Some time ago I wrote about how entertaining the duck and I think train conversations are. There is one occurrence, however, that we find even more entertaining: train musicians and other passengers’ reactions to them. Before moving to Berlin the duck and I had hardly ever experienced any train musicians. In fact, our understanding of music on trains was teenagers listening to it over their phones’ speakers to show everyone how gangster they are. This does happen in Berlin, as well, but real musicians are a much cooler phenomenon. We’ve listened to singers with their acoustic guitars give a little train performance on a Saturday afternoon; we’ve experienced a full-on brass concert with a shrill polka backing track on a Thursday evening; we’ve been overwhelmed by soccer fans who brought the stadium they missed so much onto the train by listening to a mix of techno and Schlager music out of their powerful speakers and drunkenly singing along, which was a complete contrast to that time we got to listen to a pleasant acoustic guitar solo after what had felt like a long pandemic-caused train music break. Just as diverse as the music are the passengers’ reactions: Some sigh, some turn up the volume of the music they’re listening to over their headphones, some toss a few coins into a hat sitting in front of the performer, some seem to get off early to avoid the noise, and others confront particularly noisy music providers and try to out-yell them when they demand that they spare their fellow passengers and take their stadium and drunkenness elsewhere. The duck and I are quiet observers. Sometimes, if the music is too loud and obtrusive, we silently agree with the annoyed passengers, and sometimes we turn off our podcasts or put our phone or book down in order to listen completely to all that talent and bravery around us. Most of the times we find ourselves remembering trains in Tokyo, where even when you use headphones you have to make sure that you are the only one who can hear the beat of the music you’re listening to.
I’m a lazy dresser. When I pick out an outfit I go by what’s nice enough to not make someone vomit. Don’t get me wrong – I do think that the stuff that I wear roughly goes together and I have received comments on my T-shirt choice once or twice (because, I guess, most adults don’t wear as many silly graphic tees as I do, so people who work in public spaces with lots of visitors passing through sometimes feel the need to comment on a design that they can connect with), but that’s the extent of my stylishness. I do appreciate seeing nicely put together outfits on the street, though. I don’t stare, but I acknowledge. There is one situation, however, that challenges my no-stare-habit whenever it occurs: stylish toddlers! I’m not talking about cute baby outfits, no! I mean those kinds of outfits that, were they many sizes bigger, a proper adult could wear and still look fashionable, not ridiculous, all the while a toddler can sport them and look like a toddler – a perfectly dressed toddler. I mean those kinds of outfits that are considered casual but still look as if the wearer had just jumped out of a movie, the unrealistic kind where everyone is secretly rich and beautiful. I mean clothing where a single piece looks as if it probably cost more than half my wardrobe, color combinations that just look right with fabric so pristine that it must have never been washed… or worn, for that matter. Only when I see fashionable toddlers do I have the urge to dress better, buy higher quality clothes (that, being frugal, I could not buy without crying for weeks because of all that money spent – though I do try to at least buy clothes that are somewhat sustainable, in that they will probably last me a few years), go out more just to showcase how fancy I look. Once the toddler is gone, I go back to being my normal self, wearing a T-shirt that I got somewhere as a souvenir for a reasonable price, and those pants that I’ve had for more years than I’d like to admit. But I don’t mind, because I know that there are fashionable toddlers out there who make up for my uninspired way of dressing. Sometimes I wish that I were the duck; being able to sport a little bow day in, day out, and still somehow being considered fashionable – because I’m wearing something – that is the dream. Life as a lazy duck must be fun! But then, life as a lazy me is okay, too, I guess.
Reading Mrs Dalloway
Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway has been sitting in the duck and my bookcase for a while now. We bought it on a quest to read more ‘classics’ but somehow never got to reading it. Two years ago we watched The Hours with the duck’s very first friend B which reminded us that we still had not read Mrs Dalloway. When we moved to Berlin the duck and I decided that this book had to come with us. Last summer, as we were about to finally read it, we learned that the story’s main action takes place on a Wednesday in the middle of June. June had already passed. So, we put the book back in our bookcase and put a note in our calendar that made June 17th 2020 Mrs Dalloway day. And that’s exactly what we did last Wednesday: We read a book in the perfect circumstances (well, at least when it comes to time. I wouldn’t call 2020 perfect).
We also decided that we would use this special day to have a cup of the Sakura flavored Earl Grey tea that our friend Y got us for Christmas. It’s always nice to have a secondary plan, as well. So, without further ado, here is what we did:
It is winter, the season that allows the duck and me to stay in without feeling guilty. The only outside activity that we do enjoy despite the cold temperatures (fortunately there hasn’t been any snow yet as the shoes from the duck and my totally unsuspicious trip to Hikarigaoka two years ago have finally become leaky) is going grocery shopping: When I put on my newly holey shoes, don my 108 yen winter hat and grab my tote bags I’m already in a wonderful mood for food despite the prospect of having to go outside. Add a nice podcast to the mix (Reply All is my current favorite walking to the shops podcast while I’m waiting for the new season of Flash Forward) and there’s not much that can make my day any better, apart from a lack of rain and the opportunity to use a loyalty card or app for some nice little bonus points or discounts while I’m buying my chocolaty essentials. Since my phone is counting down the days until it can retire, the duck and I much prefer physical cards; there’s just something magical about scanning stuff (I have enjoyed working at a cash register way too much in the past! I think video games may have conditioned me to feel happy whenever I hear a ‘beep’ of success).
Look! The duck has found a few physical cards to pose with! In order to share with you just how much we love loyalty programs (there aren’t many airlines we haven’t joined the loyalty program of – I suppose we’re playing their game wrong), the duck and I decided to, once again, compose a beautiful piece of fauxetry (also because we so regret not having signed up for any loyalty programs in Japan because our Japanese skills were, and still are, horrendous). This time we decided to go with a free verse poem since we’re finally embracing our laziness this year and can’t be bothered with too many rules:
Last week the duck and I made an emergency trip to Ikea – and this time we didn’t even get lost before we got there. We were on a mission: getting our hands on some floral scented candles and, most importantly, arming ourselves with powerful tools to deal with our most recent inadvertent adventure in Berlin: pantry moths! A few months back we saw the occasional pantry moth in the kitchen. I checked all open food bags but couldn’t find any signs of an attack. So I told myself that they must have just flown in through the open kitchen window. I was wrong. Early last week our house mate found a few moths in her food drawer and then went through all of her stored groceries. A plastic box that was supposed to be filled with only chia seeds was now also filled with extensive webbing and lots of larvae. She then started finding baby moths in other food packages, as well, while I sat at a safe distance watching in disgust (people tell me all the time that I am a very supportive friend). That night I dreamed about finding larvae in my flour. So, the next morning, I jumped out of the bed and searched the duck and my food again. Eventually our house mate did find some suspicious clumps in our food and, without looking, I just threw away everything that she said looked shady. After that I spent many hours researching moth infestations online and my whole world view was shattered! Even though I’ve had pantry moths before, I always assumed that they must have come in through the windows or doors. NO! Most of the time you personally invite pantry moths into your home by buying infested food at the grocery store! We’re never safe (unless we live from salt and coffee beans)! Even jars with screw tops are no serious obstacles! My skin has been crawling with ghost larvae ever since I made that discovery. So, I froze all of the duck and my dry food, cleaned out our food shelf and blow dried it (much to the amusement of our house mate), messaged our favorite Ikea buddy about an urgent Ikea outing and bought a few expensive (well, for the duck and my standards, anyway) storage jars. I didn’t buy enough. Who would have thought that the duck and my 2nd New Year’s Resolution would turn out to be so harmful? We might have to throw our frugality out of the window in dealing with this particular problem if we ever want to feel safe again! Until then the duck and I shall be visited by ghost moths and larvae in all our dreams 😥
If you’ve been following us for a while you might be aware of how much the duck and I like talking and writing about food and grocery shopping, our favorite kind of shopping! In Japan our #1 place of wonder and excitement were Konbinis (yes, all of them. Collectively). We were so amazed that we dedicated a sonnet to them once. Now that we live in Berlin and have realized that pining for our beloved Japanese convenience stores daily is not healthy, we have decided that it is time to appoint a #2 to be pining for when we move to another country yet again: German drugstores! Look, here is the duck posing with a Berlin-exclusive bottle of shower gel we got at our local drugstore (that is only a brisk 20-minute walk away from our bed). Beautiful! The most beautiful thing about the duck and my favorite drugstore, however, is the selection of affordable packaged organic food (the material of some of our more prominent daydreams in Japan) and the cute little design elements you can find throughout the store. During our most recent trip we made use of my phone camera and snapped a few of our favorite things, products and design elements alike. Let us now take you along on a little stroll through our #2 place of wonder and excitement: Continue reading
Do you remember how in love the duck and I were with Japan Post and how they redeliver your missed parcel to a location and within a time slot of your choosing (even more than once, if you are a complete failure)? Well, the same can’t be said for our experiences with the German equivalent, unfortunately.
See, the duck and I are huge fans of old-fashioned mail (but not telegrams – they were such a hassle back in our childhood days). There’s almost nothing that beats a nice little postcard or a cute personal letter; they just have so much more character than a conversation on your favorite messaging app, and last much longer than a video chat. That is why the duck and I used our first visit to a Berlin post office earlier this year to grab a couple of those ten-packs of self-adhesive stamps (because you never know when you’ll have a sudden urge to send a postcard but are too lazy to go to the nearest post office to buy a single stamp – also, how dare those stupid water-activated pieces of paper call themselves stamps?!).
Doesn’t the duck look happy with all those stamps? Well, we both were! Did I mention how much the duck and I love mail? This year, however, Deutsche Post has tried very hard to shake our belief in snail mail:
Interlude: Matcha surprise!
It’s been a while…
The duck and I have been busy doing something for a change. Actually working hard (for our standards) in the past few weeks made us remember a fun little incident a few weeks back: It all had to do with a pretty box our lovely friend M. had given us before we left Japan. She probably explained to us what was inside, but the duck and I, being the matcha maniacs that we are, only heard this one word – matcha – compared it to the hiragana on the box, because our kanji skills are still far from actually useful, and zoned out. ‘Cool, that’s perfect for our regular matcha latte cravings!’, we thought. ‘We could even try to recreate some of those matcha cookies we so loved!’.
So, when the day of unbearable matcha cravings had finally arrived, we took the pretty little box that, up to that point, had served as beautiful bookshelf decoration, opened it, and were amazingly surprised:
Coming “home”: Our first lesson in Berlin tramsportation
The duck and I have an unofficial tradition: Whenever we have moved to a new place, within the first few weeks, we (try to) embark on a little trip to Ikea because, in a way, if you block out the price tags, your local Ikea could be almost anywhere in the world! I’m pretty sure that, in a few years’ time, right next to Billy bookcases and Kallax shelf units, Ikea will sell Teleportbas portals connecting to Ikeas worldwide, for those who would prefer to pay for their Lack side table in Yen rather than Euro.
From time to time, while we’re at our favorite Swedish furniture store, the duck and I like to sit back, sip on a cup of free coffee or tea and do some reading (to combat those stationary bookmarks). This is also the perfect setting for reviewing how we got to where we are, literally.
Isn’t this snap of the duck at the Ikea restaurant lovely? Just wait until you read about how fun our day was leading up to this photo.
Do you remember how we were afraid that we would find taking trains outside Japan utterly terrifying? Well, this is one story that, while not necessarily proving those worries, is definitely related to the feared different experiences in public transportation:
The thing with laundry
We’re in the middle of spring; the weather is getting warmer and the days longer. This is the perfect time to compose a little post on laundry:
If you go on a walk around Tokyo (or probably anywhere in Japan) on a sunny day you will invariably find laundry hanging on almost every balcony (another reason why the Japanese are usually rather informed about the weather). This was also the background of a rather memorable (yeah, let’s call it that) encounter with a half-naked guy on his 5th floor balcony picking out his outfit for the day when the duck and I were exploring our new neighborhood… well, if that wasn’t the cherry on top of our newfound love for this place we’d soon call our favorite temporary home. I guess here in Japan people feel rather safe on their balconies and, unlike me, they don’t worry too much about others accidentally spying on them or their drying clothes. In fact, it’s not rare to hang all your underwear outside to dry as well – much to the delight of panty thieves (okay, let me clarify here that while they do exist, they’re not as common as I make them sound; I was just rather amused when my friend told me that this is a more common reason for girls to not want to live on the ground floor in central Tokyo, than a fear of flooding).
While I think that it’s great for the environment to let your clothes air-dry, the main reason for this practice is probably the size of the typical Japanese apartment that usually just allows for a small washer. Some older apartment buildings even feature a specified space for washers (and sometimes even dryers) outside each apartment, so that you actually have to step out of your home to do laundry!
Another thing that I found surprising is that it’s not uncommon at all to do laundry daily, even if it’s just a towel and your outfit of the day. While, with all that crazy humidity, I do understand wanting to change your towels after each use, I still don’t fully see why daily laundry is so popular. Well, actually, if there’s not a lot of space to hang your laundry in your tiny apartment, I can understand the need to wash many, many smaller loads. However, I’m pretty sure that that’s not always the case; for some, this is just common sense (a common sense that the duck and I, in all our grossness, lack).
Anyway, we’ll still be hanging all our laundry inside, about twice a week, chuckling at the thought of a panty-thief with grandpa’s old underpants on his head far too frequently…