Life · Personal

Goodbye, Japan!

Me and Quentin Bear are in the middle of packing hell.

So I have big news.
Now that my friends and my schools know, I can announce that after two and a half incredible years…I am leaving Japan next month!

This isn’t quite the end of this blog yet – I still have some draft post that are half-finished, and I’m definitely planning on some more updates when I’m back in Blighty and fondly looking back on my time here. You’ll all have to put up with me for a little while longer yet!

I’m of course really sad to be leaving Japan, but I unpacked some of my feelings in this personal post a few months ago. And while of course I do have pangs of doubt every now and then, I’m fairly certain that it’s the right decision for me.

I won’t be The Geordie Gaijin for much longer…just a regular Geordie lass.
(Although I should actually confess something now – I’m actually a Sandancer. But shhhdon’t tell anyone.)

~ Carla

hospital · Personal

Hospital and Surgery in Japan

CONTENT WARNING: This post mentions hospitals, surgical procedures, needles and mental health. There are no photos except the one directly below.

Yes I’m still banging on about my gallbladder, haha!

I was in hospital for 14 days in total, and this was how the process was for me.
Out of everything that has happened this year, I didn’t have “spend a fortnight in a Japanese hospital” on my 2021 bingo card.

Yes, during my stay I kept a diary of sorts because frankly there wasn’t much else to do.
And as I always say, this blog is somewhat of a diary for me to look back on in years to come.

You can check out my brief introductory post here, and my post about Japanese hospital food here.

DAY 1.
After 3 days of pain and vomiting I went to a regular clinic who did some tests and said I must go straight to hospital with potential gallstones. Since my Japanese isn’t great, my company sends a representative to make sure I understand everything.

I swing by my apartment to quickly pack a bag, thinking I’ll only be away for a night or two – ha!

At the hospital I have an x-ray, CAT scan and ultrasound scan and am diagnosed with an inflamed gallbladder and gallstones. The doctor predicts I’ll stay in hospital for two weeks which is a big shock.
The first week will involve fitting a drain and going on a course of antibiotics to reduce the infection, then the second recovering from the actual gallbladder removal.

Later, I had an emergency procedure where they fitted a drain that took away all the fluid that had built up. I was awake during this with only a local anesthetic – not even a sedative! It was really uncomfortable and a little painful (especially when he activated the suction – it felt like all my internal organs were being pulled) but was over in about 25 minutes.

I’m admitted to a ward and to keep the costs down I chose the basic 6-person ward. I hadn’t eaten for 3 days anyway, but the doctor puts me on a fast, although I can have water. I get an IV drip and start a round of antibiotics.

As I don’t have everything I need due to the unexpected admission to hospital, the nurse says I can make some online orders. I buy some essentials using Amazon Prime and order a pocket WiFi as the hospital doesn’t have any and I’m afraid of running out of data coming up to the end of the month. (My contract doesn’t allow for any “top ups”.)

My Amazon order and WiFi arrives. I have a chance to call home via Whatsapp and tell my family I’m in hospital. I feel suddenly very homesick and wish I was back home in the UK. Only some blood tests today.

I share a ward with a very old, confused lady who is up all night talking to herself and buzzing the nurses so I don’t sleep well the first few nights. The nurse puts me on sleeping medication.

No tests today. I can start drinking tea – a wonderful day! Starting to get into the swing of hospital routine.
The sleeping medication is crap so I ask for something stronger, which I’m surprised I’m given without a quibble.

Had another ultrasound. My blood tests have come back showing that the inflammation is going down. I start being able to drink a little carton of high calorie protein drink for lunch and dinner, but I don’t really have an appetite yet.
Starting to feel a little down, but a phone call with my friend Sam cheers me up.

MRI test – I felt a little claustrophobic, but it was OK. Changed wards for some reason, and way prefer this one as the patients are much quieter and I’m next to the door (as opposed to in-between two beds like before) so I have more space. But the constant footsteps and checks still keeps me awake. I wish the nurses would take care to be more quiet at night.

Some IV fluid leaks into my arm, leaving me with a big, hench, Popeye arm for 12 hours.
The surgeon visits and says that as my infection is going down, the gallbladder removal is unnecessary but I can go ahead of I want. I say I definitely want it removed and he tells me there’s an operation space in three days time.

No tests. I’m allowed a small lunch and dinner. I’m told I have an endoscopy tomorrow, which I really don’t want and discuss it with my doctor, but he explains it’s impossible to do the gallbladder removal without it so I decide to proceed.

Endoscopy, one of the most unpleasant parts of this whole experience. Although I take a disgusting medicine to numb my throat, the sedative they gave me is weak and doesn’t really work. I end up crying like a baby, and have a sore throat for the next few days. However I’m told that the result is clear and the nurses help prepare me for surgery the next day by giving me a gown (which interestingly folds over yukata-style) and some compression socks.
The representative comes back so we can go over information with the anesthetist and I can sign some forms.

The representative comes to see me off to surgery and returns afterwards to check with the doctors how it went so she can report back to the office – I also ask her to speak with my family, which she very kindly does.
Surgery begins at 11am and finishes at 1pm. It’s a little delayed as the doctor struggles to find a vein for my IV as they’ve been popping out all week and my arms are sore and swollen from all the needles.
I’m extremely sore and groggy after the surgery and am surprised with the lack of pain killers – I’m basically given glorified ibuprofen despite having 3 cuts in my abdomen and one right through my belly button.

I move into a room of my own for the night as there’s one free. I have a catheter which feels gross and I’m determined to get it out as soon as possible – the nurse tells me as soon as I can walk to the bathroom she can take it out, but I only make it as far as the seating area before my incisions hurt too much and I have to go back.
A kind nurse helps me back into my own pyjamas in the evening, even this small act makes me feel more human.
I’m surprised to have dinner served, but it’s all “claggy” food – a texture I’ve never been able to stand – so I hardly eat anything.

Back on the ward and I’m happy to have a bed next to the window. I’m very sore, but manage to walk slowly to the bathroom by myself (using the IV as a walking aid) so the nurse removes my catheter. I go for an x-ray, but the staff are kind of rough and impatient with me, despite being out of surgery less than 24 hours. But during my stay they’re the only staff I meet who I really dislike.
Because of the pain in my chest scar I get breathless easier so the nurses keep me on oxygen.

DAY 10
Supposed to be discharged tomorrow but I don’t feel ready as I’m still very sore, can’t walk very far and have some anxiety so I’m allowed to stay in hospital over the weekend. I’m so tired now of eating white rice for every meal and the staff are concerned that I’m not eating properly, so they send a nutritionist round.
Once I explain that I don’t usually eat rice every day – let alone three times a day – she understands and I’m allowed to buy some regulated snacks from the FamilyMart conbini on the ground floor.

I’m still a little breathless, but the nurses tell me my peak flow is normal and tick me off when they catch me sneakily using the oxygen. The nerve!

DAY 11
The surgeon visits. My scars are healing well and bloods are almost clear so I can go home on Day 14. I’m eating better so the nurses remove my IV and drip. I take a peek a look at my scars – one on my breastbone, two on my stomach and one through my belly button. They look very neat and I thank the surgeon for his very good handiwork.

DAY 12
Rest day but I feel kinda restless and depressed. I use the opportunity to catch up on my sleep.

DAY 13
Rest day. Very restless still but I’m allowed to take a shower and gently wash my hair which cheers me up.

DAY 14
The representative comes to take me home. We go through all my medications and I get an appointment for a follow up later in the week. I pay my hospital bill – around £440 – and go home.

I ended up spending another two weeks recuperating at home before going back to work. It was a bit of a struggle recovering from surgery while living alone – but I’ve about made it to the other end.

I’m about one month post-op now and the scar on my breastbone can still feel a little irritated when my underwear rubs against it, but my other scars have healed wonderfully. I’ve also still been pretty fatigued but this is slowly improving.

I also feel a dull pain if I’m moving about too much or vigorously – but both my schools have been absolutely fantastic throughout this entire thing and I’m still on a reduced schedule compared to my usual teaching hours.

I’m still a bit sore around the area where I had my drain, then the operation, but was told at my check up that this is to be expected as I was cut twice.

All-in-all, I did find the Japanese hospital experience very pleasant. The language barrier was the main issue for me – but this is my fault rather than theirs of course. But most of the doctors and nurses were very kind and understanding.

Because of Covid I wasn’t allowed any visitors (except the representative) so it could get pretty lonely and boring – thank God I thought to pack my Kindle and writing stuff.

Ahh well, if nothing else – it’s another funny story to tell when people ask “So what did you do in Japan, then?”

~ Carla

hospital · Personal

An unexpected turn of events…

Proof that you never know what’s around the corner… last week I was rushed into hospital with cholecystitis (inflamed gallbladder) and gallstones.

I’ve already had my first emergency procedure the night I was brought in which has controlled the inflammation, and I’m due to get my gallbladder removed tomorrow morning.

Japanese doctors aren’t really forthcoming with a lot of information, they really seem to take it one day at a time and I’ve really have had to politely but firmly badger them for updates and time frames.

I was a little freaked when I was first admitted as you can imagine. My Japanese still isn’t great and I only have an interpreter with me when I have an actual operation. But all of the staff are really kind and we rely on broken English, broken Japanese, gestures and Google translate. I’m also well brushed up on hospital lingo now!

But onwards and upwards – let’s hawk this thing out then it’s the finishing stretch.

See you on the flippity flip!


~ Carla

UPDATE: 01/11: I’ve had my surgery and after another week in hospital I am finally recuperating at home – sans gallbladder! It hurt more than people on the internet told me it would – and I’d consider myself to have a pretty high pain tolerance. But I’m doing OK!


BBC Newcastle Interview

This weekend I had a chat with the lovely Tamsin Robson at BBC Newcastle about being the Geordiest gaijin in Japan.

Our actual interview was around 10:30pm Japan time due to the time difference, but the beeb made me sound a lot more coherant than I actually was. ありがとうございました!!

If you’d like to listen, you can here for the next 27 days:

~ Carla

PS: Also, I’m aware that I messed up the phrase for “good luck” – it’s きっと勝つ ”kitto katsu” not きっと かっと which is literally “KitKat”. ಇ(˵ಠ_ಠ˵)ಇ

On top of being tired I was kinda nervous too! ごめんなさい。私はミスをしてしまいました。


The Leaving

After living away from your home for an extended period of time, it’s kind of inevitable that you start looking back on your life retrospectively:

“What have I achieved?
What did I come here to do?
What is there still for me to do?”

Failure to answer these questions and one living in Japan could perhaps find themselves in what I call ‘ALT-limbo’ – simply drifting from home to school, school to home, lather, rinse, repeat.

While the pandemic has moved these goalposts somewhat through nobody’s fault, it’s sometimes hard to see the 森 for the 木 so to speak. But I also don’t want to become another resentful, bitter gaijin; burdened and resentful of one of my favourite countries in the world.

Japan is currently going through its *counts on fingers* fourth state of emergency, mostly a consequence of a government who are frantically scrambling to save an Olympics that no-one wants.
It was golden week in May, a 5-day weekend that pretty much everyone in the country gets off – and just like last year, everyone was encouraged to stay home.

After the best part of five months I recently reinstalled my social media apps on my phone. While I’m usually pretty good at keeping up to date with the happenings in jolly old Blighty, I don’t think I’d realised how much the UK is beginning to open up again.

I saw my friends smiling and waving and clinking glasses in places I know. My mam sent me a selfie in Primark. My best-friend Sam threw a peace sign from our favourite pub in Glasgow.

Meanwhile, for the past few months it’s mostly just been me in my apartment. Alone.

“What the f*ck am I doing here?” I actually said aloud to the four walls on particularly gloomy Saturday, and threw my phone huffily away from me after an hour of scrolling through happy reunions at pub gardens and bottomless brunches.

What have I achieved?
What did I come here to do?
What is there still for me to do?”

Too much time indoors means too much time to think.

Japan isn’t my first time living abroad.
I left Australia in 2013 after living there for a year and it felt right. I was ready. Honestly I don’t think I even cried properly. I caught my flight from Melbourne with nothing but excitement and anticipation ahead of me. There wasn’t a single regret in my bones as I landed at Heathrow, caught the tube and saw Sam waiting tearfully at the Kings Cross barriers.

So, when do you know that it’s time to leave Japan?

I had this conversation with my friend Liz – who is actually leaving Japan this summer – over a socially distanced al fresco lunch as she prepares for a period of uncertainty and unemployment ahead.

“Six years in Japan is quite enough for me,” she said. “But I don’t think I’ll ever know if it’s right.”

She’s right about the six years thing. After just two years, I sometimes find myself weighed down with cultural fatigue.

My pal once described Japan as “one big, awesome theme park.”
I sort-of get what he means, but living in Disneyland would do your nut in after so long.

After two years at the same schools I now feel like part of the furniture – which has it’s pros and cons. I’m sure teachers letting me have free reign in class comes from a good place as they find me reliable and have confidence in my lessons, but working in the confines of a tight schedule plus ad-hoc duties, I have extra responsibilities compared to a lot of ALTs.

However I am given the greatest gift of all: that I’m usually left alone to my own devices.
Many ALTs find themselves under constant surveillance from their schools. But long as I look busy and don’t take the piss, I’m free to do whatever I want between classes.

While age is a social construct (at least that’s what I keep telling myself), I recently turned 32 and it’s kind of unavoidable to look towards the future.

Sure, if I was a 21 year old fresh out of university with body parts that are still perky and a back that didn’t worryingly creak first thing in the morning, then staying in Japan for years and years and years would definitely be a good option.
But there are simply other things in my life that I want to achieve.

It’s easy when you’re living on the other side of the world to put higher stock in connections made here as you find yourself content in your gaijin bubble, warm and fuzzy like mold.

The longer I stay in Japan, people I’ve grown close to inevitably move on, either elsewhere in Japan or back to their home country. I find constantly both making new connections and letting friendships go mentally taxing, often akin to the grief of a break-up.

Unfortunately, that’s just a fact of expat life and comes with the territory. This didn’t bother me much when I was a young’un in Australia, staying in hostels and taking day trips to see koalas with people I barely knew and would probably never see again.
But the older I get, the less tolerant I am of such relationships, preferring a deeper attachment with a smaller group of people. It’s exhausting to constantly be saying farewell.

So while I’m not saying I’m about to split from Japan anytime soon, I am asking myself when will the (rising) sun begin to set on my time in Japan?

I’ve always toyed with the idea of moving to Japan ever since my friend Hayley suggested it to me nearly ten years ago now over pizza in her Sydney apartment, recounting tales of working at an eikaiwa during the day then partying in Tokyo until the early hours.

I started officially planning to come to Japan in 2017, then actually applied in January 2019 for an Autumn arrival.

During this time at my old job in the UK – through every crappy shift, being yelled at down the phone day-in-day-out, through every event I declined, everything I sold on eBay – I counted down the days until the big move.

Now what?

Is there really a perfect time to leave Japan?
Honestly, I’m not sure.

Even when the day comes and my plane touches down in Newcastle, I don’t think I’ll ever be sure.

~ Carla

Food · Friends · Personal

Another Birthday in Japan!

On May 12th I celebrated my second birthday in Japan.
Last year, we were in the throws of uncertainty about the ‘rona, and I was still working from home.

While Japan enters it’s *counts on fingers* fourth wave, cases in Shizuoka prefecture are still pretty low compared to the rest of the country. Nevertheless, we practiced vigilance and I kept my celebrations pretty low-key.

First, we had a cute picnic in Hamamatsu Castle Park:

I always take my birthday off work because from the ages of 10 to 21 I had some form of exam on the actual date, and I promised myself as an adult I would never ever work on my birthday again!

So because my birthday was once again on a weekday, I took a day’s 年休, relaxed in the morning then met my friends for cream tea and shopping:

We went to Afternoon Tea in Entetsu mall, and it was actually really great.

They had English Breakfast which can be a bit of a rarity in Japan. The scones were much smaller than the ones back home, but still warm, crumbly and delicious. One was orange and earl grey, the other plain.

The only thing I’d knock a point off for was that they was served with lightly whipped cream instead of clotted cream – you’d get thrown out of a cafe in the UK for that offense! ;D

Then the weekend after I went for dinner and drinks with the Cheezus.
Last year we had a pizza party at Felipe’s place, but as The Smoke Club in Hamamatsu has really good social distancing measures we thought we’d go out and enjoy ourselves.

A super extra-cheezy birthday at The Lord Nelson.

Because the gang are a bunch of top huns, they surprised me with not one but TWO cakes. They really know their audience. Matt also brought me an adorable peach rooibus gift set – thank you so much!!

As always, me and Felipe-chama never know when to stop so ended up at one of our favourite bars until the early hours. Usually packed on a Saturday, it was only us and the people behind us you see in the photo!

Last year I bought myself a Kånken backpack as a present, but haven’t really bought anything special this year – maybe I’ll buy Miitopia in a few weeks for summer break!

However – side-note – I’ve really been enjoying relaxing with some indie games lately:

The Longing (top), Stay (left) and Not Tonight (right).

Thank you everyone who made my 32rd birthday really special!!

~ Carla

Personal · youtube

One Second Everyday: 2020

Hi everyone – I’m back from a brief hiatus over winter vacation!

Despite the shitshow that 2020 was, I still managed to complete another year using the 1 Second Everyday app.
An entire year in under ten minutes.

Amongst the craziness, I’m happy that I took the time to make a memory every day – no matter how small – even just for a second.

You can check out my 2019 video in this post or directly on Youtube here.

~ Carla

Food · Friends · Party · Personal

My Birthday in Quarantine

Hello, I’m back!

I took a little break from this blog pretty much because living in self isolation and social distancing since early March I haven’t had much to blog about.

My time has also been spent this month following the fallout of George Floyd’s murder and the protests around the world. It’s important that we all keep learning and listening.

I’ve been in two minds whether to begin posting here again right at this moment in light of the current situation – however this blog is more than anything a personal diary for me to look back on when the time comes for me to leave Japan.
(And if I can give any advice or words of wisdom in the process, well that’s just a bonus.)

I want to be the girl with the most cake.

On May 12th I celebrated 31 years since I emerged from the birth canal. Sadly the ‘rona scuppered my chances of having a birthday party in an American themed bar on the coast as was the original plan.

However the weekend before – social distancing rules starting to relax, so my friends Felipe, Matt and Ashley threw me a little birthday party. It was pretty close to what I had planned tbh – I mean there was a party. And a super-girly purple and pink drinks bar. And Americans.

We ordered pizza, Ashley made brownies and they surprised me with a beautiful strawberries and cream cake.

However due to it being mid-week I spent my actual birthday completely on my tod.

It actually wasn’t too bad at all – I made sure I filled the day so I wasn’t just a SAD GORL moping around.
Although I did have a little photoshoot in my tiny apartment where I at least pretended to be a SAD GORL.

I think Gen Z would describe the top right as “a mood”.
Did I decorate my tiny apartment with cheap birthday tat I bought from Daiso? You knows it!

It was a very food-centric day, which is only ever a good thing right?

In the morning I ordered a McDonalds breakfast (they now deliver to my area!) and in the evening I ordered the hugest pizza Dominos had on the menu. It was sensational.

I had a few birthday beers with my pizza and Skyped my family and my best-friend Sam at home.
Sam even put her pet budgie to the camera to say hello.

Happy BIRDday imma right?
The right honourable Mr A. Berd esq.

The following weekend I broke into my gift for myself (a bottle of Aperol – I’ve been pretending I’m on holiday somewhere) and went to my friend Marcel’s online RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing party.

Since the Zoom party we’ve started a group chat where we talk about drag and just stuff in general. There are worse ways to spend an evening than in the company of gorgeous boys with accents. I can’t wait to meet everyone IRL when it’s safe to travel to Tokyo again.

My parents were kind enough to send me some money and told me to spend it on a nice present.

So although I know they’re a bit 2016 I treated myself to a Kånken backpack. They really are worth it – so comfortable, even when it’s full of textbooks.

However possibly the greatest gift I recieved was from Lauren who sent me this video.
The internet has peaked, it’s all downhill from here.

It’s going to go down as one of the strangest birthdays I’ll ever have, but it was definitely memorable.

I’ve been back to work for two weeks now.
Japan is slowly getting back to normal (as normal as can be) with schools, offices, shops, cafes and restaurants opening but still enforcing social distancing rules. (For example we went for yakitori last week and every other table was left empty.)

Most eateries are still offering takeout options, and UberEats is coming to Hamamatsu from June 16th which I hope will help local businesses. I personally can’t wait to start ordering a bunch of delicious food at the weekend and report back to you!

Stay safe, everyone!

~ Carla

Coronavirus · Life · Personal

Social Distancing and Living Alone in Japan

So ‘social distancing’ has become the buzzword of the past few weeks, as people – voluntarily and involuntarily – start barricading themselves into their houses for the foreseeable.

I’ve seen a lot of social media posts from couples and families back home in the UK seeing the silver living in a terrible and unprecedented situation by using it to spend quality time together – reading, watching films, cooking, playing board games.

This is of course lovely – but what if you live alone?
And what if you live alone on the other side of the world?

A happy life as an expat for me revolves around my social circle, as I’m an extroverted introvert (also known as an ‘omnivert’ but that sounds too much like ‘omnivore’ to me, which always reminds me of dinosaurs for some reason…).

While I crave social interaction, I find myself exhausted and overstimulated if I’m around people too long (especially in larger groups) and feel the need to hibernate and recharge. But in the same vein, if I’m isolated for too long I find myself irritable and depressed.

Being away from home just amplifies this – I can’t go and chat with my mam, meet Lauren for pints, have a night in with Claire or get a train to visit Sam in Glasgow whenever I like. Living abroad you really have to work hard to put yourself out there to make connections – potentially friendships.

So what happens when that’s taken away?
Again, eeep.

As of writing this post there is no lockdown in Japan, nor clear information regarding social distancing. (Except beyond that it was suggested by the local government for Tokyo residents to stay indoors this week, and for no non-essential travel to the capital due to the recent rise in cases.)

However as an asthmatic I am classed as ‘high-risk’ and so I made the decision to self isolate as much as possible, only leaving my apartment for essentials such as trips to the supermarket/conbini and short walks in quiet areas.

So here’s what I’ve been doing while social distancing:

♥ Keeping in contact with family and friends back home.
While I do text my mam every day (if I don’t she assumes I’m dead – Italian problemz) I’m making an extra effort to Skype. Seeing their faces keeps me going, and reminds me that they are keeping safe and well.

My best Shields girls.

♥ Blogging.
But you should know that by now! From curating photos to even brainstorming ideas, I’m loving keeping my little diary about my time here to one day look back on.

♥ Reading.
Back home in the UK I have a decent physical collection of books, but knowing I’d be moving into a tiny apartment I bought myself a Kindle. (My sister has a MA in English and refuses to even look at it.) I have a hefty reading list to get through – though I’ll probably end up re-reading Harry Potter for the billionth time.

“Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”

J.K. Rowling*

♥ Watch something familiar and comforting. For me:
TV: The Office, Friends, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Spaced.
FILMS: Harry Potter, The Princess Diaries, Tangled, Pride.

♥ Watching something new!
Time to get through that Netflix list. (And resist the urge to watch season 6 of Drag Race AGAIN.)

Spa time.
A long bubble bath, face mask, painting my nails etc.

♥ Drinking lots of tea.
Because I’m British and tea runs in my veins. I actually have a nice little collection of teas built up over the last few months.

♥ Cooking.

I mentioned in this post I don’t really like cooking, and living in the city I prefer to eat out. But now I’m kind of forced into cooking, so am trying to flex my skillz. Back home, baking is a huge stress reliever for me (I don’t have an oven in my apartment and there’s no room for a mini one) – and although I still can’t say the same for cooking – I’m really trying!

After drama with delivery I now finally have a proper coffee table – and don’t have to use this stool from Nitori I still haven’t returned to my friend. Sorry, Haruna!

♥ Redecorating.
Well, I’m using the term a bit loosely here – there’s only so much I can do with my little rented Leopalace. But I’m doing what I can to make it feel more homely – especially as I’m going to be staying her at least another year.
I ordered a cute pink sofa from Amazon for only £80 and was able to put away my dining room table and chairs which has already made the space look a lot bigger. I have a new rug, which is much nicer than the rough carpet that came with the apartment, a new fuzzy pink blanket and I’ve been re-arranging my photos, prints, books and other knickknacks I’ve accumulated over the past seven months.

Because I’m so extra I actually have THREE journals – an everyday journal, a journal for streams of consciousness/creative writing etc, and a Hobonichi for more art-style journalling. For me, it helps to set time aside to write down my thoughts for the day so they aren’t going round and round my head at bedtime. Speaking of which…

Keeping to a routine.
I’m a night owl and could happily go to bed at 3am and sleep until noon. But frankly it’s not healthy to spend my days like this, so I still set an alarm and try to go to bed around midnight at the latest.

Playing video games.
I’ve been enjoying spending time once again in Skyrim (my all-time favourite game – I even have a Skyrim tattoo) for the first time in a long while. I’ve also been playing Breath of the Wild, Fire Emblem Three Houses and online multiplayers like Mario Kart and Splatoon on my Nintendo Switch. With most of the world in isolation you’re never short on people being available to play!

Speaking of which…

Four words:
Animal Crossing New Horizons. I don’t need to say anything more. It’s the game the world needs right now.

Treating myself.
I believe everyday is “Treat yo’ self” Day, but on a particularly dull, grey day – I opened the fancy chocolates my pal bought me for White Day and watched Space Jam.
When I do venture to the supermarket or conbini, I’m making an effort to try something new – difficult for me as a creature of habit!

Improving my Japanese.
Because it’s still embarrassingly bad. With all my Genki textbooks gathering a little dust on my shelves, the thing I’m actually making most progress with – for now – is the Duolingo app.
I’m an interactive learner and struggle with textbooks alone. I’d love to take some classes (when everything has calmed down) but my schedule simply doesn’t allow it. I’ll eventually go back to my textbooks when I’ve progressed a little more with Duolingo.


Practicing mindfulness.
I recently converted from Apple Music to Spotify, and you can get Headspace a reduced rate if you sign up to a paid account (and even free for the first three months!). So I’ve been trying to make time to meditate every few days.

Open the windows/spend time on my balcony.
I have a tiny balcony in my tiny apartment, and really it’s only meant to hang your clothes out. But as the weather warms up, I have no problems with bringing a chair outside and reading, playing my Switch or meditating outside. Get that vitamin D, guys.

Stretching/working out.
I fucking hate exercising, I fucking hate it. But I don’t mind yoga and pilates. It’s on my list to do more, I promise.


Practicing my ukulele.
A few years ago after a night out I went on Amazon and drunkenly bought a ukulele. Last month, I did the same thing again – I even managed to buy the same make and colour. Well done, drunk Carla! While instruments are technically banned in my building, if I do it on the down low people don’t have to know. It’s not like I’m being a dickhead with a drum kit.

And finally…

No! Is that the only word you know? No???

Giselle, Enchanted.

♥ Crying.
Wah wah. I’m a really sensitive and emotional person, and know that it’s OK to just be sad sometimes. It’s OK to feel sad, lonely, homesick sometimes as an expat – there’s a lot of pressure on you to be happy, excited and doing amazing things every single day. But in these scary times, being honest with yourself and how you are feeling is of the utmost importance.

Last Sunday I was feeling a bit wobbly all day so tried watching Enchanted to cheer myself up – joyful, musical numbers, helpful pigeons, a Disney princess in New York, Timothy Spall!

But for whatever reason during So Close I just sat and wept like a baby – huge racking sobs – for the full duration of the song. No idea why, I just did.

Anyways, whatever you are doing I hope you are keeping healthy and as happy as can be. Remember, during these stressful times there is NO pressure on you to be productive. If you want to get up, work, enjoy your hobbies then that’s great. But it’s also totally valid to stay in your pyjamas all day and binge Drag Race.

I’m there with you, everyone.

~ Carla

*Although I’ve used one of her quotes here, I do NOT endorse or agree with JK Rowling’s harmful stance regarding trans women. The Potterverse has always been a safe and welcoming space for so many of us in times of both joy and hardship, and learning that your childhood hero harbours views like this is frankly devastating.

Apartment · Coronavirus · Personal

Life in Japan with Coronavirus (Covid-19)

A positive to everything that’s going on – my apartment is looking lovely!

I’m sorry for the lack of posts – for the past two weeks I have been working from home.

The students left school on the 6th March at the request of Prime Minster Abe to close all schools in Japan, although most teachers have still had to come in everyday.

However because I have an hour’s commute on public transport (an hour there, and an hour back), plus I have all the materials I’ll need at my apartment, I’ve been allowed to work remotely from home – mostly planning lessons and activities.

And while I have not been “self-isolating” per se, unless necessary I have been staying inside as much as I can.
This is mostly for two reasons – as an asthmatic, if I contract the virus I am at higher risk of becoming more seriously ill, and secondly I risk passing it on to other vulnerable groups, such as those also with pre-existing conditions and the elderly.

Cabin fever is a real thing, and in the middle of this week I felt at risk of going a bit Jack Torrence. So I’ve been trying to keep myself busy, and enjoying a slower pace of life in Japan.

The weather has been slowly warming up this week and has averaged around 12-17°C.

Although we had terrible storms over the weekend, most days I can have my balcony door wide open to let the fresh air right through my apartment, and so I don’t feel so claustrophobic.

I’ve been enjoying making nice meals like this french toast and sitting by my balcony to eat while watching Let’s Plays. (Shirley Curry’s Skyrim videos always help when I’m feeling especially anxious.)

I’ve also been cleaning my apartment and rearranging to make it as homely and comfortable as I possibly can with such a small space.
I bought an adorable pink sofa for only £80, and it has already made my living area look a lot bigger as I no longer have my dining table and chairs.

People have been asking for an apartment tour, and I promise it’s coming soon.
It’s still not looking 100% how I’d like it to, and as a perfectionist Taurus I’d prefer it to be just right before I post photos – and potentially a video!

“How do girls all know how to pose like that?” ~ Felipe.

While I’m not socialising as much as I usually do – which is difficult for me as an extroverted introvert – when my pal Felipe invited me to a birthday party I leapt at the chance and had such a good night at Las Chillonas in Hamamatsu city.
(Happy belated birthday, Farrah!!)

I also managed to make some new connections on the night, I really need some new girlfriends here – especially with my bestie Faith moving away in two weeks.
Many of them were planning on going abroad for Spring break (I was going to go to Seoul), however with travel restrictions in place, everyone will be staying in Japan.

So hopefully we can organise some cute activities to do together, even if it’s just hanging and playing Animal Crossing New Horizons. (7 days away, omg omg!)

I’ve also booked myself for a SOLO YOLO to Kyoto, since tourism is apparently down 50% and I want to see it when it’s not unbearably crowded for once.

While I haven’t felt like writing here much, I’ve been enjoying other creative writing outlets – such as journalling, letter writing and working on a fantasy fiction project that has been rattling around my brain for over a year now.
(It will probably never see the light of day. I enjoy writing – especially characterisation – but I don’t think I’m particularly talented!)

I was also surprised to receive the above from my head cheerleader, Sam.
There really is no better feeling in the world – on a particularly low day – than a letter arriving with your best friend’s handwriting on the envelope.

I’ve also been stocking up on essentials from the supermarket.

I’m certainly not going crazy and buying up the entire supply of beans and pasta (I HATE beans, for one thing – the slimy bastards!) but it hasn’t hurt to grab an extra bag of rice, tins of tuna, dried noodles, bread (it freezes well!), frozen vegetables, soy milk etc. as part of my usual shop.

(People in Japan don’t tend to do a weekly “big shop” as we call it in the UK – living spaces are very small here, so people tend to buy little and often, myself included.)

As you’re all probably well aware by now, people are panic-buying toilet roll.
There seems to be a lot of confusion in the UK especially why this is a thing – from what I can gather on social media, many people think it has to do with diarrhea.

However it all actually stems from a fake tweet here in Japan that stocks were running low because the paper is made in China, and would no longer be exported to Japan. This wasn’t true at all, however people started panic-buying until stock actually did run low.

This seems to have settled down a little now, the rule of one-per-family seems to have taken effect and yesterday at my local drugstore the shelves were full.

Anyways, from next week I’m back at my schools.

We have no classes, however the students will be back to practice for their graduation ceremonies which they had already been rehearsing for weeks. As far as I can tell, they’re scheduled to go ahead as planned.

I’m already getting my tissues at the ready – I cry very easily anyway, but a few of my favourite teachers are leaving/retiring so I can already see myself bawling my eyes out.

To finish, I’ll leave you with videos from two of my favourite J-vloggers Sharla and Chris Broad, about their experiences living and working in Japan during this time.

Stay safe, everyone!

~ Carla