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Amparo Bertram

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05:14 pm: That dreaded question
There is one question that I'm asked constantly. I always dread it, because I never know what to answer.

Q: When are you going home?

Now, I could be honest and say, "Not until next year." In fact, I've tried giving that answer. That's not what they want to hear.

Q: No, no, I mean, when are you going home this summer?

Me: ... <sigh> I'm not going home this summer.

The person always looks at me as if I just said I would be vacationing on Mars.

Q: You're NOT GOING HOME?!

Me: No, I'm not going home.

Q: Don't you miss your family?

Me: Not particularly. I talk to them on email all the time. [I love you guys, but I don't need to go running home every couple months...]

Q: You're REALLY not going home?

Why is this so hard for Japanese people to comprehend? Do they think that Japan is so inferior to America that anyone would want to get away at any possible opportunity? Or do they think that Japan is such a difficult place for foreigners to live that we want to take a break from it whenever we can?

Let's just say that I did take a two week vacation to go back to Michigan. Here's what I envision:
  • I spend ~$1000 for a round-trip ticket and cry just thinking of how many books I could have bought with that money.
  • I endure the hellish ~12 hour flight back.
  • I suffer jetlag for days.
  • I mope around the house for two weeks, feeling out of place, with absolutely nothing to do except possibly eat real pizza.
  • Flight + jetlag: lather, rinse, repeat.

    Why the HECK would I want to put myself through that? And yet, I have been asked "When are you going home?" countless times, at every school vacation, by Japanese people who can't even figure out that they should be asking "ARE you going home?" instead.

    Today I dropped by the school to pay my rent. On my way in, I ran into a teacher who was shocked to see me. "You didn't go home?" she asked, dumbfounded. She went on to explain that she had been to a tea ceremony earlier, and she had thought to invite me to give me a chance to wear my yukata, but she assumed that I had gone back to America and so hadn't bothered to call.

    Oh, well.

    I ran into another teacher on my way out. She was surprised to see me also, but she took the opportunity to ask if I would be free on Monday. She wants me to show her how to bake a cake. She said, "A plain sponge cake is fine..."

    ^_^; I never make plain sponge cakes. I like chocolate better. I'll bring a couple different recipes and see what she likes best.

    As for progress on wednesday_10_00's yukata, I finished sewing on the collar and I'm slightly more than halfway done with the tomoeri. After I finish hemming the inner side of the tomoeri, all that will be left is to attach the sleeves and it will be done. I probably could have plowed through and completed it today, but I pooped out.

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    [User Picture]
    From:wednesday_10_00
    Date:July 29th, 2005 03:39 am (UTC)
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    Why is this so hard for Japanese people to comprehend?

    I think you're forgetting that it's ingrained in the Japanese culture to go home twice a year, no matter what. All Japanese people who don't live near their families are thinking about going home right now, so it's a natural question to ask. (I do agree that it's more natural to ask IF you're going home, and that's what I usually get asked.)

    Going home custom aside, I think it's pretty natural to miss your family and/or get homesick for your own country. I know I would go nuts if I didn't go home once a year, and a part of me would like to go more often. (I don't because like you said, it's expensive and the the flight/jet lag is no fun.)
    [User Picture]
    From:spacealien_vamp
    Date:July 29th, 2005 04:12 am (UTC)
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    I think you're forgetting that it's ingrained in the Japanese culture to go home twice a year, no matter what.

    But it's also the country of 単身赴任, where parents are assigned to stay apart from their children for possibly years. (I mean, just look at the end of Boku wa ne.) Not to mention the number of people who go to Hawaii or Okinawa or take a Sky Travel tour to New York wherever instead of visiting family over vacations. If I were to travel overseas during the summer, I'd certainly want to go someplace I've never been before.

    Plus, we covered this last year over winter break. There really isn't an excuse for being so shocked every time.

    (I do agree that it's more natural to ask IF you're going home, and that's what I usually get asked.)

    I'm rarely given an "if," it's almost always "when." And then they really, really don't like it when I give them my "next year" answer.

    I think it's pretty natural to miss your family and/or get homesick for your own country.

    I can understand being homesick, but not to the point of having to go halfway around the world over every vacation. Besides, if I were homesick enough to want to fly back to Michigan, I would probably act like it long before actually buying tickets.
    [User Picture]
    From:wednesday_10_00
    Date:July 29th, 2005 05:55 am (UTC)
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    But it's also the country of 単身赴任, where parents are assigned to stay apart from their children for possibly years.

    Yes, for some reason it seems to be more acceptable to not see your children for long periods of time when they're actually children. Once they've grown up, you HAVE to see them twice a year, or they get a lecture. I don't get it.

    There really isn't an excuse for being so shocked every time.

    I'm totally with you on that one. I don't think anyone even asked me if I was going home this summer; they know I only go home at Christmas. They asked me if I was going somewhere this summer, but not if I was going home.
    [User Picture]
    From:spacealien_vamp
    Date:July 29th, 2005 01:29 pm (UTC)
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    Once they've grown up, you HAVE to see them twice a year, or they get a lecture. I don't get it.

    ...It's to prepare them for taking care of you in your old age once they're old enough to start having an income...?

    They asked me if I was going somewhere this summer, but not if I was going home.

    See, that's a question I can handle. I could go on at length about the plans I do have for the summer.
    [User Picture]
    From:amilyn
    Date:July 29th, 2005 08:00 am (UTC)
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    I offer sympathy on the dumb questions.

    Oh...and, wow!...it's so amazing that you can use chopsticks so well! And...can you really survive without eating meat? And the fact that you've been there so long must be why you look Japanese...

    Japan is weird. The US is dangerous and whacked and scaring me, but Japan remains bizarrely schizophrenic.

    I TOTALLY get why you wouldn't go home; too much money and work and exhaustion. *hugs*
    [User Picture]
    From:spacealien_vamp
    Date:July 29th, 2005 01:53 pm (UTC)
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    Oh...and, wow!...it's so amazing that you can use chopsticks so well! And...can you really survive without eating meat? And the fact that you've been there so long must be why you look Japanese...

    <giggle> Yep, that's it exactly.

    Japan is weird.

    That's it in a nutshell, all right.
    [User Picture]
    From:kataren
    Date:July 29th, 2005 09:54 am (UTC)
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    There is one question that I'm asked constantly. I always dread it, because I never know what to answer.

    "I missed the plane." Of course, they'd have to get sarcasm quite well, or you'd be stuck with more questions you don't quite know how to answer. :P

    The cost alone is frightening enough, & besides, you never know when you'll get another opportunity to live & work in a foreign country. Experience it, I say. :) My colleagues still can't get over the fact I visit my parents only once a year. They just can't grasp the fact that our family doesn't hate each other, we're just independent people. And they're hundreds of miles away. (The fact that I'm overworked & have had quite a number of off days cancelled by the office is conveniently overlooked. ^^;;)

    Sponge Bob has forever ruined sponge cakes for me. I get flashes of gay starfish.
    [User Picture]
    From:spacealien_vamp
    Date:July 29th, 2005 02:29 pm (UTC)
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    Experience it, I say.

    That's what I think...though when it comes to actually experiencing things, I tend to be lazy and procrastinate. ^_^; (Sure, I'll go check out the ninja village...someday...)

    Sponge Bob has forever ruined sponge cakes for me. I get flashes of gay starfish.

    <laugh>
    [User Picture]
    From:megory
    Date:July 29th, 2005 11:34 am (UTC)

    Hmmmm....

    (Link)
    Maybe a simple:

    "I love my family *VERY MUCH* (my emphasis), and we stay in contact all the time.

    I also love Japan, and don't want to miss any opportunity from this experience.

    My family understands and supports me in this choice.

    ...Besides, if I don't go home, it gives them a great reason to come visit me here ( because *they* love *me* so much). That way they get to know and love Japan, too."

    If you try it, tell me if it helps!

    ^-^
    [User Picture]
    From:spacealien_vamp
    Date:July 29th, 2005 01:53 pm (UTC)

    Re: Hmmmm....

    (Link)
    If you try it, tell me if it helps!

    I will definitely be sure to give it a try the next time someone asks.
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