Sunday, February 1, 2009

An External Entity in Japan

On Wednesday, I was walking to school from the bus stop clambering over ice and snow and nearly falling on my bum, at least 3 times it might have been 10 I don't know, when I realised that I had in fact slept 6 months and one night's worth of nights in Japan and that it was the start of my second 6 months in Japan.

I just realised, literally 2 minutes ago, that whilst I have been here for 6 months, I have yet to write an entry about being a foreigner in Japan.

To be honest, after 6 months, I don't so much feel like a foreigner anymore. On Friday, I was walking to school minding my own business not looking at anything in particular when I saw a ute, a flatbed truck used often on farms for those who don't know what I am referring to, and noticed that the driver was a Japanese man wearing a suit. That's when I realised that I had in fact forgotten what country I was in that morning. I find myself established in a routine of going to work, going to the supermarket, cooking, eating, going out for food, and not thinking anything of it.

Occassionally, though, it does dawn on me that I am an external entity in their world. Japanese who have lived their whole lives in Japan and have had no desire to go abroad and frankly didn't want to study "Ingurishu" at school sometimes give you that look. It's the 'ooooh, it's a foreigner look'. It's the look that reminds you where you are, it's the look that reminds you to be on your best behaviour, you don't want them to think foreigners are all terrible do you. Or it's the 'uhoh, the foreigner has noticed me coughing without a mask on' look, quickly followed by the digging out of a mask from bottom of the old lady's hand bag. I am often all too aware of my foreign-ness when I'm on a train, or a bus, or even in the staff room and it's not through any ill-will from the Japanese, it's just that I am foreign.

Like I say, I usually don't notice it. I didn't even notice when an elderly man came up behind me and peered into my basket at the supermarket recently, my friend chose to point it out. I don't really even notice it at work when they ask me to work late or when 'alterations'/out right breaches are made to/of my contract.

I think it might be because I'm a kiwi and don't really care, I happily do whatever I can to help my schools out. I have heard, though, that some Americans don't like the fact that more is expected of them than CLAIR (Council of Local Authorities for International Relations) made out when hiring us. I think, and this is no offence to the Americans that are here or Americans in general, I get more feelings of being foreign from them than from the Japanese. I find this interesting considering that English speaking foreigners are considered one entity in Japan and having lived in The States when I was small I didn't think I'd notice it. I do, though, and that's the truth. Americans are great, they're entertaining, full of surprises and generally lovely people but there's something about the majority of them, something about the attitude that I just can't figure out. But it's all good, I know where it comes from, I watch American TV, I get it and like every Kiwi, I'll GET OVER IT. Can someone get me an L&P to help me with that? Oh, I know, I have a Dairy Milk chocolate bar in my handbag, I'll go eat that!

So, anyway, 6 months in, I am happy as a clam, loving being an external entity in Japanese society and have signed on for one more year.
Sorry folks, not moving home until at least July 27, 2010 now. But, I might come home for Christmas, would be nice to come back to school looking like a tomato after New Year. :-) And to see everyone of course!

Have fun everyone!