A Bigger Picture
Classes start on Thursday and the Japanese students have begun to trickle back into AIU. When most of us international students got here, we found our roommates were gone. Some of them left notes, all of them left belongings, and a several have been difficult to track down. But slowly and surely, we international students have realized that we will soon be a small (though welcome) part of the campus population.
My own roommate arrived on Saturday, but we’ve spent barely any time together. We keep meeting one another as we’re coming or going. Just today, she came in just as I was getting my things together to go to lunch, and then as I was heading for the bus a few hours later she came in from somewhere else. She has also been sleeping in a friend’s room, so around 10:00 or 10:30 she changes into pajamas, steps into her slippers, and disappears down the hall. We’ve had one very good discussion about where things are, what’s shared, etc., but other than that, we’ve barely spoken. Often when she’s in the room, I notice she’s very careful to face her things or sit on her rug with her back to middle of the room. I think she’s just very shy, and she’s already said that her English isn’t very good (and that’s true), but I’m not sure how to approach her. I’d like to get to know her–the question is just how.
If I take away nothing else from my time here, I hope I always remember how friendly Japanese people are. I’ve encountered it from the airport to the supermarket. When my friends and I were asking a question about which part of a train station we were supposed to depart from, a station attendant walked us all the way up and around to show us where to go, simply because he couldn’t easily demonstrate it. The Japanese students at AIU have been just as helpful. One girl just down the hall is always willing to answer my questions and has a bright smile and good advice. Last weekend was a big fireworks festival in Akita, and another girl, Mieko, took it upon herself to look out for all the international students. She’s a native of Akita City, and the University might have asked her to help us, but she never mentioned it and she went above and beyond to take care of us. She made a list of all our names before we left, and then guided us through the festival’s town. She made extra trips to take people to ATMs, and when the students split off, she tracked down each group (twice) and told us the various times she had arranged for us to meet and catch the train. I saw her the next day, and she walked me through seven floors of a department store to look for a watch, only to apologize when she stopped to talk to a friend. Just tonight, a girl named Lemi, who also lives on my floor, gave me advice about laundry.
Not only have these students helped me out, they also stopped to talk with me. Mieko and I had an interesting conversation about AIU in the department store (I found out she’s only been here since April, even though I thought she was a 24, or a senior, or something). Lemi and I folded laundry and talked about the people singing and playing on the other side of the room, about Scotland where she had gone to school, about which building on campus was the best to live in. I look forward to when I’ll run into these girls again, and I hope I get to know them a lot better.
I left a note for my roommate earlier about a question that had to be dealt with sooner rather than later. I wrote it in Japanese, and left it where I knew she would see it. She returned it with a message in English that ended in a smiley-face. I think tomorrow I’ll try talking to her again. Or if we’re gone all day, maybe I’ll leave her another note.
I’ll always be grateful to the graduate student who walked Titus and I to the nurse’s office and interpretted for five minutes because we had a bad cold. I hope I can see more of Mieko’s Akita, and I might leave a thank-you for Lemi because I want a chance to talk with her again. So there has to be a way to talk with my roommate. I just have to figure it out.
Japanese word of the day : tomodachi / ともだち (toe-moe-da-chi) friend(s)