Wednesday, 11 March 2015

A whole new life in Hiroshima

So... We have left Kumagaya and are now Hiroshimites. En route we took a short holiday to Bali. We have been there three times now so had pretty much exhausted all the obvious tourist haunts so decided this time to just 'chill'. Now to many this will seem a natural state to be in whilst on holiday but for me (and now by extension Rachel) this is far from what we normally do. Rachel did that raised eyebrow thing when I said that sitting around a pool, the beach, eating and drinking was sounded great. She was still checking that everything was ok doing what we were doing 8 days into our 10 day break.

The pool
We did go to Tanah Lot (the temple in the sea) which was only about a 30 minute motor bike ride away and checked out another temple complex that we remembered (but forgot the name of) but that was it. We either sat in dappled shade beside the tranquil little swimming pool with trickling water lulling us off to sleep. Only one or two guests in the hotel meant that dropping off without shrieks and splashing was easy and this made more so by the occasional Long Island Iced Tea. Or, strolled down to Echo Beach (Far away in time) and wandered along the coast or as happened on a two occasions sat in one of the beach bars for 5 or 6 hours chatting with a young couple or some travellers whilst watching the surfers doing their thing.

Bali is still one of the most beautiful places we have been. Its smells, visual delights both natural and man-made gladden your heart whilst and, as long as you are off the roads, the tingling of temple bells and pan pipes seem to drift on the warm breeze everywhere you go.


Wow de wow wow wow wow!

One of the old trams on the city streets
Three weeks in and it has been amazing so far. The kindergarten where Rachel works is very impressive and is patronised by high fee paying customers. Consequently the facilities are first rate. It sits on the River Ota and has mini climbing walls, lovely play equipment and themed castles, planes and climbing frames to play on. Its all a bit of a shock to Rachel at the moment- this teaching little ones. But the children are lovely and once she has got her head around the concept of limiting her expectations all will be wonderful. Her working week is only 15.5 hours at the moment so even if its not great its not too much to bear.

So seeing the place was a great surprise but then our apartment, across the road from the school, was even better. Its a 100,000¥ a month apartment that we pay 40,000¥ for. Actually, thats not true, as after two weeks its just been generously reduced to 30,000¥ because we hoped for a car parking place and they couldn't give us one. Its what is known as 2DK which means two bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom and lounge. The rooms are a good size, excellent condition and very Japanese with lots of wood. Its un-furnished but when we arrived the teachers had found us a washing machine, huge fridge freezer, iron, rice maker and various utensils and plates to get us going. All for free. Incredible.

We have been out shopping around the second had shops and because the Japanese just like buying stuff they get rid of really good things that have nothing wrong with them. Consequently we have bought table, drawer units, sofa and heaters for only a few hundred quid. It all white and relatively trendy, seems to match and (indication of how new this stuff is) is still on sale in Nitori (their version of IKEA). We spurged out on a really comfy bed, wild curtains and a few other brand new bits and pieces and the whole lot now looks like a real home.
Apartment with sliding wall to bedroom 1 open

We have both bought bikes. Rachel as well!!!! For those who knew her you would not recognise this woman whizzing here, there and everywhere on her new white sit up and beg bike with a basket. I went second hand but bought a really good lightweight bike i can use for road racing which i hope to get into as they do a lot of that stuff here.

Our apartment is just off the river (about 25metres). One of seven that run through the delta that Hiroshima is built on. Bike tracks and running tracks run along all of the rivers and its really easy to get about using these wide tarmac surfaces. We have joined a gym thats 1.5 km away, up the river, over the bridge and down the other side. Its a 7 min bike ride so really convenient and really cheap comparing to what we have paid elsewhere.

I have been offered jobs from just about any interview I have done. Its been incredible. The Eisho nursery (you can see it on google maps) offered me 5 hours a week almost immediately, I work with 5 to 12 year olds at the YMCA and present something they call 'Chris Time' where I basically wind the kids up for 15 minutes in lots of different classes and then hand them back to the teachers. I have also picked up two afternoons at Junior High School and some business lessons. Its ended up with me actually having more hours than Rachel although this is only temporary as she thinks she has got some business classes and definitely some elementary work.  Consequently we earn at least 50% more than before and only work 4 reasonably short days. Fabulous.

Misty morning from just by our apartment
Hiroshima is full of people running, biking, walking and generally keeping fit. I think its a pretty outdoorsy type of place. There are big hills both in and surrounding the city and mountains with skiing about an hour away. The city sits on the Seton Inland sea and there are hundreds of islands of various sizes just off the coast. Many reachable by road links or ferries. The city itself has everything from shopping streets and Mals (both above and below ground depending on weather), cinemas, castles, and monuments and temples, drinking areas, good nightlife, extensive parks, bowling, ice rinks, pools, baseball stadium and lots interesting places. We have fallen in love with the place and hope our year or so here continues in the truly amazing way it has started

Along the river
In closing this blog I will add one thing. One of the little bits of sight seeing we have done in the city so far has been around Peace Park which houses the Atomic Bomb Dome (The remains of one of the few buildings to still be standing after the Bomb). The Atomic Bomb Museum and various shines all set in nice gardens. This was a sad, moving, interesting but ultimately positive experience. The Bomb about 3 metres by 1 metre detonated 600m above the city and instantly killed about 148,000 people and virtually flattened an area about 6km wide with lessening effects radiating out. The surface of the city was subjected to 4,000 degree heat ball, a shock wave of enormous proportions, a radiation blast and black radiative rain that settled an poisoned the earth and people for a wide area. The subsequent death toll is far greater than that of the original blast.

Atomic Dome
However. Whilst this was a horrific action by the Americans the legacy in this city is not one that harps on about the past and fault...Fault nearly always has two sides and in the case of the Japanese aggression this is true and understood. It is about the future. The Peace Park is there to remind future generations not only about the horror of Atomic weapons but war as well. Today the remains of that earlier city have all been swept away. It is no longer a city that can be defined by its past because its now is something unique as well.

To all who know us and read our blogs. Please come to "Our" city and visit. You will not be disappointed.