Strength

In class, we learned this word which is very relevant to our (my sister’s and my) experience lately:
辛抱(しんぼう)shinbou – patience, endurance

Speaking of endurance, the first thing that comes to my mind is my experience in Mina during Hajj. Even though it took place for only a few days, the time spent there felt like forever. It took a lot of endurance to stay in a camp in the area where the fan failed to work because it was suffocating to be in a closed area with so many people in the heat that was beyond 50 degrees Celcius. Yet we were reminded to be grateful not to have to sleep under the hot sky and be baked by the unforgiving sun. We had to share the bathroom and toilet with too many people (perhaps about 1 toilet :20 people) and mind you, not everyone shared your level of hygiene and patience. And yet again, we were reminded that some others even more unfortunate, suffered from having their water well dried up. Due to those circumstances, it was not unusual that I should fall sick but to have my first lady day of the month during that time truly doubled my suffering. We had to walk under the heat for a few kilometres carrying all our bags in order to get home too. And all the while, I was having a fever.

So, needless to say, after going through the ordeal in Mina during Hajj, I knew, from the bottom of my heart that if I survived that, I was built of stronger material than I thought and that I would be able to face hardships, no matter in what shape they may come at me. I am a survivor, after all.

And hardships did hit us again, when we reached Japan. As mentioned in my very first post here, we were given the smallest room in dorm due to us coming here late because of the delay in visa. We find it hard to secure a job, perhaps due to our school schedule, perhaps due to our lack of qualifications in teaching English, perhaps even due to the fact that we are covering our heads with shawls. But nothing beats having to move out of the dormitory which was location-wise super convenient, because two out of three dormmates with whom we share the common areas are entitled, rude and lack good hygiene.

As I am taught by my parents and Islam to endure other people’s bad behaviour to the point that it was no longer possible to do so, we made do with what little space left for us because the other girls had occupied most of the space (especially the girl from China since she was the first to move in, whom I shall address as Shoujo S). And that despite us having the smallest room. And despite the fact that Shoujo S had the whole bigger room for herself since her roommate, a Russian, no longer stayed there. We also kept mum about having to constantly clean other people’s lump of hair whenever we want to take shower because apparently some people were not considerate enough clean up after themselves. But it was too much when we had to always clean the toilet bowl every time before using it because they would leave their own shit for us to clean, even though the toilet brush was already provided next to the toilet bowl for us all to use.

Initially we brought the matter up nicely, asking them (we found out that there were two culprits, one was Shoujo S and the other one a Malaysian Chinese girl, whom I shall address as Shoujo J because we had to utilize the toilet right after they used it) to check before leaving the toilet and use the provided brush. Still, no improvement. So I talked to Shoujo J again about it, but this time stressing that I was serious and that what they did was not acceptable. Then situation called for a third to fifth time because our pleas fell on deaf ears.

One day before our mid-term test, we got back from school only to find shit in the toilet bowl again. By then it had been more than 20 times combined of us cleaning up their shit despite our requests for them to be considerate of those who share the common areas with them. There was only another option to take – to report to higher authority. After putting up a notice in three different languages (unfortunately I do not speak Chinese or that alone would have been sufficient to get them to at least understand what I had to say) to tell them to stop leaving their own shit in the toilet bowl, we spoke to the people in charge of the dormitory but all they did was clean up the areas and put on the another of the same notice that had been there on the wall below my notice. But luckily, when we spoke to the school, the principal sent out a warning letter to Shoujo J (because this particular case was her doing, since she was at home and Shoujo S was not).

Knowing their characters, we knew Shoujo J would not confront us (she did sort of attack our other dormmate – the sole kind and clean dormmate – via text messages demanding to know what she did wrong) and we suspected that Shoujo S would come and confront us instead. But of course we were right. Shoujo J told her sob story to Shoujo S and the latter saw the notice I put up and came knocking on our door (pretty sure she had been waiting for me while I was taking shower. I had just put on my pajamas and my sister had just took off her clothes to go take shower but some people simply did not have the decency to wait a little bit longer).

The first thing she said was if we could talk. And the second thing she said was for us to not cook at night because she had troubles sleeping due to the noises in the kitchen while we were preparing sahur (meal taken before fasting). So you see, instead of addressing the matter that started the issue of the warning letter, Shoujo S decided to attack us with what she did not like about us doing in the dormitory. Note that she did not approach us about this subject at all prior, nor did she try to understand our need to eat at certain period of time before we started fasting for more than 16 hours on that day.

While her suggestion for us to cook earlier and then heat the food late at night seemed sound, we pointed out that it would be impossible to do as we had other things that need to be done earlier and because there was no space whatsoever for us to keep cooked food in the refrigerator (guess who took most of the space). Then she started moving her stuff in the refrigerator around loudly like a crazy person. When we still told her our difficulties and that we would address the noise issue by cooking quietly, she was still not satisfied. She told us to wash our plates on the next day, which we had to reject immediately because unlike some people who left bacon (which us Muslims cannot even touch, mind) on the stove area, pieces of cabbage on the kitchen floor, soap bubbles on the sink area and her own shit in the toilet bowl, we cannot leave used utensils unwashed overnight to collect germs. Then she told us that only one of us should wash the plates and everything while the other one sits in the room – a stupid suggestion, which makes no relevance to her not being able to sleep at night (also, it has always been that either my sister or I wash the dishes while the other cleans up the area, so I have no idea what she was on about). For some unknown reasons this Shoujo S thought that she had the right to tell us on how to use the kitchen.

Nothing, however, beats these two things that came out of her mouth:

“This place is not just your place.”

Wow. Who had been leaving their own shit for us to clean, who had been inviting friends over and took their time to cook in the kitchen that led to my sister and I having to go out to eat instead, who had taken the whole lot of space in the common areas, and who had been leaving bits and pieces of unknown things around in the dormitory again? And she had the audacity to say that to us? My head exploded and I truly wanted to bash her head in and shout “Fuck you entitled nitwit of a bitch! How can you not see who is the selfish inconsiderate one out of all of us here?” but because I am a Muslim and the religion would not allow violence, I had to reel in and just speak loudly at her like I would an idiot.

When we pointed anything back at her, she asked us rudely why did we not talk to her about it. Can’t she see that unlike her who is petty about little things (she talked to us about us using the alarms, asked another dormmate about us reciting the Quran because she could not stand five minutes of sounds when it had nothing to do with her), we were being considerate enough to want to endure for a number of times before bringing up the subject for discussion? Why she can’t even think about how she took up most of the space in the common areas or how she had been leaving bits of mess for others to deal with is just beyond me.

The second ridiculous remark of hers came when I told her that her leaving shit for us to clean was worse than us cooking at night disturbing her sleep:

“My leaving my shit = Your cooking noises at night.”

Again, wow. First of all, talk about the lack of shame and hygiene. Secondly, how could they be measured to equal each other, when one can try and solve the noise issue by for example, wearing earplugs or earphones while the shit issue cannot be addressed by un-seeing the shit, or ignoring it when you are in need to use the toilet? Thirdly, how long does Shoujo S wish to sleep? Let’s say we finished using the common areas at 3am (the latest time we did use them), and her class begins at 9am, that would still give her ample time to sleep. I cannot comprehend her need to sleep for longer than five hours. She kept saying because unlike us, she has part-time job at an izakaya (pub-like japanese restaurant) but when I was working as an auditor and my sister as an economist, we had lesser time to sleep but we still survived. No big deal if you’re truly an adult.

Oh wait, there was another stupid remark that Shoujo S made:

“Did you confirm with your dormmates on who left the shit?”

This was one of the first things she said. I almost laughed at the mere ridiculousness of the question because one, even if I did, who was going to admit? If the culprit knew, shouldn’t she have already cleaned it in the first place? The very fact that there was shit in there meant that somebody was being irresponsible and do you really think that such person would confess to their faults? Two, we already talked about this matter many times with everyone yet there was no improvement. And three, it was because nobody wanted to be responsible for cleaning their own shit that we had to report to authority so that a solution (or at least a progress) could be reached.

After a while, I gave up. There was no way we could speak to selfish brat who wants everything done her way and still thinks that she is right and above everyone else. We still cooked the same time we did though we lowered our voices. No way we were going to compromise on cleanliness and fasting longer for the sake of someone rude. It appears that my sister still did find unflushed toilet after the incident and our sole good dormmate just today discovered the toilet smeared with lady’s period. I am at a loss for words. I cannot believe that they are humans (I thought only untrained animals left shit for people to clean up) and female on top of that. The fact that Shoujo S is 24 years old and Shoujo J is 17 years old simply led me to the conclusion that their behaviour must be due to bad upbringing. Despite being Asian, Shoujo S had no respect whatsoever when she spoke to me, probably thinking I am younger than her because of my petite frame and because I came to Japan later. Also, come to think of it, Shoujo S is probably the only child, since she was born before China started to allow their citizens to breed two children without having to pay up. Maybe up till now she always had everything done her way.

Hence our last day in the conveniently located dormitory would be on this coming Wednesday. While we cannot wait for the looming day to come, we pity the only good dormmate we have because she has to deal with all these on her own for another three months since she has paid for the rent. She wanted to move out as well but being a girl of only 17 years old, I can understand her parents’ apprehension about letting her find another place to stay. It is amazing how she came from similar background as Shoujo J (being of the same age, race and nationality) and yet she has higher level of hygiene and is very considerate of other people. It goes to say that upbringing and exposure have a lot of influence in shaping people.

Our new home is rather far from the school, and there are not many student-friendly stores around (oh no, we are going to miss 100 yen shop and cheap grocery!) but the room is lovely. A complete 180 degree of difference to the our room in the dormitory. We have all the space for ourselves, and we do not have to worry about discovering unwanted substance every time we lift open the toilet lid! I truly am thankful for both my parents for making staying at the new place possible.

However, moving is such a hassle. Partly because to find the right place for you can be quite a task especially when only a few agents provide services in English. And partly because of the price. You would not want to have to pay so much one-off payments and contract fee so many times so you need to find the place you’d like to stay in for a long period of time. Oh and how could I forget, another part of the hassle is to transfer your stuff from your old place to the new place.

We considered three options in relation to transferring our stuff to our new home:
1. Go to and fro both places to move our stuff bit by bit
2. Same as option one but take a taxi ride on the very last day so that it would be easier to move the heavier and bigger items, especially our big bags
3. Hire a mover

For the third option, I found this helpful site and had my eye on the services provided by Yamato Home Convenience Co., Ltd. because of the easier-to-understand web layout and I could gauge the necessary expenses for hiring the mover. However, the total expenses amount to almost ¥20,000 (about RM 800) and they cannot send on the same day or even on a specific time. I calculated the estimate of us moving our stuff using the first option and the difference is about half. We are not sure about option two, but most likely, in order to save cost, we’ll stick to option one. Taxi fee here is said to be the highest in the world, after all.

On the day that we signed the contract, we carried what we could. We went again two days after (Friday) to sleep at the new place for the first time because the school declared a day off on that day in order to allow for the teachers to hold a big meeting. On that day, we made two trips, bringing over almost half of our stuff. We planned to make early trips on Saturday to beat the people traffic on the train but due to great fatigue we decided to postpone the time. Luckily we did wake up early still. It is hard to believe that we braved the rain (Wednesday) and heat (rest of the days) carrying over our stuff of at least three bags each while fasting. For me especially, I had only a few hours of sleep before that Friday when we made the two trips to move our stuff because I had to wait for our laundry to be done up until about 5.30am (woke back up at 9am to carry them heavy load over across two train lines and nine stations).

All these hardships proved that I was right so far. I survived Mina, so I am strong enough to handle what lemons life throws at me. I am so glad to know that I am not that weak petite woman that I thought I was. Perhaps we all are made stronger than we know ourselves to be. It is only when faced with great obstacles and yet we decide to take them on that we know how able we truly are.

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