Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Culture Shock…In My Own Culture

This past weekend I grabbed the only semi fancy dress I brought and headed to Fussa with my friend Nicola, to attend the US Air Force`s Christmas party. Random I know.

The previous weekend, I went out with a few friends in the Roopongi area of Tokyo, and every time we go out there are always new people added to the group. Friends of friends, former exchange students, new neighbors etc. That was where I met Nicola. She...well to be honest I am not quite sure how she got into the group, but it didn`t matter in the slightest. We hit it off, and when R.J., also part of our going out crew that night, and a logistics Lt. in the U.S. Air Force, invited us the following day to his squadron`s Christmas party the following weekend we were in. At the same time having no idea what we had signed up for.

Nicola and I met up in Tokyo and took the remaining hour long train to Fussa where R.J. kindly retrieved us from the station, and we headed to get checked in so we would be allowed on base. Those working at the check-in point obviously spoke English, though I am proud to say that I understood what they told me in Japanese. Or at least the gist, which at this point is good enough for me.

As soon as we were in, we headed straight for the food. The base is essentially mini America, a concept I struggled with the entire time we were there. We ate at Burger King, Nicola`s favorite. I didn`t get anything and held out for Taco Bell, WITH cinnamon twists and Starbucks. I was curious to see if they would take my American gift card, turns out no.

Then it was off to the commissary, where they have anything and everything you could want. We spent a solid 3 hours in the grocery store, buying as much as we figured we could carry back on the train the following day. I was shocked to see things I hadn`t seen in so long, yet looked so familiar. I was even more shocked to be able to read everything in the store. I left spending only 50 bucks and took home pop tarts, s`mores ingredients, (something the other non American ALTs haven`t had either), mac & cheese, pretzels, vitamins, lotion (way cheep), oatmeal in individual packets, Gatorade (also learned that it`s illegal in NZ, made me slightly nervous), brownie with walnut mix, my favorite peanut butter granola bars, my favorite marinade, an Oprah magazine, and so much more. I also took 3 packets of gravy mix to give to my teachers at school. I had been doing Thanksgiving Lessons all week, and by then they had all heard it mentioned but never experienced it. I also gave Namiko a box of mac & cheese for her kids to try. I can`t wait to hear what they think!

We legitimately spent 15 minutes deciding Pop Tart flavors.

Tourists? I think so.

For all your American needs.

View of Fuji from the parking lot.
Then it was off to R.J.`s to get ready! He ran Ksenia, a now mutual friendJ, to the train station while Nicola and I transformed ourselves. Then we were off!

Merry Christmas!
We arrived, got some drinks, ate some food, watched the raffle which gave away AMAZING gifts, and had a generally good time until it was 12pm and we had to get out. We all headed for another bar, a few more actually, our little group had grown by then and we were quite loud as we made our way to each bar. I was slightly embarrassed for us. The night was great, met some new people and had a great time. Japan needs to get up to speed on the no smoking indoors, it kills me every time. Other than that we had so much fun!

R.J., Nicola & I

We were out until about 5 am, which meant that the better part of the next day was spent sleeping and lounging. Though Nicola and I did rise to eat the breakfast R.J. made us, poached eggs with cheese on an English muffin, AND his first time poaching an egg. We`re so proud J

We ate Subway (Amazing!) and Nicola and I bagged and double bagged our loot and trekked home, where I promptly washed the dress I`d worn the night before and anything it touched in my bag during transport. I want that smoke nowhere near me.  

Culture Shock

I really did have an amazing weekend, but I also was legitimately in culture shock the entire time. This was not Japan. Not even close. There were white people (seriously weird for me to see), blonde kids, people speaking English, overweight people, dogs that don`t fit in your purse, people cussing, tattoos, and everyone seemed to talk about a decibel louder than they needed to. The portions at the fast food restaurants were larger than those of fast food restaurants in Japan, people didn`t seem to be as polite, and everyone seemed to be all about themselves and exuded a sense of entitlement. And I didn`t like it. At all.

Again, this was not Japan. By then I had come to terms with that. But this was also not the America I knew either.

I was just being shocked from all angles! I am surprised to see how much Japan had become my home, how comfortable I have become here. Being on base was almost "too easy". I have come to accept that on a daily basis I will not understand 100% of what is going on around me, nor will people fully understand what I am saying. And I have kind of learned to enjoy the challenge.

Mata ne!

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