Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Yesterday, six of my Japanese students jointly gave me a large block of fudge as omiyage from their trip to Mackinac Island over the weekend. I think they mostly did it because they had to miss class on Friday to go, because it's part of their Japanese university's program at MSU. The thing that struck me, though, was that it seemed completely normal to me. Omiyage is a fact of life in Japan. Whenever anyone in your office, or family, or close friend group, goes on a trip, you know you're going to get some little gift, almost always an individually wrapped traditional food item. Thus, when I was presented with fudge claiming to be "The Best on Mackinac Island," I just thought, "Oh, omiyage, of course. Interesting that they keep that up in the US." Then I had to follow that thought with, "But I'm not supposed to accept gifts from students. Except, there are six of them, it can hardly count as bribery by any means. Besides which, it would be culturally offensive not to accept it, and what's more, I haven't had any lunch today." So I kept it, and used it to stave off starvation before dinner, and lo, it was good. Who knows if it's the best on Mackinac Island, but it was certainly the best thing I'd had that day since my very early morning Pop-Tart. Anyway, the point of this is that it's kind of interesting for me to now be back in my culture, watching Japanese people be immersed, after a year of the reverse. Ah, cultural exchange.

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