Tuesday, 29 April 2014

I haven't been posting because when I'm not walking down to my coffee shop job, I'm walking up to my baby-sitter job, and when I'm not making french press kenyan coffee, I'm washing a four year old, and when i'm not watching two small kids in a bath, I am brewing tea, and when I am not learning how to make a heart with the milk froth and the esspresso, I am tidying cars and toys, and when I am not waking up at 5.50 to get the kids ready for school and it is my day off, I am waking up at 7.00 to go to my second job.

So, I haven't been blogging,
but I have been happybusybefriendingfriends.


Saturday, 26 April 2014

J'ai une gueule de Francaise ou quoi...?

Dans le dictoinnaire, a la definition de 'Francaise', y'a cette image. En fait.
In the dictionary this picture accompanies the definition for French (f.). Seriously.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Le look chaussé aux moines

Note to myself: do not think about something else when cutting your own fringe. 
Unless you actually like that look.

Note a moi-même: ne pas penser a autre chose quand tu te coupe la frange. 
Sauf si vraiment tu kiffes la coupe au bol.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Cafeina Karuizawa

So, I have a part time job in Japan.
As in, on top of my au-pair job.
All I did was find one of the coolest coffee shop I ever set my foot in, as in world wide, and get a coffee, and then ask if I please could work there, please. Actually I also sent a English and Non Grammatical Japanese cover letter of a whole five lines consisting of telling them I love their plants and the movie Coffee and Cigarettes. After two visits as a customer, I was in!
And even though my left wrist it painful as 'd'uck from doing so much washing up: I love it!!!

Natural Cafeina Staff

Yes, I am the tallest one (as would also seem to suggest any pair of trousers I try here, as they all end up being the right size at the hip but somehow my legs are just 30% longer than the average japanese leg and my ankles and feet burst on the other side -duh - like having to order shoes specially wasn't humiliating enough).

My first coffee shop job was seven years ago and to say the least, it was not very nice. It was my very first job ever, it was off the books with absolutely no protection if I hurt myself, and to say it was underpaid would be a gigantic euphemism. It was in a basement with no natural light, underneath a mall hastily built in the 80s capable of making anybody insane and suicidal within ten minutes (ok maybe not, but it was spooky as).
I was paid less than all the other girls, for the simple reason that I was so naive and wanted to do well and scared shitless that I was the easiest target ever for the complete asshole that happenned to be the boss, so he decided he'd pay me two pound less an hour just to see if I'd find out. My good friend was working there too on different days, and one day I found out. After biting my nails for two weeks wandering what to do I went to see him, probably looking like a mouse taken out of her hole, and asked how come I was paid less. His answer was, and I am quoting here, literally  ''you don't talk to me about money - if there's something to talk about moneywise, I come to you, not you to me''. My reaction now would be very  different from what it was then, which was to shut up.
After that he took one hour off my salary that day, I guess as a punishment for asking the question. Years later I worked at a bar and a girl started one evening, somehow before it got busy we talked and she told me she had just left a job in a coffee shop because the boss kept (quoting again) 'touching her ass' and she threatened to tell his wife, and was underpaid, and surpriiiiise, it was the same place. At least I never got any of THAT treatment.

Anyways, Cafeina is about similar to the shithole mentionned above (I'm sorry for the swearwords but it feels good) as... actually I can't even find a metaphor. It's nothing like it.
To start with the bosses are nice. As in, they are just nice, I think. Friendly and letting you know openly and without an ounce of anger or blame when you don't do something or do it in a way they'd rather you did not.
Why does it suprise me? Maybe I was a bit scarred by my experience.
And they call me Fan-chan (which is used for kids or between friends), they did from day one, and it feels lovely.
Keitaro-san makes pictures in the coffee foam and has magazines about latte-art (as in images drawn in the coffee and milk foam), he's a bit like the geeks you find in apple shops, but with coffee instead. I get lunch for free (and they make it vegan for me and it's really, really really delicious and fresh and full of flavour and yummy), the customers are nice and keep wanting to take pictures of the staff and go 'WOUAAAAAA FURANSUJINNNN?!', nobody shouts at me, every single coffee is tasted before it goes onto a table (that's more coffee I drink in a day that I ever did in a week), I get little shot glasses of smoothie and vegan chocolate chip from the hot chocolate making slipped into my hand without even asking for it. Every single drink and plate they make is made with such attention to details and taste that it blows my mind - after a week I'd be slacking off, they have been doing it for seven years...

Ok you get the idea, I like it.
Hope I still will next week end!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Monday, 14 April 2014

April WTF, for your pleasure.

A little bit of WTF to lighten the mood - shall we?
Kids, today's lesson will be divided in three classical theme for Japan: Fashion, High tech, and Kawai (Typical Japanese cute)

Un petit peu de WTF pour détendre l'atmosphère, d'accord?
La lesson d'aujourd'hui sera divisée en trois themes classique du Japon les enfants:
La mode, les nouvelles techonolies, et le Kawai (mignon typiquement japonais).

First, a touch of fashion.
D'abord, un petit peu de mode.

Accessory Louloutte

The above reads (I will correct the spelling mistake on the way, maybe this way I'll spend less time in hell):
Willy Accessory (yes, a louloutte is a willy in French).
ルルット = ちんちん よ... (for english speaker, willy, or louloutte, is chin chin in Japanese)

Then a touch of high tech.
Ensuite un peu de nouvelle technologie.

The Japanese were over the moon because there's a new bullet train on the Nagano - Tokyo line. As in big posters everywhere, ramed platforms and all.
Personally I felt it was the same train but with an unpleasant new plastic smell, but hey, I'm just a stranger here...

'Please be considerate to other passenger while using your computer (keyboard noises etc.).'
"Veuillez considérez le confort des autres passagers si vous utilisez un ordinateur (bruits de claviers etc.),"

Oui non mais parce qu'au Japon, il est absolument impensable de se moucher en public, et il est donc tout à fait banal de renifler à en réveiller ses voisins et dévoiler ainsi à toute la rame le contenu de son propre nez, ca c'est pas un problème, mais ATTENTION à ne surtout pas faire TROP de bruit en tapotant sur son clavier les mecs hein...
Han, j'ai TRES envie de faire une video dans le train ou le clavier d'un ordi aurait été remplacé par un clavier de piano...

So in Japan, you cannot blow your nose in a tissue in public, instead you are expected to sniff and make as much loud and disgusting noise with whatever is in your nose, that's perfectly sane and polite but, hey, man, don't be a prick and use your laptop keyboard too loudly.
Man I so want to do a video where instead of the laptop keyboard it would be a piano keyboard...

And finally, to wrap it up nicely, a touch of cute.
Finalement, pour terminer sur une note douce, un peu de kawai.

Why is there a raccoon on a hand sanitiser bottle?
I give you a hug if you can tell me, cause I wouldn't know to save my life.

Pourquoi un raton-laveur sur une bouteille de gel anti-bacterien?
Si tu le sais, tu peux me le dire, parce que moi la meme pour sauver ma vie je n'en ai pas la moindre idée.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Arubaito - アルバイト

What would you say if I told you that in my town, there's a coffee shop with:

- loads of plants and succulents (my favourite plants) everywhere, on the tables and the floor
- good music (including Bjork)
- soya milk, but without the hippie effect (just nice food and drinks for everyone)
- a poster of Coffee and Cigarette in the toilets
- a terrace that is sunny
- a hundred different types of coffees from grand cru to blends
- and is about one a half minute from the kindergarten where I leave the small one in the morning

Pretty nice, huh...?
Ok, now what would you say...
 if I told you...

I know what you should say. You should say this, obviously, : 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Another week amongst the bears and the station.

Ok so you know sometimes you think to yourself 'Man, I have GOT to clean this car', as in tidy the mess inside.
And, sometimes, you find things, like, I don't know, an umbrella.
And then when it's all done you feel you have achieved something (ok this sounds sad, but it's the truth).
I am using the car of my bosse's wife, who passed away nearly three years ago.
Needless to say my boss and the kids had other things to do than clean and tidy the car the last three years.
Anyways - to give you an idea of the state of the car, I didn't find one umbrella. No...I found nine.
Nine. F*cking. Umbrellas.
And at the end of it the rubbish bag was half my size and about 8 kilos.
And my achievement feeling was proportional.

Anyways, we took the motorway last week-end and I think for once in my life (I'm car sick - to the point that even when they don't move I feel nauseous, like when cleaning one...) I LOVED it. The landscape was amazing and it had been raining so the light made me drool.

 Plus there were 'Monkeys crossing' sign roads. Now you're talking about living in Japan.

Also, I have a green and pink hello kitty tattoo... for two weeks, don't freak out.

Anyways, I decided I needed some shoes that I can slip on (you take your shoes on and off about 40 times a day in Japan, at the doctor, at the kindergarten, in some shops...).
I'm a little of a pain in the ass as I don't buy anything made in China, Taiwan, Indonesia unless it is from a specific brand whose factory has been audited by an independent third party. Basically I do everything I can to avoid buying clothes manufactured in conditions I disagree with, meaning that most of the time I only buy made in France, made in the UK, sometimes made elsewhere in Europe, and here made in Japan (and yes, it also mean I don't buy a lot - hell I'm such a cheap date! Vegan and don't do clothes-shopping! I don't understand...Where ARE the men?).
 It doesn't eradicate the chance of it coming from a sweatshop a hundred percent, but it surely limits that chance. That's all I can do appart from making my own shoes (which I cannot), go bare foot (man, it's still 0 degrees here in the evening, no not an option), or buy second hand which is like non existent here (second whaaaat?).
 ANYWAYS- to cut it short it's not easy for me to find shoes, because on top of this I also don't buy any animal product so no leather or animal skin and fur.
SO: I find a shoe shop in town, and BING! they have the most cute but not too childish shoes, red and shiny, non leather, made in Japan, and not expensive (about 30 euros/pounds). I'm like hey, maybe god does exist.

What had slipped my mind, is that the maximum size in a normal shoe shop in Japan for women is roughly half my foot. So not only my back hurts like hell because my 1m75 is totally alien to any furniture designer here in Japan, but on top of that I have to go to specialised shoe shops for big sizes... my humiliation is now complete.
So to make up for it, I bought some other shit!

A totally amazing hair pin that makes me look like I care (hahahahaha), and makes my hair wavy.
Now I am finally a woman. High five.

Modelling the hair pin between the pines.

So I get up the road frustrated as hell and then I find the most amazing clothes shop with like 95% of their stuff hand made in Japan. 
Most things I simply couldn't afford, but this super-duper-amazingly-comfortable dress I could
 and is what I'd like to wear more of (as in, anything that is not a sweatshirt I have had for the past 15 years, basically). 
It has a tummy pocket and feels great and is one of my favourite colour. 
The cat likes it too, and he knows a hell of a lot about fashion as its diamond-turquoise necklace would suggest.

Those are the Made In Japan shoes I bought a few weeks ago. They are equally fully cat-approved.

As I was already going to hell for being a thirsty-capitalist-consumerist-piece-of-crap, 
I also bought a made in Japan purse made from kimono fabric to put my many coins (as I am indeed very rich).

Monday, 7 April 2014

Back to School

J'adore l'expression de choc et de peur étalé sur son visage.
I love the fear on his face.

Mount Asama and Butchie.

Sinon j'ai fait des colliers avec des coquillage d'Okinawa parce qu'en vrai j'suis une fille.

Did I tell you I have a new boyfriend?

I was having breakfast when this dude approached the house to eat some green on a branch.
It's a KAMOSHIKA, a Japanese goat-antelope or Japanese serow.

Je mangeais mon petit déjeuner quand ce mec est venu à la fenêtre pour manger.
C'est un saro du Japon, plus couramment appelé un Kamoshika.

Sunday, 6 April 2014


Yesterday was, to put it in sophisticated language -as I am a sophisticated lady- totally amazeballs.

It was a Saturday in Tokyo filled with:
meeting my friend Rika in the most amazing starbucks ever (as far as Starbucks get amazing), on a huge but cosy terrace right in the middle of the city, with trees and little flowers and flowery bushes framing a view on the busy streets, and confy benches you could totally fall asleep on, hamac-like chairs hanging from branches, wooden decks,... Once again we had a 2 hour long half English half Japanese conversation we hadn't plan. It was a perfect spot. I will remember it.
We had planned to go see some cherry blossom, but picture an ex agoraphobic and a borderline one, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, the first of April, going to where the whole of Tokyo goes... yep, that was just not going to happen. The souk in Jerusalem and the opening of the sales in Paris are like a thermal cure compared to Tokyo on the first week end of the cherry trees blossoming. It was crowded as in you don't know what colour the pavement is.
So we saw a tree from far away when crossing harajuku bridge, looked at each other, and agreed that would be our hanami for today.

I had finished all the book in English I had brought and bought here, so to Tower Record we went, via a skateshop for the brother. Rika wants to improve her English, so she had picked up On the road. I took it from her hands, threw it over my shoulder and in her hand still open I put The curious incident of the dog at night, wishing I hadn't already read it so I could read it for the first time again.
I have finished the trilogy Our Ancesters from Italo Calvino, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Wilde, and an autobiography from Orwell amongst other. I will never read any non-fiction from George Orwell ever again from fear of puking (Up and Down London and Paris was plainly racist, sexist, pouring with hastily written theories about bullshit the guy pretends to know about when really it is very clear he doesn't, anyways, never ever again).
I love Tower Record because I feel like the staff are my mates and we could go for coffee and chat about good movies - when really, we couldn't at all, they just happen to be Japanese and to be working, and my European brain process their attitude totally the wrong way. But it gives me that impression everytime I go anyways.
So I picked up a collection of short stories by Gabriel Marcia Marquez as I had enjoyed the yellowed, musty smelling pages of Lea's copy of One Hundred Years Of Solitude (merci Léa) and because I have been swimming among classics (books and movies), I thought I would allowed myself to try something different and picked up The girl with the dragon tatoo (it was also really cheap...).

So then our heads were spinning because we had laughed and spoken so much it was 4 pm and we hadn't eaten. At all.
 Rika remembered a Kaiten Sushi (where sushis roll around a belt) where everything is a hundred yen (that's £0.58 or 0.71€ a plate of 6 makis or 3 sushis). So you pick up vegan or non vegan makis, kappa makis, oshinko makis, inari sushi, everything is 100 yen a plate. Cheese I love Japan.
But that wasn't the best part. We go in, and where I had expected to find an old sort-of-sweet smelling dirty wooden place I find a clinical looking room, white walls white lights.
They give you a number, and like in a hotel where you go find a room, you go find your numbered sit within a row of people already eating in their washed white light.
You sit facing a screen that is slightly above your head, and that's where you order - literally, you put your finger on the picture of what you want (pickled aubergine with wasabi sushi? What was that again about vegans bound to miss on every food and/or social occasion while in Japan?) and that's where it peacks:
in front of you, under the screen, are three vertical tracks. Your sushi comes about 2 minutes after you order it, flying down the track out of nowhere, passes all the other eaters aligned on your right and left and stops in front of you.
You then press a little yellow face button, and 'pppffiiooouuwww': it flies away again back to wherever it came from, moving at a high speed. (Do you like my sound effect? Yeah I know... Was never really good at written sound effects - I must really look for a class to improve my lack of skills in the matter).
I was laughing so much I could barely eat at first. Rika now knows 'whooot?!' as well as 'what'. Anyways it was delicious and cheap, especially as Rika decided to pay for me as I had bought her a coffee earlier (which was the same price as a full meal, don't ask).

I wanted to go to ping pong practice in Kanda from 6 to 9 (where, again, I am the only girl, and the only one under 40, and, hell yeah - the only foreigner too), but by the time I looked again at my watch it was way past that time and I had used most of my energy ignoring the crowd.
Then somehow Rika pushed me in - ready for the new Japanese word of the day? - a PURIKURA.
It's an entire floor or several floors filled with photo boots and young women dressed in high heels making high pitched sounds. So you go into the boot, and it prompts you to take poses against a green background that gets magically filled with soft colours and random English words, and it's kind of fun to do with a mate.
Until you realise there is an algorithm that:
-Makes your skin super smooth (ok...)
-Makes your lips and cheeks a different colour (computer generated make up, alright I can deal with this...)
-Makes your eyes about three times their normal size, so you pretty much look like a 3 year old if you are asian. If you happen to have caucasian eyes, which is my case (well I didn't choose my parents, did you?) it makes you look exactly like this:

Then you have taken enough duck-lips poses (they do prompt you to do this, and I thought it was my duty as a human being to disobey), you go in another little boot where you can add more random English words that don't really end up being sentences, stars and glitter and hearts and sh... and stuff.

Wtf moment of the month, there you are.
Bonjour, j'ai 5 ans et demi.

 And then I didn't want to go but as I had walked the whole day with my ping-pong shoes and bat and clothes, I thought it would be silly not to go, so I left Rika around 7pm and had a run all the way between the station and the gymnasium.
Note to oneself: don't run with normal clothes on in general, and a long sleeved shirt in particular as you won't make more friends by having sweat patches under your arms.

After buying my ticket from the machine to play (yes, you always buy tickets from machine next to a human being in Japan - there is a receptionist, but her job with me is to tell me what button on the machine I have to press and handing me a different 100 yen coins when mine is burped back by the machine -you also buy a ticket from a machine right next to a human being when you want to go to the public bath, to buy a towel, to add some soap you buy another ticket from the machine, to spend a night in a capsule hotel, to buy a hot bottle of lemon tea drink in the middle of nowhere, to charge your metro pass...).
So I bought my ticket and had a short but really effective play with a couple of guys until my arm hurt from trying to shoot the guy on the other side of the table with a ball as low and fast as I possibly could make it go. I managed to get a few 'na-ee-suuu' (nice), and other onomatope from my opponent that I won't reproduce as I already mentioned earlier I'm not half as good at them as I am at table tennis.  Then I jumped in the shower before running again to get the last train home - with all that cherry blossom panic I was unable to find a single bed in all of the Tokyo hostels.
If you find showers that clean in any public gymnasium in England or France, I'll buy you a cookie. There was not one single hair on the ground, not a patch of mold on the curtains, it was literally spotless. I guess the very fact I find this surprising tells enough about the difference in cleanliness in public spaces in Japan and other places in the world. Then it was 9 pm, and so they played a little 9 pm song or two, typical of what I have heard in Japan so far: covers of European songs from the 70s or 80s on a virtual synthesizer (either that or Ghibli music made airy with enough tinkles to make you light headed).
Enough to want to die if you're not in the mood for an 'Aux Champs Elysée' played with one hand - if not just one finger - on a keyboard on a screen.

Then I took the shinkansen and fell asleep and once home watched Mr Smith goes to Washington (1939) which I highly recommend because it was flipping great, and in the middle I spoke with the brother in the Johannesburg airport after he saw dolphins and surfed down a sand dune, you know, after work. He has the beard of Abraham Lincoln, brown and blond, and the little of his face exposed to the sun is totally burned, so he somehow can also claim a resemblance with this animal.
Then it was 3 am and in the morning, it was snowing again.
Yes. Snowing. AGAIN.
So I had 5 yorkshire teas and 4 yogi teas to counter balance them and it'll be fine.
Somehow it is now 3.30 pm and I have no idea how it happened, but the snow has stopped so I'm going to check the mountain chain is still there at the top of the view point and then go to the onsen check out naked japanese women and lying in a boiling bath outside with trees above my head.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

I never get tired of this movie.
It's like listening to an album for the billionth time and still getting something out of it (even if it's just laughters).