Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Remembering Why I like it Here

Lately I have been having some difficulty with the Japanese culture. The reason being, we have entered stage 2 of culture shock, "Frustration/Rejection Stage". In this stage many things about the culture you are living in becoming frustrating, annoying, and seem stupid in comparison to the way things are done in your home country. I have been dealing with this for about the past month or so now until today when the character of the Japanese people reminded me of how much I really do like this country in spite of the things I have difficulty adjusting to.

Here's what happened...I was riding on a train to go to my doctor appointment in downtown Tokyo. It was around 9:30 in the morning which is still when most of the trains going into Tokyo-proper are still very crowded and my train was no exception. On crowded trains in Japan you lose all sense of personal space...it no longer exists. People are pushing you in the back without any spoken words, grunts, or looks. It's quite odd really. Silent pushing and cramming....nothing like that would ever go on in the states. Well, as weather has cooled down here some of the trains haved turned off their AC system. Why? I don't know. Many bodies + Enclosed space = NEED FOR AC!! So, a crowded train with many, many bodies crammed into one another without any air blowing on you makes for one miserably hot ride. It seemed miserably hot to this pregnant lady, at least. As we were pulling into our destination station I started to get a little woozy. Then, my ears began to ring and everything around me seemed to go silent. So, I leaned forward and grabbed onto the nearest rail not caring who I was reaching over (I can reach over people here...they aren't so tall). I couldn't catch my breath. "Stay up, Abby. Stay up." This of course was my pride cheering me on...not wanting to look like a stupid gaijin (foreigner). But, in spite of trying to cheer myself on my knees gave way and I blacked out...at least I think I did. Maybe for a second or so. The next thing I remember someone on my right was touching my arm and trying to look into my face and on my left was a woman trying to give me her seat. I wanted to take it but as I was going the train doors opened and the crowd of people behind me pushed me forward. The ladies who were to my right and left grabbed me by the arms (Japanese women may be small but they are strong) and helped me off the train and onto the platform. I was wobbly and was trying to stand up but couldn't. They stayed near me until I was ok and even after I said I was I think they followed me for a little ways just to make sure. These ladies took care of me. It was a care and concern that I would expect from my friends and family, not strangers. I was a stranger and they helped me. For this and so many other reason I am thankful to get to interact with these people. Although I may not understand why they do things the way they do sometimes (i.e. in my work place), the people of Japan have been nothing but kind and hospitable. If I had to faint on a train in a foreign country, I am thankful I was in Japan when I did it.