Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Getting In The Spirit of Things (or Not...)

As I sit here in the wee small hours of Christmas morning (just after Santa's timely arrival), a lot of thoughts are going through my mind. Allow me to share just a few:

In the evening on Monday the 22nd the senior string ensemble from Ye Olde Academy, plus yours truly as solo clarinetist on a couple of tunes, played a Christmas concert at the Koyama Memorial Hospital, the newest and largest medical facility in Kashima. It's mainly an emergency center (which is why my only other visit there was when one of my kidneys produced a stone right in the middle of a class one summer)(That was seriously painful, but I digress). However, its other main function is as a care and rehabilitation center for the elderly and those with chronic diseases. Apparently they hold such a concert every year, but usually it's a solo artist with or without accompaniment. We were the first ensemble numbering more than a dozen, and packing us into the hospital lobby was no small feat. We had a good sized audience in there, too, many of whom were in wheelchairs if not stretchers, often with IVs attached. One person collapsed during the performance but insisted on remaining till the end. It definitely wasn't our usual fare, but the warm response from the audience and the appreciative looks on their faces really said it all. They probably aren't given much reason to celebrate, so we did our part.

Christmas preparation was unusually hectic this year, mainly because of increased job loads on both my and my wife's part. I managed to finish the wrapping and prep for my bunch only at 2:00 a.m. this morning. The package for my family Stateside is most likely going to be a few days late. The Christmas cards I'm planning to send to people are going to wind up as New Year cards. As for my wife, she hasn't managed to finish anything. Her Christmas shopping is going to happen this afternoon (i.e. on Christmas Day). That means Santa's load for the kids is rather scant compared with most years, but I'm sure we'll find a way to make it up to the kids.

While my friends and family back in the Pacific Northwest are suffering the worst cold snap there in over forty years, here in the Land of the Rising Sun we're just now getting out of an unexpected tropical air mass that made it suddenly go from freezing to warm to hot. Now it's getting back to freezing again, but for several days it seemed more like late March than December. We even had the stormy weather to prove it.

At the local self-service gas station run by the Japan Agriculture cooperative (i.e. cheaper than the regular chains), gas was 187 yen a liter last August (about $6.75 a gallon at the exchange rate back then). It is now an even 100 yen a liter ($4.44 a gallon at the current exchange rate). It's nice to be able to fill my tank for less than fifty bucks once again. They say prices will keep going down for a while and then suddenly skyrocket back up. Whatever. I'll enjoy it while I can.

Ignorance is definitely NOT bliss. After a death in the family, the custom in Japan is to send out special mourning announcement cards to everyone who would normally receive (or send) a New Year's card. The purpose of the card is mainly to let people know that they shouldn't send us New Year's cards because the bereaved do not celebrate the New Year. Usually the cards are made or ordered immediately after the funeral is over. Not so in my household. For the past four months I frequently got on my wife's case to help me make them; I already have excellent software for that, but since I'd never made mourning cards before I wasn't sure how to design one. Unfortunately, all I got in reply was complaints. Every week she was either too tired, too stressed out, too busy, or too apathetic to do it

FIL offered to take care of it, and he had me use his computer to help with the preparation. That's one of our regular things here. FIL got himself a brand new computer a couple of years ago and has even been taking lessons in its use. Guess what? He won't even try to use it. He just keeps trying to dump everything off on me. After I showed him how to do it (yet again) and even helped with some of the busywork, he gave up and ordered ready-made cards instead. Unfortunately, despite all our help, the cards he ordered had only his name on them. In other words my wife and I couldn't use them. That finally left all our card preparation to me.

Once again the wife gave me virtually no instruction on what I was supposed to do. Running like a chicken with its head cut off, I worked hard to design the card, buy blanks, print them up, do the addresses, and deliver them to the Post Office ahead of the deadline. I managed to pull it off, too, but naturally, as soon as the Mrs. came home and found out what I had done, far from being thanked, I was treated to a steady stream of moans and gripes. You see, it turns out that card blanks come in different types, and mourning cards are supposed to use a different one from regular New Year cards. That meant that, in the end, more than $50 and several hours of work went straight into the dustbin. This time I said I wasn't having any more to do with it. I already put in the time, effort, and expense. I'm probably going to get laughed at by people anyway. I'll just tell them to direct their complaints to the Mrs., who was too busy/tired/apathetic to make the announcements for her own mother within a span of four months. Now it's her turn, I think.

After all those wiped-out weekends, I'm finally getting a vacation! It technically starts tomorrow, but I insisted on having Christmas Day off. Besides, the obligatory lessons ended a number of days ago, and all teaching currently being done at the school right now is more or less voluntary. A lot of the faculty have already left on vacation (meaning my mourning cards are languishing in their mailboxes). As for me, I'm just happy to be free for a while.

Incidentally, I just finished a new song. It's called "Secret Identity", and it was a nice, enjoying bit of patchwork. Enjoy! More info on the song can be found on my Minstrel's Muse site.

It is now 3:30 a.m. Christmas morning. Woah, I'd better go to bed! There are a couple of kids that are going to be seriously climbing the walls and jogging on the ceiling tomorrow!

And I heard him exclaim just before he logged off:

"Happy Christmas to all, and good morning! *cough cough*"

Happy Holidays, everyone!

12 Comments:

  • Merry Christmas from the land of the White Christmas.

    We wish you all well and hopefully you can get a tad of rest in during your voluminous free time.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 1:03 PM  

  • Hehehe, Merry Christmas from (near) the equator!

    And.. enjoy your well-earned vacation :þ

    By Blogger ❤ IceGlacial™ ❤, at 6:43 PM  

  • Merry christmas to you and your family :)

    By Anonymous ÅnGe|e, at 9:38 PM  

  • And A merry Xmas to You All there Moody

    By Blogger QUASAR9, at 11:45 PM  

  • Happy Holidays and get some much needed breaks!

    By Blogger ladybug, at 12:44 AM  

  • Merry Christmas!!!

    Happy Holidays!!!

    By Blogger Selba, at 12:23 PM  

  • Merry Christmas and I hope you make the most (doing nothing?) on your time off!

    By Blogger Olivia, at 2:36 PM  

  • Merry Christmas moody!

    By Blogger Swinebread, at 3:58 PM  

  • Happy holidays as it seems your Christmas and New Year preparation hasn't exacly been calm and bright.
    w.

    By Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog, at 12:25 PM  

  • Oh MM.
    I'm so sorry about all the hecticity (?) and headaches with the proper cards given the bereavement in your family. But it's over now (mostly) and hopefully you can take a real breather to rejuvenate your soul. How lovely that you got to bring some joy to those elderly folks.

    By OpenID nikkipolani, at 4:38 AM  

  • Oh good! The comments are not dated so here goes: Merry Christmas, dear MM.

    By Blogger HappySurfer, at 11:26 PM  

  • Scrooge: "I suppose you'll be wanting the day off tomorrow."

    Bob: "Yes, Mr. Scrooge. Thank you Mr. Scrooge. Merry Christmas Mr. Scrooge!"

    Scrooge: "I'll expect you to come in all the earlier the next day."

    Bob: "Of course, Mr. Scrooge."

    By Blogger DewKid, at 6:41 AM  

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