I live in a foreign country and fairly frequently have to travel outside of its borders. This requires a passport and since mine was set to expire before my contract at HPAC I made an appointment at the US consulate in Osaka to renew it.
I went after shodo class yesterday, laden with lots of objects that couldn't be carried past security. I took care of my lunch by sitting on the edge of a planter outside, fighting the snow and wind, eating my leftovers from tupperware and trying to seem as cool and collected as possible as I watched the well-dressed businessmen walk by pretending not to notice me. In any other country I probably wouldn't have felt so awkward, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone do this in Japan. But then I was outside the American consulate.
Outside the entrance, I got in the back of a line of Japanese people. The security guard asked me if I was getting a visa. Most certainly not. That may the first time anyone has mistaken me for Japanese, though I'm pretty sure it was only because he was on auto-pilot. He made me leave my water and tea outside and escorted me inside to the security checkpoint. I surrendered my iPad and cell phone and just as I was putting my bag on the conveyor belt to be scanned I remembered that I had been gifted many little sweets in shodo class. I opened my bag and started pulling them out, putting them in the bin with my iPad and cell phone. The security guard started chuckling! What a welcome surprise! And I laughed, too. It was pretty silly to have so many little sweets in my bag and I didn't know how to explain that I had received them in a shodo class, at least not in a way that would be believable. A little touch of casualness, a small taste of America.
Upstairs, I had several comedic errors involving a photo booth and an elevator that only went down. I sat in a lounge and overheard Americans talking to one another, getting marriage documents and birth certificates notarized, going through milestones in this little pocket of Japan together. I gave the receptionists my documents, photo, money, LetterPack envelope, and old passport, and look forward to having my new passport in my hands in 3-4 weeks. No traveling in the meantime.
As I left, the security guard returned my bin with iPad, cell phone, and pile of sweets, still chuckling. I offered him one and he laughed and shook his head. And then I left America, and the tide pool Japan-America, and went back into the ocean of Japan, back to the street to reclaim my water and tea and be on my way.