The puzzles media tell.

I read a news article the other day about a man that burned and killed his six children in a home fire while trying to murder his wife, thirty years his junior.  She apparently had an abortion because she was pregnant by another man. I was appalled.

DSCF0036As I read the article I found myself thinking certain things that I am not proud of because it illustrated some deep-seated clichés and assumptions. I thought I left those behind. Obviously not. As I continued reading I formed a picture in my head of the characters and setting. I am ashamed by the scene I crafted. But after hearing and reading nothing but bad news about America for nearly a year, I immediately assumed the worst. To my relief, the story did not happen in America. Not. In. America. I realize now that it isn’t important where it happened. It could have happened virtually anywhere, but it was a story that I associated with a fabricated, shallow view of America.

IMG_2615Even though I am from America and spent thirty-three years there, in less than a year away my view of the country has changed dramatically. In my heart I know that each story is but a small blip on the radar of a much larger narrative that is impossible to understand. We learn from stories; they can inform our feelings. But stories are only an entry point into something greater than all of us. Culture. You know, how yogurt and cheese are created. Oh, and that funny thing that clings to each community with so much resilience.

The snippets of culture we get from the news and media do not paint an accurate picture. Don’t get me wrong, it paints a picture, but like a puzzle, many pieces are missing, usually the good parts – the main course.

Please bear with me.

I think often back to when I was in America preparing for the big move to Japan. Almost everybody had their opinion; they knew everything about Japan and weren’t afraid to share. There were books, fiction novels, and travel guides. There were movies and documentaries. All of them showed me something about Japan. Some of it true, most of it false. Granted, all information needs to be taken with a grain of salt and a few filters.

Hita_Park_Sign_01Was any of it accurate? Yes and no. On a very shallow level it’s all true, but once I started wandering the streets I began to discover the slippery interior pieces of the puzzle. I’m sure I’ll never discover them all but that’s part of the fun. And just like building a puzzle, I tend to find the edge pieces first and move in from there, finding some pieces by luck and others by sheer force of will. Sometimes, I try to force unruly pieces into uniform slots but those stubborn things keep popping out.

I’ve become an outsider and it is frightening. My home country has become foreign and my host country is foreign. I guess I’ll just keep searching for those evasive puzzle pieces.


About Matthew J. Durocher

Matthew Durocher is a graduate of Michigan Tech University. He acquired his BA in English along with a minor in Music Composition and a certificate in Writing in Spring 2012. His style is one of passion and musicality. One foot is firmly rooted in tradition while the other slides dangerously close to the clouds.
This entry was posted in Culture Shock, Japan, Narrative, Reflection and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Insider/Outsider

  1. Yes, living in a foreign country will make you feel lonely, odd, and estranged … and forces you to reflect on yourself in ways you may never have done before. But it distills the essence of who you are. Travel is a conscious act of discovery and conquest our inner demons: most prominently fear and prejudice.

  2. Jessica says:

    I can relate. When I hear bad stories, I think of America, too. I’ve lived here for most of my life, but my three years away vastly changed my perspective of my home country, too. The things I found in Taiwan and Hong Kong were a far cry from what I’d been told to expect. I grew. I can’t wait to live abroad again. I don’t feel at home here anymore.

    Wonderful post. It’s nice to find people I can relate to.

    • Thanks! It’s so difficult to determine what is right or wrong anymore. I guess the best teacher is experience. It feels good that there are others that feel the same way. Thanks for commenting! Have a great day!

  3. yaussiechick says:

    I identify with what you are saying Matt. I have lived in Australia for 11 years now and am American by birth. My culture shock isn’t as bad as yours but at times I feel like an outsider when I return back to the states or an outsider in Australia because at times I don’t follow what they are thinking about Americans since I was born American. I also get angry at the media when they say that Americans don’t know geography (Australian media) and I think I know more geography then most Australians that roam around where I live. They think New Orleans is a state!

    • Thanks for sharing. It seems there is always going to be stereotypes floating around. I don’t think there is any way around it. But we can try to knock down some of them when we can. My culture shock has been pretty bad but I’ve met bunches of wonderful people here that make everything worthwhile. Have a great day!

      • yaussiechick says:

        You have a good day too. I think I have it much easier than you do because we speak English but the lingo can be tricky! Thank you for sharing!

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