Welcome to Sophelia's Japan

A blog about adventures, academia, adoption and other things starting with the letter 'A'.
I'm a geek, a metal head, a shiba inu wrangler and a vegetarian, and I write about all of the above. You have been warned!

Smiley hikers

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Leaving

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This is hard to write, but even harder to do. We’re leaving Japan. It was not in our plan, but then, so much that happens in life isn’t that I’m not sure why we bother with plans anyway. We’re here until roughly summer, and after that we’ll be heading to sunny/windy/rainy/snowy Tasmania (you’ll understand if you’ve ever visited Tasmania).
It’s not you Japan, it’s us.
Well, it is a little Japan. Tiger needs a change and he needs some support we can’t afford to provide here. We could have tried to find a solution moving inside Japan, but there are other factors, the main one being an extended family situation I don’t want to go into detail about but which requires our presence ASAP. I have a ton of posts in my head waiting to be written down, so I’ll keep the blog going until they run out and then see where we’re at. I don’t know how well we’ll cope with repatriation. I really don’t.
I’ve spent more of my adult life in Japan than Australia.
We came to this decision (as much as it was in our hands, anyway) at the end of summer. Tiger was away at a camp so we sat down that night to hash out the details. We were fast being confronted with the bottom of our very classy $10 bottle of wine when we heard music that just went on and on. Eventually we decided to go and check it out. I strapped Cricket into the carrier and we headed to the park. It was that bruise-purple light somewhere between dusk and true darkness, and a horde of dragonflies hovered at waist height, as motionless as the humid air. A little girl in a yukata called out that she was going to dance and were we dancing too? An old man in his old-man-uniform of dirty-white vest, waist warmer, and plastic slippers complained that the walk across the park was too far. We all ended up at Tiger’s school, where we realised it was the neighbourhood Bon Odori. We’d been too preoccupied to pay attention to the date. We watched the dancers until the purple turned to black and thought about how much we would miss moments like these.
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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Bandaids

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At the end of a long frazzled day of dragging around town on public transport and a trip to the pediatrician for vaccinations I finally got home and Cricket was desperate for food. I cradled him and he started to nurse furiously only to break away after a few seconds crying. I latched him again, and again, furious nursing before pulling away crying. Tired, frustrated and now covered in leaking milk I was getting increasingly agitated and didn’t notice the father figure getting home. After watching quietly for a minute he suggested “why don’t you try the other side?” I flipped the baby over and he latched on… and his whole body relaxed as he settled in to feed properly. I asked in awe “what made you think of that?” and my lovely husband replied “I saw the bandaid from his shots and figured it might be painful to hold him with his weight on that arm.” I’d completely forgotten about the injection. Parenting Tiger is a lot like this, except he doesn’t have bandaids to helpfully warn us of sore spots. I was rushing to try and bring a load of laundry in before the clouds burst and dumped their rain down when Tiger came home from school and demanded toast. I toasted bread and dumped it on the table with a knife and the peanut butter jar then ran back outside. Cue much dramatic whining about how if I really loved him I’d spread the toast, everyone else IN THE WORLD gets their toast spread for them, and how much he hated me. As I dumped an armful of laundry and prepared to lecture him for being selfish and spoiled something about the sad way he was slumped at the kotatsu made me pause. “Have you ever spread toast before?” I asked, and learned that no, he never had, and he felt embarrassed to say so and frustrated because he was hungry. Instead of a fight we ended up having a lovely afternoon practicing on endless reams of toast. All too often, though, I miss the signs and fight when I should be nurturing. If only there were bandaids to warn me.
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Sunday, 10 January 2016

I Wish My Baby Would Read

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Too busy for sleep
I bought a number of useful and authoritative sounding books on baby care, but Cricket just won’t seem to read them. Nor will he listen to professional advice; after he was born I was sternly entreated to burp him after every feed, but he steadfastly refused to produce a single burp. He was passed from nurse to nurse and patted until I feared bruises would result, but no burp made its way out of his little mouth. It did leave him with the rather adorable habit of patting my back in return whenever I put him on my shoulder though. A few days after we came home the baby’s father commented “he doesn’t seem to know how to baby.” It’s true. He never sleeps. Not naps, not at night, never. “Baby should be napping for several hours a day” I read aloud, pausing to glare pointedly at my not-remotely-sleepy-seeming infant. He replies with a gargle and a spit bubble. I hold Super Nanny’s book open to the “suggested sleeping schedule” and wave it in front of Cricket’s face. He tries to eat the book. “Sleep when your baby sleeps” the books all say. I search the index frantically for “my baby never sleeps” but there are no entries. My baby clearly doesn’t know how to baby. His teeth come in and I am terrified he’ll bite my nipple. “Don’t worry” says every source, book and digital, “babies almost never bite.” He bites me. “If they do, it’s almost always a harmless nip of exploration” says every source the baby has clearly never read. Two little holes in my nipple drip blood onto the page explaining how this will totally not happen. My baby doesn’t know how to baby. He ignores the sippy cup I buy and drinks confidently from a glass at three months. He tries to steal food from my plate, spoon, cup and on one occasion my mouth from three months. I print out articles about “virgin gut” and delayed introduction of solids and leave them pointedly lying around, but he persists, screaming for food. I cave and give him sneaky food at four months, but it isn’t good enough, he wants to sit at the table and eat exactly what I’m eating. Cricket’s father entertains his co-workers with photographs of our six month old eating French toast, a whole banana, and lentil stew. He figures out he can make the dogs go crazy by throwing bits of his food to them, and uses his powers for evil. I wake in the middle of the night to find Cricket, seven months, standing next to a large box experimenting with ways to open and close the lid.  I take him to the city playroom and he immediately climbs onto the roof of the play house. He can’t walk, but he climbs like a cat. At eight months the books say he’ll probably drop one nap. “HA” I laugh, my baby doesn’t have a nap to drop! And then he starts napping twice a day, just when other babies are apparently waking up. My baby hasn’t read the manuals. He doesn’t know how to baby.
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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Doggy Idioms

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I unintentionally made a bunch of people very angry when I commented elsewhere that either of my dogs is more a "person" than an embryo is. On reflection it was kind of predictable, but to me personhood has nothing to do with abortion laws so it didn't immediately register that I was about to get whacked with a 'pro-life' hammer. I'm just really impressed by my dogs f(^_^; I wondered afterwards if some of the ire directed toward me was caused by the negative use of dogs in English: "I wouldn't treat a dog like that/ treated worse than a dog/ not fit for a dog." 

We have many dog-related idioms, most of which don't give dogs a great deal of respect: bitch fight, work like a dog, dog's life, in the dog house, treated like a dog, every dog has his day, sick as a dog, hair of the dog, dog tired, dog eat dog, dog's breakfast, fight like cats and dogs, raining cats and dogs, see a man about a dog, wag the dog, the dog days of summer, let sleeping dogs lie, dog day afternoon, like a dog with its tail between its legs, and like a dog with a bone.

In Japanese idioms, dogs get a mostly negative treatment as well:
犬も食わない (not even a dog would eat it), 犬と猿/犬猿の仲 (dogs and monkeys, basically the same as cats and dogs in English), 負け犬 (a looser), 犬死する (die in vein), and 犬も歩けば棒に当たる (similar to every dog has his day but with more of a connotation that good things will come if you take action). 

I'd love to hear from speakers of other languages. How do dogs fare in idioms around the world?
             
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