I have moved in Australia with my Japanese husband since 2002.
After a half-year homestay experience at a Bed and Breakfast in New South Wales just myself, I joined a winery in Queensland where my husband got a job.
I now live in Cairns with family.
My hobbies are baking and handicrafts such as crochet and origami.
I am also a mother with children in high school, and is the number one fan of the pictures they draw.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
The job of housekeeping
Hearing these words,
"Oh, you mean the people who clean the accommodation."
How many of you can immediately understand it?
At least when I first heard it I thought it was a family accounting thing, and I only started using the term when I was in the position of a hotel room cleaner myself.
(Cairns is a tourist destination, so many people understand it...)
Yes, everyone seems to know about it, but it is a surprisingly unknown job.
That is housekeeping.
Housekeeping is essentially a repetitive job.
It can be said that they are professionals in repetitive tasks.
'Cleaning is my job.'
This is easily confused with.
For example, if the cleaning is done by a contractor at the time of vacating a rental, the dirt accumulated by each individual from their own use must be restored to a state where the next tenant can move in comfortably. There will be a lot of work to remove the dirt while minimising damage to the equipment, using a variety of chemicals, tools and techniques, depending on the situation.
The type of work you sometimes see on Japanese Youtube videos (or maybe that's just me).
Housekeeping cleaning, however, is the same, up to the point where "staff will clean up areas where each individual has made their own mess", but always in the same place and with a finer frequency of intervention.
In hotels, this is daily, and even in the type of accommodation where the guests clean the rooms, regular cleaning should take place once a week.
This frequency prevents the build-up of dirt.
Sometimes I am asked about effective cleaning methods for stubborn stains etc., but I cannot give a very useful answer.
If I had to say, "If you clean it all the time, I think you'll be fine".
If we could do that, we wouldn't all be in trouble.
My experience as housekeeping staff includes six and a half years at an exclusive hotel, several times assisting as temporary staff at three different hotels, a few months assisting at a backpacker inn, and nearly two years at the accommodation for people receiving medical care, where I currently work.
If you've never actually worked on a job, it probably won't ring a bell, so I'll give you a brief rundown of one day when I was working in a hotel.
First thing in the morning, you receive a list of the rooms you will be responsible for today.
(In the hotel where I worked, it was a one-man cleaning crew.)
The number of rooms allocated to you per day can go up or down, but it is around 12 to 14 rooms. This number is a mixture of rooms that have been checked out and rooms that are in use, as the hotel also cleans rooms that are in use every day (I am told in the industry that the standard is five hours for 12 rooms). The rooms that have already been checked out are prioritised and cleaned as they go along.
Cleaning includes disposing of dirty items, vacuuming and dusting, polishing bathrooms, checking that equipment such as televisions is in good working order, making beds and preparing towels for the next group of guests. If you don't have enough sheets or towels on hand, you have to prompt them, and if you don't have enough papers or cups in the room, you have to run around to get them.
Once all the rooms are in order, the day is finally over.
Neatly and without mistakes so that there are no complaints from guests. But also to finish as much as possible within the indicated time so that there are no complaints from the management.
With all these conflicting demands on our shoulders, we have to repeat the same work every day for as many rooms as possible, so it is no wonder that we are professionals at repetitive tasks.
As you can see, the chemicals used for cleaning are specific to each hotel, so this is not the same as a 'let's try this new chemical for this stain' type of cleaning.
It is an environment where people can face each day with a new spirit, with no work to take home, but the repetitive tasks are physical, so they come slowly to the body. Only a few people would not complain of chronic pain in their arms, palms, back and knees. They are also in the hospitality industry and may receive harsh words from guests.
It is a job that requires both physical and mental strength, as it is completely behind the scenes of the hotel, but also requires good customer service.
When I resigned from the hotel, I knew I would not go back to housekeeping.
Because I had set myself the challenge of increasing what I could do each day to see how clean I could get it done in time, I felt that I had done all I could do and that I was tired of doing physical labour already.
However, at the temporary employment agency that I registered with for a bridge job, all I was introduced to were housekeeping jobs, despite the fact that I had obtained a licence to handle alcohol so that I could be called for food and beverage work.
I thought about how I had become a lanky person during the periods when I was not physically active. When I was at the hotel, I was so thin that my parents were worried about me, so gaining some weight was not a problem, but when I thought back to the days when I was racy and moving, I felt like I had become self-defeating.
And because it was decided that, unlike hotels where entertainment is the main focus, medical accommodation is more in the public interest, I eventually returned to housekeeping work, which I continue to do to this day.
'Every day, while cleaning the shower booths.
'Why do I keep doing this job?'
I am not the type of person who exercises spontaneously, so it could be 'because I can exercise while earning an income' or 'because I like repetitive, simple tasks'.
Cleaning work is 'easy to see the rewards' because the results are visible as long as you do it, and 'I might be able to help people who are recuperating'.
And my housekeeping colleagues are always kind.
The actual workload is about 3-4 hours a day, so it is less physically demanding than in hotels, but it is difficult to live on this alone. Therefore, I also have another job twice a week. This is another physical job, which is also quite hard.
However, both are behind-the-scenes jobs that society cannot run smoothly without someone else doing them.
I find myself thinking, "That's why I work," and I find myself being a pain in the ass.
When I was in the hotel, the words "I have to quit" were constantly in my head as I wiped the window sashes, but at the moment I'm asking myself, "Why am I still doing this job?" I think I will continue with my current housekeeping job for a while longer.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
Happenings met in Japan
1. Yokohama's banned uncle
For two and a half weeks from the end of March, we a family of four travelled to Japan for the first time in five years with our two middle and high school children.
We went around Osaka and Nara, Kanazawa and Toyama, Tokyo and Yokohama, Gifu and Aichi, and then back to Cairns, and had some interesting experiences during that intense time.
Firstly, I would like to write about the man I met in Yokohama.
On our way from Tokyo to Gifu, we visited our friends living in Yokohama.
A couple of friends run a takoyaki (octopus dumplings) restaurant that serves alcohol, and they opened their restaurant earlier than usual to accommodate our arrival time and waited for us.
‘It's been a long time’
‘I feel at home here by the river’
While we were chatting and eating delicious takoyaki, a man wandered up on a bicycle.
'Can I have a pint of draught beer?'
He ordered, and spoke to us as a matter of course.
At first he talked about this area of Yokohama.
I tried my best to listen to him, thinking that it was a rare opportunity to meet a local person, but he gradually began to talk more and more about himself, saying things like 'during the war, my parents, my siblings...'.
He then began to talk about how his family used to go abroad, perhaps because of the location of Yokohama,
“We are from overseas too”
But he didn't respond to my words and didn't stop talking about himself.
At first I think we were all listening, but then I realised I was the only one facing to him.
'My brother and sister were born in different countries and I still don't know what my own parents did for a living (grin).'
When it comes to the story, is it finally getting bad?
Just when I was getting worried that he might not let me go, my friend interrupted me and said, "Give us a break".
My friend said that he was a famous banned uncle in the neighbourhood.
He has been rejected after putting on a one-man show of stories that may or may not be false or true in various restaurants.
Well, was he happy because I was listening the story seriously?
I was impressed by the way he spoke very vividly.
Although it was interesting to meet someone unusual, I have to say that it was still a pity that the time I spent rejoicing in seeing my friend was much shorter because of it.
2. Capsule Hotel
In Nagoya, we had arranged to meet up with some friends from our university days.
We were a group of six good friends who attended a small university in Gifu.
Usually scattered across the Kanto, Chugoku and Tokai regions, they gathered together on the occasion of my temporary return to Japan.
With six of us, it has been difficult for all of us to get together at once, due to our different life stages and simple lack of schedules.
I was also unable to attend the wedding (due to lack of money at the time), or to participate in the trips to Takayama and Hong Kong.
When was the last time we all got together?
'When we say goodbye, it's always as if we'll see each other again tomorrow.'
It has been a long time since we last talked like that.
It can't be helped that someone is missing, let's rejoice that we are now getting together.
I think that was the feeling.
This time, however, all six could meet together, as we had long hoped.
The team that lived far from home decided to stay in Nagoya.
‘I've heard there is a good place to stay’
A friend who lives in Nagoya introduced us to a "capsule hotel with various facilities".
It was the type of accommodation where a variety of things were provided without the need to bring anything, such as a free 'big bath', soft drinks, alcohol in the evening hours, rice and miso soup, etc.
Despite the fact that capsule hotels are a unique and unusual form of accommodation in Japan, none of us had ever stayed in one, and neither had my friend who introduced us this accomodation.
So we booked it for three people, but on the day we checked in and only found out the truth.
We were not allowed to talk in the sleeping area where the capsules are located!
This is a place where other users do not know when other users are sleeping 24 hours a day.
Please be quiet!
Moreover, after seeing the capsule, my friend and I confessed to each other that we were "claustrophobic". (When we got inside the capsule, it was surprisingly okay.)
The cooler we got, the more we wondered why we booked it.
My friend from Nagoya, who asked me for a good place to stay, is self-employed and travels all over the country. I believe that she may have introduced it to me as convenient for her.
At the booking stage, everyone was flabbergasted, including me.
'You got accommodation? Good, good, relief."
It couldn't be helped.
Seeking a place to stay, we move to the floor where drinks and snacks are available, but is it a wake? It is so quiet that you would think it was a wake. Wearing loungewear and holding the drink or snack they want in one hand, the visitors wander around on their own. We are a group of three among them. The smell of cigarettes wafts from the smoking room at the back.
Basically, the overwhelming majority of customers use the area alone, so lively group customers seemed to be shunned. We speak in a mosquito-like voice.
The locker room and the main bathroom were normal places to talk, but not places to stay for long, right?
We had gathered here to talk endlessly, but were forbidden to do so. We reflected on the fact that we would never use a capsule room except for solo travellers, and our expectations for the 'adult excursion (Noritake Forest and planetarium)' scheduled for the following day grew.
The final part of a trip to Japan is the luggage!
Sending cardboard boxes of clothes, books, food and other items from my husband's parents' house to the airport post office in advance and getting them on the plane is the most important mission every time.
When the children were small, toys were added to the boxes, so there were sometimes 10 boxes in total.
This time, as well, I first prepared five cardboard boxes and checked the post office website, and to my surprise, the airport branch had disappeared.
I had never used it before, but I knew it existed, a private luggage collection service counter.
This one was open and I was able to specify the address. What a relief. I was able to pick up my baggage free of charge and, at the end of the day, I was able to buy an extra cardboard box to put the souvenirs I would buy at the airport.
Okay, now we're going shopping! But there are no 'shops'!
Convenience stores, souvenir shops, bookshops, 100-yen shops and various speciality shops were there five years ago.
All this and more during the pandemic,
Oh, dear, oh dear,
Almost all shops were closed.
It was not a case of hesitating to buy souvenirs at the Shinkansen kiosks because they would become luggage for the journey.
At the baggage claim counter, packing tape was also sold in sets with boxes, perhaps because the 100s shops had gone?
Barely found was a convenience store and one pharmacy each between the areas under construction.
The pharmacy had a small amount of souvenirs.
I finally saw the light at the pharmacy, as I had been careless and thought I could just buy souvenirs at the airport.
4. the very last
Okay, the luggage is ready.
Let's check it in!
The Jetstar counter is..,
Where's the Jetstar counter?
It's not here.
The electronic board shows that our flight is marked C2 or something.
What was that? Did KIX have a Terminal 2?
Are low-cost airliners going there?
To get to Terminal 2 at Kansai International Airport, passengers had to take a free private bus.
To get to the bus stop, we took the lift down to the ground level and walked a little.
When the bus arrived there, we unloaded six cardboard boxes and two suitcases from the cart and placed them on the bus.
Once off the bus, we picked up the cart again, reloaded our luggage and went inside Terminal 2.
Woman: 'I don't see any Jetstar counters here.'
Returned to bus stop at Terminal 2. Long queue. Everyone's luggage was compact.
We had given up hope of getting on the first bus, but there was a man who took care of us and told us to get on and load our luggage too.
Thank you, you have saved us from the depths of despair.
Here, family unity was put to the test.
No one complains and did our job.
Those who were standing where the luggage could be placed are asked to give up some of their space.
The bus returned to Terminal 1.
Then we take our luggage off the bus again. We pick up the cart that I thought we had left behind earlier and put it back on. Take the lift back to the departure hall of Terminal 1 again.
Would we have lost nearly an hour?
By then, the Jetstar sign appeared at counter C and there was a queue of passengers waiting to be accepted.
I know that it was a move we did not have to make.
I was just relieved that we made it in time.
I had a meaningful time on this trip to Japan.
I was impressed by the Japanese food I ate as soon as I got off the plane, was overwhelmed by the number of foreign tourists at tourist attractions but felt a sense of familiarity, walked around without a face mask with a sense of excitement, and managed to make it to the cherry blossom season. We made a shared album of photos taken by each of the four family members, rode the limited express Shirasagi with just the children, ate a whole of a snow crab each, Ghibli, Akihabara, supporting my fave, family and friends.
We had a few spicy experiences, but it will all be memories later.
Now, let's get back to our daily life in Cairns.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
At Cairns International Airport
1. temporary return to my country
I am in the boarding area at Cairns International Airport with my family, waiting for the time to board the plane.
Today is the last day of the children's first term, but I have informed the school that we will start the holiday one day earlier and start the second term two days later.
We think we have made a hard-working schedule that doesn't miss much school, which is a common trend in Australia.
This is the first time in about five years for our family to visit Japan, as our plans to return temporarily in 2020 have turned out to be a mirage!
Excited, thrilled and slightly anxious.
When we last returned to Japan, my daughter was in the third grade and my son was in the first year of junior high school.
Five years on, of course, my daughter is now in the second year of junior high school and my son is now in the third year of high school.
I am a little troubled to think that I have spent so much time in Australia at an age when they have clear memories of the country.
2. Boarding area
After completing check-in procedures, they went through the baggage check and then followed the departure procedures.
I was amazed at the mechanised departure procedures and was reminded of the growth of the children, who are already able to complete the procedures on their own.
One of my son's friends travels alone on domestic journeys with plane connections, while another child is studying in the UK and has taken an international flight alone.
You were able to ride the limited express train "Shirasagi" with just the children!
I don't think they are young enough to be praised for this, but they are a very boxy bunch, so please forgive me if my emotional boiling point is low.
After immigration formalities, the direction in which to proceed is through the duty-free shop. Once through there, there are only three souvenir shops and one café left to wait.
I think there used to be a sushi roll shop, but was that in a major city airport ......?
I only come here occasionally and my memory is hazy.
In the only café, there was a constant queue of people wanting coffee and snacks, and we were the first to get in line.
Even though international travel has become active again, the souvenir shops that remain closed make you realise that there was a pandemic in the intervening years. I had never even set foot in a shop that sold sheepskin mats and UGG boots (warm boots made from wool), but I was selfish enough to think that they were not there, and I wanted to see their products.
When the children were young, I bought picture books, children's books and drawing books from the bookshop here to prepare them for their time on board.
It was also a long time ago that we prepared candy for them to lick during take-off and landing so that they would be able to pull their ears out, and that they would run and wriggle around in the open air until just before boarding to tire themselves out and fall asleep more easily on board.
Now, everyone is ready to kill time on their own, making use of their own smartphones and devices. By the way, I am writing essays and taking photos here, as you can see.
3. Coins from other countries
When I come to the airport, there is one thing I always do.
That is to donate coins from other countries.
When I was working as a housekeeper in a hotel, the natural collection was foreign coins, which I had to deal with.
It is money and I want to do it properly, but there is no effective way to use it.
Finding people from each country and giving them away was also a tedious task. It was then that I found a destination for the coins at the airport.
It was a donation box in the boarding area.
Not only Australian dollars, but money from many other countries was normally in there. Every time I went back to Japan, I decided to put the money here.
This time, for my first international trip in five years, I still had coins with me that had nowhere else to go. Just before the pandemic, I quit my job at the hotel itself, so it wasn't a huge amount.
I put them in a donation box just now and finally got the weight off my shoulders.
When I looked at where the donation was going, it said 'Flying Doctor'.
It is a service that uses air routes to transport people with sudden illnesses in remote areas where there are no hospitals nearby.
I think it's a small amount of coin, but I'm happy if it helps someone, even if it's just a little bit.
It's also a great way to feel like you've done something useful while travelling.
If you are a traveller with some Australian dollars left over, it might be a good idea to make a small donation at the end of your trip.
Now it's almost boarding time.
I am going to enjoy myself now so that I can tell a good souvenir story to my friends and staff at work who sent me off with a "Have a safe trip"!
I've heard that the cherry blossoms in Japan are already in full bloom, so I'll have to wait until I arrive to see if I can make it.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
1. Easy Going
The other day, a woman came into the supermarket to do her shopping and said, 'It's so cold'.
It is midsummer in Cairns, so it is hot outside, and inside the supermarket where the food is sold, the air conditioning works that much better. Our children are cold and bring long sleeves when shopping, even in summer. I wondered if she was the same and casually looked at her feet to see she was barefoot. I'm sorry, but if you feel the cold floor directly on your feet, it's no wonder you're cold.
I held back the part where I wanted to point this out.
Barefoot may be a culture in Australia, especially in Cairns, where it is always summer.
With a free swimming pool in the city centre, it is a common sight to see people walking around the city in rough clothes such as swimming costumes and bare tops, and many people also wear sandals on their feet. Some are even barefoot. I don't think it's that they don't have the money to buy shoes.
I don't have any expert knowledge on the subject, but it is not at all surprising in a country where people are said to have an easy-going spirit.
The scene of barefoot, shoe-wearing and sandal-wearing people mingling in the streets seems to symbolise a place where you can live without having to stand on your elbows.
Does it bother you so much that I'm barefoot? It doesn't matter either way. Some might even say.
It doesn't matter if you are an adult, a child or a person of any gender if you walk barefoot outside.
A search for 'barefoot in Australia' yields a lot of interesting articles and images. Many Japanese are surprised and say 'huh'.
On the other hand, during working hours, it may be stipulated that footwear must be worn at all times.
Wearing work boots for personal safety is probably at the top of the list, but once at my workplace I was explicitly told that accidents while I was shoeless would not be covered by my on-the-job insurance.
That was when I was working as a housekeeper in a hotel, and although the job did not involve carrying very heavy items, they may have been concerned that I might fall over with my shoes off.
It is natural to want to take off footwear when it is free time, especially if you are told not to take it off at work.
I thought back to how it is in Japan.
Whenever I go outside for a moment, whether on the balcony or not, I always have some footwear with me. That was the case at least until 20 years ago that I can remember.
The house I grew up in was an old Japanese house and the toilet was on the other side of the family entrance. So I always wore sandals when I went to the toilet, and in connection with toilets, I even had my own slippers in the small bathroom in the flat I moved into as a university student.
I think the awareness of not wanting to get my feet dirty was ingrained in me without my knowing it.
Even though Australia is a tolerant country where no one cares if you come barefoot to the supermarket for shopping, there are still places where you will be refused entry. It is not possible to enter high-end restaurants with dress codes, and for safety reasons, even DIY shops will reject you.
I don't know how it happened, but my husband once drove the car, unusually barefoot, even though we weren't going to the sea, and got out and tried to enter a DIY shop. He got out and tried to enter the DIY shop, and was refused entry by the staff stationed at the entrance, who told him to put on his footwear again.
He hurried to a nearby supermarket, bought a pair of flip-flops and got away with it, but it was a moment that put the brakes on his careless head on his day off.
It was also a moment when I felt I had been living in Australia for a long time.
2. In the case of children
The top thing that children forget at their friends' houses and other places where they go to play is their footwear.
I always make sure they don't forget their bags with swimming gear, water bottles, devices, etc., but often they would have a bit of fun at the end of the day and get into the car barefoot.
On days when I thought I wouldn't forget them today, the next time we were saying goodbye and the parents were talking to each other and I realised that my child was back to barefoot, I couldn't blame them.
'Did you put your shoes on?' has become a watchword for both the receiving and the picking-up parties.
On days when they go directly from school to a friend's house, if they forget to do so, "I don't have shoes for school tomorrow!" This can cause a situation.
In such cases, I asked the parents to leave the forgotten shoes at the front door, so that I could stop by and change them on the way to school.
It's not easy for parents to make ends meet, really.
It is a very common feeling for children to play outside barefoot, and even if they initially wear them in the park or garden, they find themselves taking them off. In my opinion, it is a wisdom of life not to buy them expensive ones, because if they forget them in the park, etc., they are unlikely to find them.
Even in the kindergarten my daughter attended, looking back at the photos again, she played barefoot.
However, this all changed when they entered primary school.
They are taught to wear shoes from around 9am to 3pm.
The youngest child was only four and a half years old.
In the early grades, some children spend more time sitting on the floor than sitting on chairs in the classroom, and I hear that some children throw tantrums because they want to take their shoes off.
The preparatory year is also a time for children to gradually get used to these rules.
Even I wear shoes to work, but as soon as I get into the car to go home, I change into the sandals I always have with me. I don't go barefoot, but it's good for my feet to feel a sense of freedom that the work is done.
I remember that when I was in primary school, there was a period of 'barefoot exercise' in the warmer months, when we could go barefoot on the school grounds and in the graveled courtyard. Walking on the gravel was as painful as a foot mat, but I remember it was fun.
The liberating feeling of barefoot will sometimes also be felt 'earthing', connecting with the earth. The benefit of being barefoot as a child, when the senses are sensitive, was something that was recognised in Japanese school education.
However, our family has always forbidden children to go barefoot when walking in town.
This is because there are often dangerous objects on the ground, such as pieces of broken alcohol bottles. This may seem a little overprotective, but we believe it will help them to become more aware of the dangers.
3. Aren't you barefoot?
I have only been sarcastic once because I was wearing sandals.
It happened at a playgroup (a playgroup for pre-school children).
There is a facility that is used by different playgroups on different days from Monday to Friday, and I usually joined the Japanese playgroup there.
One day, a woman I met was the leader of another day of the week and invited me to come and play.
The group was made up of people who shared her educational policy, which calls for a natural approach, and only toys made of wood and other natural materials were allowed to play with. The group seemed to enjoy kneading bread dough together at the beginning and eating the baked bread for lunch. I also felt a sense of familiarity because I bake bread at home.
When we went to play, she knew where the plastic toys were and she wanted to open them and I had to do my best to stop her and invite her to play outside.
In the process, a woman asked, "Is this a group where anyone is allowed to come?" I heard a woman's voice asking the question, clearly aware of my presence.
It seemed to be the rule that parents and children were to spend time barefoot at the place, and I didn't know this, and I had been wearing sandals the whole time. It could have looked like someone who refused to go barefoot and connect with nature had blundered into the group.
I joined the group out of interest, but realised early on that it was too demanding for my family, so her question was a good start and I decided to leave before lunch was served.
I have had books on education policies that this group shares for some time, but have never been able to put them into practice in real life.
My only experience of rejection for not going barefoot was also a reaffirming experience that perhaps I was in a slightly different group in terms of orientation to my family, who lived a life surrounded by so-called toys and showing television.
4. Thickness of the skin of the foot
When I temporarily returned to Japan and was blessed with the opportunity to play with my friend's children
'They really go barefoot, don't they?'
I was told. There was an interesting contrast between my friend's two children playing on the playground equipment with their shoes on and my two children playing barefoot. I think they all eventually played barefoot.
When I see children playing in Cairns parks in their footwear, especially if they are in full socks and sneakers, I wonder "Are they tourists?". Recently, my child's age has increased and the opportunities to go to the park have decreased dramatically, and due to the pandemic restrictions, I haven't seen any travellers for a while.
It makes me feel warm and fuzzy to think that there will be more opportunities for local children and travelling children to cross paths again in the future.
And so on and so forth, but I have to confess that we are not quite there yet. We have to confess that we have not yet reached that level, as the barefooters here seem to be able to walk on hot roads and seem to be fine with even the slightest obstacle.
In fact, the thickness of the skin on their feet may be one of the factors that will help them survive in the coming survival race.
If that is the case, then I would be able to walk on the artificial grass in the garden and say, "Hot! Hot!" I still have a lot of training to do.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
Busy December to realise
1. Second job
This time a year ago, I had more time on my hands.
My new job at the time was cleaning accommodation for people and their families who had come from remote areas to receive medical care in Cairns.
Having cleaned hotel rooms for six and a half years, I always had the impression that cleaning jobs were always short-staffed, but at this workplace, you only need to work for three or four hours to finish a day's work.
Fellow cleaning staff also basically leave after three hours. Of course, there are days when the workload is heavy, but they finish in a short time by making creative arrangements, such as carrying over the work to the next day.
The minimum working hours per day in Australia are set at three hours. I was indeed told during the interview that I would get at least three hours, but I failed to listen.
This may be a consideration because the work is intensive and physically demanding, so the hours are short but exhausting (everyone's age is older than mine).
However, if the job ends up in town at lunchtime, it is a problem because I would have been there to earn money, but I am inclined towards spending it.
So I spent the first half of this year searching for a second job, on the condition that weekday mornings were not allowed, and eventually got a job in the fruit and vegetable department of a supermarket.
In this job, you get a chunk of time, 6-7 hours at a time.
The working days were two or three days a week, and on days when there was also cleaning work to be done, the total working hours would exceed 10 hours, but there was variety, with some weekends and only one job of a day or the other.
This work combination had the advantage that it was easier to make plans to go out for lunch with friends or to go for a haircut when I was working and still free. With the increased income, I could also be more comfortable with these kinds of expenses.
I thought things had finally settled down.
When I was feeling stable, the head of the department in the supermarket changed.
As is often the case in Australia, many people leaving for reasons other than work, such as moving or simply wanting to change careers. It is felt that this tends to be particularly common on the management side.
In the case of ordinary staff, some occasionally return to the same workplace. And I have heard stories of people repeatedly quitting and returning again, but that is rare indeed. ......
Around that time the manpower became a bit thin and my working days increased to three or four days a week. If someone suddenly called in sick, I'd get calls like 'can you work today?' Or asking if I could bring forward my working hours.
Many days I work full on in the morning, which is hard on my sober mind. However, it is also distressing because it is I who then have to go to work and be troubled by the workload.
It is good to have a job for hire in Australia, where the minimum wage is one of the highest in the world.
On a different note, perhaps because he read my essay here, I received an invitation from an acquaintance earlier this year, "Would you like to do some writing work for me?"
It was a job where the subject was searched for and then talked about, and it was at this odd time of year that a candidate was finally found.
The free time that had been available up to that point was used to prepare applications, schedule interviews for them, and to do some thinking in front of a MacBook.
To say truth, I had always thought that a writing job would be "nice", albeit vaguely.
I like writing and expressing myself, having created my own website and written for diary sites and blogs since I arrived in Australia 20 years ago.
When I was in secondary school, we had a class where we had to present what we wanted to be in the future and I chose to be an editor.
As a child, I loved reading idol magazines and band music magazines, especially music magazines, which often included editorial statements in addition to the usual artist articles, which seemed fun.
However, when I chose 'editor' but saw the sentence 'highly competitive', I used it for my presentation but quit actually going for it.
Basically, I didn't like that kind of competition.
So when I was invited to write, I was happy and wanted to work on it because I enjoyed the content.
Of course, when I was invited to write an essay for this Stay Salty last year, I was very happy and nervous at the same time.
I have rarely had my writing appear in other people's areas, and it took courage to hand over my photos to someone who works in design.
Nevertheless, I find it interesting that the direction of effort is decentralised, using the physical body for cleaning and putting out goods and the mind for writing.
3. And greeting cards.
Writing another thing, I wanted to have a booth at the local weekend market. For sale would be handmade greeting cards, printed with children's drawings.
They are mainly all-around items, with writing such as "Happy birthday", "Merry Christmas", "Thank you", etc., or with no lettering.
I thought there might not be enough variety, so I decided to make some of the photos I have taken so far.
The card activity was something that I had been wishing I could do for two years, but had not been able to carry out. It was only at this time, when I was still busy, that I was able to actually put it into action, with the encouragement of various courageous people.
It was difficult to get a reservation for a sales booth at the weekend market, and I only had more cards on hand waiting for their turn, but I finally got a booth at the 'Christmas Craft Market' in the middle of this month.
When I visited this craft market last month, I felt that many of the booths were more amateurish than those at the weekend market.
I was worried that I wouldn't be able to produce a professional-like display, so now that the threshold has been lowered, I feel I can simply enjoy this activity, which is part of my hobby.
I am currently at the climax of my busyness and I have no choice but to write this month's essay about it, but it is all thanks to my family that I am in this state.
Children are able to take care of themselves in their own way and can be asked to do some housework.
I am particularly grateful to my husband, who continues to work a steady full-time job and cooks us a delicious meal every night.
He also worries about my health.
My definition of 'busy' includes time to recover my physical fitness from physical work, so I have even less time, but I am grateful for the present, where I can focus on being 'busy' without feeling guilty about such things.
I'm conscious that it's now time to be a bit overwhelmed, and I want to enjoy that.
When the year's up, it's my holidays!
HAVE A WONDERFUL FESTIVE SEASON!!
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
1. Eat for the first time
Pre-ordering of mangoes for home delivery to Japan by well-known gift shops has started again this year.
When I see this advertising message, I think to myself.
"Oh, it's already the season for year-end gifts".
I am reminded of this.
At the same time, supermarkets have begun to stock early season varieties.
And the big mango trees in the neighbourhood have so many green berries hanging in bells that the wild little animals are probably waiting for them to ripen.
When I moved to Australia, mangoes and avocados were not yet commonly available foods in Japan.
Therefore, when I saw them in grocery stores here, I would pick them up with trepidation.
That's what I get when I buy an avocado thinking it's a fruit.
'It's not sweet.'
I was at a loss as I didn't know how to eat it.
At the time, I didn't know that avocados were delicious when added to natto (fermented soy beans) or sushi rolls. It was a waste of money, I think now.
As for mangoes, I had eaten dried mangoes as a child.
They were a family souvenir from the Philippines and were the thick-fleshed, semi-raw type. The surface was covered with a white powder, and I remember how frustrating it was when I got a bad one and all I could see were streaks.
I liked the sweet and sour dried mangoes and ate them often, but I never had the chance to eat fresh mangoes in Japan.
I no longer remember the first time I ate them here, but I'm pretty sure I cut them in a grid pattern and turned them over.
I think it was delicious.
2. Mango tree at home.
When I lived in a house in Ipswich, there was a mango tree in the backyard.
The neighbouring tree, where a couple on their golden wedding anniversary lived, was huge and magnificent, as if symbolising their history.
Alongside, ours had not been planted very long and was a small tree, about my height, with only a couple of berries.
But they grew so deliciously that I once covered them with a plastic bag until they were ripe, to prevent possums and bats from eating them.
Some of the berries ripened deliciously as they were, and some must have been nibbled out of the bag.
I thought that humans are not the only ones who have an obsession with good food, and at the same time I felt frustrated that if I had used a hard plastic container to put them in, they would not have been eaten.
I am more obsessive than you.
In Cairns, when we lived in a townhouse, there was a large tree on the other side of the backyard fence.
It was so overgrown that it covered the roof of our house, so when I was sleeping at night
and at times the sound of mangoes falling and hitting the roof could be heard.
When I went out to the backyard the next morning, I found mangoes lying around in various states, from crushed from the impact of the fall to those that had retained their beautiful shape.
A treasure trove for me.
This was a blessing in disguise and I carefully selected and harvested the ones in good condition.
The bad ones I threw over the fence.
There are trees on the other side to begin with, and there is no problem with the Seasonal Creek, which becomes a river when it rains and is managed by the city, just in case.
When harvested in inedible quantities, peel and freeze them.
The frozen ones are useful when making sweets such as mango pudding, rather than eating them as they are. Some people might put them in smoothies, but I feel like it's a waste to lose them in an instant, so I turn them into sweets.
Well, when you make it into sweets, it's still a blink of an eye. ......
However, sweet or not, I am the only one who eats mangoes in my family.
Where the children were never interested in them in the first place, they hated them when they were made to help clean under the mango trees at school. They said the smell of the crushed and fermented mangoes was too strong.
If you live in Cairns, there are mango trees everywhere, so I suspect that a certain number of children have developed a dislike for them through this experience.
Mangoes have a strong presence both during flowering, when they release their distinctive fragrance, and when they bear fruit.
3. At Japan
By the way, when I lived in a house with mangoes falling on the roof, I met a mango seller when I temporarily returned to Japan, I think around 2011.
He approached me on the street just after I left the hospital after an operation for myopia.
'I can't leave without selling off all my domestic-grown premium mangoes. Please buy some."
He came up to me and said something like. I think they told me they would guarantee the product.
In short, it was a pushy sales pitch, but I was fascinated by the fact that the fruit they were selling was mangoes. Moreover, I had never eaten Japanese mangoes before.
I think they cost about three thousand yen each.
'I have a mango tree at home in Australia.'
But I bought two.
It was an unusual situation after an expensive operation.
Perhaps that's what the sellers were after.
But again, I bought it because it was Japanese mangoes that they were dealing with.
It looked just right for an after dinner snack at my in-laws' house.
Luckily, it was very tasty and I was happy that it was a proper product.
(The product itself is innocent, but I would never buy it if they were selling it now)
Unfortunately, there are no mango trees at my current home.
I buy them from a shop or I am lucky if someone gives me some.
Mangoes from people's house in particular seem to have the power of the local community, although it may be an exaggeration to say that they are locally produced for local consumption.
It's about time I had mango sweets again.
What shall I make this time?
It's a fun time to think about it.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
Tickets to Japan
1. Phantom September 2020
Since the children started school, it was always the school holiday season when we would temporarily return to Japan.
Easter holidays (Autumn holidays) in March/April, Winter holidays in June/July.
Spring holidays in September/October or Summer holidays in December/January.
Of these, the Christmas season has always been rejected, partly because of my husband and I work commitments and partly because we don't like the cold. I have never spent the New Year's holiday in Japan since I came to Australia. I wish “I hope to return home at this time in the future.!"
When on earth will I get to eat the taste of my hometown, Kabura-zushi, which is only available during this season?
With this thought in mind, I am melting in the hot Cairns summer.
The Easter holiday, which also coincides with the cherry blossom viewing season in Japan, is always popular and cheap airfares are hard to find. Even for Australians in Cairns say
So it is probably not necessary to put them on sale.
Our family only bought when it was cheap, so the dates we could choose from were always only Australian winter or spring holidays.
Even when the sale came up at the end of January 2020, the tickets purchased were for September, the spring break.
It was also the best value for money I've ever spent, about AUD 1,400 for a family of four, which works out to a round trip to Japan for $350 per person.
We got a good deal," I said. “We had 100 kilos of luggage on the way back.”
As you all know, a pandemic was declared.
International flights were suspended across the board, and my temporary return home after a two-year absence fizzled out.
Tickets worth approximately AUD 1,400 were in the form of airline vouchers.
The expiry date was one year, so I want to use it somehow.
It would be a waste.
At the time when I was supposed to return to Japan, I planned a trip to a nearby place instead.
Come to think of it, I can also arrange hotel and car hire on the airline's website.
Then maybe I could use the voucher to book accommodation in the Tablelands area, a plateau near Cairns!
I went to the computer with a ray of hope, but was sunk when I got a notice that I had to set it up with my airline ticket.
Accommodation was booked and paid for as normal.
Similarly, it seemed that people who were unable to go abroad were diverting by switching to domestic travel in nearby areas. Campsites, which had been quiet until then, were full during the holiday season after the pandemic, and it was reportedly difficult to get reservations.
We also used a cabin at the campsite. With a view of the beautiful lakeside, I thought at times, "I should have been in Japan, meeting my family and friends".
Nevertheless, it was a good thing, as the family was able to refresh ourselves by looking for platypus and taking a walk around the lake at a time when it is still a time of uncertainty.
3. Brisbane, June 2021
The deadline for using the vouchers is looming, with stay-home being recommended and several lockdowns taking place.
International flights to Japan remain suspended and cannot be used there.
In the first place, it is time to get permission from the State to leave the country.
I was told from many quarters that 'a relative is in critical condition' is not enough, and that permission is only granted after death is confirmed.
Domestic travel, after all.
Eventually, my daughter said, "I want to go to Starbucks at least once".
There is no Starbucks in Cairns, so we need to go to Brisbane.
Oh well, Brisbane has Uniqlo and H&M!
The children are halfway through the clothes-buying process and need to try on clothes.
Our family, which is in the habit of buying clothes in bulk while we are in Japan, missed the chance to do so, which was a bit of a problem.
The problem is that Brisbane was on lockdown every school holiday at this time of year.
This means that we had no choice but to travel during the school term.
However, my son is someone who does not want to miss school.
As a result, a forced schedule was put together, leaving Cairns on Saturday morning and leaving the Brisbane hotel in the early hours of Sunday morning.
There was an option to return to Cairns at midnight on Sunday, but we decided that this would be impractical.
My husband offered to stay at home, as we had started to have two cats, so I booked flights and a room for me and my children.
In an attempt to use up as much of the voucher as possible, I managed to accumulate it to $1,360 by slightly upgrading our airline seat selection and booking a five-star hotel.
There was still about $40 left, but as expected, I gave up.
It was almost as much as an extra bedstead for my son, but that was the only thing that was shown as payable locally, so I gave it up as a donation.
In one short overnight trip of half a day, I was able to visit Starbucks, Uniqlo, H&M and a ramen noodle shop, which I would have gone too had I been back in Japan.
To top it all off, I received a Krispy Kreme doughnut at the airport, which I thought was a very Aussie thing to do living in the countryside.
3. Expectations April 2023.
The remainder of the voucher, which was given up as a donation, had an extended expiry date without our knowledge.
It was only recently that we realised this.
This year, direct flights between Cairns and Japan were restored and we finally made plans to return to Japan temporarily.
Easter holiday next April. We were able to secure tickets for a two-week stay.
I chose the date with the lowest current price, but the amount I paid was swollen to three times what I got in vouchers last time. Still, I think I was lucky to book on a good date during the Japanese cherry blossom season.
In fact, the high mask population in Japan and the requirement for a vaccine certificate or PCR test result at the point of entry into Japan were still considered too difficult to return home.
Nevertheless, I was motivated to buy the ticket when I heard from a family member living in Japan that a distant relative had passed away at a young age.
“I have to meet them while I can.”
“I must return home while I have the chance.”
I felt strongly about this.
There is a glimmer of hope that six months after they actually return home, the conditions for entry on the Japanese side may have changed in a more lenient way.
Even if that doesn't happen, I am simply happy to see my family for the first time in five years.
While I'm at my parents' house, I hope to visit Starbucks, which is known as the most beautiful Starbucks in the world.
When I am at my husband's side of the family home, it will be Kinka-zan.
I wonder if the Usuzumi-zakura cherry blossoms still be in bloom?
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
1. Australian unmanned sales outlets.
Unmanned vegetable stands.
If you were Japanese,
"Oh, yeah, I've seen it."
'You know, where they build huts in the corner of a field and sell them?'
I think there are many people who trace their memories of the place. And.
"Japan is a peaceful and serious country, so we can do it, but other countries don't have it, do they?"
I think that's what people think.
All kinds of vending machines are installed in various locations in Japan. And I hear that the reason they can make sales is because no one tries to break them.
In Australia, you almost never see vending machines outdoors, so I thought, 'Is that how it is?'
'There are no unmanned sales outlets either'.
I don't know when it started, but a trailer full of bananas started to be placed on the side of the highway I pass almost every day.
It is a slightly larger area where highway drivers, even large vehicles, can stop and rest. It is on the side of Cairns city centre heading north, and there is a large sign with the names of the major towns ahead.
When we moved in 11 years ago, there was a small manned fruit stand there.
Bananas, mangoes, pineapples and other tropical fruits.
We often see fruit farms in and around Cairns, and I wondered if the sales point was the main business of those farmers or if they were just trying to make some extra money, but anyway, I liked the direct-sales feel of the place.
Eventually, however, the fruit stalls disappeared and I noticed that trailers full of bananas were left unattended.
2. Are they unmanned and safe?
Although the city is relatively safe, petty crime itself is far from rare, and in recent years car theft and vandalism by children with a gaming mentality has become a serious social problem in Cairns.
It seems that not a day goes by without seeing an abandoned car on the side of the highway.
Unattended banana sales in such a situation?
No one to misbehave?
Please bear with me as I have given some thought to why unmanned sales have been around for so long, although it is my own subjective view.
First of all, it is basically a place that can only be reached by car.
Highways, unlike Japanese highways, are inexhaustibly connected to ordinary roads. Even so, it is a bit far from densely populated areas, and I wonder if I could cycle there with my best efforts.
On the opposite side of the highway, a pedestrian/cycle path runs through the area, but the sun is often very strong, so I'm not sure if I'm physically up to it.
Incidentally, the speed on the highway is 80 km/h.
And this is an open area, with good views from both sides of the highway.
The person buying the bananas basically has their back to the running cars, so you never know who is watching you.
Then the trailers with bananas are collected at night.
In the morning, during the commuting hours, they are already there.
However, when we passed by a little later in the evening, the trailers had been collected and were gone. It appears that replenishment and fee collection is carried out every day, as sometimes the bananas in the trailers are sold so much in the evening that they are no longer visible.
Also, a mobile van selling beef pies, an Australian speciality, is always parked at this location. Some large vehicles simply stop here for a rest, but people also stop here to buy pies.
More importantly, this banana stand is very popular.
It is common to see several cars parked and queuing up to get to the trailers.
The queues did not disappear even during the pandemic disaster.
If it is so popular, people are more likely to take a banana without putting money in because it is so publicly visible. On one social networking site, I saw a post that said, "I put my money in first and then chose my banana, but I didn't like it when the person behind me told me I hadn't paid.”
I thought that there was a misunderstanding, but at any rate there was a mutual watchful eye on each other.
Finally, the fact that the bananas sold are heavy and cheap may be a condition for being able to sell them unattended.
3. I bought a banana here.
Now, my children don't eat bananas, so I have always just passed by, but the other day I got up the courage (!) I pulled over.
In Cairns, where the season is winter, bananas are currently priced at around $4.50/kg in major supermarkets. However, at this sales outlet they were listed at $2.00/kg.
I think they would have been cheaper in season.
I usually experience bananas selling well, as I work as an afternoon worker in the fruit and vegetable section of the supermarket, and I know that bananas sell well. If the price was less than half of that, I would be willing to pull over and buy them, even on the side of the highway where merging is a hassle.
I visited here on my way home from dropping the children off at school, not quite 9am. Traffic was still congested on the other side of the road, but cars in my direction were sparse. That encouraged me to think about stopping.
However, as I had only stopped there on a whim, I only had a few coins in my car for cash.
I grabbed $2 and headed for the trailer, and in front of it, I also saw an uncle selling pineapples. At the back sits the uncle who sells the usual beef pies.
I know I can use my card at the pie shop, but no, no, no, just fruit today. I suppress the urge to get greedy because I stopped all the way here.
I got two bananas for $1 and a cheap $1 pineapple.
And a picture of the friendly pineapple man!
Some people sell flowers here during Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and other seasons, making this place a bit of a local haven.
Recently, tourists have been seen here again, so I think it would be fun to buy fruit in this kind of place, feeling like a local.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
Cultural understanding after 21 years in Australia
1. Working with non-profit organisations
Although I use the title of essayist in this Stay Salty magagine, my real income-generating job is cleaning and clerking.
We came to Australia 21 years ago as a couple under the guise of a 'cultural exchange' and settled here, and I still feel that in both my two jobs I am continuing a cultural exchange, or at least a cultural understanding from my perspective.
As for the shopkeeper's job, I am working with staff from a variety of countries, including Indonesia, Korea, Myanmar and the Philippines, in addition to Australia, which seems to represent Australia as it is today.
As for the other cleaning job, it might be a cultural exchange that goes into a bit of history.
On weekday mornings, my cleaning duties include cleaning the kitchen and other common areas and each private room at a non-profit organisation's accommodation facility.
This facility is characterised by the fact that it is used by individuals and their families who live far away and need medical care. The fees are low, and when combined with government support, some users get it free of charge.
Due to the location of Cairns, we are told that there have been users in the past from the Torres Strait islands, the northern tip and inland, and even neighbouring countries.
The job was filled in September last year and involved an online training course.
A large part of the time spent there was spent on things such as knowledge and understanding of Indigenous Australians, starting with not being complicit in, or aware of, illegal activities that violate human rights.
In Australia, there are two types of people with roots in the country, the 'Aboriginal', who lived within the country, and the 'Torres Strait Islanders', whose islands lie between the northern tip and New Guinea, and are referred to as indigenous. Each also has its own symbolic flag.
In my previous home town of Ipswich, Queensland (a city located to the west of Brisbane, the state capital), I had no contact with what I would call indigenous people, perhaps because I was involved in the wine business, which is a western culture, and at best I was only involved in the tourist facilities in Brisbane.
Although I have not had direct contact with them since moving to Cairns, the rate at which I see people who look indigenous in the city has increased dramatically since my days in Ipswich. There is also an Aboriginal community neighbourhood called Yarrabah just around the corner.
To begin with, the job application form in which I was employed contained the words 'Indigenous Preferred', and I had applied for the job on a no-go basis. Employment is a matter of timing and fate, so I am now working as a member of staff, but I will only understand why the above proviso was there when I actually start working.
2. Reasons for indigenous preferences
The majority of users of this facility are of indigenous descent.
They accepted me because I told them during the interview that I had previously worked as a cleaner in a hotel and that many of my colleagues were of indigenous descent. The roots of the colleagues I worked with at the hotel connected me with this job. I would like to thank them, albeit by chance.
There are four staff on cleaning duties, two of indigenous descent, one Caucasian and myself, an Asian.
Working here, I feel that this facility is closer to the staff and users than a hotel.
Front desk staff, who are also in charge of accommodation reservations, and users often talk about their health conditions. Perhaps as a result of this, the cleaning staff are also sometimes spoken to by users. The fact that some people use this accomodation on a regular basis is probably one of the reasons for the close proximity.
I am embarrassed to say that I am not able to reply well when they talk about illnesses, injuries and medical terminology, as my knowledge of the field is limited even in Japanese, combined with my poor English.
Other staff may have been working for a long time, but when I see them talking with a 'I know exactly what you mean' stance, I imagine it is because they have the same background. Although the fact that I am the youngest of the cleaning staff might also be the reason for my lack of knowledge about illnesses and other problems.
I then learnt that there are communities whose culture does not favour only female staff in male users' rooms or vice versa. Learnt that each may have its own unique customs.
In practice, we often clean in mixed gender teams and I have never been told 'don't want you to go in'
However, it would be easier for people with the same roots to understand such cultural backgrounds. Also, many of them have physical conditions that require medical attention, so they are likely to feel unstable. In such cases, it may be easier to feel closer to staff from the same cultural background.
Of course, part of the basic premise would be to keep the door open for people of indigenous descent to find employment.
3. Understanding others
With regard to Aboriginal communities, the groups are subdivided into smaller groups, each with different languages, customs, etc. Such maps also exist.
For example, the principal at the children's high school, often uses the phrase "Kurrinyala!" (Welcome!) at the beginning of the newsletter, which is the language of the Aboriginal Yidiny people in the Cairns area.
There are a number of Indigenous staff in other departments in the workplace, and one man told us that his community of origin is far from the Cairns area.
He told us that he lives with respect for the community here where he moved to and has a better understanding of the community of origin of the users.
Each community has its own rules and regulations that it holds dear.
When walking through the streets of Cairns, one sometimes sees people who appear to be indigenous people shouting and fighting loudly.
Naturally, we understand in our heads that not all people have such a rough attitude, but we cannot deny that they inevitably stand out. And in everyday life, all eyes are on such people.
However, not all of them will be indigenous people who are notorious for their bad reputation.
In fact, this work has given me the opportunity to meet a wide range of people, and experience has gradually accompanied me.
I sometimes see traces of accommodation users leading what I consider to be a general pacified lifestyle or trying to keep their rooms clean.
A pregnant mother with her infant in tow.
An elderly couple working with each other.
The smell of delicious food wafting from the communal kitchen, or people leisurely watching TV or talking.
There are times when I work and I have a conditioned reflex that I don't like it.
It's not uncommon for everyone to make a mess in their room because they’re not feeling well.
But there are some people who just can't be bothered and pollute, or that the people who don't care that the people who clean up the property also have feelings. It is probably the same in every country and race.
As I am in the position of cleaning, I am disappointed when they get terribly dirty and I get the feeling of “why?" However, if the dirtiness is unique, it raises the question of whether there are cultural differences as well.
While I have the common sense of the culture I grew up in and want it to be accepted, I also believe that there are people who have the common sense of another culture and act accordingly.
As an Asian, I think I am a minority in this workplace, but perhaps that is why it is easier for me to work on 'understanding'.
My cultural exchange and understanding still continues.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
1. Birthday Party
When we moved from Ipswich to Cairns after the children were born. Since the older children started primary school, I was always concerned about how to organise the children's birthday parties, which happened twice a year.
In Australia, I had seen and heard that even as an adult, especially in the year of a milestone age, people celebrate it in a big way, so I thought this was an 'important mission'.
The parties to which I had been invited before had been adult-oriented ones, held in a lively atmosphere at home to celebrate the coming of age of the daughters of work colleagues.
My colleagues at work, who were mainly contracted to do gardening and carpentry work, were former drummers, and we would play instruments and dance around with the mirror ball spinning. We all had a lot to drink and a lot of 'whooping and hollering', and then we'd all go to bed and get up in the morning.
Their home was in the countryside, with only remote neighbouring houses, so there was no noise pollution to worry about. I was always the type of person who couldn't fully get into the groove of it, but I enjoyed it enough.
I think a lot of the parties at the time were probably due to the fact that I was working in a winery, there was alcohol, and at night we would just mingle or bring in bedding as we saw fit.
After the birth of a child, a Children's Day party was once organised by decorating a carp streamer using a flag stand at the winery. Other times we celebrated birthdays with the Japanese playgroup.
The winery was our home in Australia and the playgroup had a strong atmosphere of cooperation, so there was less personal pressure and we could have fun while preparing.
However, after arriving in Cairns, where I didn't know anyone to begin with, organising a party was an "important task", with the added anxiety of being in charge of a small child, all by myself and in English.
The first party we invited our friends to was in a local park, and we decided to prepare plenty of food for the children and adults anyway.
The menu included snacks such as dips and crackers and bite-sized sausages, fried chickens and prawn salad. There was also a selection of standard confectionery such as lollies, cookies and crisps.
The birthday cake for the children was ice cream decorated in the shape of a cake, but apart from that, I baked a roll cake with marron cream for the parents who are always tired of raising small children. For the topping, I put coffee-flavoured local chocolate on top, which turned out to be more to my liking than I had expected.
One day, many years after this party, Ms N, my Japanese friend who attended the party at that time, said
'The biscotti at that party was delicious.’
I was very happy to receive a comment from her.
I was surprised that I had even forgotten that I had baked biscotti for the party.
I had been thinking about the marron cream rolls all the time and wished I could make them again one day.
With a word from her, I started making 'my biscotti'.
I received a comment that the biscotti was delicious, so I opened the recipe book I had on hand for the first time in a long time to try baking it again.
Biscotti is a very hard pastry from Italy. It is probably most commonly eaten with tea or coffee.
However, the recipe I have is Australian. I make it using a recipe from a book given to me by a ‘mate’ who was my Working Holiday Companion. Perhaps that's why, when I make them, they are harder than cookies, but they are baked to the point where they can be chewed normally.
Still, I was happy to hear that they were tasty, so I baked them once and shared them with my friend Ms N. She then suggested that I sell them at a Japanese delicatessen.
The delicatessen was a shop run by one other Japanese friend, Ms M.
In addition to meals and single items, it also had desserts.
However, the amount of work one person could do was limited.
Biscotti was agreed to be placed there because it is easy to manage, lasts a long time and is a little something extra.
I had a main job and did not plan to turn baking into a business, so I received a share of the ingredients and utilities costs and occasionally made pastries wholesale.
As I had more opportunities to make them, my workflow became more consistent. I also learnt a lot from the feedback I received from Ms M.
We were also told that an authentic Italian customer had commented that there was another pastry like this that was not biscotti. I'm curious as to which pastry he was referring to, but either way, I was reassured that it was still an Italian pastry.
By the way, there are several local markets in Cairns.
The market, which takes place once a month on a Sunday on the beach close to our house, is inexpensive to participate in and is low cost for amateurs, allowing them to set up a stall similar to a flea market in Japan.
Some stalls are run by businesses, others by non-profit organisations to raise funds for their activities, and still others sell craft items as a hobby, making the market lively and fun.
It is common for Australians to spend weekends at markets, eating food from stalls and relaxing.
Markets range from large urban ones to small rural ones, and information on them is often included in tourist brochures.
One day, a friend wanted to sell clothes she no longer wore, but asked if she could sell my homemade pastries along with them.
When I originally worked at the winery, I had helped out at outdoor events where I was allowed to travel and do tastings, and I thought it would be fun to be the one selling at the market.
At the market, we are given a space that we are allowed to use, so we set up our own tents and tables to display the items we want to sell.
My friend put price tags on her products and used the tent framework to display them, while I prepared a cake stand with samples of my products.
I couldn't decorate it very prominently, so most of the purchases were made by people I knew, but it was also nice to know that sometimes other people were able to buy from me. It was also nice to be able to mingle with people from other stalls.
4. Japan-Australia events
The delicatessen is now closed and two sales at the market have come to an end.
I still make sweets as a hobby and consume them myself.
Only very occasionally I make them on request.
At that time, I received an invitation from Ms N again.
This time, she invited Ms M and me to have the booth together at an izakaya-style event titled 'Taste of Japan' as a Japan-Australia event on the Thursday evening of Japanese Children's Day (5th May) this year.
On the day, Japanese business people in their day jobs will be selling Japanese-Australian alcohol and preparing a variety of food to snack on. We were given a space to put my friend's crafts, Italian snacks and my biscotti. As an amateur, I don't feel out of place, but I'm grateful for the challenge, because nothing can start if I say so.
The flavours that have been made so far are vanilla, coffee, green tea, cocoa and cranberry flavours. There are not many Japanese-like flavours, so I am now experimenting and baking Kinako(soy bean powder) and brown sugar as well.
It seems strange that a Japanese person would be baking Italian pastries in Australia, but in Cairns it may not be strange at all.
After all, I have read in a census that Italian and Japanese are almost tied for first place in Cairns in terms of languages other than English spoken at home.
My range of activities has certainly expanded since a friend praised my biscotti.
It has been 12 years since I moved to Cairns and I still don't know where I stand. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the variety of experiences I have had.
It started with a recipe book given to me by a friend, and through the biscotti I bake, I am feeling a connection with many people.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
Midwifery Group Practice
1. Having a child in Australia.
I have two children.
They are now 12 and 15 years old respectively.
They were delivered in the same public hospital in Australia.
Although both had access to the same hospital, my experiences were very different.
The first child was delivered following the so-called normal steps.
First a pregnancy test by a general practitioner, called a GP, followed by a letter to the hospital and then to a specialist.
It would be common for the first baby to take nine hours from arrival at the hospital to delivery.
With the second child, the time from arrival to delivery was one and a half hours.
This one, well, is not a special story, as we often hear that after the second child, the birth proceeded at an unexpected speed.
The main difference was that with the second child, I used a new programme called Midwifery Group Practice (MGP).
It was a new initiative that had been available in our area for less than a year.
In Japan, the option of giving birth in a midwifery centre is common, but I had never heard of it here.
"Would you like to participate?"
When the doctor asked me, I agreed without a question.
When I was 13 weeks pregnant, I received a letter saying that MGP was officially available and I could become a user member.
2. Midwife-led childbirth
The Midwifery Group Practice (MGP) is a programme led by midwives to look after pregnant women.
Whereas normally a woman meets regularly with the doctor to manage my health condition, in MGP, the midwife provides support until after the birth. As I always have a fixed midwife to look after my health, visits to the doctor are minimal.
There are conditions for pregnant women who can use it.
Healthy and no special problems with childbirth.
Plans to have a natural childbirth.
Not planning to use special methods, such as painless delivery.
The wishes of the woman must be met.
With my first child, I was allowed to breathe laughing gas during delivery, but MGP first requires pregnant women to make an effort to reduce medical interventions.
Well, the efforts are not particularly difficult, such as doing maternity yoga, using a balance ball during the birth, or taking a position that makes it easier for the baby to come out using gravity.
Our midwife was a man who taught the 'parents' class' we attended with our first child. He and his wife both work as midwives.
He seemed to be the person spearheading the programme and shared information with us about births with less medical intervention, breastfeeding recommendations, etc.
Certainly, I had heard about it in 'his parents' class', but with my first child, I was laying on the delivery table the whole time and never learnt how to breastfeed in hospital. A breastfeeding clinic existed at the health plaza, but it was only in the second week postpartum that I was actually able to attend.
I was excited to see if this time I would be closer to the birth I had imagined.
The usual four-weekly check-up should be every eight weeks, and in the second trimester, every two weeks. Instead, if I have any problems, I can be connected to my midwife, even in the middle of the night. I found that reassuring too.
3. Delivery of second child
Perhaps it is because I feel secure that I have someone I can rely on.
My health was relatively stable during my pregnancy and at the time of delivery, my second child was born after only seven or eight breaths after arriving at the hospital.
It was an underwater birth.
My daughter was still wrapped in amniotic membrane halfway through.
When she was born, my husband cut the umbilical cord and she immediately spent two hours in kangaroo care at my breast. Various medical interventions were then carried out, as I recall.
These things had become a 'dream' that I could not fulfil with my first child, so I felt 'respected' for having them come true. my three-and-a-half-year-old son was also there with me.
Four and a half hours after the birth, we were allowed to go home and we were now four.
By the way, when I had my first baby, two women in the same room with me left in quick succession, wanting to be discharged the same day. This is probably a common occurrence in Australia.
However, in Japan, they are hospitalised for about a week.
When I had my first child, I was allowed to stay for about four nights. This time, I didn't even set foot in the hospital room.
After the second delivery, I had extra energy because the birth was lighter.
I was even able to read a story to my son on the spot, who accompanied me to the birth, and I was able to walk to the car by myself.
With my first child, I had to be carried to the ward in a wheelchair, so this made a big difference.
Once home, it is also reassuring that the midwife can check on us during home visits.
However, two days later, my daughter and I would be flown back to hospital.
She had been held for too long for feeding, which caused her temperature to rise to 39.3°C. It was a hot day and not using the air conditioning was a disaster.
The temperature itself calmed down after a lukewarm bath prepared at home, but we had to go to the hospital just in case.
Then my daughter was stuck in hospital for seven nights because of jaundice treatment, hypothermia and jaundice treatment again. I was also admitted to the hospital in a ward away from my daughter because I had to breastfeed her.
4. Midwife in charge
On the eighth day in hospital, I was numb because I was about to go home but they wouldn't give me permission to leave.
'Still can't leave hospital?'
I had asked the doctor.
My daughter had just had her blood taken first thing in the morning. However, the doctor took her daughter away again, saying that she had to have a blood sample taken.
'How many times will they have to take blood?' When I was worried, the midwife in charge came to check on me.
Surprised that we were still in hospital after his four days' leave, he went to the doctor to ask about our current situation. He then took our daughter back.
He also told us that we could leave hospital now."
At this point, I thought I saw a halo from him.
And I was grateful for this kind of support when certain people looked after me.
In a special nursing room full of premature babies, my daughter was 3 kg big and had no problems except for jaundice figures. For lack of a better word, I thought my daughter was being put off.
I had taken pity on my daughter when I saw the blood collection scars on her heel and was really relieved to hear that she could go home.
Even though the birth was light, I realised that it was reassuring to have someone who I felt was on my side in a situation where my postnatal health was far from perfect.
He even offered to "contact me on my mobile first" if I got pregnant next time, which provided me with a sense of comfort into the future.
Unfortunately, six months later, we decided to move to Cairns, the area two and a half hours away by plane, so I didn't come next time.
At the time, MGP services had not yet started in Cairns, and I felt that I could no longer have a baby, so we remained with two children.
Perhaps I have learnt to be extravagant.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
Before and after Permanent Residency
1. What lay ahead for Permanent Residence
My husband and I came to Australia with all the money we had saved in Japan at the time. The idea was that since we were on working holiday visas, we could get by working. My husband had studied in Vancouver, Canada for three months and had seen many of his Japanese friends working part-time, so he had an idea of what it would be like to work abroad.
After six months of cultural exchange, split between the winery and the Bed & Breakfast, my husband's place of study became his place of employment, which even offered him a business visa.
The rumour that winemaking was a high-paying profession was just that, a rumour.
It would have been a different story if we’d worked for a big company, but financially, we'd been cycling for a long time.
However, because we were young, we were aware that experiencing more than just earning money, and I lived with the easy feeling that “No worries mate!".
We also felt that the owner was willing to support us in any way he could, even if it didn't reflect in the salary, so we didn't have to worry about being thrown out of the house. In fact, we moved into a house that the owner had bought and the rent was fixed at an amount that we could afford. We were very grateful for this, as rents were rising rapidly around us at this time.
Towards the end of our four-year business visa, the owner of the company suggested that we apply for permanent residency. It was at this time that Australia announced its intention to admit a large number of migrants, and needless to say, we were one of the first to apply.
It was a Regional Employer Nomination Scheme visa, but the winery is located on the edge of rural and non-rural, and it was accepted on the basis that the postcode we normally use is rural.
As a result, in mid-2006 we became permanent residents.
Two weeks later, I gave birth to our first child.
If you are familiar with visa applications, you may be thinking, "Huh?"
How do you pass a medical X-ray if you are pregnant?
This time, however, the visa was granted on the promise that I would receive it after the birth. It seems that the immigration officer who dealt with us was very flexible. Then this meant that our son was automatically granted Australian citizenship.
I stayed at the hospital for the birth of my baby on a permanent basis, maybe for three nights.
During that time, I was urged to go to Centrelink with the birth certificate from the doctor. Was it the nurse or the office staff who urged me to do this? I did as I was told, even though I had less knowledge of many things surrounding me.
2. A place called Centrelink
Until then, we had been living a simple life, with only "home", "work", "supermarket" and an additional "hospital" for childbirth. We didn't really understand what Centrelink was all about. The owners of the workplaces close to us were dual-income earners without children and seemed to have no connection with it.
Centrelink is a government agency.
It provides financial support to people in a variety of situations.
Unemployment benefit, support for single parent families, support for families raising children, age pensions, support for young people, support for those who have returned to school as adults, the list goes on and on.
Because of this, there is a wide range of people using the site, I had to wait a long time for my turn to be served.
I have to admit I was a bit stressed out, with a newborn baby to look after, but when it was our turn to speak to the staff, we found out that the procedure meant that we would receive regular payments.
We were also told that we might qualify for the "additional subsidy for low-income families with children", but this application was not successful as we must have been a permanent resident for at least two years to qualify.
The Centrelink staff made the inexplicable mistake of losing the birth certificate I had just given them in seconds, but they still gave me all sorts of information and financial support.
It was also the time of year when they were trying to increase the birth rate, and we were told that we would receive a lump sum of about $3000 AUD for the birth. Coincidentally, the timing was also good, as a few years ago the amount would have been one digit less.
From the moment we paid the application fee for permanent residency, we had access to health insurance called ‘medicare’ in this country. The prenatal check-up, which was previously free of charge, and even the hospitalisation of the baby were covered in full.
On top of that, the government wants to provide more financial support just for having a child. Does having a child in Australia mean you have a chicken that lays golden eggs?
For a moment my head was spinning, but I decided to accept the support (I'd like to know why I didn't). Unfortunately, as mentioned above, we are not a wealthy family. Thanks to the support from the government, we were able to return to our family in Japan to see our grandchild much sooner. It was when my son was 5 months old.
3. Returning the favour
In response to this support from the government, there were some couples who were willing to have children because of the money. It was also rumoured that some of the fathers had outwitted the mother, who was busy with the baby, and absconded with the lump sum payment. When I had my daughter in 2009, the lump sum payment was changed to an instalment, so I guess it's not a lie.
Now the system has changed and the amount is back to one order of magnitude less.
At that time, it is thought that the country wanted to increase its population.
Now, here's what our family has received support for from Centrelink so far.
Lump-sum maternity payment (Baby bonus)
Subsidies for families with children (Family Tax Benefit A & B)
Low income certificate card (I hardly ever use it)
Subsidies for daycare fees (Child Care Benefit / Rebate)
Lump-sum financial assistance (School Kids Bonus)
In addition to this, there were other benefits, such as lump sums in the event of a disaster, which could be received even if there were no children.
We did not take advantage of the "additional subsidy for low-income families with children (Parenting Payment Partnered)” that we were initially informed about.
For a while, when I was working in a hotel five days a week, my husband and I had a double income, which was indeed no longer subsidised. My husband and I used to say to each other that we felt independent at last, but due to my selfishness, we lost our income again.
Now that the children are in middle and high school, unfortunately we are again under the care of Centrelink.
I think it is a feature of Australia that the amount of subsidy is higher when children are in middle and high school. This is probably in anticipation of the inevitable increase in expenditure at high school, where personal computers or devices are essential for studying. Still, it would really be nice not to have to take care of...
Someone says that Australia's finances have become so tight that it is unwise to give the same amount of support to permanent residents who are not citizenship holders.
Since Japanese people are not allowed to have dual nationality, most of them inevitably remain permanent residents. Unlike our children, whose nationality is based on their place of birth, my husband and I remain permanent residents. We do not have the right to vote here, and therefore cannot vote for our own opinions.
But, well, I hope I can repay the country for all it has done for me by providing a quality workforce, paying taxes and raising my children.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
What is State-of-the-Art?
The first time I heard this term was at the winery that gave us the chance more longer to stay in Australia when my husband and I had a working holiday visa. The promotional brochure for the winery where we were working referred to it as a state-of-the-art winery.
It was the first time for me to hear the word "State-of-the-art", as I was not interested in English and had little experience of it.
So, what does it mean?
The word 'art' must have some kind of graceful or elegant meaning, while 'state' can only mean ‘province’, I imagine.
Since the two words are combined, I suppose it could mean something like 'a representative place of artistic excellence'.
Maybe it's the word you use when you want to impress people with the fact that the place is a bit classy and fashionable. Or perhaps it's the artistry of mastery. Wine can be described in many ways, and is often treated as a work of art in its own right.
So is it art?
I took the liberty of resolving myself in that way.
It would have been quicker to ask the owner of the winery who used the word in the brochure what it meant, but for some reason I felt it was not worth asking and did not bother to find out.
Somehow I felt that it was a word that I had to understand by heart, so I kept it to myself.
Sometimes I wondered if this event could be described as “state-of-the-art".
Nothing seemed to fit very well.