I am a bad anthropologist

I’m totally behind on updating this, but when given the choice between starting to pack (and where am I going to even put the open suitcases in this apartment?) and writing a blog entry, blog entry it is!

I also made coconut pudding and updated my Amazon wishlist. I should shower But no! No! No! I will write this first and stop allowing my attention to hop around like a monkey.

I have this constant fear with my fieldwork that I’m not doing enough. Anyway, I’d been attending a workshop related to my project for months, and on the last day I presented my group with their thank you gifts. (Really, this embarrassed everyone involved, apart from the Sensei, who apparently gets so many thank-you gifts that she practically chucked mine in the corner as soon as it was in her hands.)

Sensei (I’ll call her S-san) had announced that we were to all go out drinking together after the last workshop. But at the end, my group made for the door-  I assumed they wanted us to go drinking, just the 4 of us. But I hadn’t given S-san her gift yet, so I said “just a moment” and took a minute or two to hand it to her, babble on about my gratitude etc. Then I hurriedly announced that I was going to tag along with the rest of my group, and excused myself.

Flinging open the heavy metal door, I expected to see them waiting there for me. But the stairwell was empty, and it was raining hard. And I had no umbrella.

Still, I just knew they were nearby, so I dashed to the intersection at the corner of the building, and saw …way…. in … the … distance, the three of them under their umbrellas, walking in the opposite direction from my train station.


I retreated back to the covered stairwell of the building, and stood there. Well, now what? I AM AN ANTHROPOLOGIST. I AM SUPPOSED TO BE BUILDING RAPPORT, I told myself. Oh well, I could go home. And so, holding a paper shopping bag-as-umbrella over my head pitifully, I started towards my station.

Then- “argh, no, you idiot.  You should be drinking with the rest of the crew”, came a voice in my head. I stopped. I looked back. The rest of the workshop was all still in the office. But… going back would be awkward. I started toward the station again.


I wavered… literally turning in circles in the street. I walked back to the front of the building. I stopped. I walked a few steps back towards the station.


I stood there, staring up at the office. 5 minutes passed. One step back, one step forward. I’d try to leave and then think of a good question to ask everyone once they were good and hammered. I envisioned the part of my dissertation in which I’d use it to… something. Make some important point I’d come up with later. After we’d all gone drinking.

Tightening my face in a childish expression of determination I said out loud “That’s IT!”, startling a salaryman walking nearby (who, not knowing me, didn’t expect me to exclaim something odd out loud in public. To myself).

I marched back up the stairs like a super-hero, and flung open the office door. Everyone inside looked up, pausing from their conversations. I felt the expectation of an explanation. “I, um, forgot my umbrella.” I mumbled, rubbing the back of my head like a manga character.

It’s a small office, so it didn’t take long to conclude that there was no umbrella belonging to me there. “Ah, uh, must have left it in the train then.” I announced. Everyone nodded. It had been an awkwardly long amount of time to justify a return-to-check-for-lost-items scene. I quickly glanced around for signs that everyone was about to go drinking.

Nothing. They were just sitting in their groups chatting. Shouldn’t have left to chase my group, but, well, I couldn’t help it now.

In English I might have just explained the situation and laughed at myself, but in Japanese I’m horribly shy, and tend to become mute when embarrassed. Which I was.

When I met up with T I talked him into going to a 270 yen izakaya and drinking cheap, cheap wine with me to take the edge off my anxiety. I regretted this plan when I couldn’t sleep a wink that night and had a splitting headache for 24 hours after that as well. Oy.


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