I could easily answer “very little” as far as the Japanese are concerned, and end this entry right here and now. But, for the sake of the handful of readers who have been waiting patiently for me to get back to blogging about Kawaiiland, I thank you and I will elaborate.
Since the inauguration I have been useless, too busy being too happy to write. Talking to friends and watching the news has given me only a taste of how electric the energy must be in America. I envy all of you guys back home. I haven’t had a bout of homesickness like this since I’ve moved here. I actually miss my country. Not just the people I know and the city I grew up in, but the whole damn country. I love all you guys! It’s a first for me.
My Japanese friends are very excited, too…for me, that is. “Congratulations” they say to me, like I won the election. In a way they’re right, for I feel that this election was not only a win for Obama, and the democratic party, but also it was a win for America, and all Americans regardless of party affiliation, regardless even of whether they know it or not. A very big win. A win that says that we are finally climbing out from under the debris of 9-11, dusting ourselves off, and getting on with the business of forming a more perfect union. It proclaims we’ve decided to take a chance, to let hope heal, to starve the fear that the previous administration saw fit to feed- to their advantage and our disadvantage. And we’ve announced our rebirth, of sorts, to the world in the most resounding fashion, as only us loud, vulgar, uncouth Americans can.
Yeah, it’s a giant step for us, worthy of congratulations…
But when most Japanese tell me congratulations, they don’t mean that at all! They don’t even mean congratulations on finally getting that Bush character out of the White house.
“Why say ‘congratulations’ to me?” I asked my student.
“Obama katta deshou?” Obama won, right? Like Obama was some horse I’d bet on, looking at me like isn’t it obvious? Did I say the wrong thing? I mean, if I know anything I know black people want Obama to be president!
I’ll accept their congrats if I know them or, rather, if they know me, because if they do then they’ve seen me wearing Obama shirts and caps and buttons, or the coffee mug on my desk which is littered with photos and stories about the election. Clearly I am enamored with the man and the message.
But, when this congratulations business comes from strangers…or people who hardly know me I find it to be a little presumptuous if not rude. But maybe I’m being a little sensitive. What do you all think?
For example, I went to the doctor the other day. I had something in my eye, and it had stuck around for over a week. Naturally I thought it was a cataract or cancer of the pupil or I’d rammed my 6 ‘0 high head into too many 5’10 Japanese door frames and had finally jarred something loose, so I made my way to the doctor. I waited for over an hour, she saw me for a little over 30 seconds, examined my eyes up close, pulled out the loose strand of eye lash that had worked its way deep beneath my eyelid, and asked me did I feel better.
“Yeah I do!” I cried excited with relief. “So, it’s not cancer? I’m not going blind from too much Internet?”
“I don’t think so.” Sometimes I don’t think so is the closest you’re gonna get to a “no” in Japan.
“Thank you Sensei…”
“Don’t mention it…and congratulations!”
“Thank you,” I said, thinking, under the circumstances, she was congratulating me for something having to do with my eyes; perhaps for not waiting until that wayward eyelash had become a serious problem, which I would have considered a strange reason to say congratulations a few years back but, in Japan, you have to modify your definition of certain words and strange is one of these words. Still I wanted to know why she’d said it. “Congratulations for what, Sensei?”
Anger shot through me…I didn’t know why. But I swallowed it and said, “Oh.”
to be continued…