Immigration

Ask Gaijin Girl :Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman #8

Always ready to give advice on life and relationships because she never has one. 200px-Japanese_The_Spoken_Language_-_Book_1_-_Jorden_Noda

Dear Gaijin Girl,

I’m 16 years old, live in Iowa and want to learn Japanese. What’s the best way to do that?

Sincerely Stoked,

Lori

Dear Lori,

Dear sweet Lori, I know exactly how you feel. You see a Kurosawa, an Itami film or some anime and are blown away by how exotic and mysterious the people and culture seem to be. Whenever people make a list of all the places they’ve visited on their website or in conversation, Japan is always mentioned last because it is culturally and technologically the closest you can get to the moon. Hell, you could have gone to the moon and set up a self sustaining colony there and people would still say, “Really? You’ve been to Japan? That’s fascinating!”

Let me save you hours upon hours spent scribbling thousands upon thousands of angled pretzels into little green boxes or conjugating infixes.  Don’t bother learning Japanese, nobody is saying anything interesting.

I studied Japanese for three years in high school, four years in university (it was my major.) before coming to Japan to find out no one is debating the meaning of life or how many reincarnations it takes to reach enlightenment.  They’re talking about how much cuter their rhinestone Hello Kitty smartphone case is compared to the “old” one they bought two months ago. (and that’s just the men)

One of my Japanese language classmates translated a book and some letters written in pre-Word War II Japanese into English. Because of this, he won an award and got to meet the emperor and empress. (He said they were nice and cordial enough but that their heads were so disproportionately large compared to their tiny little bodies that they looked like bobble-heads on a dashboard.) The night before he flew back to America we took him out for a drink that turned into several. Then this man who I looked up to and whose Japanese ability I absolutely envied said, “Why the hell did I study Japanese! Where can I go? Where will this take me other than Japan?! I should have studied Spanish or French, I’d be able to travel around Africa independently if I spoke French! Where the hell can I go with Japanese?! “ At this point, a Japanese friend and classmate raised a glass proposing a toast in his nonnative English, “May you never remember your time here forever!”  “Here, here!” said my my award winning classmate as glasses clinked. Last I heard, he became a best-selling science fiction writer.  I have no idea if he translates his books into Japanese himself, but somehow I doubt it.

By the way, just so you know, many Japanese people don’t want you to learn Japanese.  It’s much more charming and romantic if you don’t. One summer, I went to the ocean. A twenty-something woman and her two friends approached me in the water.

“Where are you from?” she asked in Japanese.

“From the States. “ I answered.

“Cool, here, you can use my inner tube. Do you like Japan?”

“Sure, it’s great.”

“Your Japanese is pretty good. How long have you been here?

“Thanks, I’ve been here twelve years.”

“Ugh! Give me back my inner tube. You’re not any fun. You know too much about us!” she said as she took back her flotation device and swam in the direction of Westerners with tattoos on their forearms. Fat chance they’d been in Japan longer than a week unless they loved wearing long-sleeved shirts  year round.

If I still haven’t deterred you from studying Japanese even after I tell you that unless you live in California, Hawaii, are Asian or work as a translator for a Midwestern soybean farm, people are going to assume you are pretentious and loaded since you have the time to study such a seemingly superfluous language.  I recommend you have a “Japanese and…” plan. You can only learn a language effectively  if you have something to talk about so pick some skills you can master, get paid for and then talk about. Do you like Japanese manga or anime? Learn how to draw and research the words and phrases that come up during rape. Do you like politics? Practice throwing people under the bus and then become proficient at avoiding direct questions about it. Maybe one day, you’ll be the American ambassador to Japan and when a dispute over whether Japan, Korea or China owns a particular island, as well as, the natural resources under it, you can bust out a pair the binoculars on the first bullet train to Kyoto and say,”My, what beautiful temples you have here!”

My advice? Learn how to code.

Sincerely,

Gaijin Girl

Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman #7

Always Ready to Help You With Your Life and Relationships Because She Never Has One cute-babies-wallpapers-free-download-17

Dear Gaijin Girl,

My American husband and I are going to have a baby in ten months. I want to quit my job to be a full time mom. My husband wants me to go back to work soon after the baby is born. I’m confused. I thought he was supposed to take care of me? What should I do?

Seriously Shocked,

Yuri

Dear Yuri,

First of all, congratulations on bearing the fruit of unprotected sex, as well as, not having anywhere near enough communication on what you or your husband expects, needs and/or wants out of marriage ahead of time. You are going down a path so bilingually beaten you’re actually standing in a queue.

I have some news for you, Yuri. You’re going to be a full time mother whether you quit your job or not. That baby is going to take up more time, energy and money than you ever knew was possible. It appears that your husband is aware of this though he may not be aware that your office is expecting you to quit because it’s easier (and cheaper) for them to throw a farewell party and buy you a bouquet of flowers than grant maternity leave or offer flexible working hours. Japanese companies and medical institutions have a long way to go when it comes to women in the workplace/modern world . (After examining me, my male Japanese gynecologist while still looking at my who-ha, slaps me on the inner thigh shouting, “Good girl!”)

By the way, don’t tell Westerners when you’re 9 and 1/2 weeks pregnant that you’re 9 1/2 weeks pregnant. You’ll scare the shit out of them. They don’t know that you count from the last period instead of the last missed phantom period you were “supposed to have”. It sounds somewhat superhuman, like you are going to give birth to an action hero whose only weakness will be math.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, Yuri but ain’t nobody going to take care of you except you. Don’t misunderstand, I am not telling you to simply look out for #1 nor am I telling you to help your husband look out for #1.  I am saying, “Welcome to world of readjusted life expectations!” You might want to take notes with an erasable pen.

Hopefully, you two will learn to look out for, live for and take care of each other. I’m not exactly sure how that works as I am never in a relationship due to my zero tolerance to bullshit. However, as far as I can gather from the 3% of healthy couples around me, this is a learned skill that develops over time through earnest trial and error, as well as, honest and consistent communication.  Yuck! I know, it sounds hard and not anywhere near as sexy as the muddled montage of dubbed Beverly Hills 90210, Little House on the Prairie and Full House episodes that has been playing in your head since elementary school subconsciously shaping your international marriage expectations and priming you for epic disappointment. I suggest watching reruns of Roseanne, Married With Children, Raising Arizona and old family movies of my uncle at dinner desperately trying not to laugh while near deaf Grandpa hocks an epic and deep-seeded loogie a foot away from the table before announcing to all that I, his granddaughter, was not a picky eater as a baby, in fact, I “never did let go of that tit.” These are not accurate depictions of what family life should be like either but they will make you feel better about your current situation.

Good luck Momma, you are going to need it,

Gaijin Girl

Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman #5

Always Ready To Give You Advice On Life And Relationships Because She Never Has Oneimages Dear Gaijin Girl, When I was dating my American husband two years ago, he said he would move back to the States and take me with him. Now he says that he never wants to go back but I want to live in America. What should I do? Troubled in Tokyo, Megumi

Dear Megumi, I can see where you are coming from, but have you been watching the news lately or ever? If you haven’t, let me fill you in on a tinny tiny development, America has done lost its mind. If you see a restaurant advertisement in the States proclaiming the food will “blow your tastebuds away” it’s because the chef can’t handle criticism, can’t afford his meds and carries a concealed semiautomatic gun at all times. And unless you plan on living in New York City or downtown Chicago, you are going to have to buy a car. Buying and maintaining a car in America is like having a financial caesarian every five to ten years: It’s ridiculously expensive and there is always the possibility you might die in it. ( Because somebody shot you.) Oh, and if you move to America, you won’t be able to save a seat at Starbucks by placing your brand new iPhone 6 on the table anymore because people STEAL SHIT there. In Japan, people aren’t robbed so much as we are collectively screwed over blind and we take comfort in the knowledge that everyone is screwed over together, keeping the paramount virtue of harmony perversely in tact. Oh yeah, and being screwed over in Japan doesn’t involve getting shot. That’s a lovely thing about Japan. If someone doesn’t like you, they don’t shoot you. They just make your life so miserable that you want to kill yourself. Anyway, it is easy to project our hopes and dreams onto a country that we’ve never lived in but think we know a lot about. I’m guilty of that myself. I thought I’d move to Japan, meet a nice man and be embraced by his family. Instead, well, let’s just say that did NOT happen and I’m kind of glad my Japanese isn’t good enough to understand every single racist and sexist slur hurled my way. One day on a Tokyo train, what looked like a 6 year-old boy told his father he thought I had pretty hair. The father turned to his son and said, “Don’t you ever bring a white woman home!” before going off on a tirade on how a woman like me would walk all over him, take all his money and leave him with nothing!” When he finished, I walked up to them, look at the little boy in the eyes and said in Japanese, “Listen to your father. Do exactly what he says. He knows what he’s talking about.” and got off the train. I wasn’t upset, I was too flattered that I was skinny or even remotely pretty enough to remind him of the Russian hostess that stole his money. I think you need to evaluate your relationship. Did you marry your husband because he looked like your love handled green card to America or did you want to build a life with him wherever you may be? If you REALLY want to live in America, you don’t have to marry or be married to an American to do it. You can figure something out. One more thing, if you decide to leave your husband and go to America on your own, don’t date a drug dealer, and don’t let them keep drugs in your house/apartment. I know too many Japanese women who got mixed up with drug dealers and ended up in American jail for two years before being deported back to Japan. (And by too many, I mean one.) Life is not a movie or a music video. (That said, her English got really, really good as did her Spanish but don’t you finish this letter thinking American jail is the new Rosetta Stone.) Good Luck, Gaijin Girl

Amerika

I've spent more time in the U.S. in the past year than I've done in the past ten years combined. Things have changed. Nowhere is this change more prevalent than when going through immigration.

When Bush was president, walking from the airplane into immigration had a high security prison/dead man walking feel to it. Each visit, I walked down stark hospital white halls where I was greeted by Bush's smirking portrait hung above the immigration entrance.

"Welcome to America, Heh, heh, heh...Just kidding." he seemed to say.

The immigration officers sniffed at my living abroad without being in the military or the ministry. Why would you live abroad when America is the best country on earth? Surely the only reason to travel is to see how lucky you are to be born American compared to those poor unlucky bastards everywhere else.

Immigration officer, "You live in Japan?" Me, " Yes." "Why?" "I like job security and health care." The immigration officer's face relaxed, "I hear that." STAMP "Next!"

Since Obama became president, the snickering presidential portrait has disappeared and plasma flat screens showing people of color and women in burkas, eyes twinkling as they wave us in, "Come on in, the country's fine!" they seem to say.

This past visit, the immigration officer glances at my passport and speaks to me in a thick Mexican accent. "Welcome Home!" And for the first time in a long time, I felt at home.