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Saturday, Sept. 10, 2005
Escape to the land of country bumpkins
By AMY CHAVEZ
So you've decided to escape to the countryside for the long holiday weekend? Well, fine, but if you're wanting to get back in touch with nature, be prepared. If you come to an island like mine, you will have entered a world cut off not only from city life, but from the mainland as well. Without a major city nearby, it's like having an extra dose of countryside. We're real country bumpkins.
While it is said that the Japanese are getting taller, on our island, they're actually getting shorter. People live so long here that they're more bent over every year until finally they just disappear into the ground. This is the real meaning of Japan's "shrinking population." Rarely do you find such a large group of elderly people all living in one place, like our own old folks island. I bet those bent-over "o-baa-chans" wish they had listened to their mother's advice about posture now. On the other hand, this is one of our secrets to being closer to nature. From your bird's eye view, we may appear as just an ant colony, but it is likely that we are merely relatives of the "Inch High Samurai." We are proud to be an island of country bumpkin munchkins.
Since you'll already feel like a Tokyo high-rise walking around here, I recommend that you city ladies not wear heels. Besides, in the countryside, you'll want as much sole space as possible to hinder those aggressive crawling insects. Imagine encountering a centipede in your path: just your two legs against one hundred! You'd better make sure your two shoes have very large soles. Proper foot attire in these parts, for both men and women, is "nagagutsu" (literally, "long shoes"). These 100 percent rubber boots are one size fits all. Don't worry, even if you have a huge "gaijin" foot, it will have shrunk to the proper size after perspiring all day inside these.
Men will be glad to know that they have special privileges here on the island. Go ahead, sidle up to the port side or, if you're near the beach, freely walk over to the water's edge in full daylight and -- pee! If you really want to blend in with the locals, board one of the numerous fishing boats tied up around the port and pee off the edge of the boat. No respectful fisherman would pee anywhere else. Now you know why the sea is so salty.
Once on the island, you must realize that you have entered the food chain. You'll have predators here, mainly mosquitoes. You will notice that islanders wear a certain type of uniform made especially to keep the mosquitoes off them. This means head-to-toe coverage consisting of: nagagutsu, long pants, a long-sleeve shirt with extra coverage over the forearm (for protection against the mosquitoes with extra large fangs), gloves, a towel tied over the head to keep the mosquitoes out of the ears, and a straw hat.
Island mosquitoes are the worst kind, preferring buffet-style lunches and gaijin. Do not underestimate them. Should you not heed my advice, you will not only attract mosquitoes who will dine on you, but also frogs who dine on the mosquitoes who dine on you. And the frogs will attract snakes who dine on the frogs who dine on the mosquitoes who dine on you.
I recommend going a step further and wearing your own personal mosquito coil tucked inside a metal sachet tied to the hip. A smoldering mosquito coil will keep away the mosquitoes, frogs and snakes.
Do not be surprised if you're awakened by a chime every morning at 6 a.m. This is not the call to prayer, but the call to the gardens. It seems that the early morning is the time to commune with nature and talk to your vegetables. They absolutely will not listen after noon. Besides, with no machines or animals to help plow the fields, island people must do their plowing while the weather is still cool. Hunched over our hand-plows keeps us in touch with nature.
We're an island of country bumpkin hunchin' munchkins.
Visit Amy's One Dollar Bookstore at www.mooooshop.com