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Fresh Fiction Blog
Readers and Authors Talk...

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga | BEING A STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND

Thank you, Fresh Fiction, for inviting me to write a guest blog!

In my new novel, Love in Translation, 33-year-old fledgling singer Celeste Duncan, after receiving a puzzling phone call and a box full of mysterious family heirlooms, is off to Japan to search for a long, lost relative who could hold the key to the identity of the father she never knew. The book is about many things: identity, the meaning of family, and finding one’s own voice, but it’s also about how it feels to be a stranger in a strange land.

Even though I’d studied Japanese and knew about the culture, I still felt overwhelmed and a bit lost when I first went to live in Japan in the 1980s. I assumed that I would learn much more about Japan and the Japanese by living there and, of course, I did. But what I didn’t bargain on was also discovering so many things about myself.

Trying to fit into a new and different culture was challenging, and it was sometimes unnerving to be in a place that prides itself on cooperation for the benefit of group harmony, as opposed to the individuality stressed in the United States.

During stressful times it was tempting to hang out with native English speakers and people who could remind me of home. But the key to having a successful stay in any foreign country is to immerse yourself as much as possible and commit yourself to the local culture. And, not to mention, to be open-minded and flexible.

Even if you don’t have the chance to live abroad, traveling to a foreign country also offers many rewards. Studying the language ahead of time and being open to new experiences can make a trip to a foreign country much more than just a vacation.

So have you ever lived abroad? What were some of the challenges? The rewards? Or have you had a memorable vacation in a foreign country?

Please leave a comment and you may win a free copy of Love in Translation. All commenters will win the commemorative CD for the book, which includes the Love in Translation original theme song, “The Wishing Star (Nozomi no Hoshi)” (sung by me!) and a special audio drama podcast.

You can catch a glimpse of Celeste’s big adventure in Japan here in the Love in Translation video book trailer:

 

 

Comments

28 comments posted.

Re: Wendy Nelson Tokunaga | BEING A STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND

Thank you for being here today! I feel in love with this book when I saw it on another site. I love everything about it. I would love a change to win a copy
(Lisa Glidewell 12:49pm December 10, 2009)

I've never lived anywhere but the USA, but did get to visit Germany & Sweden a few years back. It was a great experience being among people who basically were similar yet different. I was "all eyes & ears" trying absorb everything. I loved the story line. I,too, have had the experience of searching for my father & his family. Finding noses,eyes, & facial expressions that wonder of wonders, match mine. And the nicest of people "that belong to me"!! Best to you. I look forward to reading your book.
(Jean Merriott 1:44am December 10, 2009)

Have never lived anywhere but here, but have a Japanese aunt whose daughter went there to teach students English. Love listening to her stories. Thank you for the opportunity to win your book!
(Joanne Reynolds 6:31am December 10, 2009)

I have never lived abroad, but think it would be fun for a short time. Thanks for the opportunity.
(Melissa M 7:03am December 10, 2009)

Thanks for the chance to win.
(Sherry Russell 8:13am December 10, 2009)

I agree with your comment about immersing yourself in the culture (same for a Yankee movine to the deep south). In Eurpoe I met many Americans who had lived there for years and spoke not one word of the language. They did not even try to immerse themselves. AND the tourbus of people from NYC!!! That is another whole book!
(Karin Tillotson 1:22pm December 10, 2009)

A theme song for a book. That "sounds" like a great idea!
Thanks!
Marjorie
(Marjorie Carmony 1:32pm December 10, 2009)

I've never traveled outside of the country. I've engrossed myself with other cultures from afar.
(Leni Kaye 1:44pm December 10, 2009)

My cousin has been living in Japan for the past 20 years and can't imagine living 'at home' anymore. Sounds like this story might give glimpses of some things he may have felt when he first arrived.

Personally, the time spent oustide the country that had the greatest impact on me were the four months I spent as a volunteer, teaching in a village school in Kenya. Eyeopening on many levels.
(Maya Missani 2:43pm December 10, 2009)

My sister-in-law just returned from 3 years in Rome. Her stories about her time there were eye-opening. It takes a strong and confident person to be able to become part of another culture.
(Rosemary Krejsa 4:42pm December 10, 2009)

I have only traveled in the US and Canada so far but maybe in the future we'll visit another country. The book sounds interesting.
(Theresa Buckholtz 5:06pm December 10, 2009)

I've never traveled outside the US but we did have an English neighbor who taught me how to knit.
(Lena Lee 6:17pm December 10, 2009)

I also have never lived outside of the
US, in fact do not have a passport at
this time. I have visited both
Canada and Mexico - pre 9/11 tourist
restrictions.

I hope to travel to Europe this coming
August and visit places that I have
read about and from where some of
my adopted father's family came
from. As I have been unable to find
any birth family, I am attempting to
find my father's family instead
(Jackie Wilson 7:29pm December 10, 2009)

I feel sad that I have never left the US. Not even for a vacation. We didnt have much money growing up so trips like that were so far out of our grasp. I hope to be able to take my kids on trips like that some day.
(Danyel McDaniel 7:46pm December 10, 2009)

Domo arigato, Wendy.

I've lived abroad twice, but in both cases I was a kid---age 3 to 6, Caracas, Venezuela; age eleven to thirteen, The Hague, The Netherlands. Each time my family moved because my father, a pipeline-construction engineer, had a major project there.

Of course I remember the second time much better than the first. Nowadays I wish I'd learned more than a few words of Dutch and socialized more with the residents.

Still, I got enough of a feel for the place to make my stay there an enriching experience. Maybe someday I'll get to go back.

Come to think of it, I remember one Dutch phrase that's relevant for this website: "Ik hout van jouw", pronounced "ick howt van yow." What does it mean? "I love you."
(Mary Anne Landers 8:08pm December 10, 2009)

To have been to Japan and lived. I would love to go to England or Scotland or Ireland but that won't happen. It is so neat that you could do it
(Patricia Kasner 8:10pm December 10, 2009)

I've visited abroad for a 3 week, 8 country capital hop in 1970 and learned about many different cultures. The Passion Play in Oberammuegau Germany was amazing and only happens once a decade. We had English translations for the 4 hour play and paid attention to the gestures of the actors, drama in the sky and the birds flying about. I've gone back to England on a canal boat cruise where we worked the locks and mingled with the British.
(Alyson Widen 8:44pm December 10, 2009)

I have never lived abroad. I imagine there would be many challenges. Exciting though.
(Mary Preston 9:16pm December 10, 2009)

I've lived abroad but sadly I was too
young and have no memory of it.
(Sue Ahn 9:35pm December 10, 2009)

Since I will probably only get to travel to a foreign country by reading about them in books, this really caught my attention.

Sounds like a lovely story.

Have a GREAT evening everyone.!!
(Linda Chesick 10:27pm December 10, 2009)

What a great giveaway! Sounds like a very interesting read!
(Melissa Cleaver 10:55pm December 10, 2009)

I went to live my relative in Hong Kong. Even though I speak and read the Chinese, it is still a different culture between Hong Kong and Los Angeles. I could live in Hong Kong but it won't be for a permanent base.
(Kai Wong 11:31pm December 10, 2009)

I've only lived in the US and if I could live somewhere else, it would be somewhere that speaks english, lol. I never knew my father and can't wait ti see how your books ends.
(Dina Stornello 12:14pm December 12, 2009)

i lived in the philippines until i was nine, then my family moved to the US. so i guess it's kinda of the opposite for me--it took some adjusting when we moved here and i had to learn a different language. since then i've became very americanized (too americanized according to my parents) but while i cannot speak the language that fluently anymore i still understand it quite well and i cook & eat filipino foods whenever i can.
(Michelle Santiago 9:16pm December 12, 2009)

I have never lived abroad. If I ever were to live somewhere else it would have to be where the English language is spoken.
You were brave to live in Japan.
(Gigi Hicks 9:10pm December 13, 2009)

In 1972 my roommate and I spent nine and a half weeks in Europe, visiting eight countries. The first four went pretty well with a phase book in hand. I was good in math and changing money worked out okay. This was before pocket calculators. By the fifth country, I wasn't so fast with language or money. By the end of the trip I was glad to come home to speak a language I didn't have to think about first. I was broke so I didn't have much money to think about. :-)

Good luck with your book. It sounds interesting.
(Elaine Carlini-Davis 9:55pm December 14, 2009)

thanks for these contests. i am recuperating at home with a broken wrist and reading blogs make the time pass much quicker...i have to type with one hand which is really slowing ne down !
(Deb Soula 12:35pm December 15, 2009)

I have never lived abroad, but we vacationed in Australia. While they speak english, I have a difficult time understanding their accent. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there. Princess Diana was killed while we were in the outback, and the people were just devastated. In Adelaide there were thousands of mementos left along one street that we passed.
(Shirley Jones 12:51pm December 27, 2009)

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