Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hai times

After nearly six months of being here, my brain has refused to pick up any more Japanese. It's like it's consciously deciding that any of my earnest attempts will be futile. I have to face the fact that my brain just doesn't want to expand onto a third language in the time I have remaining in my contract. Or that's what I tell myself at least.

Being a Chinese American in Japan affords me the relative anonymity that any East Asian country grants its phenotypically similar denizens. Only upon close inspection of immediate signifiers like choice of clothing or perhaps my gestures will a Japanese person's sixth sense of "foreigner radar" get all tingly. However, once I open the damn trap I have for a mouth, the nihonjins know right away I'm a gaijin and depending on the situation, it can get plain embarrassing. It has become a running joke to put me at the front of the pack when I go out with my more gaijin-looking friends (read: white) to restaurants where the staff instinctively searches for me, the Asian face for language familiarity, 'cause those white folks CAN'T POSSIBLY know nihongo. So they'll spit a flurry of Japanese to me, I look dumbfounded at them, they return with an equally confused/disappointed look of "oh crap, how do I pantomime this?", then my bilingual gaijin friends interject with perfect Japanese, the waitstaff is thrilled, we are seated, the day is saved, and I'm well, kinda small but relieved.

Now, I've tried to adapt as far as language acquisition is concerned, wanting to really, truly try to understand what's being said to me. At the beginning, my most useful phrase was wakarimasen or I don't know. My modified "wakarimasen with a cute shrug" could get me out of paying the exact amount of bus fare. But six months later, I tell myself that I should have more confidence than to look that stupid all the time. My new favorite phrase to use upon interaction is hai or yes. Now, hai is the word that opens doors for you, and for me, it lets me get away with playing Japanese. I pretty much say hai to everything even if I have no idea what's being said to me, even when hai is probably not one of the verbal options. I'd rather be agreeable than a stupid foreigner, or at least now I'm an agreeable stupid foreigner. Most of my interactions in Japanese are with servers or transportation folks so the most damage hai can do is get you trapped into an extra bowl of rice or an upgrade to an express train. But I fear the day when I get sick or come across a nasty situation when my hai will probably not be the most wise response. I guess I can always resort back to my cute shrug.

Apaato sitting

You know how in Super Mario Bro's there's that gate/tape thing that comes halfway through the level, and when Mario/Luigi crosses it, it goes brrrrrrreeeeeeeee! and if Mario/Luigi dies after the mark he gets to start after the brrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeee! point instead of the very beginning? I think I crossed it just recently. Still doin' my thang in Japan. Still happy-scrappy with life in general. I was warned about a 3-6 month onset of homesick-misery but either it has yet to hit me, or, I like to think, I've persevered and surpassed it completely because I'm just that damn cool and I will trek on fighting toads, vicious ivy fire-breathing plants, collecting points and coins and feathers until I hit that really big brrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeee! thing at the end, and remember to hold onto a shell because I get a 1-Up. I can so rock dem plumber overalls.

So I'm apartment sitting at the moment which means I temporarily have access to a personal computer with Internet connection, leaving ample time for a proper entry. Possibly entries! Internet sabbatical has been thrilling, thrilling in the sense that I'm like an addict in constant search for another elusive fix. My iPod Touch has been a mobile wifi meter, and successful wifi acquisition, depending on signal strength, renders me requesting more...just one lil' bump, or maybe a little line for the road, oh, give me the whole fucking gram. I swear this is the last time I'll complain about not having Internet or write about drugs.

Anyway, I am slightly cracked out. Soy latte on an empty stomach. Soy?? Are you on a boring hippie ethically-conscious diet, Lorraine? No sways. Gimme all the lactosey fatty goodness you can muster out your cow's suckle udders, thank ya kindly. In fact, I just polished off the remaining milk in the fridge (it was about to expire!). Ethically-unfriendly reason being, I'm a creature of habit even if the habit disgusts me. Even though the Starbucks soy latte (in the Oita Forus at least) tastes like cardboard, I get it every time. I'm aware of the plethora of creamier, tastier and even less pricey products, but when you're pressured by an impatient Japanese Starbucks employee, excuse me barista, to order, you just go with what rolls of the tongue-- and trust me, hoh-toh gu-ran-dey soy ra-tay, hitosu, onegaishimasu is easier than sounding out that caramely thing in Japanglish. Plus, I refuse to change because I think I'm more interesting when I'm tagged with an idiosyncrasy. In my Oita Forus Starbucks fantasies the baristas will just smile and ring me up with "The usual?" I've always wanted to have a "The usual?" even if uttered in Japanese. The gaijin bar folks seem to be catching on to my usual gin and tonic though. I swear this is the last time I'll mention bad coffee or Starbucks.

I'M GOING TO TOKYO IN FOUR DAYS! Apologies for the Tourette's-like outburst, but I'm fucking stoked and it's all I'm thinking about! I don't know if I'm more excited to leave Oita or if I'm more excited by the allure of the big T during Golden Week madness. I haven't left the prefecture since Hong Kong in December, and this blogger's antsy pantsy! Alright I'm not going to talk about Tokyo anymore. I fear the anticipation will supersede the actual journey. Yeah right it's going to be fabulous.

Long useless entry. I've just got all this creative energy in me, yo! Writing for the sake of writing. I love the sound of my fingers slapping the keys. On da bus ride ova, I contemplated writing a book or maybe a short story compilation, if only to look furiously busy with a laptop. And the other day before classes I channeled my artistic rage and chopped up various sheets of colored construction paper into countless pieces and glued them onto a larger piece of construction paper, and I felt like genuine cubism-era Picasso plagiarist. Sorry for sounding ghetto, the computer I'm using has a lot of gangsta rap on its iTunes.

What else...I bought two new pairs of shoes. That's all.

I think I'll YouTube America's Next Top Model now. I miss Miss Tyra.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dear blog,

Hello Beppu Beat, how are you? It has been awhile and I've got nothing to report. You're like this frenemy I love to hate, hate to love. I have to impress you with funny stories and clever anecdotes all the time or else you wont think I'm cool anymore. Well, maybe I'm too cool for you.  

No, I'm not, you're awesome, I'm dull, and I love you. I'll be back and you will be impressed, or not, whatever, I'm going to play my guitar now. The Starbucks folks are probably really annoyed I bought a tall and have been here for 2 hours stealing wifi.  Jaa mata.