Lights Out

1 Dec

Happy December, folks.

Originally I intended this post to be a report on my visit to the Kobe Luminarie, an event currently going on where they decorate a park with an immense number of lights, with Kyoko my language partner. But said to say, this did not happen. I should warn now this is going to be a personal annoyance story rather than some interesting thing in Japan. I really hope it’s not getting to the point that I use this blog just to vent.

So the plan was to go to Kobe, eat dinner and then see the Luminarie. And I think we were going to meet in Himeji and go together? I’m actually not 100% sure if that was definitely the plan. But regardless, Kyoko mails me and tells me she’s not coming to her Himeji English class today, so we should just meet in Kobe at 4:15.

Well that’s already a problem. As it turns out, the elementary school I was visiting today scheduled me for the last periods, because of an athletic test or something going on in the morning. So I’m not guaranteed to get out until at least 3:30. Ultimately it ends up being closer to 4 – this is the last time I’ll visit this school until next year so I’m saying my goodbyes and thanks. Also, the teachers were so impressed with how I read a Christmas story to the class, they wanted to record me reciting it so they could use it for other classes.

But I don’t let this go unknown. I mail Kyoko early on, saying it’s unlikely I’d get to Kobe until at least 5. This somehow gets inferred I will definitely be there at 5. Well I don’t get out til 4, don’t catch a train back til 4:15, and don’t get home until 4:45. Granted, I could have just hopped on another train straight to Kobe. But I really did want to go home just quickly to drop off my school stuff and change clothes. So anticipating all this, I contact again, MAYBE I’ll get there around 5:30. If I really haul ass. This gets inferred I will definitely be there 5:30.

Ultimately I don’t even manage to board the train until 5:30. Kyoko is already waiting for me at the station in Kobe. So I’m letting her know this; that I just got on the train. I don’t even mention an estimated time of arrival. This gets inferred I will definitely be there at 6.

But here is where everything breaks down. I get on a local train. Local trains stop at every stop, whereas the special rapid trains only go to major stops. Had I ever ridden a local train before, I might have known this. I mean, I guess I always lucked out before and came by when the special rapid trains pulled in. There’s no difference in price or anything, you just buy a ticket and board the train you want. I don’t see any special rapids coming soon, so I hope on the local train. Maybe it’ll be 10 minutes slower, give or take? It’d probably even out in the time it takes to wait for a special rapid, right?

Well, not right. Turns out there’s a heck of a lot of stops between Himeji and Kobe. But I figure, what the hey, I’m on a train. I’m getting there. It’s a nighttime event so there’s not too much time to waste. Granted, had I realized sooner the trip would literally be twice as long, I would have probably mentioned it.

At any rate, I stop checking my phone until pretty much when I finally arrive at Kobe. I practically fell asleep on the train, I’m so tired of running all over Himeji for the day. As I come off the train, I see a mail from her with the subject “Can we cancel today?” This subject is kind of a ruse, since the contents say that she got tired of waiting and went home. And this has come pretty much at the exact time I get to Kobe.

So obviously, I’m feeling terrible initially. I feel bad about making her wait around and not being more forthright with what was going on with me. But then I notice there’s another mail from her about five minutes before. I guess I should write this verbatim. Uff, I really don’t want to even pull this up again…

“Where are you? You are supposed to get to Kobe, I think you should announce the time you arrive.”

See, it’s the last bit that strikes me as funny. Granted, English is her second language, and although she’s pretty proficient I could be reading into it wrong. But I don’t read that as “Tell me when you arrive” since obviously, it should be expected I would. To me it comes off more as “You are in Kobe and not telling me for some reason.” Like… as if I were doing this intentionally to screw with her? I guess?

Why do I assume that? Well she already had strict preconceptions when I ought to have been in Kobe. And if she were going to wait around for me to tell her when I arrived, she wouldn’t have taken off five minutes later.

Now, I guess what I don’t know is if she’s mad at me over it. I apologized profusely and attempted to explain what happened via email. She has yet to respond, so maybe she’s mad? But at the same time, maybe she truly was just exhausted. She had said she skipped her English class because she was very busy with work. That’s reasonable to assume.

The thing is, I’m mad. Not only did she spend the money and time to go out to Kobe to ultimately make nothing of it, she made me do the same. I mean she knew I was coming. Even if she was tired, is it so much to ask to wait for me? If something happened that I just couldn’t come, I would have said so. Unless, like, the train derailed or something.

And I really don’t think any of my actions in the past times we’ve met would suggest that I would willingly waste her time, like it was something to do for fun? So I find it hard to envision she’d read this as me being a prick or something. At the same time, I certainly don’t get women, regardless of culture.

I offered to see if she wanted to try again next week, and I could better sort out my plan of getting there. But if it’s the case she’s holding this personally, as a grudge, well, I’m not really going to care. Unaccounted things came up in my schedule, I made some mistakes in getting around. I really did want to go to see the Luminarie. If she honestly thinks I did this maliciously or nonchalantly, I think that says some odd things about her reasoning.

Bluuuuuuuhhhhh. Writing about this stuff is supposed to make me feel better, but thinking about it is just making me ornery again. I feel like I deserve an apology, but I don’t have the eloquent wording nor, frankly, the cajones to explain rightly how I feel about it to a woman who doesn’t speak English as a first language. Digging the hole deeper would only be my fault.

I guess I’ll just do my best to gauge her sentiment next time we meet. If there is a next time.

EDIT: I do want to reiterate that I really would be shocked if Kyoko thought bad of me. In our meetings before I always got the impression of her as a kind and outgoing person. She would often bring me little gifts. At the very least, I would think of her as a very good acquaintance. I mean we don’t have terribly similar interests. But I really kept meeting for her sake of wanting to practice English. 80% of our conversation, at least, tends to be in English. So despite my anger I do still feel pretty guilty.

After relating the story to another resident here, he told me a lot of Japanese women can take it personally when, as a foreigner, you don’t come through for their engagements, because they tend to view foreign men as playboys. I… guess? Thing is, I really never got the impression Kyoko saw me anything more than a friend, and I certainly don’t see her as more. Nothing even approaching that ever came up in conversation. I guess if that’s the case, though… well that’s weird.

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4 Responses to “Lights Out”

  1. Jason White December 2, 2011 at 1:04 am #

    Interesting story Adam. I think we have all probably had some kind of similar experience. It reminded me of when my friend Cammron and I thought we were getting on the train to Kobe but we actually got on the Shinkansen -which doesn’t stop in Kobe by the way. An expensive lesson learned there. I have also gotten on a local train thinking the time difference would even out because of the wait for a special rapid-only mine was from Osaka to Himeji. A very long trip home indeed (if you thought there were a lot of stops between Himeji and Kobe give Osaka local a try sometime-yikes)!
    The bottom line for me-and I might be a little gaijin-biased here-is that when a Japanese teacher invites you to do something, even if it’s in Himeji-but especially if it’s outside of Himeji- they should A)pick you up in their car at a specifiec and agreed-upon time and drive you there or B) meet you at the train station so that you can ride together and they can make sure you get on the right train or C) give you a detailed schedule with everything from train schedules to track numbers to where exactly you will actually meet them face to face. If you have been in Japan for 6 months or more it would be reasonable to expect that you could navigate decently enough to meet up in a close city like Kobe or Osaka at a given time, but the fact is that you have been in Japan for just over three months and it is unreasonable, to me anyway, to expect that you can travel without making mistakes.

    My final thought is that it really isn’t a big deal-the whole thing I mean. You had a plan and it didn’t work out. Take it as a learning experience. Maybe express your feelings completely to your teacher friend and let her know that you would like to try one more time to have some kind of outing together. If she doesn’t go for it then oh well, but at least you made the extra effort.

    That’s my take anyway-for what it’s worth.

  2. thetabbers December 2, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    Even I don’t get women, and I’m of the same slagging gender.

  3. Theresa and Tom December 2, 2011 at 4:35 am #

    Rule 1. Communication, communication, communication.
    Rule 2. Don’t text – call and directly speak to a person
    Rule 3. My best advise is the best advise

  4. Theresa and Tom December 2, 2011 at 4:36 am #

    Oops, should be advice!

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