Friday, August 28, 2009

making it home

naturally, i can't keep up on all the things i want to show and tell you, but i need to start somewhere, so i guess i'll start with my apartment. i absolutely l~o~v~e it. when i had the this is it feeling the first time i saw it online, i absolutely didn't think it would be possible for me to actually live here. too many variables, too great a place. i was sure it'd disappear, be too expensive (jury's still out on that one), or they wouldn't rent to foreigners. but here i am, sitting on the floor with the key in my purse and my mail showing up downstairs.
it is absolutely perfect for me: i'm on the corner of the top floor, i have a good view of what's goin' on, but no one can see in. there is abundant natural light and air and everything is beautiful! the doors glide smoothly on their tracks; there are outlets in the right places; it feels safe and secure. and don't get me started on the bathtub that you can program to fill itself on schedule to your desired depth and temperature (not to mention that it tells you when it's ready)! but you know what i enjoy most every moment of the day? see that giant spider lurking on the wall of the balcony?

yeah, me neither!
bye bye big bugs. that was the only spider web i could even find. i haven't seen a mukade, an ant, a termite, a mouse, a snake, a cockroach, or a cricket since i moved in here. oh, i did see a mosquito, one. it is marvelous walking around barefoot without worrying about where my toes are going, what could be lurking in any crevice.
i was worried moving my stuff from a small house to a smaller apartment would mean crap everywhere, but if there's one thing i know how to do, it's organize things into submission. i still have great space that feels comfortable and open. too bad i don't have money for any drawers right now, but i'm not hating the boxes too much.
my kitchen:

the bedroom/living room:

the view from the side window of the bedroom:

ok, more pictures soon, including the outside of the building, but it's bedtime and i have to work saturdays, so goodnight!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

boom boom pow

so here i am...sitting on my third-story balcony in the dark, sipping ice water and trying to catch a breeze. it has been unseasonably "cool" (only 81 degrees at 10:00 tonight) and "dry" since i returned to japan, a seriously wonderful thing, because i probably won't have enough money for an air conditioner for at least another month. it's far beyond miserable trying to escape your own sweaty carcass for hours on end. when you can get no relief in your home, it feels like torture. i know roxie understands--when we lived together in tacoma's Sauna of the Sun, the heat literally brought her to tears.
right now i can hear crickets (the cicadas only rev their engines in the daytime), light traffic, my fridge humming, an occasional train going by a few blocks away, and the quiet click of a bicycle down below. that is one of the best things about my apartment: it's quiet. i can't hear my next-door neighbor AT ALL unless she is on balcony hanging laundry, but i don't have to hear phone conversations, blenders, stereos, or babies crying. that's because there is a concrete wall between us. in japan, good walls make good neighbors! reinforced concrete construction, you have my vote!
so i've been back for four days, and there have already been some highs and lows. keep in mind: this is the first time in my life i've moved to a city i'd only been to once before. the only person i know a teeny bit is out of town, and here i am...plunked down in a new place with no idea where anything is or what to expect. i'm already a sensitive person, but put me in a totally new situation, and sensitivity blows up like peeps in the microwave.
yesterday was the low point. for one thing i was already lethargic, but i was feeling so lonely and discouraged, you could have crumpled me with one wrong look. the people at the nearest grocery store didn't seem friendly, the fruit looked crappy and was way overpriced (even for japan), and i felt trapped. i didn't know what lies in any direction from my house, so where could i go? finally, as the evening began to cool down a little, i memorized part of a city map and made myself ride my bicycle to the main train station. just going down the road made me feel better, and i discovered a lot along the way; a post office, the brightest, cleanest drug store i've ever seen, a shopping arcade, the city gym...oh, and a piece of my sanity. i chatted with a nice old lady in a fabric store and then rode back feeling like a new person. i cheerfully bought some beer and edamame at the drug store, i made myself some mexican food, and i fell asleep perfectly content (but a little bit hot).
i know new situations require patience and faith that a Turning Point will come. i think yesterday was a turning point. i got over feeling like a cowardly lion and actually figured some stuff out. today was even better. today i decided to find the mall i saw when passing on a train, so i drove there without incident (ooh, passed an onsen. note to self: visit onsen) and went inside.

! ! whoaaaaa...

i have clearly been in the countryside for too long, friend. a two-floor carpeted mall unfolded before me. i just took it all in. the attached super market was SO much nicer than the one near my house and it had several key things that indicated, "lauren, you have arrived." some of those things were: tortillas, boursin cheese, marshmallows, salsa. these are the things it's hard to find at regular stores in japan, so you know a really well-stocked grocery when you can find them. plus it had the stuff i'm used to at normal prices.

next i ventured into chococro (a chocolate croissant chain). um WOW. i had to have a 2nd one.

just when i thought it couldn't get any better, i came around the corner to a starbucks. now, starbucks isn't my cup of tea (har har) when i'm home. there are so many good, independent coffee shops, but in japan, starbucks is a guaranteed good cup of whatever. and it feels like home. in a place that's not quite home yet, that's even more precious.