Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Underdog

Everyday I am faced with the genuine option of being deaf, mute, and illiterate.

Luckily, the woman that sits to my right is proud of me when I am able to sound out keki or karaoke when written in Japanese script.

And the man that sits to my left will say "ohayo gozaimasu," even if our eyes do not meet for 45 minutes into the working day.

Too bad these subtleties do not allow me to understand what my coworkers are laughing about. Or what one of my students is crying about.
In moments of spontaneous giggles or tears, translations become something that disrupt the authentic eruption of emotion.

But these "gap years" spent in some confusion while problem solving is surely building character before I enter the "real world"....

During an entire real world day of being mute, deaf, and illiterate I am sometimes curious as to why I chose to spend this defining year of my life as I am. Why I have decided to sign on to another such year. And how these years are significant movements to build upon.

I am currently able to understand Angel's mother. Why a tall, beautiful woman with amazing hair was so shy to walk into General Greene Elementary school and greet me in English. Why her demeanor changed so drastically when Isaiah's Spanish speaking father joined the rest of the moms who came to help the kids glue together a picture frame for Valentines day.

I know why Salvador seemed a little more at ease when his classmates were being told to "hurry up and finish their lunch" that was reminiscent of something his own mother would make for dinner.

I will replace arigato gozaimasu with thank you. I will eat pickled vegetables at lunch. But, some days I come across cultural familiarities and I find myself taking a deep sign of comfort.

Four months in a country is a long time. Six months in a country is when it begins to feel short.

I only just realized that a Japanese house would live up to American mansion standards if it has more than one room with holes in the floor that allow excessive cooking followed, of course, by eating.

And only six months does not provide me with the knowledge of how I find myself dressed up like a traditional Japanese bride, on a Saturday afternoon. Becoming the center of hundreds of strangers pictures. And being led around the room by a woman (whose name I forget) because I could not wear my glasses with that wig.

All I can do is try to someday build up the guts and smarts to be able to ask questions and remain patient enough to listen to the answers.

And think about that one elementary student who disrespects everything about English. But, in his frustration of my pretending to know NO Japanese he finally asks, "one or two?" Then he pretends not to smile.

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