Baby-waiting in Japan

Thirty-four weeks pregnant with my first child in a foreign country. I don’t know how different the experience would have been in Jamaica. But I have read many things in English about foreigners’ experiences being pregnant in Japan. And in terms of procedures, etc., a lot of it has been the same for me.

Nevertheless, I am feeling now, for the first time since being pregnant, a need to document something of this experience. Anything. For memory can be so unreliable.

I want to remember the father-to-be in our hospital prenatal  class who listened closely to my less than perfect Japanese, and filled in the gaps when I couldn’t come up with the right words fast enough. I want to remember how amused I was by the silence in a roomful of expecting mothers just before the start of the maternity classes offered by the city. I don’t know why I was amused.

I want to remember some the things I found interesting or were grateful to Japan for having. Like these classes. Or my six weeks of leave before the birth, eight weeks after and up to a year of childcare leave thereafter.

On a personal level, I want to remember things like the baby’s first fluttery movements or my overwhelming desire to just sleep on my belly. And I want to remember my life before a baby. But I’m 34, so that might not be so hard to remember.


I went to a clinic about nine weeks in to confirm my pregnancy. The doctor gave me a bit of paper to present at the city office. There I received a mother child handbook in which all details of doctor’s visits are to be recorded until the child is about six years old, I believe. I also received some vouchers to be used at each doctor’s visit, and a bag with all kinds of baby related literature and some baby goodies.

At about ten or eleven weeks, I started going to the hospital where I intend to give birth for my appointments. It’s called Kyorin Daigaku Byouin. Large hospital. On my first visit, the doctor spoke to me in Japanese. The second time, English. I was surprised. Since then, it has been a mixture of both.

I’ve attended two sets of prenatal classes that cover everything from changes in your body to how to bathe a newborn to how to know when you’re in labour. At the most recent hospital class, we got a tour of the maternity ward. Everyone oohed and aahed in front of a big glass window of the room with the newborns. Soon one of those little things will belong to us, we might have been thinking.

I’ve been going to the hospital every two weeks. Most times, the appointment is with the doctor. The last two times it’s been with midwives. My weight gain came up early on in these visits. The last time I was told that I’m ‘over’. I have gained about 12 kilograms so far. The recommended upper limit is 15 kilograms. The midwife repeatedly said I shouldn’t diet, though I should be careful. Short of dieting, I don’t know what else to do. So I will carry on for the next six weeks. I am not sure this is something I want to remember, but I feel I won’t forget anyway.

I’ve finished shopping, my hospital bag is packed, and the baby’s bed is made. We are just  waiting. I really want to remember this waiting feeling.




She used to call me Dada

Sometimes in the middle or at the end of an all-day YouTube roots reggae session at home, I come up on that one song. Maybe it’s one I already know but never paid attention to. Maybe it’s one I love. Maybe it’s one I’ve never heard before. But it’s the song that makes me stop whatever I’m doing. Today that was Bob Marley’s She Used to Call Me Dada. Had never heard it before, but had to pull it up a few times. Bway, cyaan fight Bob. All when yuh hear di ‘new’ song dem, yuh haffi recognise di greatness.

Happy Belated 72nd, Dada.

Scenes, thoughts from farewell party number one

Just had the best weekend ever. Lots of fun and amid it all time

for some serious meds. The occasion was farewell party number

one. The friends many. The liquor many, too. The head swole a

little from what people said, but I’m still down here. Occasions

like farewells really give us opportunities to be honest with

ourselves and others. Really just get it out there. Once in a

lifetime situations do that, too. ––Me in my diary.

Those were the thoughts, here are the scenes:

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Here Comes the Sun. Right.

I have a dream or a thing in my mind that when this war is over, we will all be smiling and this Peter Tosh version of Here Comes the Sun will be playing in the background.

And while the “smiles return to the faces” of the adults, the children will all be playing and we will start to live.

Because I’ve felt even before this war, that in Jamaica, we know how to have fun so well because we have essentially been unable to simply, live. It’s almost as if we make up for the fact that we can’t just do something like mindlessly take out the garbage, by imbibing ourselves with rum and partying until daylight. Because we can’t relax in something like taking our children to the park, we must show that we can let loose to music, for example.

So, at what cost must the sun, which will bring with it this final opportunity to simply live, come? Why couldn’t it have been free? Will it come? If it comes, what will be beneath the feet of those jubilant children? And their mothers, will they be wondering where their fathers are? Will they have more to smile about than just the daytime light?

If that sun comes, how can we really bask in it? Knowing that some, who barricaded by their limited lives, never even dreamt that this sun existed,  but paid for its unveiling, can we greet it smiling?

For many reasons, I don’t think it will come. At least not in my lifetime. So that conditional guilt can stay where it is. We have too many bad feelings carrying as it is.

But then, if it doesn’t come, then what? A life of what? Always having a lump in your chest? Taking on short memories as regards wrong doings, lies, political stupidity?  *sigh*

Mentally open-mouthed

Spent most of the day that way.

Suspect most Jamaicans are somewhere between that and a state of extreme rage.

Today I gave my wonderful ‘come to Jamaica’ powerpoint presentation two times. Apart from the fact that I’ve done it at least 50 times before, I really wasn’t feeling it today. Thank God the students at this school don’t ask too many questions. But after school, as I tutored a friend and she asked me about going to Jamaica, I had to tell her.

Now is a bad time to go.

I tried to explain. She deduced that Bruce and Dudus were “some kind of friends or something.” I didn’t see where she needed to be corrected. Her conclusion, after I introduced the word ‘corruption’ into her vocabulary and told her that the police were under heavy attack, was, “Like yakuza.” Hmm, like yakuza.

Bruce, who up to now doan seh d word Dudus outta him mout in condemning all the criminal elements.

This evening I heard a song on the radio by a singer I like. I was so happy I could understand the main lyrics. There are couple lines that Bruce could consider: “The you in the mirror, do you like it? Do you hate it?”

But him wi have plenty time fi duh dat after he’s been banished to wherever.

For now, I will tell anybody who asks about Jamaica, now is not a good time to consider going. If it were me, I’d want to know. When will be a good time to go? I don’t know. According to the state of emergency, the war is expected to be over in a month or so.

Soldiers heading to Up Park camp, Jamaica Defence Force headquarters, Sunday morning as the capital city was plunged into gun violence. (Gleaner photo)

Yes, it is my country, but it is what it is.

Back again. again.

Once again a renewed commitment. Rereading some of these older posts, I see that renewal theme emerging a lot in my thinking. I am who I am.

Maybe this renewal has something to do with the fact that I’m leaving Japan in two months for Jamaica, where everybody knows who run tings. But that is another post.

For sure though, the direct push for this renewal came from my friend, Monique, as we discussed my absence from the book of faces. Thank you, Monique.

Signing into wordpress just now, I forgot my password and pulled up that first e-mail to retrieve it. I was shocked out of my mind. Ex-boyfriend’s name. Of course, he was not my ex when I started this blog. How long did it take to build Rome?  Time.

I wrote about benefiting from an overwhelming clarity back when I’d been here for a few months… don’t know how clear I am on anything these days.

I decided I want to go home. So I’m clear about that. ish. I know I don’t want to be in my current position, etc in this country for longer. I also know I want to go home. I know I want to help change Jamaica. I know how I want to do that. But sometimes I have to remind myself of my resolve, given that when I read about my country… it’s like a strange fiction.

I decided, too, that I’m going to make the most of my last few months in this country. Well, I’d been making the most of it from the beginning, so it’s not like I’m on some kind of amazing race now. Just trying to spend time doing things I like doing. The only ‘must’ I will do is climb Mount Fuji. And that doesn’t appear like it will take place until a few days before I go home.

In the meantime, it’s the rainy season. So I look forward to, over the next couple of weeks, having complete conversations about rain and hearing at least one new word for one particular kind of rain per day.

And as a teacher I used to work with put it in an email the other day, “breathe in this green-dripping air.”

From teachers' room balcony
one spring day
out the window of another teachers' room

All hail the kotatsu

So because there is no central heating in Japan, there are a variety of heating methods. One of the most touted among these is a table with a heating source in the middle.

The top of the table is removable, and you lift it up, put a blanket over it and put the top back on. So the blanket is flared over the table. This is a low table. And then you sit with your legs under the table.

One had been sitting in this apartment for a while and I had been telling myself that it wasn’t yet cold enough to use it. But, really I didn’t think it was that wonderful. Until today. Well really yesterday when I sat under one at some people’s house. Today, since red yeye tek me wen me go a di ppl dem yard, I finally did some cleaning, shifting furniture and such to make room for the kotatsu, from where I currently write this post. I would take a pic, kinda lazy to get up.

It’s just awesome.

Sometimes, if I ask a student something like, ‘what do you like to do in winter’, he/she says something like ‘sit under kotatsu’. I think that’s gonna be my answer to any question concerning winter hobbies from now on.

Other than the kotatsu, I have several smaller heaters, an electric blanket, which is warming up the bed right now, waiting for me and the aircon, which I’m trying to cut back on. Hence, these other methods.

So about three more months of winter to go. I think I can more than manage it in this very poorly insulated, old, kotatsu-present, apartment.