Teaching six and a half years in Japan, I have accumulated a lot of baggage. My customers have ranged from one to ninety years old. I’ve taught at: one junior high; a dozen elementary schools; a half dozen kindergartens; a couple pre-schools; a handful of community centers; and countless businesses and homes. Also, I’ve helped run a number of different parties and events. On top of all that, hobbies like Japanese calligraphy, cycling, photography, stone seal carving, and any other culture I can get my hands on really necessitates having a variety of tools, supplies, and learning materials.
Now that I’m married, we’ve been thinking it would be nice for my wife to live with me. If you did the math, then you realize that a lot of my stuff has to go. Before I moved to Ise, I managed to jettison a lot of waste; however, much to my better half’s disappointment, I didn’t cut deep enough. Last December, during the year-end cleaning (much like Spring Cleaning in America), considerable holiday time was spent lightening the closet load. Since my wife is a lover of cleanliness, we also engaged in Spring Cleaning – I think this is her idea of being multi-cultural <grin> – to make sure the place was presentable when wedding guests started arriving.
Each time I have made major progress, she has filled the gaps as she moves her items over here. I’m sure she tells me it is the last load each time as well; however, today I heard that there are more shoes in need of transport. She is the last person in the world I would have expected to have a lot of shoes. Perhaps there is some truth behind stereotypes. Anyhow, I still have a lot of room for reduction, so I think we can make this all work.
One reason there is still so much capacity to discard is that, while a lot of teaching supplies are needed for my job, I am not organized enough. Embarrassment overwhelms me when I think of how many times I haven’t been able to find some document and have reprinted. Some piles beg for me to just toss them out, but I figure they probably have something valuable in them: tax documents; borrowed materials; hard-copy only documents; and the like. Those piles involve sifting carefully, like an archaeologist.
Yesterday as I spent hours and hours with my pick and sieve, I discovered a few items for the discard pile, but worth a few laughs and memories. When I was living in Ichishi-cho (一志町) my sister was doing research at Kyoto University (京都大学) and, hesitantly, came down solo to visit me. In order to get her safely to our little town within a town, I emailed maps and intricate directions, plus a little something more: a sheet with fourteen “useful” phrases.
- A ticket to Kawaitakaoka please.
- Express and local only.
- I don’t need Limited Express.
- A 1640 Yen ticket please.
- Where is the Express for Yamato Yagi?
- Does this train stop at Yamato Yagi?
- Where is the Suburban Rapid Transit for Sakakibara Onsen Guchi?
- Does this train stop at Sakakibara Onsen Guchi?
- Does this train stop at Kawaitakaoka station?
- Do you know Erik-sensei?
- Does this train have a toilet?
- Where is the toilet?
- Can I see a red panda near here?
- I washed my feet this morning.
You can see that the trip involved transferring a bit, so I had her ask people to make sure she wasn’t headed off in some strange direction. Generally, if you ask someone on the train with uncertainty in your voice, they will check with you again when you are approaching your stop – if not several times in between. Asking if some random stranger on the train if they know me is not as odd as it may seem, having appeared on local TV a few times already, I came across people who ‘knew’ me. Clearly the last two questions were just to have fun and fill up the page. When you say something that odd to Japanese people, their first assumption is that you made a mistake. It can be a lot of fun to watch, but my sister was not up to the public embarrassment. Red pandas (called Lesser panda in Japan) were all over the news because they are so cute and some zoo had set up a new exhibit of them.