Hard to know where to start

DSC_0003Since I last wrote in August, things have changed. Ba-chan passed away on August 18th….both Jiro and I were with her and she was calm until she was gone. The three days after someone dies in Japan are all culturally choreographed- there were no big decisions to make about what kind of service or what should  be done or who to invite. Of course, there were many choices about what kind of food to serve, what kind of gifts to give to the guests,  how many monks to hire to chant, and how many characters for her Buddhist name, but from the moment she died to the funeral three days later, it was a smooth process that honored her and gave family and friends time to say goodbye. I hope to write more in detail about those days, but I need to get this blog restarted and I think I’ll just start with what is going on now.

view from Shiroyama
view from Shiroyama

We are slowly moving our residence from our old kura to Ba-chan’s house. We’ve always done all our meals there, but I am going through all her things and trying to make room for us to live there. It’s hard to shed her personality from the space- I think that’s why it’s taking us so long.  The house is pretty small, but we’ll make it work. Hopefully by summer, we’ll complete the transition. We’d like to rent out the kura for a little extra cash.

Jiro has just finished building a huge storage space and workshop. It’s 8 x 12 meters and we had solar panels installed on the roof. We’ll sell all the energy to the electric company- there is a push for alternative energy sources these days and we got a nice subsidy. He won’t be using much electricity there, and it works out to be a better deal if he sets up a separate line for his own power use. Seems counterintuitive to me.

山桜 Wild cherry trees
山桜 Wild cherry trees

He has been running a small forestry business for the past four years, but has decided to gradually stop doing that work. His last crew member just quit, so he is working alone. He has one big tree-planting contract to finish and then he’ll just pick up small jobs to keep a cash flow. He hasn’t had any time to do his art the past couple years and he is really eager to get back to it.

I decided to keep teaching at the university for at least another year. I expect this year will be easier, now that I know how the system works and what I can expect from the students. Last year we implemented placement testing, and it has made a big difference. The university also decided to hire another instructor, so I have a new colleague. She is from England and has lived here about 25 years. We’ve already gotten together a couple times to do some planning-  I am so excited to be have someone to collaborate with.

DSC_0025It’s cherry blossom time- about 10 days earlier than usual. Most years the wild cherry trees bloom first and after those blossoms fall, the cultivars bloom- this year everything is in bloom at once. Today I took a walk up Shiroyama to see the view from the top of the hill- hazy, but beautiful. There were so many people out and about- I really love this time of year.

So the plan is to write regularly- we’ll see. I guess I should have mentioned that we have decided to stay put. We have a comfortable place to live, jobs, and health insurance, but mainly we’re not ready for another big transition yet. Ideally we’d like to work it out to live here part of the year and  in the US the other part of the year. Right now we both are feeling like it may be a good time to start thinking about some extended travel.




8 thoughts on “Hard to know where to start

  1. Holly March 23, 2013 / 3:58 pm

    This is so fun to read, Kate! We think about you TONS in the middle school. Eliotte is in the beehive now and Ryan broke off from Green Gables and started his own company a few years ago. We have Brielle now, who is two. Life is good. Hectic, but good. I hope you’re well! Please let me know the next time you’re in PDX, okay? xo Holly W.

    • katezawa March 23, 2013 / 10:38 pm

      So hard to believe that your baby is in the beehive. I miss the people at Catlin and think about you all, too. So much of who I am was shaped by my experience there.

  2. Christine Gutierrez March 23, 2013 / 4:52 pm

    Thanks for the update. Looks like it takes 3-4 years to get settled in to another country. For the jobs to take shape, etc. Do you get summers off from the university?

    • katezawa March 23, 2013 / 10:40 pm

      One of the reasons I took this job was because of the long vacations. There are two 16-week terms with two-month holidays at the end of each. Gives me lots of time to catch my breath and play.

  3. Kriss March 24, 2013 / 11:20 am

    hi Kate Good to to know you are doing fine in Saiki. Keep updating this wonderful blog..I really like it.

    • katezawa March 24, 2013 / 12:54 pm

      Hi Kriss. Hope life is treating you well. If you are down this way, it’d be fun to catch up.

  4. Susan March 24, 2013 / 2:20 pm

    Funerals and cherry blossoms. Takes me back.
    Happy to hear your life is on such an even keel. Much love to you and Jiro.

    • katezawa March 24, 2013 / 10:45 pm

      It’s amazing how little has changed, especially down here in Oita. Love to you and your family, too.

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