***The 4-Week Break: What Have I Learned So Far?
Thursday - 6 Feb 2003
Things I have mastered:
*Public transportation during rush hour. You call that a challenge? I scoff at the subways. I scoff at the trains. *scoff, scoff* What.s that? The train is full? I don.t think so. I.ve got an elbow and a foot that say there.s room for one more.
*Japanese-style toilets. No longer a problem. It.s just wham, bam, thank you ma.am. To tell you the truth, I actually prefer the hole in the ground to the Western-style. Much faster. But heaven forbid you should sneeze and lose your balance...
*Ordering Japanese food in little restaurants. Okay, well the first obstacle to ordering Japanese food in a little Japanese restaurant is that you first have to identify the restaurant. When I say little, i mean little. These places tend to be the size of an American living room (that includes the kitchen). And, if you.re not very good at reading Kanji (the Chinese characters) you may not be sure you.re really entering a restaurant. Luckily, they usually have a big red lantern outside. Once you.re inside, the people are usually so tickled that there.s a foreigner in their restaurant that it doesn.t matter how much Japanese you speak. They just smile at you and nod while you point to what you want. Or, if you still can.t read the menu, you can always ask "what do you recommend?" in Japanese.
Things that have mastered me:
*Eating eggs with chopsticks. How exactly is that done? Hard-boiled, not a problem. However, a sunny-side up egg was not meant to be forced between two sticks and lifted into the air. Apparently, though, it can be done. One day...
*The word Benri. It means convenient. For some reason, I just cannot say this word. No matter what I do. I.m getting frustrated because it would be very useful it I could just pronounce it.
*Slurping. In Japan, it.s not a bad thing to slurp. Not just drinks, but also noodles and stuff. However, this contrasts sharply with American manners. Try as I might, I can.t let myself slurp. I just know that once I master the slurp, I will go back to America and forget that it.s no longer polite. My host family keeps jokingly ordering me to slurp and I keep telling them that my mother will beat me if I ever do it in front of her.
*Japanese Ramen. I have such a problem eating Japanese ramen, although it.s cheap American cousin is quite tasty. I.m currently trying to overcome my aversion...we.ll see what happens.
If you ever walk down the candy aisle in a Japanese convenience store, you will find some of the coolest products. They have candy that is just sweet mesh (like the stuff you make a screen door out of). They have a million different kinds of cookies. They have sugar-coated sugar. But the coolest part is the back of the packages. A lot of the candies are just lumps, so you don.t know what.s in them. BUT, if you look on the back it will probably have a complete color diagram drawn. Good times.