A s a foreign visitor, I took on a mere cameo role in the house but have still managed to incorporate some quality time with the people that make OEH.
Read on for a glimpse of those very beings. Irrashaimase! Enter the first floor, or just peek through the hot glass doors, and sneak a peek at Bill-san and Arata-san, the commanders of this tight ship, hiding behind their camouflaged desks. That is, if they’re not running around putting out the numerous fires we somehow set each day! Bill wins the house (I mean, ship-wide?) award for Most Diligent Mask Wearer of COVID-19. During the day he is all white mask, white pressed shirt to match, sleeves rolled up, hands on hips, cogitating on his next code problem. At night he’s all kimchi ramen, T-shatsu, and sandals. By day, Arata-san wears both the outfit and the countenance of a petite, silent-but-deadly female bodyguard of the coolest, most easygoing bar in town. The outfit allows her to blend in but allows for maximum mobility juuuust in case she needs to bust some chops or climb onto the roof to rescue a nest of baby swallows getting attacked by one of these corpulent Japanese crows. Night Arata-san is not so different. Also comprising the parental figures of the house are sensei Katie and Johnson, hailing from England and New Zealand, respectively. Despite their relative newness to the country, both have Japanese significant others who live in other cities. Besides planning lessons, Katie can often be seen donning a spunky, creative outfit that reminds you of some icon, like Rosie the Riveter or Hit-Me-Baby-One-More-Time Britney. Count on her to be boiling kabocha in the kitchen while humming some tune or the other. Talking to her, you never know when she’ll casually dip into her vast store of epic life experiences with an epic account of dancing with the Dalai Lama or rescuing mongooses during an earthquake. Meanwhile, I’ll be fighting over the thermostat with Johnson, whose tolerance for jungle-level heat knows no bounds. No matter how ridiculously bundled his upper body might be, you’ll always find him in Bermuda shorts, through which every last joule of heat probably escapes. You’ll also find Johnson egging various residents on to do something out of their comfort zones. For example, he shed light on the “Two things Aoi has never done: watched a horror movie and shown her forehead to someone.” Nothing slips past Johnson and escapes becoming a subject of his commentary. Under no such obligation is he to do so, but Johnson certainly makes a room churn to life. Trusty ol’ Aoi is one of a motley crew of Japanese students who live on the second floor. You have full-blown, probably very responsible adults—a salesman and a doctor—thrown in, but most of the gang fall between 18 to 21 years old and attend the same university. With the schedule odd as it is now during Coronavirus times, the recurring cast currently consists of Aoi, Itsuka, Shohei, Mizuki, Jun, Manaka, Yusuke, Yuka, and newcomer Konoha. I will especially miss soaking in the calming presence of Mizuki and Aoi, trying to mimic the playful cadence to Jun’s voice, watching Shohei cook, listening to Itsuka field Johnson’s questions on Japanese language, and, along with fellow HelpXer Elsa, trying to dig ourselves out of misunderstandings with Yusuke in the most hilarious way possible.
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