Monday, November 14, 2005 the Desert...of the Real

Thank you, Morpheus, for that lead-in!

Tonight, Jack, Betty (one of the other English teachers at Starfish High), and I went out for some yakitori and drinks. I was the designated driver, so I had tea.

We were discussing life in Japan over our various brews, and Jack and I started talking about how bizarre life in Japan can be. Betty just looked at us and laughed most of the time at our stupid ramblings (she's Japanese).

Life in Japan as the Bizarre Experience. Let me explain.

The majority of foreigners that come over here don't have that great of a command of Japanese, and Japan is not well known for its population having a spectacular command of English. Quite a few of us live an unreal experience where the world goes on around us yet we are generally oblivious to what is happening. Hence, the Life as Bizarre/Unreal Experience claim.

Also, as foreigners living in Japan, we are held to a different standard than Japanese people. Natural, perhaps, but not necessarily good. We are held to the "eh, they're foreigners, and they just don't understand Japan or its culture" standard. You can get away with stuff over here that you wouldn't dream of doing in your own country. Why? Because whatever you do, aside from drug possession or riding your bicycle drunk, is shrugged off. "Hey, he's just a gaijin. Whaddaya expect?" Most people, once they get away with something simple, will test that line and push it a little farther each time. And that line has a lot of give.

You have the always good for quality humor "Zero-to-Hero" factor. This is the guy who couldn't get the time of day in his own country, yet the second he arrives in Japan, starts feeding off of the "oooh, a foreign guy!" vibes that can be found in the dodgier areas of Japan, like Roppongi, Susukino, or, my personal favorite, Daikan-cho. Z2H types are easy to spot because they give off an aura of being utterly pleased with themselves at all times, anywhere. It's not a big deal to enjoy life in Japan, but to exude a smarmy, "I LOVE it here!" attitude 24-7 is, shall we say, a bit suspicious. You, sir, qualify for membership in the Z2H Club. CB JB ETC

You have the people who play the "dumb foreigner" card. This is an easy card to play. Allow a slightly lost expression to cross your face, deny any knowledge of the Japanese language/culture, and you can get out of pretty much any sticky situation you find yourself in. Like getting pulled over for having five people in your four-person-only car, and flat-out lying to the officer when he asks, "Do you speak Japanese?" This offense would generally result in losing a large amount of points off your license and a hefty fine. But, reach into the old deck, rummage around a bit, and...

BOOM! I'll see your police questioning and raise you one "dumb foreigner"!

"Don't let it happen again, sir. Please drive safely." (All in stiffly-phrased English)


I still feel really bad about that. I panicked.

But there are people who play that card all the time...

All of this, and sooooo much more, contributes to a feeling that this can't possibly be real. It's too bizarre, too outside the realm of possibility, too damn weird...

But then, that's what I love about being here.

You can never get too used to what's going on, because Japanese reality will come along and WHAM! UPSIDE THE HEAD!

and put you in your place.

Why the (ever-so-small) party? Well...

Today, Starfish High hosted the regional preliminary English Speech contest for the All-Hokkaido Contest that will be held in January. We had two students participating. One took third, and the other took first! So Starfish High will be representing the Trembling Gall Bladder region of Hokkaido next year. One reason for the party was to celebrate that.

The other was to congratulate Betty for doing such a good job getting the darn thing organized. She was freaking out in the week leading up to the contest. But with it over, the pressure off, and the added good news of our students doing a damn fine job, it was party time.

No beer for me though. I had enough on Saturday. I don't need to have Hirohito knocking on my door again any time soon.


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