To the Beach House

This is post 4/21 of the 21 day blogging challenge. That’s 21 posts in 21 days. I guess it doesn’t have to be one per day because this is my 4th today!

Read part 1 and part 2 of this story here.

Unrelated: the title of this post reminds me of Virginia Woolf’s book, To The Lighthouse.

Toru and I planned to go to his beach house the following Sunday. However, that day was so rainy. We decided to make the drive either way.

Let me back up a bit. When Vi was here, we rented a car and enjoyed a slow drive to Hakone. Initially, we wanted to rent a nice car, like a BMW. Then put on nice outfits, great music, and “stan” our way to the ryokan we were staying at. Turns out the rental prices for nice cars was way out of our price range and we had to contend ourselves with a cute Vitz. With Vi on the passenger seat doing the navigation, we joined the Tokyoites escaping the city for a quiet weekend. We got lost a couple of times on the way and it was crazy backtracking and finding our way back. I totally blame the navigator (side eye to Vi).

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The garden at Yoshiike Onsen in Hakone, where we spent one night.

Okay back to the story. On the drive there and back, we observed so many cool cars. Sports cars. Convertibles. We were totally envious. Vi wanted to be a driver of one of such cars, while I wanted to be on the passenger side.

“You know you have to got to look the part if you want to sit on the passenger side of one of those cars.”

Right? I agreed.

No natural hair manenos. Must be a long flowing wig/weave. Sunglasses are compulsory. A dress in a bold colour. Fake nails. Six inch heels. You know what I am talking about?

So I called Vi to update her on the latest.We both agreed that Toru seemed like a guy to drive a nice car. This sent me into a panic as I have never in my whole life had fake nails. At least I had some nice boots I had bought recently at Harajuku. I sent Vi a photo of myself all dressed up for the drive and she texted back, “you look like a socialite.” Aww, when your girlfriend comes through with the right compliments.

Toru texted to say he was on his way to pick me up.

He pulled up in a really, really nice… family van!

I got into the passenger side and we slipped into easy conversation. He put on EDM music. On the way, we stopped by a coffee shop to get some drinks and snacks. We joined the highway and the views through the city were really nice.

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Tokyo Highway

Part of the way was a tunnel under the sea. Felt like a normal tunnel but it was cool knowing we were driving under the ocean. We stopped briefly at a convenience store once we got to Chiba and then drove the rest of the way though a rural-like setting.  We got to the beach apartment two and a half hours later.  It’s an apartment on the top floor with an amazing view of the ocean.

The weather remained stubbornly cloudy. We could hear and see the waves crashing against the beach. It was rough weather, there was no way we were going to venture to the beach.

We turned up the heating, ordered takeout and watched TV. It was the perfect weather for chilling indoors and getting to know each other.

He had taken some work related calls on the drive. The conversations went something like:

Shacho, something something in Japanese

Hai something something something. Upate me, okay. hai hai.

So I had been right. He was the owner of the company. He told me had started up his company at 32. Admirable. An entrepreneur in Japan when you can be a salary man for life! I will be 32 next year and I don’t think I have the courage to set up my own business yet.

I accused him of running a black company haha. His employees were calling him on a Sunday. He assured me his employees get up to a month off in a year. It’s actually him who’s always on the clock.

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The beach in Chiba.

It was already dark by the time we were driving back to Tokyo.

<< This is probably the end of this series. Yes, we are still dating. But I would like to keep this story private from now on.  It’s been a nice so far, and a great distraction from the recent troubles>>

 

Posted in Blog, Life in Japan, Relationships | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Dating a Japanese (not) Actor

This is post 3/21 of a 21 day blogging challenge.

It is a continuation of this post, so I suggest you read it first.

I was quick to recover from the disappointment of him not being the actor because here I was, having an expensive dinner with a well groomed, handsome man. His whole look was well put together, from the perfectly coiffed gelled hair; to the fitting, custom-made shirt clinging to his shoulders; to his manicured hands that had on clear nail polish.

The waiter came by to refill my drink. I was having a gin and tonic. Toru was having Oolong tea.

“You’re not drinking?” I asked.

“No, I have a bit of a cold so I’m taking a break tonight.”

The conversation went back and forth on various safe topics. Like the weather in Kenya. How he has never been to Africa. Why I came to Japan. An easy 20 minutes passed like this.

Then I decided to tell him the truth, about how I had thought he was the actor Toru Kazama and how excited me and my girlfriends had been.  Luckily, he’s got a great sense of humor so we laughed about it because we could see the Netflix money and fame fade before our very own eyes. The good looks stayed though. He agreed that it was a hell of a coincidence.

The conversation was getting more real. We talked about my job. I asked him what he does for a living and he said he works for a company that paints buildings. I squinted my eyes briefly in suspicion because no way someone working for a monthly salary affords custom made shirts, but I didn’t say anything.

I asked about why he got divorced and he told me how he’s now basically a single dad living with his youngest child, who’s 3 years old! I revealed to him that I too have a 6 year old child. We agreed that dating is hard when you’re a single parent. There is barely any free time and most people you will meet on dates would want to spend more time with you, and maybe travel with you. Which you can’t when your children are very young.

I think he feared the conversation was taking a solemn turn because he next asked, “what are your hobbies.”

I don’t like this question.

Until recently, I was a single parent doing my PhD student and raising my child alone. I haven’t had much time for hobbies.

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My hobbies are quite boring. I love reading. I love blogging. I love Netflix. I love going on a drive. Occasionally, I go on a hike with friends.

When Japanese people take a up a hobby, they dedicate hours to it and end up being very good in it.

“Oh. I just love reading. That’s it. What about you?”

I love surfing, he answered. How cool! In fact that’s why he’d gotten a cold. He’d gone surfing that past weekend. Who goes surfing in cold November!

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His other hobby is working out. I could tell he was buff beneath that shirt. He also loves going for drives.

“What are you doing this coming weekend?” he asked.

“Not sure yet, why?”

“I was thinking we could take a drive to the beach. I have a house overlooking the beach.”

Would I like to go for a drive to his beach house? Hell yeah!

“Would love to.”

We smiled in acknowledgement. The second date was set.

I excused myself to go to the bathroom. His eyes escorted me out of the room.

When I came back to my seat, I saw the liquid fire in his eyes. The attraction was mutual.

Three hours flew by. It was time to pay and leave. Savanna had advised me to carry cash and a credit card. Like duh girl, we pay our own way. I don’t usually show up for a date expecting to be paid for. Most times, we go Dutch. This time, he offered to pay. I graciously accepted.

While walking towards the station, he held my hand. In public. We were walking hand in hand in public!

This is a very big deal in Japan. People don’t show affection publicly.

A few years ago in Ishikawa, I went a date with this Japanese guy who didn’t want to be seen in public with me, so he took me to a roadside parking and bought me coffee from the vending machines.

So when Toru held my hand in public, it felt really good. It’s a brave gesture because he has shown he is willing to be different in what’s probably the most conformist society on Earth.

We kind of live in the same direction so we were taking the train together about halfway.

If you live in Japan, you know there is this game we play where you try to slip into a train on the platform just before doors close. It doesn’t matter if the next train is coming in 2 minutes. I think there’s an adrenaline rush knowing you barely just made it. There are always announcements warning us not to rush and to take the next train. ドアが閉まります。次の電車をご利用ください。

When we arrived on the platform, the train was full to the brim and doors were about to close. You know what we did.

We got in microseconds before the doors shut. We were so squeezed, bodies pressed close.

For once, I didn’t mind the crowded train. There were free no hand holds so we held onto each other for balance. I would have died from blushing if my colleagues saw me, I thought.

When he kissed me goodbye, I felt like I had melted away and become one with the stars in the sky.

(Continues here).

Posted in Humour, Life in Japan, Relationships | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Dating a Japanese Actor

This is blog 2/21 of the 21 day blogging challenge.

In November Vi, my friend from my undergraduate days in JKUAT, came to visit Japan. I took time off from work to show her around. To be honest, I also needed the time off due to recent events that I shall blog about later.

It is should not come as a surprise that we ended up exploring Shinjuku. For me, Shinjuku represents the heartbeat of Tokyo. The West Side of Shinjuku Station has the business side and the East Side, the entertainment. I love this city soaked in Neon lights.

Image from masterlu/Depositphotos.com

So one night there we were, drinking Strong Zero (a cheap, easy to drink cocktail, sold in cans) outside a convenience store in Kabukicho, having the classic tourist experience. The trash bin in front of the Family Mart was overflowing. Empty cans littered one corner of the street. This part of the city is so shockingly dirty. The rest of Japan is usually spotless. A lot of young men and women were milling about, they appeared to be in their early 20s. There are also a lot of black men standing outside clubs, appearing to promoters of some kind.  I wonder what visas are these guys on.

Anyway, some time later we made our way to an underground (literally and figuratively) club. We were listening to the music and talking with a few other tourists and locals when this Japanese guy walked up to us and struck up a conversation. He was a very good looking man who appeared to be in his late 30s or early 40s. We talked for a bit and exchanged phone numbers and he later left. We also left soon after, barely catching the last train.

The following day was mostly spent recovering from the after effects of Strong Zero and several cocktails. JKUAT trained us to handle our liquor, but age has been catching up with us haha. We were basically just lounging in the living room, watching Netflix and ordering fast food on Uber Eats. My favorite Japanese show is Midnight Diner. We were watching Season 1 Episode 8, featuring “Erectro Oki, a legendary adult film star and Fujiko shared a past, which they kept secret for a long time..”

That was when Vi casually mentioned that the actor portraying the porn star Oki in the show looked like the guy we had met the previous night.

I was like, wait a minute, could he.. could he really be? There was something really familiar about his look.

Allowing excitement to take a hold, I paused the episode.

The guy we met had told me his name is Toru.

There was only one way to find out. I Googled the episode and checked out the credits.

Guess the name of the actor???????

Toru Kazama! That’s 風間トオル in Japanese.

My heart immediately leaped out of my chest!

No f*cking way!

I had to put down my phone to compose myself before picking it up again to resume the investigation. “My Toru” had told me a few things about himself. He was from Kawasaki, divorced, loves surfing, and in his late 40’s (he doesn’t look as old though).

We looked up more information about Toru Kazama, to see if it was really our Toru.

Toru Kazama is from Kawasaki, is divorced and loves surfing! OMG! He has a really interesting life story and has starred in very many movies and TV shows.

Some things didn’t add up though, like the age. Kazama is 57 but our Toru had said he’s 47. Why would he lie about his age? Maybe he didn’t want to scare us off. Or maybe we misheard.

The coincidences were too many to ignore. Toru had given me his number, so I immediately decided to text him.

“Hi, it was nice meeting you yesterday. Let’s meet again soon.”

Waiting for a reply felt like forever. While we waited, we continued reading up on him. We were now on an FBI-like investigation. We looked up photographs including some of him as a young man. We read blogposts in Japanese using Google Translate. The phone’s notification sounds were but there was no reply from him yet. We rewound the episode and watched it closely, pausing to check the image on the screen against our vague memories of him in a darkly lit club. We got more and more convinced that he must be the one. A sound alerted me of an incoming text.

Image source: 風間トオル深夜食堂

“It was nice to meet you too. Let’s meet next week. Toru.”

No way! He had texted back. And signed off his name. Why do older people do that, signing off their names in text…

I texted back and we set up the date for the following week Monday.

I was going on a date with a Japanese actor!

I called my friend Savanna to let her know the good news. As my bff in Japan, she is entitled to an immediate update of all the news, good and bad, that happens in my life.

She was so happy and excited for me.

“Harriet… you’ve made it! Don’t forget us when you become famous!”

I promised her that I would give her regular updates of the date and that I will not forget her when I become famous. I promise not to forget the readers of this blog too.

That Saturday, he called me.

“Harietto-san,” he said, “I just wanted to know what you like to eat. Beef? Fish? Is it okay if we meet in Shinjuku?”

How considerate! I let him know I eat everything, but I am not fond of raw fish. He said he would reserve the restaurant.

Vi and I spent a considerable amount of time picking out my outfit, and deciding on what shoes to wear, what make up to put on, what perfume would be appropriate, etc.

I immediately called Savanna to give her a status update. She said she had looked him up, but she couldn’t understand why Japanese movie stars look so ordinary, like the guy next door! “I just hope he’s a nice guy,” she added. I didn’t agree with her about the ordinary looking part, but I also hoped that he’s a nice guy.

Sadly, Vi’s time in Japan had come to an end and she left for Kenya that Sunday. I saw her off at the station where she took a bus for Narita Airport.

When I left work that Monday, I went home, showered and changed, and took the train to Shinjuku.

He was already waiting in this fancy restaurant when I walked in, convinced I was meeting the actor.

I said hello and sat down opposite him. Still a very good looking man in front of my sober eyes and brighter restaurant lighting. But is he the actor? I felt like pulling out my phone and doing a face to face comparison. I settled instead on trying to answer the question by studying his face.

When he picked up his fork, I noticed there was a name stitched on the cuffs of his shirt.

“Toru-san. May I ask your surname?”

“Xskrhereewreir0932i3r0weksf”

You didn’t read that wrong. I have encrypted his name for privacy reasons.

It wasn’t the actor.

I was disappointed for one second.

Then I was like, let’s go back up to the cuffs.

“Wait a minute. You have your name stitched on the cuffs of your shirt?”

“Yes.”

“So a custom made shirt.”

“Yes.”

“Tell me more….” I took a sip of my drink and leaned forward.

How did the date end? Was there a second date? And other questions…  will not be getting answered hahaha.

 

Updated: I decided to do part two here.

Posted in Blog, Humour, Life in Japan, Relationships | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

What It’s Like Working in Tokyo

I recently saw something online about a blogging challenge: 21 posts in 21 days. I thought I might try it to inspire me to start blogging again. I can’t promise 21 posts in 21 days, but I will try to blog as much as possible this month.

For those who don’t know, I am currently working as a researcher at Hitachi Central Research Laboratory in Tokyo. In the video below, if you look closely, you can see me at 1:06.

To tell you what it’s like to work in Tokyo, I’ll take you through my day this past Friday.

I had a team meeting (Skype) at 9am but due to some unavoidable circumstances, I wasn’t going to make it to the office by then. Luckily, I had brought my laptop home the previous evening so I let my mentor know that I would attend the meeting from home and then go to the office after. When the meeting was over, I took a bus to the station (15 minutes’ ride), then took the train for 12 minutes, then walked for another 15 minutes to my desk.

At this time of the morning, the buses and trains had a number of empty seats. When the train/bus is almost full but not quite, choosing where to sit can be so mentally taxing, that a lot of Japanese people choose to stand instead. The goal is minimize any contact whatsoever because in Japanese culture, you don’t ever want to disturb other people. You have to “read the air” to know when it’s okay to sit or not. I have found myself doing the same, because living here for 5 years has changed me. Unless I am tired and then I don’t care. Even then, when I sit down, I have to gather and shrink myself and my belongings in order to occupy as least space as possible. I have to maintain as big as a distance as I can from other human beings. When that’s physically impossible, I still have to pretend to shift a bit or lean away.

I finally arrived in the office at around 11:30, picked up a coffee from the Cafe on the ground floor  and took the stairs to our office floor. I turned my nameplate around to announce my presence, and headed to my desk to check and respond to emails and other messages on our collaboration tools.  I planned my task list for the day and set about checking it off.

I am working on cloud research so of course I come across Microsoft’s Azure often, as well as Google Cloud Computing and Amazon Web Services. But let’s talk more about Azure. How do you pronounce it? I wondered. When I googled, this video came up:

I thought it was pretty funny so I shared it in our team’s random channel. Yes, we are mostly focused on work but we do have a channel for sharing random stuff like this.

I got engrossed in my tasks soon after until I heard the 12:15 bell. Because there are so many researchers, our cafeteria cannot accommodate us all at once so we go to the cafeteria in shifts starting from 11:30. This term, our shift is at 12:15. Of course you can eat whenever you want but out of consideration for everyone else, it is best to go at the allocated time.

The 12:15 bell coincided with a Skype ping from my lunch partner Vivi. She’s an Italian coworker with whom I have been having lunch with recently. Sometimes I eat lunch with my team members or other colleagues who joined at the same time (Doryo in Japanese 同僚). Rarely do I sit alone.

After lunch, we went for a walk around the pond in the beautiful forest surrounding our building. The trees are red and golden and wistful. Check our more photos on Instagram. Follow me there as well, yeah?

After lunch, I had a brief meeting to introduce our project to a new colleague from Egypt who is joining our team. We joked about how I am a sempai so soon after joining (I entered Hitachi in April this year).

I went back to my desk but my mind seemed to have entered Friday afternoon mode. I couldn’t focus so I went to the kitchen and fixed a cup of tea. I chatted briefly with a colleague in the same department before sitting down at my desk and soon after, I was able to get a bit work done until the 5 p.m. bell went off. Normally, when Jeremy (my son) was here, I left at exactly 5 p.m. to be home by 6 p.m. Nowadays, I leave at around 6 or 7 p.m., depending ….

Last Friday though, I had a dance practice session. On one of the days  this week, there will be a small event in the evening where they have invited some musician who’s a djembe drummer. Djembe drums are originally from West Africa. The organizers thought it would be nice if they had some people dance along to the rhythm of the drum and asked me if I wanted to lead that initiative. They knew I loved dancing, not because I’m black in case you are wondering, but because I had volunteered for a similar activity in the summer. I quickly mobilized a Rwandese colleague who is here on internship. Together, we have formed a small dancing team comprising of various nationalities including Indian, Italian, Japanese, Rwandese, Ghanaian and of course Kenyan. We’ve only had 2 practice sessions so far and we are far from ready but we’re going to have fun and that’s the most important thing.

After the practice session, I returned to my desk to clear everything and retire for the weekend.

Recently, I have been eating in the cafeteria before going home because I don’t have the desire to cook for just myself. This past Friday however, I was  joining some of my workmates for a dinner party at one of the Izakayas. We were having a set dinner and an all-you-can-drink course (nomihodai 飲み放題) for two hours.

However, how the dinner went and what happened after is a story for another day 🙂

 

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Goodbye, Grandma

Last year around October, after I graduated from my PhD program, I went home to Kenya for a brief holiday of about two weeks. I visited both my grandmothers, on my mother’s side and on my father’s side, spending a night at each. I didn’t have time to stay longer.

When I visited my grandmother from my dad’s side, she was fascinated by Jeremy. She spoke Kisii and a bit of Swahili, languages Jeremy couldn’t understand. He spoke Japanese as his primary language and English as a secondary language (he understood both languages but was better at expressing himself in Japanese). So she just fed him and watched him run around with the twin calves that had been born recently.

My grandma then asked me, umepata bwana? (Have you found a husband). I laughed and told her, no, not yet but the search is ongoing. She then proceeded to catch me up on the latest in the village. It was hard to keep up because I don’t remember a lot of people from my childhood and it’s hard to keep track of everyone, with our ever expanding extended family.

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Birthplace

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The following morning when I woke up at 7:30am, she had already milked the cow, made breakfast, had breakfast and washed the dishes! That’s the kind of woman she was. Hardworking every single day. I remember a neighbour had passed away and we went to pay our respects, after which we came back and she proceeded to make us a delicious lunch. I feasted on avocados, knowing how much a precious commodity they are in Japan with a small one going for approximately Ksh. 150-200.

In the afternoon, she escorted Jeremy and I as we were heading to Kisii town to meet my younger brother. I said goodbye to her and she asked me to call more often.

Somehow a year has already passed.

Fast forward to late October 2019. For reasons to be blogged about later, I had to make a quick decision take Jeremy to Kenya to stay with my parents for a while.

At the time, my grandma was suffering from a second stroke she had suffered in a span of two months. When I took Jeremy to Kenya, I hadn’t taken much time off from work, and I was to return to Japan just four days later. Still, I knew I had to go see my grandma. So Jeremy and I landed at JKIA on a Saturday morning, and on Sunday we were on the road to Kisii.

When we arrived, my grandma recognized us right away. She hadn’t known I was coming and must have been shocked. She said my name “Nyanchama…”, looked at Jeremy, and tried to say something. Her speech was slurred and largely incomprehensible. It was hard to imagine this was the same grandmother that always woke up before sunrise and finished her chores, including farm-work on some days, while many people slept. She was frustrated because we couldn’t understand what she was trying to say, and a tear rolled down her face. My father loved his mother very much, and I could tell that he too was struggling to come to terms with his mother’s illness. My mother took a handkerchief out of her pocket and wiped my grandma’s face.

My grandma was always a jovial, talkative person. Stubborn and determined, she brought up her 7 children as a single parent. She fought against many who wanted the little piece of land on which she farmed to feed her family and raise school fees. Sometimes I think I take after her. Her brutal honesty (she was never one to mince her words), her determination, her hard work. (Except I haven’t figured out the early mornings yet. I’m still a night owl.) She never cared what people thought about her. She also couldn’t stand the pettiness of a lot of em.. church people so I didn’t see her go to church often.

She still took care of her youngest grandchildren until the time of her illness, as she had taken care of us when we were younger and our mother had gone off to college.

When she fell sick, my younger brother Samora, who is a doctor working in Kisii, was by default put in charge of her care. He is basically the only one who understood most what was going on in medical terms. What a heavy task on a 29 year old. He actually kept some of the devastating truth about the gravity of her condition from the rest of the family, including me. When I went back to Japan just a couple of days later, I had though that she was going to recover.

I think it was her first time to fly that following weekend. Samora drove my aunt and my grandmother to Nairobi, after which my aunt and grandma flew to Mombasa, where my aunt lives with her family. My grandma was to stay with my aunt in Mombasa and my aunt was to take care of her as she recovered. Ironically, her final journey will follow the same route: Flight to Nairobi followed a drive to Kisii.

Just last week, dad texted in the family whatsapp group that grandma was gone. She was 74 years old.

We’ve been trying to find pictures of her from our archives for the funeral program. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend it even though I do want to be with my family right now. I guess that without knowing it, I must have said goodbye a few weeks ago.

Here are is a picture of my grandma at my master’s graduation ceremony 5 years ago. This is how I choose to remember: her sense of humour and vitality for life, as well as her steely determination.

Goodbye, grandma.

Posted in Blog, Life in Japan | 6 Comments

6 Months in Tokyo: Work and School Update

In case you haven’t noticed, this blog has been on a hiatus for some months now. It’s not that I had exhausted the limits of my creativity, rather I had a lot on my hands, which I still do. But I realize that writing for me has always been therapeutic, so after taking a break for a while, I am back.

It has almost been six months since we moved to Tokyo from Ishikawa Prefecture. Life in the big city is just as I expected. The pace is fast, the people, more interesting, and the population just a bit more diverse. Some days, it can feel like something exciting is around the corner. On others, the train rides will drain your soul. Tokyo.

Our daily life, as befits the life of one of “the masses”, is mostly occupied by work and school.  Admit it, you are one of the masses too. Acceptance is what we do in our 30s, isn’t it?

School Life

Jeremy is a first grader at the school that’s 6 minutes away from our apartment, where he goes from 8am to around 3pm. After that he goes to the “gakudo”, an after school program for kids whose parents are working full time because, let’s face it, who leaves work at 3pm? Except for  Japanese housewives who may be working part time. They will be home at 3pm, waiting for their kids with a smile, cookies and milk; and to ready to help Takeshi Jnr with his homework. I am torn between judging Japanese housewives for not working, and envious of them for not working as they can spend quality time with their kids, living off their hard working husbands. If I marry a Japanese guy, kids or no kids, I’m staying home and waking up at noon to have brunches at his expense. Sure, all I have to give up is a little independence here, and a bit of a professional dream there. I could learn to make stylish bentos (lunch boxes), just like his mother used to, that would be the envy of his colleagues at work and I could learn to have no opinion whatsoever. In between the brunches and the bento-making, I could write… wow, I digressed so much.

Cute bento-boxes.  There is an entire corner of the internet dedicated to making your food look cute. Jesus Christ, Japan can be too much sometimes. Image from the web [https://tokyotreat.com/news/cute-bentos]

Back to school life. The syllabus is good, quite practical and engaging. There is homework sheets daily, these I cannot keep up with. I’ve had to hire a babysitter from the “Family Support” organization, a program that every city has to support working parents. She comes twice a week to help Jeremy finish off the homework and they sometimes practice a bit of the piano.

I think that school life for Jeremy is okay for now, but as for two to three years from now? *shrug*. However, everything is in Japanese with English lessons once a month. Today they learned how to count to 7 in sing-song. I feel like I am losing my son to this culture. Now I know how Chinese parents feel in the USA. International schools are out of the question at the moment; the cost is simply astronomical compared to the free Japanese schools, and the quality is not assured.

Every. Single. Day. I get leaflets with all sorts of announcements from the school, regarding the most important of things and also the most trivial of crap haha. It’s a lot of work going through it. So again, I asked our lovely babysitter, T-san, to help me out.

Working Life

Working in a Japanese company has been interesting. As a PhD graduate, I have a bit of freedom in managing my working hours. There is no set to arrive at work or to go home (in my understanding of the terms and conditions haha), just as long as I get my work done. If circumstances force it e.g. a sick child, I can work from home.

The most exciting things to me have been the work itself specifically, the project I am currently working on. I also work with some cool people and have become friends with them. They invite me out for drinks after work, and I turn up whenever finances, babysitters,  time and energy are in perfect harmony. We are talking once a month haha. There is a difference between being a parent and being child-free. In the latter case, your time is only your own (and of course, your employer’s) and you only have to take care of yourself.

One of biggest challenges has been the daily one-hour commute involving a bus, a train and a 15 min walk. I used to live on the campus in my student days, and my “commute” then was a 5 minute walk. I could move closer to work but I had been told the schools in that district weren’t good. Mitaka has some very good schools and I know one of the reasons is the very strong PTA. The parents (oops, I mean the Japanese housewives) are super over-involved. It’s great though, they look out for our kids. The PTA also sends leaflets from time to time.

Another challenge has been working in Japanese. Programming and report writing happens in English, but for efficient communication in the team, I need Japanese. Emails, discussions, lunch time banter, nomikai jokes, everything… is in Japanese and I thought I had it mastered (hey, JLPT N2) but I’ve barely scratched the surface. So I keep on learning technical Japanese and business Japanese. Learning Japanese is no longer this challenging hobby I picked up but a necessity. I sometimes feel like it’s taking away time from my productivity, sigh. The meme below pretty much sums up the first few months at work.

Facing Japanese

Facing Japanese

A Podcast Story

With all the time being taken up by work and school, when does Jack and Jacqueline play, you wonder? That will have to be another blogpost (6 Months in Tokyo: Playtime? A Social Life?).

In related news, I was recently a guest on the Raw Urban Mobile Podcast, hosted by Cliff & Buddha. “They talk with locals about their careers, endeavors, and passions to highlight the international community in Tokyo.” Check it out in the link above and a little preview below.

Till next time, Ciao. Be sure to not miss any posts by subscribing. Join 18,268 other followers (I know, I am surprised too).

Posted in Blog, Life in Japan, Motherhood, Work | 6 Comments

I went to Cebu during the Golden Week and Here is What I Learned

Recently, we had like 6 days of continuous public holidays from April 27th to May 6th (aka Golden Week), and including the weekends, we had 10 days off work and school. A few people complained about the holidays being too long, and I actually understood their point of view. When you work part-time (パート) or per-hour jobs (アルバイト), you don’t any paid holidays. So that’s about week’s income gone. Anyway, I had just started my new job at Hitachi RnD (with paid holidays  💃 💃 ), and this felt like a chance to get out of Japan for a week or so.

I decided to go to Cebu, Philippines for various reasons. First, it is near enough to Japan and I have been wanting to explore Asia while in Japan (even though the flight prices were through the roof during the golden week). Second, the warm tropical weather after a long winter in Japan was appealing. Third, Philippines is famed for its wonderful beaches; fourth, the people are said to be friendly; fifth, Kenyans don’t need visitor visas; sixth, local prices were said to be cheap, etc. I don’t really need to justify my reasons to you guys, but I’m doing it because I’m a nice person 🙂

So after I sold the best car I ever had (goodbye Bella 2.0!), I immediately booked the best (read cheapest) tickets I could find. I also booked 4 nights in a nice apartment, booked an island hopping trip that kids could also join, and made all the preparations necessary for a nice enjoyable trip. Check out the thread below for the highlights:

 

However, the journey wasn’t as smooth as I thought for several reasons. Here are five lessons learned from that trip:

  1. Plan and book everything in advance

And then double-check everything.

I booked my flights in late March because I didn’t have funds in hand early enough, which was barely a month to the travel date. It was late considering the golden week is a high season for traveling in Japan. So I knew I was spending 4 days in Cebu. Leave Japan on Monday and leave Cebu on Friday.

I couldn’t get any direct flights (only business class tickets were left) so I got flights transiting through Seoul. It was only after booking flights that I realized that the layover in Seoul was going to be all night! I decided to go ahead anyway and book a hotel at the airport to spend the night. The hotel at the airport was full, according to booking.com, but I finally found a vacancy in a hotel 3 minutes away from the airport.

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So we're transiting in Seoul

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You know what that meant? We would be leaving the precious “international zone” at the airport to enter S.Korea, and would need transit visas. I figured it was just a quick drop at the embassy and dropped off my application with the RUDEST people I have ever seen in an embassy. And yes, even worse than the US ones lol. Although Jeremy and I have been to South Korea before, we only encountered polite and professional officials at the South Korean embassy in Niigata. Anyway, maybe it’s a Tokyo thing.

It turns out I was wrong and several missed calls from a private number later, (a series of coincidences meant I missed the calls from the embassy request additional documents but the private number meant I had no idea who was calling so couldn’t return calls), I turned up the embassy to collect the visas only to be told to show them a certificate of bank balance – that you can only get from the bank during working hours,  a letter of employment – that might take two weeks to get the right stamps and signatures, and airplane tickets. Like I have a professional working visa in Japan, why would I want to go hustling in the streets of Seoul? If I want to go work or live in Seoul, I will just do it legally. Anyway, I had forgotten my own advice on the visa application processes and had grown complacent.

There is no dignity in the visa application process. It is discriminatory, invasive in every manner (financially, medically etc), and assumes we are all dying to go live in the backstreets of their countries, even if we sometimes are.

It was too late to get those documents so dejected, I emailed the transit hotel inside the terminal  airport to see if they could put me on a wait list or something and luckily they had a vacancy. Crisis averted, phew.

See, if I had planned early, I might have had time to even get x-rays to show them I am a healthy African and thus can step into their precious country.

2. Cheap is Sometimes More Expensive, Direct Flights Are Best

I probably spent more on applying for transit visas, and airport hotels, and time wasted, than if I had purchased the direct flights. More on this later

3. Cebu Island’s Beaches and Sea are beautiful, but inland, not so much.

Maybe it is an age thing, maybe it is being a parent. But I feel like the days of hostels are past me. If I want to travel, I want to at least enjoy my stay. In Malaysia about 2 years ago, we got an airbnb with an infinity pool at the roof and another huge pool on the 5th floor. This time, I was also able to get a deal at some nice apartments (17th floor room) in Mactan near the airport in Cebu. Be sure to check airbnb for deals and if you travel in a group, you can share the costs and you will be surprised at how affordable such accommodation becomes.

We took a boat and went snorkeling on day 2 and it was the highlight of trip. Away from the dusty, crowded streets crawling with traffic, the sea was quiet, serene, and beautiful. There are many trips you can book online and I used Island Trek Tours. They are not exactly cheap, but they provide pick up and drop off, snorkeling equipment, freshly barbecued lunch and soda (but no water). So be sure to carry water with you when you go.

Shades of blue — in Caohagan, Cebu, Philippines.

Shades of blue — in Caohagan, Cebu, Philippines.

 

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Snorkeling with the fishes off the coast of Cebu. Can you spot Jeremy and I?

We spent another day in Cebu City checking out the historical Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu, established in the 1500s which is adjacent to Magellan’s Cross. According to wiki, Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese explorer who organised the Spanish expedition to the East Indies and was one of the founders of the Spanish settlement in Cebu.

Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu

The altar inside Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu

 

We also made a brief stop at the tranquil San Pedro Fort and the gardens nearby.

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Enjoying walking around Fort Pedro.

Thereafter, we did some shopping at some mall, can’t remember the name, but there are several shopping options if that is what you are into. Later in the evening we visited the 10,000 Roses Cafe, which looks better in pictures than in real life.

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Why are there are 10,000 LED white plastic roses behind us? You tell us. Anyway, the lighting wasn’t great for photos 🙂

When at the roses cafe, be sure to eat at at the  nearby native restaurant. It’s called Lantaw Floating Restaurant and their pork stew in groundnut sauce, oysters, fried veges, grilled tuna were just too good.

However, getting a taxi out of there is was a nightmare so might be worth asking the to-taxi to wait for you. If it’s daytime you can take a motorbike taxi or a 3 wheeled bicycle to the Jeepney (public transport) station. To get around Cebu, we used Grab a lot. Uber isn’t so much in use in Cebu.

 

4. Filipinos are possibly the friendliest people ever (how about Canadians though?)

Filipinos are warm and friendly. I loved the country and would go back, but would prefer to go to quieter, more remote island next time. While they are friendly, the economy is not so you might get ripped off because you’re a tourist. Get a local to guide you or research on prices (especially taxis) before you arrive and try to negotiate the prie beforehand.

We were so glad our Filipino friend Maricris, who used to work in Japan, was there to meet us. We hadn’t known in advance that she would be free but it all worked out in the end. She guided us around the city, negotiated the taxi prices, showed us the spots in Cebu City. Thank you so much ❤ Maricris, if you read this.

5. Plan for emergencies and avoid the high seasons if you can!

The fifth lesson from this trip was planning for emergencies. When you budget for a trip, be sure to budget like 50-100% more money just in case.

So on Friday morning, we went to the beach, then hand lunch and showered and packed, then headed to the airport at 11pm in the evening for our 2am flight. Except our flight had already left at 2am that Friday! We were a day late to the party. Be careful for flights departing after midnight. After that, it was a scramble to get flights, but there were no direct flights back to Japan until after the golden week was over. There was no way I was going to be late back to work after just a month! Eventually, got a flight for one and a half days later but it was landing in Osaka. We had to go back and find a hostel  to spend the night and eventually we flew back to Osaka via Seoul again, and then took the shinkansen  to Tokyo on Monday, a week after we left. Just back in time to get back to work on Tuesday the 6th of May.

 

 

 

At Mactan Newtown Beach

At Mactan Newtown Beach, Jeremy and I made some new friends ❤️❤️ Cutest baby ever but I don’t want to show his face here.

What an adventure! It left me so broke, but so full of memories. I met so many other amazing travelers, memorably from Japan ❤️, South Korea❤️, Germany ❤️❤️, Australia ❤️ and Poland ❤️, and reconnected with my friend Maricris.

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31: Taking Stock

I am writing this at 10pm on the eve of my 31st birthday so happy birthday to me!

I’ll be at work in the morning and taking the afternoon off to go to the Korean embassy in Azabu Juban to pick up our transit visas. Jeremy and I are going to Cebu during the golden week and the most affordable tickets we got have a long layover in Seoul. I tried booking a room at the hotel in the airport but it was fully booked, so I got us one just outside the airport, but turns out we need transit visas to set one foot inside South Korean territory. It’s hard traveling on an African passport but oh well, *shrug*

 

Making: To do lists; I just moved to Tokyo a month ago and I started a new job as Jeremy  started a new school. The list of things I have to do is never ending.

Cooking: by baking! When I moved, I finally got an oven (well, a combination microwave, toaster and oven). I baked (chicken) for the first time in my life. So glad for Google, for the videos and step by step directions.

Drinking: Wine. And it’s the good kind which I have to open with a wine opener, thanks to my friend, Udi’s mum. We had some last week with cake when she came to Tokyo, kind of a pre-birthday celebration.

Reading: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. Someone gifted me this book on my birthday 3 years ago. Well, I requested the gift 🙂 I finally got round to reading it after watching the Netflix show. I hope I can finally find the time to make my apartment spark even more joy.

Wanting: A nice couch. And a large screen for watching movies or Netflix; although I am  not sure when I will find the time for Netflix again.

Anybody wanna buy me this nice sofa for my birthday? Anybody at all?

Looking: Natural. I have some sort of routine for maintain my natural hair. It’s not perfect, but the great thing is nobody cares that my hair isn’t straight. And I can wear whatever style I want to work. My to-go hairstyle is the twists in front, like in the IG post below:

 

Playing: Rock music from my campus days. Too many feels. Nostalgia. It’s been almost 10 years since then.

Deciding: How I am going to spend the rest of the year. I may have to revise some of the goals that I set at the beginning of the year, because working life is most certainly different from student life. I also have to make a lot of decisions dealing with my future, Jeremy’s future, my pension plan, life insurance plans, investment plans.. so much to think about. I am not ready to be an adult!! Too late I guess. Even if I could somehow convince myself that 31 is young, I have a whole 6 year old 🙂

Wishing: That my friends lived nearby. I just moved here and I wish I had one or two friends who could come over for some pizza and wine. Just hanging out, you know. Friday or Saturday nights. Maybe after I get the couch. It could attract friends. I’ll keep the windows open to show it off.

Enjoying: My new apartment. I also love the sunny weather in Tokyo, although I had to get dark curtains because the sun rising at 5am was bothering my sweet morning sleep. At 7 or 8am, the sun is on my verandah and I can enjoy a cup of coffee while basking in the morning sunshine.

Waiting: for the golden weekend to start. I have my 4 day trip to Cebu to look forward to (we can sail, we can sail.. from Peru to Cebu feel the power of Babylon.. sail away sail away),  I am also waiting for June, July, August, October, December. All because of the travel plans I have.

Liking: The working environment thus far. Unfortunately, I cannot divulge further info, you know that guys 🙂 My job is top secret.

Top secret job is exciting, no?

Wondering: How is Tinder gonna play out in Tokyo? 😉

Loving: Doing DIY projects. Thus far, I have fixed curtain railings for my bedroom, as it is a Japanese style room with only white-sheeted screen doors as “curtains” that let in all the light in the world. Lovely in the day, too bright in the morning. I also bought a bed and mattress, but will be waiting for 3 weeks for its delivery. The futon is nice but it’s killing my back.

My room looks *almost* like this actually. It’s beautiful. But without the flowers. I should get flowers. I love yellow flowers.

Considering: Which activities to enroll J in. Thus far, our weekdays are busy so would have to be on weekends, but thus far we have been exploring the parks.

Buying: Too much stuff from Amazon. I was too excited about the furnishing of the apartment, I need to calm down a bit and pay off my credit card debts this month.

Watching: I literally have no time to finish watching some shows I left halfway, like the TBBT Season 12, Crazy Ex-girlfriend Season 4, Midnight Dinner: Tokyo Stories, Mom Season 6, Criminal Minds Season 14, Beyonce’s Homecoming (I hear Bey’s work ethic is inspiring millions), Brooklyn 99 Season 5 (Jake and Santiago got married in the last season!!), and worst of all GAME OF THRONES! I am avoiding social media for the spoilers. So yeah, not watching anything right now, but one day when I get the time I will catch up with the above shows and more. Most recently, I was catching up with Friends, now in Season 5.

Hoping: to do well at work 🙂 It is so hard being new at the workplace. You always feel like you’ve got something to prove. Or it’s just me?

Marveling: at just how many people are in Tokyo. I mean, you think Nairobi’s Githurai area has a lot of people (Wasee wa Githurai 45 mko wapi!) but then you come to Tokyo and take the train during rush hour. You don’t even need to hold onto the strap-hangers as you are squeezed into the spot. Made me think it’s not so bad that Japan’s population is declining, but unfortunately only in the rural areas. Everyone is moving to Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya etc. So the population in the cities is actually increasing. Luckily, I take the train in the opposite direction of the rush hour, so there is even space to sit. And I live in a very nice and quiet neighbourhood with lots of greenery; no high rise apartments.

#Always amazes me how you can just stand at the doorway to be pushed in!

Needing: a routine that gets me more sleep. I also need more time to write, somehow.

Questioning: nothing at the moment. I am kind of at a peace with the universe right now. Oh, wait a minute. Just how horrible can human beings be? Why would they do that in Sri Lanka? But history has shown us that humans are capable of astonishing depths of evil. Think slavery, holocaust, massive genocides, colonialism, atomic bombings, modern slave labour…

Smelling: beautiful spring flowers everywhere.

Wearing: Suits. In preparation for working for a global company of Japanese origin, I invested in suits only to find out no one at work wears suits. Everyone is in “business casual” or “smart casual”, widely interpreted. So now I am wearing sneakers, so comfortable after 2 weeks of women’s work shoes, the most hurtful and uncomfortable shoes I have ever worn.

Following: progress to the Olympics 2020 closely. They are gonna be held in my city!!

Noticing: that my personality has changed. I am kind of shy/reserved now when meeting new people, and will hardly strike up a conversation first. Either I am growing older or Japan has had a larger influence on my personality that I realized.

Knowing: that it will get better. Right now everything feels new and hectic, so I know things will calm down soon.

Thinking: that maybe I want baby #2 by 35? 🙂

Admiring: the leaders at work. Inspiring a team, that’s what I would love to do.

Sorting: my apartment.

Getting: homesick listening to Sauti Sol. Jeremy’s current favorite song is Sauti Sol’s Kuliko Jana. He really wants to learn Swahili and will do my best to teach him. In addition to English.

Bookmarking: To be honest, I am bookmarking work related sites. Turns out while I was focusing on my PhD, the world of computing changed so much. I have to renew my technical skills. By the way, I was right to go with Python. But the future could change so fast. You always have to be on your toes. The  current and future are in cloud computing though.

Coveting: houses. How do people own houses in this economy? According to my calculations, I may afford to own a home when I am 60 or over.

Disliking: rude, unprofessional people. It may be because it is so hard to encounter such in Japan. In our neighbourhood, whenever you encounter a cyclist and you move out of the way or they have to ring their bell to get your attention, the don’t forget to say “thank you for moving out of the way. I am sorry to have disturbed you”. If you can’t get out of the way for some reason, they will get off the bike and cycle past you then continue on their journey. So it is kind of a shock when you encounter a rude person, like the lady at the Korean Embassy. The last time we visited Korea, we went to the embassy in Niigata the people there were professional and polite. Nobody is asking for you to be their best friend, all we ask is for some dignity in our interactions!

Opening: my mind up for new opportunities.

Giggling: every single time I watch the video of the train pushers.

Feeling: pensive. After all, I am 31 tomorrow. But what does that mean? 30 was kind of a big deal, 31 is meh.

Feeling: Grateful for my parents, my brothers, my aunts and uncles, my friends in Kenya. My Japanese parents, my friends in Japan.

Snacking: I hardly snack.

Helping: I am not sure I am helping anyone at the moment, I would love to help out more.

Posted in Blog, Life in Japan, Travel, Work | 4 Comments

Hello From Tokyo!

It’s already been three weeks in Tokyo. I managed to find a lovely 2 bed roomed apartment in a quiet suburb of Tokyo called Mitaka City. It finally hit me that I am an adult when I finally moved into this apartment. Ever since graduating from JKUAT, I have mostly been living with friends; although I moved back home briefly at some point. Llater when I  moved to Japan, I lived in the university housing for students, which was already fully furnished.

So this apartment is a chance for me to decorate it the way I want, just like the apartments on the Instragram interior decor pages. I’m trying to make it sparkle with joy. But I am finding out that making things sparkle with joy is a FULL time job! And an expensive one at that. You want matching towels neatly folded? It will cost you. You want matching, minimalist furniture? Fork out the cash.

Below, Jeremy enjoying playing the keyboard in his new room.

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Twinkle ✨twinkle ✨ little star 🌟

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Of course as many have said it, is the pursuit of joy the goal of life? I don’t know. The apartment itself sparks joy, with the sunlight coming in through the windows in the throughout the day. That’s enough for me. I am going to have to live with a little clutter until I have enough time and money, but so far so good. I am also yet to finish unpacking and buying all the furniture and stuff I need in the new apartment.

About work.. it has been a crazy three weeks. I joined the Hitachi Research and Development Group! How cool is that! The work and the working environment is great thus far. But it takes time to transition from doing part-time post doc in rural Japan to a commuting and working full time in the big city. In addition, Jeremy also just started elementary school and the procedures for that were a ton! if I piled up the documents that I have filled in so far, it would form a pile Jeremy’s height!

 

Here are a few observations/differences about working for a big company in Japan (from my point of view as I experienced working in Kenya):

Interview Expenses

Most* Japanese companies will pay your expenses for you to go to the on-site interviews. They don’t ask you to go by the cheapest way either, but by the fastest way, i.e. bullet train fares, which are quite expensive (it costs ¥13,500 one way from Kanazawa to Tokyo). Some will even pay your hotel expenses if you are coming from too far away and are unable to go back home on the same day.

When I was in Kenya, I had to ask my parents/friends for fare to the interviews. I don’t know a single company in Kenya that refunds your interview expenses. This would be a great idea especially if the interviewees are  students who’ve just graduated and have had no income yet.

I know in the US, the likes of Google and Facebook have this practice as well.

Relocation Expenses

Again, most* big companies in Japan will cover your relocation costs. They will usually hire a moving company to come to your house and move your stuff, or refund you if you hire the moving company by yourself.

In Kenya, if you are moving from Nakuru or wherever to Nairobi, for example, it is up to you to cover the cost of relocation; when you are yet to have your first salary.

Commuting Allowance

Say you’ve passed the interviews and have now started working. In Japan, for almost all companies big or small, your commuting expenses will also be taken care of, depending on the distance you are to travel. You will be asked to get a 6 month train or bus pass, and will be refunded the exact amount. This is is a separate amount from your salary. (I am pretty sure it is not taxed). Basically, your commuting expenses don’t have to come from your salary, which is pretty great. In Kenya, it is up to you to budget your commuting expenses from your salary (after tax). When I worked at EY though, if we went to a client’s site that was a certain distance from the office, then we could apply for a mileage allowance. But there was none for commuting to the office.

Obviously, there are many more differences because Kenya and Japan are completely different countries, culture-wise and economic-wise. So it wouldn’t do to compare everything directly. However, I am a Kenyan living in Japan, I can’t help but note the differences.

Anyway, that was just a quick update on the blog. I have been working on this post for almost two weeks now, that’s how busy I have been. If you would like to see more frequent updates (hopefully), follow me on IG. I know for sure that life is gonna be so interesting, it has already started on a high note.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Blog, Life in Japan, Work | 3 Comments

How Not to Wash Your Car in Japan

Let me tell you something about living in Japan: there is no dust. Whether you live in rural Japan or in the middle of Tokyo, every road surface is coated in tarmac, down to the smallest footpath in the remotest mountain, which will be covered in concrete. This means that you never have to wash your car. And that is what I did, or never did. I had owned my black Suzuki Wagon R  for almost two years before I finally decided to give it a wash. The outside was clean enough, it was the inside that disturbed me. I had gone to the beach several times with friends in two summers, and there was enough sand on the floor mats to build a small sand castle. There were also two years’ worth of food crumbs in the car from the many times that Jeremy and myself and my friends ate in the car. The outside of the car got cleaned from time to time when it rained; but the inside of the car was another story.

An automatic car washing machine in Japan

An automatic car washing machine in Japan. Image from http://www.iyasaka.co.jp/

So I decided to wash my car.

I have seen the drive through automatic car washes, but those only clean the outside and besides, my Japanese wasn’t good enough to go navigate the touch-pad that controlled the settings. I also wanted to save the ¥300-¥500 that I would pay at the car wash, while getting some good exercise in the process. It was a fine summer day and this is how I pictured myself washing the car:

Yeah, let me just get into my bikini, beach shorts, impossibly high stilettos then I can wash the car.

Yeah, let me just get into my bikini, beach shorts, impossibly high stilettos then I can wash the car.

At the time, I was living on the ground floor of the student housing. I parked the car as near my door as I could, got a long extension cord, plugged in the vacuum, and cleaned the interior of the car like it’s never been cleaned before. I took out the mats and beat out the dust, I filled a basin with water and wiped down the interior surfaces. I was feeling great. I think they call it cleaning therapy.

Next, was the outside. This, didn’t go as well, as you will see below.

I had got a long hose, but the opening didn’t fit my kitchen tap. Next, I tried the bathroom, but it still didn’t fit. The cleaning therapy buzz was wearing off. Here I was in my bikini, beach shorts, stilettos and I was even ready to do everything in slow-mo for that picture perfect “model in bikini washing car” moment.

So I put on my thinking cap, after all, I was doing a PhD. I should have been able to solve a simple problem such as where to plug in a hose. Looking around my apartment, I realized the washing machine tap was a perfect fit. I pulled out the washing machine hose.

You can guess what happened next.

Water under very high pressure rushed out like a fountain, drenching me and everything in sight withing a second of unplugging out the washing machine hose. That was when I remembered I should have closed the tap before unplugging the hose. So much for my smarts! I tried closing the tap, but it seems it hadn’t been touched for centuries, it was frozen in place! I tried closing the water with my hand while I thought of what to do next. I had to use two hands to keep the water from gushing out, but it was too much. I tried plugging back the washing machine hose, but I had never before setup a washing machine and it just wouldn’t take hold (I later learned there’s a clip that holds the hose in place).

The washing machine socket was also getting drenched, and now I had a real fear of getting electrocuted. I let go of the tap and turned off the electricity’s main switch. I looked for the water supply’s main switch but couldn’t find it. By the time I got back to the washing machine, the water had gushed out everywhere and my apartment was in danger of flooding, so I was holding the tap closed with both hands. Jeremy was playing in the living room and I asked him to go to his friend Shoi’s house and tell Shoi’s mum to come over. I waited for 5 minutes and later, I found out that once he went there, he was invited in and because the mum didn’t understand what he saying, she told him to come in and play, which he did. I let go of the tap and before calling 119 (which is the fire brigade) or even JAIST security (whose number I have never memorized), I called some friends, one of whom actually knew where to turn off the water supply switch. Later, Shoi’s mum and my friend Savanna helped me clean the apartment, and luckily there was no water damage. My other friend plugged in the washing machine hose. After everything was dry, I turned on the electricity and the water, and everything went back to normal.

The outside of the car was never washed. And that is how I sold it, never having washed it.

The reason I recalled this story is because I am currently selling my car, since I am moving to Tokyo. There is no need for a car in Tokyo, and besides, parking spaces are very expensive there. My current car is a very nice Nissan Note, which I haven’t cleaned in over a year now since I bought it. But I have to clean it before I sell it.

I learned my lesson. I may vacuum and clean the inside myself, but I am definitely going to go the automatic car wash and spend the very affordable ¥500 to clean the outside.

 

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