all things unsaid

October 17, 2010 § 1 Comment

I’m going to be honest about something here: I’m really, really bad at confrontation and all things related to uncomfortable situations.  Which are not to be confused with awkward situations, because I’ve definitely mastered those. ———->


No, I’m talking about instances of extreme avoidance such as my traumatic three-hour stint huddled in the girls’ bathroom avoiding Michael Adams, the boy who wanted to dance together at the 7th grade end-of-school party, because I just couldn’t bear to tell him I didn’t want to dance with him.  Or the time when I felt so bad about breaking up with a high-school boyfriend that for two weeks I tried valiantly to end things via intense brain waves and feigning confusion whenever he approached me in the halls…It’s only gotten worse, believe me.

And here in America, where everyone speaks their mind, you have to offer explicit explanations for these kinds of awful scenarios.  So instead of just artfully ignoring the embarrassing and the unpleasant, you actually have to explain to someone that you don’t want to hang out with them because their feet really, really smell.

It’s very difficult to have this kind of cultural expectation bearing down on my feeble attempts at speaking truth in times of conflict.  So you can imagine my delight when I realized that my tendency to be as indirect as possible is perfectly suited for the Japanese language, where undesirable explanations and feelings are avoided until the utter end of a sentence, and even then sometimes not even voiced at all.  I’ve never known a language that made better use of the ellipsis and all of its unspoken, omitted glory. « Read the rest of this entry »


ramen, rugs, and ramblings

October 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

I love my Grandmother to death.  She’s an amazing, quirky, funny woman as well as patient care-taker and role model.  Except that she smokes, which is bad for you, and sometimes she still refers to Asian-Americans as “Orientals,” and then I’m not really sure how to react to that.  Especially because whenever I talk about something I’m doing related to my major–Japanese Studies– the term ‘Asian’ comes up a lot.

magic carpet ride

In fact, since my decision to study Japanese and Asian languages and cultures, my Grandma has taken huge pride in informing everyone she knows that I’m now an expert in anything even remotely connected to or related to Asia.  Such as my assumed familiarity and love of Paula Dean’s new Asian-inspired Chicken salad recipe that uses a block of uncooked ramen noodles, or my detailed knowledge and interest in Oriental carpets.

There was also that time when she couldn’t remember if I spoke Japanese or Chinese…and didn’t seem entirely convinced of the significant difference between the languages (or countries for that matter…).  I’m saddened because I know we are separated by a generational gap in both our ages and our perspectives on the world, but it’s difficult for me to try and understand such a prodigious difference in scope.  « Read the rest of this entry »

a close-to-home rant

October 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

I used to work for the M-Den, a haven for University of Michigan ultra-fans obsessed with the latest and greatest gear and gadgetry, from overpriced rain jackets to replica helmets to baby socks–the M-Den had it all for its dedicated football fans.  This may seem unusual, given that I have a passionate hatred for all things associated with U of M football.  Despite my Ann Arbor upbringing and close association with the University throughout my early formative years, there is nothing anyone can do or say to make me consider the football program anything other than intolerable.

Here’s why I can’t stand football season at U of M:

1. Starting at 8:00am on Home game Saturdays, you can say goodbye to the bliss of sweet, uninterrupted sleep, because that’s when the dedicated fans start their cantankerous partying, drinking, and cheering.

2. Throughout the day on Saturday, prepare to be accosted regularly by random drivers, bikers, students, children, babies, students, repairmen, shopclerks, and EVERY SINGLE OTHER HUMAN BEING for not bedecking yourself out completely in garish maize and blue in order to better support the fellow wolverines.

3. If you are trying to accomplish other important tasks during the day, such as homework, studying for an exam, writing a ten-page paper, or perhaps running an errand that tragically coincides with the time of the game, say goodbye to all efficient use of time because the ungodly traffic, constant rush of crazed fans through the streets, the noise of loud cries and shouts permeating the air, and the occasional outburst of rage and indignation hurled your way while walking by a fraternity at the inopportune moment of another Wolverine mishap on the field.

Really, no one else cares if you need to do something other than unequivocally and devotedly watch a football game whose outcome has little importance in everyone’s daily life.

Okay I feel better now :)

awkward communication fail

October 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

You’ve just listened to five minutes of foreign babble and are now faced with the inquisitive look and pause in conversation indicating the worst of scenarios–you are now expected to answer in a similarly fluid and coherent manner. 


utensil face-off

October 10, 2010 § 6 Comments

With food, and particularly pan-Asian cuisines, there comes the inevitable question and debate: chopsticks or forks?

fork, fork, stick!

I’ll give you three guesses as to what you think my answer is :P

Chopsticks, of course!!!  And here’s my reasoning why:

1. They are fun and easy to learn how to use.  I know it may look challenging, and it can take a try or two to get the hang of the motion and the right grip, but once you’ve mastered the basic movement it’s all smooth sailing from there!  And if you need a visual or some tips on brushing up on your technique, check out eHow’s easy instructions here. « Read the rest of this entry »

saturday plain and simple

October 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’m no stranger to the standby college paradigms: the mind-bending stress of midterms and finals, late-night ice cream treats, ctools-submission desperation…

hearty and healthy

But I think I’m somewhat off the beaten path when it comes to my go-to comfort meal: a bowl of steamed rice and vegetables, accompanied by a piping hot mug of green tea.

Although it may not be typical to crave a dish of leafy greens or sesame-topped basmati rice, these days there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for the well-being of my beloved rice-cooker or vegetable-steamer.  And though you might chuckle disbelievingly at my grain and food-apparatus devotion, I attribute my pious adherence to the seemingly plain to the likewise unadorned cooking-style of Japanese cuisine. « Read the rest of this entry »

introducing the language of eats

October 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Origins and upbringings aside:  everyone loves food.  Whether you’re tall, diminutive, young, old, asthmatic, or myopically blind, chances are if you’re human, you like to eat.

let's talk food!

And it’s this utterly basic, shared instinct that has the potential, I believe, to bring together even the most dissident of cultural differences.  So for all the reasons why I love studying language because it allows me to directly and (almost) instantly connect with others through conversation, really, there’s a more fundamental linking of minds in the wordless exchange of food.  In the simple act of sharing a meal or cup of tea, the complexities of grammar and frustrations of forgotten vocabulary have little significance when it comes to the mutual enjoyment of delicious food.   Because no matter how intricately I string together words from my memorized lexicon of vocabulary, the only really important thing is that I continue to consume a steady supply of aromatic foodstuffs.  Which makes food, in many ways, a far more immediate means of connection than the mere abstractions of language.  And it’s also highly motivating, which is the best kind of incentive one could ask for when struggling through the laborious toils of language-learning. « Read the rest of this entry »