Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Do Everything as Politely as Possible

We now have three more people in our house--three beautiful young Japanese girls, here for a month to study the English language. It's the second time we've hosted girls from this program, and I'm amazed that we get to have three at a time--that there aren't so many people clamoring for the privilege that we would instead only be entitled to one or two at the most. Their names are Ai, Lina, and Shioli.
We've spent the last number of days unearthing a decent living quarter out of the downstairs where Tim has wrought much havoc in leaving about 10 times too many toys out (high time we went through it and had a garage sale!) and we'd stored some excess furniture for which we now have found other homes...I think the siding workers were skeptical that it would come together, but to my delight and by God's grace, it did. I was going to go buy some blankets and a comforter at Target but remembered on the way, again by God's grace, that our friend Lila had offered to lend me a comforter for them. I called and asked her if she also had any blankets she could lend. She did. I am so thankful! She must have saved me about $100 or more.
The hard thing at this point is knowing how much sleep the girls need or what food they are hungry for. When they arrived, it would have been about 10 a.m. Japan time, but they'd perhaps been sleep-deprived from the trip. Maybe not, though--they and the girls we had before seem to be able to drop off to sleep at a moment's notice; as soon as we get in the van their eyelids start drooping and their heads tip. I call them my wilting blossoms when they do that.
The first day or two they will be very quiet and it's hard to get a reply out of them. I ask them something and they give each other confused looks and maybe discuss it between them in short Japanese comments, and then look blankly back at me. I can't find out whether they slept on the plane, even when I do the little sleep sign (silly enough)--two hands together on one side of the face. (Don't all people know that means sleep?) And then I hold out my arms like the wings of a plane. They laugh. I say, "Did you sleep on the plane?" before and after, and they must be able to understand but they act as if they don't. Maybe they're afraid they'll look as silly as I do.
We frantically made them an American breakfast since they were hungry and it was their morning time (silly again, here, at 4 p.m., no?)--hash browns, scrambled eggs, English muffins--and then sticky rice as a backup. Good thing, too. They wouldn't touch any of that suspicious American food. They each ate a lady-like little bowl of Japanese rice and that was all. Our previous Japanese guests, Shino and Azumi, learned to eat heartily of our food by the time they left, and I think they did like much of it. Only one of them liked scrambled eggs. I hope these three try more of these things before they leave. Tomorrow we'll give them pizza. They sound approvingly familiar with that.
Their first day here must be a sensory overload--new sights, smells, foods, living quarters...new people who talk funny. We observed how much more careful they are in everything they do, whether eating, talking, opening packages--they don't tear into anything, they eat little tiny bites and you never see their mouths open larger than just to get the food in. I think some of this is nerves, and some is cultural. Still, I suspect we must seem very big and clumsy to them, perhaps justifiably. It gives a new aspect to that phrase, "Get the job done." A very American attitude. Japanese might be, "Do the job as politely as possible."
Tim seems to be the most able to elicit laughter from the girls and to set them at ease. The moment he opens his mouth or does anything mortifying, they think it's hilarious. He brought them outside to meet the neighbor kids, and now there's a game of baseball going on out there. The girls are participating. It's good to see them be more relaxed and happy, and adjusting to this crazy American life.


Leila said...

Connie, that's so cool! I would love to host exhange students sometime - when I have a house and more time...(?) when will that be? My parents hosted Japanese students when I was growing up in Bothell, and I LOVED it. I just remember they loved savory foods for breakfast, and considering they were in charge of getting me fed and to the bus in the mornings, I still prefer leftovers and "dinner" stuff for breakfast over sweets. :)

NeverAlone said...


I hope for you that you will be able to do so sooner than you think. It is wonderful, I wouldn't miss it!
Perhaps you will be able to give me insight and help me make them more at ease, with what you know from your experiences.
I do think it's good for all of us--for the girls that visit, I hope, but also for all our family. It gets us out of our rut and helps us appreciate how much our culture shapes who we are and how we look at life. I think it probably will impact our kids for years to come, as it did you, and teach them how rewarding it is to learn about other cultures and to open their hearts more readily to people within them.