How Can I Activate My Neighborhood?
I wrote this for our English conversation salon at Tamana Library.
I think my neighborhood is pretty active. I’m almost never home during daylight, but I never go through my neighborhood without seeing kids playing with each other or grandmothers talking to each other. My neighbors all know each other, and they’ve known each other as long as they’ve been alive! A lot of them are cousins. We have a huge festival at the local shrine every year, and people visit it at other times, too.
I wish my neighborhood in the USA were like that, but it’s really different. The ancestors of most Americans came there from another country. They left their fathers’ graves behind to create a new life in a new country. Americans still have this perspective. They move to the place where they have the best opportunities rather than trying to find a job close to home. It’s considered immature to continue living with your parents after you’ve graduated from college and gotten a job. Sometimes, the members of a family will all live in different states, and they’ll only get together for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Sometimes Americans change houses while staying in the same town. For example, Eugene’s parents moved from Chinatown to another part of San Francisco last year. When I was 15 years old, my family moved across my town to a new house that was bigger, close to our church, and close to a good elementary school. I was happy because I moved closer to my high school friends, but my little brother was sad because we moved away from his elementary school friends.
I knew the names of all my neighbors in my old neighborhood, but I still don’t know the names of most of my neighbors in my current neighborhood. All the houses in my neighborhood were built in the last 15 years, so everyone came from somewhere else. Because I have to drive everywhere in America, I never walk past their houses. Because everyone does laundry and watches TV inside, I rarely see them outside. Maybe we’d be friends! I’m friends with my Tensui neighbors! But I’ll never know.
I think that New Year’s greetings, omiyage from trips and local festivals would really help us in the States. Traditions remind you of common courtesies when you’re too busy to think about others.