02
Feb
09

The effect of “Obama” on my life in Yokohama?

I could easily answer “very little” as far as the Japanese are concerned, and end this entry right here and now. But, for the sake of the handful of readers who have been waiting patiently for me to get back to blogging about Kawaiiland, I thank you and I will elaborate.

Since the inauguration I have been useless, too busy being too happy to write. Talking to friends and watching the news has given me only a taste of how electric the energy must be in America. I envy all of  you guys back home. I haven’t had a bout of homesickness like this since I’ve moved here. I actually miss my country. Not just the people I know and the city I grew up in, but the whole damn country. I love all you guys! It’s a first for me.

My Japanese friends are very excited, too…for me, that is. “Congratulations” they say to me, like I won the election. In a way they’re right, for I feel that this election was not only a win for Obama, and the democratic party, but also it was a win for America, and all Americans regardless of party affiliation, regardless even of whether they know it or not. A very big win. A win that says that we are finally climbing out from under the debris of  9-11, dusting ourselves off, and getting on with the business of forming a more perfect union. It proclaims we’ve decided to take a chance, to let hope heal, to starve the fear that the previous administration saw fit to feed- to their advantage and our disadvantage. And we’ve announced our rebirth, of sorts, to the world in the most resounding fashion, as only us loud, vulgar, uncouth Americans can.

Yeah, it’s a giant step for us, worthy of congratulations…

But when most Japanese tell me congratulations, they don’t mean that at all! They don’t even mean congratulations on finally getting that Bush character out of the White house.

“Why say ‘congratulations’ to me?” I asked my student.

“Obama katta deshou?”  Obama won, right? Like Obama was some horse I’d bet on, looking at me like isn’t it obvious? Did I say the wrong thing? I mean, if I know anything I know black people want Obama to be president!

I’ll accept their congrats if I know them or, rather, if they know me, because if they do then they’ve seen me wearing Obama shirts and caps and buttons, or the coffee mug on my desk which is littered with photos and stories about the election. Clearly I am enamored with the man and the message.

But, when this congratulations business comes from strangers…or people who hardly know me I find it to be a little presumptuous if not rude. But maybe I’m being a little sensitive. What do you all think?

For example, I went to the doctor the other day. I had something in my eye, and it had stuck around for over a week. Naturally I thought it was a cataract or cancer of the pupil or I’d rammed my 6 ‘0 high head into too many 5’10 Japanese door frames and had finally jarred something loose,  so I made my way to the doctor. I waited for over an hour, she saw me for a little over 30 seconds, examined my eyes up close, pulled out the loose strand of eye lash that had worked its way deep beneath my eyelid, and asked me did I feel better.

“Yeah I do!” I cried excited with relief. “So, it’s not cancer? I’m not going blind from too much Internet?”

“I don’t think so.” Sometimes I don’t think so is the closest you’re gonna get to a “no” in Japan.

“Thank you Sensei…”

“Don’t mention it…and congratulations!”

“Thank you,” I said, thinking, under the circumstances, she was congratulating me for something having to do with my eyes; perhaps for not waiting until that wayward eyelash had become a serious problem, which I would have considered a strange reason to say congratulations a few years back but, in Japan, you have to modify your definition of certain words and strange is one of these words.  Still I wanted to know why she’d said it. “Congratulations for what, Sensei?”

“For Obama.”

Anger shot through me…I didn’t know why. But I swallowed it and said, “Oh.”

to be continued…

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9 Responses to “The effect of “Obama” on my life in Yokohama?”


  1. 1 Mo(NL)
    February 3, 2009 at 12:40 am

    LOL…… maybe because your black and Obama is kind off black….so Congratulations
    victory to the black people 🙂

    regards

    MO

  2. February 3, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    I don’t know – maybe she means the American collective – all of us – I think the world was surprised too. I think the speculation reached far beyond our own borders – the borders of our minds, possibilities, land, and ocean. And sometimes when you hear good news you just want to congratulate someone. Like the mom who gets congratulated because her son hit a home run – she had nothing to do with that home run – the son did it – but the son’s on the field and somewhat unreachable – the mom will have to do. It would be interesting to see if any of your white counterparts get the same congratulations. And maybe she was really happy for you – maybe she was thinking – good for you, it’s been a long time coming.

    • February 3, 2009 at 1:45 pm

      I like the sound of that…thanks! BTW, I wasn’t questioning her authenticity. I’m sure her feelings were genuine. I don’t think she was pretending to congratulate me. I’m just wondering what was she congratulating me for.
      It would be interesting to know if white people have the same experience actually….if you’re out there let me know.

      Loco

  3. February 3, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    I think areason2write is on to something. It was the same for me for bad news as a Brit – when Princess Di was killed I got strangers offering their condolences to me (if only they had known I am half American and anti-monarchy to boot). I felt like saying “I never knew the woman, never particularly liked her, thought she was a big clothes-horse phoney” but, you know, I just swallowed it and said “Thanks, I’m coping with the terrible loss.”

    So, in the best possible sense, congratulations!

    • February 3, 2009 at 9:53 pm

      Hey OMinA thanks for the shout!
      I agree.
      How did they know you were British? Or they didn’t care and that’s your point? If it is, I gotcha. That would be similar to what I’m talking about…In fact, that would be exactly what I’m talking about.

      Loco

  4. 6 timothy tam
    February 3, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    You sound a bit like my Mum, I send her a birthday card and she psycho-analyze every word, every detail, the picture on the cover etc, just looking for something to be offended by. Don’t be so sensitive, if people want to offend you they’ll just come straight out and say something nasty, rather than hiding it in a cryptic message.

    • February 3, 2009 at 10:03 pm

      Quite Contrary Timster, Actually I walk around making excuses for the behavior and ignorance I encounter everyday…I wonder which is saner. Calling a spade a club, a heart or a Joker, or calling a spade a spade? Is it my sensitivity or their insensitivity? That’s the question I deal with. And you must not live in Japan. Cause you”d know that the last thing the JPs will do is come out and say something nasty directly. God I wish they did! And I never said any of them wanted to offend me. No, that I could deal with. That’s the American way. But, you’re right about one thing, Tim-san: the Japanese are not cryptic.
      Thanks for the shout

      Loco

  5. February 4, 2009 at 12:10 am

    How did they know you were British?

    Probably the bad teeth and limp handshake.

    • February 4, 2009 at 5:45 am

      LOL, u mean half limp half bad teeth (-;

      loco


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