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Saturday, Dec. 29, 2007
Distance fails to dent couple's relationship
D avid Backof, a native of Miami, was a college student in New Orleans when his friend suggested they apply together for teaching jobs in Japan. Not knowing what he wanted to do after graduation, he agreed.
Coming to Japan was "kind of an accident," Backof recalled, as it turned out he got the job while his friend didn't.
He was told he would be sent to teach at a high school in Sendai, which Floridians might normally find a little on the cold side. But up until about two weeks before his departure, he thought he was destined for warmer climes because he mistakenly thought he was going to Miyazaki, instead of Miyagi, Prefecture.
Within three months of his arrival in Sendai, Backof had met Kazue Uchida, a Sendai native who works at a company in the city. They have now been dating for about four years.
Backof recently moved to Tokyo for his new job, while Uchida remains in Sendai. They have been traveling back and forth to visit each other every other weekend, and are happy whenever they are together.
Which language(s) do the two of you usually converse in?
Backof: Mainly Japanese and sometimes English.
Uchida: At first, he didn't speak Japanese at all, so we spoke in English. As he began learning Japanese, we started speaking Japanese little by little, and now we mostly speak in Japanese.
Actually, he is very studious. When he was a teacher, his students and other teachers would speak to him in Japanese. Then he would ask me things he didn't understand from the conversation. But he's been listening to my Japanese too much, which might have influenced him a little.
B: Maybe my Japanese sometimes sounds feminine and has a Tohoku dialect.
What do you like/dislike about your partner?
B: She is very kind and a good cook. If I get sick, she makes great chicken soup.
U: I think we just get along really well in many aspects. For example, if we go somewhere, we just happen to want to go to the same place. So it's hard to say exactly what it is about each other. Also, we've been together for four years, and if this was the first year, I'd be able to say, "Oh, what I like about him is this and that."
One possibly negative thing is that although he is stubborn in a good way, sometimes it can also be in a bad way. Once he decides something, he just goes for it.
B: She is very jealous. Also, she hates to lose. So we can't play games together because she gets mad at me for a whole day if she loses.
What's your favorite food?
B: Ramen. My hobby is eating ramen at various ramen shops. I came to Japan and ate this ramen, and it was very good. Then I ate at another ramen shop, which was even better. It made me want to try all ramen. My favorite flavor is soy sauce. The "chashu" (roasted pork fillet) is very important, as well as the thickness of noodles.
U: Sushi. Sendai has lots of fresh fish.
Where do you two go out?
Both said they used to go to an individually owned karaoke box a lot in Sendai and sometimes to hot springs.
U: In Tokyo, we usually go to Ueno and walk around without thinking about where to go.
What do you like about the country of your partner?
U: America has people coming from all over the world, so I think they are better at accepting people without having much prejudice. But I've never lived in America, so I am not too sure about specific things.
B: People don't really talk about religion and politics. While people tend to push their ideas in America, people here don't do that and respect other people's private opinions better.
What do you dislike about the country of your partner?
U: I just have an impression that America has a lot of conflicts, maybe because they are fighting in a war.
B: I was a teacher for four years. I think education here has many problems. In America, we go to school and we learn in school. In Japan, you go to school and I don't know what you do. And then you go to "juku" (cram school) and you learn. Why do you have school if you have juku? Why can't juku just be school? I don't understand.
What is the biggest difficulty in being together?
B: Occasionally we have problems with the language. We don't sometimes understand what exactly we want to say, like very subtle nuances.
U: We try to convey exactly what we want to say, but eventually give up.
What is the greatest pleasure in being together?
B: Pretty much whenever, wherever, whatever we are doing, I think we can have fun and are happy.
U: I agree. I feel that we are happy almost anytime when we are together.
B: Except for going shopping.
This series about international couples will now appear every other Saturday (Sunday in some areas), instead of the first and third Saturday. Reader participation is invited. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to be featured.