Monday, August 28, 2006

So Relative.

When our relatives from Japan have visited in the past, they usually contact my mom first, who then gets on the phone and tries desperately to see which of her five, no-good, lazy children will help her out with hosting duties, such as picking them up from the airport, arranging accommodations or sightseeing tours. After hearing one too many lame excuses about busy work schedules or American Idol finales that couldn't be missed, she'll mutter a few choice words in Japanese (my mom is also fluent in English but only curses in Japanese) and then tell us, "Oh, don't bother. I'd hate for you to miss one of your fancy dinner parties just to spend time with your relatives that flew halfway around the world to see you."

Then she arranges a bus tour for them to Disneyland, or drops them off on Rodeo Drive with a couple of Starbucks coupons and a map to the stars' homes. At some point we'll all get together for a meal or a brief outing, but for the most part we usually act as if these special guests were just neighbors that had popped over unexpectedly to borrow the garden hose.

Which is why we were so very humbled and, well, embarrassed by the attention and consideration by our relatives when we got to Japan. I should mention that there were twelve of us that made the trip over from the U.S. (my family of four, my 85-year-old mom, my sister, brother, three nephews and two nieces), so just figuring out transportation for our unruly bunch and our five-hundred pieces of luggage was sort of like trying to stuff twelve clowns into a Volkswagen. My cousin Yoko and her daughter met us at the airport, along with a couple of other relatives that brought along their friends to pick us up. Five cars in all. It got Rigel and I thinking that were we to make the same request to our friends at home, "How about dropping everything to go to the airport late at night to help us pick up our relatives that you've never met?" there would first be silence, then hysterical laughter and then inquiries as to what we'd been smoking.

Three or four different families had gotten together to plan and pick up the tab for our stay there. This included first-rate hotel accommodations, transportation and most of our meals, not to mention constant hand-holding and translation duties so that none of us ended up trying to hail a pastry cart instead of a taxi or asking for turpentine when what we wanted was a cup of coffee. Did I mention the private bus (with driver) that they rented to take us around for the six days we were with them?

I'm not sure how we can ever repay them for all they did for us, but we'll have a chance to redeem ourselves since a few of them are planning to come to the U.S. to attend my brother's wedding early next year. We're already prepared to clear our schedules for at least two weeks, and I'm trying my best to be strong and keep reminding myself of all the sacrifices that they made for us. Because their visit? Coincides exactly with the last two, crucial weeks of American Idol.

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34 comments:

  1. I never know what you are supposed to do with guests, the obligation. Now I'm embarassed that their was any question.

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  2. Wow - now that is hospitality!

    I'm so glad you're posting again - I've been having withdrawal symptoms from not reading your fun posts.

    (been lurking for a few months...when I found you, I went back and read all your archives - they're so good)

    Anyway, enough gushing for now :)

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  3. Your relatives sound absolutely wonderful!

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  4. Sounds like a fun trip. I wouldn't want to fly that far with kids!

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  5. Their trip is a test of your wills...I know it! That, or your brother totally planned his wedding at that time just to spite you. LOL!
    They sound so wonderful, you sure you don't want to adopt a family of three? We cook and clean, and we'll be quiet during AI....

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  6. It should be "Japanese Idol" that we're all watching...

    I remember arriving in Osaka where I didn't know a soul. At one point I almost stood up screaming on a bus (because I didn't know where I was going, or really what I was going to do - plus, I had been travelling for 30+ hours) and I was going to puke all over the place. A Japanese man was my savior - Tomoki Ikeda - one of the nicest, most generous people I have ever had the honor of meeting. I'll never forget him, unless I lose my mind of course, but anyway, their manners and extreme polite culture just puts us to shame...

    How incredibly nice of them to do what they did for you guys...after all that, if you need help when they're here, give me a call. :)

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  7. How incredible that they were nice to you at all! Just kidding. But it does sound like you owe them at least a ride to and from the airport. Your trip to Japan sounds fantastic. When I go, I'm going to pretend to be one of your releatives.

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  8. I just love hearing you describe all of your experiences,and the cultural differences. If you set aside two weeks, make sure you add an extra couple of days on that just to write about it. For us.

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  9. I hate to say it, but you maybe should invest in a TIVO if you don't have one. They deserve some nice freaking treatment when they show up. They really paid for your hotel? Too cool.

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  10. I love reading about your adventures in Japan. Especially liked the one about beating your hubby with a kimono. We used to have Japanese exchange students and one gave us girls Kimonos. Was that really generous of her? :)

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  11. Wow- yes I'd be humbled as well. That's some crazy hospitality!

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  12. how did you survive traveling with so many people without killing each other? we are planning a huge family trip in october to disney world and i'm hording my xanax for the occasion.

    i second the tivo purchase. short of being hit by a car, no excuse it good enough to miss such kind and hospitable relatives.

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  13. We experience the same hospitality when we visit my husband's family in Mexico. The last time we were there a family member gave us his brand new truck to drive (while he drove his old one) so we wouldn't have to rent a car. I don't see the same generosity and willingness here in our country when family visits. Your trip sounds amazing! I love the pictures.

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  14. That is so wonderful that you were treated with such honor by your relatives. Don't worry about missing AI, I'll be doing my recap so you won't miss a thing!

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  15. That's wonderful! It sort of reminds me of this incredible friend I have who remembers my kids birthdays, my birthday, my husbands birthday, our wedding anniversary and every single holiday that passes. She doesn't just sent a card from 2000 miles away, but she packs up her kids and takes them to the post office to mail us gifts. I can't even get my act together enough to remember to ask her when her kids birthdays are, so I just call with lame excuses around that time of year... if I remember to. It's terrible.

    I love hearing about this. Keep it coming.

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  16. Oh my gosh! Somehow I feel guilty after reading that, they sound sooo nice!

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  17. Wow...you'd better start planning now!

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  18. You better start plannng all the festivities now....
    What a fantastic experience all of you had...
    I do no think I could tour with my entire family like that...
    What a gift you gave to your children... a memory that will last a lifetime...or until the next American Idol installment.

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  19. It's funny. Every time I'm in Korea and see relatives, I'm overwhelmed by their generous hospitality and I swear that I'm going to return the favor when they come to NY. But of course, when they DO come to NY, I don't go to the airport to pick them up. I send a car instead. I don't show them all the great sites in NYC. I just take them to a restaurant 3 blocks away from my apartment. And when they want to take a scenic drive out to the suburbs, I cop out and send my parents to escort them.

    I wish I could say it was because I was busy watching the final rounds of American Idol. In reality, I was probably just busy clipping my toenails.

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  20. what nerve. going around being so nice and considerate and wonderful. i cannot abide such things as i end up having to give so much of myself in return and myself generally likes to lay on the couch a lot. like a real lot. prefereably with food.

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  21. Wow. You've shamed me, because I think about the idea of relatives staying with me for a week or so and I break out in a cold sweat. These same people would probably be more gracious that we would.

    That said, the Japanese are known for their hospitality and, Americans (I speak for myself) are a bunch of lazy-ass people. TiVo "American Idol" or...introduce them to it beforehand so that they'll be hooked enough to want to watch it with you! That's it! AI is the new drug and you are the pusher.

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  22. Wow. You've shamed me, because I think about the idea of relatives staying with me for a week or so and I break out in a cold sweat. These same people would probably be more gracious that we would.

    That said, the Japanese are known for their hospitality and, Americans (I speak for myself) are a bunch of lazy-ass people. TiVo "American Idol" or...introduce them to it beforehand so that they'll be hooked enough to want to watch it with you! That's it! AI is the new drug and you are the pusher.

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  23. That sounded like my Mom doing her "guilt trip" and we usually cave in and do what she wants.

    Wow! That must have been a great trip. I'd love to visit Viet Nam one of these days, I've left the country 26 yrs ago and would love to go bk for a visit, but with 3 young children hanging onto my legs, it's kind of hard travelling 24 hrs with them.

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  24. Your relatives are amazing! I feel guilty just reading this post and I'm not even in your family.

    Except I do a crazy amount of complaining when people visit and expect things of me. I obviously should take a lesson from your relatives.

    Your trip sounds amazing.

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  25. I just read the post before this one and was CRACKING UP at Rigel in his man-spa. Because that's what would happen if me and Dave went to Japan -- I'd be in bed drooling and snoring and he'd be livin' it up on the balcony spa.

    Isn't that always the way, when something comes up that absolutely DEMANDS that you clear your schedule, it's a crucial television night?!

    If you don't already have Tivo, my guess is you'll be getting it before then?

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  26. I had to laugh. I thought my Catholic mom was good at guilt trips. Now I see that its moms of all cultures. heehee

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  27. Japanese guilt is real! Boy, those nisei moms really know
    how to get to us. You have got your work cut out, sister.
    I'd say you need to rent a few Hummers to cart them around L.A., and maybe a few celebrity friends could just
    pop over for an impromptu 5 course meal. 2005 has prepared you well for the daunting task that lies ahead.
    Afterall, you were the PTA President and managed to host your immediate family of 40 for the holidays. You Go Girl, and show those relatives a damn great All-American good time. And, when my relatives came from Japan, they LOVED the grocery store, I guess it was the LOW prices, especially for milk and ice cream. It FREAKED them out. They bought gallons of milk, Dad, Mom, Daughter and her boyfriend would look at one another and giggle as they drank glass after glass.
    Have Fun!

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  28. I was SO jealous upon hearing about your trek to Japan. But come reciprocation time, I'm not so sure I'd be so quick to trade places with you. YIKES! Then again, I'm the girl who feels like the bar has been raised when relatives give us the good pillows.

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  29. Oooh, I want to hear all about Japan, especially the cultural differences. I am going to try to go to Tokyo in November and would prefer to not behave like a complete jackass.

    Also, if it makes you feel better? People click on the door that goes nowhere ALL. THE. TIME. It's part of the fun. :)

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  30. Holy Crap. You can hardly get anyone in my family to drive one state over to have Thanksgiving dinner...

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  31. See, that is how family should treat eachother! Sorry, couldn't help, we have a few dysfunctional members and I'm a little bitter! It reminds me of how when my husband's Aunt and Uncle visit from Denmark, and they always are so gracious and generous to us, and I can only hope that I was a good hostess to them. I love that your family did that for you--and you know you could always Tivo American Idol!!!

    Carrie

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  32. My husband and I visited Japan over two years ago and we were just stunned at how generous and kind the Japanese were to us. We met a woman on the train who was sending her son to Paris (where I had lived 8 years ago) and because I shared some of my stories with her, she gave us a gift on the spot. So many people gave us gifts just for talking with them. Then, when we looked lost, we were always approached by a local offering help- even if the person didn't speak any English. Their kindness was so incredible and really was half of the reason the trip was a success. We will certainly go back when Hugo is old enough to get something from it.

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  33. I know what you mean about the whole "hosting relatives" dilemna. Whenever we go to Germany, my mom stays at my Oma and Opa's house (grandma and grandpa) and my brother and I stay at my godmother's house. The thing is, now my cousins are getting to be old enough to visit the states on their own and of course, because I live in Oh-So-Exciting DC, I have to host them for days... I hate taking off of work for stuff like that but then I just have to remember that even though it was their PARENTS that have taken off of work to host us, it's still appreciated that we're now hosting their kids. (Does that make sense? I'm rambling now.)

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  34. oh, dear god.

    please think about officially applying for sainthood, when this whole thing shakes out?

    because, really. that's quasi-unacceptable, right there.

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