This is how we take care of snow

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For anyone interested in bulldozers and what not. This is how we take care of snow here. This dozer starts off in the field next to our house, where they blow the snow from the road in February, so that area accumulates a lot of snow. It has to be melted in time for the owner of the field to begin farming, but traditional methods, such as sprinkling black ashes onto it to absorb heat from the sun and make it melt faster, no longer work these days, because of all the extra snow blown onto it from the street. Nowadays, the dozers and blowers and trucks come in to move the snow from the field to a nearby river.

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Mona aint git much schoolin’

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So recently Mona is not getting as much schooling as she is supposed to (I guess). Between skiing and hanging out with us, there probably is not much book smart learning going on.

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Today was the third super clear warm day in a row, and tomorrow will be snow, so I took the opportunity to take Mona out of school to go skiing. This was her fourth time on skis. A guest lent me the harness a few weeks ago, and this is her second time to use it. It works well. I can let her ski on her own while still controlling her speed. She complains that it hurts, but that is usually when I am going too slow and it is holding her back.
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This weekend Tomoe had a meeting with her group of people working to rescue old tools and documents after the earthquake caused a massive wave of “lets tear down this house while the government is paying for it”.
Her group stayed at one of the inns that I take most of my customers who are willing to make the trek up there. Here here is a pretty boring video of her playing behind a bear skin (the inn-keeper’s husband is a hunter). The video is long and boring, but it gives an image of what dinner is like up there.

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Aside from spending time with some of her adoring fans, we also took a little walk in the morning to the pre-school/kindergarten up there. There there are only two students, both boys, and at least of them was super happy the have a girl drop in. They played for a bit and the boy requested that Mona quit her own pre-school and become a full time student up there. Frankly, Mona is not against the idea, as when she tells me she doesn’t like school, I ask why, and she says “The other kids don’t like me”. It seems she only has two kids that she likes at her own class.
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Of course, her current school has more kids so she can learn cool group marches like the Mickey Mouse March which she performs below in our home while watching a video of her doing it herself .

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Winter Festival

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Spent the morning and most of afternoon at the schools winter festival – the winter version of summer’s “undoukai”. It was held at the ski hill, and the activities were designed for one parent to participate with child, and since Tomoe was along, I took the opportunity to ski, so missed most of the photo ops with just the kids playing.
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At the end there was a lottery drawing at with a ton of prizes, including 38 inch digital TV, and Nintendo Wee. The tickets were distributed as part of a game where everyone had to run out and grab tickets “hidden” in the snow with big red tags sticking out, so they were not really hidden, and it was not much of a treasure “hunt”, as it was suposed to be, but I don’t expect them to burry a big screen tv in the snow.
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The prize list is in the photo above next to the big “ringo head”, as Mona calls him. IN addition to the TV and the Nintendo, it included lots of outdoor gear, bags of rice, boxes of instant ramen, a season pass for the ski-hill, and a digital camera (suspiciously won by the guy who was drawing the numbers…hmmm…) In the end we didn’t even win a box of tissues – just a 10 yen piece of candy they called the “Try again next year” prize.
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Mona’s School Show & Other Videos for Mom

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Mona comes home from school. This day Tomoe joined me to pick up Mona at the bus stop, so I was able to “document” the whole thing. The older girl who is waving at the departing bus at the end is a neighbor. When Tomoe’s niece lived here for six-months, they played a lot together. They were very young then, and this girl is now in junior high. I asked Tomoe when she thought this girl waving at the bus changed from “This is what I am supposed to do”, to “This will make the smaller children on the bus feel happy”. I assumed that at her age she was making a concious decision, but Tomoe says that she saw the girl waving at the bus even though there was only on or a few same-age kids on board. I guess it is just a habit – a nice habit – that kids in Japan rural areas have.

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Above we have Mona’s little pageant. She was mini mouse.

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Finally, shovelling in the back yard. The snow on the roof has to be shovelled because if it gets too heavy it will break the edge of the roof. This is on the second story level. The big hole she is putting snow into is on ground level.
I had to go get the shovel.

Mona Swims and Likes Bambi

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The plane ride home as almost as uneventful as all of the other plane rides Mona has been on. Aside from kicking the seat in front of her, and just being generally excited, she is an angel. The worst thing she did was chew through her earphones so she had to watch her TV soundless. Luckily this flight had personal TVs (the flight to US didn’t even have a screen) and plenty of channels to choose from. Mona got to watch lions eat gazelle, sharks eat seals, and Bambi’s mom get shot. Bambi was one of the available shows and she loved it, as evident in the video above. I assumed that her laughing must be at the Bambi on ice scene, but it wasn’t, she just really loved Bambi. Luckily she was not laughing like this when Bambi’s mom was shot.
More than trouble with Mona was the fact that we managed to arrive at the gate in Denver only five minutes before they closed the plane doors. Thinking back I realize that our time in Tokyo finally paid off as we passed security, ran to the shuttle train and managed to squeeze aboard just as the doors were closing, much like we always did in our morning commute in Tokyo. If we had missed that shuttle, we would have missed the flight, and the ticket officer noted, as we boarded, that there were no more flights available for two days. Even Mona’s cuteness would not have gotten us past this potentially expensive hiccup.
Below, in keeping with the “things that swim” theme of the trip, is video of Mona swimming. Unfortunately, I went out and got arm floaties for her, and she stopped trying to swim by herself like that. We have gone once to the pool back here in Japan, and intend to take her more when we can.
The “Things that swim” theme ran throughout the trip with the deep sea fishing, the Florida aquairum, which i was a bit disappointed in, but thankful that it did not make me want to buy an aquarium. (But I think I will anyway). In Denver we watched an IMax 3-D movie narrated by Johny Depp about the coral reefs. The theater rules say once you leave you can not get back in, and the director of the movie thought it would be cool to put all the most shocking, scarry and loud scenes up front. Mona started crying almost as the movie started. I was thinking that my $30 would soon show up on the screen in 3-D as it was flushed down the toilet and finds its way to pollute the reef.
Luckily, Mona settled an was soon reaching out trying to grab the fish, yelling “I touched it! I touched it!” Some dad in the back was not so lucky however, and his kid was not happy to see a huge fish eating a smaller one in terrifying 3-D.

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Anti-climatic

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The return to Japan was pretty anti-climatic as I had been hoping for meters of snow to shovel from in front of our house like last year, but small-town life does not always go according to plan when you have nice neighbors who shovel for you in anticipation of your return. It also didn’t help that temps are quite high an we are even getting rain. While there is still plenty of snow, I feel bad for a friend who is visiting this weekend from Malaysia along with her co-worker from Mexico. It would be great to show them proper snow-country.
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Back to Florida where it was warm enough for Mona to run around half-naked. One of the high-lights of the trip was the deep-sea fishing trip Tomoe and I went on. It was not as exciting as I remember from my childhood, when dad spent the entire trip sick, and I landed a huge fish of some sort that we were told tasted bad so the captain “disposed” of it for us.
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This time I only hooked a significant number of snapper, and it was delicious when Tomoe cooked it up for dinner. The major disappointment was that fishing has evolved to the point that the “fisherman” only holds the line in the water and everything else is taken care of by the captain and crew. I was lucky enough just to get a chance to put bait on my own hook, let alone take the fish off. For some of the customers the captain was even casting the line and just handing them the pole.
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Mona got a kick out of watching them fillet the fish and throw the remains to the pelicans.
Tomoe snagged a grouper that was too small, so we threw it back after the photo. Its all for the best, though, as groupers are on the conservationists no-catch list. That didn’t stop us from enjoying a grouper sandwich at a little food truck nearby the condo my parents had rented. The real enjoyment though came not from the sandwich, which was great, but seeing that the proprieters had just moved out there a few years ago and well into their 40s/50s. Still gives me hope that my life is not yet over.
If it wasn’t for her small body and hands and feet, I would expect Mona to be one of the future Japanese hopefuls for olympic swimming. For three years now I have been trying to get her to swim and put her head under the water in the local bath we frequent most nights. No go, but in the pool in Florida she wrinkled me out. She had no problem swimming underwater and almost made it all the way across the pool – until…. I ran to the wal-mart to get her some arm-floaties. Maybe it was a big mistake. Now she will not swim under the water anymore, and only relies on the floaties. Her olympic dreams dashed at age three.
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Sunny Florida (-20 im Michigan)

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Mona’s vocabulary and ability to express her own thoughts is growing in leaps and bounds, so this year we wanted to bring Mona back to Michigan to spend some time with Grandma, Grandpa and the cousins.

Problem: Michigan is cold. Colder than where we live in Japan. We get lots of snow in Sakae Mura, but when people there smile and say “Too much snow for ya, eh?” I just say. “The snow is fine. Where I come from the typical temperatures drop below -20C (-5F).” That shuts them up. In Sakae Mura the coldest days are only -8C. My parents didn’t want to be there, and frankly, neither did we.

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Solution: We arranged with my parents to meet in Michigan, spend some time with the cousins, and then take the 24 hour drive south to sunny Florida with may parents. Getting out of the car at the Florida border in t-shirt and shorts was great, but even better was getting to the condo on the beach and seeing on the Weather Channel that a cold front/winter storm had hit Michigan Ohio just after we escaped, and temperatures had plummeted to -20c.

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It made the beach and outdoor pool that much more enjoyable.

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Snowing Too Fast to Keep Up

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The snow is falling too fast to keep up with the photos. These are from a few days ago, and it has been snowing constantly until yesterday. Two mornings ago I was on yukifumi toban duty so had to get up at 5:30 AM to shovel the community shared spaces in the hamlet – this despite it being Mona’s day off from school, which should mean I get to sleep in until at least 7:30. I thought I could get home and go back to bed for an hour or so, but by the time I got in Mona was already awake.
I know that there are two or three people worrying if we have/will have any snow come Jan 3. Please enjoy these photos and know that it will probably snow several more times before then. (It is supposed to snow more tonight)
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There will be plenty of snow for snow-shoeing, sledding, skiing, and building the world-record biggest-snow-man-in the-world-ever-built (in Sakae Village). I can’t wait.
The photo below is from a week or more ago, so don’t count on the snow being that shallow. Its well over doubled since then. The second photo is of our rice polishing vending machine.
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