Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Nonsense Syllables


Going to the store is a commitment to stick it out no matter what happens. For the most part, I'm on my own. I only know limited Japanese, though I'm learning, and most people here only know limited English, though they are learning. The net effect is a nearly complete breakdown in communication. So, I go to the store and know that it is fully my responsibility to find what I need. Paying for it is as simple as looking at the cash register and counting out the Yen.

It's a feeling of helplessness. You're going into a situation where you know that only you can really get yourself through it, unless there just happens to be someone there who speaks English, but you can't depend on that. I have to go in knowing that I may certainly meet with failure, embarrassment and/or shame.

As I was walking through Narita Airport in Tokyo, i overheard an American complaining that someone didn't speak English. It would have been easy for me to be disdainful of him, except that not long ago, I was expecting Jin-Sang to live her life in such a way to accommodate me. I lived thinking she had something to give me, something that IO needed from her to be complete, whole, and successful. Just like the Yank, who expected Japanese people to have all it took to make his life more convenient, I expected Jin-Sang to have what it took to make me happy and adjusted.

The easiest approach would be to shop completely from vending machines, but this approach denies one the experience of being among others while needing nothing from them. If I g into a store without the wherewithal to get what I need, I leave the store knowing something in my needs to change to remedy the situation. But even in that "failure," I got to interact with the cute Japanese girl who seemed happy to have us attempt to utter nonsense syllables to each other, just as I was happy. I didn't get everything needed at the store, but I left with an experience that helped me feel good that I made the attempt. It's worth it to try, and it's worth it to take responsibility for the failures. It's worth it to live. It's worth it to risk. I'm glad I came. I'm glad I'm here.