The In Between


Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in when you’re in a whole new group of strangers even though things are going well? Sounds contradicting.

I’m still struggling to write out my personal thoughts here because I don’t want it to sound like an offensive post. If you feel like it’s sounding too petty or wtv, you can just stop reading and skip to my happier stuff 🙂 

Attended a camp/forum a few weeks ago and not only the content got me thinking but the diversity of the participants too, inspired me to write out on it. I’ll probably focus more on the content in another post (if I feel like writing it) because I feel that it’s better to separate them both. 

So, the international participants of this forum was basically divided into 3 groups, Japanese High School Students, International High School students and last but not least 県内留学生International students (I was in this category). Everyone in the last group were basically university students either studying the language or doing their Masters/Phd in a local university. On the other hand, the other 2 categories were made up of teenagers from all over the world with an age range of 14-17. As an international student, I was given the privilege to stay in a hotel for a few nights along with the chaperones of the students from other countries. 

As some of you might know, seniority in Japan is a huge thing whether in school or in a workplace so, when working with my group, I tried to keep a low profile on my age hoping to fit in with them hahah ((still a sehkia (it means ‘kid’ in Hokkien) at heart)) Every group was appointed 1/2 international students (as passive participants) in order to guide and facilitate the teenagers. But because of how I look, I kinda actually fit in with their category, making them assume that I was too, an active participant of the camp. Well, here, I could see how my point of view on things changed after high school life in Malaysia. I mean, my age doesn’t differ much from them too and I still have a lot to learn but, after going through a few new experiences after high school life, I can see how high school and college matures us into someone new and how important the memories during high school are to us at that period of time. 

Remember in high school we had to write those factual essays like on stuff like ‘menangani masalah sosial’ (social problems) and ‘perlukah remaja membawa telefon bimbit ke sekolah’ ?(should teenagers bring handphones to school?) ((sorry my bm’s super rusty now so it sounds funny) Yup, for 2 days straight we talked about how we should create peace in the community and abolish nuclear weapons. 

And about the part of growing out of your high school years, I don’t mean to sound like a know-it-all but, when I was in middle school, I’d see primary school kids as ah, kids. And when I was in high school, I’d see middle school kids as ah, kids. And the cycle goes on. It’s all part of growth but as I grow older, I start to see less of the magic in things and become more realistic in life. I don’t know if this is a good thing but my doubts on my own ability/capability to do things has been proportionally increasing with the experiences I’ve gained, making me more and more self conscious and at the same time much more realistic on things. I would tell myself that ideas like these wouldn’t be practical and hence shouldn’t be voiced out. Those ideas will be put away in an untouched corner of my mind and then forgotten as time passes by. When I hear certain ideas from people too, I’d judge and say things in my head but I won’t voice them out because it’ll be insensitive to do so, so I’d just let it be.

So my point is, I think we should embrace the bit of magic we still have in ourselves and be more daring(?) to say what we need to say and do what we need to do when we have the chance. 

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As for this second half of the post, I’d like to express what I felt in another camp I’ve attended a few days ago.

In contrast, this camp was fully attended by Japanese people and there were only 2 international students there (inclusive of me). 

The setting was really different and it was an annual camp for everyone in that club. No doubt I had fun, but I felt like there was a constant language barrier whenever I tried to communicate with them. In Malaysia, talking in a group is always fun but it’s different when you’re in a foreign country, speaking a foreign language, not knowing of what everyone had grown up with, only understanding <75% of most daily conversations and the list goes on. I’ve been studying here for approximately 5 months and there are still times when I feel like a total sucker when it comes to conversations with local people because of my low ability to speak Japanese fluently.

When you see someone new come into your normal usual daily environment, it’s natural to want to get to know about their country, their culture etc. but after a while, it gets old and it’s time that person blends in with everyone else in daily conversation. It’s impossible for everyone to know entirely about that person’s culture but it’d be boring too to talk about the same stuff everyday too right? I hope you get what I’m trying to say here because yes, I’m stuck at that daily conversation part. 😄

Putting that aside, it was fun to play all sorts of games with my friends from the club as well, which made us closer and I’m grateful for that improvement in my relationship with friends from here. I’m glad that they included me in stuff and tried their best to explain most of the stuff I don’t understand in simple Japanese even though it was such a pain in the ass to do so. Same goes to English, if I were to be interrupted after saying a few words in a conversation to give the meaning of what I had said before, I’d be annoyed too I guess. 😅 The impatient side of me would always ask myself ‘Why am I still not good enough after living here for ____ months?? When will I ever be able to do it? When will I fit in?’ Questions like these are constantly bombarding my mind.

On a side note: I’m starting to feel comfortable talking to people here one-on-one as there are some really nice friends who’ve made my life here in Japan a colourful one. I’m grateful too, to have the constant support from my family and friends and the existence of internet because they’re always there for me as a listening ear when I feel so hopeless at times. 

It isn’t an easy task after all to intergrate into a foreign culture in just 5 months ey. 🙂

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