Today, February 25th, in Vienna the weather was very nice and also the temperature has risen considerably. In this good mood I went again to get an antigen test. The result is negative! With this proof of testing tomorrow I can, after a very long time, go to a rehearsal again. How I have waited for this! I also got a new haircut and with a cheerful heart I will surely have a good rehearsal.
After a long period of thought I have decided to get a haircut. Starting some years ago, I always went to hairdressers in Japan. Here in Vienna there are of course good hairdressers but unfortunately the chemicals for permed hair are not good for my hair. No matter how well local hairdressers cut and take care, due to the locally available chemicals my hair always looks like after an explosion. This time because of Covid19 I haven’t had a chance of returning to Japan for a long time. The last time I went to a hairdresser in Japan was in September 2019. I cannot take it anymore! Getting a perm I will do next time in Japan, this time I will only get a cut. My appointment is set for tomorrow, oh how I look forward to it! Now because of Covid19 one needs a proof of testing with a negative result. That is why today I went to a large testing locations to get tested. Negative! Thank god. I can get a haircut tomorrow…
Starting February 8th in Austria there has been some easing of restrictions. But still, restaurants, hotels and event locations remain closed. Now the situation is being confronted by many more testings. There are compulsory antigen tests for workplaces and schools. Some locations such as hairdressers are open and require a proof of testing no older than 48 hours to enter. It is wonderful that everyone can get tested easily. There have been some large locations providing mass testings and recently even pharmacies offer that service. Now there are even locations that offer testing without a health insurance card. The picture above shows such a location on Mariahilferstrasse. All antigen tests are free of charge. There is also a plan that every person will be able to receive 5 free tests a month to perform at home. The government’s slogan now is “Testing, testing, testing!”. I think it is a good method. Since the start of the Covid pandemic, the total number of tests (PCR and antigen combined) for the whole country is 13.420.960 and the total for Vienna is 2.884.696 (official government statistic from February 22nd, 2021)
Today (February 16th) around 2 AM I woke up and noticed that it was rather bright outside. I thought it was strange because yesterday evening during a walk I saw the crescent moon in the Western sky, which should have already sunk below the horizon. Its light was rather weak and could not illuminate the earth like a full moon. I can only assume that it is white outside, it is snowing! I got up and opened the curtain to look outside. It was in fact snowing a little bit but there was not a lot covering the ground. What I found strange was that the sky appeared white. Evene though it was the middle of the night, the buildings around were clearly visible. I imagine white nights to be similar to this. Those of course happen in Summer at much more Northern latitudes than here in Vienna if we talk about the Northern hemisphere. I forgot that I was only wearing a pyjama and barefeet and without noticing it I was looking outside for a while. Maybe there were some similar bright nights before then but here in the city there is only a small part of the sky visible between buildings and maybe until now I haven’t properly looked at it. To me it appears that the sky has its belly full of snow kids hanging down low and the white colour is reflecting the city lights… I do not know. Somehow it seems strange to me.
Recently at a supermarket in Vienna sweet potatoes are being sold. Until a few years ago it was very difficult to buy them here in Vienna. In Japan sweet potatoes are very common and that is why it felt unfamiliar to me.
More than 10 years ago when my friend from Kochi came to Vienna for sightseeing she brought with her a sweet potato. Our common friend who had studied in England told her that sweet potatoes are not common in Europe and that she should bring one for me. Indeed she brought a big one, which was carefully wrapped in a cloth, all the long way to me. When she carefully opened the cloth, to my eyes it looked like a sleeping and well-cared for baby with a bright shine. I felt her deep friendship and still I remember that moment, which warms my heart. At home I made tempura from it and ate it with a feeling of gratitude.
“Sweet potato tempura” is regarded as a specialty from Kochi. Having been born and raised there, I used to think of it as a regular food. Supermarkets almost always sell “sweet potato tempura” but I heard that outside Kochi province that is not usual. Cut in thick pieces and fried in tempura dough. Very simple and tasty.
In Kochi there is also another specialty made from sweet potatoes. That is “Imo Kenpi”. Sweet potatoes are cut into sticks, fried and coated with sugar glazing. Recently there has also been a salty version of it.
My mother loved to eat sweet potatoes very much. In a big steampot she cooked several pieces at once and with great joy she exclaimed “sweet potatoes! sweet potatoes!”. In that moment my mother automatically switched to Tokyo accent. In her childhood she spent some time there and probably that food called forth beautiful childhood memories of that time and she seemed rather childlike in that instant. My mother said that back then there were many sweet potato street vendors.
By the way, the most common type of sweet potato in Japan is of yellow colour inside. The type sold at supermarket in Vienna is more of an orange colour inside and the taste is also somewhat different. Recently I heard that sweet potatoes contain very healthy and beneficial nutrients and eating them is highly recommended. I try to prepare them in different styles and tastes at home. Furthermore when I see sweet potatoes I always get a feeling of nostalgia which feels quite good. Today at the supermarket I took one in my hand and with a feeling like maybe holding jewelry I put it in my shopping basket.
Concerts of friends, going to visit friends, congratulating someone… We like to give flowers as presents. But because all activities are restricted there are very few possibilities to buy flowers. Due to the lockdown, flower shops are closed too. I presume florists have prepared to present beautiful flowers and that work surely must be planned and executed way in advance. Just when beautiful flowers could come to markets, lockdown was imposed. What will become of all those poor flowers? Nobody admires their beauty, nobody will get consolation and nobody will receive joy through them… I find that quite sad…
Friday last week the weather was quite nice. Despite the lockdown more people than I thought were strolling on Vienna’s shopping street Mariahilferstrasse. Even though there is nothing to buy except groceries, people seemed to have a little bit of shopping feeling. It was also nice to see many people and I understood that I indeed missed it. The temperature was also not too low and so my husband and I wanted to enjoy that somewhat positive mood and so we went to get a fresh croissant from a new French bakery and we ate it sitting on a bench on Mariahilferstrasse. Then and there I remembered a Japanese childrens’ song “When I will go to first grade of primary school Will I get one hundred friends? Together with one hundred friends I want to eat…”. I love this song. Of course as an adult I know it is difficult to have one hundred friends but I love the mood of doing something together with other people. Exhibitions, concerts, parties,… Of course one cannot look into the hearts of other people, there may be those who are not having fun or having negative thoughts, etc. but to me it is mostly pleasant to be in a crowd of people. Right now because of the restrictions that is impossible. Eating that croissant in the cold wind I really felt and enjoyed a shimmer of the aura of “normality”.
My husband and I are now taking care of seven cats in our neighbourhood. The more we get to know those cats, their very unique and different characters are very visible. Our best friend since the beginning is “Whiskey” with red and white colour. He is very friendly and seems to be quite easy-going. The big black and white cat we call “white nose” because he has a white pattern around his nose and the one with grey tiger pattern and white socks we call “Oscar” are brothers. Their appearance is different but their character is somewhat similar. From our point of view, they are naughty. Those two are the only ones that strike others when they feel like it. We still love them as all the others.
Recently we sat on the sofa watching TV. “Whiskey” was on my lap sleeping with a loud purr. Next to me was “white nose” and I thought I was enjoying a relaxing time with cats. Out of the blue, “white nose” stretched out a front paw and struck “Whiskey”. That movement was very rapid and “white nose” did not move at all except for that paw movement. I could not believe what had happened and “Whiskey” stopped purring. For some time we were in alert mode but “white nose” did not make any more suspicious movements and so I resumed watching TV and “Whiskey” started purring again. Some time later when we had almost forgotten that attack, again “white nose” rapidly struck “Whiskey”. That movement was so lightning fast, almost like a chameleon catching an insect with its tongue. “White nose” made no other movements as though he was detached from all happenings around him. Within about thirty minutes he repeated those attacks about five times.
The next day on the sofa maybe because “Whiskey” thought he did not want to get struck anymore, he lay next to me and “White nose” took the spot on my lap. From my human perspective the spot on the lap is better than next to me and I thought because of that “White nose” would leave “Whiskey” alone. At first everything was peaceful and I concentrated more on the TV program but in that moment, “White nose” again made the “chameleon tongue” momvement striking “Whiskey” . “We have to do something” was our thought.
My husband and I remembered that in some central square in an Austrian town they were playing classical music from speakers and street violence of young people was measurably reduced. And so the next day instead of TV we played classical music. That time again there was “Whiskey” on my lap and “White nose” next to me. The music we played was a famous piano concert by Mozart. First we were watching out for cats’ reaction and they seemed to relax. “This works” we thought and we were quite happy with the result. All of us could enjoy the music. But suddenly from behind “White nose” grabbed and attacked “Whiskey”. In the middle of the beautiful second movement! We were shocked and even though I wanted to avoid it, I gave “White nose” a light slap on the head. “White nose” gave me an angry look and went away to some place. As though “Whiskey” had thought “I do not want this anymore”, he too went away from the sofa. What can we do…?
In this picture, even though it is the festive beginning of the New Year, I am already in a horizontal position. I was so tired from all the petting. My husband and I are again taking care of the 7 cats of our friends. Because of the current lockdown in Austria, the cats’ owners again went away to their vacation home in the countryside. During the Summer holidays we took care of the cats and so they know us already. The difference is that now is the cold season and cats want to get closer to us than in Summer.
The situation in the picture happened because I just wanted to sit on the bed for a while. First Whiskey, he actually has a different name but here we call him that because he has beautiful Whiskey-coloured eyes, came to me and lay down on my lap. We befriended him first because passing by the window outside we saw him first. He always came out when we called him from outside like a dog even though we didn’t feed him anything, which is unusual and the other cats don’t do that. We think that we are very good friends. Also inside the apartment when I sit down to relax, this red white cat very often comes to me to cuddle. But now the other cats also want to come close to humans. I wish that those cats relax around me in peace. Unfortunately the world of those seven cats does not work as perfectly. Only Whiskey is very friendly and able to share a lap with others. All of the others however want the lap to themselves and that day too other cats came to demand my lap. Since Whiskey is a friendly and easy-going one, he left my lap and came to my side. I find him to be a very good cat. Finally three cats stayed around me and I understood that all of them wanted to be petted. I only have two hands and petting three cats equally at once is very difficult. Also, the greystriped cat with white socks (we call him Oscar for a specific reason) is naughty and if I don’t pay attention, he strikes Whiskey with his paw. He seems to be quite jealous of our close relationship with Whiskey. In order to prevent that, I take special care to watch Oscar and prevent him from striking others. Actually I wanted to rest a little but there was so much tension and effort to be fair at petting that I lay down on the bed and gave up.