15 June 2010 ~ 12 Comments

Conversation 6/14/10: Autumn in New York

This conversation took place between me and a student last night in a cafe in Yokohama:

Student: So, I have some news.

Me: What is it?

Student: My company is sending me to New York at the end of August!

Me: Really? That’s great news!

Student: Is it?

Me: Well, yeah. Aren’t you excited?

Student: A little…but I’m worried too.

Me: About English?

Student: Yeah, my English not good.

Me: Don’t worry, half the people in New York are not native speakers.

Student: Really?

Me: Maybe more than half. Many can’t speak English at all. So, no one is gonna freak out if you confuse “A” and “The”, don’t worry.

Student: Well, I’m also worried about…eeeto ne…

Me: What?

Student: Well, they give you too much food in America. I am Japanese. In Japan we have small portions but in America everything is so much bigger.

Me: You’re worried about too much food?

Student: Chotto ne (A little)

Me: Well…that’s a simple one too. When you go out, if they give you too much food, then eat til you are full and tell the staff to put the rest in a Doggy Bag.

Student: Doggy Bag?

Me: Yeah…it’s like take away. Everybody does it. You can eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. Or, you can even give it to your dog.  You’ll actually be saving money. Too much food is good news.

Student: I see…

Me: Any other concerns? This is fun…

Student: Well, safety. I don’t know which areas are safe and which are dangerous.

Me: Hmmmm…

Student: Muzukashii deshou? (difficult, right?)

Me: Yes, that’s a difficult one. New York is a totally different environment from Yokohama. Totally. All I can say is you need to learn to be alert without being paranoid, to embrace the risk as part of the experience. If not, you’ll hide in some Japanese enclave in Fort Lee or Cliffside Park New Jersey and it’ll be like you never let Japan.

Student: Enclave?

Me: Like a Japantown.

Student: Ah,sokka. But I don’t know…

Me: Listen, you gonna have to do basically the same thing foreigners here have to do in order to have a fulfilling experience: make friends. Native friends, or at least Japanese who’ve been there a long time and speak English and venture outside of the enclave. If you have trouble meeting people, let me know. I’ll hook you up. I got a bunch of friends in New York who’d probably get a kick outta hanging with you and showing you the ropes.

Student: The ropes?

Me: Like a navigator through life in New York.

Student: Really? You’ll do that for me?

Me: Of course.  But, you gotta leave your paranoia and preconceptions here in Japan. Everything you think you know about Americans, or New Yorkers, is probably wrong. So, don’t bring those ideas to New York. Just open your mind and see what there is to see. And I’m sure my friends will dig you.

Student: ok

Me: Try to think of New York as….as a roller coaster. But not like a typical roller coaster where you know that 2 minutes later you’ll be safely back at the exit. More like a roller coaster that sometimes jumps off the track, and sometimes doesn’t go back to the same station, but takes you to another station somewhere on the other side of the Amusement Park, or even outside the amusement park…

Student: Eeee!

Me: New York can be unpredictable, is my point. But, the unpredictability is part of what makes it the most exciting city in the world. You just never know what’s gonna happen. Unless you’re a native like me…we get New York so it’s not so much of an adventure for us anymore. But for you? I envy you!

Student: Really?

Me: Yeah, I can never experience New York the way you’re going to experience New York. All wide eyed and bushy tailed, naive and whatnot. You’re gonna have the time of your life, if you let it happen.

Student: You really think so?

Me: I know so! And you’re going the perfect time of year…end of August, you’ll miss the heat wave of summer and be just in time for Fall. Autumn in New York  is…

Student: Loco, you ok?

Me: Yeah…I’m cool…I was just thinking about Billie Holiday


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12 Responses to “Conversation 6/14/10: Autumn in New York”

  1. Thomas Gantz 15 June 2010 at 7:56 pm Permalink

    Great story. Also makes me bring back the memories of the 7 years I lived in NYC. Good times…. 🙂

    • Locohama 15 June 2010 at 11:28 pm Permalink

      Hey Thomas, thanks…do you think I nailed NY? new York is so difficult to put into words…
      thanks for the shout

  2. Alessia 15 June 2010 at 8:00 pm Permalink

    Yeah, I had lots of worries before I came to Canada.

    I actually lived in Italy, spoke a little of English and was worried about making friends in that new big continent.

    Thing is, at first it sucks, you might miss your own country, you miss your friends, your family like crazy… but after some months,you integrate and you start liking the place. I also had to leave some assumptions that I grew up with.

    In the end, it's true,having a family or a friend is very important when you're out there, in a different world.

    The whole experience itself though, is so exciting!

    Anyways, he's in for a big culture shock! 😀

    P.S. A big whoop to the immigrants for their guts!!!

    • Locohama 15 June 2010 at 11:25 pm Permalink

      Thanks Alessia! Yeah culture shock plus! lol

  3. e_dub_kendo 16 June 2010 at 12:10 am Permalink

    You have some pretty cool students. Whenever I read one of your conversations they always contrast so sharply with the other people you write about. It's like, even though they would still be cautious when compared to the average American, they have an open-mindedness and a small-but-real sense of adventure that you don't often see or read about in that culture.

    • Locohama 16 June 2010 at 1:37 am Permalink

      Hey E dub, yep I've been pretty fortunate student wise. Sometimes I need a crowbar to open those minds though lol thanks for the shout! Loco

  4. Roberto 16 June 2010 at 2:39 am Permalink

    Man, I'da liked to have gotten that kid in New Yawk BACK IN THE DAY!

    Pre-soft-and-fuzzy-Giuliani-we-are-the-world, when we wuz ALL packin' heat, taggin' trains, and knockin' over liquor stores on Satiddiy nite.

    As it is, he'll have a wonderful time. If you think he'd appreciate it, though, and you can get me his details once he's settled, I can have one of the boys give him a little mini-mugging, just so he can tell the story.

    • Locohama 16 June 2010 at 3:18 am Permalink

      @Roberto! Yo, you killed it! You got me ROTFLMMFAO! For real! I didn't know you were from NY! Did you tell me that??? Well, yeah, definitely my advice was for post that mayoral nazi's regime. Pre-gestapo? Sheeeet, I would have told him if he wanted to survive 3 years in NY he'd better forget about English and learn some Chinese and hook up with the boys on grand and south of canal, and hope theydon't catch on he's Japanese, or keep his ass in that enclave in Fort Lee with the doors triple locked and the windows barred. lol
      Thanks for the shout down memory lane Rob!

  5. Rose 16 June 2010 at 8:38 am Permalink

    Ha, I've been in NYC for 6 years (and Mayor Mike just bought his 3rd term! Sigh). It does seem way safer and softer than even 10 years ago, but for anyone from Japan it's always a major wake-up call. But almost every Japanese person I know who lives here loves it. Here's hoping your friend grows the nads necessary to get the hell away from the chuzain-infested midtown area (with its sad "real Japanese" restaurants and hostess clubs) and gets to know the better parts of New York.

  6. Roberto 17 June 2010 at 6:43 am Permalink

    Absolutely, Rose. Let that boy get out and explore the RUSSIAN hostess clubs in Queens! And as Loco says, the future is Chinese (but the hostesses are sour, nasty bitches, I'm sorry to day).

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