First (Full) Day at Work

I did wake up at 2 am, just long enough to switch the water heater on, then fell asleep again quickly and slept until 5:30. I turned the rice maker on, hoping that it would work now that I had given it time enough to forgive me for unplugging it as well as pressing all the wrong buttons. There was finally hot water coming out of the pipes, and it had only taken 3 days to figure it out! I also solved another problem that I had experienced from the beginning- the plug for the bathtub didn’t fit, so that it hadn’t yet been able to hold water. This hadn’t been an issue when the water was ice cold, but over time it became a bit more important. The previous day I had entered a “100 yen shop” in Umeda to look for another plug. Although what I ended up buying was actually designed to help open jar lids, I figured that it would serve the purpose. It was a round sheet of plastic that looked like what a person would put in the bottom of sinks in America to plug them up. As I suspected, the plastic piece worked just fine! After I took a bath, I saw that the rice maker was behaving as well- things were looking up for my first full day on the job!

It had been raining all night as far as I could tell and it was still raining on and off when I left the house, so I took an umbrella. I took the 8 am bus and got to work before most people had arrived. When Kiyoe got in, she suggested that I put my most recent form to good use and open my Post Office account. There was a Post Office in the hospital that was connected to the Medical School. Many people in Japan use the Post Office for their banking needs, in addition to mailing things. Every Post Office in the country has ATM machines that dispense money from Post Office accounts. Since we had arrived a little before it opened at 9, Kiyoe and I went to Starbucks and had a coffee. She apologized that it was so expensive, but I assured her that the prices were nearly identical to those found in America. When the office opened, I was finally able to open my account.

Upon our return to the lab, Kiyoe wanted to train me how to pour agarose gels. Now, I have poured literally hundreds of agarose gels during my career, but none according to strict Japanese rules. While I might have been tempted to simply point out where all the supplies were to someone and let them go at it, Kiyoe walked me through the whole process until we each had poured two gels. The main thing that stood out to me was the rinsing procedures for the glassware that we used. Before using each piece of glassware, we rinsed it three times with distilled water; after we had finished with a particular piece, we rinsed it 10 times in tap water and three more times in distilled water. It was important to Kiyoe that we count each time we rinsed it so as to avoid using the wrong number of rinses. After we had poured the gels, Kiyoe gave me another project to work on involving the computer.

At lunchtime, we went to the hospital cafeteria once again. This was not the only place to eat lunch at the Medical School, but it was probably the most economical. Green tea, for instance, was free; it came out of a fountain machine that was located near the cashier’s station. Kiyoe pointed out a Chinese-inspired dish called mabo dofu that was featured that day, but warned that it was very spicy. I got it, it was delicious but not particularly spicy- I think even Trudy could have eaten it, and she was definitely not one for spicy foods! Even the curry dishes in Japan did not have a strong spicy taste, unlike their Indian counterparts. The meal came with miso soup, the one thing I realized that I forgot to buy during my trip to the store!

For the rest of the afternoon, I worked on the project that I had. It was actually quite interesting focusing exclusively on research for that long, I usually only had short breaks in between classes, as well as my other responsibilities, at Monmouth College to do some research. At 6 pm, Kiyoe stopped by my desk and said that I could leave if I wanted to, that I had done a lot already that day. Because I was busy working on something, and because I wanted to have put in a full day on my first “real” day at work, I kept working and caught the last (7:15) bus home. Kiyoe told me that she usually put in 12 hour days four days a week, but left “early” on Fridays, whatever that means. She then put in half days on Saturdays as well. The last bus to the Toyonaka campus was very full; I didn’t know how everyone waiting in line would fit onto the bus. To top it off, when it arrived- it was already quite full with people from the other side of campus! Somehow everyone crowded on- I ended up standing near the front of the bus, and we were on our way.

Lunch had been quite filling so I was hungry, but not starved, when I reached home at 7:40. I made myself some ramen noodles (they had scrambled eggs mixed in with them), some rice crackers, and a banana, and changed into my pajamas. I read a little but was tired, so I went to bed around 9:30.

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