Hey, Clemens – I mean, New York!

Awesomeness.  They were good sports about it.

Awesomeness. They were good sports about it.

Random Observation/Comment #39: You’re not a bad influence if the person you’re influencing is the one who gave you the idea, right?Having this power of persuasion over a different generation makes me feel old… older (let’s keep me in denial).

We first spoke in a crowded elevator.Our gazes met and my voice was clearly received.The dozens of eyes and ears (probably the same number of each) commented on my good English.I guess I do look like a Japanese tourist with shorts, a Jansport backpack (old school), Diesel shoes, and an Armani shirt – I’ll take it as a compliment.“Sumimasen, America-jin desu.” “::smile:: so desu ka? It’s okay, I speak English.” “Wow, your English is really good!” “I’m from New York.”“Who’s from New York?” “Are you an actor?” “That pudding has nipples!” What? Stop adding conversations that didn’t happen to the elevator ride.

When she asked me if I was an actor, I paused to search through the levels in my knowledge tree to make sense of this hypothesis, and in turn appropriately respond to fit the situation.Did she see right through me to this darker side of wearing masks and playing roles? Did I look like a heartbreaker who would ride out of this town as quickly as I rode in, and when I left I’d take her heart with me?No, it was probably not that deep rooted.Appearances make the first impression, so she probably just put New York and Armani together as an actor – not to mention my dashing good looks (cough, I just threw in my mouth too – haha inserted humor into my own stream of consciousness blog).I contemplated answering with “Aren’t we all actors and actresses?” but I was afraid my response would have been received with confusion.A lesson I learned throughout college – the third sentence out of my mouth should not begin with psychological mumbo-jumbo.People can be scared and run away when they slowly get to know me – not within the first minute.My response was a simple smile and head shake.Better for a person to think I’m stupid than creepy, right?The really smart people are smart enough not to even act smart – ingenious plan.

I boldly asked to follow their group with the hopes of finding a new underground sight-seeing area, or just a simple cure to my sickness known as loneliness (awh).Alabamians (Alabamites? Alabamanese?) are very friendly and they let me wander within their group (of course, the teachers needed to cross-check my references, pry into my deepest secrets, and strip search me for weapons, but it was much expected).My presence drifted through the crowds of high school students submerged into a new culture (literally, I think they were drowning of the culture shock).

Well, actually, I think their slow assimilation caused more harassment of the locals than the other way around.I would have probably been slapped if I randomly walked up to a group of girls and put my arms around them for a picture, but contrary to popular belief (actually just my own belief), my failure does not mean that it cannot be accomplished.First of all, it doesn’t hurt if you look foreign and speak very broken Japanese with an English accent (my natural Japanese look would just make them think I’m retarded).And secondly, you need a fairly large group to pull this off (which is kind of difficult when it’s just me).Once you have this winning combination, just walk up to pretty girls and have a field day with pictures.

I wound up answering a lot of the same questions about who I was and what I did as I hovered through different groups.In fact, I was talking so much that my questions never filtered into the conversation.What I really wanted to do was give these young minds the advice that I wish I would have gotten before their 10-day excursion.The high school trip I took part in 5 years ago seemed similar in description – separate high schools brought together from a selection process; independent home stay and international high school experiences for 5 days; 3 days of sight-seeing and learning different international problems or new research technologies; some type of report or presentation as a follow-up.

I personally loved my experience, but there were a few things that I wish someone would have informed me before the trip.

1)Freeeeeddooommm! – Your parents, teachers, and counselors probably told you not to let this go to your head because you have to be a respectable ambassador to the school and whatever, but honestly, go and have fun.Never stop asking questions and keep your eyes open for any opportunities to meet new people and try new things.Keep the mysterious American quirks while being mindful and respectful – all will be forgiven as long as you don’t burn down any buildings or accidently cause student fatalities.

2)You may think Japanese customs are weird, but they think American customs are weirder:

a.Don’t jay-walk – even though the police officers can’t really do anything to you, it’s probably good to just wait the extra few seconds – you’re not in a rush.

b.Don’t try on shirts before you buy them – this is just a silly rule, and you’ll probably be forgiven the first few times you do it because you look foreign.Plead ignorance.

c.Refrain from sleeping naked – the story wasn’t pretty, although quite funny and extremely embarrassing.Just trust me on this one.

d.Don’t hit on the girl you’re home staying with – I think Japanese girls have a problem with showing emotions.They just tend to fluster and turn red instead of facing these sorts of conflicts.Now that I look back, maybe it would be better if you stay as unattainable, foreign eye candy.It’s a little difficult with the language barrier anyway.Hitting on other girls from different high schools is definitely okay.

e.Stay awake in class – so you’re in a state of perpetual jet lag and the teacher is speaking in his foreign tongue.Your eyelids get heavy and your head begins to doze off like it normally does in Government class.Don’t fall asleep in front of a Japanese teacher because she will throw chalk at you (this probably happens back at home too).

f.Try not to sing that song stuck in your head out loud unless you want some odd looks – There’s a time and place for that: Karaoke!I think this mainly applied to me.Now that I think about it, I get weird looks in the States too.

3)Nato? Get that shyt away from me.Being open to trying new types of food is a wonderful thing (keep in mind of dietary restrictions).I ate everything they gave me and enjoyed every grain of rice and piece of noodle.I thought I’d be surrounded by sushi and sashimi, or even eel, but the Americanized version of Japanese culture opened me to only the higher end of Japanese cuisine.Most of the time, you’ll be eating udon, soba, or ramen with small portions of meat or tofu.As I speak, my diet of meat is on orange alert, and my fruit intake is on red alert.Damn, I just want a slice of pizza or a chipotle burrito.

4)Pictionary Mastah.Always have that notebook to draw on for Pictionary or hope you’re really good at acting out everything if your Japanese is poor.You won’t have to act like a chicken, squawking and flapping your wings (unless you really want to), only because chicken is the same in Japanese, but most of the other things will need a translator or some telepathic superpowers.Even though these conversations may be hard work, they are well worth the experience of overcoming a language barrier.

After sharing email addresses and facebook information, we all sadly parted ways.Before they left, we took pictures, exchanged information, shook hands, hugged, flashed gang signs, and I signed autographs on unspeakable body parts (that last part didn’t happen).The only piece of the puzzle missing, to make me feel more like someone chased by the paparazzi, was my aviator sunglasses.I think I’d make a good movie star.Well I guess I’m used to it, since I’m an actor.Aren’t we all?

I wish y’all (:D) the best of luck and the most amazing time in Japan.Enjoy =).

~See Lemons Meet New Friends