I know that a cleaning job is not the best kind of job, and I don’t think I particularly liked the idea of cleaning as a regular job but I was content enough that I was able to work for an Irish company with Irish people.
Also, I was quite happy with the working conditions. There were certain tasks I needed to complete daily, which involved basic cleaning, and it took me two hours to finish them. But each assignment we were given was expected to take three hours, and we were paid for three full hours of work each day. But there was plenty of time to finish each job and I often had time left over. I didn’t need to talk to other cleaning staff unless necessary and I was able to work at my own pace.
On top of that, I liked where I was assigned to work, which was a wing of professors’ offices. All the professors were nice and pleasant. It was a completely different atmosphere from Simon or those places where I had met a number of drinkers and homeless people. So, this positive and dramatic change in the surroundings I was in helped me heal from the devastating experience with Michael in a relatively short time.
After about a month of working at Cork University, I was offered to work in a different location. It was an evening cleaning job at the City Council. I had wanted more work, so I accepted it with no hesitation.
I went to the City Council for the first day of work. It was located west of Cork City centre. I walked and it took me forty minutes to get there. It was in a suburb on the main road and there were not many buildings around. So, when I got closer, the 15-story building stood out. It looked like it was the tallest building in Cork City. There were four other women working in the building and they were all very nice and friendly. Each of us was assigned to clean three floors within three hours. Each floor was large and there were many more rooms and more garbage than there was at Cork University, so, the time was tight when it came to finishing all the work. But still, we all worked by ourselves and all I had to do was work harder and faster, so it was not a big deal. Although there was a service that gave the staff members a lift back home after work from the City Council, I never took it and walked forty minutes each way. Other staff members had invited me to take the lift and I thought it would save time and energy, but I felt a little shy about it and I didn’t take it. I had been always very reserved when it came to employers giving me something that was outside my job.
When I walked to the City Council every evening, there was a schoolgirl who always passed me from behind. She looked like she was in the senior year of primary school. She had a short bob haircut and she was not fat but had a strong body shape, and she always walked extremely fast like she was rushing to something or practicing for a race. She was always by herself, and I saw her every single day. I used to watch her walk as she passed by me and she became so tiny as she walked so fast and disappeared from my sight. Because she walked so fast, I never saw where she ended up going. But it was somehow fun for me to watch the way she walked. From working at the City Council, I build muscles in my arms by carrying heavy garbage bags full of paper. Also, I developed more muscles in my legs from the forty-minute walk back and forth.
I worked at the university and the City Council during the week, and soon I started working at Brittany Ferries on Sundays. Brittany Ferries was a large passenger boat that went back and forth on the weekends between Cork and Roscoff, the port city in the region called Brittany in France.
The job for the ferry took place at the Port of Cork, and the job was to clean the toilets and to make beds in each cabin within a limited time after the passengers got off and before new ones came on board. This job needed as many staff as possible to do the job efficiently on time. So, they were always in need of workers.
There was a bus that picked up all the staff by going around Cork every Sunday afternoon and it took us to the ferry terminal at the south of County Cork. I lived just across the street from Mckegnie company, so I got on the bus at the first stop. I was the only non-Irish person who worked for Mckegnie company. But they always treated me no differently than Irish people. One day, two Irish women and I went to a pub while waiting for the ferry to arrive. And on many other days, I walked around the meadow outside the ferry terminal. The people who I worked with were mostly middle-aged women, and there were also many students came to work on the ferry. I didn’t particularly feel connected with anyone who worked there, but it was nice going outside the city every weekend and also, I enjoyed being inside the boat.
With the cleaning job, I was getting better at using a mop and a vacuum cleaner. Besides the basic cleaning of offices and classrooms, I had many toilets to clean every day. And I got better at cleaning toilets too. I wondered how many toilets I actually cleaned every day. At Cork University, there were two male plumbers who came with a plunger every day and went through each toilet in the university to check and fix any blocked toilet bowls. I would see them every morning and we would greet each other. They were also nice.
There were two professors who were particularly friendly with me when I worked at Cork University. They seemed like husband and wife and their room was at the end of the floor. They were both tall and in their 40s. They looked like they were the heads of the department or worked in higher positions. Their room was four times larger than the other professors’ rooms and they had big bookshelves that covered the whole wall on one side. The room had a blue carpet and a small kitchen attached to it.
There was an abstract painting that was reminiscent of Joan Miro hung just outside their door. One day, I mentioned it to them and they were happy that I had noticed it. When I told them that I painted, they showed interest in me. One day, the wife told me about a show that had exhibited Renoir in Dublin, and she was very thoughtful and respectful about things I said even things that weren’t about art. On another day, the husband asked me if he could visit me and see my paintings. I wasn’t thinking of selling my paintings so seriously at that time and it was not necessary to do so because I had a job. So, I did not take it so seriously and I didn’t invite them, but I did exchange conversation with him about my artwork. I told him that I was exploring new techniques and told him that I had had some ideas about that. He seemed like he was fascinated, but I felt that he was caught up with me that I had to be careful not to offend his wife. They were very friendly and nice and they seemed to like to have me as their office cleaner. Other professors in my department were also nice and friendly. I enjoyed being around them more than talking to the Irish cleaning staff.
At that time, I was looking for a new job so that I could apply for a work permit. In fact, I was still working for the cleaning company without a work permit and my visa to stay in Ireland had expired a long time ago. The reason I was seriously thinking of getting a work permit was because my passport would expire soon. I needed to have legal status in Ireland in order to renew my passport, and, with my situation, the easiest way to do that seemed to be getting a work permit. The cleaning job was a part-time job, so I didn’t think I could apply through it. However, it turned out to be not easy for me to find a full-time job in Ireland. It was mainly because the European Union regulated all the available work and it had to be offered to European citizens first. If there were no EU citizens who wanted the job, it was offered to non-European citizens. Also, the work like office work required computer skills, which I didn’t have, so there were very limited types of work I could do.
I did not want to go to Japan to renew my passport. It was not only because my sister and her son were living with my mother, but also, I just wanted to resolve my issues without going back to Japan. But I wasn’t able to find any other jobs, so, one day, I decided to ask Natasha, the administrator at Mckegnie, if she could apply for a work permit for me. Then, she said that I was now working eight hours a day for them, so she could. I was surprised to hear that and at the same time, I thought that I didn’t need to find a new job and I felt relieved.