Go with the flow. Roll with the Changes. Keep Calm and Carry on. One day at a time. And so on, and so on, and so on. For those of you who have been expats , even when you love the place you live (which I do) from the start, there is always those extreme ups and downs in your mental state. The moment you realize you are literally half way across the world from all the people you care about. The moment you realize you truly don’t speak the language and that no one understands you either. The moment you realize that, yes, you have to walk another 3 miles even though your feet are blistered because YES, you TRULY do not have a car!
Then there is this, imagine waking up one day only to realize that not only do you have the biggest mouth within a five mile radius, but you also have the biggest feet? Your feet are so big that when you go out to a local shop and pick up the XL flip flops your entire big toe is still hanging off the end. And lets not even talk about how big your ass is. You already knew it was bodacious and bubbly, but then you held up a pair of XL pants and realized you might need TWO pairs of those stitched together and they would probably still be snug? And despite the fact that you walk 13KM a day most days and up various San Francisco sized hills, it seems to be getting BIGGER???
Hence, welcome to my life in Japan, where I am officially a giant. This weekend my husband, son, and I went to a teeny little local noodle shop. The owners looked rather perplexed to see us sitting on their little stools hunched over. In a shop where there were only about a dozen stools, we seemed to take up a majority of the space and that included the 8 month pregnant woman sitting behind us. After we paid our bill and were making to leave the elderly noodle matron walked us to the door and continuously mimed “watch your head” to Paul, for fear that he might tear straight through her support beam on the way out. People often stop in the street to stare at him and little girls on the subway hide their faces.
I can’t help but constantly hearing a Godzilla like roar in my head when I walk through a crowded area trying to navigate around people. I also feel like when I sit down on the train a huge crashing sound might occur and the bench may tilt. The people next to me shift ever so slightly to give me enough room. Are they worried that I might eat them? As Westerners we sure do love some good red meat after all?
Of course I am joking, sort of, kind of, to some degree. However, it has been fascinating being the biggest person I see each day. It has also got me thinking about our obesity problems in North America. Living in a country which thrives on small portions and walking and riding bikes everywhere , I take note that literally less than 1% of people I see are even slightly overweight. I suppose good genetics have something to do with it, but it does call into question the sedentary lifestyle most of us lead in North America and those giant restaurant portions. I am as guilty as anyone.
A “typical” Japanese breakfast consists of small portions of rice, grilled fish, miso soup and pickled vegetables. Compare this to eggs, toast, bacon, hash browns, and toast or a big bowl of sugary cereal. It might tell us a few things? Vending machines contain coffee, water, and green tea with no sweetener. Yes, you can get a COKE if you want, but these seem a lot less popular. It truly is “food for thought”.
Do I hope to become “smaller” in my years here? Of course I do. I am a woman, who like, every other woman is never truly happy with their bodies. Sure, I’d love to get back to my smaller self. But the other bad news is, every single dish I run into is chock full of carbohydrates. Noodles. Rice. Mochi. Pancakes. I wonder, if I eat all this instead of the normal salad lunches I am so fond of, will I actually LOSE weight? I truly feel like Alice in Wonderland where black is white and white is black. I am curious how this will all turn out and if drinking the tea is going to solve everything.
The other day I realized that I have no short pants or shorts and I have been sweating profusely in the newly humid weather. I went out to see what I could find, knowing full well that nothing in this country will fit me. I came across a shop that had lovely light cottony drawstring pants. Just looking at them made my body temperature drop at least 10 degrees. And low and behold, they fit me! I scooped up three pairs. Later I put them on , they were so comfortable and cool. Suddenly, I realized that I might be wearing the Japanese version of pajamas. But then again, I might not be? This is the moment I decide I will be “the dumb foreigner” because I will NOT part with wearing these pants.
At the bus stop this morning I was describing the pants to the lovely Japanese women who send their kids to my son’s school. I had them in stitches with my explanation about how I wore them all day wondering if people were staring at me. And they kindly reassured me that Japanese people do not care at all what I wear. That is EXACTLY what they said. Then they asked me if I liked “Jazzercise”.
This got me to thinking about the strange couple I saw this weekend wearing pink animal pajamas with a giant tote full of stuffed animals between them. And then there are the dozens of little bo peeps I’ve seen, the cherry blossom drag queen, the lady I saw in the 100 yen store who was grossly overweight, wearing a pink wig with a tiara and a sparkle dress (she was the 1% but she looked like she was not from here). And what I realized was this, no one was staring (no one except me). No one cared. This was “fine”.
So, perhaps what I realize is this. I am okay. I can be a giant in a land full of tiny people. I can wear pajama bottoms. I can let my flesh hang out if I choose. No one is going to care, and even if they do , they are WAY too polite to talk about it. Bring on the turquoise wig, the tiara, and the little bo peep pants! Momma’s going dancing in her pajamas!