Saturday, June 30, 2007

Gaijin Monkey

Many of the foreigners on TV here are unbearably stupid. Especially those on English conversation shows. For example, this guy...

Words cannot express how much I hate that guy. I don't care how smart he is or how fluent he is in Japanese. I hate him. He is perhaps the most annoying person in the universe, rivaled only by Carrot Top. And while he is certainly the worst of the Japanese TV gaijin, there are many others almost equally as stupid.

I learned a new phrase here in Japan, and that is Gaijin Monkey. The guy in the video is the epitome of a Gaijin Monkey. A Gaijin Monkey is a goofy, dancing, English speaking person who performs for the entertainment of Japanese people. I've felt like a Gaijin Monkey at my job on more than one occasion (the dance at the end of the video is not that different from the song and dance I'm forced to perform in kid's classes), and many foreign people here feel that is all Japanese people want or expect them to be, foolishly goofy and entertaining.

With that in mind, my husband and I have invented a Gaijin Monkey dance to perform the next time someone stares at us on the street or in the train, or when every mother and grandmother comes to watch our kid's class/show. It's a goofy, exaggerated dance with lots of arm and leg motions, similar to the shuck and jive. I doubt we'll be brave enough to try it, but sometimes you gotta give the people want they want.

I know there are other expatriates bloggers who read my blog, and I would like to know your thoughts on the Gaijin Monkey subject. Do you hate the guy on TV as much as I do? Do you sometimes feel like a Gaijin Monkey at your jobs or feel as if you're expected to "perform" somehow? Or am I just being ridiculous?

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Joys of Teaching...

(In a conversation about when I started teaching)

Student: Your face used to be hard.
Me: Hard?! What do you mean?
Student: It looked hard. Your face didn't move.
Me: What about now? Is it still hard?
Student: No, it's soft. It moves.

(During a lesson about abilities)

(Male) Student: Can you cook?
Me: No. I'm terrible.
Student (in utter amazement): Really?
Me: Yes, really. Why are you so surprised?
Student (points and grunts): Woman!

(During a special topics class about American cowboy culture)

Me (to class): So, what do you think about the cowboy lifestyle?
Student: It sounds stupid.

(At the beginning of a lesson, for no reason whatsoever...)

Student: You look tired?
Me: Really? I'm not tired.
Student: You should use more face cream. And powder.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Refreshing Drink For a Hot Summer's Day?

It's actually not as disgusting as it sounds. That may be because it tastes nothing like cucumber. I've heard rumors of Coke Broccoli, but I couldn't say if they're well founded. Apple and melon cream sodas grace the vending machines and grocery stores as well.

What do you think? Would you try it? Would you try Coke Broccoli?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Drunken Shenanigans

There is a big drinking culture among the employees at my company, including both foreign teachers and Japanese staff members, and sadly my drinking tolerance has climbed to heights I haven't achieved since college. At home, my husband and I would get good and drunk once every two months, if that. In Japan, we get drunk two or three times a week. I can't count the times a quick beer after work has turned into all night affair, often with ugly results.

Last night, in a drunken haze, my husband overpaid the cab driver 10,000 yen or approximately $100. The driver looked amused as he drove away, and I thought it was my husband's Southernized Japanese that made him grin, but now I realize he just thought we were stupid gaijin (foreigners). I'm actually surprised he took the money. It's not customary to tip in Japan and I've heard stories of cab drivers refusing to take the equivalent of a $10 tip, much less $100. It had to have been obvious that my husband made a mistake, but the driver didn't correct him. Oops.

In other drunken news, I got stopped on the street by the police last night and asked to show my Gaijin card. Every foreign person in Japan has to register at the local city office and obtain an alien registration, or Gaijin card, which serves as official identification for foreigners. Last night, I was walking down the street with a Japanese friend from work, when two police officers came over and asked to see my card. It felt weird because they didn't ask to see any of my friend's identification and no one else I know has ever had to show their card, despite many displays of public drunkenness. Many foreigners get offended at the thought of being ID ed, because they think of themselves as being unfairly targeted, but to be fair my friend and I were walking too close to traffic and we did nearly get hit by a truck. The officers were also very polite about it. Police officers in America have shouted at my friends and I for far less. But still, the thought of me as this suspicious looking character that Japanese police need to check out makes me laugh.

I would now like to leave you with this photo. Notice how the sign is only in English. The last line reads "this is a people area, please keep it clean." I guess English speaking people are the only ones who need to be told not to let their pets take a crap in front of a historic temple. Oh silly gaijin!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Do Blonds Have More Fun?

Before I came to Japan, I heard that Japanese people are fascinated with blond hair. I didn't really believe it at the time, but now I've changed my mind.

A girl I work with has light blond hair and bright green eyes. She is constantly being stared at, followed, shouted at, flirted with, harassed, etc. Anytime I go anywhere with her, some random person, usually drunk, tries to talk to us/her. A couple of nights ago, a drunk guy chased us down the street blurting random English phrases like "Hello!" and "Nice to meet you." Last night she was approached three times in fifteen minutes while searching for our friends outside the restaurant. She makes her boyfriend accompany her to and from the train station because she often has men follow her down the street. The staff always use her for demo lessons, special seminars and customer chit chat. Another blond girl I know reports similar incidents and occasionally hears the Japanese word for golden shouted in her direction.

I have light brown hair and hazel eyes. The only people who talk to me on the street are middle aged women who blabber in Japanese. I rarely notice anyone staring at me and no one ever follows me to and from the station. I've never been asked to do a demo lesson or to chat up visitors. The staff always asks blondie, even if she is racing around in a hurry and I and the other brunette employee are obviously doing nothing. Now my hair color could be considered an advantage because I don't really want to talk to random people in the lobby and I certainly don't want to be stalked, but the vain side of me wishes I got as much attention. "Why don't people talk to me," my egotistical side screams "I want attention too! Look at me! Look at me!"

I considered dying my hair much lighter, as a sort of scientific experiment, to see if I got more attention, but then decided that would be pathetic and lame. I don't want to change my hair color to please strangers on the street. Besides, maybe she gets more attention because people find her better looking than me. Fortunately, she is a nice girl who doesn't let all the attention go to her head.

Has anyone else had these kinds of experiences in Japan or other countries? Is blond hair really that intriguing?

Monday, June 4, 2007

Earthquake II

There was another small earthquake today. I was teaching my first lesson with my private students, when the room started to tremble. This time the tremors lasted about twenty seconds or so. I think I noticed them more this time because I was in a traditional, wooden Japanese style home, rather than a modern apartment building. Ironically, the earthquake started about three minutes after I told the students how quakes scare me. They looked a little concerned when things began to tremble, and chattered to each other in Japanese. I guess I looked alarmed, because one of them told me not to worry. Afterwards, they told me it was a 2 or 3.0 quake.

Again, I know small quakes are nothing to Japanese people, but as my last entry states, I have a feeling there is going to be a big earthquake in our area. Maybe it's because I had a dream a few days ago that I was in a huge one, or maybe it's because the idea of the earth shifting is so foreign to me. It's such an odd feeling to feel the earth tremble.

Now I know it's common for a series of small tremors to occure after a significant earthquake, but does it also work in reverse? Do small tremors often occur before big ones? My husband felt a small quake a few days ago when he was at work, and then there was the one today. If a big quake does happen I hope I'm not alone. It would totally suck to be stranded in a Japanese city, miles from home, with no way to communicate or call my husband.

I sure am paranoid.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Psychic or Psycho?

I have two "psychic" predictions that I would like to log for the record.

Psychic Prediction #1: In the next year or two, Linday Lohan will die unexpectedly. I'm thinking a car accident, a drug overdose or some other dramatic celebrity mishap. This probably isn't psychic abilities, so much as common sense talking, but I wish to predict it never the less.

Psychic Prediction #2: There will be a big earthquake in our area of Japan in the next month or so. That's the border area of the Saitama and Kanto prefectures. I think. Twenty miles west of Ikebukuro, a section of Tokyo. Check the news if/when it happens.

Now I know I make fun of my husband for issuing numerous psychic predictions, but perhaps I am psychic and he is not. Or perhaps we're both full of ourselves. However, if I see any animals acting crazy I'm taking cover. Except I never see any animals here, except fat, shrieking crows (one of which pooped on my head recently) and pigeons.

But if I'm right, my husband and I are starting a earthquake prediction service.