Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I had an interesting encounter today. Actually, I've been brooding on it ever since.

Whenever I go in our out of the teachers' room at school, the older teachers often stand aside and tell me to go ahead of them. Which to me doesn't make any sense. They don't really do that to each other, so I never know how to respond. I'm obviously younger than them, and incredibly junior to them, so I don't understand why they always allow me to go first. Usually I duck in quickly and offer an embarrassed "I'm sorry thank you." But lately I've been resisting taking my liberty with this. I'll stand aside, and then they will go on ahead of me, seeing that I don't want to cut in front of them. Usually they do this with a smile and a chuckle, and say thank you.

Today I was coming in the teachers' room and the 3rd year teacher was coming out. He's really cool, he and I have had lunch together before, and he doesn't seem that Japanese to me. He was standing behind the door, and told me to go ahead. I stepped aside and said "uh-uh." Then he told me to go ahead again. But I didn't really see him, and I realized that he couldn't see my face, that I was smiling, and I wasn't actually scared, but being a little bit joking. But then he came out, and walked away muttering to himself, and it sounded something like, "Geez, I told you to go ahead!" in an annoyed way. So now I'm worried that I was rude by not taking his offer. But I couldn't apologize when I saw him later because that would be recognizing that there was an awkward exchange, and you're not supposed to bring up awkward stuff or be confrontational in. any. way. They are all about the show, don't tell in every aspect.

Japan can be so hard. I feel that other people I'm with don't have it so hard, because I'm a girl, and by default girls are expected to behave so much differently than men. I know that my guy friends would think I'm crazy, but it really does feel like that. I always feel like I'm under much more scrutiny, and that I get disapproving looks when I didn't know I did anything wrong, and my guy friends break all kinds of social barriers and don't even care that they're doing so and people just laugh.

Kinda sorta related:

Today I missed my bus. I saw it pull away from the bus stop, so I got on another one in hopes that I could hop on my regular one at the terminal. But the one I got on went around the other side of the block, so I didn't make the one I wanted and had to take one that left fifteen minutes later, but it only got me to school maaaybe five minutes later than I normally get there. Which is still about 20-30 minutes before classes start. When I walked in, my main teacher gave me a quizzical look, like she expected me to apologize for being late. But I wasn't late, I was still on time, or early! So I didn't say anything*, and she just asked if I had gotten her email. Later on, the first year teacher (who I don't think was even in the teachers' room when I got there) asked me after one of the classes if I take the same bus every day, and I said, yeah, usually. And so he remarked that sometimes the buses must be late. And I was kinda...ok....I guess...
Because the bus I took today was the one I took normally in the summer, just switched to an earlier one when it became winter and got really crowded. So I don't see why they have to make anything of it.

*Gaijin Smash:
The willfull breaking of Japanese convention rules by one who is not Japanese (a forigner cf. a gaijin)
I know its a red light, but I'm going to cross the road anyway, gaijin smash style.**

We try to avoid doing this ("this" being ignoring known social standards, usually ones that only exist in Japan) as often as possible. We (my social group) are aware that whenever we do this, it just perpetuates the negative stereotype of foreigners in Japan as being obtuse and insensitive. In this case, I used it to avoid an awkward conversation of having to apologize, (when I didn't even think there was a problem, so why make anything of it if you don't have to? Because I am always apologizing for everything, and it gets so tiring). It's original context on the internet was used to get out of paying for a train ticket. Which is bad.

Anyways, I know that you guys are sooo interested in my bus schedule. Sorry. It's boring.

Here's something amusing.

In the first year review, the teacher wrote the example sentence on the board: "You are cooking now." Then he asked how to make it into a question. One of the kids blurted out "You are cooking now ka?" Because "ka" is the question marker. It's like a vocalized question mark, which they use instead of switching the verb order. And we all laughed.

Remind me to tell you about my grievences with the first year curriculum. It will be long, maybe.

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