Joshua Sofaer

Tongue Twister

This week has been about rest, recuperation and of course, rubbish.

After my emergency anti-biotic drip and the course of pills that followed the Dickensian diagnosis of pneumonia and the concerned phone-calls and emails from friends and family following my last blog (thank you), I have tried to take it easy.

Here are some pictures of my sick lungs. Look for the shadows – that is the pneumonia, apparently. And no, I am not suddenly pregnant. I was told to take a very big breath and hold it for the xray.

Joshua Pneumonic Lungs 1

Joshua Pneumonic Lungs 2

I went back to the hospital a few days later and the blood test showed that I was well on the way to recovery and the doctor was pleased with my progress. Nevertheless, I was encouraged to take things a bit slowly.

36 episodes into Yoshitsune I thought it best to lay off the drama of 12th Century Samurai Japan that had been the subject of every sick bed moment and do something else instead. So I have been trying to learn some Japanese tongue twisters and verbal conundrums. Here are a few of my favourites for you to try out in the comfort of your own home.

Unraniwa niwa niwa niwa niwa niwa niwa tori ga iru.

Easy to learn but guaranteed to impress native Japanese as ‘charming’, this translates as: There are two chickens in the backyard and two chickens in the garden. (Yes, there really are supposed to be 7 ‘niwas’.)

Then there is the one that you should say really fast:
nama mugi
nama gome
nama tamago

This is the Japanese ‘red lorry, yellow lorry’ only I find ‘red lorry, yellow lorry’ much more difficult to say fast than the Japanese twister, which means: raw wheat, raw rice, raw egg. I’ve got this one really speedy and have people chuckling away when I show it off.

Then there is a toughie:
Tokyo Tokkyo Kyokakyoku

This means, Tokyo Patent Permission Centre. It is hard to say properly. People laugh at me when I try this one, especially if I do it fast. So I say, “What? What did I do wrong, let me hear you say it again.” And then they say it again: “Tokyo Tokkyo Kyokakyoku” and I repeat it, “Tokyo Tokkyo Kyokakyoku” and they laugh some more and say, “No, no, no, Tokyo Tokkyo Kyokakyoku” and I try again and they still laugh. I just don’t hear the difference.

Not hearing the difference for the Japanese means there is often an inability to differentiate between ‘r’ and ‘l’. It’s a commonly known phenomenon. So ‘red lorry, yellow lorry’ might as well be ‘red lolly, yellow lolly”, which is in fact much easier to say. Try in yourself and you will see!

After a week of hearing about the presidential erection (hurrah! President Obama, hurrah hurrah!) we are now in the full thrust of a mayoral erection here in Moriya. Endless leaflets come through the door of my cell, erm, I mean room, announcing candidates. The current mayor has been in post for over ten years, so there might well be a feeling that change is needed. As ARCUS is a government sponsored initiative, developments are being noted with interest. One really off putting thing, is the constant series of vehicles that cruise the streets with their megaphone announcements of where the hustings are taking place. In such an ordered and polite society it is surprising that this continual noise pollution is allowed. If it isn’t the erection, then it is someone selling bicycles or advertising a special discount at a furniture warehouse or something. Just as every surface is a potential advertising hoarding, so too every sound wave is a potential marketing opportunity. It is the same everywhere: streets, shops, lifts, trains. The soundtrack is non-stop. In the streets of Tokyo massive lorries drive through the main drags blaring advertisements for the latest this or that.

Talking about erections, my library is beginning to take shape. The carpenters are in. We are behind schedule but so far it is looking good.

In my post-pneumonic-recovery-phase I had to go back to the paper-recycling centre to pick up the reading material that will form one side of my library. As I cycled into ARCUS that morning, I saw, with pleasure, the daintily wrapped presents of reading matter that people had put out for the twice-monthly paper collection.

Present

The entire paper of the city is then delivered to the recycling centre and the books and magazines are dumped into a great big pile.

Pile of Rubbish

This is what we were at liberty to search through. Thank heavens it was not raining. I cannot express how horrible it would have become if the paper had been soaking wet, not to mention my post-pneumonic-recovery-phase self.

There were some great finds and we loaded up the little truck that was loaned to us by City Hall, twice.

Van of Books

A day or two later and it was time for the beginning of the other rubbish delivery: all the rubbish from Moriya City Library for one week. And so in facemask and rubber gloves, I have begun sorting, washing and drying.

Food Waste

It is slightly surreal to see fragments of plastic food wrap on a makeshift clothesline, out to dry.

Plastic Drying

Last night we said goodbye to Ya Chu, who returns to Taipei (for about 10 minutes, before she goes for another residency in New York). We had a feast at a traditional Japanese inn. There were two different kinds of ‘nabe’, which are basically giant ‘one pot’ dishes, which you cook at the table. Nabe means cooking pot. We had a seafood one…

Seafood Nabe

…and a horse meat one. Yes, it’s my little pony again.

Sakura Nabe

The horse nabe is called ‘sakura nabe’ which means ‘cherry-blossom cooking pot’ because the colour of the meat is a dusky pink. Rub it around the hot pot for a bit, then dip it in raw egg and eat. Delicious. Rinsed down with a few glasses of ice-cold soju, my first alcohol in over a week and a half. Soju is a distilled beverage native to Korea but also a really big deal in Japan. Though traditionally made from rice, other starches such as potato, wheat, barley, sweet potato, or tapioca are also used. There are literally hundreds of varieties, a bit like Aboslut Vodka. I had the one distilled from sweet potato. Lovely. Campai!

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