Manami (my host sister) is coming home soon. She likes to travel and has been away for a while so I haven’t met her yet! I’m so excited. For a while I was wondering if she’d ever show up! Because she’ll be home in about a half an hour and my writing will be interrupted, I’ dividing this post in half. First up- Softball Circle.
Britt, Tiff, and I joined a Softball Circle, in order to make some Japanese friends. Circles in Japan are a lot like after school clubs but less intense. Clubs tend to take up lots of time and effort, but circles are more for fun. And, apparently, they require less talent (eg. Me, Tiff, and Britt).
It was a lot of fun though- there was a variety of talent. The older members were pretty darn good at it, but there were also those who were pretty new at the sport, like for example, my new friend Miwa who came to the meeting dressed in jean shorts and black tights and black fuzzy ug-like boots. Ok,ok I didn’t wear tennis shoes either, but I honestly assumed the first meeting would be informational and that they wouldn’t want us to play, especially on the coldest and windiest day so far. But at least I wore long pants. And I have comparatively tons more body fat than she did; poor Miwa was shivering so hard I thought she was dying. The word of the day was definitely “Samuii” (Cold).
After the mini-tournament, (we split into three teams and played a total of 6 matches) we all went out to eat Chinese food. I’m normally pretty shy in large social situations, but I was feeling pretty confident in myself so it didn’t go too bad. My team had won both matches, I had actually hit several balls, and gotten someone out when I was second-basewoman! Miwa and I had made pretty good friends, she’d given me a hug and told me I was cute, and immediately started listing all the boys on the team as potential boyfriends for me. The rest of the evening was spent doing Karaoke and trading slang. I helped teach the meaning of air-quotes and knocking on wood, as well as some more…unsavory swear words, and they howled with laughter when I told them the only slang I knew: Unko/Unchi and Chiin-chiin. (if you don’t know what they mean, I’m not telling).
“Who taught you that?” One girl giggled.
“My mom,” I said.
There was a lot of explaining about mom, that night. There usually is, actually. It starts out with me saying (this conversation takes place in Japanese, of course):
“Hello, my name is Mieko, nice to meet you.”
“EEEEHHH! Mieko? But that’s Japanese isn’t it?!”
“Yes. My grandmother was Japanese.”
“EEHH! Is that so?”
“Yes. Nice to meet you.”
I haven’t yet tired of it. First off, I think it’s funny. Secondly, when I say it in large groups, the reaction is simultaneous- imagine two to twenty people at the same time widening their eyes and bending slightly forward to look at you better, and then afterwards smiling and jabbering away in rapid Japanese. Thirdly, and especially when I say it in Japanese, they have a lot more confidence in me as a Japanese speaker, so they’re more likely to speak to me in Japanese (though they still use, and I still rely, on quite a bit of English. Most KG students I’ve met are English majors, so…). Fourthly, I feel proud to say it here. Of course I feel proud to say it everywhere, but here especially. Like I’m staking my claim in my homeland, somehow. Declaring proudly that I belong here, that I remember my grandmother and my mother and my aunts and uncles; in some way it’s like saying I’ve come home. I hope to go to Mexico someday, and say it too. To announce to the world and my father and aunts and uncle, and to the grandfather I’ve never met that I haven’t forgotten; that I’ve made it home.
Anyway, I was tickled pink, and continued to be throughout the evening as my new friends expressed pleasant surprise and nodded in affirmation at my choice of foods, and skill with chopsticks (apparently the foreigners they’ve met thus far haven’t been so well-versed). They asked where I’d eaten such-and-such before, or where I learned such and such, and I’d say: my mom taught me. When I was little, yes. No they don’t have it often in America, but I know it well. I know, I know, bragging isn’t polite- but I get to do it so rarely in the states, so please forgive me. Miwa even said I was good at speaking Japanese. I don’t think I am at all, but then again she and most of the Japanese English-speakers I’ve met don’t think they’re good either (when they obviously are), so we end up praising each other and putting ourselves down.
Manami arrived as I was writing this. She’s beautiful!!! She also laughs just like Otosan, lol. Will update more later.