I landed in Osaka this weekend and so far it's been a lesson in humility. Got off the airplane so jet-lagged I was ill and entered a world where I am both mute and illiterate.
Hello culture shock...
Well, not entirely mute since I possess some survival Japanese (good morning, please, thank you, excuse me). However, even basic conversations are completely beyond me. Nevertheless I was able to purchase curtains and lights for the apartment at a local department store over the weekend. Not due to my efforts, mind you, but solely because the saleswoman at Tokyu Hands took the time and effort to help me find what I needed. Tonight, the hunt is on for a coffee machine, place mats, and another light for the living room.
Illiteracy bothers me much more than my inability to communicate effectively. It is a humbling experience to not be able to read. This one hits me right where my most flagrant character defect - intellectual pride - lives.
The inability to read is a real problem for daily living. I need look no farther than my apartment to see how limiting illiteracy is.
The past couple of days I've been slowly learning how to use my appliances. All the controls are in Japanese and so through trial and many errors, instruction DVDs (in Japanese) and the Internet (thank God for Youtube) I've figured out how to work most of them (more or less). To give you an idea how daunting this is, here are a few examples:
Here is my washing machine - a Hitachi BeatWash Slim. So far I have figured out basic wash and dry. At some point after I finish pushing buttons, it talks to me. I have no idea what it's saying but the voice is soothing :
Here is my stove/oven. Day 1 I figured out how to use the stovetop. It was only on Day 2 that I figured out (with some help) how to use the oven. Who knew that it was the button with the fish on it?
And finally here are the controls for my bathtub. Yes, mes amis, there is no basic faucet setup - everything, including the water level in the tub, is set via this control panel. This one has me stymied. I can get it to fill 1/4 of the tub but I can't figure out how to lower the temperature or how to get it to fill 1/2 the bath. My workaround is to run it twice to get the desired water level and then wait a few minutes for the water to cool down enough so I don't scald myself when I get in the tub.
What is frustrating (and let's face it, really funny) about all this is that all the information to make all these applicances work as I wish is right there. I just lack the code.
It will come. Patience, humbly asking for help, being grateful for small victories (I washed and dried the sheets today!) and taking it one day (and one appliance) at a time should see me through this.