A few home truths never break the ice

On Sunday night I had an argument with my younger host brother. It was basically about me leaving food on my plate and his ordering me to eat everything, although there may have been other factors; the fact that we know next to nothing about each other and rarely ever speak, the fact that the Japanese I used to tell him he was being quite loud was taken as “shut up” in that context, or perhaps the fact that I hate his guts. Anyway, as you can probably tell, this was the trigger for a lot of thinking on my part about whether I was doing the right thing staying in this host family.

I still had the option to move out, but didn’t want to, chiefly for the reason that most of my friends are doing homestay, and I didn’t want them saying to me “Don’t worry, I’m sure you tried your hardest” while thinking “You loser”. I was waiting around in the lounge yesterday to speak to Hashimoto-san, who is in charge of the homestay program, Yumi asked me what was wrong. She’s the girl of “the guy and the girl” that I met on my second day here, and ever since then she’s been a great friend. I thought I might as well tell her, as she could tell I was on edge, so I started to tell her about the problems I’d had with my host brothers. Once I’d opened up, it seemed good to carry on. Why the heck not? I ended up on this terrific spiel about how I hated my host brothers and couldn’t stand to live in the same house as them, and how pathetic it was that I’d stay in my room rather than talk to my host family as I had nothing to say to them. As the spieling continued, I realised this was one of the first times I’d opened up to someone at Kansai Gaidai about my less palatable thoughts and feelings.

Whenever anyone really opens up to another person, they invariably get a glimpse of the big huge cauldron of craziness bubbling away under their facade of normality. In my case, the craziness on show is truly epic. It compares to the moment in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the wrath of God spills from the ark and melts all the Nazis. I sneaked a panicked glance at Yumi. Was she about to dissolve under the sheer force of my neuroses? Dear God, was I melting her?

Fortunately not. But she was looking at me as if I was suddenly in dire need of help. She leaned forward, and said the exact last thing I wanted to hear:
“Dude, how can you not have anything to say to them? I mean, you’re in Japan, there must be so much about this place you want to know…”
That, of course, was the response of a normal person. I know that these people have rational problems, to which rational solutions are always provided. And they never move out of homestay. Right then, moving out was out of the question for me. Not because I wanted to take Yumi’s advice and “give it my best shot”, but because I didn’t want her and the rest of my friends to lose whatever respect for me they might have.

Hashimoto-san was pretty helpful. I don’t know if I’ll ever get on with my host brothers. They’ve both got their own lives, despite living in the same house, and I guess the best we can hope for is to treat each other civilly. Things were alright this evening. I ate with my younger host brother in the room, neither of us saying a thing to the other. And I finished every single thing on my plate. I talked to Okaasan, and to Otosan when he came home. I went to bed feeling that while living here might not be perfect, I could at least try to make it as good as possible.

Today, I was walking down the stairs in the CIE when Yumi clocked me and said hi. It took all my titanic willpower (and my vestigial knowledge that films are not real) to stop myself executing a Sin City-style headfirst plunge down the stairwell to escape. Instead, I mumbled a few words about everything being fine and brushed past her. I clattered down the stairs, wondering if or when she’d realise that she didn’t see me the same way now.


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