We’ve just got back to Japan after spending three weeks at home in the UK. You might think that the most difficult thing about coming back to Japan is saying goodbye to my husband who is in England but no, at the moment the most difficult thing is a killer case of jet lag caused by a 9 hour time difference between England and Japan. For the past couple of days, I’ve been constantly tired, felt groggy, and haven’t been able to concentrate. It’s not only when I am jet lagged but I am generally also relatively tired, given that I have a full time job and I am up at least once every night checking my diabetic daughter’s blood sugars. I don’t know about you but when I am tired, my brain works to as high a standard as your typical English builder. The following gives you some examples of the slovenly and haphazard ways my tired brain works.
Earlier today I went to do a food shop. The supermarket around the corner from us resembles more of a 80s nightclub than a supermarket (see photo).
I think the shop’s Ibiza atmosphere in combination with my jet lag, momentarily made my brain switch to its English bricklayer mode. I took the trolley, started walking along the aisles of the shop loading the trolley with my shopping, until a couple of minutes later stopped and started to wonder why people were giving me curious looks and why my food seemed to be falling out of the trolley. It took me a while to figure out that I had forgotten the necessary basket(s) that you have to place on your trolley (see photo below). Shopping trolleys in all our local supermarkets are themselves only a frame for the baskets and cannot really be used for shopping on their own, unless you are buying, say, a 15 kg bag of rice or 12 roll packet of toilet paper. The Japanese customers must have been looking at me thinking: ‘What the hell is she doing?’. Oh well, never mind – I blame my jet lag.
A similar thing happened a couple of weeks ago when I was jet lagged after travelling from Japan to England. We went to visit a couple with whom I used to lodge for a year when I first moved to England. We parked our car outside and I started walking towards their bungalow door with my husband and our children behind me. My husband pointed out that our friends’ drive was new – or that at least it wasn’t there 9 months ago when we moved to Japan. I noticed that it seem that our friends had bought a new car as well and I wondered whose the baby car seat on the front seat was. We got to the door, and my husband (who was not jet lagged) looks around and says: Are you sure this is the right house? It looks different. I go: What are you talking about? This is their house. My husband: Are you sure? To which I respond in a rather patronizing manner: Hey, I lived here for a year. This is the right house. And I knock on the door. A strange man appears at the door. I look at my husband confused. My brain is still convinced that this is the right house and analyses the situation as a joke; our friend must have sent someone who was also visiting their house to open the door to make us wonder who the hell’s door we just knocked on, after which our friends would jump from behind the stranger and go Got you!. So, the sentences: Who are you? Did Marc make you come and open the door? were making their way to my lips. Luckily my jet lagged brain managed to detect the fact that the stranger was not amused and those sentences only echoed in my mind rather than in the stranger’s doorway. My brain was finally starting to accept that this was not our friends’ house, but because the speed with which my jet lagged brain functioned was comparable to that of your typical property transaction in England, all I could do was to stand there like a plum and stare at the poor stranger. While I was still processing all this in slow motion my husband explained to the stranger that we had the wrong door, and with my tail between my legs, I walked two doors down to the house where I actually lived for a year.
My tired brain incidents do not end there. A couple of months ago I woke up on a Sunday morning. I had had a particularly bad night with our daughter’s blood sugars so I was pretty tired. It was a sunny day so I went to a flea market in a park in Osaka. I bought some toys for the kids, some Ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement) stuff (which is my new hobby) and a T-shirt depicting two astronauts for our 6-year old son. It was only at home when I showed my purchases to my husband that he pointed out that the astronauts on our son’s T-shirt were not astronauts (see photo below) or if they were then they were inappropriately dressed!
It’s worth noting that this T-shirt is a good example of how difficult it is for an average size Western woman to buy clothes in Japan. I might be wrong but I assume the ‘astronaut’ T-shirt is not intended for children to wear. That is, there are some Japanese men/women that wear roughly the same size clothes as my 6-year old son. (Not only would I have to lose about 5 stone (30kg) but also shrink about 30 cm in height to squeeze into that top).
A while back, we had some problems with our Internet at home. One evening after an exhausting day at work I sat on the sofa and found that my laptop would not connect to the Internet. I needed to get the router ID and password to enter them on my computer. So, I take a stepladder and go into our walk in wardrobe (our router is on the top shelf). Whilst standing on that stepladder my mind goes completely blank for about 20 sec. My husband eventually walks in, he sees me holding the appliance and we had the following conversation:
My husband: How you getting on?
My husband: Are you sure?
Me: As soon as I find the bloody router ID and password on this thing I’ll be right there.
My husband: Ok. But just that you know, the thing that you are holding is the iron not the router.
The above incidents demonstrate the effect of too little or bad quality sleep on my brain, given that when well rested my brain tends to work pretty well (in my opinion). I hope all of you also occasionally find yourselves in similar situations as the above, and if not, please tell me it’s because you are never sleep deprived.