Monday, October 09, 2006

As a foreigner in Japan, you tend to be asked the same questions over and over again. Can you eat raw fish? Can you use chopsticks? Do you like natto (smelly, viscous, fermented soy beans)? Though it can become tedious, it is generally believed that these questions are just a way that the Japanese have of reaching out to you. I have noticed that the mothers at the pre-school have similar set phrases and patterns that repeat themselves, too. After the sports festival. It was “your husband seems so kind.” Now, I am aware that the correct response in Japanese is to deflect any thing that at all resembles a compliment. When you are told you are good at speaking Japanese, you say “No, no I still have a long way to go.” So when mothers said this to me about my husband I wasn’t sure what to say. I tried the blasé, “Really?” Then I tried the vague, “No, it is different.” With a mother I know a little bit better I said, “No, he has two faces.” She said, “Only two? Mine has four or five!” “Well, then, I guess I have it easy!” I replied and we laughed, which went a long way in developing my relations with that mother, however I felt like I was short changing Toshi. The fact of the matter is that things have been wonderful between us recently. We laugh, we touch, we jump in and help one another out with the kids when rescuing is needed. This month we will celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. I guess it just took us that long to learn to live with each other. So when yet another mother said to me “Go-shujin yasashi so.” I said to her, in my broken Japanese something like this: “I know that I am supposed to say, no, no, not at all. But recently my husband has been helping me out so much and we have been so happy together that I want to say, YES! I am so lucky! He is great!.” To my honesty she replied with the standard phrases that are always bandied about “Really? I envy you.” And even though I hadn’t said what was expected of me, I felt as though I had said the right thing. Now I just hoped I haven’t jinxed it.

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