Sunday, December 9, 2007

Baby, It's Cold Outside...

Fukui is cold.

While we've got nothing on the six inches of snow that apparently fell in Chicago earlier this week (there's none of the white stuff here - yet), temperatures have been falling quite steadily. And it's been raining everyday for about two months. Torrentially.

So, it's cold here, and most of the buildings in Japan don't have the central heating that I'm used to back home. But leave it to Japanese to devise some amazing alternative ways to beat the cold. There's this fantastic heated, cushioned floor pad that you can spread out over your cold tatami floor. Or there's the kotatsu, a low table with a built-in heater underneath, which is then covered by a big comforter. And there are big, fuzzy electric blankets everywhere.

Feeling warm n' cozy yet?

But my new favorite way to stay warm is called なべ (nabe). This is a cold-buster that you eat. Nabe involves throwing lots of yummy vegetables into a big clay pot filled with warm broth. You wait a few minutes, then carefully pluck the now-warm, still-yummy vegetables from the pot with your chopsticks, dip them into some even yummier sauce, eat, and be warm.

Yum. (Did I mention that already?)

Nabe is so popular that people have aptly-named nabe parties. And my awesome scuba-instructor-turned-Japanese-tutor-turned-nabe-chef-friend invited me to one last night. The food and company were wonderful.

Of course, another way to beat the cold involves drinking large amounts of red wine. Which I did. And my awesome scuba-instructor-turned-Japanese-tutor-turned-nabe-chef-friend did, too. She's thinking about doing some diving in Latin America next year, and is interested in learning a little bit of Spanish. So, with the wine flowing, we spent a fair part of the evening learning the essential first words of any new language: the vulgarities.

I wrote the Spanish-English translations on a dry-erase board that was conveniently located in our makeshift dining room (we were in the scuba shop, after all), and my tutor carefully translated the English into Japanese. Like the good teachers that we are, we modeled correct pronunciation for all of the なべ guests, and everyone had a lovely time cursing in three languages.

Such fun. I hope it stays cold here 'til July!

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