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Big, Black, and Nappy in Asia

23 August 2007 12 Comments

As promised, now that I’m back let me tell you a little about my trip, but if what you want to see are the same monuments and tourist sights that I saw in these countries, just look that pedestrian stuff up on Wikipediacuz I’m trying to dig a little deeper…

Japan

Tokyo was huge – it made Philly seem like a village and New York like a small town – so many lights and video screens. The sushi was like ambrosia and all of the food was so fresh. By the end of my time in Tokyo I was getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from using chopsticks. I prayed at a Shinto temple, did real karaoke (where I taught my Japanese clients the soul clap), and met a Sumo wrestler who was suspiciously similar in size to yours truly. The people in Japan were so polite that it almost seemed like they had something up their sleeves, but the politeness is real and very intense. For example, the trains are buttcheek to buttcheek during rush hour, so to account for this no one says a word the entire ride. I wouldn’t call them ‘Western,’ they really just have their own hype thing going.

The toilets in Japan are very elaborate – most have a bidet (it sprays water on your bootie – cleansing!) and a warming seat (cozy). The ladies room often had one of these on the wall next to the toilet paper dispenser:
When you push the button, the sound of a toilet flushing or radio static plays, covering any noises you might make in the stall. Loosely translated the word for it is “Princess Music.” How quaint and ladylike!

There were a few hip-hop clothing stores, here’s one, “New Edition”:

The black guy outside of this store said “Wassup!” to me. When I asked him where he was from he said “Japan…?” and looked at me like I was crazy. Negro, please, you know what I meant.

You know how Asian people sometimes have trouble with the “L” sound and say an “R” sound instead? It sometimes happens in print too. In my hotel lobby:

Escarator? No one but I batted an eyelash.

I peeped this sign on the street, which is just plain shady:

To be clear, foreigners ARE welcome!

Korea

Seoul was even more flashy and urban than Tokyo, with just as many lights and video screens on the sides of skyscrapers, but dirtier streets. Imagine Chinatown taking over an entire metropolis and you’ve got Seoul. People were wearing ANYTHING for the most part – the concept of matching clothing seemed as familiar as the concept of personal space. People would literally stand on top of me even though there was plenty of room and not mean a thing by it. Little kids kept staring at me in Seoul, which made me realize I looove Asian babies! And you all know that I detest all of God’s people equally, but there was a sizable population of Nigerian immigrants there, and Nigerian Men and Thembi simply do not mix. I have been hounded, sung to, danced for, and harassed by them to no end for years now. As soon as I was alone on the street the vultures swooped in with approaches such as “Go home and write in your diary that you met me today…I WILL surprise you some day, you will see my sister!”

Overall I enjoyed Korean food (kimchi is life!), but when a friend and I ordered “French Fried Potatoes” we got this:

This mess is what results in America when you tell your Mom that you’re hungry and she shouts from upstairs, “Go heat up those Ore-Ida fries in the freezer!” You then shout back, “But there aren’t enough!” and she answers back, “Well mix in the rest of those Tater Tots!” and you pout and trudge to the oven and put it on 350, mad that you can’t have a complete snack because Mom didn’t go shopping this week.

The interest in hip-hop culture was hilarious:


I almost got a mani but the i’s dotted with hearts were the final straw.

Another switch between “L” and “R”:
“Me and my man went to dinner and I ordered the robster so I knew he was about to see this here ringerie girrrrrlll! Holla!”

Also, middle aged women, called ajumma, tend to be gossipy, sassy, and wear their hair short and permed to keep things easy and let men know they are no longer on the market:

I love it! How Sophia from Golden Girls is that?!

There was also a store called “We Make You Look Effing Good”(yes, EFFING) that I couldn’t get a photo of, and lots of Popeyes and KFCs. In spite of the majestic temples and mountains, I know enough Korean Americans that I felt like I was at 10th and Filbert by the third day.

Singapore

Singapore was like a pan-Asian Orlando at first, until I ventured into ‘Little India,’ ‘Arab Street,’ and ‘Chinatown,’ where it became way more authentic. Between those three little neighborhoods I saw every type of Asian imaginable and once I got back to my hotel I had never been so happy to see a white person in my life. Singapore was also where the people stopped bowing all the time, which was starting to make me realize what it must have felt like to run a plantation or to be a CEO. The shopping was great because the exchange rate was on my side, but the aggressiveness of the shopowners is not at all photographable. Instead of a photo, then, I’ll illustrate with this video:

Mad ‘hurry-up and buy” –ness, just slightly more friendly.

They sold fresh fruit juice, sugar cane, and squares of ice cream wrapped in rainbow-colored bread on most corners (I have since learned that during a cone shortage, someone substituted any old carb and it caught on) . There were NO Singapore Noodles (a curried dish often found on Chinese food menus), which was disappointing, so I put my efforts into tasting strange Southeast Asian fruits. I tried dragonfruit, jackfruit, jambu, rambutan, and the dreaded durian, which to me smells like rancid mango and tastes like vomited up onion (although they say its an acquired taste and the locals were doggin‘ it).

There was also some version of Southeast Asian man that I had never seen before with really dark skin and orange-reddish hair, maybe some sort of Indian I guess, all of which tried to approach me. Oh, and for the first time in my life I saw a real Australian Aborigine! Kind of spooky, like seeing a unicorn.

Of course I just had to interact with the people. After taking her picture in a Chinese Herb store this lady said “American Idol!” I still don’t know why:

Hip Hop Under Attack? I’ll Say!

What a great trip – please take your black nappy self to Asia someday!

12 Comments »

  • tamika said:

    OMG!! thembi. I’m dying right now….dying… like seeing a unicorn! LOL!!

    awww I miss traveling so much! You’ve inspired me. If only I could find a fissure in the black hole called philadelphia; I could escape!!

    enjoy!

  • Dara said:

    im gonna call you out right quick:

    you know nothing about moms saying eat some ole ore ida potatoes. mom was straight “make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich” and we were all “but we only have one slice of bread left…and its an end!” and she was all “then fold it in half and eat it that way!”

    just wanted to clarify.

  • Thembi said:

    While its true that pb&j (or cheese)on the heel slice – even if it was wheat – trumped all protests, you were prolly too young to use the oven back when pre-cut frozen potatoes made their rotation…

  • STACY said:

    OMG, this may be the funniest thing I have ever read!! But it really makes me want to visit Asia! I didnt realize they were so down :o)

  • Sara said:

    at last… we’ve waited so long for this post…. RINGERIE

  • Aida said:

    yay! i’m so happy you had a good time. and now i really want to go back to japan! we should go together sometime. also, for the record:

    a.) pretty much all of my matrilineal female relatives over 30 are sporting the short perm. in Japanese, “perm” is transliterated as “paama,” and my ninety year old grandmother is especially proud of hers. curiously though, every time i wash my hair and she notices that it’s curly, she tilts her head and asks me if it’s a “paama.” then i have to remind her that i’m mixed.

    b.) yeah, the heated toilets are everywhere! my relatives all describe the cheapness of my notoriously frugal uncle by reporting that he doesn’t even turn his toilet on in the winter.

    c.) you do not come anywhere near resembling a sumo wrestler. i was a huge sumo fan as a fifth grader living in japan (yup, as in i wrote fan mail to my favorite wrestler, kirishima, and no i’m not ashamed!) and i know what i’m talking about. stop misinforming the people!

    d.) i’m with you on loving asian babies. the bowl cut on the chubby-faced ones is especially moving to me. oh and don’t front on the nigerians. you were all up on them in kuumba!

  • Invisible Woman said:

    That was one of the funniest things I’ve ever read in my life, and that’s saying a lot!

  • afro jamaicano said:

    coloureds luv to go to japan dont we haha

    i know ima hav to book a trip outta the us sometime, with w/ the usps doing passports now, it’s easier than ever….

  • Lola Gets said:

    Great post! Im glad you enjoyed your time in Asia.

    L

  • Julian said:

    That … my dear … was just straight enjoyment. Best post I’ve see for a long minute. You know I lived in Singapore. Glad to hear nothing has changed.

  • Ehav Ever said:

    Sounds like you had an interesting trip. I am going to have to post my trips to Japan. The last one I didn’t take any photos, but I wish I had.

  • Tamara said:

    LMAO @ it was like seeing a unicorn. Why am I imagining twinkles and rainbows surrounding the Aborigine?!

    I enjoy your blog, have a magical day!

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