Ultimate panda eyes

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From Wikihow – helpful, but only taking one so far

So, I still have two black eyes.

This is a problem. It’s a problem for my vanity, yes, but it’s also a problem because the rapidly disappearing scrape on my forehead means that, as unclear as it was before how I came to be in the state I am/was just from looking at me, it is now even more so. I don’t go around flashing my scraped elbow and knee or the bruises on my thighs, so I don’t look like I had a bicycle accident at all. I look like someone punched me.

R is very worried that people will think that someone is him, and it’s not without basis. Domestic violence* is a thing after all, and the stereotype of a domestic violence victim seems to be the bruised and battered woman.

And that’s pretty concerning and frustrating… because no one did. It’s the fault of me alone and my bicycle.

For the most part, going out in public here has been reminiscent of being pregnant again. Lots of people want to stare at me with curiousity and, in this case in particular, concern. I see them doing so, and that is bad news for them. They really, really don’t want to get caught staring, not just because it’s rude but in case I decide I might need their help in some way.

Of course, I’m not going to ask for anyone’s help. I don’t need it. I do worry that someone is going to try to intervene in some way anyhow, though. The people I do interact with more personally, such as the staff at the schools and kindergartens I visit for work, have been eyeing me (PUN PUN PUN) with great concern, and the last thing I need is some concerned police officer showing up and questioning us.

I feel fine and I’ve been medically cleared to carry on as usual, so that’s what I’m doing, but I don’t recall seeing other people in this mess. I can’t help wondering what other people do when they end up with a black eye or eyes and a painful, non-criminal activity-based story behind it. .

Do they just not leave the house for the one or two weeks it’s expected to take to heal? What do they do about work and groceries and the other practical things?

Or is there some sort of simple cure I’ve missed?

Perhaps some sensational make-up?

Sunglasses?

Anyhow, while the right eye is still pretty unfortunate-looking, I feel optimistic that the left one is starting to look less bruise-like and more like a very dark shadow. Things are a bit sad when the idea of looking extremely sleep-deprived starts to be the goal, I must say.

(* Domestic violence is huge and difficult, and it’s not something I really want to try getting into. I know I don’t know what I’m talking about there, and you’ll notice I’m not going to try to do so. Since I’m not the victim of it, I just sincerely hope I don’t have to answer questions about it.)

 

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Roseola and the bicycle accident

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Not roseola

Roseola sounds almost pretty, doesn’t it? Roses and the like, perhaps some sort of essential oil.

Alas, no. Roseola, it turns out, is actually one of those extremely irritating childhood illnesses that young children just end up catching.

R handed Mr. K over to me on Sunday afternoon and I realised he felt a bit hot. He had been feeling a bit hot that morning as well, but he had been inclined to temperatures on the higher side of normal for a couple of weeks by then and I had written it off as teething. He was unusually lethargic as well, though, so I pulled out the thermometer and discovered he had a temperature of 38.7, definitely a fever. Over the rest of Sunday and early Monday, he edged up to 39 degrees and started to head for 40. Not only was childcare out of the question (even if we wanted to send him, the children are not allowed to go if they’re over 37.5 degrees) but a visit to the doctor was in order. R and I did some schedule chopping and changing, my mother-in-law didn’t help, and R took Mr. K to see his pediatrician.

The diagnosis was, of course, roseola. Roseola isn’t particularly serious, but it’s a nuisance. It has two distinct phases. Phase one is a moderate to high fever, which we were in the midst of. The word roseola is derived from the Latin roseum, rose-coloured, and that is presumably meant to describe the rash that sets in after the fever breaks and marks phase two.

So, once again, the whole schedule for the week was going to hell. For a Japanese man working for a Japanese company, R actually managed to accomplish a surprising amount of flexibility and, as well as going in late on Monday, switched his day off to Tuesday. That meant I was able to work on those days, at least.

And that is why, on Tuesday afternoon, I was on my bicycle.

I’m not entirely sure what happened. It’s not memory loss or blacking out. It’s just I was on a stretch of road I always ride down, it was hot, I was meandering along and on autopilot. Suddenly, the front wheel stopped moving, jamming into place, and the bicycle and I both tipped forward. I tumbled over the handlebars, hitting my head on the ground, and flipped over again for good measure.

A man with a bento in hand stopped, looked at me, nodded politely, and headed on. Two high school girls were much kinder, helping me, my things and the bloody bicycle back up, and offering to call an ambulance.

It was one of those things where I was both incredibly unlucky and lucky at the same time. I was unlucky that it happened at all. We assume something got caught in the wheel of the bicycle and that’s why it happened, but this sort of thing has happened before and the worst that came of it was a painful chest bump against the handlebars, not a full on tumble over them.

On the other hand, I was lucky. I had two bumps to the head, one very large grazed one on my forehead, a couple of cuts to my face, grazes to my right elbow and knee, and a lot of bruises, but that was it. Nothing is broken. There was no blacking out or concussion. I was able to, quite literally, walk away and stagger the 20 minute trip home. A trip to the neurologist at my alarmed husband’s behest led to a CT scan and confirmation that my head was fine, by and large.

Now, it’s Friday. Mr. K’s fever has gone and he’s very much in the throes of the rash part of the roseola. As for me, I feel a bit battered but bruised but otherwise fine. However, the blood has drained from the bruise on my forehead and pooled straight in my eye sockets, and that means I now have two black eyes. That, combined with the graze that is still very much there, means my face looks dreadful.

We’re recovering, but we really don’t look it.

It’s been a rough week, rough month, rough season. But I suppose we’re getting there. Sort of.

Minor changes

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For the last month or two, I know I’ve been grossly neglecting this blog, and I’ve been pretty much posting less than I’d like to for close to six months now anyway. I don’t think anyone really sits around with bated breath waiting for my next post, but I am sorry nonetheless.

Knowing I’ve been neglecting this blog and trying to think about what to do to change that has led me to make a couple of changes.

The first, and perhaps more noticeable change, is that not just the chocolates posts but anything about Japanese cakes, cafes and sweets will go over on my Chocolates of Japan blog. This content has always sat a bit at odds with the other things I post about and it just seems easier for both me and my readers to group these things together instead. I’ll be working on broadening my other blog over the next week to cater for that; if any readers are only interested in Japanese food-ish things, I’m happy to redirect you over there instead.

The second change is a bit more subtle but still important to me. While the main reason behind my dearth of posts is just that I’m very busy, another issue is that I feel this pressure to not just write posts, but write especially meaningful, high-quality ones. The pressure comes completely from me, but knowing that hasn’t really stopped me from imposing it on myself anyhow. I end up with ideas for things I wouldn’t mind posting about, but I don’t feel as though they would be worth reading. Instead, I keep this idea of the ideal post in my head but, rather than somehow getting it out, I either end up too daunted and/or overwhelmed to post at all, or I just throw up a few photos and hope for the best.

So, after pondering things for a couple of weeks, I’ve come up with something of a new plan. Instead of trying to create the long, important essays I imagine for this blog, I’m going to stick with posting the things I just feel like writing about instead.

The topics won’t be hugely different to what I was trying to write about anyhow – I imagine things about Japan and the oddness of living here, being a mother, a woman, family and all the complications that brings, work, Australia and being an expat, life generally, oh my god I hope books, probably the cats, and yeah, photos.

It might be a bit more informal, though, and a little more personal. Chattier? Something like that. The effort will be there, anyway!

No way was it really that cold

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It’s funny, in winter or summer, how quickly you forget the opposite season. As I sit on the floor of my room, fixing the lining of my winter coat in preparation for storing it away * and feeling hot and bothered all the while, I cannot imagine needing to wear something so heavy anymore. But it’s really only a couple of months since I was doing just that, and a a month or so before that, I was having to force myself to take it off even when I was inside, it was that cold. It’s just hard to really remember that sensation now, in this gloriously mild, humidity-tinged spring weather. Everything passes, I guess.

How’s the May weather in your neck of the woods?

(* Normally, I would have put it away a month ago, but unplanned trip home, etc)

My first Mother’s Day


My first as a mother myself, anyway. Am I really accustomed to the idea that I’m a mother? I don’t know about generally, but I can accept that I’m that little guy’s one, at least.

R was a bit affronted at the idea that, if Mr K lacked the capacity to waltz off to the shops and buy a gift for me (or make something), he would have to lend him some support. The result was the carnations in the picture, a fruit custard tart, a bag, a mobile phone battery charger, and a self-righteous husband.

I know the whole day is just a marketing exercise really. I know. I still appreciate the gifts, though!

8147 kilometres

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My phone tells me that it was 5:33am on April 7th when it started vibrating urgently. I woke, dazed, not realising it was a missed call from Mum until I looked at the screen and saw it, accompanied by a message from my sister, telling me to call them as soon as I could.

I don’t remember standing up, but I remember R stirring as I climbed over him. “It’s my family,” I told him calmly, in a voice that didn’t feel like my own. “Something’s wrong.”

Then I was in R’s room and the phone was ringing. Mum answered. It was Dad. Mum had found him breathing strangely in his sleep.

Then he had stopped.

They had tried CPR. Then there was the ambulance. I mhm-ed, to let them know I was there even as my brain struggled to process what she was saying. It was early, so early.

They worked on him for ages, she told me, but he never regained consciousness.

Probably his heart.

Passed away.

There was  a dreadful pause as her words travelled across the distance and sunk in. Then I screamed. Dad.

 

One of the realities of living so far from home is the fear of something like this happening. It’s always a possibility, it’s undeniable. Yet even in my grimmest ponderings, what I had always imagined was an 11th hour flight home and a hospital. I never imagined it this way. I never allowed myself to imagine that, suddenly, there would be nothing.

I remember the rain outside and sitting around in stunned shock punctuated by new waves of grief and tiny sparks of activity. The cats got fed. I started a load of washing that I promptly forgot about for 12 hours. I made lists in my notebook of things I needed to do as I thought of them, scattered thoughts that flitted away as randomly as they appeared. I cried, cried, cried.

I was going home, that I knew at once. R and I locked horns regarding Mr. K and whether he was going with me. I said hell yes, he was. He was never going to meet his grandfather now, a fact that tore and tears at my heart. It was the least I could do. R was adamant that I wasn’t thinking straight, that a long-haul international flight and a family in mourning was no place for a baby, that it was too late anyway. Part of me recognises that he had a good point. Still, I won.

And so a lot of technical, important things followed. I discovered that Japan will issue passports on the day citizens apply for them if an urgent situation is adequately conveyed to them. In my case, it was an e-mail from my sister requesting that Mr. K attend my father’s funeral, translated by R because an official translator isn’t necessary. There was not one but two photo stores near our local passport office and the one we stumbled into had a special chair and multiple squeaky toys to be brandished at Mr. K, resulting in a slightly stunned-looking photo.

Calling Qantas and Jetstar in English will get you redirected to a call centre, the location of which I can only speculate on but which definitely isn’t in Australia. Asking for a flight for bereavement reasons yields little response. Asking for a flight from Tokyo to Melbourne ASAP yields a suggestion that you try Osaka or Okinawa instead, that they don’t do flights from Tokyo to Melbourne… even though the latter does direct ones and both offer transfers in various other Australian east coast cities.

Inquiries in Japanese yield better results, but we still found it easiest, in the end, to just book a Jetstar flight online; unlike a lot of international flights, they let you book it only a day in advance.

Even if I look and am about to burst into tears, a jerk of a salesman will still try out his English in an effort to get me to apply for a credit card that I, as a foreigner, am probably not eligible for. There are plenty of men’s handkerchiefs in red, black and white this year, I discovered as we waited in a local department store for the passport to be processed. Red, black and white are the colours of my father’s favourite football team, he loves hankies, and his birthday is in early June. I no longer need to purchase one.

 

Packing. What was the weather even like in April in Melbourne? (Answer: Warm, getting progressively cooler but in an unpredictable sort of way.) Half our wardrobe, it seemed, was wet from the rain, including most of R’s pants. What did I wear to a funeral? What did I wear to my father’s funeral?

Time seemed to move in fits and starts, and we missed one of the trains to the airport  the next morning because my brain couldn’t quite manage the task of accurately calculating how long it would take us to get to the station. We caught another one, luckily, and meandered quietly out to Narita, where we found out just how irritating Terminal 3 is and got given a free canvas bag marking its first anniversary by a giant chicken.

Feeding rooms, customs, a free airport pram after we had to check ours in. Riceballs, because R wouldn’t be R without onigiri.

And then the flight. The airline allows ten and a half hours, though it typically takes a little less. Ten and a half hours on a budget airline sucks at the best of times. Add a five month old baby without a bassinet and a nicotine-addicted husband, both of whom resist my futile attempts to entertain them and the latter of whom is more than a little unwilling to be there at all, and you have a very, very long trip.

I haven’t adequately been able to convey to anyone so far how torturous it is, to find myself suddenly out of my little white-noise-filled Japanese world and into one filled with Australian accents and English I can understand, where half the plane seems to hold middle-aged men with loud voices in the sort of neat-casual clothes that bring to mind my father. I doubt I’m adequately conveying it now. It’s shocking. It hurts.

 

I am going home. I caught myself thinking it over and over again, a tide of bitter despair accompanying it. Melbourne, finally. I am taking Mr. K home and R is coming with us. I’m getting what I wanted so very much.

Not. like. this.

 

There was a problem with the airbridge at Melbourne airport and we got stuck on the plane for a further 30 minutes while they tried to sort it out. Then there was a trek through the duty free store and the odd experience of going through the non-residents line at passport control, getting to the baggage carousel and sending R and Mr. K through while I waited for my suitcase.

Not so many minutes later, I followed. My mother and my sister were waiting on the other side of the customs doors for me.

Dad wasn’t.

And just like that, the 8147 kilometre trip became the easy part.