Friday, February 29, 2008

Thank yous are expensive in Japan

Watashi wa keitai o nusumareta.
My cell phone was stolen ... I think.

Which is entirely unheard of in Japan.
I never lock my car doors.
I never lock my apartment door when I go to sleep.
When I go running, I do not bother locking my door and putting the key in the mail box. I just leave my front door unlocked.

This summer I was in New York City and I got a ride with an African cab driver. I told him I was about to move to Japan and he began to tell me about his brother, who had once lived in Japan.

In broken English, he told me how safe Japan is.
He proceeded with a story his brother had told him.
I leaned up in my seat and tried to peak my head into the front of the cab to better understand him.

"Japan. Very safe. You drop your cell phone in road. Even in big city. Someone will pick it up. But, only to move it. Pick it so it will not get hit by a car."

I thought that was a very nice story. But only a story. Perhaps his brother had told him this story to illustrate how safe Japan is.
I doubted that this could ever be a true story.
I just could not comprehend the idea that absolutely no one would steal that abandoned cell phone.

After only six months in this country I am beginning to forget what it feels like to never leave my laptop in my car, even my locked car.

I have never even seen anyone walk against a traffic light in Japan.

So Wednesday afternoon, when I was just going to run into the grocery store, I did not see any reason to bother locking my car doors. And I did not think twice when I left my cell phone on the passenger seat, in plain view.

But, when I returned it was gone.
No, It did not fall out of my car door. I looked.
And no it is not under the seat, I looked there too.

So I drove back to the elementary school I had just come from.
The young English speaking teacher had not seen it.
But she did call the shopping center I had lost it in. And told them to call me at work if anyone turned it in.

Then she went out to my car to help me look under the seats again.


She could tell I felt helpless.

She had been very kind. Dropping all her work for about half and hour to help this lonely American girl.

As we said goodbye I could tell she wanted to give me a hug.
Her body language stuttered. But the Japanese side of her prevented her from opening her arms up and welcoming me in them.

I waved, she waved, and I teared up as I drove off because I wanted someone to hug me.

The Japanese way to thank her would be to show up at the school next week with a small gift for her.
Perhaps some sweets or fruit.

I would have preferred to just give her a thank you hug.

The next morning I went to my favorite elementary school. I told the principal and, obviously, all staff members became concerned and involved.
I asked if I could leave briefly in the afternoon and go to my Board of Education, where I would hope someone would help me.

When I came back from teaching my next class the principal had printed off information about disconnecting my service, highlighted important parts, and was waiting by the phone to call the company for me.

I said thank you over and over and the principal told me, "okay, okay, no problem." And she meant that it was really no problem.

I have a very close relationship with this woman. We have gotten really drunk together and she has seen me in my underwear multiple times, as I seem to always be asked to put on a kimono and she seems to always help me.

So after she did all these complicated cell phones things for me, taking time out of her day to make my life easier, I would have liked to give her a hug.

But even the shortest smallest hug, the kind of hug where only your arms touch and neither person rests their chest on the others, even that kind of hug would have been obscene in the work place.

Instead, I am thinking about what I should buy to put in the staff room for everyone to eat next week.

When a Japanese person does offer their touch I welcome it and move into it.

On Fridays, when I leave my elementary school the vice principal will often take my hand and tell me to have a good weekend.
I love this weekly moment of hand holding.

This last week, as I was being dressed in a kimono some woman wanted to put a flower clip in my hair. She told me to sit on the floor and she pulled out her comb.
She put her hand on the top of my head and began to brush my recently washed hair.

I tilted my head back slightly, and enjoyed those few moments of someone else running their comb and fingers through my hair.

And for all these people that are so helpful when I want to put my head down and cry, I would like to hug them.
Instead, I should probably buy them something.


Anonymous said...

kisses & hugs
Mrs. M (Julia's Mom)

Anonymous said...

many hugs from me to you my little Bubs! Mom

Anonymous said...

have friend lost his cellphone at the ski hill on Sunday...someone found it and he got it back on Tuesday.



FunkyChicken said...

Bad things happen in Japan too!

A girl in Sakata had a home invasion once. Small cities aren't so safe either.

You should keep the doors of your house and car locked!