Friday, November 18, 2011

Thoughts on Culture and Identity

I forgot how relaxing silence can be. Well, a noise that's almost silent, but muted in the background. With the hum of my heater and the monotonous ticking of my clock behind me, I feel at ease in my apartment for the first time in awhile. It's not that I don't feel safe, it's just that I've been so tense with my school work and hostile towards myself for procrastinating. I'm very grateful that my internet has been nice to me for a little over an hour now, and I am taking this time to update.

For those of you that aren't on my facebook or skype account, I have been having difficulty maintaining an internet connection of any sort at my apartment. I'm still not sure what the problem is, as my internet was working perfectly two or three days ago. I'm telling myself that when it goes out, i must become a serious student again and continue my studies, or just simply do something better with my time, like exercise, read, or cook something decent for dinner. It's irritating, though, when the internet continues to shut on and off every five minutes while trying to write an essay in Japanese, and you're relying on an internet dictionary because your denshi jisho (Japanese electric dictionary) is outdated.

I've been having trouble finding my motivation lately, and I'm not sure where this laziness is coming from. Part of me wants to blame it on my new ability of relaxation and lack of stress, but I think a lot of it is just laziness at its best. My teacher told me a few days ago that she was starting to realize who was serious about the class and who wasn't, and she looked at me for the latter. I was a bit hurt and angry, but then I realized she was right: I hadn't been giving my best--yet I wasn't being a complete bumpkin, either--and I needed to push myself. today the same teacher smiled at me and said, "You really are pretty serious about studying, aren't you?" It made me smile, and it felt even better that it was all in Japanese.

I realized I'm in the right place today. I miss my family and friends, but I'm not homesick. I'm not depressed that I don't have some of the luxuries that I did back in Texas. But I'm not sad. I'm not mourning a life that I'll return to when I go home. Part of me is actually dreading the return, even though I know I won't be home for another ten months. Here there seems to be less ignorance, less assumptions. I feel as though the people know more about me than I know about myself, as well as more about the history and culture of the United States. I try my best not to make too many cultural mistakes, and my Japanese friends tell me when I'm about to make a big one, yet I take pride every time I hear a Japanese person tell me, "You're a lot like a Japanese person, you know?" To me, that is one of the best compliments I can receive. When I hear it in Japanese, I feel even better. To me, this simple statement translates into, "You respect my culture and understand what it's about."

On the more somber side of the coin, I feel a vein start to throb at the base of my jaw when I read some of the comments on my facebook, emails form friends and family, as well as the random chat message on skype from a friend back home. I can't think of a friendly or polite way to write what I want to say, but the basic concept of my thought is that ignorance is much too prevalent. I want to write back snotty messages and act like a five-year-old when I read assumptions that if I act as I would back home, it would be alright in a country where culture is different. Although Japan uses kanji in the majority of its publications, newspapers, textbooks, etc., that is not the only writing system used in this country. I cannot simply ask my landlord to store furniture in a building that is small. It's insulting.Things are done differently here. I am comfortable with a majority of the culture differences because I feel that I am prepared for them. I wish that I could cut out a chunk of the culture and display it perfectly in some virtual-reality world so that all of you could see, taste, hear, and feel it in the atmosphere, but that's impossible. Please trust my judgement.

I mention all of these things because I am writing an essay for one of my classes in English. The topic of the essay concerns our experiences in the class as well as our thoughts on culture and identity. Even though I feel like I'm home here, I can't say I understand either of these things clearly. I don't know who I am, but I really like who I am becoming.

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