A found letter from Japan

I found this today.  It is from last August….  I suppose I sent it out in an e-mail to people… but I might have just considered sending it out, and never actually did it.  I have edited only the name of the town… just ’cause… you know, Japan.  😛

…………………………………………………..

My dearest family (and my friends who are like family),
I write to you from my new home in T—, Japan.  It is a small suburb of Tokyo, with a whopping (supposedly, anyway) 100,000 people.  I am tasked with assisting English language teachers at two different high schools in the town, one of them an art school, with specialties in painting/drawing/arts of that sort and music, and the other school a sort of engineering-for-mechanics-esque school.  My vagueness is purely due to the fact that no one seems to be able to explain to me about the schools.  On that note, no one seems to be able to explain anything to me clearly.  Guess that’s why I’m here in the first place – to help them with English, and to learn Japanese.
Going along with the lack of understanding point, I literally have no idea what’s going on around me a good amount of the time.  I was sort of trapped in my apartment the night I moved into it – I had purchased a futon (Japanese version of  a mattress – not too sure if I’m fond of it yet, ‘cause I miss my bed, but I think I can handle the futon alright) and toilet paper and towels, but that’s it.  No one could give me a map of the area (and didn’t think of it except for when I specifically asked for one); I didn’t have a copy of my address; and I don’t speak Japanese to be able to ask people for directions to get home if I went out and got lost.  Oh, and I had no phone or internet to look up where on earth to go without a paper map.
And, the best part: My predecessor told me that she had a lot of things she was giving me, so I wouldn’t need to buy most things like a fridge, storage, dishes, “that kind of stuff,” she said.  Way-to-be vague… 😛  So I had to eat food from 7/11 until she delivered her stuff to me… three days later.  No way to cook anything, because she has the electric burner for me to use.  No way to keep anything cold, so I couldn’t have fresh food of any kind for lunch at work (slash at all, since 7/11 isn’t entirely in the category of ‘fresh food’).  No way to feel like I’m not just possibly going to die (Yes, I realize the drama here.).
On top of it all, I was super stressed that I kept asking about going at least to get me a phone number, so that I could use the internet to function (map, translation, where to buy what, etc.), and they, unconcerned, mentioned that someone could take me some time next week “probably”, but I had to know exactly what plan I wanted and from which company.  Thanks, dude.  And how exactly do you propose I figure out that information with no internet, no map of the town, and no Japanese skills?
How did I solve the problem?  I went to meet another ALT (Assistant Language Teacher (Terminology for my program)) in Tokyo.  We’d become friends during the brief orientation in Tokyo earlier in the week, and she was up for helping my get a phone, so I didn’t have to stand in the 7/11 parking lot for super slow, choppy internet anymore (which I’d only discovered the night before).  Plus, I just needed some love.(1)
So I spent the day in Tokyo.  After two hours in the phone store, and using a translator (real person) on the phone, I had a new phone and a decent phone plan for the next two years.  We then went to Starbucks for a break and free wifi (for my friend to use), and we each caught up on all of our e-mails, messages, etc. from a million different people.
We then walked around a bit, and visited the Tokyo Tower area.  I had this realization as we passed one part of a temple there, that still hasn’t fully hit me.  Back home (USA), we have houses, etc., designed to look like traditional Japanese architecture, yes?  When I was looking at the temple building, my background, passive thought was the same as when I see such styles back home… and then I realized that this building is not made to ‘look like those buildings in Japan.’  This building IS ‘those buildings in Japan.’  It’s still sinking in.
(1) I can note here that I’d actually gone down to Tokyo that Friday night, just after discovering that I had internet in the 7/11 parking lot, which is down the street from my apartment (so I was able to find it without getting lost or anything – FYI streets don’t exactly have names here).  I was absolutely ready to cry from the stress of sitting around, waiting for people to take forever to accomplish tasks – unfortunately, my supervisor has never done this sort of thing before, so she had to have everything explained to her multiple times – and not knowing how I was even going to get dinner (I only found the 7/11 that night).
A friend who already had a phone (because he speaks Japanese, and so figured it out while we’d all been at orientation), happened to be in Tokyo for a festival with a coworker and the coworker’s friend, and invited me to come down for the evening.  So, I managed to access train schedules (just barely with the internet connection there), screen shotted them, and set up a rescue plan, should things not work out (i.e. I knew 7/11 had internet, so I’d go find any 7/11, and the friend would come find me there), before rushing off to Tokyo.
I walked right into my friend when I arrived in Tokyo, and was given a nice, big hug.  Hugs are really one of the best medicines.  We watched the tail end of the festival (very cool with dancing performances and drums and bells all along this long street), and then all went to dinner.  Turns out I only live a town over from the coworker’s friend, and she and I decided to be friends.  (We’ve been in touch ever since.)
………………………………………………..
Post-a-day 2018

Table Troubles

We spent a good chunk of today at or around the international airport, but it was actually a really good day.  One of the best parts was the delightful misunderstanding at lunchtime.

Now, to understand the significance of part of it, you must first know what happened yesterday.  My mom, my stepdad, my stepsister and her boyfriend, and I went to lunch at a restaurant in The Galleria.  My mom and stepdad went in first, while we kids went to look at a Lamborghini just outside the doors.  When we filed into the restaurant, we saw them heading up the stairs, and followed.  They told us up top that the waitress downstairs had told them to pick a seat anywhere, and had specifically mentioned that whether upstairs or downstairs was of no importance – it was open seating.

However, a waitress was rather snotty with us when we mentioned this upstairs, after asking kindly if a certain table could be wiped down before we sat down at it.  She declared that we needed to check in with the hostess (but would not help us find the hostess, even when we asked kindly) and that there was a wait time, and we could not pick our own seats.

About two minutes after finding the hostess, we were seated at the table we had originally found (and then requested).  And the guy setting the table was unfathomably slow, leaving us all standing, watching, as he finished setting the flatware.  (Not sure why anyone was bringing us to a table that wasn’t ready yet, but it just made us laugh at how ridiculous it all was.)

We were quite nice to everyone, keeping always in mind the fact that it was a holiday and that we were grateful for their being there.  A good handful of the people at this place seemed just ready to throw things at people for the simple defiant act of existing.  Nonetheless, we got our table and, eventually, food and all, and it was a good time all-in-all.

Now, fast forward to today, lunchtime.  We found a Mexican place that was near the airport – and I mean Mexican, not Tex-Mex, and not non-Mexicans who claim to have Mexican food and whatnots – and was open.  My stepdad went in first, while we all parked the car.  My mom, my stepsister and her boyfriend, and I all walked in in a row as another family was leaving, excusing ourselves in Spanish as we bumped paths and all (I meant it, when I called it a Mexican place.).  As I walked in behind my mom, I saw my stepdad standing next to a table just two over from the door.  He said that the lady told him that we could sit there, but he was going to the bathroom now.

So, we all slide into the booth and begin discussing whether there might be bleach in the cleaner (because the table was still damp from being cleaned and smelled a bit of bleach, but my mom had on black long-sleeves, and so wanted to be cautious about touching the table, if there were bleach in the cleaner), when a lady comes to our table and, in English, apologizes, but this table is already for another family.  Could we please wait just a minute over here?

I turned to my mom, and asked her what their deal was with tables right now, and she could hardly fathom it herself, giving a genuine I have no idea.  So, we stand up, the boyfriend telling the lady in Spanish not to worry and that we were completely okay.  We wait to the side for perhaps 45 seconds.  Then, the lady tells us that, okay, you can sit in this booth (the one just next to where we had sat down, and that was almost exactly the same).  So, we sit, and comment how it is drier that the other table was.  I sniff the table, and my stepsister fusses at me not to do so, but I explain that I was merely smelling for bleach, and she laughs.

My stepdad eventually returns, someone comes and takes our drinks orders (in Spanish, of course), and then the original lady comes to take our drink orders.  I notice passively that no one ever sat at the table next to ours.  We tell her that someone already had done so, but we are ready to make our food orders, however (all in Spanish, of course).  Then, before taking our food order, as she looks at all of us, she says something surprising.

Apparently, since she spoke to my stepdad in Spanish originally, it was a non-compute that the rest of us would be the family with him.  Though the boyfriend is from Mexico, he has blue eyes.  I am dirty blonde and blue-eyed, and my mom is sort of a brown-haired, brown-eyed, older version of me.  My stepsister just kind of blended in with us, since we were the majority look of our little group.  So, we were the foreigners, so to speak, and clearly weren’t the family of the original guy who’d asked for the table a few minutes ago.  She didn’t explain all of that, of course.  We deduced that.  But she did say (in Spanish) that she had thought that we did not belong to the gentleman to whom she had given the table, and so she told us that the table was taken by someone else.  But, upon seeing that that same gentleman was at the new table, she realized her mistake.  So, she apologized for it a few times, and we all enjoyed a good laugh at the whole thing.

No one ever ended up sitting at the table behind us, until the last few minutes that we were there, when a single man sat down to wait for someone or something briefly (so it seemed).

So, those were our adventures with table miscommunications this week.

Post-a-day 2017

A foreigner at home?

Have you ever felt out of place within your own culture?  As time passes, it happens to me more and more often.  Last night, I attended an event with coworkers.  The noise volume took me by slight surprise when I first arrived.  How can people be this loud? I thought.  And then I remembered almost before I finished asking the question: They’re americans (from the USA).

But I’m american from the US, too.  Wouldn’t I be used to this, then?

I quickly compared it to a drinking party at an izakaya (like a bar) with nomihodai (all-you-can-drink) in Japan.  Yes, the Japanese can get quite loud there.  It was never to the point of wanting to cover my ears, though, I hear myself thinking.  So, I am very much accustomed to a much quieter environment for parties, then.  I’m not just being a bit dramatic and overly sensitive to normal behavior and a normal situation.

Even still… I felt so oddly out of place, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with myself.  I ended up semi-hiding in the coatroom (it wasn’t a closet, but an actual room, I promise) to take a breather from all the people and the noise from time to time.  I also took extra-long any time I went to the bathroom, because it was cozy and quiet in there on my own. Yes, I could have just gone home.  However, I rarely spend time even around people who aren’t high schoolers right now, so I felt it was somewhat necessary – even if just for social practice – to spend time around adults, especially happy ones in a good, safe environment.

I definitely adjusted after a bit, but I still felt quite out of place for most of the event.  I guess I’m just not so USA american anymore… which doesn’t surprise me, really.  It’s just odd, not belonging in a place everyone calls my “home”.

Post-a-day 2017

It really is all relative

Tonight, I was reminded of a girl I met, while I was living in Toulouse, France.  She was in school (high school, I believe), and doing a temporary internship at the place where I was doing my volunteering.  She was from a small country that was at war (and it might still be, but I haven’t kept up with the news).  She had a boyfriend and a baby of her own, in addition to a younger sister, I believe.  She taught me much.

What I was discussing with my mom tonight is how relative things are in life.  Just as in Aesop’s last fable today, with the bunny rabbits about to drown themselves in their exhaustion of living in fear, and suddenly discovering the frogs at the pond afraid of them, causing them to realize that someone had it worse off than they did, so is life.  No matter what one’s struggles and turmoils, there’s always someone worse off.  And I feel like our turmoils and struggles are saddening next to the real turmoils and struggles of other parts of the world.  This girl spoke to me about her country of origin, and how they moved to France.  And, when she spoke about it all, it were as though she were telling me about a class project, or how she went grocery shopping yesterday.  Those, however, were not the subject matter.  What I remember most of her story, is how people broke into her house one day/night, beat up her parents (and possibly her, too), and then took her father.  Her family tried offering money as a ransom for her father’s return, but no information was even received regarding her father – they never found out if he even was alive or dead, or who had taken him.  Just some men, she’d said.

I mean it that it were as though she were telling me about what she did yesterday after work/school.  She was not sad in her words, nor was she hauntingly depressed in her eyes or spirit.  She was living life as I was, and merely sharing about something.  ‘Yeah, I don’t know where Josh went after dinner, but he left.  We called him, but never got a response.  Maybe he went home, instead of coming for coffees with us.’  That’s was the easiness with which she spoke – no premeditation or practice.  It was just what’s so, and so that was how she told it.

I say a prayer for the world tonight.

Post-a-day 2017

Umbrellas at Night

People look at me like I’m crazy as I walk down the street.  I know I get looks a lot of the time, and oftentimes for good reason, but today/tonight has been particularly ridiculous.

Sure, I’m using an umbrella when it’s not raining, but all it takes is a little logic (or perhaps I’m just a bit too creative and/or crazy for the average Japanese person?).

So, it isn’t raining.  What other reasons might someone use an umbrella?  To block the sun.  Okay, but it’s a clear umbrella.  And sometimes it’s even nighttime when I’m using it.  So, the sun thing doesn’t make too much sense.  Okay, why else might someone use an umbrella?  It is usually for some sort of protection from the elements, right?  So, what elements are at play right now?  Ridiculously cold temperatures.  Wind.  Hmm… I wonder if those have anything to do with it?

As my hair rests calmly halfway beneath and halfway behind the umbrella, you’d think people would grasp the fact that I am using the umbrella to block this frigid wind.  But no, they really don’t seem to get it.  They just stare at me like I’m totally nuts.  Which, by the way, is quite a different look from the usual one I get as a foreigner.  Just saying.  😛

 

Post-a-day 2017

Heart-ing Accents

I love accents.

Tonight, walking home from an incredible sprint to the train station, which was through the ridiculously cold weather (causing my throat, all the way down into my chest, to burn most of the way back home), in order for a friend to catch the last train home for the night, I called up a different friend of mine, just to check in and say a ten-minute “Hello.”

Now, I don’t have many acquaintances who are Australian, and I see and speak with them rather rarely.  So, whenever I talk with this particular friend, who, naturally, is Australian, I am delighted with the mini surprises the accent provides me in conversation.  I am accustomed to the British and Canadian and US English accents, and even the New Zealander accent.  But that Australian one just drives me so goofy (Yes, I realize that is not a standard phrase, but let’s roll with it, shall we?  Yes, let’s.), I get a rush of joy and giggles when it pops out, differentiating itself from the other accents to which I am accustomed.

I’m not sure how this love for accents developed, but I have a hunch it was in our societal view of foreign accents.  For some reason, it is always the foreigner who is exotic and desirable above all others in a TV show or movie, or even book.  Sure, they are different from our everyday, but they are just like loads of other people in their own home countries.  (You know, this really doesn’t make much sense, where I have this heading…)  So, yes, they are different and thereby exotic when they are here, and not when they are back in their home countries.  But why must they be so portrayed as desirable, sexy?  How did that get decided, I wonder?  Just a wondering, I have…

Anyway, the point of all of this was that my friend has an Australian accent, which is a new thing for me (my first full-time Australian friend, you see), and it always surprises me when things end up being pronounced a different way than I had subconsciously expected, and it makes me smile and giggle with delight every time.  So, thank you, God, for the cuteness and wonderfulness of various accents in our world.  🙂

 

I'm part of Post A Day 2016