So this week in Japan was Golden Week
. Golden Week is one of the only times of the year in Japan when people can take off for vacation. I mean, companies give vacation days and stuff, but if you are Japanese and you take off during other times of the year, lots of times your co-workers will talk shit about you and complain, which is a big deal over here. Not like in the USA, where we'd tell everyone to get bent.
"Wow, you seem to be taking a lot of vacation time these days."
USA response: "And? I have a lot of vacation days. Do you have a problem? Are you telling me that I can't take my vacation days that I rate?"
Japan response: "My co-workers are thinking ill of me. Oh shit."
The Japanese tourist industry is very accommodating too. They jack up the prices during this time 'cuz they know everyone will be traveling, and going anywhere is a complete nightmare. One of my coworkers drove into town to take some business, which should have taken about 3 hours at the most. It turned out to be a 9 hour ordeal.
I was watching Japanese news last night and they reported traffic backups on the highways up to 30 kilometers. That's a lot. Japanese people just kind've shrug and say "...well, it is
Golden Week after all......."
That seems a much better response than, say, the average American's response during stressful travel seasons, which is to go apeshit and make a public scene. There aren't many public scenes here. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen one, unlike in Korea, where I saw like 3 in one day and there wasn't even anything special going on. I love Korea.
Another thing I love is calling it "Golden Shower Week." "konshuu golden shower abiru?"
"Are you going to take a golden shower this week?"
Working for the US Government, Golden Week means nothing to me, but all my friends have off. "What are you doing for GW," they ask. "Working." After getting back from my Osaka trip, I realized that I hadn't taken any time off for about 6 months. I'm also very aware of the fact that I'm the only one in my department who hasn't / isn't getting hooked up with a trip this year, and that the trip I did get hooked up with was to Charlottesville, VA for a week at a conference that had nothing to do with what I do. Meanwhile, everyone in a position to send me on a trip is busy sending themselves to Hawaii for whatever they possibly can.
Then my boss calls me in his office and says, "We have someone coming here for reserve duty, and we'd like you to be her sponsor."
"OK," said I. "When is she getting in?"
"On the 14th."
I knew when she was getting in. I just had to hear it for myself.
Now, I haven't had a tantrum since I've gotten here. I threw biweekly tantrums in my supervisor's
room in Afghanistan, which he took with a lot of grace. They weren't directed at him so he didn't mind, I was just spazzing out.
Anyway, I informed my boss that my best friend from college
would be coming out that week, and that I'd be taking leave that whole week, and waited for him to do the "grit my teeth and suck in air" thing that people do before they shitcan something you wanna do. I was poised and ready to let loose.
I think my boss saw my basic-tantrum-throwing-warrior's-stance and said, "oh ok, well just set it up and I'll take care of it."
I admit, I was a little disappointed. Tantrums can be cathartic. But disaster was averted, and I didn't have to pull my spaz-card.
So Friday I took a sickday cuz I was, erm, feeling sick, but fortunately I recovered quickly and got to enjoy some gorgeous weather in Tokyo with a ladyfriend of mine. I needed a break. The Osaka trip was a vacation, but since I'm the only one who can speaky Japanezey and drive, it's not a 100% vacation. This weekend was great though. Totally relaxing.
During my Tokyo trolling, I discovered that King Leonidas was very misunderstood. Not only was he the King of Sparta, he was also a connoisseur of chocolates.
At one point, I also got in trouble on the train. For some reason I was doing pronunciation practice with my friend, who speaks very good English (I think) but we only speaking Japanese to each other. Here's how the pronunciation practice went:
We weren't even doing it loud at all, just above a whisper, but this old lady was giving me the stank eye. Finally she says to the girl in Japanese (with a horrified look on her face):
"You shouldn't be doing that on the train. Maybe you could teach him about Japanese culture..!"
This resulted in hysterical laughter from me and embarrassed laughter from her, and the old lady gave us a nasty look and moved away.
As much as I avoid being "that obnoxious gaijin," sometimes I slip up. Compared to most roundeyes out here, I really mind my ps and qs and try to be as anonymous as possible. In any case, the thing that I found funniest was...why Japanese culture? Of all things to talk about on the train, did she expect me to be receiving lessons about ikebana
or origami or samurais??? I wonder if she'd be so snippy about Japanese culture if she realized that the girl is an ethnic Korean
whose relatives were probably brought over as slaves during WWII? I wanted to ask, "What aspects of Japanese culture should she teach me? Comfort women
?? Maybe a little enjokousai
??" Perhaps something from here
I guess she didn't notice all the businessmen reading violent pornographic manga in out in the open.
Let's be honest though.
Bottom line: I need to grow the freak up. Seriously.
Golden Showers? Swearing on the train? Tantrums in the office? Sparta Chocolate humor?
I need a vacation.
Save me Brando!