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Sunday, July 16, 2000

JAPAN LITE

Over the rainbow beckons home sweet home


If a foreigner stays in Japan more than five years, Japanese people start asking, "When are you going home?" This is because Japanese people can't imagine being away from their home country for so long. Sometimes Japanese people ask me, "Don't your parents miss you?" There is a feeling too that by staying in Japan so long, I have somehow abandoned my parents.

I can assure them that my parents don't feel abandoned. Western parents tend to encourage their children to go out and see the world. Gaining experience is what life is all about. Whereas many of my Japanese female students have to fight their parents to let them study abroad, Western parents support their children's desires, even when they may not agree with them. This is because to Western parents, their child's happiness comes first.

I do miss my parents and family. I miss having dinner with my parents, walking around the neighborhood afterward, and giving goodnight kisses before bed. I miss my brothers, my nieces and nephews and cousins twice removed.

I do miss my country, where almost any service can be performed within 24 hours. I miss drive-thru beer barns, drive-thru dry cleaners and drive thru banking, I miss 3,000 sq.-meter showrooms, shopping malls and clerks who say, "Have a nice day." And who couldn't miss those dollar movies?

I miss all night grocery shopping with complimentary gourmet coffee in one hand while driving around a shopping cart with a whole months worth of food in it. I miss the bag boys at the supermarket. "Paper or plastic?"

I miss the American restaurants, where the waitresses call you "Honey," and you can get your potato baked, mashed or fried, your salad with French, Ranch, Honey Mustard, Low-fat, house or vinegar & oil and your burger rare, medium or well done. I miss over-tipping when the service is really good.

Sometimes I sit in my small Japanese house and I think, wouldn't it be nice to have those big walk-in closets we have in America? Then I reconsider. Heck, it would be nice just to have closets. And wouldn't it be nice to have those nice wooden, American cabinets in the kitchen where you can stow things away? Then I reconsider. Just any old kitchen cabinets would be nice. I miss tablecloths, centerpieces and Charmin bathroom tissue.

I even miss some strange things. I'd die for one of those big desk calendars right now. I've never used one before, but I'd use one now, just because it's been so long since I've seen one. I'd even like to have a Cuisinart. I even miss the occasional paper cut you get on your tongue from licking envelopes. I miss being able to wash and dry my favorite T-shirt and wear it again in an hour.

I miss child entrepreneurs who set up lemonade stands, sell Girl Scout cookies, and collect for UNICEF.

I miss seeing sleek, black limos on the street that remind me that VIP's are going places, doing things, possibly changing the world.

I miss National Public Radio, eavesdropping and seeing the horizon. I miss sarcasm. Knee slapping.

And what about those perfect strangers who talk to you as if you're their brother? Some people are so friendly, it's scary.

I miss kissing in public and seeing old couples walk hand in hand. I miss interacting with people by shaking hands, hugging or giving the high five. I miss patting someone on the shoulder when they've done good or holding their hand when they're in trouble. I miss leaning against the wall when I'm tired or sitting on the curb while waiting for someone. Ah, home sweet home!

By now, you're probably wondering why I don't tap the heels of my glass slippers together and repeat, "There's no place like home." But if I moved home, I wouldn't miss these things. Missing them makes them all the more precious.

Visit the Japan Lite home page at www.amychavez.com or e-mail comments to: amychavez@mailexcite.com


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