One Lovely Blog Award

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I actually have a cute award for my blog! Lots of thanks to¬†~~ emzlee ūüôā¬†for nominating me!

  • Thank the person/people who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
  • List the rules and display the award.
  • Add 7 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate other bloggers.
  • Let them know they have been nominated.

So, first things first, here are seven (random) facts about me:

  1. I love cycling and cafes. If I ever get more than a couple of hours to myself in which I don’t have anything else to do, I’ll combine those two loves and cycle off to a cafe.
  2. I am a total caffeine addict. See previous point.
  3. For someone who has lived in Japan for as long as I have, my Japanese is really not great.
  4. I love writing. I have ideas for all sorts of writing projects in my head, but getting them started, let alone finished, is a challenge.
  5. I’m not a confident cook. I’m not a bad one, but I often feel anxious about what in the world I’m going to make for dinner, or my own lunch.
  6. I love frogs, deer and monkeys, but cats are my absolute favourite animal.
  7. I’m sometimes not entirely sure what to do with this blog. I’m pretty sure this shows. Should I do more stuff about my life? More longer essay-like posts? If there’s something you especially enjoy reading here, please let me know!

Anyone reading this who wants to should feel free to lovely-award themselves, but I always like finding new blogs through these sorts of things so I’ll nominate five people:

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Cafes in Japan – Doutor, January 2016


This is a standard afternoon cake set at Doutor, made up of a chestnut milk crepe cake and my standard black coffee.

I took this photo about a week and a half ago, and that is indeed a small person across the table keeping his beady little eyes on things (and his toy lion). It was his second time at a café and he actually behaved quite well.

We were doing something of a trial run to see if he might be able to sit through me conducting an English lesson in a caf√©. There’s a couple of students I would a) like to resume teaching when I can, both for financial reasons and emotional/mental ones, and b) like me enough (I hope?) or are keen enough to tolerate the risk of disruptions.

Work matters aside, though? I like going to caf√©s to read and/or write. If he is happy to chill there too, just for 45 or even 60 minutes once a week? There’s something kind of liberating about that. Hell, it would even help abett some tension R and I have been experiencing regarding who gets free time when.

I wish I could type the above paragraph without feeling guilty and finding myself with the urge to state how much I love Mr K, just to make sure nobody misunderstands me.

A Day in My Life: Thursday 14th January 2016

Last time I did one of these, a week before Mr. K was born, I inadvertantly chose an especially dull day to write about. This time, I inadvertantly chose a slightly more stressful day than usual.

A quick note on the layout of the house: it’s what gets called a 3K here, which means three decent-sized “bedrooms”, a bathroom/laundry, a toilet, and a kitchen. We use one of the “bedrooms” as the bedroom, and the other two rooms are living areas. The bedroom and one of the living areas have reverse cycle air conditioning, and we can warm up the other with a kotatsu and a room heater well enough. The rest of the house, and any of those rooms without the heating on, are icy cold. Factor in how much electricity costs, and the end result is we all tend to gather in one room.

Also, a warning: there are references to baby poop and vomit. No pictures, though!

Finally,  please try not to judge my parenting? R and I are doing our best. Thanks.

Weather: 11 degrees Celsius, sunny
Daylight hours: 6:50am – 4:49pm
Mr. K: about 2.5 months old

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Our “house”, looking suitably small and cold

12:52am Wake up. Mr. K is squirming on his futon and making noise, but it hasn’t been especially long since he fed. R and I blearily conclude it is gas.

2:50am Wake up again. This time, Mr. K is definitely hungry. I haul him onto my futon and onto his feeding cushion, and begin to feed him. He is still squirming.

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No, we don’t sleep with the lights on full, this is just to illustrate the whole arrangement. R and I have our futons pushed together and Mr. K sleeps between/on them on his own island-like baby futon.

3:20am Mr. K finishes on one side, spits up, and then we switch sides. His ultimate goal for feeding aggressively at this time becomes clear when an explosive sound and telltale smell emerge. This done, he falls abruptly into a deep sleep and I consider, briefly, just leaving his nappy even though we will all come to regret it. Then he wakes and poops again.

3:30am Change horrifyingly full nappy. Luckily, he hasn’t leaked. It’s cold. It’s 3:30am. Why oh why have I decided to write about this day, of all days?

3:40am Put Mr. K back into his futon, head out to kitchen and put the nipple shield in the sterilising liquid. Go back to bed. Sleep and have a weird dream featuring¬†the midwife who delivered Mr. K and, in the dream, can now speak stunningly good English, an unfamiliar clinic, and driving our out-of-control to R’s parents’ house.

5:50am Mr. K is awake again for another feed. Sigh. Tired.

6:30am Wrapping up feeding of Mr. K  when my alarm goes off to wake R.

6:45am Mr. K and I are trying to get back to sleep now, but R is deeply resistant to alarms and stays asleep even when his own keeps going off.

7:15am Sleepily prod R and tell him the time. He has a minor freakout and rushes off. Minutes later, I hear his motorbike roaring off, bound for another day at the post office.

7:20am I believe I sleep.

8:30am¬†Begin to wake up again, this time for the day, but doze for a bit. It’s hard to wake up. Recently, Mr. K has typically only been waking once in the night, so last night was unusually rough.

8:50am Make self get up, albeit slowly. Mr. K is still dozing so I plunge into shower – there’s so much saliva, vomit and poop lately that I feel like I¬†need a couple of showers a day. Get dressed.

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The outfit

9:30am Took longer than expected in shower, so breakfast is rushed – a banana, toast and, yes, coffee. Noises from the bedroom indicate my baby is not planning on sleeping much longer…

9:45am Mr. K is definitely awake, and reasonably happy about it this time. We “chat” and then a nappy and outfit change ensue.

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Getting kind of big for the original change mat now.

10:05am We commence another feeding. Mr. K has been smiling at me while feeding a bit lately, but this time, for the first time, he tries “talking” while feeding too and it’s adorable. He settles down, though, and that¬†leaves me with too much time to think. Work, and returning to it. Life. It’s my cousin’s birthday and I can’t decide whether to bother e-mailing his father (cousin himself either doesn’t have an e-mail address, or won’t divulge it) to pass on happy birthday.

10:55am Feeding is finally done and Mr. K is asleep. Dart out, do hair, and brush teeth.

11:05am I have decided that we are going out today and we will do so ASAP. ¬†Ha. Anyway, there’s a home centre I like that I’ve been meaning to visit for awhile so I can¬†look for some plastic shelves/drawers for the bathroom. They also sell good cat food, which I will almost certainly buy if nothing else. I rush around measuring space in preparation for the search for the former.

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The tape measure, because his body is actually the end of the tape and it’s fun

11:10am Tidy up bedroom for a bit, as Mr. K has dozed off again. I change him into his Cookie Monster suit ahead of going out, yet he still wants to sleep.

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Very, very sleepy

11:30am¬†Things continue to go a bit askew when I get a text message from Mum on¬†Viber and¬†the cats arrive wanting food. We don’t have much (hence me wanting to go out and get it as soon as I can) and they only get dry food.

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Nom nom nom

11:35am While waiting for the cats to finish their early lunch and shoo, I hear the postman – R’s friend and coworker – arrive. I go out and the check the mail to discover he has born goodies for us in the form of a gift from an old friend in Australia and some mail order catalogues I especially like.

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11:40am Ignore cats now and begin organizing the pram, bag, etc. Mark Two leaves, but Neko Neko waits, unimpressed.

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Keeping an eye on things

11:45am Pick up the drowsy Mr. K to go to car and get vomitted on. Feel dismay. Clean self and him up.

11:50am Evict Neko Neko, continue with carrying things to the cars, including Mr. K.

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12:05pm We finally depart. Driving is relatively easy and happy gurgling comes from the back seat. The latter is interrupted by a vomiting sound. I sigh.

12:25pm We arrive at Day 2. The sign reads D2 but the Japanese katakana says day 2, for reasons I can’t even begin to figure out.

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The car Рyou get used to things and kind of forget that Japanese cars are actually a bit different

12:30pm¬†After unloading the car, cleaning up Mr. K and getting him settled in the pram, I realise I’m actually hungry. Very hungry. I head over to the takeaway van and get a cream taiyaki, sweet batter shaped like a fish and filled with custard.

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12:40pm We head in to the shop. I browse the plastic tubs, but worry about Mr. K getting them open and resolve to check out baby-proof clasps before making any purchases on a later date. Find cat food and, surprisingly enough, hair conditioner. I browse the plants on the way out, unsure what will survive the extremes of Japan’s seasons and my neglect, and decide to focus my energies on saving my dying jacaranda before investing in more.

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Tubs!

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The very important cat food

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I don’t even know what I’d do with this, but the Tetris lover in me adores it.

1pm I pack Mr. K, who has fallen asleep again, and his stuff back into the car and we depart.

1:25pm We arrive back at our local supermarket and I buy my lunch, things for dinner, etc.

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Many, many bentos

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The contents of my shopping basket, plus my boots and the green tea aisle

1:45pm Return to car via elevator.

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US!

1:50pm Depart.

1:55pm¬†Arrive home. Except for when I was¬†very pregnant and when I buy particularly big things, we seldom¬†drive only to the supermarket; like today, it’s usually a stop on the way home. I unload. It’s quite a procedure. I set Mr. K up in one of the other rooms, the one that’s “mine”.

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The room. God, my table’s a mess.

2:05pm Eat my lunch while Mr. K continues his latest nap and worry about his endless vomiting for what feels like the millionth time.

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My lunch

2:25pm Mr. K wakes up from his nap and changes his nappy and his suit.

2:35pm It’s another feeding time. We start watching “Life at 7” on my laptop at the same time.

3:20pm Mr. K is done with his milk and so, nearly, is “Life”. I put Mr. K in his futon, which I have also brought into my room, and go and do laundry.

3:30pm A messy hour follows. Mr. K cries, we watch TV again, Mr. K cheers up and I set him up on his play mat. He is happy there for awhile but then he becomes grumpy. The cats return again, I try to hang up laundry and get a snack, and Mr. K eventually sleeps at 4:30pm after I hold him for a bit.

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During one of his cheerful moments

4:30pm¬†Yesterday, my mother-in-law came over and brought a sweet potato that neither R nor I ate for dinner last night. I decide to consume it now with some peppermint tea in it. I find a suspicious hair in the potato¬†and wonder if she’s plotting to kill me.

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Okaasan’s sweet potato

5pm Mr. K wakes with a loud fart and then another messy hour follows in which I manage to juggle a crying baby, e-mailing a thank you to my friend who sent us the parcel, and replying to an e-mail from one of my English students regarding a lesson maybe tomorrow. I like her a lot and she’s very generous with my pay. If she agrees, it will be the first lesson I’ve done since having Mr. K,¬†but I’m not expecting her to say yes. I check on the cats and discover Neko Neko is still hanging around, wanting more food. A battle of wills ensues. He wins. I feed him.

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FEED ME.

6:02pm R calls and tells me he is on his way home. This is surprisingly early. I haven’t started dinner and I have to feed Mr. K. Shit.

6:10pm Change Mr. K’s nappy, start R’s bath (it’s a Japanese thing, the must-have bath). Neko Neko has finally left the building. Commence feeding Mr. K.

6:25pm We are halfway through and, between breasts, I pause to go and stop R’s bath. Mr. K is enraged by this, but settles down when we resume feeding.

6:40pm R returns, bearing a donut for me. Mr. K is still feeding and dinner is still definitely not yet happening. R is surprisingly fine with this, admits he got very hungry a little while ago and ate on the way home. He suggests I take a break and go out for dinner.

7pm After dithering about how best to get to a restaurant, I decide to go by car because it’s very cold.

7:10pm I arrive at Coco’s. An adorable young waiter serves me and he is a bit gaijinstruck (i.e. stunned by the fact I’m not Japanese). It’s cute.

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Coco’s

7:20pm Eat dinner, feel relieved. Coco’s is another thing I haven’t done since pre-Mr. K.

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Dinner – more than I’d usually order but hey, who knows when this outing is going to happen again?

7:52pm¬†After eating, I sit and make notes about today (and I’ve needed them, believe me, to remember what happened) until I notice the time. Damn, I told R I would return by 8. I rush off, pay the adorable waiter, and drive home.

8:02pm R isn’t fussed about me being two minutes late – and yes, he does get that obsessed with time sometimes – but I am promptly handed an unhappy Mr. K. I don’t get much accomplished over the following hour beyond juggling Mr. K and, with my spare hand, playing with my phone.

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My view of the evening

9:15pm It’s R’s job to give Mr. K a bath and he has decided that he is going to do so tonight, even though it’s getting later now. Because my room is one of the ones with heating and it really is cold tonight, things are cleared and the bath is dragged in. Mr. K is not terribly impressed by any of this, though he does enjoy his time actually in the water.

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The baby bath, post-use

9:45pm¬†We give Mr. K formula in the evenings, both so I can take a break from the feeding and so R can feed him as well. Tonight, however, it’s up to me to feed Mr. K and given I got to go out earlier, I don’t comment. Mr. K is happy enough with his bottle while he is feeding but not happy when he discovers he has finished. Burping and vomiting happens.

10:10pm¬†R takes Mr. K off to settle him for the night. I am going to take another shower, what with being covered in baby vomit and all, but before I do, I check my e-mail… and discover my student actually does want a lesson tomorrow. I am a bit freaked out by this, given the afternoon/evening we’ve just had. Can Mr. K really handle sitting in a cafe that long…?

10:30pm¬†I exit the shower, brush my teeth, and head into the bedroom. The lights are off and Mr. K is asleep. R is playing quietly with his phone. Everyone is tired. I’m fairly sure sleep happens very quickly.

First buds


For a couple of weeks now, even though it’s still January, I’ve been seeing what I suspect are the buds of plum blossoms here and there. It’s a nice reminder that, even as winter weighs heavily and it likely won’t warm up for another couple of months, spring will eventually come.

Also, you can attract cute little birds to slumbering trees with a few leftover mikan!

“12 months” in Japan

Ten years ago yesterday, I boarded a plane in Melbourne and flew away.

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The plane in question. Please take a moment to appreciate that I dug that out of my old Xanga site for you.

I wasn’t quite 22 and I was running, even if it was in a sensible, somewhat organized way. The year before, 2005, was not a good one. My grandfather died of cancer, my car was written off by a high school student who seemed to have more life experience than I did, I continued to fall disastrously hard for boys on the internet and get hurt, my 21st birthday was a non-event and, most humiliatingly of all, my orthodontist had temporarily put braces back on my teeth because he screwed up and I didn’t alert him to that as quickly as I should have. I had completed an honours thesis that had given me a badly needed purpose for the year, but it hadn’t earned the grade I’d been trying for and I didn’t know what to do with it.

I was unhappy, and I decided I had to do something about it.

While I was supposed to be working on the final draft of my thesis in September and October, I had started scouring job sites and finding my attention drifting to jobs overseas. Positions teaching English as a second language where minimal qualifications were required were littered throughout Asia. I was drawn to the ones in South Korea and Singapore, both developed countries were the money might be decent. I wanted to go somewhere interesting, yet not in the over-the-top, overdone¬†way that Japan was (I don’t think I’ve ever informed any Japanese person, except maybe R, that I once thought their country was a bit¬†over-the-top and overdone!) and safer than China.

I dithered over submitting my resume, though, and when I finally did, the only jobs available that I seemed qualified for were in Japan after all, so I just went with those. ¬†I figured Japan was safe, developed and still interesting. I didn’t have to go all sushi-loving anime freak, surely, and if Tokyo didn’t really grab me, numerous other places did. Kyoto! Osaka! Hiroshima!

A matter of weeks later, I had a job lined up as an ESL teacher… in the suburbs of Tokyo. I sighed, accepted it, and figured I could always visit the other places anyway or transfer.

So, it wasn’t quite throwing my life’s savings away and departing with a plane ticket and a backpack. I was required to have money, I had a job lined up and the company arranged housing for me. It was also supposed to only be for one year, after which I would presumably go back and pick up the life in Australia I had left behind. As dramatic life changes go, it was a relatively organized one.

I was still jumping in the deep end, though, even if I could expect to be physically and financially safe at the other end. It was the second time I had even been on a plane, and the first time I had travelled overseas. The seatbelt confused me terribly,¬†I was in a middle seat because it never occurred to me to ask the belligerent young guy at the check-in counter¬†for something else¬†and¬†I got painfully bad stomach cramps on the second leg of the journey. My ignorance went far beyond the flight, though –¬†I was going to try living in Tokyo for 12 months (I stayed just shy of that, the first time) without any idea how to use chopsticks and knowing little more Japanese than how to count to ten and ask where the toilet was.

Yet, thinking back, I wouldn’t change that much about it. I was naive, and I could be obnoxious¬†(hell, I probably still am), but time took care of at least some of it and I was doing my best to get an experience that might take care of the rest. All the major elements of that trip are still things I would happily leave as they are.

There are smaller things, though, that I would go back and tell myself if I could. Keep going to Japanese classes, even when you have painfully little time for them. Don’t lose your house key. Write down your new PIN somewhere because, although you won’t need to access your new bank account straight away, you will eventually and taking money out of your credit card isn’t fun. Be nice to your housemates. I won’t tell you what happened to them because I don’t think that will help you – just be nice to them, a couple of them will be friends you’ll still cherish 10 years later and remember, they didn’t choose you either. Be kind and patient with your family back home, get over MUDs for now and¬†even if the company you’re going to work for doesn’t reward or even facilitate¬†effort, do your best anyway.

To anyone who is reading this and might consider doing something like this, whether you’re as young as I was or much older? It is worth it, especially if you’re looking to shake up your life for some reason. All those annoying cliches are true – it¬†will get you out of your comfort zone, give you new experiences, and broaden your mind. You¬†can find yourself so many new memories and stories. Even if you hate it, it will make you appreciate home a lot more and who knows? You might end up there a lot longer than you could ever have imagined.

Cafes in Japan – Saint Marc, Winter 2016

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Saint Marc Cafe is known for one thing above all of their other offerings and that is their delicious chocolate croissants. Here is my “blend coffee” – i.e. standard black coffee that I order nearly everywhere – and a¬†special white chocolate croissant, part of their winter menu. Apologies for only the wrapper being visible!

Bicycle!

It’s not particularly fancy, it’s dirty after being exposed to six months of the elements, both of its tyres were flat and the chain is rusted, but that is my bicycle and I’m thrilled to have it working again.

Along with deli meats, sashimi and my usual dose of caffeine, one of the things I was expected to give up when I found out I was pregnant was cycling. Like some of the other things on that above list, the reasoning behind it was a bit questionable and mainly erred on the side of the caution Рif I fell, I could have a miscarriage.

I found it a bit exasperating because I had almost never fallen off my bicycle and so continued to ride it quietly for the first seven or eight weeks, just because it was so much easier to get around on it even when I was feeling queasy. I was nine weeks pregnant when I took a plummet down the apartment building stairs and after that, even though the baby was fine and the probable reasons for the fall were the slipperiness of the stairs and me being distracted, I couldn’t entirely discount the fact my balance might be off.

So, for the next ten months, I stopped cycling and that was quite hard. Cycling wasn’t just exercise or a hobby for me; it’s the key way in which I got around, particularly for work, and I felt extremely limited without it.

Now, two months after giving birth, I’m quite ready to start¬†cycling again, though, even if it won’t be anywhere near as often what with having a baby to lug around. Those first few moments when I rode off after getting my bicycle serviced were pure glee, and I can’t wait until R’s off work for the day and I can go for a longer ride.