Saturday, October 22, 2016

even farther than beyond! (5 of 8)

Ha- Kumihama -tata
what a wonderful place! (1)

It means no worries for the rest of your days. Ha- Kumihama -tata! It's our problem-free philosophy. Etc. You know the lyrics pretty well, no need to waste more time on this. Sing it along until you feel dizzy but please don't stop reading.

in the background, between the Kumihama bay and the sea: the hamlet of Sh.
Leaving Nagano and the Japanese Alps after an intense and somehow disturbing two-week Helpx (see the previous chapter in Spanish if you're interested - and remember the small flags at the bottom of the page are here to provide you with an automatic and often quite poetic machine-translation of all our contents from English, Spanish and French into French, Spanish and/or English! Give it a try: it's as entertaining as walking half-drunk through a wax museum or having a serious conversation with your friend skipping all vowels and using only consonnants: it's quite fun, it's perfectly doable, it's a bit weird and it's generally free...). Anyway, with the rain pouring over the past two weeks, most of the landscape along the train trip was flooded, the rivers out of their beds and the rice fields, covered in mud like hippies in Woodstock*. We had a short stop in Kyoto before catching one of the only "limited express" trains of our stay in Japan. We remember thinking "wow! what a fancy train!". Then, it all went very fast: after about ten-to-fifteen minutes (just long enough to ride through the outskirts of Kyoto), the controller came to check our tickets, which we handed with a smile. He then asked for the limited express extra fee voucher, which we obviously didn't have (because we didn't know there had to be one). He kindly asked us to pay for the extra amount for the two of us, which was substantially higher than the total amount of cash we carried with us. We waved our credit card with implorant smiles, only to be showed some signs in bold letters "limited exupuressu voucheru mandatory" "onuly cashu on turainu" "no cureditu carudo" and "fureeloaders willu be pubuliculy shamed and kickedu outo". It was like the "no stairway to heaven" scene in that alltime classic movie.
just one of these fancy, anime, neo-classic, steampunk-inspired limited express trains
And so it happened: we got publicly shamed and kicked out at the next stop. While Wallis waited on the platform, mumbling something like "I knew it, I told you so, I saw it coming" in at least four languages, Futuna went to the station lobby in search for an ATM and came back with cash (just in case) and two coffees with milk from the closest seven-eleven: a magic balm to sweep all pain from the face of Earth... We let our Helpx host, Atsushi-san, know that we'd be there a bit later than scheduled and soon got on the next regular northbound train. We waited for a connexion somewhere,  most probably Fukuchiyama, noticing the inquisite looks of "how did those two gaijin get lost enough to end up here?" while trying to blend in... We got on the local train #Istoppedcountingthemlongago, enjoyed the ride and soon disembarked on the platform in Toyooka's station. There, we met Atsushi-san and his daugther, the lovely Yuzuki, who were waiting for us. And as the day was fading over the rice paddy fields, we drove back to their place, but not without a stop at the supermarket so our hosts could buy (for us!) all kind of western delikatessen: softbread, Nescafé, milk... and bentos for our first lunches! We'd soon discover the bentos and Western food were "just in case" we wouldn't eat local but ended up enjoying each and every day, the best possible homemade Japanese cuisine!

courtyard side: never has a soundtrack been more accurate: sitting on the dock of the (Kumihama) bay!
garden side: just a 100 meters from here in the opposite direction, magic and infinite, the ocean!

Despite our efforts to take responsibility on our subsistance and meal-cooking, Atsushi's parents - Oto-san and Oka-san - couldn't help spending hours daily to prepare the most incredible, beautiful, tasty and healthy food! Each single meal, from the first breakfast to the last dinner, was worth a Michelin star and an Instagram award-winning picture! And we'll let you imagine how embarrassing it must be to wake up at 5am, silently making your way to the toilet downstairs in the dark, only to find Oto-san in the kitchen stir-frying vegetable tempura and slicing fresh fish he'd just fished, setting it all on tiny plates with rolled omelet, umeboshi and pickled onion and daikon so we'd find it ready for our breakfast at 7 sharp. Life at Atsushi's by the Kumihama bay was, since the very first minute, like living in a dream. A top-of-the-list Helpx experience that could only be challenged by our unforgetable stay in the Ariège at dear L. & R.'s, while un(t)raveling around in the TRANSITion!, back in 2014 - when we were young and fearless, ha ha ha.

the local food chain: straight from the bay to the boat ; from the boat to the kitchen ; from the kitchen to our breakfast table!
That's the first big deal with Helpx: from one day to the next, without any previous contact (if you except the emails and/or the exceptional skype conversation) you find yourself working, chilling, eating, sleeping and sharing hours of time everyday, while living at - and within - a family of complete strangers. Hopefully, if things go well, they won't be strangers for long. But, you know, in your own country, with your own cultural codes and tacit rules, it's already quite a challenge. Now imagine doing this in a far away culture living on an island, whose language half your party barely understands like a 5 y-o does, with nothing but Engrrish to communicate. Well, landing at Atsushi's was the smoothest, nicest and hom-iest one can dream of. In the few emails we exchanged before actually getting there, we spoke of helping with the oyster and cockle farms, at the platforms on the bay, as well as giving a hand at fixing the dock and its cabin, both damaged by the recent typhoons. We were super curious about the former and super enthusiastic about the latter, so the perspective to get up at 07:00 and start the working day at 08:30 was just great. We were given a (full) traditional room with rice paper walls and rice straw tatami floor, in the old part of this still guesthouse, that had been a family-run hotel for decades.

1- enlarging the concrete posts/stakes inside some old PVC pipes ; 2- replacing and fastening the main beams ;
3- checking it's all even-ish and preparing the slat flooring ; 4- end of the second day, we'll finish tomorrow!
Our first job was to help fix (understand: rebuild) the peer/deck/dock damaged after the last typhoons. A bunch of Atsushi's friends were around to take care of the job and there was relatively little we could actually do by ourselves. Not decided to follow our "senior" Helpxer's** advice to just sit and wait for the dinner, we asked for something we could do and were given the cool task to renew the Oysta' Garage, a funky old little shack used to store all kind of oyster gear, tools, surfboards, life-jackets, plastic boxes, trays, buoys, broken down engines, stuff and such. Only rule for the job: id has to be cheap, upcycling and recycling as much as possible, being creative and solving problems with what could be salvaged around! Futuna could never had dreamt of anything cooler than that! So first of all, we emptied and dismantled the whole thing, removing the rusty/rotten pieces and taking great care to ask Atsushi-san, for each and every single found item/artifact "Astushi-san, can we throw this away, kudasai? When we were done the first night, it was looking like that (upper right pic). The next day, we pretty much face-lifted it with new sheets of galvanized steel, set some shelving inside and left a good pile of random stuff everywhere around, "to be sorted over the next few days... By the end of the second day, it looked like that (third lower pic).

working on, inside and around the funky old little shack, doing our best to give him this fresh look back again. And the night comes on...

And the night came on, it was very calm. 
I wanted the night to go on and on.
But she said, Go back to the World.
(end of the interlude)

After these first few days, we finally got to take the boat to the oyster farm's platforms on the bay, but that would take us way too far and too long for this first post, so we'll save it for the next one... which is coming soon, we promise. For now, let's ring the That's all folks! and we'll leave you with just a few more pictures to share the beauty, serenity and peace of this tiny little place on earth. Water, light, clouds, moutains, trees, wildlife and... a golf course in the distance! An amazing gift for the eye and the soul, every hour of the day : just Kumiha-magic!

the daily life of our heron neighbours : when there is a fish, there is a way ; stormy weather, silent contemplation and a bad moon rising...

Take care
and see you soon!
W. & F.


* About the typhoons, the rain and the flooded valleys of the Japanese Alps: here's a picture taken from the train, somewhere between Nagano and Nagoya on the day we traveled to Tokyo. The forest was literally sweating moist, its head in the fog, its feet in the river roaring out of control, carrying mud and trees... if we couldn't see herds of tanukis floating and flowing down to the sea, it's probably because we fell asleep and failed to spot them, not for any other reason!

** About R. Dush (yes, Dush. I changed a letter to preserve his privacy and avoid getting sued), our co-Helpxer. He'd deserve at least a post just for him - which I do not exclude to write someday... When we first met him, we both saw nothing but an old TEENAGER in the classic Grunge outfit: dirty jeans, timberman shirt and curly hair down to his shoulders. While talking to him - better said "while listening to his travel adventures and little pearls of wisdom", we got to correct his estimated age-range from "early TWENTIES" to "early THIRTIES", only to later discover he was (much) older than that. Nothing in his whole person could have made you consider he was a grown-up, though. Not his attitude, nor his empathetic abilities, nor his tolerance, nor his dispositions to understand or adapt to another culture, nor his curiosity about others in general. Well, most of him was sticking firmly to what his "values" were, especially when they implied him doing nothing and looking how the Universe provided for him. Anyway, he happened to be the proud author of a "best-selling" book about a so-called "spring of eternal youth" he'd discovered through a 10-year "extensive research" in the "field of health and aging", taking him on "a journey to be forever young". Excuse the quote marks. The dude was actually in his mid-FIFTIES and not only looked like a teenager, he also totally thought and restlessly behaved like one! We had quite some interesting argu-versations on such varied topics as "homeopathy", "vaccines", "cattle breeding", "the immune system" or "created diseases", on which his "10+ years extensive research" gave him impressive knowledge and insights**... Fascinating! Stay young forever, R. Dush! Refuse to grow! Keep rocking! The sky is the limit! Wooooo!

** Absolute sarcasm intended here, everybody (but him) would probably have understood this! ;)

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