Our Mini Scouting Adventure

About a month ago I decided the boys had settled in enough with life here and we could shake things up by finding them a Beaver colony and Cub pack for them to join. We figured it would help George make friends outside school which would be a good thing too as he has been struggling a bit socially with his classmates.

Well, we were contacted by our nearest group who meet down the road and are based at the Catholic Church. They meet on Sunday mornings and we arranged a meeting with the leaders to find out more. Next came a wee interview by the deputy chair of the group (who spoke good English) and we were told about all the events that the group puts on through the year and also about the upcoming Group camp to celebrate its 50th Anniversary. In two weeks’ time. So we came away and thought about it. O was skeptical, G was keen. We went and bought the uniform. So. Cool.

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And then the boys had one session and we had to make a decision on camp that day. Thankfully they had a great time and fears were allayed, so the boys were happy to go camping. And then both Dan and I were asked if we wanted to go along too. Hell yes. So last Friday, we met at the church at 6.30am to get on a coach and we returned last Monday afternoon.

Usually the sections all camp separately, so this was a rather unique opportunity to meet the whole group and for Oliver to see what the Scouts get up to. (He will move up when he is eleven). You might know that we too had some extreme heat in Japan recently, well thankfully, that dissipated on the Friday only to make way for a typhoon. The Cubs and Beavers (and parents) were staying in a building with aircon whilst the Scouts and Venture Scouts were under canvas. This was a deal maker, really, in our decision on whether to go or not. The site was described as a Catholic university: I think it comprises a girls’ secondary school; a small community of sisters and various facilities. There was a chapel, a church, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, lines of tea bushes and a bamboo forest. Mount Fuji loomed in the distance above the campsite. Dan left on Sunday night after the campfire to catch the train back to Yokohama for work on Monday.

Food

In charge of the kitchen was a fantastic Scouter called Morai san. She was helped by another lady Scouter whose name I never mastered. I didn’t master many names, to be honest. Anyway. I tried to help out in the kitchen and I chopped cabbage, set tables and dished out food and probably got in the way a lot. The kitchen was much bigger than Ennerdale or Branthwaite’s – I was really impressed with the facilities.

We ate a lot of rice and the meals were simple with the exception of the most awesome barbecue. I managed to lose 1.7 kilos over the four days without being hungry which was brilliant!

Anyway, that barbecue. It was AMAZING. There was rice (and chopped carrot) cooked in bamboo canes; pork; sweet rice balls on sticks wrapped in bacon and doused in soy sauce; sweetcorn; aubergine; fish; baguettes packed with mozzarella, onions, tomatoes, wholegrain mustard and spam; whole chickens; watermelon; the most wonderful smores I’ve ever eaten and this was all washed down with iced tea and lemon water.

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Activities

There was a lot of formality. Each morning there was flag break and muster followed by callisthenics.

Generally Dan and I were both taken aback by the lack of things to do. It was all very relaxed and there was no morning or afternoon snacks. So an activity would be penciled in for ALL MORNING. There was a hike around a trail of bamboo crosses (that also doubled as teaching about the stations of the cross); a water fight; swimming; a night walk in the graveyard entitled ‘Test of Courage’; a mass; bamboo crafts and the campfire.

The tradition in Japan is that everyone wears their neckers (or chiefs as they call them here) on their heads. Every six/ group had prepared a sketch and there were songs too. I got them to sing the Spanish song about bogies. Always high brow, me. The camp fire was started with a bottle of lit flammable liquid travelling down a wire to the prepared fire stack. Very impressive. The campfire leader, (the Scout leader), would lead everyone to sing a chant that translated “Good evening, who is here? [person about to perform yells their name], everyone chants “what will you do?” [person responds] and then they do their thing. The campfire ended with us all stood round the fire, holding hands and singing a song to the tune of the New World Symphony and then humming it. Just lovely.

Dreams, Living and Death

The last couple of nights I’ve had some very vivid dreams.

Last night I dreamed I was with my cousin in the run-up to the ending of his life. We were on a mountain, with views to the sea and a crowd of tourists were whale watching. All of a sudden a huge whale rammed up against the shore to try and shoo the people away.

The night before I dreamed I had bumped into an ex from University. He had been very dull back in the day but now he was sporting an edgy haircut and tattoos. I was so pleased for him! That dream was set in Japan and is the first dream I’m aware of that is set here.

This morning I am lacking motivation. This may be in part to going out last night to mark Mum’s death 18 years ago on the longest day, but also the Solstice itself and also the birthdays of Steph and Ruby. I had three highballs. And some amazing aubergine from Osaka and some lovely chat at the bar with different people. And that was after eating the most delicious toasted sandwich (avocado and spinach with basil oil and cheese on caramel bread) from a local restaurant specialising in cheese toasties.

This morning I was looking at the Guardian online and read this article about Trent Rezner, https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/jun/21/trent-reznor-nine-inch-nails-youre-seeing-the-fall-of-america, and I am reminded of my friend Steve who killed himself last year. He loved NIN.

So, Jason, Steve, Mum. I’m thinking of you all. But I’m having a great adventure here. Thank you for the love.

For Mum:

 

For Steve:

 

For Jason

May’s Ending

Dan’s Birthday Weekend

Dan’s 41st Birthday fell on a Saturday this year. So did the first meeting of my new bookclub. Remember now: Bookclub = Friends, so despite the clash, I needed to go and make some friends.

First things first, though. The Friday night. We caught the bus to Honmoku and then walked along to Sankeien Gardens to go and see the fireflies. They were magical. Absolutely magical. But you’ll have to take our word for it as they were camera shy.


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On the way home from the fireflies we popped into our favourite bar, Cafe LeBron. Masagi, on the left, runs the place and it is just great – very friendly with a relaxed atmosphere, good food and I really like the whiskey highballs there.

Birthday!!

YiwEjI6nTgeuqpkRaFTEXQI’d struggled to get a birthday cake made locally, so I bought a sponge from the supermarket and then decorated it with whipped cream (which took ages to whip) and fruit. I also got this chocolate label thing from the 100yen shop and I’m pretty pleased with the result.

I made egg fried rice too (for breakfast) and we drank the wee bottle of champagne (as Buck’s Fizz) that I’d been given by my Nethertown pals for my birthday. And then we decided we’d also go out for brunch at a new place that has opened up locally called Smoke Shack which is run by a Glaswegian.

So at Smoke Shack I had a mojito, we shared some deep fried oysters and had Eggs Benedict too.

Fully replete, I then headed to an Indian restaurant in China Town to meet my new book buddies and Dan took the boys to Kita- Kamakura to do a wee hike with them.

The book we were discussing was ‘The Dispossessed’ by Ursula LeGuin. It was a big book. I was reading it on my Kindle and when I started reading it, the device reckoned I had 12 hours of reading ahead of me. It did not lie. Even with the assistance of my favourite peach alcopop, I only finished reading it the morning of the meet-up. But finish it I did.

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Unsurprisingly, after all that eating in the morning, at Bookclub I went for something light – the Idli setto – and it was okay. Aside from the food, I had a great couple of hours discussing the book and getting to know the other book gals, most of whom were American.

After the meeting I caught the train to Kamakura to meet up with the boys and then we came home to get ready for our babysitter to arrive so that Dan and I could go out AGAIN!

We wandered around aimlessly for a while, seeing the lights and the horse-and-trap-taxi, and then we discovered another newly opened business called Bruntons which specialises in beer.

The following morning we went for an explore; Dan planted up some flowers I’d bought and I started labelling Oliver’s clothes for his impending residential trip.

Oliver’s Residential

Come Monday afternoon I thought I’d better start packing. All the clothes were labelled, they just needed putting in the big rucksack (or the small rucksack) and checking off the illustrated list we were given. I’m so pleased I had made a start by the time the boys came home, as Oliver announces that a teacher from the International Classroom was on her way home with George to check on our packing. REALLY?!! Wow.

fullsizeoutput_2969So we get cracking. The teacher came. She was lovely. She was pleased with our procuring, labelling and packing. She told us not to back a paperback for Oliver. (Really?).

I felt so relieved. Until I remembered he needed an Obento box to take with him the following morning. Anyway, this is what I rustled up for him and he was happy with it.

The following morning he needed to be at school before 7am, so we all walked to the school and then left him to it. I’ve never felt so intrepid for him before. Poor lad, but he coped.

In the meanwhile I decided I really needed to get my learning head on and try a bit harder learning Nihongo.

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Also, whilst it wasn’t yet the rainy season, I might as well walk to destinations where possible and listen to lessons/ podcasts on the way.

Our next bookclub book is an American book which I found difficult to get hold of, except as an audio book with Audible, so that became another listening experience.

So I am trying to learn kanji piecemeal, often spurred by some kanji-based twitter accounts. I am using a youtube video for katakana and I used some online games to nail my hiragana. Pimsleur is helping me with speaking, listening and vocab, as is the LearnJapanesePod.

So here are a few of my snaps as I wander around. The hydrangeas are in bloom right now and are stunning. I never really ‘got’ them in the UK but here they are glorious.

George had his friend, Shoma, over one afternoon and then it was time for Oliver to come home. YEAH!! I’d missed him so much. I ran a bubble bath for him.

But he assured me that he’d had a bath before they got on the bus. So I put the cover on it and used it later.

The following morning he had a later start and so he and I went to a local cafe for a victory croissant. I love that boy so much.

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Pilates Police

This was my post-Pilates sweaty selfie taken yesterday whilst waiting for Dan to come down the elevator so we could have lunch.

My second Pilates class (outside in Rinko Park, today), went well, until about ten minutes before the finish; when a security guard walks amongst us (we were lying down doing mat work), and told us we had to finish.

As the class had progressed, a whole school trip was going on around us. Turns out a local primary school had booked out the park and weren’t happy with our presence. (Also the sensei needed a permit from the ward office).

My sense of scheudenfrade was totally tickled by this and I was just glad it wasn’t me in the firing line this time.

Back to school

Day 2 of the new term sucked. Son1 came into our room, “I feel sick”. Hubby still has (unused) sick bowl beside his bed from the weekend, and passes it over. Son begins retching into the bowl.

That’s him off school for 2 days then.

Somehow, Son2 takes fucking forever to eat his breakfast, and then is unable to find his uniform. That’s another domestic issue but I lost my temper, we got to school late, I felt absolutely bloody awful.

Got through the day. Planned an evening meal. Cooked evening meal using up some stuff that REALLY needed eating up from the fridge.

I need to write a to do list.

Garden – plant out plants from Helen; do some seeds; tackle some of the ‘problem’ plants in the garden

Books – finish reading the crappy John Clare book

Household – do Home Blessing Hour; plan meals; write shopping list; go shopping; post friend’s gift

Music – Download all music; practice; buy train tickets

Food Revolution stuff – Look at recipes devise some sort of activity

Guides – bank cheque; sort out cheques for World Thinking Day fund and Guide Friendship Fund

 

 

 

Why I’ve stopped reading the Qur’an

Last time at Bookclub, after a rather tipsy chat about the latest ISIS atrocity, we rather drunkenly agreed it would be a great idea to read the Qur’an for next time, so that we could discover for ourselves whether it is a ‘religion of peace’.

At university, I’d done a year’s course in Islamic History. The course had taken us from the founding of the religion, including Mohammed’s flight to Jerusalem and battles in Mecca to the Ottoman empire. It highlighted the tolerant nature of the Abbasid caliphate and their scientific and linguistic achievements. I had also owned a copy of the Qur’an, which I’d glanced at, mainly to see how the main characters from the Bible were represented.

A few years ago my husband and I had visited the mosque in Edinburgh during an open day. I had an opinion that Muslims were a bit like Salvationists, (minus the music): generally good, religious people. Of course there are bad Muslims, and bad things done under the name of Islam, but surely these are the bad apples?

So I started reading the Qur’an a couple of weeks ago. And first off, I made the decision not to promote the fact I was reading it on Goodreads. This is aberrant behaviour for me. I always post everything about my reading on Goodreads, but having read some of the comments on people’s reviews on the Qur’an, I decided against it. I don’t want hassle. I want a quiet life.

At first I am making lots of notes from the Qur’an and was appalled at the view of unbelievers, Christians and Jews. But as I slowly read more and more of the book, I realised there is no point in making notes as it is the same two or three motifs repeated and repeated and repeated. Namely, that unbelievers will burn in hell, that all the prophets before Mohammed had failed in their attempts to make people follow God, and that as long as Muslims pray, believe in Gold and pay the prescribed alms; paradise will be theirs, (and they will hear the wails of the unbelievers and there is nothing the unbelievers will be able to do, come the day of Judgement, as they have swapped the glitter of this life for the flames of hell.)

I carried on reading, getting more and more depressed at the repetition and damnation until I was about 40% in. The date of our book club was postponed to allow more of us to finish it, but even so, I have made the decision to stop reading it.

Yes, I was getting bored with the lack of progression in the book, and yes, I was yearning for all the novels I could be reading instead, but I also was getting upset and depressed. I usually continue reading a book to the bitter end, no matter how much I hate the start (or middle), so this is a big deal for me. I feel like I am failing in my attempt to understand the Muslim faith, which was my initial aim, but honestly, it’s not doing me any good.

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And here’s the thing. I am lucky enough to live in a country where I am allowed not to read it, and allowed not to like it, and even allowed to express the fact that I don’t like it. So why force myself to read it?

I expressed the fact on twitter that I was finding it hard, and had a little dialogue with someone who noted that , yes, expressing anything negative about the Qur’an can lead to hassle. I replied saying that I wanted a quiet life, so I wouldn’t post anything more online.

Then I followed this person on twitter and started reading about how apostates are treated by Islam; about how dissidents in Saudi Arabia are treated and I felt shamed. There are people facing the death penalty and 50 lashes a week for expressing their thoughts and yet they still express themselves and criticise the faith. And here am I, in comfortable Cumbria, able to express myself but too chicken to incur the wrath of some folk a long way away, who can’t really do me any harm.

So I’m going to post an honest review on Goodreads. And I’ll post a link to this on Twitter. And to heck with the response. (There might not even be one. We’ll see.)

Bring on the Thrillers/ Literary Fiction/ Crime novels. I can’t wait!