Japan Letter #4

December 2007

If I haven’t told you or you didn’t already know, Japanese toilets are not seated thrones but bowl shaped cut outs in the floor that one struggles to straddle. There is however, by good graces, one western toilet in my school, It is however located in a far off building and if ever I wish to use to I must take a lengthy walk the length of Triangle park just to get there (the length of the park, not the hypotenuse).There is no break during the school day except for 7 minutes between classes, there for it is a common sight to see me dashing through the school grounds toward my western paradise. If the Aussie exchange student also has in mind to make the mad dash to the lavatory it becomes an urgent race to the restroom. Don’t take your comfortable and available restrooms for granted anymore.

I think I mentioned that I have a personal bully, he picks on me, steals my stuff and lies to me, but in a funny way I don’t really mind. Arguing with someone is great practice. While receiving my daily portion of “Deren, your a #%#& and your #%” is so small” A strange thing happened. All of a sudden my hands were around his collar and I pulled his face toward mine, said a couple harsh words, and we made nice. Now I have become an official boys school bully. It was good healthy fun.

The Japanese language has words and mannerisms JUST for girls. Most non-Japanese that learn Japanese learn it from girls and end up soundings like chicks. I had this problem. Anyway, going to boys school changed that, now when I hear non-Japanese men talk, my personal bully and I just snicker together while the speaker verbally castrates himself. I’ve become such a bully its almost unbelievable.

Enough about me, Lets talk about Japan. Its getting colder here and nobody has interior heating, when it gets cold they open the windows and put on hats, as I write this my fingers are freezing. Its pretty new for me to see my breath indoors. X-Mas is approaching and will fall on a Monday, and all of Japan will be busy with Work. Yes, Xmas is of little importance here, its actually the same as valentines days (without my annual ballroom dance with Tr. Linda ), a day for couples who already want to give gifts.  Yet major sections of the city are covered in lights and do look quite nice,the family emotion is lacking and its purely a coca cola Christmas. This year I will be teaching English in Starbucks on Christmas, Maybe I”ll read the night before Xmas aloud. The day of Xmas is not by nature special, it is those you spend it with and what you do that make it special.

(remember there are people who eat Chinese food and go to the movies on Xmas, so it must actually be just a regular day, I guess)

There are however good things about the coming hobby, I will be dressing as Santa Claus and attending a Japanese Kindergarten party as Saint Nick, giving gifts and shacking my belly. I will also be spending the 24th with my first host family.

I changed host families, not by choice but because it was planned by my exchange company long long ago. I went from a warm, no money but huge heart family to a rich and far more reserved family. When I parted from my first family I was given a most surprising and powerful thing.

Just before leaving my first family’s house I gave them all letters that I had written for them. Sitting around the dinner table, I looked at my host grandfather’s eyes and saw that he was crying, then too my grandmother, soon my host mother too. I had not expected this reaction at all, and I was blown away. ( Just like when the Grinch heard the who’ still singing on Christmas day, I cold feel my own heart expanding ten fold)

At the door when I left my grandfather shook hands with me while bowing deeply with tears in his eyes. I did the same. When I said goodbye to my host mother we hugged for a long time and she too was in tears and I couldn’t say one word to her or I would have exploded, Even my host father was upset upon parting. He tried to hold his feelings back but they showed.

Those people had been strangers, they took me in to their home as one does a wounded puppy. They really cared for me and nursed me into a capable person. They actually cared for me. I had never received such kindness from strangers for before. The tears that welled in my eyes that day were not tears of sadness on our parting, but tears of joy to have had received such kindness in my life time.

When I got here I was number one in my mind, now I think that I’ve gotten over myself and that my family, host family, and friends everywhere are number one in my mind. Mother Thersea says, “it is better to love then to be loved” I believe her. This is not the only thing that has changed my heart since coming here.

I have a class which I am forced to take, its actually not an official class but the man in charge of me at school just lectures me in English, during Japanese language class, in this class he teachings me the reverse of popular thought in a class I call “world History X” The first day, I couldn’t mentally or emotional handle the information that he gave me and we got into a fight, I think I even said “shut up” ,but as time goes on I have become willing to listen to his lectures and the have changed much of what I thought I knew. He lectures on “JFK, Atomic bombs, Japanese side of WW2, social and emotion effects of rape, blood line of Jesus, political corruption and prejudice and Atlantis. Whether or not I believe what he feeds me is uncertain but it has effect, with the coming of Xmas we studied the “real Santa”. God that was a nightmare. I think I am the pupil of a mad man, but at the same time he shines a different light on to many things I learned even at FSS. I value education, but I guess what I “know” about anything is really only a fraction of it.

While life here is just as adventurous as life in America. If you want to know about daily life just look at my pictures, It would mean a lot to me because I put them up not for myself and they take a long time to do.

This may or am not be the last E-mail, Merry Christmas, my friends and happy new year,I will see you all very soon and it will feel as if I never left.

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