March 27, 2013

March: Sandstorms and Sad Anniversaries

This month has had its share of happenings. For those of us living in the Land of the Endless Tremors, March 11 will forever be an important date. Like November 22 for my parents’ generation and September 11 (for everyone in North America), March 11 carries special meaning. At the office, we marked the second anniversary of The Great East Japan Earthquake and resulting tsunami with a minute of silence for the victims—a tasteful touch. This day, after all, marks a catastrophe that devastated the northeast seaboard of Japan, killed 18,000 people, and generated the world’s foulest nuclear crisis since Chernobyl. I have traveled north several times since “3-11” as it is called here: even the nonchalant way locals describe their experience is humbling, and the effects are still being felt. Thus, the one-minute remembrance had special import for me.

On a less solemn note, the sandstorms that originate in Mongolia and China hit this year in early March, coating our car and windows with a fine silt that was, more than anything else, annoying.

Tokyo Skytree Tower amid the sandy skies
An annual seasonal weather phenomenon, this year the China sands hit in mid-May and brought the highest temperatures in recorded history with them (at one point, almost 26 Celsius)—global warming ahoy! Plus, really crap visibility and a gritty sensation on any exposed skin. Just a few more things for locals to bitch about when they talk about China as they don the ubiquitous Hannibal Lecter masks. (I won’t even touch the island territorial disputes—this is not a political blog, after all.)

In closing, an update on Marina’s ongoing vocabulary development. Her favorite words this month are (translations by the author):
1. “Unchi” (poo-poo, shit).
Example: “Hey Daddy, unchi-unchi-unchi.” Then she laughs at her own “joke.”

2. “Chin-chin” (penis, dink, junk…and hundreds of other synonyms).
Example: “Hi. Daddy has a chin-chin (points to my groin), Marina does not have a chin-chin.” Then she laughs at her own “joke” again.

3. "Oshiri" (ass, bum, derriere).
Example: [After bath time, as she runs out of my reach] “Hey, look at my oshiri, Daddy.” She turns around and wiggles her bum. I squirm and think: just don’t consider it a future vocational option.

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