It's rainy season in Japan, and for the next four? six? eight???? weeks there will be rain, humidity, and general jungle-like conditions. It's impossible to escape the wet; food goes off the second you bring it home; paper becomes clammy and damp; condensation builds up on the windows; and there is a constant looming diaper crisis as I wait days and days and days for laundry to dry. And in the back of my mind there is a sustained disquiet as I fret about harbouring a secret mushroom farm in the closet.
Over the past several days (weeks?) I had been smelling a distinct earthy oder emanating from Stella's bedroom. I dealt with this as I do most problems: if I ignore it long enough it will go away! Unfortunately this failsafe problem solving method did not work this time, as I finally bit into the sour apple (as Mr. Chef says) and emptied the storage closet in her room.
I discovered this:
This was only one of the affected items. There were too many to catalogue and I was beside myself with frustration, not thinking how hilarious it would be to take millions of mouldy pictures. Too bad, internet, too bad.
An empty closet. An entire package of garbage bags. A full dumpster. A wasted day spent dealing with mould, spores, swears, wet, frustration, waste and bleach.
When things like this happen, as an expat, it is tempting to blame the country you live in: "Eff you, Japan, you stupid jerk. If I lived in Canada I wouldn't have mushrooms growing in my closet and I wouldn't be poisoning my baby with thousands of little mould paratroopers invading her respiratory system. I hate you. You are a meanie. I miss my parents. I miss my friends. I miss grocery stores. I miss barbecues. And lakes. And fresh snow. And understanding what strangers say. And understanding what to do and how to exist in society. And it's all your fault, Japan. Wah." Or so goes my normal line of reasoning.
I did this a lot when we lived in China. I did it when we lived in India. I do it here in Japan. And I'm sure that wherever we are next, I'll do it there, too.
The thing is, it's not really Japan's fault. Mould is part of the package. Along with distance from loved ones, and strange food, and unexpected closet invaders come benefits - the cultural experience, the adventure, the quality of life, the chance to know distant corners of our world. We've chosen this life, and we are lucky to live it.
It’s just that part of being an expat is knowing how things are elsewhere. Wherever we are that happens to be our home, there are wonders and irritations: beauty and groping in India; great social life and public urination in China; cleanliness and mold in Japan. And thus, wherever I am temporarily putting down roots (?!?), I know that I will whine about certain aspects of life, and appreciate others. We live in our present home with memories of our past homes, and hopes for our future homes.
So, I'll try to look on the bright side, and remember the privileges that come our way. But I won't promise to abandon self-indulgent pity-fests the next time I have to throw out an entire closet worth of goods, or the next time I get felt up by a strange man in a public market, or get spit upon by a careless passer by, because moaning is part of the package, too.
(Thanks internet, for listening to me whine. You're a real pal.)