I feel like a superhero right now.

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I solved quite a serious problem all by myself…?

Or, at the very least, I got the ball going on a very important matter.

Our boiler started making strange sounds last week. They were concerning enough that even my oblivious husband noticed. Just to clarify, my husband usually doesn’t care about building maintenance issues. I’m usually the one who changes the light bulbs and the filters in various machines. The one who unclogs the sinks and changes the locks on the doors. This is the main reason why we live in an apartment and don’t own a home. Why do it himself when he can get others to do it for him, right? (But I’m the opposite, if you can’t tell. I’m dangerous with power tools because I will happily punch holes in the wall and saw through plaster.)

Since he’s got the rigid work hours that don’t allow him access to his cellphone and I have the more flexible schedule, I’m the one who usually has to deal with things concerning the home.

Now bear in mind that I live in Japan. I’ve been here more than ten years but I still get flustered with the language. I can get by with the regular, mundane conversational stuff. Still, I always get anxious when it comes to important conversations that could potentially lead me into trouble if I misunderstand anything—like taxes, insurance, and contractual obligations.

So when the boiler started to act strange, I had to call the apartment maintenance people. I was so nervous and apprehensive because it was done over the phone. Usually, when things like these come up, I like to deal with them in person because as soon as the staff see me, they realize I’m obviously not Japanese. They’ll make the effort to help me understand to the best of my abilities. This is when the gestures, facial expressions, and even drawings come into play. I know it’s awkward for them, but I am reassured that my understanding of the situation is a bit better than not having these context clues to help me out. However, when problems come up, they’re more difficult to deal with over the phone because I have to rely on only speaking in Japanese.


And it had to be done over the phone because our building manager isn’t located in the building. We live in one of those apartment units that was built by a large national chain that owns hundreds of the same ones all over the country. While they do have an app to deal with issues like these, it wouldn’t let me log in, so I was stuck with going the old-fashioned route of calling.

But I got it done.

And this is why I am so happy right now. I solved a dilemma by communicating clearly what the problem was to the opposite end, speaking a language that doesn’t necessarily come naturally to me. But they were able to understand me enough that they put me into contact with the people who had to deal with our apartment’s boiler. In the end, we’re getting a new one installed this Saturday.

I got such a boost of confidence in my Japanese-speaking skills from this. I’m mighty proud of myself—but I’m also hoping that no other problems crop up.

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