November 26, 2012

A Warm Miyazaki Welcome

Another early morning as I had to catch the 7am high speed ferry from Yakushima to Kagoshima. A word to those looking to travel to Yakushima: while the high speed ferry takes half as much time as the ferry, it is painfully boring: no casino, no theater, not even the ability to move around. I would absolutely recommend the slow ferry at least one way.
Goodbye to Kagoshima
I've been looking forward to Miyazaki, not because I know anything about the area (I don't) but because my Couch Surfing host was going to throw a potluck party in honor of my arrival. I did not know it, but the area where I was headed is a small town, so foreigners are few and far between. And since my host is an English teacher for adults, she invited ten of her favorite students to her apartment to welcome me and practice their English.

When we were exchanging emails, I let her know that I would be delighted to have a party, but that I didn't eat seafood. Not wanting to offend me, every person brought chicken! Which is just as well, because I've always said what goes best with chicken is chicken. So as each guest arrived, the table started to fill up with all sorts of fowl goodness!
Halfway through the arrivals and my mouth began to water. 
The party was extremely enjoyable. Everyone was a bit shy at first, but as the night progressed and our bellies filled with chicken, the conversation came more naturally and everyone became more confident in their English. It was such a delight to make friends with the students and they were all so appreciative and curious about me. Again, small town with very few foreigners, and while my host has had almost 40 couch surfers stay with her, I am only the second American. And to come from Los Angeles AND to have worked at a radio station... that just blew them away.

One of the guests told me he loved grunge music. "Nirvana?" I inquired. "Yes, a bit, but my favorite band is Pavement." I had found my Japanese David Rosenfeld and I was in love. 

By far the highlight of the evening was the magic show, which we were informed was three days in the making. It is unclear to me if the show was supposed to be comedic, but it was easily the most entertaining thing I've seen all trip. Every "trick" was screwed up: the balloons did not pop, and for his grand finale, he performed the trick where you make something disappear by throwing it behind your back. Unfortunately he kept missing and hitting himself in the face with the balled up paper that was supposed to disappear. I'm unsure if he managed to finish the trick as I was in tears:

Somes tricks REALLY impressed the guests
The big reveal of the grand trick
A delighted audience
Koji the "Great"

Rika's students have clearly formed a close-knit community and they're all very eager to learn English. It was such a pleasure to be in their company for the evening and a real honor to be able to help them learn. I find it so fascinating to discuss language with people. They say you learn about your own language through studying another language, and this is certainly true, but you also learn about your own culture through studying another. I've never spent so much time thinking about English, American culture and customs as I have in Japan. I found myself once again trying to explain sarcasm, puns, and play on words, this time with minor success. I've realized more and more what a difficult language English is to learn, but the ambiguities of the language, the lack of rules, and the constant evolution of words has lead to, in my opinion, an incredibly rich language. And while I don't have much to compare it to, I can already tell from the limited Japanese I know (and just as limited Spanish) that there's no language in the world as malleable as English.  

The food was excellent, the entertainment top notch, and I felt incredibly welcomed. And to my delight, I was invited to join Rika tomorrow evening for her group class at the community center. I gleefully accepted!

1 comment:

Richard Kraft said...

Love it!