Warm fuzzy moments

We have a student teacher in training to become a math teacher at my junior high–she’s been there for a couple of weeks and this was her first week of attending classes. I’ve met her before; she’s the older sister of one of my speech contest girls from last year. She’s still in college, which would make her a bit younger than me, and she’s pretty nice, but she mainly replies to stuff I say to her and doesn’t really ask me anything or say much to me. She could be shy, though–I think we started to break the ice a tiny bit this afternoon. I’m unclear as to how long she’ll be here, though. It’d be cool if she were here again next week.

And to continue the previous post’s topic of people in town…

I catch a bus that puts me a 10-minute walk from my junior high (it’d only be around 5 minutes, except that my school’s up on a kind of steep hill and I’m a lazy slug), and I routinely pass this one tiny grocery-type store (fairly crappy selection; I don’t know how they even stay open when there’s a much better place just 1 km away). Usually the two women who run it are nowhere to be seen, but the first time I truly noticed them, I happened to be crossing the street to walk on the sidewalk in front of their store, and I heard a surprised laugh issue from the store and looked up to see them both staring at me with not-quite-warm smiles on their faces. I made sure to greet them and comment on how nice the weather was, only getting a sort of, “Ahh, heh-heh-heh,” in response, and as I passed, I heard them making comments in a kind of brightly derisive tone involving the word “eigo” (English). I was so startled that I kind of let it ruin my afternoon–it’d been a while since I’d come across such a random show of gaijin-disparaging like that, and it was just discouraging, considering how warm and receptive nearly everybody else has been.

I passed by the store yesterday when they were both there–they’d been chatting, but they fell silent when I went by, and I saw their heads turn and heard one of the woman start speaking again in a lower voice, in that tone that totally meant that’s she was talking about someone nearby without wanting that person to overhear. (Too late, Sherlock–even if I couldn’t hear you, it was ridiculously obvious that you were talking about me. Jerk.) It’s discouraging, but I guess there’ll always be people like that. At least I know not to take it personally, but I kind of wish I could somehow outwit or shame them into realizing that they’re being stupidly close-minded for no reason. This isn’t middle school–there’s no reason to gossip as if they’re kids when they’re at least in their 40s (it’s so petty, but when you start to show your age in this town, you’re really getting up there! Chew on that, ladies). We’ve been here for years and we’re here to stay, so they’d better get used to it.

Conversely, though, many times when I go to the bigger supermarket in town, Sunshine, I’ll end up at the register of this girl probably in her 20s, like me, who gives me a really genuinely big, warm smile every time she sees me, and tacks an extra “konnichiwa” or “konbanwa” on the end of her register greeting as a term of familiarity, to show that she recognizes me. It’s as if we’re friends and she’s truly happy to see me, even though we don’t know each other at all. It really makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. If not for the fact that there’s inevitably somebody who gets behind me in line, I’d probably strike up a conversation with her–she seems like she’d be really cool to get to know, just from her personality.

And speaking of Sunshine–as I was walking towards the parking lot, a SUV passed me with a young girl leaning out the window and looking at me in surprise. When I got to the lot, just across the street, her family had just gotten out of the car and was starting to walk towards the store entrance. I happened to glance at them, and the instant I did, the daughter–this young girl, probably a 2nd- or 3rd-grader, said, quite conversationally, “Nice to meet you!” Without even thinking about it, I started smiling and responded with, “Nice to meet you, too!” The parents laughed and the daughter started grinning. I saw them again on my way out, again outside the store, and the girl and her bigger sister both were smiling excitedly at me. We exchanged, “See you!”s, and and the parents and I exchanged friendly smiles and bows before we went our separate ways.

In other news, my plans for my week at home are falling into place–it’s going to be a lot of hectic activity in a short amount of time, but it’ll be so, so much fun. The response I got to my “hi, I’m coming home!” e-mail was huge…I unfortunately won’t be able to see two of my best friends because they just can’t be in town, but I’ll be back in December to see everyone I couldn’t meet this time around. I’m incredibly touched, and I seriously can’t wait to see everyone. Bela asked me on Google Chat what I miss the most, and I immediately responded, “The people.”

I called my parents yesterday, because I was a little concerned that all these plans I was making would mean I wouldn’t be able to spend enough time with them, but they were totally okay with my spending big chunks of the week with my friends, since they knew that that’s a big part of why I came home, and since I have Saturday-Monday reserved almost exclusively to spend with my family. I appreciate how understanding they are of that–I know people whose parents would totally monopolize all their time any time they’re home, and I’m glad they’re okay with it.

I can’t wait to go back to Atlanta. I just can’t express how excited I am. And it’s so close–just one more week before I can leave!

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