Wednesday, April 3, 2013

•{One Surreal Afternoon}•

... or •{Intro To Japan, Take Two}•



Okay. Really now.

Living in Japan has been something of an experience. A few months back, I had a very Murakami-esque encounter.

The Hubb and I had just come back from our trip to Cebu on a Friday. Walking up to our house, we saw the undeniably towering, unkempt weeds that had grown in the twelve days that we'd been gone. There's something about flying that makes one as exhausted -- I don't know if it's all the sitting, the waiting or just the air up there -- as we were from the hours of travel/commute we had to take to get home. We decided to let the weed problem go and let them stay until well into the weekend... the next weekend. We didn't want to do anything before he was to return to work on Monday. 

I stay holed up in our house when The Hubb is at work; I basically have no idea what is happening outside unless I run upstairs to the front room and look out the window. When he came home from work, in disbelief, he asked if I had pulled out the weeds. The disbelief being called for, he knows I don't do any gardening. I'm scared of the insects and whenever I get close to any garden cleaning, I feel like all the insects are on me, gnawing at me. Then it gets really itchy, imaginary or otherwise. I told him I hadn't done that. We were puzzled, we couldn't figure out who cleaned the path way to our door. We were grateful, our house no longer looked abandoned. So we stopped trying to make sense of it.

The next day, our door bell rang -- wary of it because I can't speak Japanese. I have mastered this,  though: 私は日本語を話さない (Watashi wa nihongo o hanasanai = I don't speak Japanese). A man I've never seen before was at the door, he bowed and told me that he lived right next door. I had never seen our neighbor before then, but I believed him. He had, on his glove-covered hands, a hoe. He asked me if I'd allow him to clean our gutter. Our house is identical to his, built on one parcel of land, owned by the same person -- I assume -- and our gutter is connected. To clear it out, it was easiest to go through our gutter, the exit way was on our end. Weather forecast said there was going to be a big storm coming our way. 

I asked him, 
"Were you the one who cleared our weeds?!" He looked at me funny and told me no. 
"Oh. Okay. Sure, you can clean our gutter."

I could hear him working outside, in our backyard, scraping the leaves, gathering them on a pile. I didn't know what the etiquette for this was... should I make him lemonade? Is lemonade too much, would water be more appropriate? Would offering him something be considered imposing? I just stayed in the house, wishing I'd told him no, that we'd clean the gutter ourselves. But there was a sense of urgency in his voice, forecast-induced, most likely. After awhile, he rang our doorbell again. He asked if I had plastic bags to put the leaves in. I was relieved because now I had the chance to help him. 

I held the plastic bag open and he'd scoop in the leaves. We moved from one pile to another and managed to communicate, in kindergarten English, the basics of our lives. He was Otto-san and for a man as old as he is, I was impressed. Most 40s, 50s aged Japanese can't speak English, but this guy was able to carry on a conversation. We moved on to the second pile and I told him that my husband was American working for the Navy, he replied that was a retired Japanese Navy. I guess that's why he was quite fluent, most Japanese Navy work closely with the US Navy. Their bases are right beside each other. On the third pile, Otto-san told me he lived with his wife and daughter. I'm supposed to call his wife by his surname + san. I asked him what her first name is and he told me, with gentle stern, to call her __________-san. I nodded; sumimasen, hai; of course. On the fourth pile, I told him he could call me Love. "Love-san." That was our last pile. We tied the bags and had them against our wall. Garbage segregation only allows us to throw burnables every Monday and Thursday, with threat of sanctions. 

Our job was done. We bowed to each other.
I bowed again before I went in through our door.
"Arigatō gozaimasu Otto-san."

The storm never came that week. It kept raining and the water freely went through our gutters. We still don't know who pulled out our weeds. And I never saw Otto-san again.