Learning to be a Minority After a Lifetime of Blending In, or
Three Part-time Jobs and Counting

Last night was spent fending off drunken Japanese salary men trying to slip their meishi into my hands. After taking a good twenty minutes to analyze the situation, I realized being sober in a room full of uninhibited, intoxicated men who find you to be a fantastically exotic creature is a tantalizing and powerful position to be in. And just slightly overwhelming.

I’m supposed to go through this twice a week, once voluntarily and once to the tune of some undisclosed amount of money. The voluntary weekly appearance includes free drinks and a free dinner, as well as transportation costs, so it wouldn’t be completely altruistic. I only wish I knew how much I’d be making on the paid night, but I am too embarrassed to ask after not addressing the issue after the first interview.

While the whole ordeal was tons of fun after becoming used to the balance of power, it was unbelievably mentally draining. I have to listen with every ounce of effort I can muster in order to merely understand what each person is saying, and then I have to attempt to interpret the meaning behind the oftentimes meaningless stream of words that pour forth from loosened tongues. It takes a lot more effort than I expected.

But money’s money and I met several proper, nice men in the process. I accepted two meishi, and should probably contact the guys. I’m in Japan to build a network of contacts as well as learn, so this is a great opportunity. My safety is hardly an issue; I’m not the only female there, plus the manager is a sweet old man who is so blinded by the fact that I am studying at Japan’s top university that he tends to treat me like a trophy as opposed to a female. Unfortunately the rote introduction he seems to have concocted for me is "the incredibly beautiful To Dai girl from Michigan." I’m not a fan of that, especially when it’s announced over a PA system to a room full of people. Smile and wave. That’s all you can do.

back to Being a foreign female in Japan

In a locked apartment
during World War Two,
Wladislaw ate a rotten potato.
He sliced the fuzzy spotted vegetable
straight through the inner eyes.
It had begun sprouting,
tendrils reaching through the skin,
thirsty for a drop of life.

In science class we stuck toothpicks
into the sides of potatoes,
propped them into glasses of water
and watched them grow legs.
They sat on the windowsills
next to the rock candy
we were eager to lick.

When I was twelve,
my elderly neighbor had a decrepit
Camaro that was parked behind his house.
We would sneak back there to look
through the windows, at the enormous
gray thing lying on the front seat.

"I think it's a giant potato," I said,
but nobody knew for sure.
The old man never drove that car,
and we asked him, if we could pool
enough money, would he sell it to
all of us. He said no.

"By the way, what is that big gray thing,
on the front seat?"

"It's a watermelon," he said
and shut the door.

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