Sunday, February 08, 2009

I felt like a real live human being today

So, I was bicycling to the train station to catch the first express train to Osaka this morning, long before first light. A rather disheveled old man crosses my path, and we exchange a few words as I speed by:

"Ohayo gozaimasu!" (Good morning!) he says.
"Ohayo gozaimasu," I reply.
"Samui desu ne." (It's cold [today], isn't it?)
"So desu ne." (Yes, it is.)

And the five seconds we were exchanging words was the best five seconds of my day. In that moment, I wasn't some different-looking foreigner that needed to be separated from the rest of everyday life. I wasn't some know-all source of English with whom to dangle friendship in exchange for English conversation. Most importantly, I wasn't some monkey expected to sing and dance and laugh at the small things in the small worlds of certain people.

No, in that moment, I was a regular human being who got some empathy and of course was happy to give empathy because, hey, it was cold this morning.

Don't get me wrong. I love Japan and I'm here for the long haul. But just like at home, some things (ask me in three weeks and three days what they are) just plain suck. That bicycle ride this morning wasn't one of them.

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