Monday, October 09, 2006

The Refraction of Culture.

My name is Peter Loewi, and I live in Japan. I left the US about a month before my 17th birthday, and have since spent the past 6.5 months living in Tokyo. As any idiot can guess, living in Japan is much different than living in the US, especially since I have grown up (hear that Japan, I am an adult!) in the US. Unfortunately, I am 17, and Japanese 17 year olds are, well, not adults by the American sense of the word, or for the Japanese sense of the word either. But I am not a Japanese 17 year old! So why I am being treating like one?
Ladies and Gentlemen, I now present to you the concept of 'The Refraction of Culture".
In physics, you have the the refraction of light, and (for those of you who dont know about it, I cant explain it very well, so please go ask one who does know! sorry!)
Take the exact same principle, but treat culture like a river. All of the people from the culture are in the river. All of the places and things and facts about that culture are in the river as well. I am on the bank, looking in to the culture. But, do the refraction of culture, I see things differently than the people in the river, and the reverse is also true. The people in the river see me differently than the people around me see me. So which is really? The really me is the really me right, forget about refraction. So why arent they treating me like I should be treated? Why arent they letting me do things that I should be doing? I hate not being in charge of myself. Its my life, why dont I have responsibility for it?

I always knew I was a poor swimmer.

ps. If you havent read Foreign Studies, by Shusaku Endo, I think now is the time.


At 2:42 AM, Blogger yr ma said...

Dear Pio,

Roger and I talked on the phone last night. Remember that he worked with the Japanese for years when he worked for Samsonite? He is familiar with the deep reserve of the Japanese people, but felt he had made friends. Still, when he retired and tried to rekindle these friendships, he found that people treated him like a stranger.
Harsh. You are experiencing this every day, but remember that they are still people with a heart and soul. The culture keeps them at a distance. So sorry.

love, mom

At 12:45 PM, Blogger Dashiell said...

Hey Peter,
I'm really sorry to hear that things, are, to put it mildly, not going any better with your host family. I cannot offer any advice as to your inner feelings towards your hosts and Japan, but I can tell you what Sweeney says about viewing other cultures. The first and foremost is viewing things entirely as the actual people would view them, the other, and by far the most difficult is never, ever reflect on that culture or judge it, from western eyes or others. I'm not intending this to solve any problems, and I'm deeply sorry you're not allowed to express yourself, there is no excuse for that. Just was thinking about it. Let me know what Endo Shusaku thinks, and give me a call.
Hope things improve,
Missing you,
P.S. I couldn't be on High Five this year, I was out of town, but the team (Neal, Sarah B., Grace, Chris, and one other who will hate me for forgetting them), won! I'm so jealous!
P.P.S You should see the movie Umi to Dokuyaku, it is based on a Endo Shusaku novel and sounds amazing. Best Wishes again -D

At 1:51 AM, Anonymous Nan said...

One of my favorite bumper stickers: Honor Diversity. This came out when the Right wingers were trying to ban gay whatever. You were cool if you had that on your bumper. If, however, you had a Right to Life sticker, or something even just like "Jesus says have a nice day", you'd get flipped off or scowled at by the very person with the "Honor Diversity" sticker. I always thought that was a great illustration of one side not getting that the other side didn't "GET" their view, or even respect that they could have a view. It's not just one country that does that. You're in a great position to someday be a great mediator, or peacemaker from having been thru this. I'm with Dashiell---you're looking thru your own refraction at them, too. It sucks, but let me just say I survived visiting my relatives for years in Louisiana by having the mindset that it was NOT the USA---but another country. Then I wouldn't be so judgemental & I could relax & enjoy the differences instead of condemning them. I lasted 9 months for the longest visit. I was REALLY depressed for part of it. Don't let the bastards get you down. You'll still be you when you leave, and are still you while you're there. But they are also still frickin' Japanese and will be when you leave. They WILL be different for having known you, though. And better for it!!!

Long distance kisses & hugs,


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