Friday, September 16, 2005

Adjusting Again

I'm back in Japan after a three week visit to the land of cell phone obsession and celebrity worship.

My trip was a real mixed bag. The purpose of the trip was to spend time with a sick relative, which turned out to be wonderful but also difficult. In addition, I got caught up on my doctors appointments (which I do every year in an attempt to avoid going to Base cavities again!), briefly saw good friends, did some much needed shopping for work clothes and had really great time with family. I got to hang out (read: eat Mexican food) with my little brother and his cute wife for the first time since they got married a year ago. I even got the chance to enjoy a Backstreet Boys concert with my second cousin (my mom's sister's son's daughter - that's my second cousin, right?) I didn't even know BSB was in town, I swear. (Ah, kismet.) I spent most of my time in the amazing Pacific Northwest, but managed to get four days in Upstate NY with my sister and brother-in-law. My time with my sister helped me meet my laugh quota for the year, which was no surprise. We have a lot of fun together. They have a new dog who responded immediately to my reverse animal magnetism -- not being a "dog person," every pooch within a ten-mile radius wants to lick me. I spent the entire trip sauteed in slobber and lightly sprinkled with dog hair.

I felt some culture shock this visit for the first time since moving away. In the past three years I've generally felt thankful for the opportunity to live in Japan, but have known that deep down I'm an American, for better and for worse. This visit was different in that the pace, noise, and lack of courtesy and cleanliness (the streets look like a giant trash can) really bothered me. I don't mean to sound ungrateful or anti-American, but I definitely felt like I had an outsider's view during this trip. However, it didn't take me long to adjust, and pretty soon I was cutting people off while driving and using my outside voice indoors. It all went deeper than that, really, but I'm not sure how to write it here. One night I met a friend in a busy restaurant and felt like I had to scream at her all evening to keep the conversation going. I felt overwhelmed with traffic every day that I drove (although driving on the opposite side of the road probably contributed to my stress.) It was all of that and more.

I knew I was back in Japan when I used the restroom at the airport in Tokyo and a recording of rushing water played when I opened the stall door. A sign above the toilet paper roll said something like, "Sound is to mask your personal noises." Such civility.

So I'm back in Japan with a lot of mixed feelings. I miss my family and I don't want to wait for another year to laugh that hard with my sister. Where American cities looked dirty and rundown, the Japanese vibe now seems so sterile and distant. I know I'll adjust. Again. It just takes a while.

No comments:

Post a Comment