It’s been a month of new beginnings. New work contract, new colleagues. Now it’s a new apartment. Moving is always kind of exciting. Getting to know the local area and the opportunity to design your home again; it gives the hassle a silver lining. Unless that hassle gets out of hand.
I moved into an apartment in Susukino, Sapporo which was advertised as unfurnished. What does that mean to you? Perhaps my knowledge of language is lacking but to me it meant ‘without furniture’. So after I dropped my luggage on the floor and explored the apartment in person for the first time, I wasn’t surprised when I saw no beds, tables or chairs. I was surprised however when I flicked the breakers and no lights came on. Unfurnished in Susukino apparently means ‘without lightbulbs’. It also means ‘without curtains’ and ‘without the key to your own damn letter box’. So my first night ended rather suddenly at 6pm when I could no longer see anything but I resigned myself to buy lightbulbs first thing the next day.
Except it didn’t use ordinary screw-in lightbulbs. Instead when I peered up I found a saucer sized disc full of differently sized curved holes designed for metal teeth to hook inside. So off to the other end of the city I went, to the only DIY shop I knew. I drew the socket on a pad of paper as I didn’t trust my Japanese ability to be strong enough to describe the mosaics decorating my ceilings, and wandered from shop assistant to shop assistant, showing off my art like an obnoxiously proud child. The average cost of the bulbs I needed was 6000 yen. If you’re not appalled by that figure due to being unfamiliar with the currency, I’ll point out that the average cost of screw-in bulbs is 300 yen. I needed three of them.
I get home with my faberge egg light bulbs in tow, bank account empty and prepare to install them. Underneath the socket, my head bobbed down to the bulbs teeth and back up to the socket. Teeth. Socket. I can handle a light bulb, no problem. Like a child safety cap, you push and twist. Any adult can do it. I lifted the bulb up and I abruptly realised that I needed an adult because I was too short to reach the ceiling. But it’s ok, I thought, I’ll get a chair to stand on. There are plenty of chairs in an unfurnished apartment you know. Or I could buy a new chair, with all that money in my empty bank account. 6pm struck and I was left standing in the dark with several light bulbs in my arms.
The next morning I was determined to get creative.
Attempt 1: Splinter-cell moves. Ok so this wasn’t possible in the bedroom or living area but the hallway was just narrow enough. I put my back to one wall and lifted my foot to the other, pushing as much as I could until I was hovering off the ground. Then I shifted up, inch by inch, to climb up the walls and closer to the socket. I used one arm to push off the wall and raise myself that little bit higher while the other clutched the bulb. It was ingenious except for the fact that I kept slipping and landing on my face.
Attempt 2: Good neighbour. What else are neighbours for, other than to offer sugar and DIY services? I hadn’t met my neighbour yet and this provided an excellent excuse for an introduction. “Hello there! My name’s Poncho. I just moved in next door and I wanted to introduce myself. Say, you don’t happen to have an interest in light bulbs do you?”. The Japanese lady who opened the door looked up at me from her mere 5 foot height, which was where my hopes fell to. When I inquired if she had any chairs I could borrow instead, she explained how she used cushions on the floor and my hopes nose-dived into them.
Attempt 3: Ain’t no mountain high enough. My suitcase wasn’t high or stable enough for me to stand on. Nor were the piles of books, or the futon, or the ironing board, rucksack, clothes or towels. But all of them piled on top of each other? I’m fairly convinced now that I would be a amazing surfer. It didn’t matter how much the pile wobbled I didn’t lose my balance. Sure I waved my hands about in panic but I didn’t fall from my lack of balance. I reached the socket, twisting the teeth until at last there was a connection. I knew there was a connection because of the spark of electricity that stung my hand, and the flash of the blinding light bulb in my eyes, both of which helped to throw hard into the floor.
Only two left to go.