Saturday, November 04, 2006

Two Months Down, 10 More To Go

Hard to believe that two months have passed since I first left Canada and travelled to this, now not-so-foreign, country. While the language and writing is still an unbelievable mystery to me (I'm starting classes soon) the lay of the land has slowly emerged from the cultural fog and shown its true self to me, which is nice because no-one wants to be left in the dark for their entire stay here. Some things have drastically changed since first arriving here: my love of noodles, my understanding of Japanese directions and maps, the understanding of tradition and manners, the idea of putting others before oneself in all way, shape and form. Other things have stayed the same: the hatred of Japanese McDonalds (it's been a month since my last burger!), my love of sushi, the politeness of almost all Japanese people, the annoying crows that seem to have picked up an accent here, and my bitter hatred for my daily commute to work. It's all of these little things that really shape the first real exposure to a country and I think I've gotten pretty lucky so far.

The past month has been both more and less than the first month. It is true that the awe and wonder of the initial month here has tarnished ever so slightly. I see more garbage now then I used to, though the city is still the cleanest I've seen since travelling to Edmonton for the first time. I definately see a little more shy glances and odd stares, having unconsciously blocked them out to focus on marvelling at the local scenery in Sept./Oct. I've been lucky and so far haven't been accosted by any random Japanese people mocking me with broken English and inappropriate hand gestures. Maybe I exude the Canadian mentality and throw a delta wave of peaceful neutrality their way before they make the crass assumption that I am something of a hillbilly hick straight off the bayou. (hmm, I quite like that last sentence!) Who knows what it is but so far I'm still at one with the giant Buddha that is Japan.

But we are slowly drifting into the colder months. I don't say winter because it's the 4th of November here and I was still sweating in my collared shirt on my way to work. And the cold months are a difficult time to be away from familiarity. There will be no warm house to sink myself into, there will be no heater next to my duvet-covered residence bed, there will be no Tim Horton's hot chocolate to dull the chill within thy bones. Oh, Tim Horton's, how I miss you most of all! The real problem lies in the lack of central heating in Japanese homes. There is just one heater in each room and if you want more you buy space heaters and hope to Jebus that they don't ignite your futon on fire beacuse you accidentally rushed off to work and left it on. Hell, I barely remember to turn off my alarm clock! Who knows what I'll do with a silent death-bringer like that! So as I sit here typing away at this entry I question what the next 30 days will bring. Happiness? Travel? Depression? All of the above in some form or another? You'll just have to check in next time to find out. Until then, here are some more fun facts that Month #2 has brought me!

- The Japanese people have no shame. Not only in the porn industry ridiculously popular here but reading naughty anime in the middle of a crowded subway train is almost mandatory!

- Speaking of anime and manga, comics are hugely popular with everyone to the point that if you even make a mere mention of a minor made-up drawing many marvelled men and women will miraculously make much small talk about the mysteries and mise-en-scene in every miniscule, microscopic animation.

- Breakfast in Japan is abundant with pickles. Thought that was interesting...

- In Hakone, a popular tourist spot, there are black eggs that, if eaten, are said to add 7 years onto your lifespan. Of course, that's the myth. The facts about the health threats that boiling these eggs in sulphurous water to turn them black has oddly been excluded from brochures and articles.

- Giving someone the finger here is not seen as an unruly gesture. Hand gestures are nothing here. BUT! If some child forms two guns with his fingers and then combines them to form one two-fingered gun DO NOT allow them anywhere near your ass! It is a popular game for men to try and jam their fingers in or around your ass. Luckily, I avoided such fate and almost kicked the kid out of the classroom for even trying.

- For some odd reason the taxi is a popular method of travel around foreign countries for Japanese people. It is referred to often in lessons and, though expensive, is used often. Oh, also try to avoid making nice female students cry by giving them flashbacks to previous lessons in which instructors have tried to mock and yell at them!


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