Friday, May 23, 2014

Japanese Class

So this Wednesday and Saturday I finally tried a Japanese class in the Peace Park. I saw the flyer a while ago and finally decided to actually show up. No good reason why it took me this long, though.

On Saturday there were only two levels, and I think I was in the easier one because the other group was definitely talking more than we were. On Wednesday as soon as I came in the door and filled out my information, the teacher did a level check of my Japanese by asking me a series of questions. I answered everything but the last one, so they directed me to the back where people were discussing modern and old-fashioned Japanese names. (As other people were looking at flash cards, this seemed to be one of the higher levels.)

Of the two days I prefer the Wednesday class because I got to talk more. On Saturday they threw a bunch of vocabulary at us. But both were interesting. I learned some new words about illnesses...haha

On Wednesday I made the mistake of answering the question, "What else do you want to do in Japan?" with "I want to buy a Yukata." Which was an invitation to a flood of comments about my personal appearance and speculated appearance in said unbought yukata.

Teacher: "Ohhhh you'll look good in one!"
Student: "Like a toy!"
Teacher: "Haha, you mean like a doll."
Student: "That's cuz Japanese people have broad faces and she has a thin face!"

So I guess it's a compliment, but I was surprised that people had such immediate strong opinions about who looks good in a yukata. Guess it's lucky I have a thin face???

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

An Awkward Conversation (about hand-holding)

So the subject of past love lives came up, and I ended up recounting this story.

Guy: So was that your first boyfriend?
Me: Well, we were mostly just friends because I was in college and he lived in my hometown. We just dated during breaks. But he was the first man to hold my hand, and I'll always remember it.
Guy: How old were you?
Me: Um...Don't laugh.
Guy: I won't laugh.
Me: 22.
Guy: I'm...Not...Laughing (failing not to laugh.)
Me: I started late, OK!!!!

Yeah, so there are some pretty funny stories about me and dating....I like to think I'm a late bloomer but a quick study.

Also awkward is whenever Japanese people tell me I'm not like "Other Americans." Which always fills me with a an unease, a mixture of pride and guilt. Pride because I'm not reflecting bad cultural stereotypes and guilt for feeling proud in conforming. Generally my non-American points are:

--speaking in a quiet voice.
--thinking before speaking.
--not forcing my views on others.
--being slow to express romantic feelings
--being skinny/feeling full after one serving

None of which are bad things, exactly. But are people assuming I'm just really conceited and mean because I don't talk that much? I hope not...It's just that I don't say much even in English to people I don't know well, and being afraid of making a mistake in Japanese just makes me that much slower.

Also I don't want to be mistaken either for a snobby American who only dates other white people, or for a forward American who has no inhibitions! (Like the black woman in 19th century literature, "the object of lust, but never of affection." I feel your pain!)

Really, I just want to have friendships and go on dates with nice people regardless of race! That's all!

Sometimes I think I've been her too long and I'm just becoming this weird hybrid of awkward...But then every time I bring that up both Japanese and Americans just shake their heads and give me this look of "Nyah." Maybe Japan just woke the worrywart inside, like some malevolent gargoyle spreading scaly wings, and now it's flying around the cathedral towers cawing into the night!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Random Fable?

For some reason I ended up writing flash fiction today...I already decided what this story means to me, but it's up to interpretation. I'm calling it either "The Snake Who Loved a Bird" or "Under Your Skin."

This is the snake, not the bird.

This is how the story goes. There was a snake who fell in love with a bird. But when the snake confessed his love the bird laughed and said, “I could never marry someone as ugly as you.” The snake considered these words and went home, where he spent the rest of the day laboriously shedding his own skin, exposing the soft belly underneath. The next day he returned new and shiny to present himself to the bird once more. The bird raised an eyebrow, cocked its head to one side, and remarked, “You really don’t get it, do you? You’re uglier now than before, for no matter how many times you shed your outer skin there will still be a snake underneath. And that is exactly what offends me.”
            The snake considered the bird’s statement, cocked his head to one side, and swallowed the bird in one gulp. He exclaimed, “Now I will be truly beautiful, for I have a beautiful creature inside of me!” The rest of the birds looked on in horror.
            To this day, birds and snakes are sworn enemies. Snakes live in constant fear that birds will laugh at them, and birds live in fear that they will be eaten whether they laugh or no. You may decide which punishment is worse.

picture credits (google search)

Sunday, May 4, 2014


Today I got my hair cut at this super cool place. Yesterday I came to make the reservation, and I was pretty nervous because I didn't know if it was OK for someone to come in off the street. But they could have sent me away and they didn't; they just showed me the schedule and I picked a time slot. Now I suspect that the guy I talked to, who also did my hair, was used to talking to foreigners somehow or other. From the beginning his Japanese was very clear and he was good at simplifying if I didn't understand.

So I made the reservation in Japanese and today I talked to the staff in Japanese too. They were patient and let me show the photo of my last haircut and explain what I wanted. I said that my hair was cut in January but since that time it became thick and heavy, to it's too hot for summer. At least, that was as much as I could attempt...

In all, it was a stylish-looking place, and they shampooed my hair before cutting it. The guy did a pretty good job. Somehow, he shaved away at the middle of my hair to make it less poofy. My friend Yuka also got her hair straightened there before, and she was the one who recommended it to me. They did a really good job on her hair too, so I knew it had to be a good place. In fact, Yuka may be the reason they let me in so quickly, because I was carrying their business card. The only thing I was worried about was whether they would know how to cut foreign hair, but as it turned out the stylist was very confident and the results look great.

Today, I leveled up in my Japanese! Even though I still felt lost a few times, I was able to make a reservation on my own and explain stuff in Japanese.

This is a picture from later today of my haircut. Of course, Taeko had to ask me, "So when are you going to get your hair cut???" Um...