Thousands of Miles from Home


Fight For Your Right

This week is full of parties and visitors (as fits the holiday season). As far as people, a new boy Peter from Australia is staying in Tamano for a month, going to Tamano High School. I met a girl from Malaysia, and Jittan is also staying with the Watanabe family for a few days before winter break. Shoko is getting ready to host a knockout holiday party, inviting more people than I thought lived in the town of Tamano.

This week, the ESS (English speaking society) threw a party after school. A bunch of kids showed up, but ironically all business was conducted in Japanese (except conversation between Andee, Peter, and I). I ate far too much candy, cake and chocolate, and was repeatedly whooped at UNO. This reinforced the fact that many japanese games are "punishment" related. By that I mean that the losers are usually subjected to some sort of (small) torture. In the case of the ESS party, losers had to drink a whole glass of shaved-ice topping, sugary enough to shut down a kidney. Other variations I have wintessed at school include a slap to the arm (shi-pe), a finger flick to the forehead (deco-pin), and a chop to the head (you guessed it, cho-pu). After the party (because it's always good to chase sugar with oil) I made another batch of latkes, twice the size of the first installment. Andee came over to help dispose of them.

This week the Rotary Club of Tamano threw their holiday party at the Marine Hotel, which Masatoshi, Shoko, and I attended. It was good to see some of the rotary members get tipsy and play bingo following the extra-large buffet style dinner. While I did not win at bingo, I was a huge winner for the evening. One of the rotary members, after having a few too many drinks, offered to trade a box of cookies which I won at a ring toss game for a large unopened box wrapped in red paper he had won at bingo. My mind shot instantly to the thought of a Japanese Monty Hall from Let's Make a Deal. Did I really want to trade my box of cookies for what may or may not be in his box? Perhaps it was filled with cabbages, as I had witnessed so many times on that addictive TV program. For all I knew it could be a goat, or a lifetime supply of baked beans. Against my best judgement (and love for cookies), I made the trade and thanked him by pouring another glass of beer for the rotary member (a sign of respect). When the night was over I went home with two boxes of expensive pears (gifts for everyone at the party), a fiber optic christmas tree that now sits in the TV room (much less tacky than one would expect), two boxes of chocolate cookies, some japanese lottery tickets, and a light up fiber optic christmas house that Shoko gave to one of her friends as a christmas gift (it won't be missed).

Later in the week, I found the chance to go to two parties at the same hotel in Tamano. Another new face had shown up in town, Evelyn (real name Poon Tze Sun) from Malaysia who was on exchange for a few weeks in Japan through the Lions club. Shoko was celebrating a Tamano High School Reunion (she refused to tell me which year) and the new girl was having a Lions club welcome party at the same place. Shoko's brother, who is in the Lions club, asked me to translate Evelyn's english into japanese. I'll repeat that. Shoko's brother asked me, a run of the mill American looking gaijin to translate for Evelyn, who could pass for japanese anyday (although speaking chinese). I laughed for a long time at the idea, but couldn't resist going. I went to Shoko's party first, chatting with some of her high school friends before going upstairs to the Lions club party. Evelyn was already there with her host sister whom I had met before. Evelyn gave a small speech that she had written in japanese, the Lions club president said a few words, then we began to eat. Throughout dinner the Lions club members asked questions to Evelyn which I translated (more or less) into english, and then retranslated her answers back into japanese. Luckily for me, as the night went on and more alcohol was consumed by the Lionarians (sort of like Rotarians?), they got more brave about their use of english. This led to some really hilarious moments where tipsy japanese men tried their best at simple, although often misused, english words and phrases, while repeatedly questioning me if I though Evelyn's host sister (who was a Lions member's daughter) was pretty. I was so happy when Evelyn told me she had a good time, because if I had not have witnessed this sort of crazy behavior before it would be the strangest welcome party I'd ever seen. We talked during the dinner in english, and she told me a little about Malaysia (of which I know very little).

When the party was over, Shoko's brother brought me back downstairs to where Shoko was finishing dinner. She told me that some of her friends were going to go to a karaoke parlor, and asked if I wanted to come along (but of course). The bar was close, so we walked. Along the way I realized that I knew many of the people who were at the party, and others introduced themselves to me. When we got to the parlor, I chatted with two men who knew me indirectly; one had a daughter at Tamano High School, and the other practiced Aikido with my homeroom teacher (I am thinking of joining their Aikido class sometime next year). The man to my left thoroughly embarassed his daughter (I'm sure), by calling her on the phone and telling her to talk to me the next time she saw me (for reasons I am unsure of). Subsequently, today at school she pointed herself out to me, and we had a good conversation. Another man at the party called his friend in Tokyo who couldn't make it to the reunion, and told me to talk to him in english, really fast. Everyone got a pretty good kick out of that. All he could say was "I don't understand," and "too fast!" By the end of the evening I learned that japanese people really like to drink whiskey and water, and that you can still be middle aged and have fun.

But everyone already knew that, right?


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