Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Party Season

The good thing about changing your position and moving on somewhere new is that you get to go to a lot of free parties. At least, they are free for you. Tonight I went to my farewell English club party with all the girls and Naoki the farmer. I'll miss the lot of them, even though I'll be living in the same city. English club, over the years, has given me the chance to confront my cultural barriers face to face. I haven't always had good experiences with these people, but, like I said to one of the girls tonight, it has been an intrinsic part of my development as a foreigner.

This is the gang, as it stands, July 2005.

Now there's a question: Do you know how to be a good foreigner? It's a question that's been tickling my nasal hairs these past few months, and apart from all the nose picking I've done to try and combat it, I've given it a lot of serious thought as well. I start with this fact: I am a foreigner. And then taking that identity in hand, I've tried to notion up some kind of ideal, some kind of end-person that I might become when I leave. I've got a good idea of the kind of foreigner people want in this country, but is that what I should give them? I don't think so, and I've tried damn hard to avoid being that person. My thoughts have been solely focused, though, on what kind of foreign mentality I should develop for my own personal good: What can I get out out the frustration of being an unassimilated by-stander? What kind of person can this experience make of me? What achievements can I get out of it?

Being foreign in Japan is a lot of fun, undoubted. I always have a scapegoat identity that I can use when I do something silly; I can watch others from a distance and chuckle at their own 'foreign' extremities. But there's always a downside. Being foreign, for me, has also always been about testing my own weiry tolerance of what yesterday I considered stupidity, and trying to work on it for my own self-development tomorrow. When you live in Japan as a foreigner you will doubtless be forced into 'foreign' circumstances that you disagree with; you will become, at times, an unassimilated involvee. And that, occasionally, can cause problems.

Not sure where I'm going with this, but I know that recently I've managed to brush aside a lot of things that would have caused me grief a couple of years ago. And that to me signals a growing level of tolerance.

A disgruntled Politics graduate before I came out here, tolerance has been in demand as a foreigner in this country, and I think I'm making ground. English club, like I said, has given me the opportunity not to prove that my cultural frustrations have a sanctuary where thay can be massaged back into place, just to be bent out of shape again at work or on the train, but somewhere to analyse these issues up front, and take them home and churn over them. The folks at English club, since they are my main source of good English-speaking Japanese, have given me a voice outside myself, and that in turn has helped me, over the years, to move ahead of the person I was yesterday.

A lot of drunk garb, you might say. Probably. Anyway, here's a picture of the 30 year old Jamie Patterson who celebrated the big three zero on Sunday at Kaprichozas (spelling?)

Here's to turning 30 in Japan, Jamie. You, and me.