Friday, November 7, 2008

All Hallow's Eve--Redux

Tim and I have hosted some of my Japanese friends a couple times in the past few weeks--first for a birthday meal at Chilis (three of us had birthdays in October) and again for Halloween.

Chilis provided many American cultural "firsts" for them: chips and salsa (perplexed by dipping the chips, but loved the salsa), flour tortillas (tried to put the cinnamon apples in them), guacamole (what's that green stuff?), eating ribs with one's hands (attempted to eat barbeque with a knife and fork), and American-sized portions (about 4 times the amount of food than in Japanese restaurants).

Their favorite food seemed to be the ribs, mashed potatoes and fajitas. The mashed potatoes were such a hit that I might package up a few portions for Christmas presents.

They looked a bit overwhelmed at the end of the meal but I had arranged for the embarrassing hand-clapping Chilis birthday song, accompanied by two enormous pieces of cheesecake. As the faux-enthusiastic merriment started in the back of the restaurant, my tablemates looked unaffected. As the waiters got closer and closer, they seemed slightly alarmed but still unaware that all the pomp was coming for them.

I learned that the Restaurant Birthday Clapping Behavioral Test for Introverted/Extroverted Tendencies is cross-cultural. Once the waiters arrived at the table with the cake, my short, excitable friend jumped up to join in the clapping with a huge cheshire grin. His more zen friend was smiling, but it was definitely tinged with an OMG, where's the nearest exit? look.

Upon leaving, they declared that they would like to return to Chilis "every three months".


But we weren't done with them that week--they returned for Halloween several days later. Intensely curious about this "American festival", they arrived more excited than the kids. We served chili and cornbread which they looked at suspiciously (there is absolutely no equivalent in Japanese cuisine), then devoured entirely.

Once the girls got dressed up in their "goth" outfits, my Japanese friends were totally stoked. We hit the streets where, like paparazzi, they took millions of pictures of tots in various costumes, sometimes befuddling their parents by detaining and posing the little witches and ninjas for a more professional shot.

After two blocks, they tired of the festival fun. We returned home for pumpkin pie and candy sorting/swapping. This ritual delighted them more than the costumes. Towards the end, they were pouncing on the reject candy in the middle.

No doubt about it, Japanese retired folk are quick learners.

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