Thursday, April 21, 2011

Weighty Issues

I went to the gym the other day and I am going to go back again today. The gym in Ojika is definitely an interesting place. It costs 100 yen to work out and it`s usually pretty quiet, unless there are games or tournaments. For equipment, it kind of feels like you are stepping back twenty years. There are old-fashioned stair climbers and a stationary bike that have lost their resistance, one treadmill (where the belt seems unattached), and a rodeo seat. I don`t really understand the rodeo seat. Obviously the intention is that it`s like you are on a bucking bull, but it just makes grown men look ridiculous, sitting on this small seat that just seems to vibrate. I have yet to figure out the health benefits of the rodeo seat. Other than the machines that are seemingly worthless, there are some free weights and some other machines I`m a big fan of. Of course, there are never any women in there working with weights. Whenever I have asked men if women lift weights, they shake their heads and start laughing. The standard for Japanese women is to be slim - no muscles. Well, they are about to get schooled.

I have friends who have problems with the idea of female perfection here in Japan - getting comments on their size and skin color. I agree with them. While I find Japanese people on my island to be extremely polite and wonderful people, there are other cases where people are rude and passive aggressive to me because I am bigger than Japanese women. Living in Mozambique taught me to love my body no matter what I look like because every culture has a different perspective. In Mozambique, it was great to be a bigger person with hips and curves because that means you are healthy and successful. In Japan, curves are anything but the rage. So far, I have found Korea, China and Japan to be similar in their views on women and weight. There`s a lot of woman-against-woman criticism. Women are supposed to be slim, with white skin and people are quick to point out each others` "flaws." But I think that if you worry about everyone else`s opinions all the time, you will go crazy. It`s all in the confidence. Rock what you got.

I was in the teacher`s room last week when I was approached by an office staff, with a co-worker reluctantly translating, asking if I wanted to take leave for a mental exam. I said no and he kept insisting, saying that he recommended it. That made me question why he would ask me. Do I exude mental imbalance? Do I look like a fruit loop? He apparently didn`t ask everyone (just a few teachers) and I am super curious as to why he would think I need a mental exam. I consider myself a pretty happy, emotionally stable person. I guess in Japan it isn`t considered rude to tell people that you think it`s a good idea for them to be psychologically examined. I can see why my co-worker didn`t want to translate.

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