Shopping Day

Heh, sorry, guys. I meant to post that last entry into my dream blog, not my main one. I guess the cat’s out of the bag. I’m a firm believer in never forcing your dreams on people, because they’re almost never as hilarious or interesting as you think they are. But I am also a hypocrite, so I made a dream blog, if people care to see what goes on in my wacky overactive subconscious. Enjoy.
I do want to share with you my big day yesterday. It’s funny. I go on these exotic adventures to temples and seedy underbellies of Japan, and what I’m inspired to write about is my trip to the grocery store two weeks later.
It’s because the adventure stories aren’t really stories. They’re more like: “Then I ate some Thai food. Then I felt sick. Then my friends yelled at me for not drinking because I felt sick. Then 5 hours later, I’m dead tired, walking around the Gay District of Tokyo, not that there’s anything wrong with that, trying to prevent various friends from spitting pistachio shells at rude bartenders, even if it is really funny and he totally deserves it.”
But yesterday, I had a fun day. I handed tests back and used up the rest of the class by having the kids fill in Penny Arcade comics with hilarious results. Afterwards, I went shopping at the “Western” grocery store in town.
I really enjoy shopping in Japan for some reason. It’s really calming to me. I like seeing new foods to try, finding stuff I didn’t think existed in Japan, and I always have my iPod on, and I unintentionally rock out in the vegetable aisle, amidst awkward stares of passersby. To be fair, half of the lunatic stuff I do without thinking gets me stares in America, too, but it’s funnier to me here because I feel embarrassed when I realize what I’m doing. And embarrassment is always funny. Whereas, in LA, I’ll step up to some grandma’s grille and be all “YEAH, I’m slow dancing with a can of chick peas, what’s it to you? I’ll cut you so bad, you’ll wish I didn’t cut you so bad!” Then it turns out the grandma’s a writer for Family Guy, and she sues me for plagiarism.
The one thing different in this country is that eeeeeeverybody wants to know what Whitey’s got in the basket. I’m kind of self conscious, because I feel like if I have a cart full of frozen pizza and Frosted Flakes, they’ll think I don’t (or “can’t,” as they always ask) eat Japanese food. So I always try to keep a thin layer of udon noodles, okonomiyaki mix, and octopus tentacles on the top, so they can see how multicultural I am. Or maybe they’re looking because they WANT to see me getting Western food. I don’t know who I’m supposed to be! Am I supposed to be predictable or capricious?
Anyway, apparently it was free sample day, which I have only seen once before, in my local market. I made the terrible, terrible mistake of taking the cup and drinking it before noting the products in question on the table.
If there’s one thing Japan has taught me, it’s bodily impulse control. For instance, more often than I’d like, a vendor shoves a huge purple tentacle at me, smiling, and hoping with his every hope that I’ll take it and eat it right there, pausing only shortly to unstick the suckers from my uvula before I swallow it. I have acquired the ability to not only suppress my gag reflex and facial sneer but to actually replace them with a smile and a polite, “No, thank you” in Japanese. “Kekko desu,” I exclaim cheerfully, which roughly translates into “My family should be shamed for the rudeness I am displaying towards you. I promise to purchase your wares tomorrow, but today, unfortunately, I have a tentacle already attached to my uvula that I am unable to dislodge.”
But so at the last free samples day, I horked down a cupful of something that tasted pretty good at first, and then tasted awful, gah, bad, bad, bad. “Miruku to remon!” The lady cheerfully informed me, as I noticed that she was, for some ungodly reason, giving away mixtures lemon juice and milk. It finished curdling inside my mouth, and I smiled weakly as I tripped away to get a frozen pizza with which to cleanse my palate.
This happened pretty early on in my time here in Japan, so I actually forgot about this happening until yesterday, when I horked down a free sample of…Health Vinegar! The poor sample guy actually had really good English, so I stood around listening to his spiel about how cassis berry vinegar was scientifically proven to give me clear skin and prevent me from ever catching a cold. And I don’t know if it’s my being in Japan so long, but after I realized what it was…it wasn’t half bad. I just wish I had known the kanji for vinegar, because when I saw the berry on the carton, my mouth was expecting a completely different flavor.
I tried a few other things — a really good hot dog sausage thing, and a meatball you make by boiling the package in water. In the far corner, they were even giving out wine samples, and to my surprise, I actually liked the red wine. A slave to my poor impulse control, I agreed to purchase a bottle of wine, and the woman looked so shocked that she had made a sale, I got a little worried that she knew something about it that I didn’t. All I know is I don’t usually like red wine, and I liked this. Maybe it was Kool-Aid. Anyway, to ease my guilt at making a $15 impulse buy, I got back in line a few more times for more samples, each time donning a new outfit and fake mustache. (Yes, I used another Family Guy joke. Wanna fight about it?)
Then on the bike ride home, I saw a bird walking on a grate, and he kept falling in and hitting his head on the next bar, then straightening up and doing it again, and I feel guilty for how hard I laughed at that.
Finally, when I got home, I walked past my super cute upstairs neighbor. This girl can’t be more than 3-years-old, and she’s so innocently blunt, it’s hilarious. Every time she sees me, she says (in Japanese, of course), “You’re Lauren-sensei, right? Mom, look, it’s Lauren-sensei. Her name’s Lauren-sensei, right?” And I laugh and tell her she’s right, and ask how she is. Then she usually stares at me and asks some question that I don’t understand.
One night, Gabe was over and my washing machine broke, so I asked her mom to come and help me. She brought her daughter down, and Gabe said “Good day” to her. She cocked her head and said “It’s not good day, it’s ‘good evening’ now!” And I laughed while her mom presumably said something about not correcting people. But she was right, after all. Smart kid.
So yesterday, she asked me something like where had I just come from or what had I been doing. So I tried to muster my best Japanese and said, “Uh, school, then shopping. I bought bread, and, uh…” I couldn’t remember the word for eggs, so I just said it in English. She laughed and looked at me funny and corrected my Japanese, which I like to translate as her saying, “That’s not an ‘egg,’ dummy. It’s a ‘とまご,’ yo!” It sure is, kid. It sure is.

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