Cascadian Abroad

Sitting on the Sidelines

Today I was out for a run in the middle of the day, one of the many perks of my current non-employed status. I ran past one of the nearby parks and saw some guys playing baseball. I decided to take a little break and sat down to watch them for awhile.

The “guys” were probably 65 years old on average. They were taking batting practice, rotating in and out like a well-oiled team. Long fly balls corralled with two hands. Line drives snagged with nifty backhand catches. Ground balls around the infield tossed with precision to first base. I didn’t see a single error.

I sat and watched with knowledge of the social role reversal taking place. Usually it’s the old guy reliving his youth from the sidelines, but not today. I wished I had a glove. I wished one of them would ask if I wanted to take a turn at the plate. But, I just watched for about 10 minutes before finishing up my run.

Getting in the game here can be hard. I’m still not super comfortable communicating and got out of practice a bit over the summer. But there are days where the spirit of taking advantage of the situation overcomes the hesitance.

I had a free day for lunch last week and decided to go out in the neighborhood. For some reason, the local ramen shop is intimidating. It’s just a hole in the wall with a counter and about a dozen seats.

I walked past the first time, but after a block I’d psyched myself up enough to go in. I sat down at the counter and asked if the miso ramen was vegetarian (it was-ish, but I’m pretty sure the broth had some pork fat in it…). The security guard on his lunch break sitting next to me gave me a hard-boiled egg from the bowl on the counter and told me it was abunai or dangerous. He motioned as if I should put it in my pocket and laughed hard.

Another man down the counter spoke a tiny bit of English and used it all. He overheard my order and asked “You are vegetarian?” Then, when I went to get water from the self-serve machine, he asked if I could read the sign (which, surprisingly, I could!). I read it in Japanese and he read it in English. As I was leaving, he patted me on the back and said “no problem,” which I’m pretty sure is the second phrase they teach in Japanese schools after “Hello.”

After a few minutes though, the novelty of the American wore off and we all ate our meals in peace.

It felt good to “get in the game” and be a part of the community.


  • Reply Amy Daraghy September 19, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Good for you, Robert. What a lot of work to try to gain some level of comfort.

    • Reply Robert September 19, 2014 at 8:27 pm

      Thanks Amy! I don’t want to come off sounding neurotic or anything. 🙂 It’s a lot like being the new kid on the playground sometimes.

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