… faraway couches

Earlier, I disclosed that having almost all our friends live at least an hours-long train ride away has taken a toll on the duck who is much more social than I am. We’ve had a long talk in which I apologized for not honoring the duck’s extravert needs, and the duck promised to give me a heads-up before sending off any villain-club application forms. Like the duck, I don’t love living far away from most of our friends. But I also think it isn’t all bad. When I asserted that in our discussion, the duck demanded scientific proof. I laughed. The duck stared at me with a straight face.

Befuddled, I grabbed a pen from my neverending stash, some paper, and a couch catalog for the duck to peruse as I composed this list:

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Faraway friends…

The duck and I have lived in a few different places. As have nearly all our friends. As a result, we don’t live near most of them these days. Seeing a friend face-to-face once or twice in a decade (if we’re lucky) has become the norm. In the past few years, however, the duck and my laziness has almost entirely squelched our ambition to travel (that, and that other thing). Because of that, we have delayed long overdue in-person get-togethers even more than usual. Fortunately, we can use the internet and snail mail (though our trust in the German postal service has reached a new low) to exchange life updates. Unfortunately, the duck and I are lazy, so it usually takes us months to respond to messages and arrange digital catch-up sessions. We’re lucky to have such understanding friends who don’t judge us too harshly (to our faces) for our intense laziness.
While I function well with little social interaction (past the everyday kind), it’s tough for the duck to have me, a self-proclaimed small-talk adversary, as the only available conversation partner most of the time. That’s why, a few months ago, the duck started striking up conversations with every dog, cat, horse, crow, goose, mouse, and earthworm we encountered on slow jogs or walks around the neighborhood. At first, I was happy the duck had found a way to satisfy those social cravings. However, a few weeks ago, I saw the duck had transitioned to engaging in lengthy one-sided conversations with characters inside the TV.

When I caught the duck composing an affectionate letter to an antagonist in a movie we hadn’t watched together in months, I realized I needed to pay more attention to what entertainment the duck consumes. I can’t have the duck join any fictitious villainous circles now, can I (note to self: revisit 1984 as a negative example)? Who knows what real-world repercussions that could have?! And maybe, just maybe, it’s also time we put away our laziness and do some more traveling so that we can once again catch up with physical friends on couches worldwide. Having had only one of those longer-distance catch-up trips in the past three years is embarrassing, even for someone as naturally reclusive as me. As is having the duck strike up imaginary friendships with not-very-nice people.

How I became a cool sock

Isn’t there this thing about receiving socks for Christmas and how it’s a punishment or a test of how well you can hide your disappointment? Maybe that’s only the case if you’re a child? Or if you receive nothing but socks? Or if the socks are boring? I don’t remember. I just know that at some point in my life I was under the impression that giving or receiving socks as a Christmas or birthday present was somewhat frowned upon.
As some of you might remember from a previous sock post, I used to be a plain-socks-to-look-‘professional’ kind of person. So receiving those would indeed be boring. But thanks to a set of wonderful friends with great taste in socks, I was forced to rethink my take on socks. I had received the occasional pair of pretty (souvenir) socks from friends (and even myself) before, but in the past few years the duck and I have noticed a trend: It started when our lovely friend J sent us a cool set of socks, some of which featured fluffy wolves! Those socks definitely boosted my coolness factor whenever I wore them because everyone who caught sight of them just had to tell me how cool they were (this really was the kind of gift that kept on giving)! I had, in fact, turned into a coole Socke, a ‘cool sock’ (which must be one of the weirdest German expressions for ‘cool person’) overnight. After that I received quite a few nice pairs of socks – maybe the duck and my friends had plotted to make me cooler (perhaps out of embarrassment)? Or maybe there just are more fun sock brands around these days? What do you think?
sock duckReflecting on cool socks also made the duck and me think about Christmas presents. We actually  believe that Christmas presents should be optional (and we don’t ever expect anyone to get us anything because we’re just not that great at picking out presents ourselves and we try way too hard which stresses us out more than it should). In fact, the duck and I prefer sending out homemade Christmas cards because we worry that what we get the other person might feel forced and impersonal. I wish we were as good at seeking out presents as our lovely friends are (I think I’ve never ugly-cried as much about amazing unexpected gifts as I have in the past few years). There have been a few instances, however, when we saw something and knew exactly who we’d want to send it to. Those rare moments (I guess because our favorite kind of shopping still is grocery shopping) excite us more than they should and we find ourselves waking up in the middle of the night wondering how the giftee will react. Cards can do the same for us, though, and even though we tend to spend way too much time on designing them, the outcome can be quite rewarding. This is the kind of stress that we appreciate because if the design isn’t good, that’s our fault alone and not that of the local shops or the internet for not having exactly what we want to give away…
Do you like shopping for Christmas presents? Do you think they are compulsory?


A new friend

Friends are awesome, especially when you are moving somewhere new. That, for example, was one of the main reasons for the duck and me to move to Tokyo when we were planning our Japan adventure. Fortunately, we did also know a few people in Berlin before we moved here. And we ended up meeting a few lovely new ones, too. One of them was actually introduced to us by our friend Sb whom we went on our Disney Sea adventure with – meet Cutie-pie who came to us all the way from Denmark!

Cutie-pie duck

Other than in Tokyo where we knew that we would move out after a few months, we don’t have a set time limit (as of yet) for our glamorous lives in Berlin, so the duck and I have decided that we might as well actually try to spend some time and effort (and money, if we can get over our habits as penny-pinching personality peers) to actually make our bedroom a bit prettier. Well, we will still keep it relatively minimal because, as we’re almost running out of fingers to count how many times we have moved, there is one thing that we have learned in the past few years: moving is a pain in the feathery bottom.
However, we will definitely count this little fella as #1 in our bedroom beautification bproject (and in our hearts). But first we have to free him from his paper prison: Continue reading


Meeting Japanese friends

I spent a huge chunk of my childhood lazing around at home doodling in front of the TV or playing Pokemon on my Gameboy (wow, not much has changed). Sometimes, if I felt somewhat social, I, and that’s surprising for everyone who knows me, would play outside with the neighborhood kids. However, most of the time I would go out- to watch TV and stuff myself with candy at a friend’s place.
That’s pretty much how it still goes: If I meet friends, at least half of the time, we’ll have dinner, play board games, watch movies, or just have long philosophical(…) conversations at one of our places. In Japan (or at least in Tokyo), however, this doesn’t seem to be as common, be it because of the comparatively small apartment sizes, young adults tending to live with their families for much longer than in some Western countries (and it’s socially acceptable – I love that!) or just rather far apart from each other so that meeting in the middle is the most feasible thing to do.
Because of that, if you actually managed to find an opening in your Japanese friends’ schedules, it’s pretty much a given that you’ll meet at a cafe or restaurant that’s conveniently located for all of you. Once you’ve ordered your food, which, in some cases, functions more as a means to reserve your seat, you can start your catch-up sessions. And if you haven’t fully caught up over lunch, you’ll just continue your talks at a cafe, and, if you really have a lot to tell one another, you’ll add a dinner and a drink or two…
It took the duck and me (and our wallet) some time to get used to the proper meetup-procedures; we still find ourselves taken aback when our suggestion to go inside fat duck-1(anywhere, really, just for warming up or cooling down, depending on the season – we’re thinking window shopping or standing in a warm corner) is instantly interpreted as ‘let’s go to a cafe/bar/restaurant to spend some more of our money’.
These days, fortunately, the duck and I have somewhat gotten used to this and we can usually avoid finding ourselves stuffed and broke after a long catching-up-session with a friend.

Aw, it must be so nice to not be poor (and stingy)!


On using people

On this blog the duck and I have made no secret of our inability to fully function in Japanese – so imagine our fear when we have to tackle such things as opening a bank account or activating a SIM card. Fortunately, that’s where friends come in handy; from time to time the duck and I sneakily turn those incredibly wonderful and now unfortunately rather rare opportunities to catch up with those lovely people who are not fed up with our bad jokes yet into ‘let’s sort out our life’-sessions.
When we had just arrived, for example, we knew that we needed a data plan for our phone because that minimizes the chances of getting lost by at least 78%. We also knew, however, that, if we wanted a good deal, it was crucial to speak Japanese, especially when setting everything up. That’s when our wonderful friend rode along on her majestic horse, the sun sending out warm brilliant rays that reflected off her silver headdress giving her an appearance reminiscent of an undead character right out of those novels that were super popular among teenagers about a decade ago. Had she not offered to sit down at a McDonald’s to help us set up our SIM card we would still be wandering around Tokyo, not sure how to get from A to B every day (as opposed to once a week – using maps and train apps on my phone) because there’s no way I could have set up the card, including calling a number to confirm some data, all in Japanese!
We used the same tactic on a new victim when it came to figuring out where exactly we had to go to open our bank account. And, after a long overdue lunch-date with one of our oldest friends, we hinted at how lost we were regarding the return of a package using Yamato Transport’s TA-Q-BIN service, available at most Konbinis (oh, the love is real!), Sim Card Duck rawwhich lets you drop off your item, answer a bunch of questions and specify your preferred delivery window. In Japanese. According to our dreamed up Japanese adventure we’d be half-fluent by now (we did not take into account our laziness).
But why worry if you have wonderful friends to rely on?

Independence is for losers, amirite?!