Natsumi Hara・XinYee Tee
Message from Danielle: Being a Mom
I went from being a good student to a straight A student. I think that is to say, “I am a mom now, but I have to be more than a mom.” Maybe I’ll enjoy it more, too. I enjoy being together with my son more, and I enjoy watching movies more. And they mean more, they are more special.
What should you do if you want to get a tattoo…? Trust your artist.
Before the Interview
Xin: When I was editing the interview, I could not help but keep thinking, “We (all the students) should have talked more to Danielle. We barely have any chance to meet her in classrooms, so I think most of the students never talk to her.
The best thing about being an editor is we got to talk to every interviewee in person. I feel like something in the article is lost when we transform their voice into written words. Danielle’s voice is very dynamic and full of emotions. I can sense her feeling exactly from the voice recorder, which reminded me of the time when we were talking to her.
Xin/ Natsumi: Hello! Thank you for being here with us today! Can we start…?
Danielle: Yeah! Go ahead!
§ Daily Schedule in Showa Boston §
Xin: All the business students do not see you in the class, at all! Can you tell us about your work?
Danielle: Yes! I am the academic programming coordinator, so I coordinate a lot of things. When teachers are absent, I find a substitute for them. If you go on a field trip, the teachers will send their request to me and tell me if they need transportation. Or if they need money for the field trip entry fees, or lunches. I will set all that up for them.
I also plan the opening and closing ceremonies, and give orientation to all students. And I do a lot of databases. Hmm…I do other things too, but I cannot think of all of them, so…
Natsumi: Why did you decide to work as a coordinator?
Danielle: Well… I did not actually look to become a coordinator. I started working here in 2015, so not very long ago. Before this, I was a student, and I was living in Fukuoka. I was a Fulbright Fellow research student at Kyushu University researching Japanese social systems on film. I was studying changes in the family after World War II on film.
I lived there with my husband and my son for one year. When I came back, I had to find an apartment. I had no money, so I applied for a lot of jobs. Showa called me first. I got an interview and they hired me right away.
I originally wanted to go to graduate school, but I have to support my family, so I decided to do this for a while. And I found out that I was pretty good at it. I felt good about it. I have fun and I like the people that I work with. I like that it allows me to stay connected with Japan. I get to use some of what I learned in Japan.
I still miss being a student, though. I miss doing research. Maybe someday I will be able to do it again.
Xin: But you are not really here just for the students, right?
Danielle: Not entirely… I mean I am, because I do some student support, but for the most part I end up working with the faculty. I originally thought that I wanted to become a professor. But now that I work with a lot of teachers, I’m not sure I would like it so much. I would love to work more with the students somehow.
Xin: So, this job provided you a chance to see if you really want to be a professor…?
Danielle: Kind of, yeah…it has. And I think I do not want to be a professor. LOL. I don’t know! It is interesting to see how administration works behind the scenes.
Her passion: Japanese Culture …and Bollywood
Xin: If you were a professor, what would you teach?
Danielle: Hmmm…I have lectured on Japanese film, Business Culture, and on how Japanese society is structured. I think I would probably teach about what I love to learn about. That is one thing, and Japanese movies is another thing.
I also love Indian film…
Danielle: I love Bollywood. I am obsessed with Bollywood. I learned about Bollywood in college, and now I want to learn Hindi. I am upset that I did not learn Hindi and just studied Japanese. So, I might study Hindi, too.
I really love film!
Xin: (To Natsumi) Do you know Bollywood?
Natsumi: …No. Is it like a kind of movie?
Danielle: They are Indian films, and they are pretty much all musicals. So, they have songs and dance, and are usually a love story. If I can keep studying Bollywood, I would teach that, too. I love them!
Why Japanese Culture…?
Natsumi: So why are you interested in Japanese culture and did research about Japan?
Danielle: Before I studied Japan, I liked the movies a lot, but I did not really understand them. I wanted to know more about them, I wanted to understand what was actually going on. You can read subtitles, but I was missing something culturally.
So, I started studying Japanese in a community college. I really wanted to know more about Japan and I was always interested in studying people, so I went with sociology. When I found out that I could study Japanese there, I did, and I got a scholarship to study in Japan for two months in Tokyo. I had my own apartment in Ikebukuro for two months! It was amazing. I totally fell in love with Japan. I realized that language and culture are tied together. By learning more of the language, I could learn more about the culture.
I was going to change my major to Japanese Studies, but I majored in East Asian studies instead. It was better, because I got to learn about how Japan is related to Asia, and to the rest of the world. It gave me a bigger picture of the world. I became interested in how all of these countries relate to each other, and how culture moves from one place to another place. Then, it was just like a snow ball, my interest kept growing and growing.
Xin: And it is Bollywood now!
Danielle: Yeah, Bollywood too! I had no interest in Indian movies, but I had to take one class about South Asia for the East Asian Studies major, so I thought, “I’ll just pick the easiest looking class.”
Xin: Do you speak any Hindi?
Danielle: Hindi? I know a couple words: how are you, hello, you are crazy… just stuff that I learned from the movies.
Natsumi: Can you speak other languages?
Danielle: Just Japanese, and not really well. LOL.
Xin: I do not think so!
Tattoos Culture: U.S. vs Japan
Natsumi: I would like to ask about your tattoos.
Xin: You brought up this topic sooner than I expected!
Danielle: Okay! Go ahead!
Natsumi: When did you get your first tattoo?
Danielle: I got my first tattoo when I was 18 years old.
Xin/ Natsumi: 18 years old!
Danielle: That is when you are allowed to get a tattoo in the United States. When you are 18 years old, you are legally allowed to get a tattoo without your parent’s permission.
Xin/ Natsumi: Hmmm……I see.
Danielle: I used to be a body piercer, so I used to give other people piercings, and I used to have a lot of piercings.
Xin: How about tongue…?
Danielle: I never had one on my tongue. I thought piercings were cool when I was 18 years old. And tattoos.
Natsumi: Did you do it (piercings) by yourself?
Danielle: Oh no! It hurt too much. For tattoos, I have a lot of friends who tattoo, my friend owns a tattoo shop in Central Square in Cambridge. He did a lot of my tattoos. Some I regret, some I like; I like the colorful ones, but I do not like the not-so-pretty ones.
Xin: Why is it not-so-pretty?
Danielle: Because it’s not colorful. I like flowers.
Xin: Oh, I see. Which one is the first one? The colorful one or the black one?
Danielle: This one is the first one (pointing to her left hand), with Kanji.
Xin/ Natsumi: Oh! Is it a “me”?
Danielle: “Wo”? (meaning “me” in Chinese)
Xin: “Wo”! Why?
Danielle: I wanted a reminder to be myself, so I thought that I would look at and say, “Remember to be yourself, remember who you are.” So, I got that one first. I looked through a Chinese dictionary and said, that is the one. I would not do that now. I often wish that I could get it removed.
Natsumi: Can you add color to the black one?
Danielle: Oh, this one I got later (pointing to her right arm) and it is still not finished. I will show you… they do the outline in black, and you let it heal. Then you go back and add color, little by little.
This one is not finished, it’s supposed to be “all full”.
Xin: “Awful…?” Oh, All full!
Danielle: Yeah, it is AWFUL (LOL), it hurts a lot. I have not had a tattoo in 5 years, and I probably will not go back again…
Xin: How long does it take for a tattoo?
Danielle: Each time you go is about three to four hours. This one might be a total of 12 hours. Every time you go, you will get a little more of the tattoo done. I am very lucky that I do not have to pay for my tattoos, because each hour costs about $200. . . So, this (right arm) would be over $2,000.
Xin: So…your arm is worth a lot!!!
Danielle: Yeah, you can cut it off and sell it! LOL
Xin: Can you add color here (pointing to her left-hand tattoos), if you do not like the black?
Danielle: Hmm…it is very hard to go over black, so they probably cannot.
Xin: It is hard to get rid of the tattoo, right?
Natsumi: Is it possible?
Danielle: It is possible. They do laser removal, but it is very expensive and I hear that it hurts more than to get a tattoo put on.
It is almost like they burn it off.
Xin: But you will have a scar on it after the laser, right…?
Danielle: Hmm…no, so the color will come off slowly over time, but you will have to go many times. So maybe 20 minutes at a time, and I hear that it feels like a bee sting for 20 minutes. And then after a few weeks you go back again. It will slowly come out. It takes a long time.
Xin: Did you get to choose the pattern?
Danielle: With this one (right arm’s tattoo), not really. I told my friend that I had an idea – I want to get a city, but I also love birds and flowers, and he said, “I’ll draw something!”
Xin/ Natsumi: LOLLLLL!
Danielle: And he just drew it and I said, “Oh, I like that, okay!”
Xin/ Natsumi: LOL! So, it was a quick decision.
Danielle: Yeah! Because he is an artist that I like, I trust his sense. So, whenever someone wants to get a tattoo and asks me what they should do, I will say “Find an artist that you like. Look at their work. You’ve got to trust them. If you do not like their work, do not go there, go somewhere else.”
Xin: I have a friend who gets his tattoo in Japan, which I do not think is cool.
Danielle: I like my friend’s work, because it is big, and some people, if you tell them “I want a bird,” and they will just do a little bird. Like a stamp of a bird. But he does large tattoos and makes them work with the contours of your body.
Xin: So, do you feel any culture difference between the US and Japan?
Danielle: Yeah! When I was in Japan, I was there as a Fulbright and I had to attend meetings with people from academia and from government. In America they do not care if you have tattoos, but in Japan, they do. So I wore long sleeves almost all of the time, even in the summer, and especially at important events. When I would pick my son up at preschool, I did not want to scare the children, so I would wear long sleeves. The mothers that I got to know and become friends with, they knew that I had a tattoo, but other people did not. When kids did see my tattoo, they would come close and say “Are you wearing a shirt?” and touch my arm. They had never seen them.
I never met anyone who was unfriendly because of my tattoos, but I knew that they might make people uncomfortable, so I would wear long sleeves.
My professor didn’t know that I had tattoos, but he must know now, because we are friends on Facebook.
Xin: So maybe people will think that I have tattoo, too. Because I always wear long sleeves.
Danielle: They will think, “She is a yakuza (gangster)”. LOL.
Xin: Is it okay to have tattoos in the work place in the US?
Danielle: I think it depends on the dress code. For the most part, I think that it is fine in most restaurants. In business and in professional settings, you wear suits, which would probably cover them. Some people have tattoos, and they don’t really care, as long as you dress properly.
It is accepted more, though. I know a lot of people who have tattoos. I do not think it is a problem anymore, which is cool, because I am covered with them.
Going Back Japan in the Future…?
Xin: Do you want to go back to Japan?
Danielle: Yeah, I do.
Natsumi: For long-term?
Danielle: I would like to, at some point. My son liked it and made some friends there, but he did not pick up much Japanese. He was in preschool for one year: 3 to 4 years old. My husband has some family in the Tokyo area. He is not Japanese, but his grandmother is from Japan. He has relatives in Japan, near Tokyo, and we keep in touch with them. We would like to go back to Japan to see them again.
I loved living in Fukuoka: the people and the lifestyle. It was a great place to live with a family. There was so much to do. There are a lot of playgrounds, amusement parks which cost only $2 to go. Here, something like that would be so expensive.
Also, I rode my bicycle everywhere. I used to ride my son to school on the bicycle and would ride all around the city. It was safe, and there was a very nice pace of life.
I enjoyed it a lot. I miss it.
Natsumi: How about your son?
Danielle: My son really loves it here. Here he is close to my family and friends, but sometimes he talks about visiting Japan. He says “Mom, we can go visit Japan, but we can’t live there”.
Xin: So, you talk to him about going back to Japan?
Xin: How old is he now?
Danielle: He is six.
Xin/ Natsumi: Wow.
Xin: He is still so small but he is telling you that you should not go back to Japan! LOL!
Danielle: Yeah! He says he does not want to.
I ask him what he likes. I try to read to him in Japanese and talk to him a little in Japanese, so he knows some basic home Japanese. He can speak a little, but not much.
In Japan he would say, “I’m not a Japanese, mom. I’m an English kid. ” Which he is not, he is an American kid. LOL!
Xin/ Natsumi: LOL! He is so cute.
Danielle: My husband really liked living in Japan, too. But he does not speak much Japanese. He learned a little there, and he can read Hiragana and Katakana, but that is all.
Natsumi: If you want to go back to study, you will choose Japan instead of here?
Danielle: It depends, I think that I would want to stay here. But if I could not get into a school in the Boston area, I would not want to move anywhere else in the United States. So if I did have to go somewhere else, I would choose Japan.
Raising a Child in Japan and the U.S
Xin: Is it hard to raise a child in Japan?
Danielle: I thought it was easier. Because in Boston before, I did not work full time, I had a cheap apartment and I was a student. I did a lot of school work at home, when my son was little, so he did not go to day care or American nursery school. I was home with him, and my sister would stay with him once in a while, when I had to go to class. When he was three years old and we went to Japan, he went to nursery school for free, because the government subsidizes daycare for parents who are in school or work. Our income was low there, so I did not have to pay much. I also had health insurance that was very cheap.
So, after coming back from Japan, having to pay for child care in the U.S. was so strange for me. I did not realize that it would cost me over $1,500 per month for child care. When I started working here, before my son went to kindergarten, I had to pay almost my whole check for child care.
But it was for one year, and then he went to kindergarten. Now I pay for someone to watch him after school for just for an hour or two. I think it is really expensive to raise a child, especially in major cities.
In Japan, it was a little different, a little easier. For me, at least. There was a good system to help navigate that stuff. I think in the Tokyo area it is harder, but Fukuoka was pretty nice.
Xin: It really sounds like you had a good life style in Japan!
Danielle: Yeah! It was good.
The more time I spend time here in Boston, the easier it is to be here. But I definitely spent about one whole year thinking, “What am I doing here? I should go back…” Because I really loved it. Now I am getting used to it. I miss using my Japanese, and I am starting to forget it.
Xin: (To Natsumi) So, we might also forget our English after going back to Japan.
Danielle: Do not forget your English. Keep practicing, go to meet-ups!
Xin: Do they have meet-ups in Japan?
Danielle: They probably do.
Natsumi: I want to know if it is difficult for you to balance your work and life…?
Danielle: It is. It is hard.
Every day, right now my son is in the summer camp, I drop him off in the morning and I come to work. Then he goes to school from 8 in the morning to 5 o’clock. And I work from the morning to 4 o’clock.
Sometimes between 4 to 5 o’clock, I do grocery shopping, vacuum my house and then I rush to pick him up. Then I end up going to the playground with him for two hours.
Xin/ Natsumi: Two hours!
Danielle: Yeah, two hours. And then I come home, and I make dinner, I pack lunches, I shower him and he has his movie time and snack time, and by 9 o’clock at night (if I’m lucky) he falls asleep, and I fall asleep with him. I wake up at 5.
Xin/ Natsumi: What a long day!
Danielle: It is a long day. My husband is helpful, he does a lot of the grocery shopping and he does almost all of the laundry. We have to park our car somewhere 10 minutes away, so every night he drives the car to the parking space and walks back.
When I was a student, I had a lot of school work, but I did not have to wake up so early. Every day, I had more energy to stay up late, I could clean my house or do my school work all night.
I feel like I have little time with my son now, because he does not come home until 5 o’clock. I try to spend time with him.
Xin: Basically, you will not have time for your own reading or things like that, right?
Danielle: No, not at all! But maybe when my son is older, I will. Every year he does more on his own. Right now, he is in fencing too, so he does that two nights a week. I pick him up, we drive to fencing, there is a gym there, and I think I will join that gym. I will go to the gym there for one hour. Or I’ll read.
But yeah, I do not have much time for reading or watching movies. So, I watch 20 minutes at a time, and I have to pause it and wait for another three days to watch another 20 minutes.
Xin/ Natsumi: It is really a hard schedule!
Danielle: Yeah, having children can be hard. Do you want children?
Xin: Maybe…? We have learned so much about work-life balance and it sounds so hard to balance between life and family.
Danielle: It is, but I think that, in a lot of ways, having a kid made my life better. I mean, things are more important now. Before having my son, I was a very good student, but after having my son, it became more important for me to be the best student ever. So I went from being a good student to a straight A student. It was like, I am a mom now, but I have to be more than a mom.
I enjoy things more, too. I enjoy being together with my son more, and I enjoy watching movies more. And they mean more, they are more special. That is one thing.
I was 29 years old when I had my son, so I was a little bit older. I think that was a good time for me to have a kid.
Xin: So, it was really a good time for you to have a child when you were a student.
Danielle: Yeah, perfect time to have a baby. Now that I work, I have no time. I do not know how people have more than one child and work full-time. It is a lot, a lot of work.
You have to give up yourself for a long time. At some point, you get your time back and you get to start doing things again.
Xin/ Natsumi: That sounds so hard, to have a child and to work at the same time.
Danielle: Yes, I think so. And I find it strange. I think in the US mothers have more pressure to pursue a career. Whereas in Japan, they will say, “You have a kid, then why do you still work?”
Natsumi: It is so different.
Danielle: Sometimes my son will come to the office and work with me. He will sit beside me and watch movies, or help me to deliver papers to the other building. He loves it!
Xin: He sounds so cute! Unfortunately, we will not be here in September and we cannot meet him.
Xin/ Natsumi: So, that is all for today!
Thank you so much for today!
After the Interview
Natsumi: This interview was really interesting for me, because I could know about many new things. Especially I was surprised to hear that in Japan it is easier to raise a child than in America.
We interviewed many people and heard a lot of fascinating stories. I’m very sad that we only have two weeks left staying in Boston. I want to talk with Showa Boston teachers as much as I can before going back to Japan.