was worried about all the noise.  I know babies can hear things outside of the womb, like giant motors running several feet away for 3 hours straight.  Chieko wasn’t overly concerned about it so I followed her lead, but I think I’ll encourage her to let me handle that job tomorrow (if it’s OK with her dad!).

Time for food and a libation, and then a course or two in the massage chair.