Saturday, September 6, 2008

Turning Japanese...in Mexico


I've been away from Japan for about six weeks now, but I don't really miss it.

Maybe it's because Japan is here with me in Mexico.

It shows up in the strangest of places.

For starters, sushi joints are to Culiacán as Starbucks are to Chicago. They're seemingly on every corner, and, despite what would seem like breakneak competition for business, they're all packed. But the only thing that Japanese sushi and Mexican zushi (as it's called here) have in common is rice. While the Japanese stuff has copious amounts of raw fish and minimal amounts of anything else, zushi a la Mexicana actually has very little fish. Instead, it's rice stuffed with cream cheese, avocado, cilantro and jalapeños, and the soy sauce you dip it in is spiked with lime juice and orange juice. I wouldn't exactly call it sushi, but I like it anyway. It's kind of like how Mexican food in Japan was actually nothing like Mexican food in Mexico (or anywhere else, for that matter). Last I checked, fajitas did not involve broccoli, corn or mayonnaise, but I digress....

Sushi/Zushi aside, one of my first culichi (as the local folks call themselves) friends was a guy named Fernando. Fernando is Mexican, but he teaches Japanese at a local language school. He's a pretty unasuming guy (I first met him when I went to inquire about classes at the school, and he was working at the registration desk, backwards baseball cap on his head and chile-tamarindo lollipop stuck in his mouth), but he speaks the language flawlessly. It puts me to shame. You see, Fernando's never actually been to Japan. I don't think he's actually ever been out of Culiacán. I lived in Japan for a year, and still muddle through basic vocabulary and grammar structures. But Fernando's patient with my crappy japonés. I may actually learn more Japanese in Mexico than I did in Japan.

I'm also enrolled in kickboxing classes. The teacher, Fidel, is about 4'6", which would put him in good company with the guys in Japan. He's also been doing martial arts since he could walk, and has a black belt in karate. I sweat through his class three times a week. What I lack in coordination and, well, skills I make up for in determination. I can't describe how cathartic it is to kick and punch and grit my teeth after a long day of dealing with chatty 15-year-olds. I'm hooked.

So, I'm finally turning Japanese. A year behind schedule, but whatever. ¡Que viva México!

2 comments:

Dahlia said...

SO I met this guy Oscar when I was in Cuernavaca that totally loved Japanese too and I got really excited cause I thought u found him. Oh Well. Also, there is this sushi place in Chicago (NIU Fusion) that serves a roll called "sexy Mexican" that I absolutely love!! Keep up the good blogs!

textos said...

Hey! I like your blog. I´m also another japanese-speaking-mexican who´s never been to Japan. I had a job as an English-Japanese translator for the Furukawa Japanese Team in Mexicali. I also love norther-style sushi (Culiacan and Mexicali are the best places to eat Sushi, Tijuana is a copy of Mexico City, its sushi is small and meager. Anyway, dropped by to say hi, and keep up the blog!