Household Chores

Kiyoe said that I didn’t have to work on my first weekend in Japan since we had not yet started our experimental work, so I stayed home and got some work done around the house. First, I washed the dishes that had been piling up and then I tackled the yard. My German neighbors had told me that no one had lived in the house for 6 months, and judging from the yard- I didn’t think the grass had been cut in almost as long. Weeds covered the yard knee deep or more throughout, making it the only part of my house that was truly an eyesore. I had located a miniature scythe in the cabinet in our genkan (the entryway in which you place your shoes when you enter a Japanese house), wielding this- I attacked the yard with a vengeance. It had been raining on and off for the last few days, so the clay that covered our entire yard began to clump onto the bottom of my tennis shoes as I went to work, making it harder to move with each step. I started on the far corner away from the house and worked my way back towards it. The long coarse grass cut into my fingers a few times as I held it and slashed it with the scythe, but neither the mud nor the cuts could stop me- I was determined to get our yard into a tolerable condition. I eventually moved to the side and back of the house as well, piling up grass and weeds onto our back step into a heap that almost came level with my knees. As I was touching up the front again, the lady who lived across the street (a sign on the outside of the house indicated that her name was Mrs. Tsunomori) saw me and gave a low bow, as it to say, “Thank God someone has finally cut the grass in that yard!”

I changed my clothes before I set out to find another grocery store. Kiyoe said that she had seen one in the neighborhood when she first picked up the keys for the house, so I set off in the direction that she had indicated. Heading south and east, our hilly residential neighborhood soon gave way to a street lined with shops on either side. Taking this street further south, I soon found the grocery store Kiyoe had referred to, called Mandai. This store was much closer to our house than Nissho and, what is more, the prices seemed more reasonable for many things. I walked down the aisles, picking up things that looked good to me. There is something strangely liberating about not knowing what you are buying and going solely on looks, but it is a hard feeling to explain. After a week of eating rice and fish for breakfast, the only American food that I was craving was pancakes. I picked up a mix and splurged on a tiny bottle of maple syrup for 468 yen. I also bought laundry detergent, a sashimi and lettuce salad, gyoza, another type of dumpling that I couldn’t identify, tonkatsu (pork tenderloin), and a sandwich with what looked like spaghetti in a brown sauce stuffed inside. The total came to 4145 yen; a little more than my first trip, but not too bad considering the price of syrup.

After I returned to the house, I started to work on my laundry. Our washing machine was in the bathroom and had to be plugged into our bathtub faucet in order to function. We had no dryer, of course, and would have to hang our clothes outside on the balcony to dry. As I filled my washing machine with dark clothes, I tried to think of the last time in my life that I had done a load of laundry and couldn’t come up with anything. Trudy always did the laundry at home and never allowed me near it for fear that I would mess something up. It is ironic that I had to leave the country in order to perform this chore- and now had to learn using a foreign language. Luckily, a previous occupant of the house had labeled all of the buttons with their English equivalent, something that was true of neither the rice maker nor the electric tea pot.

After the laundry was chugging along, I decided to call Trudy over the internet. We had a bad connection and ran into another problem when her voice was coming out of my computer’s speakers and not the earphones. During all this, I checked my email. Tadashi, a brother from church, had invited me over for lunch and I had told him to either call me at work or email me and we would set up a time to meet. He had sent me a message, which I quickly read and replied to, saying that I was available to meet at any time. Trudy and I were eventually disconnected for good and I was not able to reestablish a connection. A storm was blowing through, which usually brought with it a bad wireless connection, I was finding. I also realized too late that Tadashi was probably assuming I was at work, since I told him previously that I worked half days on Saturdays, and not at home. I tried desperately to reestablish an internet connection while it was raining, but to no avail. I tried on and off for an hour and a half, and finally got a signal. When I checked my messages- sure enough, Tadashi had gone to pick me up in Suita and was expecting to meet me there at noon, it was now 1 pm.

Since he had included his cell phone number in his message, I decided to walk to campus to call him on the payphone at the International House and to apologize profusely for the miscommunication. As I neared the International House, Tadashi drove by, spotted me, and stopped to pick me up. He had figured that he would check my house after I had not showed up in Suita. He took me to his house, which was not far from me (it was actually in the vicinity of the Toyonaka City Municipal Hall, of all places), his 3 year old daughter, Akane, was in the car with us, but she was afraid of me and said nothing. When we arrived at Tadashi’s house, he asked me to watch Akane for a few minutes while he parked the car. This was quite a process since cars were parked three high at his housing complex; a hydraulic lift raised your car to the appropriate level so one could drive on and off of the circle drive in front. During all of this, Akane and I stood there silently for a while until I asked her, “Nan sai desu ka?” to which she put up three little fingers and finally smiled at me.

Tadashi’s wife, Tomomi, was waiting inside their house with their 9-month old son, Michiru. They had been waiting to have lunch until I could be located; it was about 1:30 at that point. Tomomi had made okonomiyaki, a favorite of mine ever since I had first had it in Hiroshima during my first visit to Japan. Tomomi had laid out chopsticks for the rest of the family, but had put a fork and a knife at my place setting, which I graciously accepted.

During the next several hours- we ate, talked, and watched the sumo matches on T.V. Akane continued to warm up to me, eventually showing me her Disney picture book and sitting on my lap in order to pose for a photograph. Michiru also seemed to like me; he babbled and laughed at me, I held him, and he eventually fell asleep in my arms. As it neared 6 pm, I said that I should probably be going. Tomomi sent me on my way with a loaf of bread and a bag of chestnuts, and we repeated the arrival process in reverse, Akane and I holding hands near the entrance to her building as we waited for her father to retrieve their car. When we got to my house, I showed them around and gave them some candy I had brought from America but had failed to bring to their house since I thought that I was running out to make the phone call. I ate the spaghetti sandwich (teriyaki flavor maybe?) and sashimi salad for dinner that evening, took my dry clothes in from the balcony, and went to bed around 10:30.

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