Saturday, January 07, 2006

Stupid Foreigner, part 5: Talk talk talk

Hey, it's Saturday, and time for another rerun from my days in Japan. This one I wrote on Nov. 22, 1998.

They say that life is an emotional rollercoaster here in Japan. One minute you love it, the next you hate it.

"They" are the people that have somehow survived in this country for more than a year. I guess since I've been here for 15 months, I qualify as one of them.

One guy told me that people go through the "Japan Blues" at the 3-, 6-, and 9-month marks. During these times, for about a week each, foreigners are depressed, homesick, and hate everything about Japan. Somehow, they snap out of it.

Another guy told me that there are three distinct emotional phases that foreigners go through. First, they think everything is great and exotic, and they have a blast. This lasts for a couple of months. Then, they fall into a seemingly never-ending rut, where they uncover some of the dirty truths about the country, and they start resenting, even hating everything from the way women are treated to the food. Finally, in rare cases, they snap out of it and learn to accept Japan, despite the negatives.

I have discovered a different set of emotional phases. See if you can figure out my feelings as I re-count some of the things I said about life here at set intervals.

The Food
DAY 1 "OK, why not. I'll try anything. Hey, they're not really octopus balls, are they?"
DAY 30 "Maybe I won't like it, but I'll force it down. After all, anything beats American junk food."
DAY 60 "Don't even tell me. I don't wanna know. Just give it to me."
DAY 90 "No thanks. I'm on a diet."
DAY 91 "Damn, I'm starving. I gotta eat something."
DAY 92 "Double cheeseburger setto, L size, with cola, please."

The Train
DAY 1 "It's amazing how many people fit in one train car."
DAY 30 "Man, I'm tired today. I hope I can get a seat."
DAY 60 "It's so annoying how some people are able to take up two seats ..."
DAY 90 "If that old lady tries to push past me to get a seat, I swear I'll elbow her in the head."
DAY 91 "What's the matter with me, knocking down old women? Let her have the silver seat, for Christ's sake."
DAY 92 "Fuck that. I was standing at the station for fifteen minutes. If that purple-haired old bitch thinks she's getting that seat ..."

The Summer
DAY 1 "It sure is hot and humid. But I guess the hotter the weather, the shorter the skirts. Heh-heh."
DAY 30 "Where's the vending machine? Where the hell's the vending machine?"
DAY 60 "God damned humidity! I step out of the shower and I'm sweating!"
DAY 90 "Hello, Northwest Airlines? How much for a round-trip ticket to somewhere cold?"
DAY 91 "How much?! Oh, forget it, I'll live."
DAY 92 "Make that a one-way ticket."

The Language
DAY 1 "I bet if I learn the language I'll be able to pick up some chicks."
DAY 30 "I said 'ohayo' and she smiled at me. Maybe I can learn the language."
DAY 60 "How many fucking ways can there be to say the number two?"
DAY 90 "I'm a god-damned English teacher. It's against the rules to speak Japanese. So I can't learn."
DAY 91 "But if I don't learn Japanese in Japan, I'll never learn."
DAY 92 "So what?"

The Bicycles
DAY 1 "What a great country! It's amazing how many people commute by bicycle."
DAY 30 "The way middle-aged women mount a bicycle by bouncing alongside sure is amusing."
DAY 60 "Whoa! That bitch almost ran me off the sidewalk into traffic. She should be more careful."
DAY 90 "Watch where you're going, you asshole!"
DAY 91 "I could swear I left my bike here. Where'd it go?"
DAY 92 "Well, maybe it'll be safer to walk ... Oh shit! Look out ..."

The Scooters
DAY 1 "I can't believe people riding scooters have to wear helmets. How cute."
DAY 30 "I can't believe scooters are allowed to weave in and out of traffic like that."
DAY 60 "I can't believe scooters are allowed on the sidewalk."
DAY 90 "I can't believe nobody has killed that asshole yet."
DAY 91 "I can't believe I'm getting so worked up about a guy on a scooter."
DAY 92 "I can't believe I haven't killed that asshole!"

The Rain
DAY 1 "I wonder why everyone is carrying an umbrella."
DAY 30 "I wonder what happened to my umbrella."
DAY 60 "I wonder where I can 'find' an umbrella at this time of night."
DAY 90 "I wonder if it'll ever stop raining."
DAY 91 "I wonder if my depression and alcoholism are somehow connected with the weather."
DAY 92 "I wonder where she got that sun tan."

The Pizza
DAY 1 "Corn on pizza? OK, why not?"
DAY 30 "Mayonnaise on pizza? Well ... OK."
DAY 60 "Oh! I'm supposed to eat it with chop sticks."
DAY 90 "No, I don't mind waiting two hours for a pizza."
DAY 91 "Wait a second ... how much did I just pay for a pizza? And I'm still hungry!"
DAY 92 "Fuck it, I'll just order two next time."

The Job
DAY 1 "This seems like it might actually be a bit challenging."
DAY 30 "The challenging part will be to stay awake while waiting for her to reply."
DAY 60 "I can't believe they hired that idiot! What kind of company do I work for? Did I actually go to college to be surrounded by the likes of this?"
DAY 90 "OK, for the 50th time, it's NOT: 'I name is Hiroshi,' it's: 'My name is Hiroshi,' Do you understand? Good. Now, what's your name?"
DAY 91 "At least it's the easiest job I'll ever have."
DAY 92 "Please open your textbooks to lesson 32. Now, tell me about the picture ..."

The Popular Music
DAY 1 "Who? No, never heard of them."
DAY 30 "Speed? Amuro? MAX? What's the difference?"
DAY 60 "My favorite member of MAX is ..."
DAY 90 "God, this shit's worse than the Spice Girls and Mariah Carey combined ..."
DAY 91 "... but they are hot."
DAY 92 "Who? No, I swear, I don't know them!"

Mt. Fuji
DAY 1 "I can't wait to see it."
DAY 30 "As soon as the summer haze clears I'll be able to see it from my balcony."
DAY 60 "Maybe it's a Japanese myth."
DAY 90 "Yeah, I've seen it once."
DAY 91 "It actually is quite beautiful."
DAY 92 "I can't wait to see the corn fields of Illinois."

The Answer to the Question: Where are you from?
DAY 1 "America, baby!"
DAY 30 "Chicago!"
DAY 60 "Um, North America."
DAY 90 "Well, technically America, but my parents are mostly Polish, and I speak Polish, so actually ..."
DAY 91 "Shizuoka."
DAY 92 "Australia, mate!"

The Answer to the Question: Who is somebody famous from your hometown?
DAY 1 "Well, there's Mike Royko and Michael Jordan, Oprah Winphrey, Carl Sandburg, Al Capone ..."
DAY 30 "Michael Jordan and Al Capone."
DAY 60 "Michael Jordan."
DAY 90 "Michael Jordan."
DAY 91 "Sammy Sosa."
DAY 92 "Michael Jordan."

The Answer to the Question: Why did you come to Japan?
DAY 1 "I dunno, I guess I wanted to be a teacher, but I didn't want to teach in an American high school. Plus, I think Japan is interesting and I'd like to learn about its culture."
DAY 30 "I dunno, I guess I thought it'd be a good place to work."
DAY 60 "I dunno, maybe I'm a little crazy."
DAY 90 "I dunno. That's what I ask myself every day. Why did I come to Japan? Why?!"
DAY 91 "I'm just kidding. I like Japan."
DAY 92 "I dunno."


Blogger Marley6 said...

Again, laughed my ass off - WHEN are you writing a book...?

4:04 PM  

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