Sometimes I forget that I am a foreigner here in Japan. Daily life feels so much a part of me, understanding everything that goes on around me, being able to read a lot of what is around me, etc. It all just feel so normal. This is my home. So sometimes I really do forget that I am a foreigner. I completely forget that I look different. EVERY once-in-a-while a little kid will stare at me, and I'll remember that you can tell by looking at me that I am not Japanese, but even these occasions can be rare. Then days like today come along and I get a strong reminder.
For some reason, today EVERYTHING around me was screaming "FOREIGNER!!!"
When I took Hana preschool this morning, I was standing near a couple of little two year olds who were playing on the floor and they noticed my toenails. I painted them pink a couple days ago and they dropped all their toys and headed for my toes. They were touching them and looking at each other like, "what is this?". I moved across the room once, and in a few moments again realized that something was still touching my toes. They had followed me and were continuing to observe my toes while I put some more of Hana's things in the proper places for the day. Then as I went to the door of the room to go out, they followed me again and continued to touch my toes. I remember growing up, my pastor's wife Carol telling me about her first Sunday at church in Africa when they were missionaries there. She wore stockings, and all the people in the church were mesmerized and the children wouldn't stop touching her legs (at least I think this is how the story went, that's how I remember it at least). Today in that moment I thought of Carol, and I was laughing to myself. I felt like I was re-living her experience, with these little Japanese kids so mesmerized by my painted toe nails (although that isn't such an uncommon thing here).
Then we made a trip to Costco to get some necessary items and while I was there I heard some comments from people around me about the tall, VERY pale skinned foreigner. No doubt about it, that is me. The only thing is, to be called pale skinned here is a COMPLIMENT! (Those of you who know how hopelessly WHITE I am will understand how much I appreciate that God sent me to Japan to be a missionary, where my hopelessly white skin is admired!!!) *wink, wink*
Then on the way to pick Hana up from pre-school this afternoon, in at least three separate locations I had little old ladies going on and on about the foreigner as they watched me walk by. It is rather amusing because they assume I can not understand what they are saying, and I hear and understand EVERY word!
Anyways, today I was reminded that I am not Japanese. I really forget that I look different here sometimes. I forget that this is not REALLY my country, because on the inside of me it is home! But the outside is still foreign!