Because I live outside the U.S. and only come back to visit a few times a year, it's interesting to see what changes I notice. During the 15 years I've lived in Japan, I've often been on the receiving end of culture shock in my own home country, feeling like Rip Van Winkle, or perhaps his Japanese counterpart, Urashima Taro. When I went to Japan, it was not that common for manufacturers to print Spanish or French on their products, but then one year I came back home and bam, every package was shouting New! Nuevo! Nouveau! at me. Back in 1991, you completed a credit card transaction by signing a piece of paper, but overnight (from my point of view, anyway), everyone went and got those computer terminals you sign on directly. Today we ate dinner at a favorite restaurant of ours, Gaetano's Pizza in Tierrasanta, one of the few businesses to change very little over the past 30 years (despite Walmart, etc.), and I noticed that the sign had been replaced since the last time I'd been there, something I probably wouldn't have spotted if I'd been seeing it on a daily basis.
Something about living in another country makes a person think introspectively about themselves. The features that make Americans Americans and French French are collectively called kokiminsei" in Japan, translatable as national personality." Basically, this word refers to the list of traits that people from a certain groups tend to share, some of which are certainly stereotypical but which may nevertheless be largely accurate. When I started J-List back in 1996, I started tapering off my ESL teaching, saying goodbye to my students as J-List grew to devour all my waking hours of free time. One school I taught at held a party for me, with karaoke and all the trimmings. Afterwards, I got a ride home with one of my students, an interesting lady in her 40s who was studying English because she wanted to live abroad for a few years. "Well," I said as we neared my house, "I'll see you later." "No, you won't," she replied. "A person has the same number of 'sayonaras' in their lives as first meetings, and we won't see each other again. But please be 'genki' in your future life." For some reason, being told "goodbye" in such absolute terms was more honesty than I was used to, and I was somewhat unsettled by her words. It seemed to me that Americans (or at least, this particular American) tended to substitute light-hearted parting words ("see you later") even when this clearly wasn't the case. Maybe we as a people don't like to say goodbye?
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Pictures of the Miata run. It was a lot of fun, although no matter how I cranked the Initial D soundtracks, it didn't transport me back to Mt. Akagi.
A gaggle of Miatas.
Went to a newphew's birthday party. He was ten. If he were Japanese I'd make a job about him being tensai which means "ten years old" but also "genius" (therefore, everyone who is ten years old is very smart).
My newest nephew Nick wasn't the birthday boy, but he was the star of the show.
"So, why does this guy keep speaking Japanese to me?"
That was quite a good picture. Nick has five brothers and sisters so he will never be alone, even when I'm back in Japan.
Heh, we asked Joey, the birthday boy in question, if he had any profound wisdom to pass on to little Nick. He said: "All I know is, that in ten years of life, I've never learned what the word 'profound' means."