Tuesday, June 23, 2009
COMING TO AMERICA!
Rememer all those years ago when Eddie Murphy/Arsenio Hall came out with the movie "Coming to America"? IT was a 1988 comedy about an African prince, Prince Akeem, who came to discover America, the "promised land" to find a wife. The movie deals with his culture shock, expectations of the U.S., misunderstandings with American culture and its people, and all the funny experiences he has.
I remember watching that movie thinking "wow...I can't even imagine going through that." LOL...
then fast forward about 15 years later and guess who is headed to the promised land? YEP, ME!
In fact, the last time I had spent any time in the US was when I was a freshman in college...all those years ago. And that was give or take about 20 years ago! So I decided to enter this new chapter of my life knowing that there would be all kinds of twists and turns. And I knew I would have to have my sense of humor close by, cuz I was going to be relying on it A LOT.
About 2 months before my "coming to america", I decided to start telling various agents and clients that I was working with about my big move. But Tokyo is a small town...the word started spreading around that I was leaving Japan before I could leak it myself. I started getting people coming up to me- some in my line of work, some totally unrelated. But they were all in disbelief that I was actually going to be leaving my home of about 30 years. " Lisle, IS IT TRUE? Are you going to the US? For how long?" Unfortunately, Tokyo can also be quite the unsupportive town as well. Many of those "friends" also said " Oh, I give you six months and then you will be back here. You won't make it." Hmmm....ok. Interesting.
I always found it quite bizarre...in Japan/Tokyo, as a minority (and if you aren't born and raised in Japan as a Japanese, you ARE a minority. Even spending a few years in a foreign country as a Japanese national makes you "tainted" in the eyes of the Japanese) Anyway, the gaijin (which means "outsider" literally, but is used to mean "foreigner") community is incredibly backstabbing and just not very supportive. OF COURSE there are wonderful people and relationships that you make there, but for whatever reason, I have always found it pretty tough to find good, healthy, supportive adult relationships in one of the biggest cities in the world. And of course it doesn't help that it is a very transient city...especially with the gaijin community. People come and go all the time.
And it really is too bad, because Tokyo can also be a very lonely city. It seems that many times the gajin look at each other as competition, instead of trying to uplift each other. All that being said, by the time my "coming to america" date was approaching, I found out that some of those "friends" I had known for so many years were making bets on "how long will it take before Lisle cracks and comes back to Japan?
When I heard that this whole thing was going on, I was really quite baffled. Because in all honesty, my situation was/is very different from a "gaijin" who heads to Japan as an adult. I GREW UP THERE. So it was really all I knew, yes. But to me, that in no way meant that I couldn't find my way in another culture/country....and I thought that those around me would know that about me. But nope, guess not.
It was a bitter/sweet time for me. I loved Japan and Tokyo for all it had been for me. But I was also ready for a new chapter in my life and after hearing about the "lisle bets" going on, I was even more determined to make things work, no matter what.
So the big day came..jan 19th, 2008.
It was a 9 hour flight. Very long. And the whole time I was worried about my poor little kitty making it through the flight in one piece.
I was told at the American Airlines counter in Narita when I checked in that because it was such cold weather, it was a risk to put the animals in cargo. "In fact",the woman at the counter said, "if the temperature drops 1 more degree then we will have to refuse your pet." WHAT???? Oh great! Thanks for telling me IN ADVANCE! What am I supposed to do now...! But Genki ( my kitty's name) made it on the flight. And we were off! COMING TO AMERICA!
Once I arrived in LA I just looked all around me and was trying to soak it all in. WOW...I hadn't even been to VISIT the US for about 15 years! I felt like Rip Van Wrinkle just waking up...
Everything was so much more fast moving. People everywhere were in a hurry, pushing through the crowd to get ahead of someone. Definitely much more aggressive than Japan. or Tokyo ( most of the times)
First thing I looked for was a Starbucks. yes...my place of comfort. I went to Starbucks ALL the time in Japan. So this would somewhere that I was familiar with and I was sure I would be able to hold my own against all the US Starbuck-ers. I mean I even had a "Starbucks friendly" high maintenance drink...grande nonfat wet cappacino. So I would be fine...WRONG! LOL...
I get up there to the counter and the woman at the register starts rattling away at me...
I stood there watching her lips moving...knowing it WAS English. but also knowing that it was 5 times as fast as I was used to.
Sigh...Ok, let's do this Lisle.
So I ordered my drink and then she quickly told me how much it cost. I opened my wallet and started counting out coins to give to her. She looked at me a bit annoyed like "what the heck? is she going to be paying with pennies or something??!!!?"
I didn't realize until I was waiting in line for my drink that everyone else in the line was paying with card.
WHAT????!!?!? They pay for a coffee with their card?
Hmmm....ok, well, wasn't expecting THAT one.
Sigh...ok. this is going to be a VERY interesting transition....
It was at that moment that I remembered the Eddie Murphy movie and thought to myself as I chuckled to myself "guess I know how Prince Akeem felt..."
More memoirs from a 6ft blond geisha to come...