Sometimes there is nothing you can do…

There are times when I just have to take a deep breath and flow with whatever I’m experiencing. Flow…. instead of allowing circumstances to get under my skin.

The other day I had a scheduled meeting with someone that I’ve known since moving here. This person knows how hard I try to assimilate. How hard I try to understand the language and communicate.

The meeting time came and we sat down to discuss “business”. A stack of hand-made cards each having one sentence typed in English on one side with the Japanese translation typed on the other side were placed on the table.

I had no idea….

I opened the conversation. I spoke Japanese. Instead of responding to me in Japanese the cards were shuffled, the appropriate response card in English was chosen and held up to me.

The first time it happened I did one of those eyebrow raises that I do and just tried to ignore what just happened.

So the conversation continued….and another card was help up …and another and another. And so the conversation went on until we were done. Me speaking the best Japanese I could and the responses given by holding up a card….with English written on it.

I tried to think of what was really happening here. I stopped my emotions from taking over. I mean, to the westerner this was just absurd. Insulting even.

If I understand anything now about how things are done here it is this- that the best interest of the other person always comes first.

I made myself remember that. I meditated on that. I remembered where I was.

From my friend’s point of view -making sure that their communications with me were completely understood and that there was no error was the most important issue. I was sure this was a correct assumption. The best assumption.

I realized….

They must have put a lot of effort into making all those cards. Effort into thinking of all the possible responses they might have to give me. Translating everything.  It was best that I realized and appreciated the trouble they had gone through for me.

This was the best way for me to view this situation.

It helps me to write this down. I’m not so much “blogging” about it as I am writing it down for myself so that I can see that I am making progress in understanding, accepting and appreciating my adopted culture. I make a lot of mistakes, believe me but, it encourages me when I know that I’ve been able to see beyond myself into the heart of this culture and just accept it for what it is without my western idea of what it should be.






6 thoughts on “Sometimes there is nothing you can do…

  1. Faith.
    I flashed to applying that in my life.
    Very profound.
    I am fascinated in your process in dealing with this situation.
    Take my workplace, for instance. I should work 14hr/day for the good of the company. Every day. I should ignore all the safety violations to finish the job. I quickly realized that I have zero faith in my employer to take care of its workers – in return.
    All if my friends though – I have faith they will act to my benefit.

  2. It sounds like your “friend” forgot to show you a letter at the very beginning explaining that they had laryngitis and wouldn’t be able to talk today, so they were going to communicate via cards instead. What a strange situation! I would be in tears by the end of it, if they didn’t say a word and just flashed cards at me every time I tried to talk. It sounds quite aggressive to me actually, and not the least bit friendly. There was no explanation at all?

  3. No- no explanation. There were a few attempts at verbal exchange but the ” answers” we’re given by fumbling with and then holding a card up. Honestly- I think they meant well- but perhaps didn’t think things thru very well.

  4. ” the best interest of the other person always comes first”
    WOW, so different! I always struggle to put the other person first. And to know what is in that person’s best interest…!
    Congratulations on seeing and appreciating your friend’s intentions!

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