Tuesday, May 1, 2007

From Gringa to Gaijin

First of all, Arigato (thank you) for your patience with me for setting up my first blog on the Nippon Archipelago. Accessing the internet has not been easy for me, considering I do not have a computer at the moment. Luckily, I found the Apple store which has 8 computers set up for free use!
It seems like ages ago that I was in Latin America. There I was known as `una gringa`. Here in Japan, the common word for westerners is `Gaijin` which literally means `alien`. In Osaka, there are many Gaijin (usually language instructors), but Japan is such a homogenous country, that it is common that foriegners are treated as aliens. It is actually typical for Japanese people (especially older men and women) to stop and stare at me, especially on the subway. I don't let this phase me, as I usually just flash my pearly whites at them, and they become embarassed enough not to repeat the staring fiasco.
Osaka is an intense city. First of all there's the fashion. Whoever said that Paris, Madrid, and Milan are the fashion capitals of the world have never been to Osaka. The fashions and trends here are unbelievable, making people watching a great passtime. Women and men alike are likely to spend hours in front of the mirror preparing themselves for the fashion parade that takes place near my neighborhood in central Osaka. Wiggs are big. Hairspray is huge. Both the dudes and the gals often have inches of volume of hairdos, and highlights, coloring, and extensions are very 'in'. It is uncommon for a downtown lady to be seen without highheels and loads of makeup, and Louis Vuitton purses, Tiffany jewelry, and the latest crazy clothes abound. On the other hand, it is also common to see traditionally-dressed women in the beautiful Japanese kimonos and hairstyles. What a city of contrasts.
The bikes are the next thing you notice about Osaka. Everyone owns one, including little old ladies and kids. Pedestrians do not have the right away, bikers do. Bikes come with a variety of extensions as well: the wire grocery basket, the baby seat, and the umbrella holder (handy for both sunny and rainy days) are all common bike upgrades. Needless to say, walking in my neighborhood is far from relaxing. Bike-dodging is the name of the game.
The third thing a foriegner would notice in Japan are the vending machines. They are everywhere, and often in clusters of 3 or 4. From the vending machines you can purchase the usual soda, hot or cold coffee in a variety of flavors, beer and other alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, and somtimes even hot chocolate or other hot tea beverages. It is perfectly legal to drink alcohol on the streets here in Japan. It is not uncommon to see the occasional business man stumbling down the street on a weekday afternoon due to excess alcohol consumption. It is hard to avoid running into the drunk dudes because they walk all over the sidewalk. In this case, the name of the game is drunk-businessman-dodging.
As for my work experience thus far, I have little complaints. Sure, NOVA is called the McDonald's of language schools (due to the fact that you can go practically anywhere in Japan and see a NOVA school), but my co-workers are fine, my bosses are nice, and I have a great schedule. So far so good.
Gaizka arrived saturday, suprising me for our two year anniversary. It has been great having him here, but he is currently sufferring from Jet Lag. Today I have the day off, and we are apartment hunting, gym inspecting, and Japanese language school searching. I also want to begin learning the traditional Japanese Taiko drumming, but have yet to encounter a place to study or take lessons.
So far, I am just having fun getting to know the city and becoming aquainted with the customs of Japan in general and Osaka in specific.
Thanks again for being patient while I got arround to setting up this first blog. Expect more in the near future!

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