The fact that I actually live in Japan surprises me occasionally. I guess shock and awe is part of the culture adjustment process, but lately I’ve been having so much fun, that I feel like I’m more of an exchange student than a working resident. Granted, I don’t really stay in my town that often, which I suppose isn’t very good for building community, but I feel like I’m experiencing a lot of really awesome Japanese things. Every day is an exciting new adventure.
When I first got here, the difference in smells and sights mixed with my jet lag was insanely overwhelming in a really bad way. I focused a lot on people’s teeth and clothes for a while and developed a pretty bad view of the locals. Then at one point I realized that I live in pretty much the middle of nowhere and most of these people are old. Also I was tired and hated everything. As time went on, and I picked up more Japanese, learned more about rules and regulations, and got some sleep, I became more comfortable. That’s how it goes, I guess. Nothing special.
At some point I made actual friends, both foreign and Japanese, and my life in Japan just got so much cooler. I met one of my neighbors who happens to speak excellent English. She’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and she has had me over for both お好み焼き (okonomiyaki, savory pancakes filled with whatever) and たこ焼き (tako yaki, fried octopus-filled balls of goodness), two of my most favorite foods! Also, her children are the cutest and I love them. Her mother has invited me to 温泉 (onsen, natural hot springs) a few times, but we haven’t been yet. Still, it’s nice knowing someone is willing to be naked with you.
I also have a wonderful host family, and we hang out about once a month. Their children are also wonderful, and I hate seeing their faces when I have to return to inaka land. Every time I leave them, I can’t wait to see them again. Plus, grandma’s on a hunt for a man for me. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
Some of my students give me this warm feeling inside, too. I teach at a special school every once in a while, and by teach I mean we talk about KPOP and play 人生ゲーム (the Game of Life, but in Japanese). One of the girls goes to my junior high for most of the week, and I get to talk to her a lot, even though my Japanese can’t usually keep up. I like her because she tries to understand me and takes the time to explain things to me, unlike other kids who find my Japanese amusing. She also gave me a CD. It’s people like her that make this world, in general, a wonderful place to live. I don’t know why she has to go to the special school, or why she can’t go to class at the junior high, but I don’t care. She’s wonderful, and I’m glad I’ve met such a person, even if she is only 15.
And then there are the friends I can talk to. You know, the ones that are from America (and other English-speaking countries). I know some great people near by, and I’ve been meeting more and more as I travel beyond this peninsula. It’s actually a bit weird how that works out. We’re all here because we wanted to live in Japan, so we have at least one connecting factor from the start. It’s nice being able to talk to people who understand what it’s like to be in a strange place where you can only sort of speak the language and things like walking and eating are looked down upon. Even though I’m in Japan, which is known for being mostly homogeneous, I’ve met so many really different people from all over the world. Thus, this feels like college, just slightly more grown-up.
I’m at the point now where I can’t imagine leaving this place. It’s still rough on my body (I’m currently at home sick, probably from exhaustion), but I’m having such a great time. Of course, the longer I stay here, I notice more and more things that don’t make sense to my American self, but I think that happens everywhere, right? I’m not Japanese, so I’m never going to completely understand everything. However,t this country really is wonderful, and as I travel to different prefectures, I’m becoming more and more aware of that. I’m also super motivated now to get really good at Japanese, if only to be able to talk to the girls that work at Lush. Seriously, that place is too expensive to not know what you’re buying. Well, that’s all for this one. またね！