Sunday, June 8, 2014

American Wellcome

I'm writing from today.  It is a place where I understand the language, and yet nothing seems to work as well.  Flights are late, staff are overworked and full of the stress of patrons, and I'm expected to pay for errors that are not mine. There are many garbage cans, but litter everywhere.  

It is such a valuable peace of mind to be able to trust in authority.  To trust in set rules and expectations.  And when that isn't there, one must push to take care of oneself.  There is fear that what you have handed to another-whether it is the trust that you will get somewhere, or the valuables you have placed in their hands-will be taken care of.  I find myself very much missing the service, care and reliability of Japan.  And also reflecting  on the way that cultures shape us.  In such a place, children must be taught not to trust, to look out for themselves, to be wary to of strangers, to get ahead in line.  Cleverness and cunning are values.  To follow a rule, even if it is as simple as a common courtesy of standing to one side on an escalator, requires the relinquishing of self for the sake and awareness of others.  It is a practice in group versus individual mentality.  But having learned the respite of thinking of others, I'm tempted to keep it as a choice for myself, even in this mayhem.  

Everything is louder here, more disorganized, more open.  I find myself wondering if the things that I hear in English are also spoken in Japanese when I can't understand.  From various people waiting with me for our luggage, "I came from Hong Kong, my direct flight to Washington, D.C. was cancelled, and now I may miss the next flight, and it's my birthday!"  "What would it take for me to get you to play something for me right now, cause I'm so stressed and I love the sound of the cello." Announcement at the baggage check, "Please be aware that if you make jokes to the security inspectors, you may be arrested."  The woman driving the hotel shuttle bus, "You play that guitar?  My daughters play the guitar and my mom, she never had a piano lesson in her life but she can just sit down and play anything."  Do people say these words to one another in Japan?  Are they the same people?   Not being able to understand the Indian accent of the receptionist when I call for a shuttle, seeing the tired in workers eyes, some still able to help, others beyond themselves.  

This is America, where there are no strangers, where everyone is a friend and foe, and voices carry freely.  Where the group is defined by its individuals and individuals are defined by the source of the wind.  I'm here, today, and happy to hear their voices.  But part of me still lives in tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment