I Don’t Understand My House

When I was getting used to life in Mauritania I used to think, “Wow, this is really difficult, but I can’t imagine a Mauritanian having to figure out life in the U.S. I can understand an outhouse, a well, and how to catch a donkey cart to the market. Imagine trying to decipher a microwave for the first time, or the Metro, or an ATM–especially when you’re functionally illiterate.” Well, now I understand. My beautiful little Japanese house, into which we moved yesterday, has flummoxed me at every turn.

Fortunately, most of the technology is superfluous. I can’t figure out how to turn on the bathtub from the kitchen, but that’s okay. Since my bathtub is only about 12 feet from my kitchen if I ever really need to turn it on while I’m making soup or something, I am just fine with walking that distance. Theoretically, I can also use an intercom once in the bathtub, which actually might be useful for summoning someone to bring me a glass of wine while I am soaking. When I tried to operate it yesterday though, a perky Japanese lady’s voice started talking to me. What was she saying? “Hot water coming?” “Enjoy your bath?” “The scary-looking gas tanks just outside the window that heat the water are about to explode?”

Our doorbell has a camera that takes pictures of people automatically when they get to the door. Unfortunately, I can’t erase the awful picture it took of me. I can’t figure out how the wall heating units work, which is frustrating as our little house is so cold. I am too frightened to do laundry. A dishwasher came yesterday and I was so overwhelmed I sent it back. Even the lights have remote controls. Was there anything wrong the humble wall-mounted light switch, I ask?

But, oh, the toilets. Seat warmers, “lady washers” (the translation is not mine), and even a faucet to wash your hands that is mounted above the tank. The water from washing your hands then goes into the toilet’s tank to fill it, and is used for the next flush. Now that is great design.

Also great: the view from our beach “on a clear day,” which yesterday was. Right smack in the middle of a gentle mountain chain was Mr. Fuji. He wasn’t just a speck on the horizon–it was like someone set Mount St. Helens down on Virginia Beach. Rob and I had a Sapporo (Chip passed on cocktails) and watched the sun set behind Fuji. I guess I’m really in Japan.

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