Something I Never Worried About Before

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My name.

Those of you who happen to read this are probably in Japan or know Japanese or going on JET or some combo of these.  You know how Japanese is pronounced, right?

I’ve known all along how my name is pronounced.

Laura Huff is pronounced
ローラ ハーフ or rohra hahfu.

Here’s the problem, though.  It’s something I just started to encounter during my last trip to Japan.

Currently, there’s a model/talento named Rola.  Here’s a picture of her:

rolaShe frequently appears on variety shows and displays a child-like demeanor.  She’s often imitated because she’s kind of ridiculous on TV.  Last time I was in Japan, someone said she was “ditzy.”

Rola is also half-Japanese, and we know how half-Japanese people are sometimes looked at as a marvel in the entertainment world.

So here’s my problem.  If you haven’t noticed already.  Her name is also pronounced ローラ.  But here’s the worse part.  My last name is pronounced ハーフ, which is the same term for someone who is half-Japanese.  Rola is half-Japanese.

Do you see where I’m going with this yet?

MY NAME IS FODDER FOR SO MANY JAPANESE JOKES.

Now, it may not happen that much.  It may even just be marked upon without it becoming a big deal.  And if so, I’ll just laugh, agree with the weird coincidence and move on.

But.

BUT.

I’ve never had to worry about this before.

Anyone else worried about people mispronouncing or maybe making a joke of their name?

All You JET Ladies, Put Ya Hands Up! Whoa oh ohhhh…

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Awhile back, I joined the JET Ladies Facebook group on the recommendation of someone from one of the other JET groups, and I’m so thankful I did.

Most of the posts revolve around where you can find lady-specific items or doctors in a certain area–VERY IMPORTANT–but there are occasionally posts about someone’s struggle with sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior from students.  It’s really interesting and helpful to see how other people respond to those situations.

I’ll be honest here.  Until recently, I haven’t thought much about those situations.  Of course, I prepared my answer for the interview.  It was something along the lines of “Talk to my supervisor blah blah ginger.”

But yesterday, a current JET friend of mine posted on Facebook about elementary school students calling her “debu” which is the word for “fat” with a negative connotation.  I started looking up similar situations because this may happen to me at some point, and I’m not sure how I’d respond.

I completely feel that children’s behavior should be corrected, but what how hard is it to speak up to the JTE or your supervisor or principal about a situation?  What if something happens outside the school?  What if going to the police doesn’t help?  What if…? What if…? What if…?

I’m getting worried about situations that may not even happen.

But let’s be honest here.  The world is different for women than it is for men.  Men do afford a certain privilege because they happened to have been born men.  They don’t always face the same situations and hardships that a woman would.  And knowing Japan, women are expected to behave a certain way and not cause a fuss.  You may have a stalker, but do you really want to make a big fuss over someone paying you too much attention?  That’s the kind of feeling I may face over there.

It worries me, but something I read on a post in the JET Ladies group helped me put things in perspective.

Someone said that we are not Japanese. I know, SHOCKING, right?  Yes, we may be living and working in Japan, speak Japanese, and may even be married to a Japanese citizen.

DAKEDO

We, ourselves, are not Japanese.  We need to speak up if something is wrong.  Part of our collective job is to be the “non-Japanese person.”  That may sound racist, but it’s true.  Our job is to be a cultural ambassador and explain our respective cultures to Japanese kids (and even adults).  I realize how important this is even while I’m still in America.  I have a Japanese friend who speaks near-fluent English and has lived here for two years, but she still doesn’t understand some concepts of American culture.  She asks me about them, and I try to explain as best as I can.

It’s okay that we’re not Japanese.  It’s okay that she’s not American.  It’s about making ourselves understood.  As respectfully as possible, of course.

When I get to Japan and have to deal with it on a daily basis, I may feel differently. It will be a challenge.  It’s good to know I’ll have friends there, Japanese and non-Japanese alike.

I will just try to deal with it the best that I can.