There is not a sound or group of sounds available in our shared lexicon for
me to reference. I can't say listen to the drips from a over filled toilet;
it doesn't not pull out the revolting feel. I cannot ask you to think of a
room full of 6 year-old boys eating spaghetti with their hands; in your
mind, one of the boys might be cute or do something cute-ish, and that would
ruin the mood I'm trying to set. Neither can I tell you think of being
surrounded by cows chewing cud; cud isn't moist enough to make the smacking,
slurping-dripping noises I need to draw in your head.
Instead I am going to paint the picture as I saw it, and still see it, and
hope to get out of my head with this, so to speak, therapeutic e-mail.
Today, as I often do, I went down the career guidance room for lunch. The
lady teacher there always brings me some green tea (ode de seaweed) and
watches me ENJOY it, or else...
It was, as it usually is, Raman day. I give Tea Lady 400 yen and a short
bent elder of the tribe appears (literally) at the window and hands a
steaming bowl to Tea Lady. Who sloshes it down in front of me with another
brimming cup of seaweed tea. That, she doesn't slosh, we wouldn't want to
miss out on the green tea, a famous Japanese tradition, and no wonder they
are miserable choking down this "tradition" with every meal.
The Raman is absolutely fantastic. Really. It's got garlic, noodles, bean
sprouts, sesame seeds, chives and cabbage and broth and no napkin. I share
the Raman with my shirt and the table. They like it too.
Around me, sitting on micro-chairs imported from PBS micro-kids
micro-programming around a table that could have been a coffee table in the
states but it was too dark, too ugly and too short are four Japanese male
teachers with the same problem as the table. But that's not the look they
were going for, they are sporting their Southern Baptist Pig Roast Baby Blue
Polyester Elastic Band Snap-over-Zipper Leisure Suits. They don those
ultra-thin white "dress-shirts" with the vertical strip pattern on them that
we used to see the Filipinos wear in Hawai'i. The shirts are white
everywhere but the gig line, where this weeks (because they don't wash them
after each use) Raman, fish, rice, seaweed, coffee and tea parade together
proudly down to the lap. "One way or another men, we're making it to
crotch," the food's drill instructor told them as their last instruction
before facing the mouth. Some took the long way through the mouth and smoky
body, others took the shirt options. A green tea look at the "You Take the
High Road" song from the early 1900's. Except the green tea is probably the
only stuff on the Green-Peace outerwear on purpose. See-the more you spill,
the less you drink...
They sit around me, hunched over their steaming bowls of Raman. They grunt
and slurp and choke. The soup that falls to the table melds with all the
other soup there and eventually, no kidding, there is a small brook of
babbling onion and sprouts making their way to floor. Don't worry, you
don't wear your shoes inside so it'll only get on your frozen toes and
slippers. Bonus, warm toes.
Lay on the floor next to Alex drinking water, and close your eyes. That's
what one guy sounds like here. Karoke Sensei said eating without noise is smoking
without smoke. Great, one will make me too sick to breath and the other
will make me too sick to eat.
I was surrounded by four heavy hitters in the enjoying food sound category.
Alex has to make noise when she eats, her mouth goes have way around her
furry head and she needs to suck as hard as she can to get the water all the
way up that snout. I don't know what's going on here.
After lunch they lean back, Tea Lady comes over the refills the grog, takes
the bowl and sticks. She lays tissue paper down on the babbling onion brook (the
sprouts get away they are more agile and good swimmers), then she gives the
head slurper a lighter. He leans back, exposing his champion blue-ribbon
parade on his belly and lights the nastiest, foulest cigarette I have ever
had the misfortune of sniffing. I was in Italy, bad smokes. At Fort
Leonardwood once my bunkmate's brother mailed him a single ratty smoke in a
fat folded letter with news clippings. When the DI opened the mail, he saw
the newsprint and figured it was good to go. We smoked that stale nasty
cigarette, flavored with newsprint, water from the postal trip and sweat
from us fearing to be caught. It tasted fine since we were men and that's
what men did-smoke, but it was horrible really... On the boat if someone
lost their smokes and found them a month later on top of the air duct where
they hide them so no one would find them, they smoke them anyway. A month
old pack of Reds heated and tenderly aged by the heater vent of an Aircraft
carrier is a bouquet compared to Blue-Ribbon's fresh Japanese butts. They all nod,
cough, choke and sniff approvingly. He doles them out. "Kekko desu," I say -
No thanks. They laugh, what do I know, stupid gaijin didn't even enjoy his
Ramon (because of my lack of noise)... I understand them, but sometimes
it's best to NOT understand so excuse myself.
Boy are things different here.
I wonder if when I get back to the states is I'll make noise and not notice
since it's OK here. If I do, please commit me. Also, if I show up with a
polyester blue suit, skip the commit part and shoot me.
Jim and Brandie Frey
Hanaguri Kyoshokuin Jutaku 9-201
Hanaguri Cho 31-1, Miyakonojo Shi