19 February, 2012

A foreign country, just down the road

Yesterday we went to CAJ's Middle School Play: Aladdin. As is my habit I invited a Japanese friend who loves to come to these English speaking performances. She in turn invited a mutual friend of ours and we ended up with a party of nine people, our whole family plus my two friends and two of their children. Actually the two girls who came were kindergarten classmates of our nine-year old son. He was pretty embarrassed at their presence, but we tried to ignore that fact.

The play was good, simpler than the Disney version. There was just one spot in the middle where it wasn't too clear to our ESL friends how the bad guy took possession of the princess instead of Aladdin. But overall, a fun experience. The middle schoolers (many of whom were classmates of our eldest son), did a great job and looked like they were enjoying themselves. We even had an Australian princess on stage!

After it was over we scurried over to the gym, where an all-day international schools basketball tournament was being held. This meant that the lobby was warm, and had goods for sale at the concessions stand. A great place to sit and chat — at least it was warm, which was more than you could say for outside (it was below 5 degrees Celsius).

We caught the last five minutes of the last game of the season for CAJ's B-team (US=Junior Varsity team). My friends poked their heads in to watch the closing moments of the game and found themselves in what seemed like another world. In fact as we sat and chatted in the lobby, they expressed their feelings that they'd stepped into a foreign country.

I did point out to them that there were a lot of Japanese people around. Granted in this environment many were speaking English. However all the signs were in English and the concessions stand price menus had both American dollar and Yen. They were selling both American and Japanese food: hot dogs and chilli dogs; curry rice and noodles. US made chips and Seaweed flavoured chips (or do they call them crisps?). Peppermint patties and Skittles; Pokky sticks and Tars chocolate.

And for sure the campus doesn't look much like a Japanese school, though I'm open for correction here — I've only seen the insides of Japanese public schools. It doesn't look a whole lot like any Australian schools I've seen either, but then that's probably got a lot to do with the fact that I grew up in sunny Queensland where we didn't have indoor hallways and lockers for everyone from grade 6 up. It's got something to do with the lack of a grassy oval (US=playing field) too.

They were also surprised to see names on the play cast sheet like Otsuka, Yoshimura, Mori, and Kenji. I felt beholden to point out even some of the "Western" sounding names were kids who had Japanese mothers. Yes, this is a school of many nationalities. It is a mixture of Japanese, American and a number of other cultures, although I'd venture to say that American was the dominant, with Japanese coming in second.

I guess, though, I've gotten used to it and it doesn't seem so strange anymore.

Just like I've gotten used to living in Japan and had great pleasure in telling them about our camping adventure in November and how I got to sit in the onsen (hot spring) and watch the sun set on Mt Fuji. That isn't exactly an Australian thing to do. They were also surprised to hear I'd done that.

I guess we foreigners just keep surprising our Japanese hosts, even those who speak English.

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