And you can’t make me.
10. Feeling Illiterate
You know you should expect it, but it gets to you. Living near an American community softened this a little bit (as there are plenty of English signs around and many restaurants have English menus) but I miss being able to read anything we come across. I especially love when we find something that’s clearly a warning sign of some kind, and we have to say, “Gee, I hope that’s not important.”
9. Giant, Garbage-Eating Crows
I keep bricks on the lids of my outdoor trash cans. While this can help prevent them from blowing away when the seasonal change winds come through, mostly it’s just to keep the crows out of the garbage. That’s right. If I forget to put the brick on, crows the size of an average cat will come knock the lids off, rip the bags open, and strew trash across the driveway, the road, and the yard looking for edibles. Fun.
8. Really Low Speed Limits
Not to sound petulant, but the speed limits here are sooooo sloooow. The long travel times have sometimes discouraged us from going on longer trips – it’s going to take a really, really long time to get to the next city over if you have to go 40k/h (or about 25 mph) the whole way.
7. The Bucket Under My Sink
Have I mentioned this before? My kitchen sink does not have a garbage disposal in it – nor does it have an ordinary drain. It has a bucket:
which catches any chunks that make it down the drain. That’s right: instead of being washed away, every chunk of old spaghetti or glob of sauce or grain of rice that makes it into the sink gets washed into the basket and accumulates. This has to be cleaned out regularly, because if you forget, your sink will stop draining and nasty water full of chunks of old food will float out into your sink. The basket also has to be scrubbed and the drain the basket goes in has to be scrubbed, or else disgusting stuff starts growing there. Ick. Now, while we’re on the subject of plumbing, I won’t miss…
6. Japanese Toilets
Yeah. I’m not going to miss what Americans refer to casually as “squatty potties.” I have used them. I prefer not to. I really, really prefer not to. I’m not going to miss crossing my fingers that wherever we’ve stopped for a bathroom break will have a “Western.” Many places do…but not everywhere.
5. Seaweed as Food
You know, I’m not a fan.
4. Tiny Clothes and Shoes
I am not a small person. I am tall, I am round, and I have big feet. Each of those descriptors is pretty much the polar opposite of Japanese women. This means that of the souvenirs I am bringing back with me to the States, clothes and shoes are not included. (I do have a few pairs of socks that I’ve bought. Men’s socks. They’re a bit snug.) A few weeks ago we went to a water park, and I had to use the provided slippers to walk through one area – I felt like I was cramming my feet into a child’s dress-up shoes. When I get back, I’m going to have a ball just going shopping for clothes and shoes. Hurray!
3. The Wonderful Smell You’ve Discovered
I’m tempted to say that the Japanese tolerance for odors is higher than American. One of the downsides to all of the local, traditionally grown foods is that they seem to use more – ah – natural fertilizers. In America, that would mean manure…but there are not a lot of cows around here. I’m really not sure what they use, but it smells like sewage. In fact, you can catch whiffs of sewage smell in random places around town, for no apparent reason.
Another odor-producer is the piles of garbage on trash collection day. Generally speaking, they do not have dumpsters here. People either bring their bags of trash to a communal wire cage or stack it next to the street (with a net over it – don’t forget the crows!). Piles of loose garbage create quite a gagging stench…especially in the summer.
2. Ultra Pasteurized Milk and other Grocery Wonders
As much as I love the local produce (and Japanese candy!) I usually end up buying groceries at the base commissary. Part of this is due to factors like spacious parking and carts with child seats in them, but really it’s just because I’m familiar with the American foods…and I can read the ingredient list. The problem is, every piece of food that is not locally acquired is shipped here. To Japan. From America. For some things (cereal, dry goods) that just means that they’re old when they get here. For example, we get boxes of cereal with promotions for movies that came out 9 months ago – this stuff is not fresh. Other things you just can’t get – I haven’t seen a gallon jug or a two-liter bottle in the whole time we’ve been here. I’m not sure why, our theory is that they just don’t ship well. Our eggs are shipped from the States as well – so, just how old are they by the time we eat them? Also, the only milk available is ultra-pasteurized (and in half-gallon cartons). The expiration dates are often more than a month out, and that’s just not right. I forget – how long is milk usually good for? Worst of all, of course, is imported produce. Some of the fruits and vegetables have been on a boat for 30 days before hitting the shelves at the commissary. Blech. No wonder the local fruit tastes so much better!
1. Being So Far From Home
I miss living in America. I miss being able to see my family. Since we’ve been in Japan, I’ve missed birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, births…my mom still hasn’t met the twins, and their birthday is next month! I miss being able to call family from my cell phone in the middle of the day. I miss having the option to go see family for Christmas or Thanksgiving. It’s been a long two and a half years…and I’m ready to come home.