Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Just a Typical Day in Japan?
Jonah is digging in the sand. He is making a train line he says.A couple of women new to the park and their children, playin the same sandbox. One woman's five year old girl, not three metres away, is saying in a very loud voice that I am "scary! scary!!"Why doesn't the mother stop her? Tell her to be quiet or tell her thatisn't a very nice thing to say. She could takeher aside and tell her not to say that about someone. Instead shedoes nothing.
I had been enjoying my time withJonah and forgotten that I didn't fit in. Sometimes I can ignoresilly incidents like this and often do, but her hysterics have gottento me. It is one of those days.
"Urusai!" I say. "Shut Up!" The mothers gasp. I'm more angry with the mother though. Why didn't she stop her?That's what I would have done had she been my child. Sometimes the Japanese are really inept about the feelings of others, and especially about the feelings of foreigners. Yet I know I haven't helped international relations muchwith this exchange either. I try to patch things up by asking themothers why she thinks I'm scary, but am greeted with embarrassedsilence. Soon Jonah and I leave the park to them.
I learn from this incident. God with his karmic wisdom gives meanother chance. On another day, two other neighbourhood girlsrun to their mothers screaming, "scary! scary!"and I cannot fail tonotice as they are wildly gesticulating towards me. I am on myway to work dressed in a tailored suit. And the mother does, getthis: absolutely nothing. A foreigner doesn't have feelingsyou know, or they don't understand Japanese, it's such a difficultlanguage. Since a foreigner is not in possession of feelingsor can't possibly understand what has been said, there is no apologyrequired. It can be ignored and chuckled about inembarrassment. I am hurt though. I do possess feelings and I dounderstand Japanese. I imagine going beserk andusing my briefcase to give the ten year old's head a SWACK! but I don't.
I complain to my long suffering wife about it. She gives me agem. "Why don't you follow them home next timeand talk with the mother, and tell her about our latest sale onclasses for children." Sometimes my wife lightsup my world with her brilliance. I do so. The girl who a moment agowas screaming "scary!" is now struck dumb asa 6'2" blue eyed "gaijin" is now towering in her doorway. "Can youget your mother please?" I ask aspartamesweetly.
"Hello, sorry to trouble you, but I am Kevin Burns and I justwanted to ask if you knew about our English school.It is nearby."
"Why yes, I am friends with your assistant Mitsuko Yoshida."
"Wow is that right?" We are having a sale on classes now, and itmight be good if your daughters study English.""I will think about that, thank you!""You're welcome! Thank you for your time, goodbye."
Both daughters decide to study at our schools. They never yell,"scary!" at me again. In fact they are very goodstudents and very nice girls. I feel proud that we haveinternationalized two local girls, if only in a small way.My wife is great! Sometimes she can see things so clearly, which I can't in my angry muddle.
The Japanese Media--Sensationalist or Factual?
by Ben Cook
"As for the media...well the Japanese media is like the western media. They're out there to make a buck. They report on what people will watch and read. Morbid curiosity perhaps. I just hate the fact that the media everywhere turns someone's personal tragedy into a huge story with little or no consideration for the families involved."
I think it's a little bit of both in this case. Just yesterday actually I was out swimming with my son and niece at a nearby public outdoor pool, and was thinking about these recent news stories. (About children dying in public pools in Japan-Editor)
The pool area for children is quite large and there are no lifeguards. The water isn't terribly deep, maybe 2" or 2 1/2" at the center. Of course it doesn't take that much water to drown in either.
Forget sanitation. The pool had plenty of chlorine in it sure, but that doesn't help when there is long standing algae growing in sections of the pool. It needs to be emptied, scrubbed, cleaned, and then filled again and treated regularly with chlorine. And when a little girl scrapped her knee and I took her to the first aid station, the people there had NO CLUE whatto do about a simple scrape. Then 10 minutes later after the girl calmed down, I see her back in the kids pool with a bad aid and blood still tickling down her leg. Sigh.
I think if the local government is going to run a pool, (and they should because it's so freaking hot), I think they should train their people and keep their facilities in good order. In the US, if there's any kind of public or semi-public pool, it has to meet health standards set by the government, and it's employees have to be trained in basic things like first aid and CPR. Not to mention that most all of these pools have at least somelifeguards. Not even enough there in the US either, but at least there's someone watching the swimmers.
It's not just Japan either though. So many kids drown every year all over the world. In the US, even with it's gun loving people, a child is much much more likely to drown in the backyard pool than to get accidentally shot from the gun in the house. Now that I live in a city with LOTS of canals and standing water ditches, it was one of my first priorities to start to teachmy son how to swim and float. He's four now, and I wish I had even started a little bit sooner.
As for the media...well the Japanese media is like the western media. They're out there to make a buck. They report on what people will watch and read. Morbid curiosity perhaps. I just hate the fact that the media everywhere turns someone's personal tragedy into a huge story with little or no consideration for the families involved.
Personally I don't watch the news so much in the morning as I catch the headlines at work on the computer where I can pick and choose what I read and see from more than one sourcepreferably. RSS feeds are a wonderful thing for this. What about everyone else?