Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A former exchange student.

My exchange program is done, and so, I am not really an exchange student anymore. This post is about things that I could have/should have done/tried to do.

My biggest problems are that I am indesicive and a coward. I would get stuck trying to decide between two things, and then I would end up having done neither.
In the beginning (and for all of the time, in fact) I could never decide whether I wanted to study, or try to make friends. I would usually try to make friends, but I wasn't sure what the hell to do. My (insert million horrific adjectives here) homeroom teacher would always let us out of class late, and so when school was over, there was nobody left at school, and the kids all around, my class, the ones who I would have thought would have been my closet friends, would go home and study, because thats just about all they knew. I was beginning to think that everyone was like that, because thats all that I saw, but I didn't want to believe it. So then I would be stuck, alone, right after school, with the decision to go home to my first hostfamily, and be alone there and study, or try to go out and meet people. I would go out and try to meet people, but I had no idea (and I still don't) what the hell to do. So that left me with no friends, and nothing to show for my nonexistant studies. My teacher once even got mad at me because I wasn't 'trying hard enough'. Do you honestly expect me to me able to do the same as the kids in the advanced class?! This cycle kept going on and on, and keeps going on. I could have, and I sort regret not doing so, studied kanji (chinese characters) much harder, so that I could read much better. I still read some, but there are always characters that I should know, but there was no real motivation for me at that time to do so. The thing with calligraphy is that I really had no chance of reading it ever, because it is mostly Chinese, not Japanese. People often said to me 'even Japanese can't read it' Are you trying to tell me that I can't read it because I am a foreigner? Fuck you! The only one of my teachers who never complemented me was the homeroom teacher, and all of the other teachers said that they had never met an exchange student who did this well. Look at the other exchange students, it appears to me that all they ever do is go out and drink. I don't drink, but at least they are having fun. What do you mean that 'you aren't supposed to have fun. You should have lots of difficult experiences as a kid*'?!?! Thats why all of your children kill themselves!
Thats all I can think of right now, of all the things that really wound me up.

Now here I am, free, not an exchange student. But I am even lonelier, and have even less motivation to do anything.
I am sick of going to museums and temples, sick of spending whole days with no human interaction except for the receptionist at the museum, sick of being a coward and not talking to people, and sick of not being happy in this country.

People ask me why I remain here if I'm so unhappy?

It's because I want to be happy. No matter what happens, I am still learning things, so it is still important. Not reasonable is it? And if you think it is unreasonable, I don't really care. Because I am 'too self-centered**'.

*Actual quote. A conference with my homeroom teacher:
Me: I was kinda hoping that my time would have been a bit more enjoyable.
Him: It's not supposed to be fun! During your childhood you should have lots of difficult experiences!

**Actual quote. At the meeting about my extension with my counselor.
Him: Do you want to know why we didn't give you the extension?
Me: yes
Him: Are you sure? It might be a little difficult to take:
Me: Please tell me.
Him, in English: You are too self-centered.

They also told me that I was unable to except foreign cultures, because I always asked questions and kept asking questions, and everytime that someone said something that made absolutely no sense, I would ask why that was, and they give a lame answer, and I would ask again, and get another lame answer, and this would go on and on until I was so wound up that something would happen and then people told me that I was 'unable to except foreign cultures'.

And now its up to me, and as usual, I probably won't be able to make the best of my time here.


At 1:18 PM, Blogger Dash said...

So, two thoughts on your latest: First off I was talking to you online and over the phone off and on throughout this whole experience, and never once did I think, "gosh Peter sure is indecisive". There's the saying that if you ask the question you already know the answer, well I think you really know (especially given that, if I recall, this trip was meant to be an escape from the American education system) that you tried really hard, and things were just dammned disappointing.

In terms of Shodo, illegibility has nothing to do with your gaijin status, and everything to do with Chinese. Going to China and studying calligraphy would be unbelievably awesome. I know a foreign exchange program that might help (it's really more of a "foreign experience program").

Right now however you should locate a calligraphy professor at Waseda or something and email them and ask to meet for an hour or so to talk calligraphy, and what's entailed in its study. You might as well while you're there, you've got nothing to lose.

Hope you enjoy your next few days,

P.S. Go on a biking tour of Nakasendo highway.

At 6:20 PM, Blogger nan said...

and make some paper while you're at it. I meant to ask, did the calligraphy teacher require y'all to grind your own ink, or did you use prepared stuff?
And I'm with Dash on all he said. Dude. So how do you say "fuck you very much" in Japanese when they offer unhelpful advice? You need to teach me. I can still cuss in Finnish, learned via a friend who did his Jr year in HS in Finland. And my accent is still "ok" for someone who knows NO other words than the 1 phrase & "shit" in Finnish. I can learn how to say something vile in Japanese from you, and I'd feel honored. An extreme misuse of taxpayer dollars, or school lunch money or something, but I don't care. Because I'm self-centered.

I reckon you really bugged some folks because they couldn't break you, AND you are infinitely curious. Some folks are very threatened by curiosity. Because they don't have the answer. Why can't they just enjoy learning & not knowing everything? Dunno. So enjoy your amazing ability to love life and your curiosity. It's a GREAT gift. And really pisses people off. Like that's a bad thing?


At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The things you chose to do (or not to do) while in Japan pale in comparison with the ultimate decision to go abroad. You have worked so hard Peter, isn't it great to know that you're more than a tourist to these people? You probably give a rat's ass at what they now think of you, but you've done something 99% of Lincoln has no idea about. You my friend went balls to the wall, gave it all you got, and are still man enough to keep learning in the damn country.

I'm so excited to hear your speech at graduation, which you WILL speak at. Keep our thoughts with you.


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