WWOOF in Ukiha

I’m sorry it took so long for a new post. I’ve now moved from Fukuoka to Ukiha for WWOOFing. I took some notes every day because I couldn’t use the Internet yet, so today is a very long post about the last three days. Please enjoy!

April 21, 2013

I stayed over at my friend Danielle’s house and woke up at eight. At around 8.40 we went to the subway station and said goodbye, because I’m not sure when we’ll meet again. I arrived in Ijiri, where I picked up my luggage in Eva’s room, at 9.20. Eva accompanied me to Sasabaru station, because she knew how to get there. I bought my ticket and said goodbye to Eva.

The train in the direction of Kurume was at the other side so I had to carry my heavy luggage down the stairsand up again. A few trains passed without stopping and then a JR train headed for Araki (or something like that) stopped. I sumimasen’d a man getting on the train, and asked ‘kono densha wa Kurume ni ikimasu ka?’, he said he thought this train would be okay for Kurume so I hurried to get on. Then he went to the driver to inquire if this train would really go to Kurume. He came back and said some things about ‘isogu’ but I didn’t quite understand so I just nodded, as if I did understood. About 20 minutes later this man got off the train and then the driver walked up to me and said I had to transfer for Kurume. Apparently the other man also took this train, I wonder why he didn’t tell me I had to transfer. But he was friendly and sat in front of me on the train. He asked me where I was from and what I was doing in Japan. After that I was too occupied with looking out the window so he didn’t say anything more. The man got off a stop before Kurume and wished me luck. I thanked him and wondered how far Kurume was. About 10 minutes later the train arrived in Kurume station so I got off and went through the ticket gates. That’s where the problem started.

I forgot to write down my WWOOF host’s phone number, so I had no clue where he would await me. With my heavy luggage I went to both exits of the train station –luckily this one had escalators – but the host was nowhere to be seen. So I thought I’d just wait in between the exits, because if I would keep running around we could miss each other in the pretty busy station – busy because there was a walking thing going on, so a lot of walkers were out and about. I waited and waited and waited and an hour passed by, when I saw a man running up to me saying ‘Laura! Finally, I found you!’. I sumimasen’d for forgetting his phone number but he said it was okay. He and his mother were waiting at the Nishitetsu station in Kurume, while I had been in the JR station the whole time. Now that’s confusing! I didn’t even know there were two different station for the two different train operators! But all was fine, in the end.

We walked to the car where his mother was waiting, who immediately told me I was kawaii and kirei. Since it was already almost 12 o’clock we headed for lunch, but before that we made a quick stop at the house of Yoshio-san’s daughter. They wanted to meet me so I had to say hello to a lot of people of whom I didn’t even know who they were. There were two couples and four children, of which one girl was a friend. One of the boys hid the whole time. We stayed there for less than 10 minutes and then it was time for lunch.

As expected I had to choose what to eat, so I randomly chose – of course – ramen! So after about 20 minutes we arrived at a pretty popular ramen place, where we had to wait in line outside. Well, that was a first for me! I’ve never waited in such a long line that was long enough that part of it was outside the shop. I think there were about 20 people waiting, but as expected in Japan, it didn’t take long until it was our turn. I guess no more than 10 minutes went by and then our time had come. While waiting, one of the shop’s workers handed us a menu so we could decide in advance what we wanted. I chose the ‘kids ramen’ because well I’ve had ramen before and I sure know the size of a bowl. So if there is the kids option, I’m happy to choose it! And I made the right decision; for the first time I got to the bottom of the bowl! I must say that this ramen might – in my opinion – be better than the ramen I had at Ichiran. Ichiran is great, of course, with all the different (and difficult) choices about how your ramen should be. The ramen here also contained pork and green onions, but to my surprise there was corn too! Oh I’ve fallen in love with corn since I came to Japan. Other than that, there were also bean sprouts or something similar in there. And it was only 400 yen, so a good price for a good bowl.

Then to the car and off to Ukiha. In the meantime we made a quick stop for some shopping at Drugstore Mori, for slippers and food. Then off to the house, which is located in a very scenic place, with mountain view everywhere! The house itself is located on the mountain so you can see the entire town of Ukiha from here. We passed by the kaki orchard and then the budou orchard and arrived at the house around 2 pm.

After some coffee and strawberries, Yoshio-san went back to work and obaachan told me to take a long hot bath to relax. And what an adventure that was. I turned on the faucet and put it on 40 degrees, which is pretty hot but acceptable for bath water I thought. Well was I wrong! I couldn’t hold my hand in the water for more than three seconds. It felt like I put my hand in boiling water! So I emptied half of the bath and turned the faucet to the coldest water available. And believe me or not, the coldest was still warm! So I filled the bath and checked the temperature. I could hold my hand in the water for only 10 seconds! So I opened the window, thinking that would cool down the water faster, and waited and waited for more than 10 minutes. I checked again and even though it was still too hot… I gave up waiting and entered the bath. Oh my god! Impossible! First one foot, five minutes later the other foot, and another five minutes later I sat on my knees. Five minutes more and I sat down. So it took more than 20 minutes to finally get in. And it took only 5 minutes to get out. My my my… I couldn’t stay in this temperature at all! So I’m guessing I’m saying no for the onsen invitation… Haha! Next time when I take a bath, I’ll just fill it with the coldest water possible, it might still be too warm…

The host told me there is something going on at 5.30 pm and that I should help, I was really curious! But before that I had some time left so I took a quick walk in the village, which made for some nice photos. When I got back to the house Yoshio-san also arrived home and a little later we went to the community centre where the men from the community had a party. I helped the women in the kitchen and then I had to join because Yoshio-san wanted to introduce me to everyone. Everyone, that’s about 30 people, and they asked me to say something like introducing myself. Of course, I don’t like to talk to a big group of people so I only said 10 words or so. Then they said to join them at the table and they started to ask a lot of questions! Luckily one of the women saved me and got me to their table to eat an obento. I’m no fan of obentos though. Some already drunk men came to talk to me and they appear to really like me. I’ve heard several times how kawaii and kirei and beautiful I am… Ahum. Then Yoshio-san once again took me to meet the already drunk men and oh how I hate drunk people. My oh my it was difficult, but well, keep smiling right?!

So around 8.30 it was time to go home, after I helped the women with cleaning the dishes. Two friends of Yoshio-san came to the house too. Well not the house, it’s an annex which is being designed as a bar with an oven and a big screen to watch movies. It’s a really nice place, the only disadvantage is that, like almost any other Japanese building, it’s cold! We stayed there until 10.15 pm so it got really cold! But we had fun, although I didn’t really like the fact that everyone was drunk! But I met Yoshio-san wife, she looks so young and pretty! Obaachan is a really nice women, she even warmed my back for 15 minutes! Oh these people are all so friendly and nice!

So now that I’m writing this (in Word) it’s 10.45 and time for bed. I’ll ask about Internet tomorrow, I don’t want to bother them anymore at this hour although I’d like to check my e-mail and those things. But I should say that I know these 3 weeks are going to be fun and interesting, so I probably won’t use the internet often anyway. Ah and I also need to ask about a adapter for my laptop because the one I brought from home doesn’t fit my laptop adapter! Right now I still have half of the battery charged but I should really get one tomorrow!

Oyasumi!

April 22, 2013

Obaachan told me yesterday that I could sleep long but of course, the room is too light in the morning and I woke up at 6. Around 8 obaachan called me for breakfast, which consisted of a strawberry, a Japanese omelette, cabbage, cucumber, soup and homemade bread.

After breakfast Yoshio-san told me that it was time to go ‘to work’, so off we went to the community centre. About 40 people have a kaki (persimmon) orchard and I think they all work together to sell them. This morning there was a meeting and some acknowledged people were explaining how to tend the trees this time of year.

Once the meeting was over Yoshio-san handed out invitation flyers for the opening of his own golf course on Monday. Monday is when I wanted to join the GenkiJACS trip to Beppu and Oita but once I knew about this grand opening I forgot about even asking if I could go. I know he needs my help so I won’t ask for that. He even wrote about my presence on the flyer!

Most of the men who were present at the party yesterday were at the meeting and of course they asked a lot of questions again. But I’m really amazed by how much they actually know about Belgium. Some of them even asked ‘do you speak French or Dutch?’ so they do know about the bilingual state of Belgium. Isn’t that surprising? Especially for a very countryside village.

So Yoshio-san handed out the flyers and off we went to an unknown destination. I of course thought we were going to the persimmon orchard but I thought wrong. From then until sometime after 12 we were out for errands. Well, when you have your own orchard, you choose when you work, right? So, today I didn’t have to work. I think this stay will be more like a homestay than like voluntary work. We went to the post office, to the bank, to the supermarket, to another supermarket, to a local market, to a bakery and to my surprise to a clothes shop. Obaachan wanted me to get new shoes so there I was, looking at shoes that were obviously too small for my feet! Since I couldn’t find anything fitting, we went home for lunch and planned to look further in the afternoon.

Lunch was somen with fish cake and I suppose some kind of bean sprouts. Then there were I think red beans and some tiny crunchy fishes, which were delicious! When I was done eating obaachan offered me some rice and then they wondered if I ever tried natto. Yes, the ‘hate it or love it’ sticky Japanese fermented beans thing. I hadn’t tried it yet, so soon I had natto in front of me. Douzo tabete! Oh boy. All of my friends told me natto is disgusting but after one try I thought ‘this doesn’t taste like much’, I tried a bit more and thought ‘well, it does taste like nothing much but the texture is maybe a bit odd’. Conclusion: if ever someone tells me ‘eat your natto!’ I will, but I would never ask for it again. 😉

After lunch we sat outside in the sun, because today was a pretty hot day. I’m guessing around 22 degrees in the sun. At 1.30 obaachan had to go to a meeting so Yoshio-san brought her and told me to ‘guard the house’ (they don’t use any locks, I love Japan, so safe!). When he got back it was time to go. I obviously had no idea where to, again. We were driving and driving and driving and suddenly we were in Oita prefecture! Hita-shi to be precise. There I had to look for shoes again but no success. So we bought ice cream. Another shoe shop and you know what they say ‘three times the charm’ or whatever the expression is in English! 😉 I bought some blue checked Allstar-like shoes. Well in fact it’s not ‘I bought’ but ‘Yoshio-san bought for me’. I feel so awkward when I don’t have to pay for my own things! I told him I need to find an adapter for my laptop because it doesn’t fit my Europe-to-Japan one. I hope we’ll buy one soon because I’m running out of battery now!

On our way back we stopped by at Yoshio-san’s own tennis court, but there seems to be a lot of work needed before it can be used. It’s a nice location but pretty far from where they are located. And then homeward bound! Yoshio-san explained that I had to do the ‘posting’ while he went to his late job in Kurume, where he had to go after he dropped me at the house. He was saying ‘okay so you post one here and here and here and here and here and … up to the big temple’. Oh well yes, that’s easy. As if I remembered which houses he pointed at! So I tried my best to do every house he showed me but sometimes I couldn’t find a mailbox so I skipped those. The thing is, you have to actually go on people’s property to find their mailbox, which is pretty awkward to me. In Belgium I never enter someone’s property and I’m guessing the ‘social rules’ don’t really allow you to just enter someone’s property without permission. It’s like you’d go to someone’s backdoor to put a flyer under some flowerpot because there’s no mailbox. So I’ll tell Yoshio-san that I tried to find every mailbox but I failed. I hope it’s okay.

When I got back obaachan suggested to take a bath (Japanese people sure love bathing), so I did. It’s sad that it takes ages to fill the bath! This time I started with 30 degrees water and just added some hot water at the end. That way I wouldn’t be boiled like yesterday! Mission success!

At the time of writing it’s 6.30 and I don’t know what to do. I guess I’ll read some more in Agatha Christie’s The Big Four. I brought 4 books and haven’t even finished reading the first one yet! Oh Fukuoka life, in a way I don’t miss that I-don’t-have-time-for-anything-feeling! 😀

So, it’s one day later now. Yesterday Obaachan and I were alone for dinner. She made me ‘potato fry’, which was in fact fried potato and cheese. With that I got some sprouts, rice and godou (I think). Godou is delicious but I don’t have a clue what it’s called in English or Dutch. After dinner I was really tired, read some more in The Big Four and went to bed before 9!

April 23, 2013

Once again I woke up around 6am and stayed in bed until 7.40, when I really had to use the toilet. For the toilet I have to cross the whole house, which is rather annoying because then I have to pass everyone. So Obaachan said ‘why are you awake already? Go back to sleep!’ So yeah that’s why I don’t like to go through so early in the morning. Around 8.30 she called me for breakfast; some bits of apple, a strawberry, some potato and cheese slice and carrots.

After breakfast she and Mariko-san said to go to bed again until Yoshio-san returned. Mariko-san said I had to go shopping for an adapter today so I would go with Yoshio-san when he got back. The first time I saw him today was at lunch though… So before noon I read The Big Four, I’m almost at the end now!

For lunch we had shabu shabu and Kurume ramen. Let me tell you, I’ve had Hakata ramen a few times already and compared to that, Kurume ramen doesn’t taste like much! Haha!

So some time after lunch, around 2, we went off to buy an adapter. First we stopped by a local electronics shop where the shop lady told us where we might find something. The shop she told us about was located in Kurume, which is about 30 km from here. But well, for Japanese people 30 km is nothing! I don’t think Belgians would go that far just to buy an adapter. Yesterday we drove more than 50 km just to buy shoes! So we went to this electronics shop and the girl who tried to help us was rather clueless. The only thing she could find were Japan-to-Europe adapters. Quite useless for my problem.

So once out the shop, Yoshio-san called his son-in-law, who works in the computer branch. Success! He might be able to fix my adapter (which has two plastics pins getting in the way to fit my computer plug). It was the same family as I was introduced to on my first day, so it was a nice visit. On our way to their house we picked up Noa, their daughter, who was on her way home from school.

While the son-in-law was trying to fix my adapter, I helped Noa with her homework. I feel like I accomplished quite a bit with that, because there were some kanji I didn’t know but still managed to help her out! She was learning how to read the clock, so I only needed to know the ‘hour’ and ‘minute’ kanji. The first few questions were like ‘I leave school at [time], it takes [minutes] to my house. When do I arrive?’, then she had to answer ‘I takes [minutes] to get home, I come home at [time]. When did I leave the park?’ and lastly there was a – for her – confusing question. It said ‘it takes 40 minutes to the park and then another 40 minutes back. How many hours was I away?’ First she just had to answer in minutes but then there was ‘…hours…minutes’. And there was where it went wrong. I managed to help her out with the little Japanese I know and she managed to understand the question. I’m a little proud of myself for being able to help a Japanese child with homework! ^_^

By the time Noa had finished her homework, the son-in-law also finished fixing my adapter! Yay! And so we went home. I thought wow that’s a short visit for first driving more than an hour… But I guess that’s Japan! I think Noa hoped to see me again soon, she kept waving like crazy. But they will probably be here on Monday and I also caught some words about something on Saturday. After we went off, Yoshio-san told me about the family’s Golden Week trip next week. Golden Week is a week full of holidays so it’s kind of the longest work-free period in a year for the Japanese. I might get to see Mt. Aso for real this time, since the trip is going to Aso!

On our way back to Ukiha, we stopped at a recycle shop where Yoshio-san had to make some more copies of his flyer for the Grand Opening of his golf course. While he was doing that, I looked around in the shop and found some pretty cheap CDs. And how could I NOT buy CDs for only 50 or 10 yen?! In euro’s that would be 0,38 and 0,07 euro’s for a CD. Unbelievable right?! So I bought 5 CD’s with a total of about 32 songs for only 130 yen or about 1 euro! The artists of the CD’s: Gackt, Bump of Chicken, w-inds., Busted and Savage Garden.

Our journey home consisted of some more ‘posting’ but this time Yoshio-san could point out every house I had to post a flyer. We got back at a bit past 6. He dropped me off and said to listen to my CD’s because he went off somewhere. A few minutes later I heard he dropped off Obaachan too and disappeared again. It’s about 6.45 now, I hope he’ll be back soon to give me the password for the Internet. It’s been almost 4 days since my last update on facebook so I’m guessing people might start to get worried! 😀

I will leave it at this for today. I’m guessing this is already too much to read but I hope people still get to the end of the long post. I’ll try to post every day from now on!

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