ついに読破! Finally Read Them All!

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去年の夏日本に行った時、Virgoさんが貸してくれた長編小説、山崎豊子の「沈まぬ太陽」五巻をついに読み終えました。

内容もよく知らないまま読み始め、正直最初はあまりページが進みませんでした。あるサラリーマンが、自分の意志に反して労働組合長をやるはめになり、正しいことをしたつもりでも、そこで経営陣に目をつけられたばかりに、海外の僻地を10年もたらい回しにされる話です。

「うーん、布団の中でちょっと読むには、重すぎるし気が滅入るなぁ。読むのやめようか。」と何度も思いました。ところが不思議なことに、そのたびに読まなきゃならないと思ってしまうのです。そして読み進めるうちに、愕然として来ました。「どうやらこれは限りなく現実に近い話なんだ。。。」

国営会社として出発し、日本のナショナル・フラッグ・キャリアとして君臨してきた大手航空会社、そして、話はその会社が1985年に起こした、航空史上最大の墜落事故の話になっていきます。520人もの命が一瞬にして奪われたあの事故です。墜落現場での遺体捜索、遺体安置所で血眼で肉親を捜す遺族の様子。あまりにも生々しい描写に目を背けたくなる半面、またもや読まなくてはいけない衝動にかられ、一字一句漏らさず読みました。

ところが肝心のその航空会社、事故の反省など外面だけの話で、内情は幹部、関係官僚、政治家たちが自分の利益のために会社を食い物にしていて、身の毛もよだつような有様だったのです。経営改革のために、政府の要請で外部から敏腕会長が送り込まれ、主人公もその直属の部下として抜擢されました。しかし、新会長は結局そういう連中に追い出されてしまい、主人公も再び苦しい立場に追いやられるのです。

これでもかこれでもかと、腐敗した内情を突きつけられて、読む方も拷問を受けているようでした。「正直者が馬鹿を見る」とはこのことか、、、真面目に生きるのが虚しく思えたり。それでも主人公は妥協せず、筋を通そうとするのです。こんなに読み応えのある小説にはそうそうお目にかかれません。

そして現実の世界では、年初、日本航空が本当に経営破綻してしまいました。あの墜落事故からちょうど四半世紀にあたる年にです。これ以上の皮肉があるだろうか、、、この小説が書かれたのは約10年前、その時にはもうこの日が来るのは避けられない状況にあったんですね。

執筆に当たり、著者は数百人の人に取材をしたと言われています。その正義感に脱帽するとともに、いろいろな嫌がらせを受けながらも発行に踏み切った出版社にも感動しました。何度も寝不足になったけど、その価値十分にあり。本当に読んでよかったです。Virgoさん、こんな素晴しい本を貸して下さってありがとうございました。 夏には必ずお返ししますね〜(^o^)/。

Finally Read Them All! 
 
I finally read all the five volumes of a novel, “Shizumanu Taiyo (The Sun That Does Not Set)” written by Toyoko Yamasaki.  When I went to Japan last summer, Virgo-san kindly let me borrow the books.
 
I started reading without knowing much what the story was about.  To be honest, my reading pace was rather slow at first.  It was a story about a businessman who against his will had to head the company’s union.  Although he thought he had done what was right, he had drawn hostile attention from the executives and was transferred around from one foreign remote area to another for 10 years.
 
“Hmm.  The theme is too heavy for short reading in bed and a bit depressing.” Although I almost gave up many times, somehow, every time, the novel made me think I had to keep going.  As I moved on, there was an appalling discovery.  “This is a story that is as close to the truth as it could ever be....”
 
This major airline started as a state-owned company.  It had reigned as Japan’s national flag carrier and the story developed into the 1985 plane crash, the worst accident in the airline history, that took the lives of 520 people all at once. Searching bodies at the crash site.  Families frantically looking for the bodies of their beloved ones at a make-shift morgue...  The description was so real that I almost turned my eyes away from the book.  However, again, I felt the urge that I must keep going and I did without missing one phrase or even a word.
 
Inside the airline in question, however, turned out to be full of chilling secrets.  While its sincere remorse about the crash was only an appearance, executives, related bureaucrats and politicians were ripping off the company just for their own personal interests.  A highly competent chairman was sent from outside on government call for management reforms and the main character businessman was chosen to work directly to him.  After all, however, the new chairman was kicked out by those greedy goblins and the businessman was again to be pushed in a miserable plight. 
 
Exposed to seemingly never-ending corruption stories inside the compnay, I even felt being tortured.  “Honesty does not pay.”  Is this what the novel is about?  Being earnest seemed meaningless.  Still, however, the main character kept his uncompromising stance and lived his own way.  It was like a once in a lifetime chance to encounter a book like this which is well worth reading. 
 
Then, in reality, Japan Airlines had actually failed.  It happened early this year, exactly a quarter-century after the crash.  Is there a more irony than this?  It was about 10 years ago when this novel was written.  I realize things were already unfixable at that time and the company had set its course to failure since then.
 
To write this novel, it is said that the author had interviewed a few hundreds of people, which I was so impressed with.  The publisher, too, despite numerous harassment that they had received, did not give up putting out the book.  Although I spent a number of days like a ghost from lack of sleep, it was no doubt worth it.  I’m so glad that I read it.  Thank you, Virgo-san, for lending me such a wonderful novel!!  You will have the books back this summer!!(^o^)/
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# by danceofdragon | 2010-05-19 03:40

スケボーでもスノボーでもありません Not Skateboard, Not Snowboard, Either

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急に真冬のように寒くなったり、真夏が訪れたりの不順な天候が続くなか、4月最後の週末、ここぞとばかりに初ビーチに繰り出しました。いつものサンタ・クルーズです。ケーシーとドラゴンが2回目の雪山ベア・バレーに臨んだのは、そのわずか1ヶ月前。もうビーチで遊んでいるとは、不思議な感じ。気持ちのいいお天気に、ビーチも時間を追うごとに人が増えていきます。

ドラゴン、この日はスノーボードをスキムボードに替えての水遊び。波打ち際で、打ち寄せた波にスキムボードを浮かせ、波と一緒に引いていくボードを追いかけて、ぴょんと飛び乗ってちょっとしたサーフィン気分を味わうのです。スケボー、スノボーの流れか、いとも簡単に乗りこなしてます。スケートボード、スノーボード、スキムボードときたら、次は何ボードだろう。。

この日は出遅れたので、あまり長居せず、途中で見つけたベーカリーでちょっとおしゃれにおやつを食べて帰りました。それにしても、海岸沿いを走っている時に見たおびただしい数のサーファーにはびっくり。波待ちでプカプカ浮いていて、海まで過密人口でした。


Not Skateboard, Not Snowboard, Either 
 
The recent weather has been so unstable. Sometimes there would be sudden temperature drops, taking us back to the mid-winter, or sometimes the temperature would surge as if it were mid-summer .  On the last weekend of April, taking a chance that it would be a fine day, we headed down to the beach, the first beach going this year.  As usual we went to Santa Cruz.  It was only a month ago when Casey and dragon enjoyed their second time snow sporting at Bear Valley.  I felt strange now we were at the beach.  The cozy weather brought more and more people into the beach.
 
Dragon, this time, instead of a snowboard, played on a skimboard.  What you do is, at the edge of water, throw the board onto the receding water, run after it and hop on to it.  It makes you feel like instantly becoming a surfer.  I suppose skimboarking is along the line of skateboarding or snowboarding since dragon made it look very easy to ride.  Skateboard, snowboard, skimboard...  I wonder what board comes next.

Our stay at the beach wasn’t very long. We had a late start. After having a snack at a fancy bakery that we had found on our way, we headed home. While driving along the coastline, I could not believe my eyes when we saw a numerous number of surfers floating, waiting for a wave. Even the ocean was densely populated that day.
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# by danceofdragon | 2010-05-06 03:49

10年経ちました! It’s Been Ten Years!!

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4月15日は舞姫の15歳の誕生日でした。そして、ちょうど10年前のこの日は、私たちが日本からカリフォルニアに引っ越した日でもあります。5歳の誕生日を迎えた舞姫と1歳2ヶ月のドラゴンを抱えてサンノゼ空港に降り立った時のことは、今でも鮮明に覚えています。

あれから10年、いろんなことがありました。引っ越した当時の心境は、2年前このブログに書いたとおり(http://dradance.exblog.jp/8731187/)、二人の子供に振り回されながら、一日も早く生活を落ち着かせるのに必死でした。

2001年暮れに念願のマイホームを購入して引っ越し、落ち着いたと思ったら2004年に再び東京に引っ越し、1年半過ごしてまたこちらに引っ越し。なんとも目まぐるしかったです。出会いがあれば、別れがありで辛い思いもしました。別れと言えば、人生最大の別れは2008年にやってきました。父の他界です。

また、同時テロ事件(2001年)や金融危機(2008年)では、当たり前だと思っていた自由で安定した生活が、本当はいつ奪われてもおかしくない絶対的なものではないことを思い知らされました。ですから、こうして10年という節目の時を平穏に迎えられることに、ことさら感謝するしかありません。

アメリカに来て本当によかったと思います。何よりも、違う世界に身を置くことでいろいろなことが学べました。もちろん日本は恋しいですが、ここで自分の居場所を見いだすことができたし、目標もできました。素敵な人との出会いもたくさんあるし、遠くにいる人たちとは、少なくともインターネットでつながっていられます。

子供たちは、今や15歳と11歳。姉と弟のはずが、なぜか背丈が入れ替わってる〜(- -;)。自分は変わっていないつもりでも、子供たちの成長にやはり月日の流れを感じてしまいます。え?今から10年後? 舞姫25歳、ドラゴン21歳、そしてケーシーと私は、、、それはちょっと考えたくないかも〜(^_^;)。

It’s Been Ten Years!!

April 15 was princess’ 15th birthday. On the very same day ten years ago, we moved from Japan to California. I clearly remember when we landed at San Jose Airport with princess who had just turned five and dragon, 14 months old.

So many things happened during these ten years. How I felt at the time of our move was written in my blog two years ago (http://dradance.exblog.jp/8731187/). Getting pushed around by the two children, I struggled to settle down as soon as possible.

In late 2001 we bought a home, our own home we had long dreamed of and moved in. Not long after I thought we had well settled, we moved back to Tokyo in 2004 where we spent 18 months until coming back again next year. What whirlwind days we had! Encountering new friends was followed by parting them, which was quite heartbreaking. Talking about parting, the most painful parting in my life came in 2008 when my father passed away.

The simultaneous terrorist attacks in 2001 and the financial crisis in 2008 were the events that harshly taught us that freedom and a stable life that we had taken for granted were nothing absolute and could be taken away at any time. Therefore, I cannot help being grateful that we were able to quietly commemorate this milestone day.

I am truly glad that I came to the U.S. On top of everything, I learned quite a lot by being in a different part of the world. Although I miss Japan very much, I have been well rooted here and now have goals of my own. There are lots of chances to meet attractive people and I can stay connected with friends in the distance at least through the internet.

My children are now 15 and 11 years old. Princess is supposed to be older, but their heights are now in the opposite order(- -;). I don’t think I have changed much but looking how much they have grown makes me realize the time has surely passed. Yes? What about ten years from now? Princess will be 25, and dragon, 21. Then, Casey and I...... I don’t think I want to think about it .....(^_^;)
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# by danceofdragon | 2010-04-29 13:49

アメリカの医療改革 America’s Health Care Reform

f0146342_2361083.jpg3月の話になりますが、アメリカの医療制度にとうとうメスが入りました。半世紀以上にわたっての懸案だった医療制度の改革に、オバマ大統領が踏み込んだのです。住所と名前さえあれば誰でも医療保険に加入できる日本から来た私にとって、アメリカのシステムは理解の域をはるかに超えていました。日々の生活で何が不安かというと、医療費があまりにも高いので、お医者さんに行くのにも一大決心がいることです。

以前ドラゴンが、友達の家で床に落ちていた爪楊枝を踏んでしまったことがありました。夜になったら踵がみるみる腫れてきて、さすがに心配になりました。結局、救急外来に行き、抗生物質を処方されて事なきを得たものの、そのたった3分程度の診察に支払った費用は優に300ドル(約3万円)を超えてました(- -;)。

アメリカでは医療保険は民間の会社によって運営されています。収入に応じて保険料が決まる日本と違って、プラン別の保険料があり、もちろんいいプランは高くできてます。また、日本ではどのお医者さんにもかかることができますが、アメリカではお医者さんによって受け付ける保険が違うので、自分の保険を受け付けるお医者さんを自分で見つけないといけません。

しかも、ちょっとでもややこしい検査や治療となると、既往症の有無や治療の妥当性を証明しないと保険会社は1年も2年も払ってくれません。患者自身が書類を作ってくれと必死でお医者さんにかけあう間、保険会社は高みの見物。会社勤めの人はまだいいです。保険料の半分以上は会社が負担してくれるし、既往症のために加入自体を拒否されることはありません。ところが個人で加入しようとすると、既往症がある人は門前払いされ、それでも入りたかったら保険料が恐ろしく高くなります。

支払いの仕組みも複雑怪奇。その日に一括で支払いをすませる日本と違って、後から請求書がバラバラに送られてきます。2年前、盲腸炎で緊急手術を受けた時、救急医、麻酔医、執刀医、病院施設使用、検査と次から次にやってきました。中でも施設使用料の明細を見た時は目が飛び出るかと思いました。たった1泊の入院で、病院が保険会社に請求した金額がなんと約3万5千ドル(およそ350万円)!!どひゃ〜〜! さらによく見ると、保険会社が病院に払うのが3千ドル、自己負担が600ドルとあります。じゃ、残りの3万1,400ドルはどうなるの? なんと保険会社と病院との相互契約で消えてしまうのだそう。

つまり、もし保険がなかったら、その3万5千ドルはまるまる患者がかぶるわけです。「そんな話ありかぁ〜!!」アメリカでは無保険の人が3,200万人いるそうです。そんな人たちが盲腸炎になったらどうなるんでしょう。保険があっても、保険が払ってくれなくて必要な治療を受けられずにいる人もいます。一方で保険会社の経営トップは大金持ちだとか。これって誰が見てもおかしい、、、。

ところが、おかしいと思わない人が実に多いのには、何よりも驚きました。それどころか、医療保険制度に政府が介入することに対する拒絶反応がすごかったです。でもアメリカにも公的保険は立派に存在します。高齢者、低所得者、障碍をもつ人が対象です。私達が舞姫という危険分子を抱えながらもやっていけているのは、この公的保険が補足してくれるからこそ。「何か矛盾してないか〜!」と叫びたくなります。

法案に署名するオバマ大統領の姿、またもや歴史的瞬間です。就任して1年が過ぎた大統領への風当たりは何かと強いですが、私は敬意を表したいです。自分の政治生命をかけてここまで闘ってくれる政治家って、今の日本にはどこを探してもいないでしょうから、、、

なんだか、今回はややこしい話題にしたものだから書くのに時間がかかって、どれくらいブログ更新を怠っていたのやら。やれやれ(^_^;)。

America’s Health Care Reform

This is about news in March. Finally, the knife has been inserted into the American health care system, which had been a pending issue for more than a half-century. President Obama took a step further to make it happen. To me, who came from Japan where everybody can have medical insurance as long as one had a name and a permanent address, the medical insurance system here was a way beyond comprehension. What concerns me the most in our daily life is that going to a doctor is a big decision due to unbelievably high cost.

Dragon once accidentally stepped on a toothpick on the floor at his friend’s house. That night his foot got swollen instantly, which made us very nervous. We ended up taking him to an emergency hospital. Everything was fine and the doctor prescribed some antibiotics. Later, however, for that three-minute examination, we had to pay over $300. (- -;)

In the States, medical insurance companies are operated by private companies. While insurance rates depend on one’s income in Japan, here each plan has its own rate. Good coverage costs more, of course. Moreover, not like in Japan where you can go to any doctor, here different doctors take different insurance. We have to find a doctor on our own who takes the insurance that we have.

For a test or treatment even with the slightest complication, insurers would easily go a year or two without paying, unless it is confirmed that there are no pre-existing conditions or the treatment is justified. Patients have to deal with their doctors to get a document while insurers just sit back and do nothing. Still, if you are an employee, the situation is much better. Your employer pays more than half the insurance rate and you won’t get denied the coverage for the reason of pre-existing conditions. However, if you are an individual with health problems, the door is closed unless you are willing to pay unincreadibly high rates.

The complicated payment system is a labyrinth to me. While patients pay all their share on the day of treatment in Japan, here, bills are sent later from different entities. After I had an appendectomy two years ago, bill after bill arrived; the emergency doctor, anesthesist, surgeon, hospital facility, testing, and so on. Among them, I was dumbfounded by a statement for the overnight stay at the hospital. It said the hospital had billed my insurer about $35,000!! What??!! Looking at the statement carefully, I managed to read that the insurer would pay about $3,000 and my responsibility would be $600. What happens to the rest then, which would be around $31,400?? I learned that the amount would disappear due to a mutual agreement between the hospital and the insurer.

This means if you have no coverage, all the $35,000 will be YOUR responsibility!! “How could it be??!!!” A newspaper said there are 3.2 million people without any medical insurance in the U.S. If they develop appendicitis, what will happen to them? Even with insurance, quite a few people cannot receive necessary treatment because their insurers don’t pay for it. Meanwhile, I hear that top executives of those insurers are super rich. Isn’t this obviously wrong? ....

What struck me even more was there were so many opponents who didn’t think this was wrong. Refusal response was quite huge against government intervention in the medical insurance system. In the States, however, public insurance “does” exist for the elderly, low-income earners and people with disabilities. It is this public support that makes it possible for us to afford all the cost for princess, a potentially dangerous element. “It doesn’t make sense at all !!!!!!”

President Obama, signing the bill. It was another historical moment. He has been the subject of harsh criticism recently now that one year passed since his taking office. Still, however, I am very respectful to him. A politician like him who would fight so hard, risking his own political life, won’t be found anywhere in Japan now....

Since I picked a difficult topic this time, it took me so long to finish writing. How long have I come without updating the blog? Whew..(^_^;)
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# by danceofdragon | 2010-04-26 02:30

雪山旅行(完結) Trip to Snow Mountains (Completion)

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雪山旅行も今日で終わり。朝からゲレンデ組(Dさん、Aちゃん、ドラゴン)と片付け組に分かれて大忙しです。喧噪の中、ドラゴンが昨日食べ損なったケーキに自分でろうそくを立てました。ただ食べるのはお預け。大急ぎでゲレンデに向けて出発しました。マンションのチェックアウトは11時。相変わらずかんしゃくを起こす舞姫、薬の副作用でぐったり気味のMちゃんを準備させながらの片付けは、目が回るようでした。(@o@)/

ゲレンデに行ってみてびっくり。なんとドラゴンがかなり上達してる! 中級コースもへっちゃらになって、ニコニコしながら降りてきます。しかも速いのなんの。「これよこれ。母はこれを見るためにひたすら頑張ったんだよ!」来てよかったと思った瞬間でした。

お弁当とケーキを食べて、2時過ぎにゲレンデを後にしましたが、二人の子供がこれで帰るわけがありません。やっていないことがありました。そう、そり遊びです! ベア・バレー村に戻って適当な場所を見つけました。Mちゃんは車の中で眠ってしまい、舞姫は車椅子に座ってご機嫌。その間、大人も童心に帰ってそり遊びです。近くの犬がいきなり乱入してきて、雪だるまの口に使っていた棒切れを取り上げてしまうという面白いハプニングもありました。

ようやく解散したのは夕方4時頃。いやいや、いろいろとあり過ぎた今回の旅行でしたが、最後はみんな揃ったし、お天気には恵まれたし、言うことはありません!味をしめたスキー・スノボー4人組は、今週末、再び日帰りで行くことが決定。今シーズンの有終の美を飾ります(^o^)/。

そうそう、例のマンション、実は売りに出ていて、泊まった日から90日以内に買ったら今回の賃料を戻してくれるとのこと。あんなシックハウス、誰が買うかい!(終わり)
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The last day of the trip.  We were busy from the morning, dividing ourselves into the snow sporting team (D-san, A-chan & dragon) and the cleaning-up team.  In the midst of the haste, dragon lit the candles on the cake that he could not eat the night before.  The eating part had to wait, though.  The three left for the resort, wasting no time.  The check-out time of the condominium was 11am.  Having princess who was still throwing tantrums and M-chan who wasn’t active at all due to the medication, it made me almost dizzy to get ready to go. (@o@)/
 
At the resort, I was so amazed that dragon had improved in snowboarding so much!  He was already comfortable coming down one of the  intermediate courses.  He was coming down with a big smile on his face.  Not only that, he was so fast!!  “This is it!  This is what I worked so hard to see!”   It was the moment when I was so glad to come this far.
 
We ate our homemade lunch and the cake, then left the resort around 2 pm.  But there was one thing we hadn’t done yet.  The two kids of course wouldn’t go home without doing this, yes, sledding.  We went back to Bear Valley Village and found a good spot.  While M-chan was taking a nap in the car and princess was in a good mood in her wheelchair, the adults had a great fun just like kids, too.  There was a funny interruption.  A neighbor’s dog broke in, dashed to the snowman and took away the stick that had been used to make its mouth.
 
It was around 4 pm when we were finally on our way home.  Although there were so many, no, too many happenings, all of us were able to join at the end and the weather was perfect.  What more could be expected!!  Getting a taste of the fun, the snow sporting team of four are going again this weekend for a day  marking the last hurrah of the season. (^o^)/
 
By the way, it turned out the condominium was for sale.  According to the catch, if you bought the property within 90 days of your stay, the rent would be returned to you.  Nobody wants to buy such a sick house??!! (The end)
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[PR]

# by danceofdragon | 2010-03-24 09:45

雪山旅行(誕生日) Trip to Snow Mountains (Birthday)

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「Mちゃん明日退院するよ〜」雪山滞在2晩目、Maidoさんから吉報が舞い込みました。それを聞いたDさん、翌朝病院に向かって二人を連れて戻ってくるというのです。往復で優に6時間はかかるのに。「え?いいの?病み上がりなのに?」Maidoさんも面喰らってます。でもDさんは、本当に朝早く静かにいなくなりました。いつも思うけど、ほんとにいいパパさんです。

実はこの日はドラゴンの11歳の誕生日。ベア・バレー村でケーキを買おうと思っていたのですが、売ってないのです! 舞姫のバナナも私のアレルギーの薬もない!というわけで、ここぞとばかりにこの3点も買ってきてもらうように頼んだのでした。

この日一日、Aちゃんは我が家の子。ドラゴンより二つだけ年上だけど、全く手のかからないしっかり屋さんです。この日も青空の下で思う存分楽しんだ子供達。ドラゴンもだんだん自信がついてきて、かなり上達したとのこと。それにしても最高の誕生日じゃございませんか。ケーシーは、二人が初級クラスのコースを滑っている間、別行動でモーグルだらけのぼこぼこコースを滑ったり、これまた思う存分楽しんだ様子。19年のブランクが一気に埋まったかな。

晴れやかな三人とは裏腹に、私と舞姫は修羅場でした。朝みんなで一緒にゲレンデまで行ったのはよかったけど、前日とは打って変わって落ち着かない舞姫。車椅子にも座っていられないほどのパニックになり、泣く泣くマンションに戻ることにしました。文字通り泣きながら、、、「どうせ舞姫と一緒じゃ普通の生活はできないんだ。。」普段は心の奥底に閉じ込めている後ろ向きな私が、むくむくと頭をもたげてきます。午後になってからようやく眠り始めた舞姫、今度はいっこうに起きません。その間私は惨めにもマンションに缶詰め、正体不明のアレルゲンをもろに浴びながら(- -;)。

U家の皆さんはどうなったって? 彼らもまた信じられない状況におりました。なんと、朝一番の退院どころか、お昼過ぎてもまだ病院。なんでも退院許可の署名がいるのに、お医者さんが何時間もつかまらないと。そうこうしているうちに、何かの検査結果が出て、新たに薬が処方されることになり、そのアレルギー反応を調べたりでさらに足止め。

夕方、ゲレンデ組三人がシャトルで戻ってきました。でも部屋に戻ってきたのはケーシーだけ。子供たちはもちろん外で雪遊び。暗くなるまで1時間以上二人で遊んでいました。元気すぎる! 夕食後、かろうじて残っていたアンパンとクラッカーで誕生日のお祝い、そしてU家がようやく出発したのは夜の7時半頃でした。

バースディケーキを待ちわびていたドラゴン、さすがにソファでうとうとし始めました。その15分後の11時頃、Dさんが大きなケーキを抱えて駆け込んでくれた時には熟睡状態(^_^;)。明日までお預けです。それから無事に再会を果たしたU家と再び夕食。もっとすごい試練をくぐり抜けてきたMaidoさんとMちゃんの顔を見て、私も元気が出てきました。もちろん薬も効いてます。そして夜中までわいわいと盛り上がったのでした。(^o^)/。(続く)

“M-chan will be out of the hospital tomorrow.”  The good news was brought in by Maido-san on the second night.  When he heard the news, D-san immediately said he would head for the hospital early in the morning and come back with the two!!  Driving back and forth would take him well over six hours.  Maido-san was dumbfounded, too.  “Is it really OK to go on a trip right out of the hospital?”  Exactly as he had said, D-san was quietly gone early the next morning.  What a good daddy!  I always think he is.
 
As a matter of fact, it was dragon’s 11th birthday.  We were going to buy a cake in Bear Valley Village which turned out not to be available there!!  No bananas for princess, no allergy medicine for me, either!!  How could I miss this chance without asking them to bring these three items?
 
A-chan was part of our family that day.  Being only two years older than dragon, A-chan is a very independent girl we don’t have to worry about at all when being with us.  The two kids had a blast again under the clear blue sky.  Dragon had gradually gained confidence and improved a lot.  Anyway, isn’t it a perfect setting for a birthday?  While the two kids were going down the beginners courses, Casey took off and enjoyed the advanced courses by himself with a bunch of moguls.  He had a blast, too.  I suppose the missing 19 years were well filled in.
 
In contrast to these three on the bright side, princess and I were deeply sunk in the dark side.  We all went to the resort in the morning but princess, not like the day before, was not content at all.  She got in a panic and could not stay still in her wheelchair.  I had to take her back to the condominium in tears...  Literally in tears.  “After all, I can never expect to live normally as long as I’m with princess...”  The negative side of me that is usually locked deep down in my mind started rearing up.  Princess finally fell asleep in the afternoon.  Now she wouldn’t wake up, which meant I was miserably stuck in the condominium exposed to all those unkown allergens (- -;). 
 
What happened to the U’s?  Let me tell you, they were stuck in an unbelievable situation, too.  Getting out of the hospital first thing in the morning?  Well, it was past noon and they were still there.  The reason was the doctor, who was supposed to write the discharge permission, could not be found anywhere for hours.  Meanwhile, some test result came out and a new medication was to be prescribed.  They were stranded again while an allergy test was being done before the prescription was written.  
 
The snow sporting party came back in the shuttle.  But only Casey came in the door.  The two kids were of course playing outside and didn’t come back for more than an hour until dark.  They just had too much energy.  After the dinner, we tentatively celebrated dragon’s birthday with bean paste buns and crackers we had somehow managed to save.  It was around 7:30 at night when the U’s were finally on their way.  
 
Dragon, who was eagerly waiting for his birthday cake to arrive, finally started drowsing.  Fifteen minutes later around 11pm, D-san rushed in holding a big cake to find dragon fast asleep on a couch (^_^;).  Celebration had to wait until the next day.  Then, we had dinner again with the U’s who had just reunited.  I felt so energized to see Maido-san and M-chan who had been through a bigger ordeal than mine.  We enjoyed talking well past midnight.  The allergy medicine was of course working. (^o^)/ (to be continued)
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[PR]

# by danceofdragon | 2010-03-11 02:13

雪山旅行(ドラゴン、スノボー・デビュー) Trip to Snow Mountains (Dragon’s First-Time Snowboarding)

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朝がやってきました。空は真っ青。絶好のスキー日和。こんな日にスノボー・デビューできるなんて、つくづく運の強いドラゴンです。ケーシーとAちゃんはスキー、Dさんとドラゴンはスノボーという組み合わせです。 朝9時半頃、ゲレンデまでの無料シャトルで四人は出発しました。

私と舞姫も、午後ゲレンデに行ってみました。村から車で5〜6分、おびただしい数の駐車の列を抜けて一番上まで行ったら、身障者用の駐車場が空いていました。ラッキー!ベア・バレーのゲレンデは、こじんまりとしてていい感じ。 

ちょうどお弁当休憩をとっていた面々。ドラゴンはというと、やっぱりなかなか思うようにいきません。転んでは地団駄を踏み、でもダディのアドバイスには耳を貸さない、しまいには前からつんのめって海老ぞりになったとか。午後のレッスンが空いていたのでダディが早速申し込みました。

私と舞姫がいた場所から、レッスン風景が遠くに見えました。7人くらいの子供がいて、その中では筋はいい方。先生の後から着いて行けるのはドラゴン一人です。後の子はバタバタと倒れていて、なんとも微笑ましい光景でした。

ドラゴンをレッスンに放り込んで、ようやく思いどおりにスキーができたケーシー。18年ぶりだったけど、身体はちゃんと覚えていたとか。舞姫はなんと銀世界を目の前にして、車椅子に乗ったまま2時間くらいお昼寝です。ぽかぽか陽気が気持ちよかったのねぇ。

初日のスキー・スノボーを終えて、村に戻ってきたら今度は雪合戦。子供たちの元気なこと。舞姫をそりに乗せてみましたが、パパ達の努力虚しく、ご機嫌斜めで怒りまくり(^_^;)。この日の夕食はすき焼き。私が肉やら野菜の準備をして、Dさんの味付けでおいしくいただきました。

ところで私、今度は自分に異変を感じていました。マンションにいると、なんか目と鼻に猛烈な不快感を感じます。「アレルギー?もしかして、、シックハウス症候群?」新築の家に多いって聞くけど、こんな豪華なところでなるなんてあまりにも皮肉〜!

そして夜、留守番組のmaidoさんから、びっくりニュースが飛び込んできたのでした。(続く)
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The morning came.  The sky was clear blue.  A perfect day for snow sports.  I could not help thinking how lucky dragon was to make a debut on such a gorgeous day.  Casey and A-chan were set for skiing while D-san and dragon for snowboarding.  Around 9:30 am, the four left in a free shuttle to the resort.
 
Princess and I headed for the resort, too, in the afternoon.  Driving five to six minutes from the village, I went along countless parked cars all the way to the top where I found a few disabled parking spots open.  Lucky!!  Bear Valley was a good size resort, not too big, not too small.
 
The four were on a lunch break.  As expected, dragon was having a hard time controlling his snowboard.  He fell down many times, stamped his feet in frustration, but of course, wouldn’t follow his daddy’s advice.  Finally he toppled forward, with his feet almost touching his back like a shrimp.  When Casey found out there was an opening in a snowboard lesson in the afternoon, he signed up dragon in no time.
 
I could see the lesson in the distance from where princess and I stayed.  There were about seven kids in the lesson, among whom dragon looked like he was doing well.  Dragon was the only kid who could ride the snowboard following the instructor.  Other kids kept falling one after another, a smile-inducing thing to watch.
 
Casey was finally able to ski freely, after throwing dragon in the lesson.  He skied and skied for the first time in 19 years.  He said his body remembered all the movement.  Princess took a long nap in a wheelchair in the snow-covered scenery.  She slept for about two hours.  I’m sure the sun felt so good in the warm weather.
 
Back in the village after the first day in the resort, we were engaged in a snowball fight.  It’s amazing how much energy the kids had left.  We tried to put princess on a sled.  Being clunky, she got so mad, making all the efforts of the two dads rewardless (^_^;).  We had sukiyaki-nabe for dinner.  I got the veggies and meat ready and D-san cooked us a very tasty meal.
 
By the way, I was feeling something wrong in my body.  When I was in the condominium room, my eyes and nose felt so uncomfortable.  “Allergy?  Is this, is this what we call a sick house syndrome?”  I hear there are such cases especially in newly built houses.  What an irony to get sick in a fancy place like this!!
 
Then at night, we received surprising news from Maido-san who stayed behind.  (to be continued)
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[PR]

# by danceofdragon | 2010-03-04 03:38

雪山旅行(到着) Trip to Snow Mountains (Arrival)

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たまにですが、舞姫、ものすごく機嫌が悪くなる時があります。突然大声でかんしゃくを起こすのです。周りの物音に敏感に反応することもあるし、着替えさせようとして触ろうものなら、耳のそばで絶叫されます。1〜2ヶ月に1回くらい、数日そういう時期があって、その時は私も精神的にかなり追いつめられます。

それが旅行の前に始まりました。しかも今回はひどい。とうとう学校の先生からクラスに支障を来し始めたと電話はあるし、もうほってはおけない状況、雪山旅行が終わったらお医者さんに連れて行くことにしました。お出かけ好きの舞姫だから、旅の間は機嫌がよくなってくれることを祈りつつ。

一方、U家でも予断を許さない事態になっていました。Mちゃんが発熱!去年の夏、キャンプ直前にも熱を出して参加が危ぶまれたMちゃん。大きなイベントの前にはよくあるそうで、今回も出発までにおさまることを期待していました。でもそうはいかなかった。出発の前夜、救急病院に行ったら、なんと腎盂炎を起こしていることが判明、そのまま入院となったMちゃんです。うっそ〜(- -;)。というわけで、我が家は舞姫という危険分子を抱え、U家はママとMちゃんを病院に残し、パパとAちゃんだけの参加で始まりました。

サンノゼから車でブンブン飛ばすこと3時間、「ほんとに雪ってあるの?」と言い始めた頃、雪の姿が視界に飛び込んできました。ドラゴン大喜び。舞姫もドライブは好きだから落ち着いています。間もなくベア・バレー村に到着。積雪2mは優にあって村を見渡すことができません。

泊まるマンションのまた豪華なこと。「ほんとに泊まっていいの〜?」ま、それだけの値段は払ってるんだけど(^_^;)。夕食にタコスを食べて、オリンピックを見たり、シャワーを浴びたり。明日への期待に胸を膨らませ、寝床に着きました。(続く)

Every once in a while, there is a time princess is in a very bad mood.  All of a sudden she starts throwing a tantrum.  Sometimes she sensitively responds to surrounding noises. Other times, I get screamed at next to my ears when I try to change her clothes.  It usually lasts for a few days every or every other month.  These are the times when I am mentally pushed into a corner.
 
It started again before the trip, and this time it was really worse.  Her teacher at school called that her fits are finally interferring the class activities.  It had come to a point that we had to do something and Casey and I decided to take princess to her doctor after the trip.  I just hoped she would be well during the trip.  She should be, because she loves going out.
 
Meanwhile, the U’s were in a knife-edge situation.  M-chan started running a fever.  At our camping trip last summer, we didn’t know if she could make it until just before because of a fever.  M-chan often runs a fever when a big event comes up, according to Maido-san.  So we hoped the fever would be gone as always.  But again that was only a wishful thinking.  The night before the departure, they took her to an emergency hospital to find that M-chan had a kidney infection.  She was immediately admitted to the hospital....  Oh no!!(- -;)  So here we were: us with princess, a dangerous element, and the U’s, separated, dad and A-chan off to the trip and mom and M-chan in the hospital.  
 
After driving three straight hours from San Jose, we were saying, “Is there snow?”  Then, the first sight of snow jumped into our eyes.  Did that make dragon excited or not!!  Fortunately, princess was calm as long as the car was moving.  Soon, we arrived at Bear Valley Village.  The snow cover was well above two yards tall, making it hard to overlook the whole village. 

The gorgeous interior of the condominium room was astounding.  “Is it really OK to stay here?”  Well, we definitely paid the price (^_^;).  After having Mexican tacos for dinner, watching the Olympics, and taking showers, we went to bed, with a big anticipation for tomorrow.  (to be continued)
[PR]

# by danceofdragon | 2010-03-02 02:06

雪山旅行(出発まで) Trip to Snow Mountains (Before Departure)

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ついに行ってきました、初めての雪山旅行。U家の方々と3泊4日の旅です。雪が見たいといつも言っていたドラゴン。でも私寒いの苦手だし、車椅子の舞姫と雪山に行くのはかなり気が引けちゃう、、、でも同じく車椅子のMちゃんがいるU家と一緒なら勇気百倍、ってことで決心しました。さてさてこの雪山小旅行、吉と出たか凶と出たか、まずは出発までの経緯から。

まずは宿探し、早速つまづきました。行き先は、小さい時からスキー三昧だったケーシーの提案で、車で3時間半のところにあるベア・バレーに決め、去年の秋いや夏からインターネットで宿探しを始めました。雰囲気のあるキャビンの写真を見ては、「わぁ〜これいいねぇ」って夢が膨らみます。ところが、いざ予約しようとしたら、冬のキャビンというのはスノーモービルでしかアクセスできないことが判明。車椅子での移動はほぼ不可能。

でもこれで運に見離されたわけではありませんでした。ベア・バレー村の駐車場に隣接したところに、エレベータ付きのマンションが新築されたばかりとのこと。バケーション用に貸し出している部屋を一つ借りることにしました。お値段はかなり高くついちゃったけど、宿さえ押さえればひと安心。

次はスノー・ウェアや道具の調達。東京で着ていたダウンジャケットを5年ぶりに引っ張りだしてみたら、ドラゴンも舞姫もまだ十分に入ったので驚き。あとは、お店にせっせと通って少しずつ揃えました。スノーボードやスキーを借りるお店も見つけたので、当日、借りて行けば大丈夫。

でもそれは甘かった。出発を2日後に控えた日、夕方U家のパパから電話があって、レンタル屋さんは既に込み合っていて、もう在庫がなくなりそうだとのこと。「皆がこの週末雪山に繰り出すってこと!?」この日、シンガポールと日本への長い出張を終えて帰ってきていたケーシー、疲れた身体を引きずりながら大慌てで、カンフーのクラスを受けていたドラゴンを早々に抜けさせて、レンタル屋さんにまっしぐら。滑り込みセーフで事なきを得ました。

長く借りるということは、それだけレンタル料も上がるということ。初めてスノーボードを手にして有頂天のドラゴンを尻目に、私の肩はがっくりと落ちる一方。「ま、とにもかくにも、あとは皆が体調を崩さずに出発できることを祈るのみ。」maido-etsukoさんと、旅先での食事メニューを決め、食材調達を大雑把に分担しました。お互い自分の子どもたちに起きている異変に一抹の不安をおぼえながら、、、、(続く)

We were finally on our first trip to the snow covered  mountains.  It was a four-day trip with the U family.  Dragon had always wanted to see the snow.  I hated being cold and having princess in a wheelchair made me shun going to the snow.  However, the idea of going with the U’s who also have M-chan in a wheelchair made me super courageous.  A decision was made!  Well, well.  How did this trip turn out to be?  Good or bad?  Let me begin with the things leading up to our departure.
 
Looking for a place to stay, the first thing to do, was already stumbling.  We decided to go to Bear Valley according to Casey’s suggestion who grew up skiing in the area.  Bear Valley was about three and a half hour car ride from here.  We started looking on the internet in fall, no actually in summer.  “Wow, this looks good!”  Looking at the pictures of fancy cabins, my anticipation just grew bigger. However, when we tried to make reservations, we found out that cabins are only accessible by snowmobiles during winter.  It was almost impossible to move around with a wheelchair.
 
But our luck didn’t run out yet.  There was a newly-built condominium with an elevator adjacent to the parking lot of Bear Valley Village.  We decided to rent one of the rooms for vacation rental.  Although the rent was pretty high, once we secured a place to stay, we were good to go.
 
Next, we had to get all the snow wear and equipment ready.  I took out our down jackets we used to wear in Tokyo five years ago.  Amazingly, they still fit on princess and dragon.  The other stuff, we started to buy one by one making frequent visits to the stores.  We found rental shops for snowboards and skis.  All we needed to do was to rent them on the day we leave for the mountain.
 
Well, it only turned out to be a wishful thinking.  Two days before our departure, dad of U family called and said the rental shops were already crowded and skis and snowboards were going quickly.  “Oh, no!  It looks like everybody is heading for snow mountains this weekend.”  Casey, who happened to be back from his long business trip to Singapore and Japan, took off in a big rush.  Dragging his tired body, Casey picked up dragon before he finished his night kung fu class, and ran to a rental shop.  Feet-first slide safe!    
 
Renting longer means it costs more.  In contrast with dragon, who was flying up into the air, holding a snowboard for the first time, my shoulders were a few inches lower.  “Anyway, whatever, now I only hope that everybody can take off without getting sick.”  Maido-etsuko-san and I roughly talked about our meals and who would bring what ingredients, noticing that something was going wrong with our kids..... (to be continued)
[PR]

# by danceofdragon | 2010-02-26 02:23

ボランティアにもハマっています Wrapped Up in Volunteering, Too

f0146342_410152.jpgこれまで何度か紹介してきたペアレンツ・ヘルピング・ペアレンツ(Parents Helping Parents)、障害をもつ子供や大人のいる家族のために、情報の提供、相談の受け付け、勉強会の開催など様々なサービスを提供する非営利組織です。34年前にダウン症児をもつ二人のお母さんが、情報交換の場を提供する目的で家のガレージで始めたのが発端でした。今では、連邦・州政府の予算を受け、アメリカの障害者関連の法律や政策の作成にも助言したり、医療・教育・福祉関係の専門家にも情報を提供する、高度な専門機関となっています(www.php.com)。

名前のとおり、たいていのスタッフやボランティアが自分も障害をもつ子供の親御さんであることが特徴で、親身となったきめ細やかなサービスを提供してくれます。このPHP内に13年前、日本人向けのサポート・グループができたのですが、これもある日本人のお母さんが、言葉や文化の違いに戸惑いながら、障害をもつ子を育てなければならない日本人家族のために立ち上げたのでした。

私もこちらに来た当初、会員になりましたが、4年前からボランティアとして、日本人グループのニュースレターの編集や通訳、翻訳でお手伝いするようになりました。そして去年の夏、予期せぬ出来事がありました。それまで長いこと代表だったお母さんが辞められ、もう一人のボランティアKさんと私で、その日本人グループの代表になることになったのです。

優しくて頼もしてエネルギッシュなKさんと一緒なので、何の躊躇もなく始めましたが、忙しいの忙しくないの。勉強会やお楽しみイベント企画、会員さんの個別相談、事務、ブログの管理などなど、やることが山のようで、まるでフルタイムで働いているみたい。自分のブログが思うように書けないもどかしさはあるけれど、自分たちのアイデアが実現できるし、多くの会員さんやボランティアさんが応援してくれるし、とてもやりがいがあります。日本人に限らずいろいろな人と出会うチャンスもあり、何よりも自分の勉強になります。

上の記事は、1月下旬に開催した新年会のことが地元の日本語情報誌に載ったものです。100人以上の人が一堂に介した大イベントで、たくさんの人の力が結集すればすごいことができるんだと、あらためて感じさせられました。下の写真はPHPが入居する立派なビル。いくつかの非営利団体が入っているビルで、持ち主の大手不動産会社が、家賃ほぼ無料で使わせてくれるのです。これまたアメリカ社会の醍醐味を感じさせてくれる話です。

日本にいた時から、有償無償に関わらず、障害者関係の活動をあれこれとしてきましたが、やっぱり私には、母親として舞姫だけとではなく、一社会人として、舞姫を取り巻く社会と関わっている方が肌に合うようです。そして、ようやく自分がカリフォルニアのこの地域の一員として、根付いてきた感じがするのも嬉しいこの頃です。

これからも夏までイベントが目白押し、Kさんと嬉しい悲鳴を上げています。今年はPHPに始まりPHPに終わる年になるのは間違いなし。こうしてますます家庭は顧みられなくなるのでした(^_^;)。

Parents Helping Parents, as I have mentioned several times before, is a nonprofit organization that provides information, consultation, workshops and other services for families with adults/children with disabilities.  PHP’s history goes back 34 years ago when two parents of children with Down Syndrome started in their garage in order to provide a place to exchange information.  Now, funded partly by the federal/state government, it has become a highly professional resource center, involved in policy/law making processes related to people with disabilities as well as serving professionals in areas such as medicine, education and welfare (www.php.com).
 
As its name tells, most of the staff and volunteers at PHP are parents with children with special needs themselves and give very empathetic and meticulous attentions to those who need their services.  In this PHP, 13 years ago, one Japanese mother started a support group for Japanese-speaking families who had to raise such children, being uneasy in a different culture with a different language.
 
I have been a member of the group since I moved here, and four years ago, I also started to be involved as a volunteer, helping publication of the group’s newsletter, or doing interpretation or translation work.  Then last summer, something unexpected happened.  The mother, who had been the facilitator of the group for a long time, stepped down and K-san, another volunteer, and I were to jointly take over her position.
 
I had no hesitation about facilitating the group, because K-san is so kind, trustworthy and enegertic.  But since then we have been kept so busy; planning of workshops or fun events, individual consultations, paperwork, and management of the group’s blog are just a few, making us feel like we’re working almost full time.  Although it’s a bit frustrating to have much less time to work on my own blog, it is worth all our efforts.  Our ideas can be made true and a lot of our members and volunteers support our activities.  There are opportunities to meet various people.  Moreover, I can learn a lot.
 
The article is about the New Year Party in late January carried in a local Japanese newspaper.  More than 100 people were at the event.  I was very touched how much we could do when the power of each person is brought together.  The photo is a gorgeous building where PHP is located along with other nonprofit organizations.  The owner of the building, a major real estate developer, lets nonprofits use the building with almost no rental fee.  It is one of the things that make me feel the dynamics of the American society.
 
S Since I was in Japan, regardless getting paid or not, I have been involved in various activities related to people with disabilities.  I think that staying connected with the society surrounding princess as one member of the community is far better fit for me than constantly facing only princess as her mother.  I also have found it very amusing that I finally feel becoming rooted in this area in California.
 
K-san and I are letting out a shriek of joy, with event after event coming up until summer.  Clearly, my 2010 began with PHP and will end with PHP.  Hence, here is a poor household that are getting even less attention from the lady of the house (^_^;).
[PR]

# by danceofdragon | 2010-02-19 04:10