Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It is the mold that binds us

Living in a foreign country is tough. Even though we have been here for 3+ years it is all still so foreign. 

I see my neighbors, Japanese women with children just a few years older than mine. They are trimming the bushes and thoughtfully sweeping up every leaf and branch off the street, placing them in plastic bags to be disposed of on their designated garbage day.

Do you know how intense trash and recycling is here in Japan? Intense. Burnables, PET bottles, other plastics, tin, other metal, glass... not to mention any household items or yard waste that you might want to dispose of. Plastic labels removed from containers, cereal and milk boxes broken down. And all put neatly into a clear plastic bag and taken to your designated trash area on the designated day.

The realtor gave us a calendar letting us know when to take which items out for the sanitation workers (glass is only collected twice a month?! this makes us look like incredible winos). So once we translated said calendar and made an attempt to remember what days to dispose of which items, off I walk up the hill through our neighborhood to make our deposit. Lugging our huge Hefty size clear bag. I drop it off with our neighbors trash, tiny things the size of grocery bags. I smile at a neighbor who is wearing an apron, thoughtfully nodding as she turns away, shuffling back to her house where she then starts hanging the laundry outside to dry.

We recently had a run in with some mold issues at the house. With the temperature dropping outside we get condensation on the metal window frames. Because of this we get mold. Upon further investigation I found the mold inside the AC wall units as well. After exchanging emails with the realtor, who at first seemed to indicate they would not do anything to help remedy this issue, we had an inspector from on Base come take a look at the problem.

The inspector came with an agent from the realtor company. He spoke (from what I could tell) perfect Japanese and was able to translate for us. They finally agreed to have the AC units professionally cleaned and then offered tips on how to cut down on the humidity in the house.

The whole exchange got me thinking: at what point will living here become easy? Every single day is somewhat of a struggle. Just everyday things. Like the trash. Or the laundry (don't get me started on the damn laundry). How do these Japanese housewives do it?

The realtor explained that when the Japanese clean they open the windows, no matter the season, to let in fresh air. They only heat the rooms that they are currently in, when they are in them. This helps lessen the amount of time there is a temperature difference between inside and out. They also wipe the condensation whenever it is there.

How do these women find the time to do it all? My laundry is always piled, the trash and recycling is always piled up, the condensation is ALWAYS there... I suppose if I had grown up in this Country doing certain things it would be second nature. But being an American living in Japan is just plain hard for me. I try to assimilate as best as possible. And it's not like it is torture. But it is hard.

Did I mention the shower rooms and toilets? Have you ever cleaned a bidet?

That's a whole other post all together.

So I see my efficient neighbors tackling their condensation before it turns to mold, clipping the hedges while using a level to ensure a straight line... meanwhile I am googling natural ways to rid your house of mold and trying to figure out how the hell to turn on the dehumidifier on the Japanese AC wall unit.

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