April 25, 2000
10:21 am
Right now I'm feeling: Sick, sick, sick

Right now I'm listening to: Kyoko Fukada (Isn't she a FOX?!?)

Kyoko Fukada: Anata ga Shitteru
Quote of the Day:
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
-- Eleanor Roosevelt


I hate being sick. The irritating, scratchy throat. The congested sinuses, the hot-headed, cold-bodied temperature dichotomy. The dull, slow kind-of feeling, like someone has gutted you and stuffed your body full of wool.

Called in sick, of course. Had four classes and I'm not sure if they'll be rescheduled. One of them was the special ed class and I'm going to hear no end to how much they missed me and my class, yadda yadda yadda but what am I going to do, eh? Today, I'm comforting myself with my memories of the weekend, Star Trek: TNG episodes on tape (compliments of my Canadian neighbors), hot Quaker Apples and Cinnamon Oatmeal, cold orange juice, and the illustrious Kyoko Fukuda. So click on that play button, sit back, relax, and let me tell you all about the exciting, action-packed world of bamboo farming.

Strange Happenings

I woke up early on that evenful Saturday to a frightening realization. I couldn't remember where I was. More frightening perhaps, was the fact that I couldn't recall... well, pretty much anything, including my name. After a couple frantic seconds it all came crashing back to me. I've had memory problems as long as I can remember (hmmm... there's a problem with that sentence), but this is a real problem, don't you think? And before you ask, no I was not drinking the night before. Maybe it was just a blip on the screen. I think it's probably time for another CAT scan, my last one was two years ago. I've got to start taking my ginkgo biloba more regularly.

Anyway, so I wake up an hour and a half before my alarm clock is supossed to go off and I can't get back to sleep, so I get on Napster and find this guy who's got the entire new Shiina Ringo CD on his hard drive. I started downloading, but he cut me off after a few songs (guess he thought I was getting too greedy) and then I realized that I was going to be late to meet Kara to go to the bamboo farm.

Beauty Incarnate Walks Among the Peasants

Of course, Kara was waiting for me and she was strangely unsuprised that I was late. We went to the Family Mart where someone (I think he works at one of Kara's schools) was going to pick us up on his way to the farm. So we're waiting outside of the Family Mart and down the street walks the most incredibly gorgeous Japanese girl I'd ever seen. She was about 22 years old; purple sweater, black skirt, black leather purse, long straight jet black hair (this from me, who never pays any attention to what anybody's wearing) and a fantastic figure. I couldn't believe it. It was only at this moment that I truly woke up. The traffic, the heat, and whatever Kara was saying just faded out. Her light gait was accompanied by music in Dolby® Surround Sound stereo and slow motion effects. Breathtaking. Oh, my... I had to work hard to keep Kara from noticing that I was gaping and I probably failed anyway, but she was just too nice to point out my blatent display of maledom. Just another snapshot moment in the gallery of the world which makes me happy to be alive.

Arrival at the Farm

Basically, the bamboo farm is a side of a small mountain (or a large hill, if you prefer). There's this small gasoline-powered platform that moves along a track, reminds me of a mining cart. They use it to transport the bamboo down the mountain.

Bamboo harvesting season is relatively short. Those suckers grow fast, too. Bamboo is one of the only plants which if you sit down and watch it, you can see it growing. It grows at the rate of one meter per day!

So anyway, Kara, me, our driver and his kid get there and we plod along the muddy path up the mountain (it had rained the night before).

Digging up bamboo is not at all easy. You have to use this pick-ax thing (as shown in the photographs at the left) and dig below the surface without damaging the bamboo shoot. And you have to cut them from the right direction or else it's 10X harder. You should only pick shoots at a certain height (age), older or younger ones don't taste as good (so I'm told, I can discern no taste whatsoever from the ripe bamboo shoot). I did taste one unripe bamboo shoot; someone gave me a big chunk of one. Bitter as hell. Nasty. I swallowed the piece nearly whole and chucked the rest of it discreetly on the ground.

After Kara and I had only dug up a couple, it was time for a drink! Oh, such hard work, they told us. You must be thirsty. Here sit down for a bit and have a drink. Then they started up the barbeque. Each of us got a bowl of rice-stuff with ginger, squid and other assorted goodies (which was actually good, I have to admit). They barbequed strips of beef and wieners. We wrapped the beef up in lettuce and went to town. It was deeelish.

It was beautiful out there. It was really out in the sticks. Nice fresh air, beautiful scenery, no traffic. Great place to stretch out your mind. Just to stand and feel the wind blow through the leaves. Felt like water running through the smooth rocks in a brook or the first snows of winter falling.

So we got back to work after about an hour and a half. It was real work. Many times roots would make things more difficult. You have to cut 'em up or cut around them and that's not easy at all. A few times I was doing really well until a miss with the pick-ax-thing would chop a really good, decent sized-shoot almost in half. DOH! It was hard not to keep in mind that these things are actually my teacher's family's livelihood. (but they are sooo rich!)

BUT, they always give tons away to friends every year. Later, my JTE's husband told us that this was kind of like their playground, where they allot a certain amount for their friends. I think he was just trying to make us feel better about butchering so many good bamboo shoots.

Grandpa (my JTE's father) was god of the bamboo pick-ax-things. The ground unclodded at his bidding and the shoots uprooted themselves at his beckon. His eyes found shoots which remained hidden from Kara and I in the undergrowth and ne'er did he miss with his great ax.

An inspiring sight he was, and intimidating. There I'd be, chopping away at a root a half inch thick, and I'd see him out of the corner of my eye cooly smoking on a cigarette pausing only to swing once, then bend over and pick up the largest bamboo shoot I'd ever seen. He helped me and Kara quite a bit. Really nice guy.

At the end of our tour of duty, they gave us some bamboo to take home and cook up (now, four days later, it's still sitting in my fridge, uncleaned; I know, I'm such a bastard). Sounded like a complicated process, involving boiling water, rice skins, and sauces... who knows?

It was great to escape out to the countryside, if only for a day. And harvesting bamboo shoots, hey... how often do you get to do that?

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