It was a little bit awkward getting going because I don’t know if F. specifically confirmed that it was okay to pass on the invitation to me – I came out front to meet S-go getting out of his car, and he saw my pack and asked, “Where are you going?” Um… er…
Anyway, we got going and once we were there, some of our students found us, and they and their parents found us again to give us food and drink. Oh, boy. I felt a little odd accepting such tribute, but I can almost certainly say that when I get back to Canada I will not have the experience of a cute little girl giving me a tray of yakisoba just because she appreciates me. As F. and I found a place to eat, she commented that this was another one of those times that she felt really glad to be working at S.G., and I had to agree*.
* - This is awkward usage, and I suppose it implies, “I agreed – she did feel that way,” but I think it’s better than saying, “I had to say that I felt the same way myself.” What do you think?
Among the attractions at the festival were an animal display and petting zoo, Zorbing, and the opportunity to try a Segway.
I got in the line and tried the Segway – we had to wear helmets, and the course was very short – just a little pylon-delimited loop in the grass. Of course the volunteer girls were all atwitter: “I… I don- I don’to supiku Engrish.” <laughter> “Hai, wakarimashta.”
(Do I feel the need to announce “I don’t speak Arabic,” in Arabic every time I walk through the Loyola Colonnade? No.)
So I get on the Segway, and I intuit that you’re supposed to sort of lean your weight around to move it. I kept telling the guy that I understood, but it took half the course for me to convince him that I didn’t need to be led with him holding the bar. It’s a Segway – you could ride it even if you didn’t know how to ride a bicycle. Ah, well, the ride was free, so I can’t complain too much. Just give me a little credit when I say I understand; that’s all I’m asking for.
We left the festival and stopped at Fuji Grand on the way back to have coffee and a snack at Mister Donut. S-go was asking us about how we felt about handshaking and hugs, and he said that he found Western approaches to those kind of odd: “If you’ve just washed your favorite clothes, and you see your friend, and they hug you…?” Hmm! And it would be good for S-go if I didn’t transcribe his incredulity about hand shaking in detail. F. and I began to understand the general Japanese stand-offishness when it comes to handshaking and hugging. I remember the first time I met Masae at Narita, and I immediately went for a hug, but that was a bad idea. She was a bit startled, and now I think I know why.
S-go also brought up most Westerner’s laissez-faire attitude towards wearing shoes in the house. You know, if you’ve got your shoes on and you realize you forgot to grab your keys or turn off the light? S-go wondered why we weren’t concerned about all the places the bottoms of our shoes have touched, like public washrooms, parking lots, dirt… Hmm. I conceded that point, but mentioned that if the bottoms of our shoes are clear and dry, that’s close enough to “clean.” “Would you lick it?” he asked. Well, no. But… would you lick the floor? I should have brought that up.
But I – and most Westerners, I think – have always been on side about not wearing shoes on tatami. In the same way, we don’t usually wear shoes on carpet. Linoleum and beat-up hardwood can be okay, but usually not carpet. (I guess I’m excluding the low-pile carpet common in office environments.)
In any case, it’s a unique opportunity to see something from a Japanese perspective. As is often pointed out, a word for clean, “kirei,” can also be used for ‘beautiful.’
You know what? I’ve been here for nine months and I’ve been in one Japanese house – and even that was a fluke. Are we integrating yet? Don’t make me laugh.