February 24, 2008

These Shoes Were Made for Walking

The Good: Elena is really keen on walking unassisted these days. Most weekends we try to go to large, indoor spaces that are kid friendly so she can ramble about. There are quite a few malls and large department stores that offer free access to padded kids’ play areas stuffed with complimentary toys; we hit these places with glee, but we’re still lousy customers. (Is there a “moochers” sub-demographic in marketing?) Elena gets to run amok and teeter-totter around, bug-eyed with amazement that she is standing and moving forward. We get to watch, laugh, and get out of our cramped apartment for a change of scenery.
None of this is news to many of you out there with your own sprogs that are upright and ambling around, but as first time parents, well, the sight of Lady E. striking off with her own agenda inspires delight in us. And a judicious element of wariness, too—she rarely looks back. We may need to implant a GPS chip in her as she gains speed.

The Bad / Who Moved My Hiroshima Cheese?: Shoes are a nice metaphor for what’s going on for us socially. Not so much ‘bad,’ but a sign of the times…quite a few friends of mine have been leaving town for new places over the course of the past year. Life circumstances and job changes are creating change within my diminishing circle of friends in Hiroshima. It’s almost inevitable. I read somewhere that 80 percent of foreign people living in Japan leave within three years. The rest tend stay put for longer periods (myself included). But even the long-timers eventually pick up stakes. No doubt the same is true in North America and elsewhere, but the impact of this is more perceptible as an expat. Change, however, is a beautiful thing. Sad to see you go, amigos, but I am very happy for your forward movement as you depart for new and more pleasing stations in life.

The Ugly: T.S. Eliot was wrong: the cruelest month is February. The weather has been nasty this year, even in Hiroshima. I try to minimize my bitching about the cold because one of the reasons I like being here is that the weather is relatively (Ontario-versus-southern Japan) great. Particularly, the mild winters. Compared to my Canuck and northern US-based comrades, the amount of snowfall we get is laughable. Hiroshima typically has about three or four days a year when the snow actually accumulates rather than melts on impact. This year, these snow days have all been in February and it has been a bit colder than average. When it falls, snow causes traffic to grind to a halt, keeping our family’s movement to a minimum. Coming home from work one night, I had to abandon my beloved motorcycle to the elements and walk home because the roads were a mess and salting them here is truly a foreign concept. (Yep, I ride 365 days a year if possible.) Salting roads and central heating are probably common in northern Japan, but not here. In short, the weather sucks in February.

The onset of pro baseball’s spring training offers a glimpse of warmth and a smidgen of soul food, but it still seems distant. The Clemens HGH debacle has also thrashed another tenuous link I had to non-cynicism about life. Boo-hoo. Maybe I’ll be in a better mental place by next post! Buh-bye.