Nov 10, 2013

MEMENTOS: Now With 200% More Americans

Hanging out at the Wakutama-kun park! That's right, an entire park dedicated to the onsen egg in various poses and costumes. Cutest thing ever.

A restaurant in Wakura. I stopped here because this normal-looking building would have been exotic to me just a few months ago. A lot of quirks about Japan are now a part of everyday life.

The international festival in Kanazawa. This floor was run by JETs from different countries, each representing their motherland with food, photos, traditional dress, and their native languages.

A popular summer activity in Japan is to put a bat in someone's hand and have them try to smash a watermelon blindfolded. This is usually played on the beach, but for a local BBQ in honor of Nanao's American guests (see next photo for details), they taught them the game. The trick was the green "fruit" in the background is not a watermelon, it's a winter squash! So it was impossible to break it open with the bat because it was so hard.

I was so excited when I found out home-stay partners from Monterey, California were coming to visit Nanao. They took half a day to explore my junior high school and meet up with their exchange partners. After a week exploring the area, they had a teary farewell party at Fisherman's Wharf where they taught their Japanese home-stay families the history of American popular dances, including Michael Jackon's Thriller (below).

How do I explain what it felt like to have a bunch of American kids visit? I was hopping up and down in excitement for these "foreigners" to come to my school. And when they did... I got "reverse" culture shock! Their attitudes and lack of understanding Japanese manners threw me; like when none of them would eat the school lunch, when every one of my students must eat every last grain of rice, I was shocked!

I felt a surge of pride when my students overcame their shyness to ask the American students questions in halting English. The friendlier Americans pieced together their meaning, but some of them only gave one-word answers, as if they weren't interested or thought my kids were dumb because they couldn't string a complete sentence together. My heart bled for my kids, and I had no way to show the Americans just how much courage it took for my timid kids to try and speak to them.

What happens when I experience reverse culture shock on a larger scale? I wonder what it will be like when I visit the US again, and there's no context for others to understand all the things I've learned and experienced here...the new language that I now use everyday, the level of interest and care everyone in this community has for me, the way I'm used to unparalleled service with a genuine smile. I can only imagine how very big and unfamiliar the US will feel.


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