A Revelation (Of Sorts...)
Me, I just sat there. The rest of the staff room was up in a tizzy in an instant, but I just felt bad for the guy. He's really quiet and unassuming, and he already has kind of a stutter. The last thing he needed today was to break a plate-glass window in a room full of people. Espeically these people, who were all running around like 16 chickens with heads cut off simultaniously.
It kinda made me think though. As soon as all eyes were on him I couldn't help but think for a second "Phew...absolutely no one is looking at me right now." See, as the foreigner in Japan (especially in rural Japan) you are constantly the subject of scrutiny. People don't just look at you. They stare at you. And it's constant. In the supermarket, in your car, at school, at the festival. You stand out.
But the jumpy little teacher breaking the window...it kinda made me think. I'm not sure it's about the foreign aspect so much as the different aspect. Japanese people are easily surprised. They use the phrase "bikkurishita" (literally "I was surprised!") about 100 times a day, from things as mundane as the flavor of a candy to someone kinda coming up behind them and maybe surprising them a little. They're...culturally jumpy...or something. They all have brown hair and brown eyes...so I guess it's no surprise that they're a little put off by the one blonde-haired, blue-eyed kid in the the produce aisle.
I come from a country where we have all kinds of people. Nothing really surprises me. I used to have this weird fear of amputees as a kid, they gave me the heebies. But then I met more handicapped people and that went away. Now I could care less. I lived in New York City for four years for crying out loud, not all that much shocks me.
So when the glass broke I flinched a bit from the sound, but then I went back to work. The Japanese people ran around in a tizzy making unhelpful comments, while making the poor jumpy guy even jumpier. I'm not quite sure what has them wound so tight as a culture...I guess it could be living on a tiny island for so long with a bunch of people who look and act exactly like you...but I couldn't help but identify with jumpy guy a little today. As well I think I can better understand the staring now...everytime I walk into a room it's like I've shattered a plate-glass window.