I return from two exhausting yet productive days of meetings to prepare a conference for this summer. My travels took me to Kyushu, where it was surprisingly cold and rainy. This winter has been the coldest on record for average temperatures, and number of days below freezing. And no, I won’t make any jokes about global warming.

I was glad to be rid of the pollen-infested air of Tokyo, and didn’t have to use sprays or eye drops. The sake (or as they call it here, “nihon-shu” or Japan liquor) was excellent with the dinner last night. We went on to another place over beer and shots and solved most of the world’s problems. Our group is devoted to bringing technology to language teaching here in Japan, and we are moving in a couple of directions, with teacher training and consulting, the conference, and I will edit a new book called TILT Recipes (Tech In Language Teaching). The Recipes is a continuation of a series of books I edited about 10 years ago.

So I start heading back and bought souvenirs (usually food from the area you visit). I got spicy fish roe, the local ramen flavor, and some green tea. In the lobby of the airport I watch news about a water treatment plant next to where I used to live before I was married. Seems like the levels of cesium are too high for use with infants. People were warned to use bottled water for formula. We will also be sure to use some of our bottled water for little Dexter, our cat.
I arrive home just in time to set up dinner, and Maki goes to visit her sister. It seems Maki’s sister lives between electric grid areas, so she does not have any blackouts. As I sit down the lights go out. The trusty Kindle with the silly headband lamp get me through the next three hours and the house slowly cools. And cool it does. Maki arrives back about 3 minutes after the lights, and I wonder how she does that. There are no blackouts in western Japan, where I just came from.
Julia calls as she is leaving from work, as usual. Maki mentions that it is raining. I can hear Julia’s eyes batting as she asks me to pick her up in the car because she is sans umbrella. That was a good call, because the rain turns to snow, and covers the windshield and roof of the car. We make jokes about radioactive snow. But we pause to think that it may not be so funny.
Still no milk, so we may switch to soy. Maki has baked soem bread. But as we sit down to recount the time I was away, I get the best story of the year. Yesterday, Maki is here with Julia and her sister. Maki goes to the bathroom. She gets trapped. The handle doesn’t work, so Yuki and Julia spend a half hour trying to get the door off the hinges. No go (well, Maki’s already went, but…). Julia calls 119 (our version of 911). The operator says, “Is it a fire or is it urgent?” Julia picks the latter. About 3 minutes later an ambulance arrives at the house, siren blaring. Followed by not one, but two, fire trucks. They spend the better part of an hour getting the door off. The firemen say this is pretty common. They don’t seem angry. The police then arrive, and Maki explains the situation, and they leave. She apologizes to the old next door neighbors for all the racket, and they give her a bag of cubed carrots (they got a new Popeil food processor). The new next door neighbors, she finds out, are used to that kind of racket. The father is retired from the head office of the national police agency (kind of like the FBI). She talks more with the neighbors than ever before. Nothing like a fire truck to bring together a neighborhood.