Friday, August 26, 2011

Asian, Yet Foreigner

My name is Nanako Ota, a junior majoring in Anthropology and minoring in Education. I am writing the second blog article in honor of Aaron Bos-Lun, who kindly decided to use my name in the log-in password of this blog.

It has been about five years since I moved to the US by myself to pursue my academic career away from my home country, Japan. Being away from home is now easier because I have come to understand English better, and at Wheaton I do not feel intimidated by being surrounded by both ethnically and culturally diverse students.

Here in Bhutan, I guess I have been going through very different cultural-adjustment process compared to the other ten members. Arriving at Paro on August 1st, I felt rather nostalgic looking at the sceneries of this country, where the people put much effort to protect their beautiful nature. In other words, I felt as if I needed to ‘come back’ here and see what my country used to be before Tokyo took over. Taking a deep breath from the transparent blue air, I certainly could feel myself being purified.

My life at Royal Thimphu College has been too great because of my two roommates (Love you, PemPem and LhamLham). It is exciting as well as strange for me to be in a school setting where the most students are Asian because my school days in Japan seem so long time ago; however, it is certainly comfortable being with the Bhutanese students here. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I would say the biggest reason is that the Bhutanese students can naturally understand me and my culture. I do not mind them speaking Dzongkha (Bhutanese national language) in front of me and laughing to tears, because I know that they are feeling happy, and the fact that they are happy just makes me smile. (Of course I laugh out loud with them even though I understand little Dzongkha…well this is what I always do when I do not understand what my American friends are saying in English, so not a problem at all.)

Last evening, I was walking down the street after visiting the JICA office (my fieldwork site), and I heard kids laughing on the other side of the road. Their laughter was cut by the noise of the cars passing by, but their presence just made me smile. Then I heard one boy saying, “Ashim! Ashim! (Sister!)” When I turned back, what I saw was two boys standing still. One boy was holding a bouquet in his hands. He said nothing but just pushed the bouquet toward me. I became speechless. “Really? Are you sure?,” I said. He and his friends just nodded, smiling shyly. I figured out that they were elementary school students living near the JICA office. I nervously said, “Thank you, Kaadinchey La” to them, but at the same time, I felt that I was not smiling from the bottom of my heart.

It was not just because receiving a bouquet from a boy/man never happened to me before (to be honest); it was because I knew that I have nothing to give to them. Since I came to Bhutan, all the people I have met here welcomed me so generously, and I have not felt uncomfortable or offended at all here.  Now it feels like I went back to my childhood again because people treat me so well, too well. I honestly feel worried because I do not know what I can give to my roommates, the RTC students, and Bhutanese people. But hopefully I can figure it out soon and do as much as possible in the next thirteen weeks. One of my goals by the time I leave here is maybe to find the little boys again and hug them warmly.

1 comment:

  1. honto babe yeah i do remember that. u shown me that flower. its really beautiful but i can say nt as you ma dear..