Volunteering, earthquakes and my dream house

purple flowers_0101As I mentioned on Twitter, *Twinkle’s* come down with a nasty itchy rash covering her whole body. It’s pretty spectacular. What’s equally spectacular is how quickly it appeared, and how much it’s faded following a night of rest. She’s still not 100% though, so is taking the day off, and is as snug as an itchy bug in a rug on the futon behind me.

We’re pretty sure its due to tiredness (last week’s conference saw her doing crazy hours) – so rest is what she needs. Incidentally, I used the NHS (National Health Service) Self-help guide – highly recommended.

I spent a couple of hours at Meguro ward city hall this morning, discussing how I might be of assistance to the Meguro International Friendship Association (MIFA). My motivation for volunteering was the frustration I’ve felt at not putting myself in situations where I have to use Japanese, which has resulted in a slip in my language abilities. This seems ideal. My main role is to give advice and feedback on their services, from the gaijin perspective. I’ll also be helping them get their website up to date (spent quite a while trying to explain RSS today!), and figuring out new ways of reaching foreigners in the area who are unaware of the services they provide.

I also did some translation and proof-reading. I’m glad I did that as it made me realise that *Twinkle’s* not emptying the bath after using it was not laziness, but is actually something that everyone is recommended to do in case of earthquake.

It’s also prompted me to decided to get provisions in for when the earthquake does strike. We’ll be getting a few sacks of no-wash rice later today (to be used in rotation), and a variety of other food for emergency use, oh, and a cardboard-box toilet.

The dangerous (tall and heavy) items we do have are already secured to the walls, so that’s cool.

Whilst of course there’s no way of telling whether the big quake will strike in our lifetimes, I think it’s worth taking precautions just in case.

Yesterday was a pretty interesting day. Following a run from Shinjuku to Roppongi via the Imperial Palace, I taught English for an hour in a Shibuya cafe, then headed out to visit someone who owns an Amway business, and had built a pretty stunning house on a hilltop next to a large ‘wild’ park.

It was a really funky place. To reach the entrance you climb a short flight of stairs and then cross some stepping-stones across a big (shallow) pond, which is actually the roof of their garage (which houses a very sexy talking Mercedes). Passing by the lift (for when they get old and are unable to use the stairs), you enter tatami-floored reception room. Going upstairs you’re greeted by a huge glass-walled living room, featuring one of the longest tables I’ve seen outside of a film, and a grand piano (that had to be lifted in by crane through the window).

Photos were not allowed – the home security company complained that they could not do their job with so many photos of the place floating around online.

We laughed when we were shown the wife’s bedroom closet – it was almost big enough to fit our entire flat in!

Dinner was the freshest seafood (caught by their fisherman friend), washed down with some rather nice champagne.

Personally, nice though it was, I wouldn’t choose to live in such a house.

My dream house is entirely self-sufficient in terms of energy generation / use, and has a vegee garden that keeps us going in fresh produce for much of the year. It has every energy-saving gadget installed you could imagine – the toilet even does a self-assement of its contents before flushing, and adjusts the flush accordingly. We have a garden on the roof too. Flowers, deckchairs, and a special light funnel channelling natural warmth and light to the rooms below, including the branch office of our charitable organisation.

The house systems are fully controllable from my iPhone, wherever I am in the world.

It’s mounted on large ball bearings so as to prevent earthquake damage [demo].

There is ample room for guests in the annex, which has its own kitchen and bathroom, and an open-door policy. Both short and long stays are possible for those either on holiday in Japan, or in trouble.

The whole house is networked with a main server acting as a central entertainment repository whilst also maintaining the house systems. It runs Mac OS (XI?).

There is a car in the garage. It is an Audi that runs on compressed air. Zero emissions.

The point of having such a house is not just to be happy with the home we live in. We hold frequent open days to demonstrate the steps people can take to reduce their impact on the environment, and offer a consultancy service to those interested in reducing their own home carbon footprints.

We have a log-cabin retreat in the woods too, comfortably housing up to 30 people at a time, where various holistic sessions are run year round.

Is this just a dream? At the moment, yes of course, but it’s a dream I believe will come true.

Best get to work then.