Small town ties

My mother is from a small town in East Texas.

I found out this past week that the mother of this gorgeous-eyed person I recently met is from a neighboring town to my mother’s hometown.

While visiting family for my aunt’s birthday celebration, my mother mentioned that my aunt’s friend at the celebration probably would know that mother, because of where she lives (and who she is).

I only knew the woman’s married name (and her son’s first and last name, of course), but after only a handful of minutes, the friend mentions some possible connections.

After a handful more of minutes, she mentions multiple definite connections to the family, alongside the comment, ‘Oh, this must be the cutie pie with those gorgeous eyes,’ (obviously having done a tad bit of Facebook stalking [but just a tad]).

All the while, the entire house has been discussing various other possible connections to the family, including one that involved her mother or aunt having been my aunt’s teacher.

I might have considered multiple face palms throughout all of this….

…You see, when I find out that someone has a friend from Houston, I usually don’t even ask who it is, because it is beyond unlikely that I know the person…. but, with this, I didn’t even know the woman’s name, and I just might have all sorts of information on her and her siblings (or cousins) and mom (or aunt)…

Small town really is a totally different story from big city.

Post-a-day 2018

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Surprise-san

I met a Japanese person today, and we used Japanese together, and it was spectacular.

When I called to my mom to have her come over at one point, I even used the Japanese version of “Mom” accidentally, I was so engrossed in the Japanese conversation.

It was really good.

Post-a-day 2018

Family Time

I did dinner and a baseball game with my dad tonight.  It was really good.  Spending such a good chunk of time together, just the two of us, has been something that I have missed greatly in recent years.  We do the occasional quick meal, or trip to the store, but it is never for very long at once, and it has become a rather rare occurrence this past year (and, naturally, nonexistent last year, when I didn’t live in the USA).  Tonight was exactly the kind of thing we both enjoy doing, and especially together.  I think this would be a good something to pursue, finding more circumstances that are similar to tonight’s events, so that my dad and I can hang out comfortably and casually (yet with a specific sort of activity at the source of our time, so that he’s permitted to be out for so long without hassle).

Tonight was good, and there was nothing specific that made it awesome.  It was just good time, and good for our relationship, too.

Post-a-day 2018

the outsider view of a culture, viewed by an insider

Walking around the Japanese garden, I stop when I come to the take.  I stop of just a moment, envisioning myself in Japan, in the real Japanese gardens of the world.  Tears come to my eyes, and I wonder Why?  What’s going on?  Why am I suddenly crying?  Why am I shaking inside from my sternum, as though panic is coming up?

And I realize: I miss Japan.  Not so much for the whole experience, but for some of the experience, and, especially, for the part where I fit in appropriately, in the right way.  I was expected to stand out and not to do exactly as others did.  I was expected to turn heads and to surprise and shock those around me.  And I did.  And I was comforted by the feeling of ‘fitting in’ in that odd sense of it, fitting into the expectations my surroundings had of me.

But it is different being here, where I am expected to fit in one way, but I don’t fit in that way.  I am American, but I am multi-cultural.  I used to think those two a little more synonymous with one another.  But, based on how I look on the outside, – my skin and hair and eyes – I am expected to be on a similar ground with those around me here.  Perhaps we have visited other countries, but that was for vacation.  Living there, being truly part of the culture, is not in the books for most of those around me, unless they specifically came from that country directly, through their heritage, and moved here after having lived there in the earliest years of their lives (as is the case with one in four people in Houston, actually).  However, I am not expected to know how to dress someone in a kimono or yukata better than someone my own age back in Japan.  I’m not even expected to know the difference, unless I am what would be considered a sort of geek of Anime and Manga (at which point one still might not know the difference between them, but it is less surprising for them to know such things).  I don’t fit into that category, and yet I know so much about Japanese culture and life in Japan, and I have experienced so much of it, that I often find no need to talk about it – it’s become so a part of me and my life, it is similar to putting on shoes or brushing teeth.  Sure, we do them both all the time, but hardly ever do we consciously ponder on them and share about them with others.  They’re just part of our subconscious and our mostly-daily lives.

Anyway, that was what I was feeling today at the festival in town celebrating Japan and Japanese culture.  When I ran into a friend who had spent even more time than I had in Japan, I mentioned to him how I wasn’t quite sure what I was feeling, but I felt as though I was about to cry.  Something about feeling like I belong, but then not belonging after all.  ‘It’s your first “Japanese culture” experience post-Japan.’  I confirmed his questioning declaration.  It was, in fact, the first time I had experienced something that was all about Japan from this country’s perspective since I had actually spent time in Japan.  If I had attended the same festival before going, I likely would have felt quite wonderfully walking around the festival.  I had a different view of Japanese culture in Japan back then.

This was something like seeing a “Mexican Restaurant” in northern France that time, and feeling a giddy sense of hilarity at what kind of food could possibly be served in there.  Or the “American Restaurant” (that was it’s name) in northern Spain, where the “american hamburgers” were nothing like our actual hamburgers.  (Think meatloaf, with a slice of thin ham, on fluffy, dense bread.)  But now, instead of it being Texas and US culture, it is Japanese culture.  And so it was also weird to be relating to Japanese culture – a culture with which I struggled greatly at times, and still do – in the same sort of protective way as I traditionally have related to my original home culture.  It kind of added this whole extra layer to my identity semi-crisis.  And all that just because I went to a festival.

Post-a-day 2018

Effective Toilets

One thing I love about the Europe in which I lived is the practicality of concepts and mentalities.  The main example of this which comes to mind right now is that of toilets.  Public toilets, specifically, I mean.

At my campus in Toulouse, France, was my first experience of the idea of one set of sinks for toilets of both genders.  There were the individual stalls, as in any US bathroom, though with doors and walls that closed off each stall more effectively from outsiders’ views.  However, each stall was labelled as for male or female users. Then, over to the side, was the countertop sink area.  Just one sink area for everyone to use.  It was practical, efficient, and sufficient.  It was odd, at first, walking into the same bathroom as the guys, and even talking with them while in line in the bathroom and at the sinks.  But I never felt uncomfortable, because I still got my own, private little space to do my private business.  The privacy part was kept even more private than the stalls in the US, where we have nonsense structures that require us to avert our eyes whenever we enter the bathroom, because we get that one-inch-wide view all along the length of either side of every stall door, and, whether we like it or not, leaves us knowledgeable of the color of everyone’s underwear.  (No joke here.  We totally have trained ourselves to look away as fast as possible, and also not to remember what we see, but it doesn’t change the fact that we totally see it and on a regular basis.)  (Also, the urinals were still kept for the men, the  private trash bins by the toilet were kept for the women’s stalls, and girls didn’t have to worry about guys urinating on the seats or floors around where we’re dropping our pants.)

When I was in Germany most recently, I was using the toilet in the airport just before my flight.  When I walked out of the stall to go to the sink (in the women’s bathroom), a male cleaner walked into the bathroom with an indifference nonchalance.  He walked to the trash bin and emptied it to his cart outside the bathroom, and refreshed the bag.  Then he swept the floor a bit and wiped down the sinks, checking the soap and paper towels.  Not one person flinched during this process.  No one was embarrassed.  But there were other women in the bathroom, coming and going as though all was well and normal.  And, for some reason, I was delighted and warmed at that fact.  I think I even giggled when I left the bathroom, because I was imagining how people back in the US might have responded (and, potentially, panicked like no other).  Again, just like in France, he wasn’t in the actual privacy portion of the bathroom, so it didn’t really matter so much that he was there.  He was only passing through – it wasn’t like he was hanging out in there all day or anything.  He cleaned up and got out, just as he probably did in the men’s restroom.  So what that he was a man?

In the US, our restrooms are shut down from use whenever someone of the opposite gender cleans them.  And that really sucks at times.  Really.  Because, sometimes, you’ve just got to go.

However, one restaurant in Houston gives me hope for our city (if not quite our country yet).  It has regular-looking entrances for the men’s and women’s restrooms, on opposite ends of this one wall.  Upon entering either of those doors, one will discover a beautiful wall of sinks between those two entrance doors.  That is, both doors lead to the same room of sinks.  From that room, continuing in the initial direction, there is a second door, which will lead into the separate-gendered toilet rooms (men’s and women’s).  And, in those, the individual stalls are like their own little rooms, with real privacy to handle one’s business.  (None of that eye-averting necessary.)  It’s wonderful.  I ate at this restaurant with my dad once, and he and I specifically left the restroom from the opposite doors – he went through the women’s and I through the men’s – so that we might surprise the person with us at dinner.  She didn’t notice, of course, but we had fun being rebellious in a way that didn’t actually matter.  😛

Anyway, I really like that kind of bathroom, and I really like the general mentality of efficiency I have found wherever I have lived (and visited) in Europe.

Post-a-day 2018