Diary of a Wanderer

Hullo there! Thanks for popping by. Do take a seat and join me in all my misadventures. Much appreciated :)

‘Retrospective’ – the enemy of every woman — September 25, 2018

‘Retrospective’ – the enemy of every woman

Guess one of my least favourite words? That’s right. It’s ‘retrospective’.

The word itself implies some regretful feelings. ‘If only I did this’, ‘if only I hadn’t done that’ and yada yada yada. As Celine Dion said, ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is good to look back on the past, especially when there are fond memories or educational moments. But sometimes, and especially nowadays, the idea of being retrospective is used to encourage blame and feelings of stupidity, especially with sexual assault.

I’m a huge fan of the ‘metoo’ movement – there I said it. It was a movement that was definitely overdue. Hollywood, by its very nature, has always been predatory towards impressionable people, particularly young, aspiring actresses. And no matter the number of ‘meninists’ that came out of the woodwork to mock that movement, I stood by it. My heart broke when Bill Cosby was moved from the hall of fame to the hall of shame, but I stood by his accusers. After all, there is nothing worse than shutting up a victim who’s been through a lot already.

And for a while, I was happy about the progress this movement seemed to be making. Until Brett Kavanaugh was chosen by Trump to sit in the SCOTUS, and Christine Blasey Ford came out with her allegations.

Now, the whole thing was messy and already horrific (Mrs Ford’s statement was very heartbreaking), but the POTUS decided to add salt to injury with his ‘sceptical’ tweets. Which, of course, has now given birth to the ‘WhyIDidn’tReport’ movement. And honestly, there is no better response to Trump’s stupidity than the raw, painful tweets in the new movement.

Yes, I believe that there is some truth to Mrs Ford’s allegations, but we should also look at Trump’s obvious statement on the matter. In a country where 77% of sexual assault cases aren’t reported, and a world where 120 million women have experienced non-consensual sex, having a ‘world leader’ declare such sceptic views is very dangerous. It’s one thing when your parents tell you to shut up about the daily abuse you go through, or when the police officer tells you that you deserved it because of the clothes you wore. To have the President of a country ask ‘why didn’t she report it back then?’ is extremely damning to most survivors. It’s saying ‘how could you be so silly not to have said anything then?’ It means that Trump and his fellow sceptics ignore that fact that survivors may have been threatened, or may have actually reported the crime, but, just like Trump, no one believed them.

What then happens is that we start to retrospect. We start looking back on a time in our lives that we would rather not look back on. And this can be very risky for survivors because the trauma may just come back. And all the therapy, all the progress we’ve made so far starts to feel useless. Because the self-blame comes back again. ‘I shouldn’t have gone to that party’, ‘I shouldn’t have walked home alone’, ‘I should have said something’, and on and on it goes.

And to Trump, I say this – you’ll never understand what it means to be Christine Blasey, Rose McGowan or any other survivor out there. You won’t understand what it means to be watchful everytime you walk out the door. So stay away from sensitive issues, and stay away from Twitter while you’re at it.

 

 

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7 items you’ll need when hiking in Kyoto — September 22, 2018

7 items you’ll need when hiking in Kyoto

You know what I like about autumn? That little, but ever so lovely, breezy temperature in the air. It’s like the Goldilocks of weather¬† – not too hot, not too cold, but just right! You don’t have to wear layers upon layers to stop you from turning into Jack Frost, and you don’t have to strip all the way down till you look like a member of Baywatch.

What’s even better is the number of activities you could do at this time of year, like going on a hike. Now, I’ll confess – I’ve never been hiking before. But it was the public holiday weekend last week, and I’m in Japan. So I thought – ‘when would be a good time to start if not now?!’ And the Good Lord knows I need the exercise after all the ramen I’ve been devouring lately. And voila! Off I went, hiking in the Northern forests of the magical city of Kyoto with some (more physically fit) friends. And it was magical indeed! Riding a bus in Japan for the first time, walking past humongous trees that fell under the power of Typhoon Jebi, stopping at a lovely hole-in-the-forest cafe for a break, visiting amazing shrines and soaking in onsens.

But there is really no point in enjoying those sights if you are not prepared for the hike in the first place. So without further ado, here are the 7 things to have if you’re going hiking in the Japanese countryside (or any countryside for that matter)…..

  • Shoes, Shoes, Shoes: Kajal Aggarwal once said that a woman can never have enough shoes. And I definitely agree with her. You can never have enough of the right shoes for each occasion, like hiking shoes. Going hiking? Get some proper hiking shoes on that feet people! Oh, and socks. Get some socks too.
Quechua walking boots – definitely my no.1 choice

 

  • Get all the gear!: This requires a bit more thinking. Is it hot as hell? Then choose very light clothes or you will be tempted to strip at some point. Winter season? Then pack some more clothes, just in case. Either way, the universal tip on hiking gear is this – layers. Wear light clothes, but don’t forget layers in case you need more padding against the winter or less clothes in the summer. By the way, there is nothing wrong with hiking in a skirt, there really isn’t.

 

  • Bug spray: Dragon flies are cool, but have you seen a spider with almost 8 inch long legs? Me neither. Until I did last Sunday. If you’re terrified of creepy crawlies like me, take some bug spray. It may or may not work, but that false sense of security will have you feeling like the Hulk among spiders, centipedes and all kinds of yucky things.

 

  • Water: Thank God I brought some water with me, or I would have been wheezing 30 minutes into the hike. Bring water! And no, it doesn’t matter if there might be a vending machine or two along the way. Bring some water please, thank you.

 

  • A handkerchief: You will sweat, come winter or summer. And this might come in handy.

 

  • Your wallet: Pretty self-explanatory.

 

  • A good, stable backpack: You will need a good quality backpack. There’s nothing worse than your bag breaking when you are miles (and two train rides) away from civilization. And while we are at it, don’t pack an entire holiday’s worth of stuff in there or your shoulders will curse you for a looong time. *Applies ice to shoulder slowly*

 

One final tip – make sure you let someone know where you are. Yes, I had the right hiking shoes, the right gear, backpack and I was walking among the Japanese. But anything can happen, and safety is always important.

So there it is. Seven things to have in your hiking arsenal. Would you add anything else?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Towels and typhoons…oh dear! — September 20, 2018

Towels and typhoons…oh dear!

It’s been a while since I posted, hasn’t it? In that time, so much has happened on this side of the world:

  • There was a what-the-bloody-hell-was-that 5.9 – 6 richter scale earthquake in Osaka – honestly though, there is no better alarm clock than the feel of your bed shaking aggressively at 8am on a slightly warm morning in June.
  • I finally managed to visit Universal Studios Japan – praise Jeezuz!!
  • Typhoon number 20 happened.
  • My mum nearly had a heart attack because of the overwhelming number of natural disasters that’s happened in Japan in 2018 alone.
  • Typhoon number 21 happened…*cue huge sigh here*
  • Trump threw paper towels in Puerto Rico last year….and we’re talking about it again.

Unfortunately, there is only so much I can fit into a blog post, so I will have to pick the ones that have grabbed attention lately. I can’t really praise the Japanese enough, the Good Lord knows that Typhoon 21 (aka ‘Jebi’) was very scary. I can clearly remember the sounds of heavy winds and the sight of actual rolling clouds at my balcony. Seeing planks of wood fly from one balcony to another didn’t help either. And I was 90% sure that the power cables on my street would collapse on my balcony at one point. But you know what was really amazing? My neighbours across the street. The same neighbours who were sorting out their laundry and working on their laptops as the lights kept flickering on and off again and again.

Rolling skies and shaking cable lines

Even better was the total lack of response to Jebi the next day. Yes, some areas were flooded, there were tragedies, and some of my students are still repairing parts of their homes. But you know what? My students still turned up for their lessons the very next day. They went to work, came to class afterwards and moaned about their bosses as if nothing happened the day before.

But on the other side of the world, there lies a certain politician who, it seems, can’t handle natural disasters well. His past actions are coming back to bite him, and his countrymen. Yes, I’m talking about that politician. His antics are clogging up my Facebook feed, and my friends’ feed, and their friends’ feed….and on and on it goes.

Unfortunately, one of Trump’s past actions during hurricane Maria have come back to the spotlight, thanks to hurricane Florence’s recent visit (what is it with disasters and female names??) – and according to my fed-up American friends, it’s paper towels this time, or rather Trump’s paper toss.

Now, I do love me some towels, Lord knows my inner Brit can’t do without some Bounty paper towels in my home. But there is a place and time for everything. And, my dear dear Trump, chucking paper towels across the room to people who need actual, serious aid just isn’t right! It doesn’t matter if they had ‘beautiful, soft towels’ or said people were chanting at you as if it was a baseball game. The examples you set is what matters. Because at the end of the day, your administration will be responsible for your actions, and so will your people.

An American friend once said – ‘ only a few more years of this downward spiral and we’ll be safe’. I didn’t want to tell her what I truly thought, I didn’t want to tell her that it might be too late by then, that Trump would have made many mistakes and caused too much damage. But who knows? If there are two things Americans and the Japanese have in common, it’s these – too much experience with natural disasters and an apathy to world leaders or bosses. Because how else would you survive typhoons and silly politicians?

 

What Do You Do When Your Home No Longer Belongs To You? — June 8, 2018

What Do You Do When Your Home No Longer Belongs To You?

Summer is amazing. It really is.

Wearing that brightly coloured skirt you’ve been eyeing in your closet for months, hopping down the street and the sun blessing you with its golden rays. Spreading out your picnic blanket, settling down with friends and having finger sandwiches while slowly getting that tan you’ve been after for ages. Heaven, I tell ya. Just. Heaven.

Now imagine all of that, but with the summer a hundred times hotter than you’re used to, and you’ve got the Japanese summer. From the months of June to September, the residents of this island are blessed (or blasted, depending on your opinion) with unbelievable heat. It’s the kind of heat that makes women hold their precious handkerchiefs to their chest, the obaachans wear their ninja-looking caps while riding their bikes, the imotos cover themselves with their umbrellas so they don’t get that oh-so-dreaded tan, or the tourists wearing next to nothing in the hopes of actually getting a tan.

Yes, summer in Japan is gob smacking wonderful. But there is something that most people don’t know. Something that the Japan tourism agency won’t tell bright eyed tourists. Something that’s whispered among natives and residents alike. What is it? It’s very simple – ‘when summer comes, your home is no longer yours’. And no, it isn’t because your partner’s parents decide to visit for the season. Oh, how I wish that was the case! It’s actually because you get the kind of visitors no one wants – bugs.

Japan is home to different kinds of bugs, and I recently found out the hard way. You see, it was a warm, good day in May. I literally returned from work a second before with some nice snacks I got from the convenience store down the road. I was going to take an extremely cold shower to get the sweat off, then relax with my snacks and a netflix marathon for the night. It was going to be a date night for one. It was going to be amazing.

What happened was that I saw a cockroach running across my genkan the second I opened my door. Screaming would not even begin to cover my reaction. I was petrified. My evening plans all gone in an instant. Luckily, I killed the arsehole before it could hide. But the damage was already done, and my paranoia was at all time high. ‘How many more are there?’ ‘Where is their nest?’ ‘How do you get rid of a cockroach in Japan?’ Is it true that where there is one, there is a hundred??’ ‘Will I find one crawling all over my face when I wake up?!’

Unfortunately, my sleep-ful nights turned into the sleepless kind. And I’m dreading the next set of electricity bills coming my way next month. But I have found a way to survive. Mostly by making sure that I spend as little time at home as possible. Oh and also looking into apartment hunting in Osaka, which will be a story for another day.

The question is – what do you do when you’ve been chased out of your home by bugs? Well here are some options you could look into:

  • Get drunk at a festival: Now do use this wisely. I was able to attend the Craft Beer festival at Minatomachi river in Namba on a warm breezy day, which was amazing, especially as it got my mind off the little terrorists in my apartment. But if you are a lightweight like me, do watch out for those sneaky pack-of-7 tickets. Basically, you get a pack of 7 tickets for roughly 2000 yen. Want a beer? Walk among the 50 or so beer tents, and exchange a ticket for a cup. Run of tickets? You can always get more. And there weren’t really any age checks. You see how this can get dangerous?

 

 

  • Visit a Rose Garden: This has got to my favourite activity so far. The rose garden in Nakanoshima Park is simply sublime. And with over 310 species of roses, you will definitely be surrounded by beautiful flowers whichever way you turn. Plus it’s a hotspot for a romantic date with that guy who’s finally gotten the hint about your feelings. Or maybe just a date with yourself. One piece of advice though – avoid going before July, as you might get a chance to see more flowers then.
Roses everywhere
Roses everywhere…it was a great night

 

  • See The New World: Ahhh Shinsekai! It’s absolutely lovely, haunting and nostalgic at the same time. Shinsekai literally means ‘new world’, and you can definitely understand the irony behind the name when you visit. But, you can’t miss taking that picture by the Hitachi tower, or having a bite of Kushikatsu in one of the many restaurants in the area.
btrhdr
The New World

 

  • Eat side dishes at an Izakaya: Luckily, my friend and I discovered this amazing hole in the wall when we were still too awake to sleep at 2am. The pros? Their ‘side dishes’ definitely came in main meal sizes, were cheap, and we got to speak to some locals with our horrible Japanese, and had some meaningful conversations with each other. The cons? Nada.
nfd
Rice for dayssss

 

So there you have it. My mini guide on how to survive bug season in Japan. Will this method work for the next few months? Only time will tell.

Are you still in charge of your home when summer comes?

 

A child of 2 cultures; and a master of none — June 3, 2018

A child of 2 cultures; and a master of none

You know my least favourite question? ‘Where are you from?’

The question itself is harmless. It’s the following conversation that really annoys me.

‘You are from the UK? No really, where are you from?’

So are your parents immigrants then? When did they move? How far back does the immigration go in your family?’

‘Ohhh, so your parents moved some years back? So you are African then! Definitely not British. Hahaha. Can I touch your hair?’

You see, I was born (and raised for the first 12 years of my life) in Nigeria. And I am blessed and cursed to have some fond memories of my time there. I can still remember the stifling heat, the frustrating traffic, the hamam suya down the road who sold the mouth melting suya pieces, and the collective sigh of disappointment when the electric grid shut down and there were no electricity for the night. I remember it all. Sometimes it makes me smile. And at other times, it makes feel…..well, less than.

I feel less than those who were born in the UK, because they don’t have those memories. Their entire lives are usually found in the streets of London or Coventry. They believe that the only African thing about them is their skin colour. They sigh and groan whenever their parents drag them kicking and screaming to their home countries for Christmas. They would rather live within the bubble of the UK than explore their parents’ memories, fears and hopes. And to some people, they are more British than the rest of us.

Being around those people made me want to fit in all the more. Unfortunately, I ended up creating two bubbles for myself Рone for the Nigerian in me, and one for the Brit. I loved my upbringing, but the problem with spending my growing years in two countries is that I have been influenced by two cultures. There is the Nigerian gal, the one who is very traditional, scoffs at the idea of divorce and dreamt of being married as soon as she got her degree.  Then there is the Brit, the one who likes to think she is modern, dreams of having brunch with her friends in London and prefers wearing pencil skirts to work than the horrifying world of dating.

Sometimes, I mix up both bubbles until they become a neon mess of two different personalities. And sometimes, both bubbles fight with each other when a piece of news breaks out about a Nigerian immigrant, until one bubble wins. In some cases, it’s the Brit who tuts at the news of another immigrant getting up to no good and wonders if Britain will ever be safe again. And in others, it’s the Nigerian who knows the story behind that immigrant. Who knows that living in Nigeria may be fun, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Who knows that Nigeria does something to you; it makes you hungrier for success in whichever way you can get it, no matter the cost. Sometimes both bubbles get mixed up until I don’t know what to think anymore.

So you see why I hate that question? It’s because when someone asks me where I’m from, my response is ‘what should I say?’, ‘what do you want to hear?’. Because the truth is that I’m Nigerian and British, that I’m a child of both cultures, and a master of neither.

Do you have any bubbles? And what do you call them?

Inside the Bubble

7 Mistakes I Made on An 18-hour Flight – and how to avoid them — May 17, 2018

7 Mistakes I Made on An 18-hour Flight – and how to avoid them

I love planes. I really do.

There’s something about being miles above ground, drifting among the clouds. Looking out your window hoping to catch a peek of humans below. That feeling is mesmerising, it makes you think you are one step closer to ‘the gods’ – or whichever deity you prefer.

You see, I realised that I’ve been in Japan for almost 5 months now. FIVE MONTHS. Boy, does time fly! And naturally I remembered my 18 hour flight from London Gatwick to Kansai Airport. It was full of fun times. And bad times.

To celebrate my almost-5 month stay, I thought it would be nice to share my top tips for traveling on a lone flight. So without further ado, drum roll please……

 

  • Travel pillows and sleep masks are essential, earmuffs – not so much: Now, do use this advice as you wish. I found out that I was lucky enough during both flights to not sit near any wailing babies (no offence to the mamas and dadas out there), so my pricey earmuffs were not needed. My travel pillow and eye masks on the other hand? Well my neck would have cursed me nine ways to Sunday, and I wouldn’t have been able to sleep without some cover over my eyes to block out the lights in the plane. Which would have been tragic, seeing as I only slept 5 hours the night before.

 

  • Reading materials will be your lifeline: There were only so many times I could watch The Great Gatsby or Star Wars without punching my screen. Honestly, airlines should really beef up their movie selection for us economy users (looking at you Emirates). If you are like me and you don’t have that much patience for 2012-esque movies, but want to keep your mind working, a good read to have on hand is How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Everyone could do with reading this.

 

  • Window seats can be a heaven sent, or instruments from hell. Choose wisely!: My first flight was such a breeze. Plunking my ass in the convenient, roomy aisle seat, the toilet being within easy reach (but not too close to ruin your flight) and being the first to get a meal off the flight attendant’s trolley. Ah! Such bliss. The second connecting flight, on the other hand, was a complete nightmare. Sitting right by the toilet (and I do mean right by the toilet), with just enough space to stretch your legs if you were a leprechaun. Oh, and the perks of a window seat of course. And there weren’t any by the way, because the flight was at nighttime, which slowly transformed into an extremely foggy morning. Good times. (Pssss. If you want to do some recon on seating charts before picking your seat, do drop by SeatGuru. You’re welcome)

 

  • DO NOT eat that mustard beef sandwich in between your connecting flights: No seriously, don’t do it. You will only be wasting money since you’ll be getting a second meal during your second flight. Plus you don’t want to be that person walking out of the toilet with the fumes of that sandwich trailing after you like a creepy ghost. Trust me, you don’t.

 

  • There will be glitz and glamour all over the duty free area. For the sake of your wallet, resist the temptation: Ah yes, I really loved that 50ml of Marc Jacobs I got at Dubai Airport. Did I really need it? No. Was it lovely? Yes. Did my wallet suffer for it? Absolutely.

 

  • Pack an extra set of comfortable clothes: I really really wished I did this. Unfortunately, my favourite shirt and leggings are ruined. Trust me, no amount of washing can get rid of the stench and residue of a very long flight. Yuk.

 

  • Get as much sleep as possible, so you don’t steal your fellow passenger’s seat belt: This is a fond and cringy memory. My seatmate was a lovely Japanese elderly lady who found the situation funny (and she was the first Japanese person I spoke to), but let’s not discount the odd looks I got from the many other Japanese faces in the cabin when they overheard our exchange. Ugh.

 

So there you have it. I hope this helps any future traveler so you don’t end up embarrassing yourself, or getting rid of your favourite clothes. How about you? Any tips to add?

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Music Strips Your Soul — May 9, 2018

When Music Strips Your Soul

I can’t stand Ellie Goulding.

No, really. There’s something about the woman that just rankles my head, as if there’s something fake. Or irritating.

But, there I was, at work jazzing up some class records, when her voice suddenly popped up in the CD player (what’s up with Japanese offices and 2005 hits??), and I just laughed.

I remember the line clearly – ‘I’ve loved and I’ve lost’. And for the first time since hearing those words, I smiled. Partly because it felt ridiculous to hear a 2007 hit in 2018, like my mum listened to Sade back in the days. But also because I felt those words.

It’s been 4 days since I got back to Osaka, and Tokyo was a beautiful experience. I looked at shrines, the ocean, a ginormous transformer, and the statue of liberty. Yep, that’s right…a statue of liberty indeed.

But I felt so relieved getting back to Osaka, strolling through the underground cafes at Namba station and seeing the amazing food before catching my train.

Goodies all round

It was such a huge difference to the way I felt 2 weeks ago – and that’s when I really understood people who go on holidays every month. They travel multiple times a year, using up their annual leave days gradually, as if they are rationing those days the way you ration supplies in a forest, savouring them until they have none left. And the reason is very clear – it’s because they need to escape from the mundane everyday life. Because there’s only so many times you can look at the same oh-so-amazing sight before you go batshit crazy, or before you end up crying on the phone call to your mum.

But something else hit me then. I realised how strong I am, how cool it is that I just upped and moved across the world, to another country, another continent, for no other reason than to challenge myself, to smile and laugh at the wonders of the world. Like the many world heritage sites, or the works of nature and man. The fact that I have been living in Osaka alone, and traveled to Tokyo (a city of marvels) alone……I felt like a badass. And that’s when I smiled.

Fast forward to listening to Ellie Goulding at work, I remembered the last time I listened to her song years ago. When I was down and upset, sad about wasting 3 years at university studying a subject I felt nothing for, being very afraid of the future and wondering what the hell I was doing with my life when my friends were showing off their new qualifications in Instagram.

But now, I feel different. An ‘okay’ kind of different. I realised that I’m good. That I am doing good, all out here on my own, meeting monks, understanding a culture different from my own, learning a language, meeting people and creating memories. And it felt so bloody good. I have loved and I’ve lost. I loved my years at university, old friends, possessions. And I lost them all. And I’m still smiling. It was then that I understood life a little better. And that’s when I had a good laugh…and that’s when my colleagues looked at me like I had gone mad.

When was the last time you had a good laugh? And did your coworkers think you were crazy too?

Tag: Laughter