Monday, October 11, 2010

So This is Culture Shock

Since it’s been over a month since my last post, I’m guessing that a lot of my readers have stopped checking. I haven’t given up on this blog though, mostly because I don’t want the layout that I worked on for weeks to go to waste.

Things have been a little tough, and it’s not because I’ve been sick with bronchitis  (JAPANESE BRONCHITIS IS GNARLY) for about two weeks with no signs of improving. It’s not to say Japan isn’t wonderful. Everything here is adorable. The fashion is perfect. The dollar stores that you can find in every single mall carry things that you have to buy online in the states. The food is delicious and they always pay the utmost attention to detail when preparing the food in order to make it just as attractive as it tastes. There’s always a show about cute animals on tv. The streets are safe at night and it’s easy to find a place to wait until the trains start again if you’ve missed the last one. You can buy a drink called chu-hai for 200 yen at any convenience store (sorry Mom and Dad.) The weather has gotten to be really gorgeous, and I get to see the mountains from my train every day on my way to school.

One of the reasons why my boyfriend is better than any boyfriend in the world

Despite all these things, I haven’t really been too happy for the past month or so. I miss my boyfriend. I miss my friends. The evening of October 2nd, when I celebrated my 21st birthday, might have been the loneliest night of my life, and I didn’t leave the house at all on October 3rd. Not that my new friends aren’t amazing, I just miss the normalcy of a life where I don’t have to struggle through daily speech. Also, not being stared at, talked about, and generally being made to feel like I’m from Mars is a luxury that I often take for granted in The States. I miss the convenience of being able to read drugstore products or food packages. And in true Lady Dallasite/Angelina/USC Girl fashion, I’m starting to panic because I can’t find an English-speaking salon to bleach my roots. I miss the comfort of privacy; If I want to just zone out and watch TV (only shows about America or the aforementioned cute animals) or use the computer, I have to be in the main room of the house, which means that I’m still at risk of being talked to in Japanese that I don’t understand. So, just to avoid that (mis?)communication, I’ve often found myself shutting myself in my room to try napping or to read the Haruki Murakami book that my host parents gave me or to examine my nailbeds (at least my nails look better than they ever have) or to cut off my split ends.

I guess this must be culture shock.

USC really tried to prepare their study abroad students for this kind of thing, to the point of freaking everyone out. I kind of didn’t really believe any of it, though. After all, I’ve wanted to visit Japan my entire life and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and so on and so forth. The handouts they gave me says that I should confide in friends and advisors, and I do talk to my friends. They’re experiencing the same homesickness, but I feel like our culture shock is a little different on the level that their Japanese is leagues better than mine. I should also be trying to “put myself out there,” and to not withdraw, and I’m really doing my best. I’m still trying to talk to my host family and join in on the conversation when my fellow study abroads are talking to a Japense student.

Courtesy of
Anway, this is why I haven’t blogged. I’ve been so consumed in, well, not wanting to do anything at all, that I just haven’t really been interested in it. My days consist of getting up early for classes that I don’t want to go to because of how humiliatingly huge the difference is between everyone else’s Japanese skills and mine. Then I go home to a place that I really just want to withdraw from. I eat dinner with the family, stay at the table for a little while to be polite, maybe check my email, then go to bed as quickly as I can to start it all over again. I mostly look forward to emails from Bob and the food, and even the food is starting to lose my interest. Sometimes my day will have a blip of a highlight, like the fact that I was brave enough to go into a manga supply store (of course only to be too embarrassed to buy anything) or that I mustered up enough courage to ask a girl who’s carrying a guitar if the music club is fun (resulting in a stare that lasts longer than her one word answer.)

My new friends Erika and Sam. These girls are helping me stay alive!
 Not to sound spoiled, but I feel like I’ve seen enough… Even though, according to these handouts, this depression should be over soon and I should be back on my feet happier than I was before I left, it just doesn’t seem possible with my inability to get around in everyday life. I’m just going to try and push myself with my studying and speaking practice. I’ll also try to push myself with blogging, because I guess that any attempt at normalcy could help.

I have had some fun experiences that I’ve taken pictures of, but I guess I’ll post those at another time. Sorry if I'm worrying anybody.