Now, let me fill you all in on what I've been up to. 6 months is a long time to sum up in one post, so I'll be dividing it into 3 parts. See the "6 MONTHS LATER..." category on the right side of this webpage for other posts to come!
For those of you who don't know, I identify as Japanese-American. I was born and raised in a Japanese household, but grew up in America. I am what would be defined as a "heritage learner" of Japanese, meaning I can speak relatively well, but have not learned to read or write (I'm working on it!). With a Japanese face, a Japanese name, and the ability to speak colloquially, it's impossible for people to immediately comprehend my situation. And of course, here is where my anxiety kicked in. It was stressful going out to purchase a meal, let alone going out to do work. I was terrified of letting people know I didn't know how to read the menu, or I didn't understand when they spoke too quickly when using keigo, the honorific form of Japanese language. And when I did, I saw, perhaps projected, a look of confusion, even a look of disapproval on their face. It didn't help that due to this lack of confidence, I often stumbled with my words, or simply nodded and smiled like I knew what they were saying. My self-confidence in how I identified with my cultural background took a serious fall.
However, I pushed through the week. It was only a week after all. And while the trip was an emotionally difficult one, there were definitely some incredible experiences. Through my work, I was able to meet some amazing people, and some of them even complimented me on my use of "proper" Japanese! According to some, these days, many young people in Japan have forgotten when and how to use keigo (mentioned above)-- and they found my consistent use of it, honed from two years of training in college, refreshing. I was also able to experience famous places in Japan I'd only ever read about! I strolled around the glamorously wealthy district Roppongi, took a shopping trip around the crazy city of Shibuya, and ate dinner at a classy restaurant in Ginza. I visited the college campuses of the famous Tsuda College and Sophia University, and met professors and students who, like myself, were interested in the cross-cultural experience. I was able to meet up with some of my friends, and even my father (who was on a business trip at the time), all of whom were able to show me around their favorite parts of the city.
All in all, I am glad that I went. It was a solid preface to the completely different experience that was about to follow, an internship in Japan. And that, my friends, deserves a whole other post. Stay tuned!
Bye for now,