Monday, July 5, 2010

A Blessing Spoken Too Early in the Morning

This is from my running blog but it's mostly about things other than running. About being foreign, and being too friendly for my own good. But mostly just about life happening, simple things.

This is the end of week four, 1/4 of the way through my 16-week training program. Wow. Time is a funny thing. Hours drag as I'm sweltering in this heat with no A/C at work and yet weeks just fly by.

I wanted to run 8 miles today.But at 92% humidity and 80 degrees out frankly I am happy with how far I made it. I walked the last two miles and completed the 5-mile outing in about an hour.

I had a really weird start to the run. I will preface it with this verse from Proverbs 27:14 "A loud and cheerful greeting early in the morning will be taken as a curse!"

At 5:15am I was later than I should have been but still thought I might be able to finish the run. I saw an old lady trying to make eye-contact with me and also checking her watch. As I got closer I realized I'd run into her before and it was unpleasant so I kept my eyes glued to the ground and barely replied as she said good morning to me. That was enough encouragement for her and 30 minutes and a bewildering conversation later I was finally starting my run.

The first time I had a run in with this woman was as I was trying to hurry along to work. She stopped at my house as I was packing up my bike and commented that my tree needed cutting. I was in no mood to be reprimanded by a stranger who apparently had nothing else better to do than make her neighbors late for work.

I do cut my tree, but I can't reach up to the power lines, obviously, and so there are some very long branches up there. I replied with the Japanese equivalent of, "Yeah, but it's not like I can do it!" I don't normally start conversations off rudely, especially in a language I have a minimal command of. But for the love! Monday mornings are not the time to be told you're not doing a good job. She, however, was undeterred and continued chatting with me as I mumbled responses and slowly peddled my bike and checked my watch. She got the hint and I made it to work just in time for the morning meeting, sweating profusely.

This time she asked me if I knew what Tanabata is. It's the Star Festival. You tie wishes to a bamboo shoot and the next day, July 8th, you burn the whole thing sending your wishes to the other world. I have been living in Japan for two years; I know the major holidays.

She then took me to her house to see her bamboo shoot. I took a photo of it on my phone after she leadingly noted that I had my phone with me. And then she said, "Tanabata isn't a holiday in other countries, is it?" Like many people throughout the world, this woman has a misunderstanding of what unique means in a global context. As Stephen has frequently remarked when we run into comments like this, "Yes, Japan is a unique country. In world of unique countries." No, we don't celebrate Tanabata, with it's bamboo wish shoot. Much like you don't celebrate Easter, with it's egg hunts and chaotic iconography, Ms. Meddler.

Was she trying to be friendly, if simultaneously patronizing? Of course, sweet thing. But even a cheerful greeting spoken too early in the morning will be taken as a curse. I just wanted to run.

1 comment:

Janet Brakel said...

That was nice of you to go visit Ms. Meddler's bamboo. I think she enjoys your company! ;)