Connie: Immersion

December 10, 2010

I haven’t blogged in a while, and now my head is full of things to type about. I don’t know whether I can say the past few weeks have been particularly eventful, but given a bit of free time I feel like I can take this time to reflect on them.

They say when you move to a foreign country, you go through this scale of emotions. You start out in what they call the “honeymoon phase” where everything is new and amazing. I definitely went through that. I took pictures of everything, was in a good mood to everyone, and woke up every morning with some sickeningly cheery song in my head.

Then sometime around Thanksgiving you’re supposed to go into a downward spiral and get homesick and whatnot. Actually, I haven’t felt particularly homesick. Thanksgiving didn’t even feel like Thanksgiving—I spent it eating Japanese food in a traditional-style restaurant with one American, a Brit and a Fin, finishing up the night at the game center. But the newness has worn off. Sometimes I don’t feel like eating at any of the restaurants around. Sometimes I wonder what the heck my close friend has been doing and why he hasn’t bothered to contact me. Sometimes I get tired of the people I see every day, since it feels like we’ve closed ourselves off, and I can’t get the immersion I want. It doesn’t help that the people I do want to talk to in Japanese don’t seem particularly interested in talking to me lately.

Not that I want to complain so much. This feeling of isolation has actually lit a fire under me to get more immersed.

Last Thursday I spent most of my day with a Korean who wants to study English. I could probably write a blog on him—a very animated guy with a pretty face, but someone who likes lies and is somewhat of an airhead. As he insisted I should tell him an ‘interesting story’ I ended up talking about how I’d played the flute for about 10 years before entering university. It was with this that he brought me to his jazz circle. Not only did I get to play with a group for the first time in 3 years, but I got to speak only in Japanese and listen to music talk in Japanese. I’ve been wanting to join a circle since I got here. I’m glad I finally found one.

I really like the two Japanese students I played a trio with. I’ll have to practice so I can get good enough to really play.

Friday was a party for my friend who was finally released from the hospital—at least that’s what the party’s organizer claimed it was. Our theory was that he just wanted to have a party. Our parties before had been at the lake near our dorm, but since the weather has turned cold at night we moved to 大島大 (Ooshimaoo), a bar that the exchange students lovingly call the “yakuza bar.” Apparently, Japanese gangsters were spotted there firsthand by my classmates.

The highlight of my night was talking to random Japanese people who happened to come in after us. The first two were introduced to us and were very pleasant to talk to. The second pair we conversed with actually started the conversation with us. Shocking— most Japanese people are very tight-knit and appear to prefer to stay that way. Both pairs were very friendly (though the guy who told us he’d once been offered a job as a host was a bit full of himself). The chance to talk to ‘normal’ Japanese people seems to be a rare one that I’ve come to relish. It tends to make my nights better, even if they end in me beating up a Korean and calling him a liar repeatedly.

I suppose I should quickly elaborate on the aforementioned ‘normal’. I was talking with one of my closer Japanese friends, one who had studied at my university in America prior to me coming here. He asked me what I thought about the group who attends the English Cafe circle. After thinking about it, I realized they were slightly different from your average Japanese person, though me not knowing the ins and outs of Japanese society it was hard for me to put an exact finger on. It still is, but I can see the difference.

I love the people I know, but I want to see more of this ‘normal’ side of society. That’s what immersion is all about in the end.


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