Men Who Explain Things

“Men explain things to me, still. And no man has ever apologized for explaining, wrongly, things that I know and they don’t. Not yet, but according to the actuarial tables, I may have another 40-something years to live, more or less, so it could happen. Though I’m not holding my breath.”

After reading that article, my good friend Jesse (likeaphoenixignition) wrote:

Really interesting article, but I take a little issue with where she takes it.

I think she’s probably right that this sort of authoritative talking-out-of-one’s-ass is a largely gendered behavior, which is to say that, broadly, it’s a Thing Men Do.

But she then leaps from there to the assumption that men only do this to women, which couldn’t be more wrong in my experience.

I certainly understand why she would interpret such behavior as paternalism. And there’s absolutely an assertion of power that’s inherent in this form of communication. But it’s not something that’s reserved for use towards women, not at all. At it’s basest, I suppose it’s how we guys vie for lead dog status amongst each other.

I guess the point is, we’re not trying to dominate women; we’re trying to dominate EVERYONE, indiscriminately.

If that’s better or worse, I’m not sure

…to which i have this to say:
I’m with you on this one, Jesse. She makes some good points and she definitely has her opinions which you can tell have been reinforced in her due to her life experiences… But you’re right about Men Explaining Things to not just women, but men too. It’s not so much about ‘keeping the woman down’ but more so just a man’s nature to feel he is an authority on some subject, regardless of who he is talking to. I don’t hold it against men (anymore) that they are this way.

At the same time, women in this day and age have a fierce tendency to self-righteously feel they are being subjugated or victimised, especially by men. And while sometimes we actually are being subjugated or victimised, it’s unfair to assume that all men treat us this way and only this way. Yeesh, I should write my own article on Women Who Disdain Men.

Frustrations Alight

So it’s been almost two months since I first arrived in London. It’s been busy. And frustrating.

It’s strange being a foreigner in a land where things seem so similar to your own homeland. I thought it would be easier to move here. In Japan, it was understandable to encounter different ways of doing things. Everything was different there. That’s not to say I didn’t expect London to be different–I did. But I suppose that something about suddenly being able to read the signs and communicate with people messed with my impressions of the place. “How hard could it be?” I thought.

But I found there were things I took for granted in both the US and Japan that really annoyed me here in the UK. For example, pedestrians do not have the right of way and in some places, you have to pay anywhere from 50p to 3 quid to use a “public” toilet. I guess I was under the impression that going to the toilet was a basic human right, not a privilege. Using the underground on weekends is a nightmare due to the fact that London is trying to upgrade everything for the 2012 Olympics. But they do all their planned engineering on weekends? They should be doing it at night, like the Japanese do. But what do I know? I’m not a civil engineer. I’ll just have to put up with tube disruptions every weekend until 2012. And I’m not exaggerating.

Frustrations aside, I’ve had some good experiences here. I like that debit cards have a chip in them instead of a swipe bar. I like the variety of beer and Thai and Indian food you can get here. I really like the friends I’ve made, although most of them aren’t even British. I like the grocery stores and all the different ingredients I could buy should I ever want to make that crazy European recipe I couldn’t make in the US.

I’m trying really hard to get around my frustrations because I seem to be the only one around here who has them. And I’ve already offended a Brit by complaining. It wasn’t my intention to offend, but I needed to vent and getting it thrown right back at me was a bit of a wake-up call. Things aren’t so bad. Things could always get worse. I realise this. I need to toughen up again. I was a lot tougher back when I was living in New York. San Diego calmed me down, but I felt stuck. Then I got lost in San Francisco. Found myself in San Diego but got stuck again. Then really opened up in Japan. But I think I softened up a lot there. Everyone is so nice and passive. London is the opposite. People don’t care here. You’re on your own.

I’m not sure I can be as tough and cutthroat as I was in New York. I’m not quite as crazy as I used to be. But something will have to change. I wonder what London will turn me into….

Speak Globish?

Is the English language getting stronger or falling apart?

I just read an interesting Newsweek article that one of my students brought to class for me. It’s about English becoming the lingua franca of the world and how it no longer belongs to England or America, but to the world at large. This new form of English is thus appropriately coined Globish.

See the article here: All the World Speaks Globish

I must admit–I have mixed feelings about this. I do think it’s wonderful that the world is finding a common means of communication. It’s part of why I’m teaching English in Japan. It’s not that I think everyone should speak English–not at all–but I do believe in the potential and opportunity to be gained by the world being able to communicate in one language. The fact that it’s English is convenient for me but I’m also apprehensive that mother tongues will be lost–especially the mother tongue that is English.

This article acknowledges that, “native speakers still cling fiercely to their mother tongues, as they should.” But, what of the English language? Already, English seems to be butchered and neglected by its own native speakers. It seems to me that unless one majors in some form of communication in college, be it Literature, Journalism, or so on, one will only have a meager grasp of grammar and a limited vocabulary. Having taught English as a second language for one year, I’ve realised how little I truly know about the language. The scary thing is that my studies and career revolve around knowing the English language through and through. Most Americans I know who never spent a lot of time studying the English language constantly make mistakes that I can only cringe at as though they were nails on a chalkboard. If I correct these persons, they look at me like I’m crazy and ask me why it even matters. The fact that anyone has to ask why grammar matters is just deplorable, if you ask me.

At the same time, I can say that having a serious lack of grammar is admissible if you’re still successfully communicating. There’s a point in my lesson everyday where my students have to practice a dialogue. First, they read it out loud, and then I have them do it again while standing and leaving the books on their desks. I want them to practice making eye contact and using intonation. Most of my students think this means they have to memorise the conversation before class but this is all wrong. I have to remind them that I don’t want them to remember every single word; I just want them to understand the situation and act it out. If that means they end up changing some words or using a different sentence altogether, so be it. The point is for them to communicate with each other in a natural way, using body language and intonation. They can use whatever words they know as long as they are communicating the right ideas and understanding each other.

It doesn’t take more than a semester of linguistics to know that language is a living thing and constantly changes. New words and phrases are invented all the time. Definitions get switched around from word to word as though they were pieces of furniture at a feng shui convention. I suppose I feel this is a necessary evil if we want to keep up with the changing world. Or perhaps it is just result of a changing world. But I still think it’s important that we hold on to the language whence our modern words came. There are histories and knowledge to be had from our predecessors’ parlance. We shouldn’t underestimate that.

The bottom line? Speaking Globish is a fine skill to have as long as we remember our mother tongue, English. Otherwise, I’m afraid we may lose one of the world’s most dynamic and wonderfully colourful languages.

Settled In.

I am soon coming up on my six month mark of being in Japan. I’ve done a lot of things since I’ve been here: traveled across half the country, been in a major earthquake, been in a major typhoon, moved apartments, had a bike/car accident, ended my engagement, met someone else, broke up with them, got harassed by them, went to Tokyo Disneyland, went to a hot spring, rode the bullet train, stayed in a capsule hotel, ate raw chicken (as sashimi), got my first gray hair… it’s been a whirlwind experience. Sometimes I get lost on trains and can’t get back on track–no pun intended–for at least another 2 hours. That can be extremely frustrating when you can’t read or speak the language. Sometimes I buy a pastry at the bakery thinking it would make a nice dessert and it turns out to be savory. Sometimes I buy a shirt that’s a size L and it turns out to fit like a size S. These instances usually make me smirk a little because that’s the experience of a gaijin living in Japan. These are the things that will make me strut though life not letting the petty stuff bother me.

I just got my ticket yesterday to go back home to California and I’m looking forward to going home. I don’t necessarily feel homesick, per se, but I do welcome the opportunity to see my family (and what a great family it is), and maybe eat some real Mexican food. I also welcome the break from all things unfamiliar. Like driving on the other side of the road, or sleeping on an actual mattress as opposed to a futon. Baking something in an oven will be amazing because, quite frankly, who doesn’t like to bake cookies around the holidays? Most homes (apartments) in Japan don’t even have an oven. It will also be nice to fall into a pile of warm clothes that have just come out of the dryer. I don’t think anyone in Japan has a dryer. (I’m sure someone does, but that’s not the point). The thing is, home is home. It will always be that. I feel lucky as hell that I have a home too… I know some don’t. So I like to keep myself feeling lucky and grateful. I know a lot of people who love the town they grew up in and they’d never want to leave. Those people might say I’m ungrateful for wanting to leave my hometown. But I say leaving my hometown makes me even more grateful.

I’ve lived in three different cities around the world since leaving my hometown and now that I’m in a foreign country, I feel more at home than ever. I’m certainly not Japanese and in no way do I fit in around here. I was never really a Japan-o-phile but I always had an interest in the exotic and the world outside America, and Japan falls into those categories. It’s been a struggle to adjust to life here and there are a lot of things I wouldn’t be able to do without relying on someone who can speak Japanese and English. Strangely, though, I feel more independent and at home–with myself– than ever before. I do not feel that I have reached the pinnacle of self-discovery or self-realization by any means, but I do feel like I’m heading in the right direction. My future plans include living in one or two more foreign countries, possibly for an extended period of time. Depends on the country.

There is so much you can learn about yourself, your hometown, your home country just by learning about other people and their towns and their countries. My passion for communication and bridging the gaps between people and cultures has only been cemented by my experience living and working in Japan. As a teacher, I get to have some of the most amazing 50-minute conversations with my students. These stimulating talks are the mere tip of the cultural exchange iceberg. It’s times like these that make me want to stay in Japan another year. But I also feel the pull toward other countries. Like I said, I’m no Japan-o-phile. I find value in all kinds of cultures. The more experiences I can have, the better. There is so much I want to do, you have no idea. The best part about it all, though, is that I feel like there’s no rush. I certainly don’t feel as though I’m wasting any time, either. I’m going at exactly the pace I should be going.

I can only hope that others get to experience or have experienced what I’m experiencing now. I’m not talking about living and working in another country, specifically, but more the metaphysical and transcendental experience of realizing one’s own and the world’s potential. For me, it’s an overall satisfying experience. I wish I could share it with you, but this blog just won’t do it justice. I’ll still give it a shot, though.

Ah, Japan…

I’ve been here for little more than three weeks. I’m finally beginning to feel like I live here. I must admit, I didn’t really think about the fact that as soon as I got here, I’d basically be illiterate. Trying to get used to the kanji, hirigana, and katakana is a lot more difficult than I was expecting. I figured if I just memorized each katakana and hirigana symbol (and their sounds) then I’d be able to easily decode most Japanese words.

Yeah. No.

I spent an hour searching for just one symbol on the internet and in my books when I was trying to read the directions on a packet of “drano”-like powder I bought for my flooding bathroom. I gave up and just dumped the powder in the drain. It hasn’t worked.

While this can get very frustrating at times, I must commend the Japanese for being such fans of kawaii anime that they have cartoon directions on a large majority of their products. Also, everyone here is very polite and understanding of the fact that you probably will never master Japanese. So, they do their best to help you out whenever they see you have that pained/panicked look on your face while holding a plastic package of some kind. I’ve managed to get by in Japan just knowing the words for “please,” “thank you,” and “yes.” Nobody ever directly says “no” in Japan, so knowing the hand signals for “no” (crossing your arms like an ‘x’) and giving a simple smile works too. Maybe when I get enough money, I’ll buy one of those electronic devices that lets you draw the kanji and then it tells you what that symbol is. But in the meantime, I’m stuck with my books and the internet. Oh well.

Differences

The days are winding down (20 more to go) to Japan and I have yet to pack my clothes. Heh.

However, I am doing my homework on the culture and (a little bit of) history of the Japanese people. I was directed to a blog written by another former Foreign Teacher from the same company that I will be working for (I am leaving out names for everyone’s protection), and I must say, I was very disappointed. What he wrote about his experience with this company was supposed to be the “truth” about what it’s like to work for them. Apparently he and the company had some disagreements. What disappointed me wasn’t so much the company but, rather, what he had to say. His blog was very informative, and I certainly got some useful tips out of it. But I was completely unimpressed with him. He complained about certain aspects of the Japanese world of business and, quite frankly, he should have known better. What he was so upset about was the way the Japanese handled situations. He didn’t like that he could not argue with his manager about something at a business meeting. He felt like he was being stifled and that he was not allowed to be “productive” via speaking his mind. He was also very taken aback by what he saw as passive aggressiveness in the Japanese.

Now, I don’t have to go to Japan to know that the Japanese highly prize group solidarity, especially within the business world. Just look at the way Japanese businessmen dress. See any bright colors? See anybody trying to stand out or beat the system? I don’t.

This blogger claims that he went to Japan to explore it and learn about another culture and yet he was kept from doing so because he had to work all the time. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, buddy! But more than that, he cheated himself out of the Japanese cultural education because it was happening to him the entire time he was there! Alas, he was too busy imposing his American standards of behavior on everyone he worked with to open up his mind and broaden his horizons.

I’m glad I read the blog, really, because it is a reminder to me that when I go to this brand new Eastern world, I should let myself be open to and understanding of the differences I know I will encounter. I may be going to to Japan to teach English conversation, but I’m not there to change the Japanese into Americans. I’ll do what I can to help them understand Americans and our nuances. But I won’t judge them for it if it doesn’t come naturally to them. This is a learning experience on both sides and I am happy to help create this bridge of communication.

Connectivity

Okay, okay, okay!  I know.  I’ve failed you and left you without anything to read for 4 (count ’em! 4) months.

I apologize.

In previous entry from yesterday, you’ll see a post I began writing two months ago and never finished.  The anxiety built up again and I put it off.  And then, I forgot about it.  So yesterday, when I oddly enough felt inspired to come over here and valiantly write a new entry, I was reminded of that poor little entry I wrote just 2 months ago.  I figured I should just publish what I had and then start with a new one.

So you know those memes we encounter online? Here’s a fun one that didn’t involve me spouting off information about myself in that oh so narcissistic way we all tend to do.  It’s called the Google Name Game.  Basically, google these and use the first entry.

1) Type in “[your name] needs” in Google search.
2) Type in “[your name] looks like” in Google search.
3) Type in “[your name] says” in Google search.
4) Type in “[your name] wants” in Google search.
5) Type in “[your name] does” in Google search.
6) Type in “[your name] hates” in Google search.
7) Type in “[your name] asks” in Google search.
8) Type in “[your name] likes ” in Google search.
9) Type in “[your name] eats ” in Google search.
10) Type in “[your name] wears ” in Google search.
11) Type in “[your name] was arrested for” in Google Search.
12) Type in “[your name] loves” in Google Search.

and here you go:

1. Emily needs a series of exemptions to Harvard’s administrative rules.
2. Emily looks like a very charming woman, with a natural beauty and a sparkling, unconstrained expression in her face.
3. Emily says that she and Richard are not getting back together.
4. Emily wants a pony, and she slings lemonade on the corner to get it.
5. Emily Does the Salmon Dance.
6. Emily Hates You 2.0
7. Emily asks Zander why he sold drugs.
8. Emily likes to wander the streets without much planning.
9. Emily Eats is proudly powered by WordPress.
10. Emily wears a cute outfit from Grandma while she plays in the house.
11. Emily was arrested for beating up a classmate!
12. Emily Loves Banana Custard!!

Funnily enough, about half of those are true.  I’ll let you guess which half.  The point of this meme, which I believe speaks volumes about society today, is that it’s a fun and interactive way of keeping up with each other without really keeping up with each other.  You know what I mean?  Allow me to explain:  Say one day you’re talking to a good friend and they mention someone from your past.  “Do you know Joe Schmoe?” they ask.  “Yeah I do.  Well, we’re friends on Facebook, anyway…” you start to trail off.  Joe, from your 7th grade science class, added you way back when and you have rarely, if ever, exchanged messages or comments.  But you’re friends on Facebook.

Every time this situation happens to me, I can’t help but stop and give myself a puzzled look, thinking, “How in the world did we come to this?”  I guess it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but back in the 1950s, for instance, did these acquaintances exist in such a way?  Maybe they did… “Yeah, I know Joe.  I’ve never talked to him, but we hang out at the same neighborhood bar.”

Maybe what I’m getting at here is the social phenomena of acquaintances and their interactions (or lack thereof).  What if you’re walking down the street or through the store and you see Facebook friend Joe Schmoe?  You’re not sure if he’s seen you yet, but if he does, what will you both do?  Will you smile and wave?  Will you walk up to each other and catch up on the past (or lack thereof)?  Or will you both pretend you didn’t see each other because you don’t want to get involved in what might otherwise be **cringe** an awkward situation?  But you are friends on Facebook.  And when you go home, you’ll look up Joe’s profile and find yourself clicking through every one of his photos and soon you’ll forget yourself and leave some kind of comment about one of his funnier photos.  And then the awkwardness sets in and you feel you should go ahead and leave a comment on his wall mentioning that you “thought” you saw him at the store today, but you “weren’t sure” if it was him. Hope he is well.

AAAAAGH!!!

I don’t know; maybe it’s just me.  (I did just find out recently that I have a high raw percentage of neuroticism, compared to most people).  Haha. Um.  Yeah, maybe that’s all it is.  But honestly, tell me you’ve never been in that situation before.

For a moment there I thought I was going somewhere with this post.  And then it all went to pot.  I could go back and edit the post and figure out what I meant to get at.. but I’d be here for hours… and I believe my readers are smart enough to figure it out for themselves.  Heh heh.. I do hope you got something out of it.

Oh well.  Hearts to you all for sticking around.  I’ll try to be better next time.

A fabric I might be a part of.

In my young adult age, I find myself wafting between a feeling of existential solitude and a feeling of powerful connection with the world around me.  As I sit here alone in my bedroom with no one around, I feel like I am untraceable; nobody knows exactly what I am doing right at this second and I can do anything I want without the consequence of anyone knowing about it.  I am unconnected to the world.  Yet at the same time, I have a cell phone in front of me and an internet connection at my fingertips.  I can hear the contractors next door working on the neighbor’s house and I saw the neighbor across the street take off on his Triumph motorcycle earlier.  I am aware of the world around me and just the simple observance of this world affects me and my day.

I’ve been rather busy lately, what with looking for jobs, working part-time and still looking for jobs, and dating someone with whom I spend quite a bit of my non-job-related time.  I’ve also been running errands and visiting with close family members, such as my parents and my grandmother, and yet I have not had a chance to keep in touch with my brothers.  This is an odd thing for me, because I am very close with all of my immediate family members.  However, half the time, I don’t know what’s going on with my brothers anymore.  It’s not that I’ve missed the boat and I have to catch up–I can get back into the game at any time.  But the point of the matter is that the world goes on without you and gets along just fine when you’re not there.  We (mostly) all know this to be true.  And I suppose I always thought it was a bad thing to let the world go on without you.  But lately, I’m seeing it differently.  Did you ever really think about what happens to those people that don’t keep up with the world they’re used to?

I used to be all over the internet.  I had an active account with almost every type of social networking site you could think of.  I still do have a lot of those accounts, but I’ve been busy with “real life” lately.  Some of my accounts, I often forget about completely.  Some, I feel a need to maintain activity on simply due to the fact that my friends (most of whom I haven’t seen in at least a year since I moved back to San Diego) use these sites.  But slowly, my site activity is lessening all the time.  My communication with my social network in all is dying down.  I feel slightly bad for neglecting my emails, comments, phone calls, and texts.  And yet, I have to ask myself why I should feel so bad about that?  I respond to people as necessity calls for it.  But otherwise, I find myself rather liberated by not needing to be online at all times.  Sometimes it’s nice to be alone.  And by that I mean free of social networking sites.

Another thing that is contributing to my progression away from the social internet is the fact that I’ve been paying more attention to the news and politics (rather than movies and celebrity gossip), as well as taking over certain bills and payments in my life (learning how to be an adult here, people).  Through this, I feel like I really am part of the real world, as opposed to before when I wasn’t quite convinced.  I am slowly learning that the taxes I pay and the votes I make and the way I drive and the things I eat really do have a large impact.  The last thing that’s giving me a hard time now is the way I communicate with people.  I know how to be courteous and polite, but I’m forgetting how to keep in touch with people.  The kinds of relationships I had with people before are not and cannot be the same anymore.  I’m unsure of how to approach it and all I can say when people ask me where I’ve been is, “I’ve been busy.”  And I have been.

This blog entry is one attempt to hash it all out.  I know this blog alone won’t help me understand myself or the world, but it helps a little.  You see, writing is a therapy for me.  Obviously, I don’t do it enough (as you can see by the date on my last entry).  But when I do write, it’s for a reason.  I do believe in the power of communication.  I preach this all the time.  But even I have my own problems with it.  And therein lies the beauty of communication: it is one of the few things in this world that can fix itself.  When you don’t use it, problems can happen.  When you do use it, problems can happen.  But either way, you can always use it again to right the situation.  That’s what I’m trying to do now.

As for my journey into adulthood, that’s a process that will likely take decades.  I’m okay with being a 23-year-old kid with hardly a clue of what to do.  It’s a learning process and I know it’s going to take time for me.  My values and priorities are definitely doing some changing and I’m learning how to accept that.  It’s okay to not be the person you once were.  It’s okay to become a new person.  It doesn’t mean you have to throw away your old world entirely for the new one, but it’s okay to move some things around (and possibly discard) to make room for the new world.  I hope people realize that.

Until next time.