How do You Know You’re in a Foreign Country?

I was thinking yesterday about living in a foreign country. When I go to the grocery store, I don’t know what most of the things on the shelf are. Or if I have a general guess, such as, “That’s a sauce,” I still do not always know exactly what kind of sauce. Yet, whenever I go, I’m just grocery shopping. It doesn’t feel strange. There may be crates of fresh squid and other such sea creatures in the meat department, but it’s still just a grocery store.

Also, last week David and I opened a bank account. It was a very long process, and my little bit of Japanese was not good enough to make things progress smoothly. We had to struggle between Japanese and English and I quickly learned how to write my address in Japanese, which I hadn’t done yet. But, all in all, it was just like any other trip to the bank: sitting at a desk, filling out form after form, dealing with the tedium, and having someone try to sell us the bank’s credit card.

Then yesterday, on the way to work, I looked out over the fields that had been empty the week before. During the Golden Week holidays when I didn’t go to work, the farmers were busy. The whole walk to work is now lined with freshly planted rice fields. Suddenly I felt the exoticness of Japan rushing up into me.

It isn’t the language or the billboards I can’t read. It isn’t the unidentifiable food in the stores. It isn’t the multitudinous garbage and recycling schedule. It isn’t the children in their school uniforms including matching hats and high–viz yellow backpacks glowing behind them. But when I look at the rice fields with their dainty green stalks rising up out of the water, I immediately feel as if the earth has shifted under my feet. Wait, where am I? Oh, right — I am far away from home in a foreign country.

You’re not in Iowa anymore!

My walk to work.

It’s the rice fields. Stretching from the road to the foot of the mountains, pools of the unknown, reflecting the clouds, the sky, and my dreams, it reminds me just how far from home I am.

Egriese says:

It seems odd at first but then it feels like you have lived there all your life. It is fun to see the fresh stuff even though easily seen on the coast of the United States, like Seattle. The coolest thing I like about living in a foreign country was the secrets waiting around each corner. Enjoy. I wish I was there.

Egriese says:

I know what you mean. At least you have grocery store. I had two outside markets. I had to go to Ashgabat to a grocery store.