Monday, April 18, 2011

Diet Coke is Bad for Us

The first time I lived in Japan, I was just out of college and working as an assistant English teacher in a tiny hamlet in the mountains of northern Kyushu. On my first day in this small town, I managed to cut my toe on my suitcase. After all, one only cuts one's toe on one's suitcase when unable to speak the language and unsure of where to buy a band-aid. With the help of an extremely generous neighbor, I was eventually able to procure a band-aid, but only after we made our way to the only store in town that sold band-aids and stood out front of the tightly-shuttered building, yelling "Gomen kudasai" (Excuse me) for a good ten minutes before a man dressed only in his underwear opened shop and sold me what I needed.

Thus began a three-year relationship with a town that didn't quite know what to do with me.

As the only foreigner living within a 40-mile radius, I experienced a certain degree of, shall we say, "fame" that I would have preferred to avoid. The local school children not only knew where I shopped (not hard to figure out since there was only one store in town that stocked things that were not three years past their expiration date), they also knew what I bought and how often. The older ladies in my neighborhood kept a close eye on my laundry (which was usually left out hanging too long) and my yard (which was scandalously overgrown and full of weeds)-- who knew you were supposed to "cut" your grass by hand? When anyone had the audacity to leave her trash at the neighborhood collection point WITHOUT writing her name on it, the bag would end up on my front porch, as would any piece of mail with an address written in English, no matter who the intended recipient. And, don't even ask what it was like to begin dating the man I would eventually marry while living there (though it is a pretty good story)!

Don't get me wrong, I grew to love this little village just as they grew to give me a little more privacy, but the process wasn't without its growing pains. One morning when I got to school, the junior high where I taught was abuzz with the latest gossip about me: I drank a lot of Diet Coke. In fact, I drank enough to fill a medium-sized plastic recycling bag. Gasp! Oh the horror! It wasn't like my recyclables were full of empty fifths of whisky or liter bottles for beer. There were no Playgirl magazines or used condoms in my trash (which ALWAYS had to be disposed of in specially-purchased, see-through plastic bags). No, what I had to throw away was about a month's worth of Diet Coke cans. And, it was something I would never live down. Why? Because Diet Coke is bad for us, and really, what more is there to say?

Cartoon taken from:


Anonymous said...

Some of us would love a follow-up story on your life in that small village. :)

Mom on the Edge said...

Got it. I essentially just write what comes to me but will try to get some more village stories in.

Jewel said...

They would gasp in horror at the 12 pack of empty diet coke cans I recycle.....daily. :)