Apparently, most Asian countries have never had PB and J sandwiches. One of the kids in my class is from Singapore and they don’t eat PB&J there. When we asked our teacher (she is from Japan) about it she also denied knowing about it. He actually said “peanut butter and jelly!! On bread…together…Who eats that?!” One of the most famous sandwiches in America and they thought that it sounded gross and foreign. Just goes to show that there can be some interesting and funny cultural differences. I’m bring some with me tomorrow and see how this works out.
Japan is the most homogeneous populated country in the world with almost 98 percent of its legal residents as native Japanese. So when they see gaijin they have a bad habit of staring…a lot. When little kids or older people do it I don’t really have a problem with it. However, I’ve come across several incidents where we are treated differently because we are gaijin not necessarily badly but bordering upon rude. It seems to be worse for me and Nana (who is native to Nigeria) than for other gaijin. We have become the gaijin within the gaijin. Often we will be out in groups, and Nana will translate the Japanese for us; because her Japanese is fantastic, and they will speak directly to Sophia (who is half Asian) instead of looking at Nana. Most of the time they will talk about us in Japanese when we are RIGHT THERE!! Most of the time I can’t understand it all but I get enough to know who they are talking about. At first when it began I wanted to scream “I AM NOT A GAIJIN ZOO ANIMAL, SO STOP STARING AT ME!!
I’ve had a month to adjust to it and I’ve coped fairly well. However, it can become very frustrating to be judged and singled out for being a black female gaijin. Sophia actually asked a Japanese friend why people will not talk to us if we are alone with no other gaijin friends around. They said that we were “unapproachable and intimidating”. I don’t know how to fix this so I’ve settled for making them feel awkward about staring by meeting their gaze and waving back at them. It doesn’t make them talk to me but I feel better for it. I’m hoping that as my language skills improve I will be able to start more conversations and show that I’m just as curious about them as they are about me. I have found that girls on their own are more willing to talk to us than girls in groups or boys, by themselves or in a group. Gaijin guys, regardless of race, seem to have an easier time with the locals.
So today I woke up and turned my alarm clock off. Then I woke up again and it said 8:50. My class starts at 9:10. So after running like I was being chased by mad dogs I finally made it to class on time. We are starting to build our vocabulary and I find myself trying to speak Japanese even when I don’t have to. (yeah! Progress) Then I have other times when I just give up and retreat. “Daijobu!DAIJOUBU! (translation: it’s ok or fine or in my case never mind) I use that whenever my Japanese fails me and it just becomes too tiresome to continue the good fight. Also found out that I will have to wait another week to go see the orphans and my first mid-terms are coming up Errrkkk! Well looks like I’ll be studying all weekend.
I think I’ve mentioned this before but in case I haven’t please allow me to reiterate the spider carnival that is within Japan. The spiders here are huge, brightly colored and they are master web builders. I came outside this morning to my bike (the one I rode home one about 12 hours before) and there is an intricate spider web across my handlebars and a huge, fat black spider unpacking its belongings like it just moved. SO I’m like ok I’ll just knock it off and ride away. NO! WRONG! this spider fights me for dear life. I first destroy the web then it just crawls under the basket so I have to try and kick it off without 1)getting it on me 2)knocking over my bike 3) looking like I’m crazy to the cars passing by. So it finally decided to crawl down onto the wheel and them I’m rolling my bike around trying to squash it or just make it let go., But about ten minutes later (alright closer to three) I’m pedaling away the victor!
I get to school and I have the PB and J sandwiches I promised to bring in. Murakami-sensei tried it. Her face said that she didn’t like it but her mouth moved saying that it was good. It was funny to watch. I also gave the other teachers a try. Next week is when I will have three major exams for my classes and one minor test for Kanji. I’m a bit nervous and it looks like I will be burning the night oils.
This week I went to my first SIA club meeting. It is a club for Japanese students interested in practicing their English. We are given words and phrases that are more informal and not commonly taught in class. So it was a nice exchange of information. All of the students were super nice and eager to talk to us, even if they were still a bit shy at first. I think I’ll go back next week. After the meeting we all (Nana and Kim) went back to my room for a study party.
So my friend Nana from Nigeria wanted to get her hair braided and she found a store in Ozu to do it. But she had never been there before and she was a bit nervous to go by herself. So we left and then got lost in the subways. It turned out that we could have gone the usual way to Ozu but instead we ran around for an hour trying to find that particular station to come the back way. In the end we got there and everything went smoothly. And we decided to get Takoyaki (fried octopus) from a great little restaurant in Ozu.
In Ozu there are a bunch of people who line the streets giving out flyers. Usually as gaijin they don’t bother giving them to us. When they do I usually accept out of pity but I have no interest in going to the shops. So that day when a woman approached us I accepted her flyer. AND SHE WHEN CRAZY. She drags us into through a shop then down a tiny hallway to her “store”. We were seriously uncomfortable but tried to be polite and not just abruptly leaving. She tried to sell us everything from shoes to mini-skirts to fake Coach pursues. It took us a good twenty minutes to finally extract ourselves from her grasp. We basically ended up running from her the minute she would let us go. Moral of this story never take a flyer.
One thing I will say is that if you ever go to buy shoes in Nihon be prepared for the sales people to “help” you try them on. The first time it happened I nearly freaked out. I was with Nana and I just turned to her and said in English with a creepy smile on my face. “Get this guy away from my feet.” Nana replies “What do you want me to do?” And with that smile still on, I said. “Knock over a stand, go into labor, ask him a question ANYHTING!” Of course she found this hilarious.
Once we got back to Nisshin, Kim joined us and we had a study night at my apartment. There is a cheap 105en sushi bar near Proxy so, around 8 or 9pm, we all decided to take a break from studying and go there and eat sushi. I had never been so this was a real treat for me. We had mochi (power green tea that you add hot water to).
After sleeping in for a bit I woke up and started cleaning (laundry AGAIN!). I’m came over just as I started my laundry and we decided to have a study session for Monday’s oral exam. This is the one that I have been dreading the most. (>.<) We have to be able to listen to simple sentences in Japanese and translate them to English, be able to read a sentence in English and speak the Japanese translation and finally we have to hear a dialogue in Japanese and write what is going on.