Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A "No Japan" day (Ha!) and Linda's Japan v. Beth's

I was “forced” to have a day off from Japanese planning today by Linda and the massive amounts of pain I woke up with. Of course, this didn’t stop two loads of laundry getting done as well as a bunch of emails and now I am starting on answering the questions for “The Ultimate Guide for Victoria” the alternative paper is putting out next week (answers by tomorrow). It seems they are doing profiles of various people in different aspects of the city which makes me wonder if I am now going to be a “tourist attraction” or not. Then they talked about sending over their photographer to my apartment (insert small scream). See, between medical equipment, wheelchairs, crap spread about (it is odd but being disabled AND doing housework doesn't go well together) I will be surprised they can find a place that doesn’t look like a Garage Sale in progress.

For today I really should try to come up with a blog that doesn’t involve a) Japan or b) Suicide but the alternative is some sort of assessment of the state of the world which even I find MORE depressing than talking about feeling suicidal. I did find from a news source the ratio of soldiers wounded in Iraq at 15:1 for wounded to dead. That means there are now about 60,000 potential newly disabled individuals (not counting Canadian and UK forces). That depressed me. What depressed me more was that the LAST story at the bottom of the “women’s section” in MSN was “Quarter of U.S. Women Suffer Domestic Violence” which talks about the estimated 2 million injured last year. That was far below; “Orgasmic births”, “Acupuncture and pregnancy” and the number 2 story: “10 diet mistakes and how to fix them!” See, this is why Linda doesn’t allow me a TV. I’m not even going to comment on those two stories because MSN, while it does have a labeled section for “pet health” doesn’t have a disability section. Which means trying to access and interpret US news is a quick trip to some sort of breakdown.

Instead I will do a quick analysis of the difference between Elizabeth’s trip to Japan and Linda’s trip to Japan. You would think that we were going to take the same trip but….SO wrong. For example, we are going to Miyajima, a sacred island across from Hiroshima. You would think we are going because the Itsukushima Shrine, first built in 593 and current buildings date from 1168 are a World Heritage Site. But you would be wrong, we are going because the Torii (gate) is listed as one of Japan’s “three most scenic sights.” See, Beth knows that if there is a photogenic site AND some history, she can likely entice Linda to go see the historic stuff because it promises great pictures. If you want a film on the Shrine and the island, there is a short one here. However in our planning over the weekend THIS is what actually happened:

Linda: “What is that warning on the Miyajima website?”

Beth (reading): “‘Deer may eat paper and cloth. Please be cautious of approaching deer.’ Wait there is a big warning, ‘JR PASSES WILL NOT BE REPRINTED OR REPLACED’”

Linda: “Oh cool! Deer!”

Beth: “WTF? How many deer have to EAT people’s rail passes before they put a warning on the front page.”

Linda: “Do they say where they deer are?”

Beth: “No, no mention of the deer. There is a street tour but there is a bunch of stairs. Oh here is a map of the island.”

Linda: “Monkeys!”

Beth (looking confused): “No. I think, old shrine, Noh playhouse, oldest wooden building in the world and the floating Torii. Heritage!”

Linda: “Click on that one there, it says ‘wild monkeys’” She reads, “It says they are on top of Mt. Misen”

Beth: “Yeah, and the pathway is washed out and not very wheelchair friendly.”

Linda: “But look at the map, there are a bunch of ropeways: gondolas!”

Beth: “They are WAY up there, up that hillside out of town, how am I going to get the wheelchair all the way to the ropeway station?”

Linda: “Hooray! We can go feed the Wild Monkeys!”
And that is how things are going, while we are GOING to World Heritage Sites, and UNESCO sites, what we are visiting while there is still up for debate. Because while reviewing the list of places we are visiting Linda announced that she is “Shrined Out!” Meaning, too many shrines in too short a time.

Here is another example: after finding that dressing as a Geisha in Kyoto requires to be standing for 90 minutes for the layers of the Kimono to be put on without creasing, it was obvious that was out for me (along with the plan of selling the pics of Geisha in Wheelchair as the way to make back all our trip money).

I said: “I sorry we can’t get dressed up as Geishas and have our pictures taken.”

Linda: “You mean YOU can’t get dressed up.”

Beth: “What? You are going to go and do it without ME?”

Linda: “I haven’t decided yet.”

And that is how everything is going. I mean, I guess, love Linda, love her obsession with taking monkey pictures. We are also going to the town of Kobe, the city where all the other nations were kept when trading with Japan to keep them from influencing the country. So there are a lot of old houses from different nations (nine to be exact) as well as a Chinatown. This is purely a walk, wheel and shoot pictures as we are going there straight from Nara (feeding deer AND if there is time, see at least one World Heritage Shrine – notice the priority). The real problem now is that we have to prioritize because a) I am only awake about 2/3rds the time other people are. B) I need to sleep twice a day, at strict intervals and c) combine those two and there isn’t a LOT of night time attractions (except in Tokyo). Which means that Linda will be going solo to see some things like the Ninja Temple in Kanazawa (since it is full of twisting stairs and trapdoors – not a lot of wheelchair ninja’s it turns out). But we want to visit the Samurai area together (picture). So we are trying to decide the TOP things we want to do in each city….before we both go insane.

Let me just say that I am VERY glad more places we are going to DON’T have wild monkeys.

Linda (yesterday): “Hey I read this stuff on the Ghibli Museum….it sounds really good, I think there will be some good pictures there.”

Beth: “Didn’t I print that off for you to read a month ago?”

Linda: “Yes….and now I’m reading it!”
Anyway, we will trade our reservations of only 200 reservations for foreign guests per day for tickets that are actually pieces of film (three frames) of Ghibli films (like Spirited Away, Porco Rosso, or Kiki’s Delivery Service). We keep the tickets as souvenirs. Getting in there was not as bad as the Kyoto English tour of which there are two a day, but not on Saturday or Sunday. We arrive at Kyoto on Saturday and leave on Monday. We got into the second tour on Monday because the first was full and each English tour group only allows…..8 people. And if you aren’t IN the tour, you can’t into the Palace grounds. Ouch!

I did just download a series of shops which do Geisha pics for Linda; since after the film Memoir of a Geisha it is the favorite thing of schoolgirls to come to the Gion district and get dressed up and wander around (about 20 different studios – you can even get the ride in the rickshaw). Apparently the way to tell a REAL Geisha is the speed they can move their legs atop their Geta (wooden shoes atop two tall vertical pieces of wood – the traditional Japanese high heels). But remember, I’m not thinking or working on Japan.


cheryl g said...

Sis, you should be the first wheelchair ninja with a special wheelchair full of hidden weapons. That would be too cool!

Be careful with the wild critters. More people are injured by deer in the national parks each year than by all other animals combined. Bambi can be nasty (he's still pissed about his mother being killed).

You know thinking about Japan is certainly better than reading the news (especially from sources with a US slant).

Lisa Harney said...

That monkey picture just about killed me.

I know it's not a laughing matter to be attacked by wildlife, but the art on that sign is comedy.

Cheryl, the fact that you described a wheelchair ninja with hidden weapons means that it retroactively exists somewhere in manga, anime, or wuxia. It just does. I remember when people complained about how martial arts movies never had zombies, and suddenly there was Versus. You have to be careful about this stuff.

lilwatchergirl said...

Hehehe. Your conversations with Linda sound a lot like my conversations with The Girl. (Non-disabled partners - aren't they cute and frustrating? ;) )

Sorry I haven't been around much. I do intend to catch up on your blog now that I'm feeling a bit more able to deal with the outside world. Yay Japan! I hope you - and Linda :) - have a fantastic trip.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Cheryl: I think my abilities to blend in with the walls and ceiling might be a little lacking, but I like the idea. Yeah, Nara has over 1,000 deer while it seems now another world heritage site is overrun with deer eating $500 train passes. Super!

Yes, Japan is better than the news - - sigh.

Lisa: I put that pic in there to try and convince linda that these are WILD monkeys and she says, "I'll make sure not to look them in the eye, I'll take pictures of them on the digital camera instead! Hee hee!"

So, no, I don't think she "got it!" quite yet.

Wow, good call on Versus - you're right, probably some indie Japanese director is doing a ninja wheelchair film.

lilwatchergirl: I'm glad you are back, I was a little concerned at your disappearance. It is just Linda seems now that we have hotels and such to be in a la da da attitude while a few things like - she refuses to eat almost any food in Japan INCLUDING SUSHI or ANY SEAFOOD have not been addressed (I have begged her to make a list of food she 'might' want to eat so we can know what to look for.)

I actually try not to think that I am leaving to move closer to the airport for final prep in just over four days because I feel an ulcer coming on - I asked Linda tonight, "so we REALLY are going to Japan?" - Yup! It has been so many months in planning that I am sure I am forgetting things (many, many things). But we ARE bringing a towel. So DON'T PANIC!

em said...

Yes, the monkey pic was great. Your dialog was terrific too. It all made me laugh except when you were writing about the World Heritage sites and I was jealous. And OMG, Studio Ghibli. How cool is that?

Anonymous said...

It's true! Miyajima deer wander all over the touristy parts of the island and they will eat anything, including rail passes...and passports. One exchange student became a school legend when a deer ate a couple pages out of his passport. He had to go through all sorts of red tape to get a new one.

The monkeys seemed pretty docile when I went, so I don't think you'll have to worry about them much. I know, I know, probably not helping you in your case with Linda, so I'll shut up about the monkeys now.

Even if you miss some of the 'important' spots, the best moments in Japan happen when you relax outside a cafe and people-watch, or you happen to see a giant sakura tree in full bloom, unexpectedly, in the middle of the city. That's when everything sinks in, I guess. Between those moments and the major places you do see, I think you'll have a great time.


cheryl g said...

In the world of manga/anime the wheelchair (and you with it) will automatically blend into walls and ceilings and the general background. The chair will have cool grappling hook launchers too.

rachelcreative said...

Well at least you had a day off. Ummm ...

Hey - it isn't every day you get to go on a trip like this. I'm suprised you're not thinking about it MORE. Ummm ...

saraarts said...

Of course you are a local attraction. The local paper should take pictures of you feeding the squirrels with your wings and skulls on.

Re the monkeys -- Someone sent me a link a long time ago, and I looked for it for you but couldn't find it alas, with pix of the wild monkey area. If it's the same place, there is a caged in area for the humans; the land and freedom are for the monkeys. I thought that was appropriate. Also the monkeys hang out in hot springs. Yeah, they're party animals.

Re the Geisha costumes -- Perhaps you could dress as Pinkerton.

Re Ghibli museum -- Oh, SO jealous. ;)

Gaina said...

'it is odd but being disabled AND doing housework doesn't go well together'.

This is precisely why my idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance before I shut the door on it!

I think the nearest to a perfect solution for this holiday is to have a 'Linda Day' a 'Beth Day' and an 'Us Day'. Which is exactly what it sounds - you get to do what the other wants on alternate days, then a day of togetherness.

I really should be a diplomat for NATO :D.

I'm sure your psycho squirrel friend has already called the monkeys and told them to be on their best behaviour :).

donimo said...

I'd love to say something brilliant about the art of give and take when one disabled and one able-bodied partner go on vacation, but I'm wrecked from two days of vertigo. If you love something, let it go... to the monkeys or the washed out paths... and she'll return to you and then you'll continue the adventure together. Picture that as a 70's inspirational poster and you get the idea.

Dawn Allenbach said...

I'm jealous. That's all I have to say.

Neil said...

"In this corner, wheelchair-equipped Ninja squirrels... And in THIS corner: passport eating monkeys in kimonos!" There's probably anime/manga for them, isn't there?

Don't bother listening to the news, Beth, it's all bad all the time. My wife insists that Fox News should rebrand as Faux News. Shrubbie wouldn't notice the difference, I'm sure.

Do be careful with the critters. Do NOT feed the critters.

You might try to blend in, but it ain't gonna happen. Nooo way. So be bold, and bright. And red.

By the way, I forgot to mention a few days ago that I think you and Linda make a lovely couple. The photo was very nice. Thanks for posting it.

Tom Holt may not get read by my 11 year old. Was it Raccoon suggested him? Thanks for the recommendation, but he's read Douglas Adams and another set of books that mad will make him impossible to live with. And the LanGuage! Funny as all get-out for us, but no, Logan won't be offered them for a few years. Well, not "Earth, Air, Fire and Custard" at least. We'll see about some of the others.

No thinking about Japan? Yeah, right! What would you have thought about? All those Brave Plucky Christians coming to console you, and being converted to Goth lovers of gay manga?

As for the Catty comments remark; she is the very embodiment of Cat - so of course her comments are catty. Sorry, it was an "in" joke, 'cause she didn't sign her name.

Goodnight Beth. G'night Linda. Zen hugs and positive thoughts for you both, and for your trip.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Em: That's the real dialogue, I think I may too get a little shrined out - becuase at one a day you tend to forget why THIS one is so special. Can't wait to see the gift shop at Ghibli though!

yakiikaonastick: Thanks for the advice about the deer and the story - too funny (and scary if it happens to us!). Linda will take monkey pics no matter WHAT I say!

We have tried to see a lot of the sites which are more about the breadth of Japan, and we hope that in them we will get a sense of what a lot of people have as a shared experience - it helps that we ACCIDENTALLY booked virtually every popular day trip from Toyko and Kyoto: Nikko, Nara, Kakundate, Kanazawa, Himaiji, Kobe

Cheryl: I could use those grappling tool!

RachelCreative: Yeah, the problem is that I spend so much time PLANNING that the actual trip seems kind of terrifying - it is like, "What? I'm not ready? You mean I only get one take?"

Sara: Well, of course I agree that a rare sighting of the Elizabeth should be noted in visitor journals. Yes, I remember the place where the monkeys keep invading the hot springs - that is why we are going to the Niagra Falls of Japan: BEPPU!

Gaina: We probably should have done that - three days but we are going to have a LOT of US days coming up and I hope we both manage to survive them!

One thing about Linda is that without her obsession you can be sure I (afraid of heights) would not be riding a rope gondola in a wheelchair to find monkeys to take picture of in Japan.

Donimo: You are very funny even if you don't make a lot of sense - she has the TICKETS, the MONEY, the CREDIT CARD (taken back after the hot topic/dress midnight order) - if she falls into the hands of wild monkeys, there goes the trip!

Dawn: Ha, I think we should try to take a trip together and see what the logistics would be (including caregivers!) - I will try and blog and postcard as much of the trip back to everyone as possible.

Neil: Well, first I will need to woo the animals and THEN feed them - but not my rail pass.

Yeah, going to stand out, but maybe pics of Linda as Geisha too. I mean at 5'9"=5'10" she isn't going to hide exactly.

If you go back, I posted some juv lit books that might interest you and your son.

yeah, two week break from the Christians converting us. Just hundreds of people staring at me every day - this will be different (not!). I've travelled to Asia twice and am used to people calling for the whole block to come out and stare at me - and that's when I was walking.

Raccoon said...

Remember to properly frame those tickets as soon as you get home.

I have to agree with other people here: have Linda do some of that stuff while you are sleeping.

Remember, also, that the time zone is a lot different there, and you might be awake more during the day than you expect.

If they're going to take pictures, it needs to be with the squirrels. Although, showing the equipment that you need in your apartment, plus the wheelchairs, might be useful with other articles (like, say, disability prejudice among landlords...)

I'll write you about the Renaissance Faire tomorrow, hopefully. And I got the disc yesterday, thank you!


Raccoon said...

Is Air, Earth, Fire, Custard Tom Holt's newest? I haven't been to my bookstore for a couple of months...

Diane Duane, though, is geared towards younger teenagers. Tamara Pierce may be?

Elizabeth McClung said...

Raccoon: Great, I was hoping it would arrive! I think they are just planning on showing up and taking like pics in a few minutes - they don't tend to be long term thinkers, which is why I am sending them a picture pack to say, "hey, use my pictures, you can even have usage copyright" - At least then they will have a decent selection.

Neil said...

Racoon: It's from 2005; probably not Holt's latest.

Beth: one of my wife's friends was born in Saskatchewan to Chinese parents. She worked for two lonely years in Hong Kong; the Brits saw her Chinese features and wouldn't befriend her, but the Chinese picked her out as a foreigner immediately (at 5' 2", she towered over them, even the men), so the locals didn't care for her either.

Now I'll check the rest of the book references. Thanks to all for those, but he's beside me now, with H. Potter. Again...

Dawn Allenbach said...

You and me on a trip together . . . that'dbe a blast. Let's do it!

I had to say no to an herb convention and festival this weekend because:

a) I couldn't afford the registration fee.

b) The people I knew who were going were either going to camp or sleep in their cars -- neither of which is practical for a chick who uses a lift to transfer and an oxygen concentrator.

Piss me off.

Marla said...

If I was going to be going anywhere anytime soon I would be obsessing about it too! I so need a vacation. I think I am losing my mind some days too. Hugs. No matter what you two will have a good time because you will be away from your every day routine and together.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Neil: Sounds like a very lonely two years. Did she find any expats while she was there? Your comment about her height reminds me of living in Wales when both Linda and I were towering over many of the men.

Dawn: Yeah, pisses me off when people just don't get it and don't consider your needs before they make their plans. We had friends that invited us over to their house but couldn't go because we couldn't get up the stairs.

Marla: Hugs back. Somedays life can be relentless, can't it? Any holidays on the horizon?