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DAYS

STAY SALTY ...... means column

Stepping forward at Baltic

Maya Column

from  Stockholm / Sweden

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Maya
IT programmer / interpreter

After living in the U.S. and China, she has been living in Stockholm, Sweden since the dawn of the new century.
Main occupation: IT programmer, occasional overseas location assistance, research, interpreter.
Private life: volunteer work related to pandemic.

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北欧の冬のささやかな愉しみ

4.15.2024

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

Small pleasures of winter in Scandinavia

Small pleasures of winter in Scandinavia

In France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, the sun shines brightly and often, and even in winter it is rarely freezing in the south. You will never get tired of places to visit.


In comparison to Sweden, It would be a lie if I said that I never envy the greenness of the neighbour's lawn.


Swedes often like the brighter days. As soon as the sun comes out, Swedes come out in droves. With such a national character, one would imagine that there must be a lot of people moving to tropical countries. It is estimated that just over 70,000 Swedes emigrated to Spain last year.This figure is approximately three times the number of Japanese living in Malaysia. This is a relatively large number considering the Swedish population.


However, there are also many patriots in this country. These are people who love Sweden's forests, lakes and the Baltic Sea and have little interest in foreign countries. They go to the summerhouse every weekend or long weekend break to repair the exterior or interior, read a book in the shade of a tree, or raise a glass of wine as the sun sinks behind the horizon. The courtyard is filled with roses of all kinds, fresh vegetables, and a salad piled up for lunch, over which they and their friends chat about the good old days.


Such scenes can be found in southern Europe as well, or perhaps more so in southern Europe. So what are the best things to do in this northern country? Winter sports, saunas and so on.

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By the way, there is something special about this country.


Many of you may have heard of groups such as ABBA and Europa. There are also many other musicians who are not internationally known, but are loved by the Swedish public.


My musical tastes are rather Western, and I usually don't listen to Swedish musicians, but there is one musician that I like.


When I heard that Magnus was giving a concert in an old castle in an old town, I immediately signed up. The package included an overnight stay in a converted monastery hotel, a full-course dinner, a walk to the old castle and the concert. The date and time was set for mid-February.


Why would it be held in mid-February at such a time of year? It was cold and the sky was gloomy, my least favourite time of the year. The hotel, which was converted from a monastery, looks cold inside, too. Why not choose a warmer time of year, I wondered at first.

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The town is situated on the banks of a huge lake. One can imagine that in summer the hotel would be crowded with swimmers, boaters, etc.


But what about winter? It would be difficult to attract visitors during the winter months. I see, attracting visitors in winter with concerts as a drawcard is quite a synergistic plan.


My first impression of the town was that it was small and pretty. The second impression was that the streets were pale under a dark sky. The third impression was that melting snow had melted into the mud on the roads, making them unsurfaced, and I feared that my shoes would get dirty.


In other words, it was not a very exciting impression.


The huge lake in front of the monastery hotel was covered with ice. And the landscape amplified the physical coldness.


The building with the rooms we were allocated bore no resemblance to the medieval monastery.


The huge lake in front of the monastery hotel was covered in ice. And the landscape amplified the experiential coldness.


The building with the rooms we were allocated was in a 1980s architectural style that bore no resemblance to the medieval monastery. The rooms were spacious, and thankfully the shower room was equipped with a jacuzzi, but we would have preferred to stay in the abbey hotel if we could have.


We got ourselves together for the moment and went to dinner, which was served at the Monastery Hotel. The ceiling of the restaurant still retained its original shape. It was probably a chapel from those days. Most of the diners in the restaurant were concert package buyers, so they were eating in the same state of anxiety as we were.


After dinner, we walked along the lakeside to the old castle where the concert was to be held. We had no idea how far the huge lake, which was covered in ice when we saw it in the afternoon, would go after dark, or where it would end.


The landscape was simply tranquil and magical. The eerie sound of ice friction could be heard from all over the lake. I would have loved to have taken a photo, but in that darkness, my camera would not have been able to press the shutter.


On the edge of the lake, which was roaring like a seal's cry, my eyes followed the silhouettes of people heading towards the old castle, who had become part of the magical landscape.


This is winter in Sweden, I reminded myself.


No sun, no shadows of people with bottomless smiles on their faces, and although the temperature was bitterly cold, the air was crystal clear.


A concert in an ancient castle, with an audience of around 300 people sitting on simple chairs. In a country where many people are tall, I sat almost in the middle, so I couldn't see much of Magnus, but I could hear his singing and witty banter. It was a strange feeling to be in the same castle as Magnus, whom I had only seen on television. After the concert, I had planned to have a photograph with him afterwards, but after the first encore he disappeared backstage and never came out again.

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The next morning, I went to the convent for breakfast. While eating, I looked back diagonally behind me and saw Magnus and Gunnar, the pianist, sitting down to eat. As I had imagined, they were also staying at the hotel.


Should I talk to them?


I kept asking myself for a while. In this country, fans do not usually make a fuss when they see celebrities in the street. This is probably because they respect the privacy of celebrities.


After some contemplation, I came to the conclusion that no one dislikes being praised. Musicians with mega-hits are probably tired of hearing words of praise, but Magnus is rather famous domestically.


On the other hand, if I didn't speak to them now, I would probably regret it. Too many times I have regretted missing the right moment because I waited too long.


I got up from my seat and approached their table.


'Sorry to interrupt. I wanted to tell you that your concert was fantastic," I said from beside Gunnar.


Gunnar looked up at me in surprise, Magnus looked up slowly and thanked me politely.


Did you have a good rest?" I asked, and Magnus nodded slowly.


In the historic city, enchanted by the fantastic and mysterious huge lake, I attended a concert in an ancient castle. And to exchange words with the musicians in person.


This was my winter event this year.


Swedish winters may not be so bad.

私達の時間

2.10.2024

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

Our Time

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Do you know what a floppy disk is?"

I ask the young people.

 

They shake their heads with a chick-like expression.

 

What about cassette tapes?"

 

They look at me as if they have encountered an alien.

They have never seen or touched a cassette tape.

 

But if someone from an older generation asked me, "Have you ever seen a punch hole in a computer? I myself might blink like a chick. I have no idea what they look like.

 

The capacity of both the computer and the disk increases year by year, and the size decreases year by year. In the early days, the computer capacity of a certain national institution in the U.S. was said to be 4 kilobytes. Today, even ordinary households use computers with terabyte-class capacities. I thought I was barely keeping up with the remarkable evolution of computers. The number of unfamiliar three-letter IT terms is increasing every year.

 

But, despite all this, the number of new words and phrases is increasing every year,

 

I was relieved to be told that I had made the right choice in choosing a career in IT, which is in high demand, for ten years. In other words, I had not updated my knowledge in ten years.

 

However, I have recently realized something. No, not just recently. I have received comments from time to time telling me, "There are many places in need of the antique IT jobs you are engaged in, so don't be in a hurry.

 

Still, I was prepared to take a firm stance and did not think that I needed to be in a hurry. I had no doubt that the type of work I was doing was "IT work that is in high demand.

 

One day, however, I woke up.

 

The technology I knew was outdated.

 

I had only vaguely considered that I would have to turn my attention to AI and ChatGPT, and that I would have to look into those fields in the future.

 

However, in my field of work, it was not at the level of "I wonder if I have to pay attention to it," but rather, it was a situation where I could not survive without knowledge and skills related to the field.

 

I was taking it easy.

 

Once that happened, I had no choice but to learn without hesitation. It took me ten years to get my engine running, but I had no choice but to start with what I could.

 

After immersing myself in IT terminology for a few weeks, I began to understand the meaning of the non-antique, or modern IT terminology a little better. I also began to understand my colleagues' interest in modern IT. When I mention certain IT terms, those who understand them immediately understand. Those who don't understand become taciturn with a chick-like expression on their face.

 

They assume, as I did in the past, that I am talking about technology that has nothing to do with them.

And only now do I realize the necessity of subjects such as "differential analysis," which in high school I assumed were completely irrelevant to me.

 

Still, sometimes I feel vulnerable.

 

How can I compete with a generation that has been exposed to computers since they were babies? It was only a few years ago that I switched from interpreting to IT work.

 

I am often tempted to return to Japan and live a modest life with my mother.

 

However, I must not create an escape route for myself.

 

There are some things about the Japanese education system that seem to be better compared to the education system here. There are few escape routes. In other words, you can go straight ahead without looking aside.

I have the impression that there are too many escape routes in the Japanese education system. This is only an impression. In other words, there are too many options. For adults with a certain degree of willpower, having choices is a welcome thing. However, when you are a child, it is easier to move forward without looking aside if an adult has shown you the way to some extent.

Some of my colleagues will be retiring in a few months' time. They are very talented people, but show no desire to learn new skills. On the contrary, they are sceptical about them. This is understandable, as the IT world is changing even within a few months, forcing people to adapt, even if they are retiring in a few months' time.

The typical retirement age in this country is now 66. I was amazed to learn that some people in my former IT company were working until the age of 69. I overheard him say that he could work for the rest of his life until he either resigned on his own or made some mistakes and getting fired. I have worked with that person. He was a very talented man, but he showed no willingness to adopt new technology. Yet he still maintains his job at the age of 69. Is it the generosity of this country?

So I am finally ready to get up from my long lukewarm state and walk into reality.

Unlike when I was studying in a school, I can now learn everything online, without having to attend expensive universities and technical schools. There is an abundance of material that is suited to my level. I don't have to complain that the textbooks are expensive, but only use a few pages and are very difficult to understand.

As long as you work in IT, you will always have to learn new technologies or you will be pushed out. And it was I who dared to choose such an industry. It is one of the jobs where you can work as an immigrant on an equal footing with natives.

So learning will be my priority for a while until I can catch up with IT in 2024.

IT and everything else is evolving at a dizzying pace in our time, but will our friends, at least, stay the same?

I hope they will stay the same.

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星屑のステージ 羽田空港ふたたび

12.10.2023

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

Stardust Stage Haneda again

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"Long and short, short and long"


This is how I would describe the period of time between leaving Japan and visiting Japan again.
It had been almost 11 months since my last visit to Japan. 
Normally, I would have preferred to return to Japan in December, when there are many holidays, so that I would not have to take so many paid holidays.
However, Japanese wooden buildings are too cold inside during the winter season, and it is relatively easy to take a vacation in the summer, but Japanese summers are murderous for those who are used to the Scandinavian climate.


Therefore, this time I stayed in Japan for a month starting in mid-October. 
Finnair is the most popular airline to fly from Scandinavia to Japan because of its short total flight time, but I rarely fly with Finnair because I feel more comfortable flying with a larger aircraft.
However, I rarely fly with Finnair because I feel more comfortable flying with a larger aircraft.


I don't know when the construction work was done, but the airport was completely new and open, and I felt as if I was in an airport in mainland Europe.
The security system has also changed.
There is no need to remove liquids or computers.
A lot has changed in just 11 months.
In most cases, the security system requires me to take off our hair ornaments and boots, but this time there was not even that.


I felt like Urashima Taro.
It may be that the pandemic has calmed down and the travel industry has suddenly begun to wake up.


While I was thinking about such things, the Boeing plane carrying us was flying eastward over a fantastic azure mountain range.
Since I was not following the flight map at the time, I mistakenly thought that the snow-covered blue mountains were in the Arctic, but in fact they were over Turkey probably.


Flying, which I used to dislike so much, does not seem so difficult these days.
Perhaps it is because I never get tired of looking at the scenery from the aircraft window.
Or perhaps it is because I can just watch a few movies from the in-flight service and we are soon on our way.


I would have thought that I should be able to return home more often, but I have difficulty in affording trips, can't take a long vacation at any time, and need a few days to recover from jet lag, so it's not so easy.


It is always an indescribable sensation when the "Landing Soon, Buckle Up" sign is displayed on the plane.


This time, as I looked out the window of the plane just before landing, I saw Tokyo as a big city.
I have never felt such a sense of power when landing in a European city.
And the metropolis was endless.


The ANA flight gradually lowered its altitude, carrying me with mixed feelings of regret and pride.

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Most Japanese who go back to their home country temporarily are usually very busy.
In my case, I am also very busy because I try to cram a year's worth of things into one month.
I spend as much time as possible with my family, help my family, meet as many friends as possible, do as much sightseeing as possible, soak in onsen as often as possible, eat as much sushi as possible, and buy as much Japanese food as possible.


This year, I had a guest from Sweden visiting, so my focus for half of my stay was to attend to the guest.


It may seem as if a month would fly by, but that is not the case.
It was a month that felt a little longer, perhaps because each day was so intense and varied.


Whenever I return to Japan temporarily, I am reminded of how wonderful Japan is.


However, this is probably because I only visit Japan for a short period of time as a tourist.
If I were to move my life to Japan and spend my daily life there, would it be as wonderful as it is now?


Would I be able to find a job in Japan?


Many of my acquaintances in my age group work as telephone customer service agents or caregivers.
There are also friends who have established their own companies or are executives in their own companies, but they are too busy to schedule to meet me.


Suppose I find a good job and end up commuting to Tokyo.
However, one of the reasons I left Japan was because I was fed up with commuting long distances by train.
That situation should still be the same today.

 

I wonder if you will miss your children when you live apart from them.


Even though we live close to each other, we are so busy that we seldom see our children.
However, it is a relief to know that they live close enough to see each other if they want to.


Wasn't natural disasters one of the reasons for leaving Japan?


It seems that the number of natural disasters is increasing, not decreasing.
I hear that the extreme heat of summer itself is on the level of a disaster.

 

My desire to live in Japan grows stronger each time I return to Japan, and this time, too, I arrived at Haneda Airport without having reached a conclusion.

 

The observation deck of Haneda Airport is called "The stardust stage". There are many LED lights embedded on the deck, and they light up fantastically.
The view from the deck of the aircrafts' takeoffs and landings was simply elegant.

 

This was the last night's view I had in Japan.


I wish this night had been the night of the landing, not the night of the takeoff from Japan," I sigh, saying the same thing every year.


And now, a week has passed since I returned to Scandinavia.
Nothing has changed in my life here since I returned to Japan.


If anything has changed, it is that the surface of the earth is covered in silver, just like the surface of the mountains I saw from the window of the plane when I flew over them.
The country is about to enter a long, dark, and cold winter.

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二十五年ごとの再会

10.15.2023

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

Reunion every twenty-five years

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Around noon, there is a rustling sound near the apartment door.

At the same time, I was running to the door, it was my routine for about twenty-five years ago.

Several blue envelopes had been thrown under the door.

 

They were air letters from family in Japan, friends in Japan, and friends overseas.

For a while after immigrating here, I didn't know what I wanted to do, what I should do, or what I could do. Every day, I took walks, had dinner meetings with friends here, and wrote letters to my family and friends.

I put the handwritten letters in envelopes, put stamps on them, and sent them.

 

It took a long time to handwrite the letters, but I still put his heart and soul into it.

And family and friends wrote with all their hearts. Such were the days.

 

However, I could not take a box full of memories with me every time I moved to a new house.

I couldn't turn my back on them, so I decided to open them one by one, take pictures of each one, and leave them behind.

However, this was quite difficult.

In particular, I cannot throw away items that I have received from the deceased.

They cannot be reproduced.

Even so, I was determined and began to dispose of each letter one by one.

Before discarding them, I read through the letters of my acquaintances and was surprised at what I found.

I was surprised to find that many of my friends and relatives had promised to visit me in Sweden shortly after my arrival.

They even suggested specific dates for their visits.

 

I wonder how many of my relatives and friends visited me.

 

So far, one relative from my father's side, two relatives from my mother's side, and five friends have visited me.

However, none of them were the people who had proposed Sweden to me 25 years ago.

Some of the friends who had proposed to visit Sweden are no longer known to me, and I no longer have their contact information.

 

This summer, one of my cousins informed me that she would like to visit me in Sweden.

Among my cousins, she belongs to a group with whom I have very little contact.

 

It was probably shortly after I found an airmail from her while I was going through my letters.

It was dated 25 years ago.

I will visit you, my cousin-sister, next autumn," the letter said.

 

Welcome to Sweden. Finally after 25 years. When I met her and her husband in front of their apartment, I showed them her letter as the first thing I said.

 

She laughed, saying she had no recollection of it at all.

I had never met her husband.

When I asked her who was taking care of the children while they are travelling abroad, she replied, "What are you talking about? My sons are already in college," my cousin said in a smile.

I had no idea that she had two sons or that they were in college.

I had never met her children.

Life had moved on while we were both busy with our own lives on the other side of the world.

When we met again in front of the apartment building, we recognized each other immediately.

She still had the look of her childhood, but she now has a position of high-responsibility at her work and had an age-appropriate expression on her face.

Blood is a strange thing.

Even after a gap of more than twenty-five years, relatives are still relatives.

 

We had lunch together at a Lebanese restaurant and walked around the islands in the center of Stockholm.

We never talked about the past after we became grown-ups.

Since we had no common past after we became grown-ups.


This is how my cousin described me to her husband.

"My cousin-sister was our boss. She was always planning various things and giving us orders. But it was so interesting that we all followed her.''

It was something I had no memory of.

 

The girl I remembered was just a young girl with a drooping nose.

I was amazed that she could remember things from so long ago.

My cousin, who used to have a droopy nose, has now grown into a beautiful woman.

 

My aunt, her mother, described me as a bully, and she repeated that description.

Therefore, I too had been implanted with such memories.

However, despite this, my cousin seemed to have favorable feelings towards me.

 

As the three of us walked around the islands in central Stockholm for several hours, the distance between us gradually narrowed.

I was now able to talk to her husband, whom I had never met until that day, as if we were friends.


We had dinner at our house.  

 He said he wanted to try something typical of Sweden, so I bought some crawfish.

It was served with cheese pie and fries, and it seemed like they enjoyed it.

 
They left my apartment towards the end of the night.

This was to return to the hotel where they were staying.

“When can we meet again?”

“I hope to meet you again within twenty-five years.”

After exchanging these words, I looked over at them.

When will we see their backs next?


These days, the only opportunities to see relatives are during ceremonial occasions.

Unfortunately, the number of funerals has increased, and in most cases I am unable to even attend them.

In most cases, we do not learn that a blood relative has passed away until much later.

I learned that my grandmother had passed away three years after her death.

 
I have a relatively large number of cousins, and their children are also reaching the age of marriage.

However, since I have never even met them, I am not invited to their wedding.

It is what 'leaving one's homeland' means.

Unfortunately, I don't get to see people very often, whether they're friends or blood relatives.

However, when I met cousins in this city, the fragments of memories of each other were rewritten.


From a 'drop-nosed kid' to a 'beautiful career woman.'

From "boss" to "cousin sister struggling in a foreign country".

When will we be able to meet again?

We probably won't see each other that soon.

She will continue to be busy with her life in Tokyo.

However, I wish that from time to time, she would remember that one sunny autumn afternoon, when we walked up a small hill with my cousin sister and got a panoramic view of Stockholm.

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アロさんに押された背中

8.5.2023

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

Being encouraged by Mr.Alo

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Mr. Alo has released a new song.

 
Mr. Alo is the person who started this beautiful web magazine.

 
I don't like to call someone I don't know by a nickname "Mr. Alo" out of the blue, as if I were forcibly joining a members' club without an invitation, but I will call him that for the sake of convenience in this essay.

 
I will call him "Mr. Kinoshita" for the sake of convenience, because I once spelled his formal name "Mr. Kinoshita" as "Ms. Kinoshita(in Wrong character).
If I repeatedly refer to Mr. Kinoshita in my essays, there is a danger that I will mispronounce his name as Mr. Kinoshita, Mr. Kinoshita, or even Mr. Yamashita.
I understand that he is a person who puts a smiley face, etc. on his writing, but in fact, he is also a very particular person with a lot of pride.
Therefore, I would like to avoid offending him with such a basic mistake.

 
Therefore, I will call him Mr. Alo for the time being.

 
I listened to Mr. Alo's new song, "Hollow Pain," several times on my PC because it had a nice groove. As a result, it went in the Associated Mixes section of Youtube.

 
When I thought about it, I realized that my encounter with Mr. Alo had something to do with music.

 
When he asked me if I would like to write in his magazine, I read his article to see what kind of person he was. It was an article about music.

 
My first impression was that he was a man who sang dynamically and sparkled under the sun.
Later, his image as a designer replaced his image as a musician.

 
The other writers in this magazine are also all glittering.
I wondered why Mr. Alo, who recruits only the sparkling ones, wanted to invite me, but I gladly agreed to do so.

 
The frequency of once a month may not seem frequent, but it is.
I have been working remotely from home for a long time, so I don't have many opportunities to meet with people.
Therefore, events that I would like to write about in this essay do not occur often.

 
I did go to a supermarket or so. But the incidents that occurred there were things such as a wrong bill, a person who could not get out of an automatic door and shouted at it, a liquor store. Or, a woman with an alcohol addiction was making a scene at a state-run liquor store, and her three male employees were backing away from her in fear, etc, etc.

 
There is no laughter or drama here. 
Still, each time I try to squeeze something out of my meager experience. When I would submit the article to Mr. Alo, bowing my head and asking, "Is this the kind of article you can accept?

 
Even so, Mr. Alo accepts my manuscripts with a "thank you" each time and lays them out beautifully.

It is not only my manuscripts, but everyone's manuscripts.
There are so many of them.
I thought he would not have time to read each and every one of them, but sometimes he gives his opinion about the contents of the articles, so perhaps he is actually reading them.

  
When I was beginning to write this month, I felt like writing about Mr. Alo, so I changed my topic suddenly on the day of the deadline.

However, the article that should appear in this magazine is an account of my own life, not a praise of Mr. Alo.
Why did I write nearly 1,000 words about Mr. Alo in this article, at the risk of being told, "You don't understand me at all.

 
What is the benefit of Mr. Alo's initiation in my life? 
I will not say that he has blown a fresh breeze from Shonan into my monotonous life.
There are no poems in my essays.
If I say or write something too poetic, I may feel as if my teeth are going to stick in the air.

 
So let me be more specific,

When you get an invitation, "Would you like to write in my magazine?" I suspect that not many people would feel bad about being asked to contribute to a magazine.
It is a beautiful magazine, and it is a pleasure to have one's own work lined up in it.

 
It also gives a sense of urgency to the contributions that have deadlines.
We, especially those of us who live abroad, will surely lose our Japanese if we do not write regularly.

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Recently, I wanted to write a novel. 
I had an irresistible urge to write.

  
When I first moved here, I had written a few novels.
The first novel I ever wrote was a psycho-mystery novel that I entered into a novel contest, and it passed the qualifying round, which was called the hardest part of the contest.
I even had an article about a historical event in this town published in a booklet for several years.
I wrote them simply because I enjoyed them.
I also contacted a well-known leading historical fiction writer in Sweden and proposed a translation project.

 
I asked a Japanese novelist I knew if there was any demand for Swedish historical novels.
He is a well-known novelist who occasionally appears on TV.
I had met him on a trip many years ago, and I had helped him somewhat when he was having difficulties.

 
His reply was, "I have been indebted to you,

You have been a great help to me, and I would like to thank you just once. If you write a manuscript, I will take it to the publisher. But only once.

I was asked a simple question: "Is there any demand for Swedish historical novels in Japan? I could not understand why his answer sounded so unpleasant to such a simple question as this.
But it was unpleasant enough to press down my ambition. I have not written any novels since then.

 
Recently, however, I have been able to pick up my writing again.

Mr.Alo san's words, "Would you like to write in my magazine?"

 
That one word was probably a big trigger for me.

 
Mr. Alo is a poet.
And his poems dance chicly in Hollow Pain.
After years of writing poetry and not composing music, he has released a song for the first time in 30 years.
And it has not faded away at all.

 
He encouraged me, indirectly, to write a novel that I used to love.

 
Thank you, Mr. Alo, for pushing me to do so.
I would like to do my best together with him.

  
I hope that this manuscript will be published without censorship by Mr. Alo.

期間限定だから

6.10.2023

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

Limited time only.

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The airport bus carrying my daughter departed. 
It was Friday.  
We met at the nearest beach on Tuesday and took a walk together through the forest. We said our goodbyes at the intersection leading to downtown.

 

I kept looking at her until I couldn't see her back anymore, but she never looked back.
As soon as one event is over, her mind is occupied with the next one.

 

Since she was leaving Stockholm on Friday, we could have met on Wednesday or Thursday if we had wanted to.

But what was the point of meeting her?
No matter how many times I tried to see her, she would leave on Friday anyway.
It was too much to be regretted.

 

However, as the departure time of the airport bus was drawing near, I couldn't stand still and jumped on my bicycle, even though I was in the middle of the work.

 

"Mom, isn't this a little crazy?"

 

My daughter was appalled when she saw me.

I realized that I would never understand this feeling until I became a parent myself.

 

My daughter arrived from southern Europe, just when the sky started to get brighter in Stockholm, to find out in which country she should stay and work.

 

I love the Swedes, I think they are the nicest people in the world," she said.

She has worked in London, New York, and many other places around the world, and now she says she loves Sweden the best.

When she used to return home in the winter, she said, "Sweden is too peaceful. I think it's a very good country for seniors," .

 

She is a vegetarian and Sweden is a vegetarian-friendly country.
The country she lives in is famous for its gourmet food, but it is not a vegetarian-friendly country.

 

The language in the country she lives is not hard to learn for everyday conversation, but it may take decades, or even forever, to be treated as an equal in a business context," she muttered sadly.


 

As for language, her situation is very similar to mine.

People around me listen to their fluent Swedish-speaking colleagues, even when they are saying the same thing as I.
If a company policy changes, I am the one who understands that at last.
If I sit in on a complex technical meeting, I lose focus, due to lack of understanding.

 

But this does not make me want to work in Japan, where Japanese is the native language.
Although I am eager to live in Japan again, the situation is different when it comes to employment.

 

It is possible that the situation in Japan is now much better than it was when I was working in Japan.
It seems that the "reform of the way of working" has been implemented. 
However, there were still some workplaces where the custom of "women are equal to tea-press" remained.
Some workplaces still have a time reporting system.

 

My daughter was longing to live in a foreign country.
As soon as the pandemic first broke out, she started working abroad.
The initial plan to work there was for one year, but it turned out to be a year and a half.

 

This time, she worked in Stockholm for a month. 
She returned home at 6:00 p.m. almost every day. 
She said that she had rarely been able to return home at 6:00 p.m. when she was stationed abroad.
She never had time to see her friends on working days.

 

She usually stayed at her father's house when she came back to Stockholm, but she always came to my house for lunch on Saturdays and ate my homemade food.
She says she likes my cooking the best.

 

Every Saturday for me started with cooking and ended with cleaning up, during the time that she was in Stockholm.
Still, it was a blissful time with my daughter.
I sometimes wished this routine could go on forever, but I knew it would never happen.
She would probably leave Sweden again after a month.

 

When Stockholm is tinted with the first signs of summer, people's spirits are naturally buoyed.

This spring, she had truly enjoyed her month in Stockholm.

At the end of her limited stay, she made up her mind.

 

"I'm going to try my luck in a foreign country for a year."

 

I have no way of knowing what she was thinking, but I have a vague idea.

It probably won't last more than a year.

Or perhaps this expatriation will last several years.

When my father was alive and well, my parents occasionally blurted out their true feelings.

 

"I want to live with my grandchildren. Even if you don't work in Japan, YOu can live on my retirement allowance as long as we don't live extravagantly.

 

I could understand my parents' sentiments.

However, I could not let my aspirations fall by the wayside.
It was not a great ambition, but I had put in a lot of effort to get a full-time job overseas.
To give it all up and go back to the drawing board would have made my parents happy, but it would have been a life I could not finish.

 

A few days have passed since my daughter left Stockholm.

 

Every Saturday I would get up early and cook lunch for her, if she was in Stockholm.
It was a fun time, but it was not something I could do forever.
It was something I could do only for a limited period of time. I have my own daily routine as well.

 

Furthermore, I think the reason Stockholm seemed so rosy to her was because it was a time-limited stay, and she knew that she would not be returning to Stockholm again for a while.

 

She has now resumed her life in a foreign country.

And I am gradually getting back to my normal lifestyle.

巷の人々の話題にのぼることは

4.10.2023

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

What people on the street are talking about

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One day at an after-work session, I had a chance to talk with an acquaintance.

He was a man who had reached the age of 67 and had retired.

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he had retired but returned to work again.

He came to work only one day a week.

I have the equivalent of ten million yen in the bank," he declared in a hushed tone.

He must have had a little alcohol in his system because he was working after hours. 


Ten million yen. 


For a 67-year-old, healthy, single man, is 10 million yen really enough?

He is a very average Swede who lives in a suburban apartment, has a small cottage in the countryside, and owns an average car.

He is not wearing a particularly expensive watch, nor does he seem to be investing in expensive hobbies.

If he meant that he has to work after retirement because he only has ten million yen, it would make sense.

He is still going to work once a week at the age of 67.

 

One of my bosses turned 64, and he declared on a daily basis, "From the day I turn 65, I will not work at all.

He had been counting down the months until his 65th birthday.


However,


Recently, things have been looking bleak.

He had begun to consider the option of continuing to work for about three years after retirement.

His change of policy was puzzling to those around him, as he was a man who truly wanted to retire.

He explained his reasons in this way.

 

He explained that he wanted to retire, but it was getting difficult, financially speaking.

 
If I am not mistaken, he must have assets worth at least half a billion yen.

Nevertheless, he is worried about his financial situation in his old age.

There are many wealthy people in this country, but not all households are as wealthy as his.

If it is financially difficult even for a person with half a billion yen, how about an acquaintance who has ten million yen left in the bank?

 

What about me, a very average salaryman?

In my case, I am also at a disadvantage because I am a foreigner.

In case of an emergency, I would not be able to benefit from the help of my relatives.

 
Last year, I went to a supermarket after returning from a temporary stay in Japan.

It is always a bit of a shock when you come back to Scandinavia from Japan, where prices are low, to Scandinavia, where prices are high.

This time, however, the shock was stronger than usual.

Some items had doubled in price.

 

Following the news in Japan, I often heard news such as "XX product has been decided to raise its price for the first time in 25 years.

However, the price increase was only 4 yen or 20 yen.

However, as for this supermarket, I have the impression that the price has been rising noticeably week by week.

The price of orange juice, which used to be around 250 yen per liter, has risen to 270 yen, 290 yen, 310 yen, and 350 yen every time I visit the store.

This is quite different from Japan, where a 4 yen increase for the first time in 23 years has been all over the news.

Is it possible that the price of orange juice will drop to the 200 yen level again in the future?

Will the price of 10 eggs go from 500 yen to 300 yen?

Fortunately, I do not own a vacation home or a car, so I am not paying for electricity, gasoline, parking, insurance, etc. for my vacation home.

 
However, the common expenses for the condo have increased 1,5 times in the last 6 months or so.

We have been informed that we will have to raise them further in the future to break even.


I am witnessing the phenomenon of "inflation" on a daily basis.

 
Let me review my consumption.

I buy a lot of food during big sales.

I end up throwing it away because I can't consume it in time.

I also buy things that I expect to use someday regardless of the price.

There are many foods that I buy because they are rare but end up throwing away because I cannot figure out how to use them.

 

As for living expenses, the majority of these are water bills.

Hot water costs eight times as much as cold water.

When I wash my hands, I use a large amount of hot water, which makes the water bill shockingly high.

 
Thus, when I calmly analyze my consumption, I find that I am relatively wasteful. 

I refrain from purchasing items that I do not need for the time being.

Use limited resources carefully.

Even such trivial efforts, if continued steadily, will enable us to barely survive for the time being.


Butter, oil, and eggs have gone up in price again," "The interest rate on my mortgage has risen so dramatically that my life has become very difficult," "I can't retire at age 65.

Such lamentations can be heard on the street.

 

On the other hand, the growing of indoor cultivation of vegetables and fish farming to save on transportation is being promoted and is increasing.


What is a human being?

We have always been adaptable creatures, and we will continue to find ways to cope with all kinds of adversity.


In Japan, there has been much talk about the 20 million yen problem in old age.

A boss who has half a billion yen in assets but is about to give up on retirement at age 65.

And a 67-year-old acquaintance of mine confessed in a drunken party that he has ten million worth of assets in the bank.

How much assets will be needed for retirement in this country?

 

After all,

In the end, it is useless to argue whether it is ten million yen or half a billion yen.

What is important is how much money I will need by the time I reach retirement age.

Will I be able to maintain my current standard of living?

I have no idea what the economy will be like more than a decade from now.

However, the figure of ten million yen is probably a very delicate figure.

If there is a possibility that it will not be enough in either case, perhaps we should use the money to enjoy here and now.

文章のあと.jpg
日本恋しい病

2.8.2023

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

Japanophobia

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What are you going to do now?"

 
I asked my friend who had lost his spouse in an epidemic. His spouse was Japanese. 
  
She replied, "I might go back to Osaka.

She had married a young Japanese sushi chef in Stockholm, and after he passed away, she continued to make sushi on her own.

Since her spouse is Japanese, she has no relatives in Sweden. Her children are all independent.


I don't know how long I'll be able to make sushi," she said.


When I follow news about Japan from abroad, I often wonder if Japan will be all right in the future. 
Various things are flying in from neighboring countries. The value of the yen continued to fall.
The Nankai Trough earthquake is a serious concern.
There are countless other things to be concerned about.


However, when I finally arrived in Japan, from the moment I left the airport, I was reminded of how well Japan functions as a country.

Something I had forgotten since I had not been back home for almost four years.

The bus company politely explained to me where to catch the bus.
The airport bus arrived on time where it was supposed to wait for us, and the attendant carefully loaded our luggage.


And then the hustle and bustle of the city.

The city is bustling with activity, with restaurants and eateries crowded around the area where we got off the bus.
This is not the center of a large city such as Tokyo, but the station front of a regional city in Kanagawa.
All of the restaurants presented delicious-looking menus.

It is not that the Swedish diet is particularly shabby.
Some Swedes have even won a sushi nigiri (hand-formed sushi) contest.
However, the number of restaurants and foodstuffs is not comparable to that of Japan.
Japan's food culture is too rich.

And as a Japanese person, I have enjoyed that food culture.

 

When did I start thinking "I want to go back to Japan someday" after moving here?

When I was raising my children and studying hard, I probably had only one goal in mind.

To become financially independent in this country.

And that goal was realized ten years ago.

If my friend had finally decided to return to Japan, I would have been strongly encouraged to do the same.


However, I cannot go back to Japan now.

There are several reasons.

First of all,

I still have almost 20 years left until retirement.

 

"Will you still be able to work in Japan?" I am sometimes asked this question.

 

However, I know a Japanese girl who worked in Japan for several years and then came back from Japan.

 

I can't work in Japan," she says.


I don't know the details, but I can guess to some extent.

If you are accustomed to the working style of this country, where there are no time cards and self-management is respected, it seems to be extremely difficult to reintegrate into the Japanese working style.
The long commute on crowded trains is also unrealistic nowadays.


Another reason is that,

If my longing for Japan was just an illusion, it would be difficult to go back after moving my life base to Japan.

I am sure that I had my own reasons when I decided to leave Japan despite the sense of loneliness that my parents felt.
I am sure that those reasons have not disappeared.

Did I have a longing for Europe at that time? 
As an America fan, Europe was not my first choice of moving to.
However, I had a desire to live abroad.

The concept of "happiness" is often cited in international comparisons.
Sweden, although at the bottom of the Scandinavian countries in terms of above, is still in the top 20.

It is certainly an easy country to live in if one does not compare food culture.


Should I live in Japan or Sweden in the future?

I often ruminate on this question as if I were telling the fortune of a flower.
And I am not satisfied with either result.


I met again with friends from high school in Japan . 
They all expressed their satisfaction with Japan, saying, "Japan is a great country with good food and everything is available. 
I also agreed with them. 
After all, it is food that accounts for most of our physiological needs.


I am sure you can make Japanese food here, right
 
My colleagues tried to calm him down.

My colleagues from Europe think that Japanese food means sushi.

Whenever I go back to Japan temporarily, I bring more than 50 kilograms of Japanese food with me.
Japanese curry roux, furikake (sprinkles), Japanese soup stock, and so on.
This somehow manages to keep me alive until the next trip back to Japan.

There are sushi restaurants here that serve nigiri-zushi that are sure to please your taste buds.
There is a fry machine, so pork cutlets and tempura are easy to make.
Ingredients for okonomiyaki and other dishes are also readily available.

As for pasta and pizza, there are many good restaurants here.
Thai food, Vietnamese food, tapas, etc., also have good reputations, and many of them are delicious.

While I long for Japan and crave Japanese food, I also welcome the development of food culture in Sweden.

 

In the meantime, a month has passed since my return here.
In the meantime, my thoughts of Japan have been pushed deep into the recesses of my mind as I have been busy with the daily chores of my life.

This is the "Japan-missing disease" that I suffer from after returning to Japan temporarily, and its recovery process.
It seems that I am not the only Japanese living abroad who suffer from this disease.

日本食.jpg
石橋を叩きながら生きて来たけれど

11.7.2022

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

I have lived my life by knocking on stone bridges, but....

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The other day, I attended a workshop for the first time in a long time.


It was a six-hour course, lunch included. The cost was equivalent to two or three nights in a luxury hotel.
In other words, it was very expensive.


It was a small group of about 15 participants, but when I listened to the self-introductions of the other participants, I noticed that all of them had "Chief/Boss" attached to their names, except for me.


I wondered shortly if there was a "chief" anywhere in my job title.


I can't think of any.
[Developer] sounds a little better, but it doesn't have a "chief" in it.
Come to think of it, I was recently put in charge of an IT system.
I regretted not introducing myself as such, but even if I am in charge of a system, it does not make me the "chief" of the system.


In any case, I would not see the other members again, and there would be no difficulty in meeting them again.
After all, titles do not have much discriminatory meaning, especially in this country.


Among the 14 "chief's" of the group, there was one woman who left a strong impression on me.


She was a young Asian woman who spoke fluent Swedish.
She must have been born here.
She had long jet-black hair and heavy artificial eyelashes that seemed to be about two centimeters long.
Her lips, which were unnaturally full, had probably been treated in some way.
Although artificial, she had created a perfect appearance.


Her presence certainly stood out among the rather formal participants.
Some of the intelligentsia tends to avoid women with such an appearance.
This may not be the case that can be seen only in this country.


But she had no reason to care what others thought of her.
She is probably the most successful businesswoman among the participants.
Her confidence shone through.


She started her business single-handedly.
I guessed that it took a lot of hard work to get her business off the ground.


I asked for her business card.

 


I usually take a short trip just before the stress of working overtime, overtime, and overtime would take over.
By escaping from such reality, I manage to keep my peace of mind.
I have been living such a routine for more than a decade, before and after the pandemic.


I had one ideal when I was a student: to obtain a full-time technical job and become financially independent.


Today, that ideal has been fulfilled.


However, I wonder if this current situation is the ideal for me, the one that I have long sought.


Once an ideal is fulfilled, we tend to forget how grateful we are for it.
Many folktales and other tales of the past make fun of such a human tendency.


In my case, I have not forgotten my gratitude, but I often feel nostalgic about the process of realizing that ideal.


I wonder where my passion went when I was studying hard with memorandum sheets pasted all over my house morning, noon, and night in order to get a job.


I was always described as serious, prudent, and a person who crosses bridges by knocking on stone bridges, and I, myself also recognized that I was suited for a solid job.


Thanks to this solid and stable job, I was able to survive the pandemic.


I am sure I made the right choice.


The other day, one of my daughters expressed her desire to start a web store.


I immediately tried to argue with her, "Everyone is doing that already, Where do you get the money to start such a business?"


But I swallowed those words, however, because they reminded me of my own childhood.


I had told my parents that I wanted to become a cartoonist because I liked drawing cartoons.


My parents were against it.
They reasoned that only a handful of people could become famous and become self-supporting, and that the hardships would be obvious. 


In my late teens, I told my parents that I wanted to become a flight attendant.


They were against it again. They said it would be physically stressful.


So, in the end, I gave up both. But if I was so opposed that I gave up, it probably meant that I was not that serious about it after all.


I understand that the reason for the parents' opposition was that they did not want their daughter to have a hard time.

 

However,
I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I had become an independent cartoonist, or if I had flown around the world as a flight attendant. 
Now I was about to do the same thing to my own children.


In other words, I was ready to tell her that it was too hard, too impossible, and that she should stop considering it.
Building a webshop by oneself is certainly a difficult task.


However, the hard work is worth the effort.
One may fail and fall behind.
But is there really such a thing as a life without failures and setbacks?


You only live once.


What is the meaning of life if we give up everything without even opening the lid, saying, "It looks too hard?


"I will support you on the technical side"


I responded to my daughter's wish in this way.

異国で得た朋友

10.7.2022

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

Friends obtained in a foreign country

IMG_9094-(2).jpg

Since I began to feel a sense of urgency to "do what I want to do when circumstances allow," I have been travelling abroad almost every month.

Thanks to this action, the numbers in my bank account are not rising at all.

However, since I have no plans to make any major expenditures at the moment, I think I will be able to make it through this year.

This is much better than regretting it later when my travel abroad is restricted again for some reason.  

In June, I made a personal trip to Paris. 

When I returned from Paris, I felt as if I had left something undone.

So I booked a ticket to Paris again.

It was the first time for me to visit the same country twice in the same year.

 

A thought occurred to me.

This time, I decided to travel with a friend.

I have a Japanese female friend with whom I sometimes go for walks.

She is a woman similar to me in that she has almost no emotional ups and downs.

Although she is a little older than me, she is a talented programmer and we understand each other to some extent when we talk about work.

Since this is a trip to get away from work, we do not intend to talk about work, but since we can understand each other, I feel that we can have a relaxed relationship.

I am not sure how she feels about me though.

 

I asked her if she would like to go to Paris with me.

 

The next day, I received a pleasant reply from her.

 

She said, "Sure. I haven't been to Paris for a long time. The last time I visited, it was raining all the time.

 

Thus, I am now going to go abroad with a female friend of mine.

If nothing goes wrong, we will leave in a few days.

To date, I have traveled with a female friend twice.

Both trips have been both exciting and frustrating, as they are unique to traveling with women.

 

The first trip was to Hawaii with a high school classmate after graduation.

It was a long time ago, but I don't remember it being that disappointing.

 

The second trip was from Stockholm to Milan, Italy.

That time, I went with a Japanese friend who had immigrated to Stockholm at the same time as I.

She was a dexterous and lively woman with a face similar to that of the actress Miki Nakatani.

Since neither of us was doing anything special at the time of immigration, we spent nearly an hour on the phone with each other every day.

In addition, we cooked dinner together at least once a week.

Whenever something difficult happened at home, they would run to each other and talked for a long time.

I wonder if there has ever been such a close friend with whom one could have a heart-to-heart relationship like a family.

 

One winter, an airline company was running a campaign for airline tickets to Milan, Italy.

I invited my best friend to visit Milan with me.

I decided to take my second daughter, who was an infant at the time, with me since there was no one to take care of her.

 

I suggested to her, "I will buy the airline tickets for both of us, and you can take care of the baby from time to time while I am shopping.

It was probably around this trip that our friendship began to break down.

As for me, I remember that I rarely asked her for favors.

I remember that I rarely asked her to do anything for me, because she was wearing delicate sandals and I found it difficult for her to push the stroller with her sandals. 

In the end, I remember asking her to babysit only once, while we were shopping, but I can't tell how she felt about it now.

It was only a four-day, three-night trip, but it was probably enough to cause a rift in our friendship.

 

By the time she returned to Japan, we had only been seeing each other once every few months by phone to say hello to each other.

I had to pay for the airline tickets for both of us and asked her to babysit in return, which probably resulted in the formation of an invisible master-servant relationship.

Some people are suited to Sweden, some people are not.

She tried for ten years in this country, but eventually returned to Japan and remarried in Kagoshima.

A few summers ago, when the pandemic began to spread, my daughters and I visited Japan temporarily.

My former best friend had to visit Tokyo and asked if she could come up from Kagoshima to Tokyo and meet us.

She said she did not know Yokohama.

We met at Kannai in Yokohama.

It had been many years since we had seen each other.

Although we had never met in Japan before, we hit it off right away.

 

We had lunch in Chinatown, and then started strolling uptown. 

I wanted to show her my side of Yokohama.

It was another hot day. 

The heat was even more intense as we climbed the steep hill near Motomachi Park.

She was wearing a pair of slender sandals that day.

As we stood on a hilltop in Harbor View Park and looked out at the ocean together, she quietly murmured, 
"If we had known each other in Japan, I am sure we would not have become friends. You are not at all the type of friend I usually have.

 

Her words, casually muttered, remain coiled somewhere in my mind even now, several years later.

She did not delve further into the statement, so I could only imagine for myself what she intended.

Her statement contained a rather negative nuance.

In other words, she probably developed a friendship with me because she was in a unique environment with few Japanese of her age and had no other choice for friends.

These were the words left to me by a "best friend" with whom I could talk about anything and everything for many years.

The phrase "casual friendship" came to my mind.

  

I am visiting Paris with a friend this time, and I do not know what kind of trip it will be like when I open the lid.

Going abroad with a friend with whom you want to preserve a friendship is a kind of gamble.

The journey may deepen the friendship, or, as in the case of the previous trip, it may cause a noticeable rift.

We do not know how many more years or decades we will live in this foreign country.

When we grow old in a foreign country, what we will probably crave most will be true friends with whom we can talk frankly in our own language.

 

If we have any dissatisfaction, we should tell each other immediately without holding it in.

 

I told my friend who was traveling with me.

 

Don't worry," she said, smiling.

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プロポーズの終着駅

9.5.2022

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

Terminus of a marrige proposal

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There was a movie called "Ah, Marriage," starring Sophia Loren.
I had never seen the movie, as it was made before I was born, but I reviewed the trailer on video.
I had long assumed that it was a comedy about the ups and downs of post-marital life, but the actual story was rather complicated.

 

 

In this country, there is a long period of time between a marriage proposal and the actualisation of the marriage.
There are not a few cases in which a couple breaks up before they can get married, and there are also couples who remain engaged and remain together for the rest of their lives without ever getting married.

 

 

I am often not good at refusing various solicitations, but I am even worse at refusing marriage proposals.

 

Most of the men who proposed to me did so in a romantic situation and with a sincere expression on their face.
To reject such a proposal would be a terrible thing to do, so I nodded, lacking the courage to refuse.

 

And so, I kept postponing the project, diverting my attention from concrete actions.
In other words, I had been playing the role of the kind of person who would be called a "simpering wanderer. And so, the suitors gave up and left.

 

But this time

I finally decided to take the offer for real.

 

In other words, I have decided to remarry.

 

 

The recent weather in Europe has been characterized by several days of hot, sunny weather followed by heavy rain.
This morning, an overcast sky that was almost unsettling covered Stockholm darkly.

 

When I think about it, life has its ups and downs, just like this rapidly changing climate.
There are days when things are going smoothly, and then there are days when I feel as anxious and helplessly lonely as the gloomy, dark sky.
At such times, it is better to have someone to cuddle with than to spend time alone.

It would be justified and romantic if they could enter into marriage in a sentimental atmosphere.

However, in my case, I have yet to reach such a state of mind.

 

The reason for my remarriage is solely to make it possible for me to return to Japan.

I have a lot of aspects that I am not good at, one of the most serious of which is flying.
Although I am sometimes mistaken for being light on my feet, I generally do not fly alone when I travel by air.

 

 

When my flight to Japan in 2020 was cancelled due to the pandemic, I had decided to fly with a young man.

 

He was the young man who proposed to me just before the flight.

 

I was determined to make my return to Japan in 2022.
However, according to Japanese immigration regulations, I can only bring my officially registered spouse to Japan.
Even my own children are not allowed.

 

Therefore, I accepted the young man's proposal and decided to accept him as my spouse.
Fortunately, the proposal had not yet expired.

 

By the way, how does marriage work?

 

I remember that the first marriage was registered in Japan, and only a simple document was submitted here.
(Or I may have had an interview about how we got married, but it was 20 years ago, so my memory is not so clear).

 

However, it is now the year 2022, when digitalization has advanced very much.
Therefore, I was under the assumption that it would be sufficient just to submit the documents this time.

 

However, we were completely naive.

 

First, we spent more than two weeks getting a certificate that we are not married to somebody else.
After that, we had to present the certificate and make a reservation at a simple wedding hall.

 

In Stockholm, the City Hall, where the Nobel Prize dinner is held, is a popular place for simple weddings, but there are no vacancies until the end of November, so we could not make it before our day of the departure to Japan.

 

We also found a drop-in wedding hall, so we called around to every one of them, but there were no vacancies.
In any case, there is no time at this stage to plan a banquet for many people.
Since our return date is imminent, our first priority is to get the registry in place as soon as possible.

 

There is also the option of talking directly with the marriage executor, but even in that case, we would have to find a place to hold the ceremony by ourselves, and we would have to contact each of the marriage executors by e-mail to inquire about their availability, which would also be time-consuming.
Furthermore, since most marriage officiants are politicians, they will be busy until the fall election, which is not likely to be an easy time for them.

 

I was going to start looking at a possibility in the churches, but since I am not a Christian, that is becoming a problem.

 

I started looking for city hall outside of Stockholm, and fortunately, one in a neighboring town had an opening.
We did a quick Internet search for the designated day and found out that he was a politician who had been involved in a scandal earlier.

 

Everything was going so wrong that both of us were getting grumpy and arguing a lot.
I wonder if people break off engagements because of the hassle of the marriage process. It might be  possible.

 

It's not a Sophia Loren movie, but the phrase "Ah, marriage" keeps ruminating in my mind. In my case, it is

In my case, it is, "Ah, marriage, what a hassle.

 

This may sound unpleasant to those who are dreamily considering marriage, but what is bothersome is the complicated paperwork and formalities.

 

Nevertheless, the young man who proposed to me was so pleased that I, a "indecisive person," had finally made up my mind that he contacted his family, and I immediately received a congratulatory message from his family.

 

The young man is a young man with good discipline, the type of young man who likes to turn his back on the negative aspects of the world.
At the time of the proposal, I wondered to what extent this young man would be able to support me, a man who cannot turn away from the negative aspects of the world and often finds himself in complicated situations.

 

However, human strength and compassion cannot be understood at first glance, regardless of age.
It must have taken a lot of determination for him to marry and live with me, an older girl who was also sickly and frail.

 

When I had to go to the hospital for an emergency, he traveled in from the next town over, even though it was the middle of the night and he knew he would miss the train on the way home.

 

Should I try to trust that the marriage with him works?

 

At this point, let's change the phrase "Ah, marriage, what a hassle.

 

"Ah, marriage, what a hassle, but it might not be so bad to get married twice, after all."

スウェーデンの国境を越えた日々

7.11.2022

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

Days Beyond Sweden's Borders

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Last weekend was Midsummer's Eve. 

Last year, I was invited to an acquaintance's villa. 

This year, I was invited to an acquaintance's villa again. 

On Midsummer's Eve, we usually have a shower.

This year, however, it was a cloudless, sunny summer day, and people in swimsuits or barely-there clothing were lying on the shore of a nearby lake, or enjoying a Midsummer meal.

But until 2018, I had not spent Midsummer in Sweden for quite some time.

I had decided to spend June in Japan.

 

This May, I left Sweden for the first time in almost two and a half years. 

The first border crossing was accomplished by train, the second by crossing a bridge in a rented car, and the third finally by air, crossing several borders. 

In each case, I was deeply moved at the moment of crossing the border. 

However, the excitement gradually faded with each crossing.

I guess it was the return of the daily routine of crossing borders several times a year. 

During the period when it was difficult to cross the border, I walked around the same place every day in Stockholm. 

It would be a lie to say that I was not dissatisfied with such a life, but it seems that human beings are animals that get used to things, and if you are told that it is impossible, you give up quickly.

At least, that was the case for me.

I no longer thought I could go abroad as I had done in the past.

Compared to others around me, I was late to realize that the restrictions on entry into foreign countries had been considerably eased.

 

Perhaps as a reaction to this, I have already left the country three times in two months this year, from May to the end of last week of Midsummer.

Even before the pandemic, I had never traveled abroad with such frequency.

After all, there is no denying that I had the desire to go far away from home.

If someone were to ask me, "Since you have traveled abroad three times in a row, you must have had enough," I would probably be at a loss for an answer.

Considering the current state of the world, we cannot predict when we will be inconvenienced again.

I want to do what I can before then, see what I can see, and be moved by what I can be moved by.

 

The destination of my third trip was a metropolis that competes for the top two places in Europe in terms of the number of tourists.

As a big city, it is rich in stimulation, the streets are overflowing with tourists, restaurants and cafes are trendy, and department stores are dazzlingly rich in goods.

The Central European sun shone brilliantly, and we walked and walked until our legs became sticks.

The city has a subway system that runs throughout the city, and it too is a complex and intertwined system.

It is a huge town.

Many young people come to live here, even temporarily, in search of stimulation and opportunity.

 

I wonder, without any sense of reality, what my life would be like if I had moved to this country instead of Sweden.

Stockholm, where I live, is not so large as to be ungraspable despite being the capital of a country.

There are a few cafes and restaurants, but nothing compared to this metropolis, and the subway lines are well organized and there are no stations with ceilings so low that you might hit your head on them.

Sweden is not a small country in terms of area, but it has a small population.

It has the largest majority in Scandinavia, though.

Still, during the pandemic, Sweden made a controversial choice not to lock down during a time when the world tended to be lock-down-only.

This choice sparked intense debate on both sides of the issue, and although the answer has yet to be found, many people would have preferred to visit Sweden with fewer restrictions during the pandemic period.

The hustle and bustle of the big city I recently visited, the energy that many people were burning, and the colorful goods, all of which still haunt my mind from time to time, two weeks after my return.

I am sure there is much more that I have not done as a tourist in that city.

I would like to experience the energy of the big city again soon.

 

Back in Stockholm, writing quietly in my apartment, the only sounds coming from the open terrace are the occasional cries of babies and the cries of seagulls.

When they disappear, silence envelops the area once again.

I have never heard the sound of sirens that is characteristic of large cities.

On the evening of the day we returned from the big city, when the plane emerged from the clouds, we found ourselves on the ground in a magical land of forests and lakes.

The passengers around me were constantly clicking their shutters. 

It was the first time in two and a half years that I had seen Stockholm from the sky.

The sound of shutter clicks echoing around me was a pleasant reminder that this beautiful land is where I live.

 

It is very enjoyable to travel abroad and be stimulated.

However, even though I lack stimulation, I also appreciate the benefit of being able to live in the clear air with a view of water, no matter which direction I stroll, east, west, north, south, or west.

Last week, summer finally arrived in this town. 

It was a short but beautiful Nordic summer.

千篇一律かつ平和な日々から胡坐を解く時

5.5.2022

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

When we sit back from a thousand and one peaceful days.

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There was a time when I preferred to read literature from the war times.

I was not a fan of warfare.

I was interested in the mutual help between human beings in the ravages of war, a renewed awareness of the preciousness of life, the resilience of those who survived against the odds, the joy of soldiers and their families who returned from the battlefield alive, and the desperate efforts of those who lived to the last breath.
I loved the human drama that I could catch a glimpse of in each of these stories.

At that time, I had no idea that I might be involved in a war, so I was only a bystander in the literature of the war times.

 

As an adult, I moved to Europe.
There are no earthquakes, no civil wars, few natural disasters, and not too many security problems.
The social welfare system is relatively leading.

 

The country I moved to was such a country.

That was the case, until recently.
There is still no civil war.
However, it is undeniable that the country is currently threatened by external crises, no matter which newspaper I read.

 

At various points in my long life, I have lived in various countries for several years at a time.
This country was relatively safe among them.
The topics of conversation during coffee breaks were often so monotonous that I could almost call them boring.
But now, looking back on that period, I am reminded that that was what we call a peace.
In that supposedly safe country, the topics of conversation during coffee breaks today are the location, size, and quality of shelters.
What kind of emergency supplies are stored in each household?

 

However, when the topic of nuclear weapons comes up, everyone shakes their heads because it becomes difficult and depressing to continue this specific topic.

 

Some people who own vacation homes in the countryside are planning to evacuate to the countryside in case of emergency, but recently the preconception that the countryside is safer is being overturned.

 

Someone once told me that Japan had been sitting on its laurels of peace for too long.
When I was learning the language of this country, most of my classmates were people who had come to this country to escape the war.
I also met a young woman who had lost her hearing due to the sound of bombing.

 

They were all fond of Japan and longed for a peaceful Japan.
I myself had been sitting in peace for many years.
I had never thought about the possibility that I might suffer from war.

 

Now, however, I am beginning to think about how to prepare myself.

 

According to the World's Safest Cities Index, Tokyo is the safest capital city in the world these days, no matter which data is selected.

 

Perhaps the best option in the current situation is to return to Japan.
It is possible to work remotely throughout the pandemic era.
This is only if the company one works survives, though.

 

However, at this time, I am the only one in my family who is permitted to return to Japan.
Due to pandemic entry restrictions, my family members are still not allowed to enter Japan.
Therefore, I cannot return to Japan either, because where my family is is where I belong.

 

However, when I look out the window at the world outside, the city is functioning as usual.
Men pushing baby carriages, elderly men walking their dogs, people dressed in suits heading to work, people riding bicycles, and people rushing to catch the bus.
When I go shopping at the supermarket, I am not particularly inconvenienced, except for a shortage of preserved foods.
Restaurants are open as usual, and popular restaurants are always full.
The banks of the Baltic Sea, glistening in the sun, are a walking path for walkers.
These are not so different from the scenes of 2019 that remained in the depths of my memory.
The only difference is that people wearing masks can be seen here and there in the streets.


I had planned to visit the Tohoku region of Japan for the first time in 2020. But due to completely unexpected circumstances, I had to change my plans. And now, two years later, I find myself in a strange situation that was completely unimaginable, again.
Last night I was rummaging around for an emergency radio.
I had no plans to buy such a thing in 2020.


When I look at the sunlight in the windows of the high-rise apartment buildings in the distance, I realize that spring has arrived even in this city where winter has been long.
The cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
The sunset time is gradually getting later and later.
Yesterday, the sun set at 20:30.


I hope that peace will come with the long days of sunshine.


I am sure that those who suffered in the war must have longed for peace to come with the long daylight hours.
Their wish regrettably did not come true.


Today, the situation continues to be completely unpredictable. 
What we can do now is to live each and every day with great appreciation.

スウェーデンへの移住は学校から始まった

4.5.2022

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

Moving to Sweden started with school.

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Sweden is a relatively easy country to live in. 
Although I understand this now, I often regretted not moving to an English-speaking country when I first moved here. 
I was a language expert in Japan, and I had assumed that I would not have any difficulties with languages if I would move abroad.

If it were a country with a linguistic minority, it would be a different story, but Sweden is a European country with a high level of education.
Therefore, I was optimistic that I would be able to find some kind of office work immediately after moving to Sweden.
However, when that "immediately" came over the course of several months, I began to feel frustrated.

After moving to Sweden, I first put down roots in a certain provincial town.  
In that town, I had been teaching at a culture school as a substitute when the full-time English teacher was unavailable.
However, it was only one course per week, and I was the substitute.
It is far from a full-time employment status. 
I also registered with the office for the unemployed. Type of jobs they proposed were in the food and beverage industry.
And everywhere I went, I was asked the same question.

Do you speak Swedish?"
I speak a little."

When I responded as above timidly,  they pointed me toward the exit, saying that I should study Swedish in order to apply for a job.

In the midst of this repetition, I received a suggestion from an acquaintance.

Why don't you study Swedish properly? There are free Swedish courses being offered here in town, too."

My future prospects, which I had planned to work full time immediately after immigrating, took a drastic turn here.
This was because I had to study for many more years before I could work full time.

I decided to take a "Swedish for Immigrants" course, which was held in a classroom of a local elementary school.
The class consisted of students from southern Europe and the Middle East, except for myself and one English woman.

The days spent with my classmates were congenial and enjoyable in their own way.
Everyone, including myself, was very poor, but young. 
After school, we gathered in the club room and were taken on excursions, and sometimes we even made pizza together for dinner.

There were no other Japanese in that town besides me.
I had no way of knowing that there were Japanese people working professionally in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö, and other cities, and my days passed quietly and comfortably in that town and in school life.


After school, I used to borrow my then spouse's car and go out to the lakeside outside of town. 
As I stood on a bench by the lake and watched the sun set, I was filled with a strong sense of regret.
There was not even a store in town where you could buy Japanese rice.

I wondered if I would have to live as a foreigner in this town for the rest of my life.

In Japan, I was reasonably well respected as a linguist and had a fixed income. Almost every Friday, I would meet up with friends in Tokyo to explore new restaurants.

I missed the hustle and bustle of the Japanese city.

Recently, I have been reading blogs by Japanese people who write about their daily lives in the Swedish countryside.
They are often very resilient and positive in their outlook on life.

However, I was too young to be able to enjoy the quiet town life. 
Although it was too quiet, it did not mean that clubs, discos, etc. did not exist.
However, even when I did go out to clubs and discos, it was extremely difficult to become friends with Swedes. 
As is the case in rural and regional areas, it takes time for strangers to be accepted.
Moreover, until I became fluent in Swedish, I had to speak in English, which was a burden for the conservative Swedes in the countryside, who were not so used to speak English.

A few of my classmates had been displaced from their countries because of the civil war.
They behaved cheerfully on the surface, but at a moment's notice, I would catch a glimpse of their hatred for the war enemy. 
At such times, their usually jovial and gentle classmates seemed as if they were different people.
Their hatred was very deep-rooted.

It was a year in which I realized that there is nothing but hatred for hatred.
Is this becoming an ongoing process?  
As a very average Japanese person working for a company in Japan, I had to go through the school gates again after becoming a working adult.
I studied side by side with war refugees, whom I would have known only from the news if I had been living in Japan.

This was my first experience in this world after moving to Sweden.

My study of Swedish did not end after this one year, and I would continue to go to school and work on my Swedish language skills for several more years.
It seems that a language does not improve unless you are passionate about it.

When we finished the first year of the beginner course, we started a new life in Stockholm.

北欧就職 振り出しに戻って

3.6.2022

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

Employment in Scandinavia  Back to Square one

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Emigrating abroad, working abroad, international marriage.

What sweet and glorious sounding words, I thought when I was a student.

I had a vague idea that it was the U.S. that I longed for and that I would emigrate to the U.S. when I grew up.

However, life does not always go as one has planned, and I moved to a country where a third language is spoken, although I preferred and was good at English.

The country where many enterprises are contingent on speaking the language of the country.

Some companies used English as the company language, but this was only if one had some special skill, and as a former English-Japanese interpreter like myself, it did not help me in any way.

But if you had to do something for a living, the restaurant industry was the first relatively easy place to find a job.

So, I followed this example and sought a part-time job in a restaurant.

It is often said that the right person is in the right place, and it is said that a restaurant is a place where both the person serving and the person being served have difficulties unless the serving person is quick and smooth.

I am not so sure that "quick and smooth" is in my nature.

I survived a busy week by spilling cold water on a customer's coat on a bitterly cold day and making a mistake in an order.

Although it was only a lunchtime job, I received the equivalent of 3,000 yen for the week, which was my first salary in Scandinavia.

When was the last time I worked part-time in a restaurant?

It was probably when I was 16. It was at a café by the station where I lived.

I was not so pessimistic at the time though, because I had not yet passed the age of 20 for many years.

However, if I were still serving at the restaurant twenty years later, I would have had very complicated feelings.

In Japan, as an interpreter, I could earn that amount of money in an hour.

In the restaurant industry, becoming a manager is a different story.

Whether it is a restaurant or a café, it must be very rewarding to be able to run a business at your own discretion.

If I had wanted to be involved in restaurant management, I would have concentrated on serving as a waiter at first as part of my training.

However, I am not a quick and smooth person, and I am a linguist by profession, so I wanted to continue working using my expertise.

Therefore, working in the restaurant industry was not more than a stopgap for me.
As far as I know, there were two other Japanese who worked as waiters in restaurants when I first moved here.

There are probably many more.

Let me tell you about the paths taken by these two persons.


The first person, she was born to work in the restaurant industry.

When she was working in a restaurant, she always had a big smile on her face as she interacted with customers, and her quick wit made her a valuable asset in any restaurant.

He had begun looking at several restaurants in Stockholm with a view to becoming a co-owner of one of them in the future.

However, after the divorce from her husband, she was forced to change her life plan.

She was very good at baking and returned to Japan with great ambitions to open a Scandinavian café.

However, when she returned to Japan and looked around, she found that the kind of café she had envisioned already existed everywhere.

It was shortly after then that she left the restaurant/cafe industry behind.


The second, who was not married, was invited by her boyfriend to move to this country.

For her, too, the part-time job in the restaurant was temporary, and she actively went to recruiting fairs and sought a full-time office job.

The route she chose after leaving her boyfriend astounded everyone around her.

Looking as slender, fragile, and dainty as a Japanese doll, she connected with an international aid organization and went to Africa.

The country had previously been the scene of a violent civil war.

After staying in that country for a few years, she moved to the UK to pursue her Ph.D.


In my case, I remained here for many years after they left the country and became an employed full-time office worker.

We worked in the same restaurant at the same time, for longer or shorter periods of time, but we all departed on our own separate paths.

I sometimes pass by the restaurant now, and I guess many generations have already passed since then when it comes to the ownership.

However, when I pass by the restaurant, I recall the time when I moved here with a mixture of sweetness and bitterness in my heart.

At the time, I had no idea what the future held for me beyond my part-time job at the restaurant.

I still do not know if being an office worker is the end of the road for me.

However, I was able to achieve a certain degree of economic stability.

Strange as it may seem, I have recently been thinking about getting involved in restaurant management.

I have come to a point in my life where I even long to be involved in the restaurant business, which should have been a stopgap measure.

Ones' values change over time.

If you are one of my colleagues who started your life abroad in a temporary job, and you are still stuck in the middle of the line, I would like to say a word for you.

Please don't lose your ambition until the end.

完璧な保険屋さんの掌(てのひら)にて

2.5.2022

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

In the hands of the perfect insurance agent.

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In the past ten years, I had never been absent from work due to illness.
I thought that the only health concern was a pandemic.

 

At the beginning of last year, I was very busy with work.
I sat at my desk until 10 p.m. every night, staring at the code.

My situation was about the same on weekends.
My pride that I was still young and healthy compared to my colleagues made me push myself even harder.

One spring morning in the beautiful sunrise, I finally collapsed.
And efter I collapsed, what happened?
My health insurance company contacted me.
From then on, my calendar was jam-packed with appointments.

And by appointments, I don't mean glamorous ones like dates.
I did meet a man with toned muscles, but it was not a particularly exciting encounter.
In other words, Monday's appointment was with a tightly muscled male physiotherapist.
He was probably about to retire on his pension.
As a man in such a profession, he had a lot to talk about and enjoyed talking to various patients.
The man was able to calm down at one point while I was trying to unwind my aching shoulder blades.

Tuesday's appointment was a video dialogue with another physical therapist.
She opens with this interrogation.

'The breathing exercises we trained together last time, of course you practiced them a lot, didn't you?

I couldn't say, "Of course.
I hadn't practiced it at all, on the contrary, I had completely forgotten about it.
Moreover, I couldn't even remember the name of the physical therapist.
'I'll repeat it then,' she began, 'it's a breathing exercise.
'Yes, then I laid down on the bed and exhaled slowly. The physical therapist kept on talking to me,  "You can feel the warm heat coming up from below, can't you?
The sound of her voice instructing me on the other side of the screen slowly faded away.
I fell into a deep sleep.

 

Wednesday's appointment was a video conversation with a work environment specialist at home.
Since I had to show her my room on the video phone, I had to do a lot of cleaning beforehand.
I cleaned what I could see, and got myself ready for the conversation with the specialist.
She took a quick look at the working environment in my room and made a checklist.

- A desk with adjustable height.

- A 27-inch computer monitor.

- Ergonomic keyboard.

- Ergonomic chair.

'As for the adjustable desk you recommended, I don't have room for an 80cm x 120cm desk in my small room, I stated.
'Then you should look for another type. There are a lot of companies that have gone bankrupt recently, so there is a possibility that you can buy a desk from one of those places.
'How do you find them? Most office desks are even bigger than 80cm x 120cm, aren't they?, I asked.
'Try searching in districts with a lot of offices. Yes, it could be quite large., she answered leaving much space for questions.

 

Thursday's appointment was a video conversation with a specialist who was going to inspect my posture during work.
"Do you have any cushions or anything in the house?"
She said,'Try putting them under your buttocks, see if that balances the height of your arms and the keyboard, and pull your chair forward more.
I grabbed two cushions from the living room and put them under my buttocks.
'I can't because the legs of the chair hit the desk.
'Then can you get another cushion and put it on your back?, she suggested.
As instructed, I put the cushions under my back and buttocks, worked on the computer for a few hours, and when I stood up, I suffered from extreme back pain for a while.

 

Thursday's appointment was to visit a physical therapist who specializes in acupuncture.
I met with this person several times, but each time, it ended up in a chat about health aspects, and in the end, not a single acupuncture session was performed.

 

Friday's appointment was a face-to-face meeting with another physical therapist who specializes in acupuncture.
Since the clinic was quite far away and it took almost half a day to visit, we ended up declining the appointment.
I also wondered why the appointments had been made with two different acupuncture specialists in the first place.

The first thing the woman asked me was this:

'Welcome. By the way, who introduced you to me?

I had no choice but to reply, 'I don't know.

Invitations to doctors or physical therapists are sent through the mailbox at some institutions.
Sometimes it was an email, sometimes a cell phone app, sometimes a cell phone message, and finally I couldn't even tell where the referral came from.
There were several different health insurance companies that had jurisdiction over me, and my home doctor also sent me invitations, so much so that I needed a secretary to keep track of them all.


There were many things the physical therapists had assigned me.

'Do you remember the breathing exercises I taught you last week?

'Didn't I tell you to change the position of the computer screen?

'Didn't you ask the company to buy you an extendable desk yet?

'When you're working on your computer, do you try to look at something 20 meters away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes?

'Do you do this stretching exercise for 20 minutes at a time?

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

 

If I were to use all of these instructions, how would we find time to work?

Since I could not find time to work during the day, I naturally had to work at night.


Furthermore, what would be the downside of having such a full schedule every day?

Double-booking.

Once, while I was visiting a physical therapist, another physical therapist called me on the video phone and said, "Come on, it's time for your session.
It was first then that I realized that I had been double-booked.
I had to apologize profusely to the person who had made the reservation via video phone.

Also, there were so many reservations that I completely forgot to schedule a visit once.
Here, if you don't show up 24 hours before your appointment time without calling, you will be fined the equivalent of 5,000 yen.
It was an unwanted expense.
After collapsing due to excessive stress, I asked for help from my health insurance, which ended up escalating my stress level even more.
It's the other way around.
Why does one have to be so well-equipped, eat so well, work so well, and train so well in order to live and work normally?

I continued this full-booking lifestyle for a few months, but exercised very little rehabilitative training, and remembered nothing about breathing exercises.
I didn't even buy a new desk, which I had been urged to do many times, and I couldn't find one that would fit in my room.

So, were these months of dialogue really a waste of time?

During a pandemic, there is a large number of people, not only pandemic patients, who fall ill due to unusual lifestyles, which also puts pressure on the medical budget.
In such dire times, nearly a dozen medical professionals had been working diligently for several months to help me alone.
Regardless of the outcome, I can only marvel at the fact that they provided me with such blissful health insurance.


I was not an exemplary patient, but I suppose it was not a waste of time to have so many conversations with so many specialists.
My lifestyle has improved somewhat compared to this time last year.
Most importantly, my eating habits have changed considerably.
I used to look sideways at people who ate grains like bird food as their staple food, but now I find myself eating that bird food.

But most of all, I have stopped being overconfident in my health.
No matter how young you are, no matter how little medical history you have, if you keep pushing yourself too hard for too long, your body will eventually scream.
I would like to remind young people that once you lose your health, it is not always possible to regain it.

Anyway, I am now trying to avoid being taken care of by insurance companies for the time being.

早めに就寝するはずだったあの晩

12.5.2021

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

I was supposed to go to bed early that night.

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It was such a week that I was not feeling good, and not making much progress at work, so I decided to at least go to bed early on Sunday night.


In the evening, without warning, my phone rang with a message.

"Would you like to go to a concert with me tonight? I have a guest ticket.

The message was sent from a musician friend whom I hadn't seen for a while.

I asked her if I should bring the musician some flowers to thank since the guest ticket was "free".

But she replied, "No need for flowers (laughing emoji).

This shows how little I knew the routines concerning concerts or gigs.

My decision to go to bed early was overturned in an instant.

I jumped out of bed and started to put some color on my pale face.

A friend, whom I had regretted not having the chance to meet, finally contacted me.

If I refused, I wouldn't know when I would see her again.

 

She looked more glad than I had seen in a long time.

She is a musician herself, but it is not so easy to make a living in a foreign country as a single woman.

When I used to see her frequently, she did not look so happy.

The last time she invited me to a concert, it was a charity concert for her church.

Suddenly I realized that we were sitting surrounded by homeless people who were carrying all their wealth in big IKEA bags.

The concert was a charity concert to help the homeless people.

 

She was always involving me in extraordinary things without warning.

 

The concert that night was for a band led by a Canadian, Alex Henry Foster.

She had met him through the internet media among musicians.

 

I thought it was a concert hall with reserved seats, so I dressed up a bit and went out.

I was surprised when I entered the hall.

It was standing room only.


The last time I visited a concert was for Frank Zappa's son, Dweezil Zappa, and at that time there were reserved seats, although the venue and the audience were large.

I would have liked to go to his father's concert, but I was born in the wrong era.

 


The concert was in full swing.

I looked around and saw everyone nodding their heads and shaking their heads back and forth along the rhythm.

Men and women of all ages were mingling.

I thought it would be a good way to relieve my stress if I tried to get into a state of euphoria like that, but it was my first time listening to this music, so I couldn't really get into it, and I still had a migraine, so shaking my head wouldn't be good for me.

 

Our height was that of average Japanese women in the late Showa era, but if we stood behind the tall Swedish men, we would not be able to see anything, so we stood in the front next to the speakers.

Eventually, I began to worry about something.

If I stood here for several hours, would my hearing be affected?

The volume of the sound was unbelievable.

However, I was trying to convince myself that being surrounded by the heart-pounding sound was the best part of the concert, but when I looked around, I saw that more than half of the people were using earplugs.

I wondered what kind of moral it was to come to a concert and use earplugs, but later I learned that it is quite common practice to use earplugs at concerts and gigs.

Since I didn't know that, I had to endure without earplugs for a while, but eventually it became quite difficult.

Then my friend gave me a piece of tissue paper.

She told me to roll it up and stuff it in my ear.

She was the type of person who did not like studying and only cared about music, and I was the type of person who only studied at schools and had no special skills, so we had almost nothing in common. However, we have known each other for a long time.

She is very handy and makes all her own cosmetics and hair dyes.

She eats ecologically friendly food, and has even made me some natural sweets that are not too sweet for my taste.

Her speech has no inflection, and to the casual observer she seems emotionless, but compassion does not always appear on the outside.

What kind of music is this? Death metal?"

"I don't know, I guess not."

 

When I looked at the flyer later, it said the following.

 

For Fans of

Post-Rock, Progressive, Nu Gaze, Psych

Nick Cave、 Radiohead、 Sonic Youth、Mogwai、Swans、 Godspeed You! 、Black Emperor、 King Crimson

 

So, I searched the internet to find out what Post-Rock is.

I found a description like, "A genre of music that is a hassle to explain.


If I listened to it a few times, I might start liking it.

If you are interested, you can find a few videos by searching for Alex Henry Foster.

 

He was the front man that night, and after the concert, he came up to us with his arms outstretched.

His hair was frizzy like ramen noodles, and sweat was dripping down his face.

Nice to see you!" he gave my friend a hug, and then he gave me a hug as well, which soaked my cheeks.

 

The next concert was coming to an end and we were thinking of going home to sleep.

Alex came over to us again, and we were taken to a sort of break room where we were introduced to all the members of the band.

 

The band members asked, "Are you a musician as well?"

I replied, "Well, I write code." Code is code, but it's programming, not a lie.

 


Some of the band members could speak Japanese fluently, so I asked Alex if he liked Japan.

"Oh, it's a long story," he said.

They are very fond of Japan and even visited the Sanriku coast three weeks after the Tohoku earthquake, to offer comfort.

I heard that they even sent Christmas cards to the people in the disaster area.

 

My friend was also impressed, "Alex is really a nice boy.

I'm not sure if "boy" is the right word, since his age was quite unknown.

 

It was a very strange day.

When I woke up that morning, I had not expected such a turn of events.

It was meaningful to see my friend again, whom I hadn't seen in a while, but it was also meaningful to meet musicians who tour the world and treat me like an old friend.

I asked my friend why she had invited me.

She replied, "Because you're often open to invitations.

If I would ask people to go to a concert on a Sunday night without warning, they would usually not say 'yes'.

I do not usually go out without reasons, and I've never been known or told that I'm outgoing, but I try not to turn down an invitation to an event unless I have a prior engagement.


You never know what wonderful people you might meet there, or what unknown world you might encounter, or what destiny-changing experiences you might have.

 

Life is so unpredictable that you never know what will happen tomorrow or tonight, which makes it worthwhile to continue.

一夜にして大富豪になった友人のその後

11.5.2021

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

How a friend became a millionaire overnight

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One winter afternoon, when Stockholm was covered in a fragile sunshine, the funeral of an acquaintance was held in a small wooden church in the forest on the outskirts of Stockholm.

The deceased had passed away peacefully, loved as a faithful husband, a good father to his children, and a trusted boss.

 
When the funeral was over and I was walking out of the church from my seat in the front row, I was grabbed by the arm from the back row.

I looked back at the owner of the hand that grabbed my arm, surprised because I had not expected this.

 

The owner of the hand was my old friend Tom.

"What happened?"

His eyes were red from crying and his face was bloodless.
His hair was much thinner than before and his skin was rough.

He looked impatient.

"Will you listen to me sometime?"

 

Tom was a friend of mine who had founded an IT company about fifteen years ago, which had been acquired by a major IT company and had literally made him a millionaire overnight.
He was much older than I, but I was pleasantly surprised by his attitude of talking to everyone equally.

His wife, Lisa, was not seen there.

"Where's Lisa?"

Tom shook his head instead of replying.

Instead of asking back, I assumed that she was sick.

I remembered that it was not long after they had become millionaires that she had become "sick".

 


Soon after they became millionaires, they showed their gratitude by inviting all their relatives and our friends to a hotel in a resort area.
In fact, more than a hundred people were invited.

 

The second big event was when Tom celebrated Lisa's fortieth birthday, again with more than a hundred guests, a pony, people to pull it, a bartender, and even a large trampoline.

Lisa, a lovely brunette with short hair, seemed like a very happy woman.


"Here comes the star of the day!"

Tom announced.

Then Lisa appeared on stage in a dress that looked like a simple casual dress.

On the stage stood a lovely brunette woman with short hair.

"Oh?" I felt something strange.

She was still as lovely as ever.

But her face was showing signs of exhaustion.
And her ribs were embossed on her dress.

 

Some time later, I ran into Tom again.

He told me that Lisa was rarely home these days, and that the family life of the two children was not running normally.

They are a very wealthy family.

They should be able to afford to hire a domestic helper if needed.

However, I understood that Tom was referring to Lisa's presence and role as a loving mother to her husband and children.

Lisa had gone to a self-improvement seminar held in a local city for two weeks out of the month, where she had spent a camp.

Tom's facial expression was dark.


Both Tom and Lisa had lost their very important person in unforeseen accidents when they were around twenty years old, though in different places and under different circumstances.
I don't know if it's because of this, but they didn't give me the impression that they were genuinely cheerful.

The lives lost cannot be exchanged for money.

However, I honestly hoped that when they became millionaires, their joy would at least alleviate some of their sorrow.

 


Lisa left her long-time job at a financial firm and instead began taking science programs at the university.

I didn't really pay attention to the reason for this, as it is not that unusual in Sweden to start university after the age of 40.

Once, I happened to run into her near her university.

She told me that she was dropping the tempo of her university program.

"When I asked why, she frowned and nervously replied, "Because my complicated situation makes it difficult for me to complete the program at a normal pace.

 

My complicated situation?

I couldn't help but find that statement puzzling.
She was, as far as I knew, in good health and under the protection of a kind and sincere husband.
Her two beautiful children, as far as I know, are growing up properly.

If it's too much work to pick up and drop off the kids, they can afford to hire someone to do it. She does not have to work either.

Several years have passed since then without me getting an answer to "my complicated situation".

It would be more awkward to ask any more questions now.

"You have everything, what do you have to complain about?

It would be quite normal to ask such a question, however, what looks happy from the side is often not proportional to what is actually happy.

   

I remembered Tom and Lisa when they were young and still poor.

They came to Japan to visit me in my apartment in Yokohama, wearing tattered sweaty clothes, dragging worn out sneakers and carrying a big dirty backpack.

They were poor, but the two of them got along well.

Lisa was out on the balcony smoking a cigarette.


I wish Lisa would quit smoking," Tom said softly back then, but this time, there must have been some circumstances that prevented him from asking her to quit the self-help seminar.


Apparently, the self-help seminars were very expensive.

If they had not become wealthy, if she could not afford to attend such seminars, what would have happened?

Instead of attending such seminars, would she have been able to join hands warmly with Tom, or with their families, so that the family would be of comfort for Lisa, instead?

  

"I hadn't heard from Tom in a while after he grabbed my arm at church and said, "Will you listen to me?

I think what he wanted to talk about was Lisa.

Maybe he thought that I, as a woman, could understand Lisa's feelings better than he could.

I could also understand why it would be easier for her to confide in me if we didn't know each other well.

It's like when you sit next to a stranger on a plane and you tell them something you've never told anyone you know.

In fact, I would like to know more about Lisa's feelings.

The reason why I hadn't heard from Tom after the funeral was probably due to the pandemic prevention regulations that came out right after the funeral.
I thought that during the period when teleworking was encouraged, Tom and Lisa probably had more time to spend with their children and spend time together as a family.

I hoped that the increased family time would help them resolve the issues that Tom had been trying to discuss with her. 


But...

"I haven't seen you since the funeral, do you have a minute?

Tom finally contacted me.

After all, the problem was probably still unresolved.

I decided to go and talk to Tom.

All I can do is listen to what he has to say.


There are many things in this world that cannot be solved with money.

あたかも古き良き時代の如く

10.5.2021

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

As if it were good old days

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It was a dazzling day in the morning light.

Because there was a need, I went out into the world outside the mansion before 7:30, which was unusual. When I used the stairs to go downstairs, I almost collided with a young man who had just come out of the elevator. He briefly apologized and ran out of the mansion door and ran to the other side of the road. A red city bus swiftly moved my view from right to left, blocking sight of him.

The young man was running because he was about to miss the bus. I had never seen him before.

I walked down the street, a young woman wearing a trench coat, holding a black attache case, walking dashingly with high heels. This woman may also be on her way to work.

When I entered the side street from the main street on the way and walked for a while, I felt some movement of people in the building near the sidewalk. When I looked inside, the young people in the cook's uniform were divided into groups and cut the vegetables and meat on the cooking table.

In the classroom next to it, many students were listening to the lecture side by side at the long table. It was not a large auditorium, but a seminar room that barely held 20 chairs.

And I continued walking after that, I sometimes passed by men and women in suits.

 


I had a hard time suppressing the urge to scream because of the discomfort that springs up.

It is a super-daily life that is not worth mentioning at all.

Why does this evoke such a sense of discomfort?

This is because it was not the daily life of 2021 but the daily life of 2019.

In other words, if this was 2019, it would be a scene that passed by without looking into the inside from the window and looking back.

Where did you go in 2020, in the spring of 2021?

The people coming and going are natural and continue their lives as usual, that is, before the outbreak of the pandemic, as if nothing had happened in the last two years.

 

Last week, I received an in-house email that started with "Welcome back!" In other words, from the beginning of October, it was a recommendation email to return to the office.

Finally a recommendation came out. Is that the long-awaited end of the pandemic? Do colleagues, or employees of other companies, want to return to the office?

Regarding this issue, we took several questionnaires in 2020. At that time, I remember that half of the people wanted to return and half wanted to continue working from home. The main reasons for those who wanted to go back were that they missed them, that it was more efficient to meet and talk to them, and that they had small children at home, which made it difficult for them to concentrate.

In my case, I was working from home in the early summer of 2020, but returned to the office in the fall. And before winter, I returned to work from home again.

The following week, a colleague working in the next seat was caught by a pandemic.

Perhaps because it was a good time for me to return to work from home, I have not been affected by the pandemic at this stage.


As of 2021, if I take a questionnaire,

"Do you want to go back to the office?"

The majority of the answers are "No".

This is because the foundation for working from home has been established. Some colleagues have decided to keep pets. Once they get back to the office, it will be difficult to take care of their pets.

What about me?

After working from home, the habit of going to bed late at night and waking up late in the morning is becoming established. Life is much easier now than when I had a tight office suit and was stressed by the time press.

However, I liked the liveliness of the employees dressed in suits moving around in an intelligence building. That was also the scene of overseas employment that I had dreamed of. I vaguely believed that I would eventually return. Some of the office clothes I bought at the end of 2019 were never worn.

I am part of an evacuation team in my office.

Sweden generally does not have an earthquake, but in the event of a fire, we are expected to quickly evacuate the personnel in the office.

What is the biggest challenge for us evacuation guides?

In the event of an emergency, how to rescue colleagues who are physically handicapped safely. For example, people with disabilities are more likely to be exposed to risk than usual.

For those who have some kind of inconvenience, not only evacuation in an emergency, but also the act of repeatedly going up and down the elevator and commuting by subway from a distance should require considerable labor and mental burden. 

If they want it, they should be offered the opportunity to continue working from home as much as possible. We have been working from home for over a year and have proven that it is possible, nevertheless with some inconvenience.

 

Regarding the choice of the workplace, if one should think about it rationally, it might be an equation like this.

If working in the office achieves a higher work efficiency, higher satisfaction socially, and better health, one can consider returning to the office.

In the opposite case, one might want to continue working from home. I hear that some parts of the United States recommend working from home.

 

I walked for a while in the dazzling morning sun that morning, and the street scene was still 2019. People walking quickly in suits, blonde students chatting in a group, and children being drawn by a teacher in a large group.

Maybe, really maybe, the days like the good old days may come back as if nothing had happened.

 

With such expectations, I approached the pedestrian crossing.

I saw one woman approaching a man nearby.

"Excuse me, could you tell me how I get to the ICA supermarket from here?"

I say that the man who was asked for directions seemed to casually step back about a meter and a half, before replying.

 

That's right. Prompting you to return to the office with the email saying  "Welcome back!" does not mean that you can go back to the good old days overnight. In the transitional period, there should be many issues to be solved.

 

The words of one boss came to my mind.

"It took much time and effort to get used to the transition from office to home in the spring of 2020. I think there will be a lot of difficulties in the transition from home to office. But eventually we should get used to it, because we humans have been acclimatizing to the new environment for hundreds of years. "

幾度幾度も歩いた道

8.2.2021

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

The road I walked again and again

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With the lake glistening in the evening sunlight on my left, I set off for home.

As I walked more slowly than usual, passersby passed me from both sides. This is a country with many tall people. Their stride is wide.

I'm not eavesdropping, but since it's a narrow corridor, I can't help but hear a sliver of their conversation.

"How was your test?

"It was okay. It would be great to live in an apartment around here.

"Yes, it would. Yes, it would be a luxury to be able to sit on the terrace every night and enjoy the view.

The young men who were having this conversation behind me walked past me.

One of them had his pants down very low, they were probably young students.

Shortly after, a woman walked past me on the phone.

She said, "My presentation has gone on too long and I've been advised to stop again. The time limit is too short for my presentation.

This woman is completely absorbed in the world of herself and her cell phone. The outside world does not exist for her.

All conversations were about trivial topics related to school, housing, work, and life in general.

 

 

But I felt strange.

Why?

This time last year, the most frequent conversation I heard was, "I can't stand living like this anymore. I wish the pandemic would end soon.

In other words, it was a desperate sentiment. Since the beginning of this year, I haven't heard much about it.

Perhaps it is because human beings are animals that get used to things, perhaps they have given up, perhaps they feel that they will fall further if they speak out their despair, perhaps they believe that the pandemic will end soon, or perhaps they feel that it is futile to talk about it.

But,

the day before yesterday, my friend, who I thought was very strong and stable mentally, finally revealed his weakness.

"I'm tired of walking the same path day after day.

My friend, like me, has not used any public transportation such as subways or buses since last March. Therefore, his range of activities has become quite limited.

Since I live on an island, I can walk from east to west, north to south, and south to north, and I can see the beautiful ocean and lake. For the past year, I have been walking in these directions repeatedly. Whichever path I choose, the colors of spring, summer, autumn, and winter are always on display.

In the spring, summer, and autumn, it is possible to go cycling, which means that you can extend your trip to the neighboring islands. In the spring, summer, and fall, it is possible to cycle to the next island, and when it is not raining or snowing, it is possible to cycle to the next island.

Nonetheless, it is undeniable that I also get tired of it a bit.

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Just before the pandemic began to spread, I picked up a new hobby.

It was making videos.

Until then, whenever I encountered a beautiful landscape, I would casually take pictures with my cell phone camera and be satisfied to some extent.

These were not images to be enjoyed, but video recordings to remember where, when, and what I had done.

Winter in Sweden is long.

And the feast of lights decorating the windows of every home is dazzlingly beautiful.

The lights of the apartment buildings reflected in the water on the other side of the lake are very magical.

However, it was impossible for the cell phone camera to reproduce what I saw as it was. The main reason I decided to buy a camera was that I wanted to take pictures of night scenes.

However, I could not have imagined at the time of purchase that this decision would alleviate the agony that would follow the following year.

When you buy a camera, you want a tripod.

When you buy a tripod, you want a bigger tripod.

When you buy a gimbal, you also want a video camera with a built-in gimbal...

You buy editing software, and the number of equipment, photos, and videos grows rapidly.

But my photography skills have not improved at all.

 

As for the videos, I have been criticized by my acquaintances as "just beautiful and uninteresting.

But it's not a video to make you laugh.

We were making greeting videos of the situation here, or message videos for weddings and funerals that we could not attend, mainly for acquaintances that we could not meet under the current circumstances. 

We also made promotional videos for acquaintances whose businesses had slumped due to the pandemic.

One of them was a promotional video for a good friend's sushi restaurant.

I don't know if they managed to obtain more customers, but it was very worthwhile because it involved the musicians and Sakura.

 
I'm glad you took such beautiful pictures of the sushi," said the owner, my friend's husband, with a smile in his eyes.

Small pleasures of winter in Scandinavia

The owner of the restaurant was a Japanese man who did not usually show much emotion.

Due to health reasons, he had not been in the restaurant for several months.

He is a man who had an interesting experience as a hippie in the 1970s, running street stalls in various countries before drifting to Sweden and setting up his own sushi restaurant.

After the promotional video, I had asked him if I could interview him about his history.

 

However,

the video interview never came to fruition because a week later, he was taken to the hospital as an emergency patient and could not return home or to the sushi restaurant.

The promotional video, which was completed in time, took a lot of time and effort, and I was exhausted.

However, it was worthwhile and meaningful if it was able to shed some light on the last week of a Japanese man's life who struggled for 50 years in Europe.

If the completion had been delayed by a week and the promotional video had never been seen by him, I would still have felt regret.

 

It was this little hobby that added color to the path I walked over and over again, without ever getting bored.

And this little hobby was able to unexpectedly make someone smile, even if it was only for a moment and only for one person.

For various reasons, I will not be able to return to Japan for the time being.

This means that I will have to continue walking the same path I have walked many times before, and many more times to come.

I don't know if it's because of the pandemic or not, but what I find most precious right now is not so much the great successes in life, but the fact that I can make someone else happy through my small actions.

Furthermore, if I may wish, I would like to continue walking in good health tomorrow and the day after.

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北欧の夏至祭 蝉の音は何処から響く

7.2.2021

DAYS/  Maya Column

Stepping forward at Baltic

Midsummer in Scandinavia   Where Do the Cicadas Voice Come From?

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Even under these circumstances, the Midsummer Solstice comes to Scandinavia.
The Swedes around me are in high spirits.

One of the reasons why I returned to Japan every June was that it gave me a good reason to avoid participating in the Midsummer Festival.


Travel brochures about Scandinavia often include stereotypical images of the Midsummer Festival.
Perhaps because of this, the image that most people have in mind when they hear the word "Midsummer Festival" is as follows.

In the Dalarna region, where the traditional red houses are characteristic of the region, young and old blond men and women, dressed in their local traditional costumes, hold hands and dance happily around the maypole, singing the Midsummer's Day song, around the Sirian Lake.

Two wreaths of flowers in the shape of testicles were hanging at the top of the maypole.

There should not be any problem with that, should it?

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After putting the children to bed, the adults drink until late into the night, or until the next day, red-eyed and talking redundantly about bizarre things in a slurred speech.

Here, there is no competition in their careers, no nobility of profession, everyone is equal, half asleep, discussing trivial matters.
People talk about stocks, politics, sports, horse riding, cars, plumbing, and the latest news of mutual acquaintances who are not participating.

In addition, there can be scenes here where a man and a woman, whether they know each other or not, disappear into the depths of the forest or towards a lake.

In fact, I once witnessed such.

The man was an accomplished juristic person, tall and dark-haired, giving off an aura of elite status just by being there.
The woman, blond and blue-eyed, was hailed by many as a beautiful woman.
The Swedes rarely comment on others' appearances, so this assessment of her left a lasting impression on me.

They discreetly disappeared hand in hand into the woods, deep into the Scandinavian forest where the sun did not set until late, and further into the lake.

They were both engaged, and about to get married, each to a different partner.

Apparently in Sweden, almost 30% of all children are born almost nine months after the Midsummer Festival.
 

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It was well past midnight and there was no sign of the festival coming to a close, so I went into the hut I had been assigned to sleep in and laid out my sleeping bag.
The hard wooden floor didn't bother me too much, but it took me a while to get used to the melancholy aroma of the borrowed sleeping bag, as I am overly sensitive to smells.

What bothered me even more was the fact that I had to lie in the shape of a river with two other people in the small hut, and for some reason, I had to sleep in the middle of them.
They had once been lovers.
Even though I couldn't grasp the situation, I tried to get some sleep and waited for morning to come.

 

When I couldn't speak much Swedish, I wasn't used to talking with Swedes, and I couldn't hold a conversation for long.

How did I pass the time when I couldn't carry on a conversation?

I made up for it by drinking beer and pretending to enjoy the conversation.

There is a small room that I feel compelled to visit when I drink too much beer.

On this occasion, however, I was forced to endure it for the rest of the night.

 

No matter how bright it was outside, I could not dare to go to a remote cottage in the forest (a toilet that is furnished with a fertilizer refinery) alone in the middle of the night.

I tried to wake up the people who were sleeping next to me and ask them to escort me, but they were snoring and sound deep asleep.
I'm sure their blood alcohol levels were not half bad.

 


Gazing into the depths of the forest at night, I often have the illusion that a man wearing an ice hockey mask is about to appear.

Recently, I heard that a horror movie set in Sweden's "Midsummer" has come out.

If we don't break the habit of associating similar landscapes with horror movies as soon as they come into view, it will be difficult to live in nature.

 

The next morning dawned before the darkness of the night had time to completely cover the forest.

I went to breakfast in a daze, hungover and sleep deprived.

'Good morning, how are you? '

The Swedes greeted me with a well-rested face and refreshing greetings.

It is said that northern Europeans and Japanese have different amounts of ALDH2 (aldehyde dehydrogenase), which breaks down alcohol, on average.
The difference in the degree of resurrection is quite remarkable.

'Good morning, I feel great, except for the severe vomiting feeling.'

I barely managed a smile, and responded briskly.

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In the daytime, when I open the door of the cottage in the forest (the toilet for the fertilizer refinery as stated above), I am reminded of the long history of this forest.

When I opened the door of the wooden toilet, I found several calendars with almost naked actresses on the back of it.

All the calendars were faded and the studs were missing in some places.

All of the calendars were from the 1960s.
I wondered who had put them up, and what their families had said about them.

The only sound around the cottage was the decadent chirping of cicadas.
Time had stopped there since the 1960s.

In other words, the history of this family had b