A foreign encounter

It's 10:30 pm, Saturday night, and the coffee shop is packed. Two tables away, girls in college uniforms are giggling, disrupting what should otherwise be a quiet evening. I wish I could shut them up—their high-pitched voices restrict the flow of information to my brain—but social grace tells me to leave them alone.

To my right, a Caucasian man looks amused as he reads through his book, oblivious to the noise.

All over the place, students bury their heads in books, plug white earphones into their external auditory canals, fixate their eyes onto their laptop monitors—and these they do for hours, only to be interrupted by occasional sips of Php 150 worth of coffee. Kids these days hardly apply for library permits; they just pop into the nearest Starbucks to prepare for their tests.

As I'm engrossed in coloring my photocopied references with green highlights, a man who unmistakably looks Japanese comes near and stares at the notes sprawled on my table.

I desperately hope he isn't a child molester who has mistaken me for a 13-year old kid he can abuse. "Yes?" I ask. I detect a smell of cigarette.

"I'm sorry, I just got curious when I saw your notes," he says. "This is a pelvis, and this . . . the sacrum." He points at the diagram. For a Japanese, he speaks English exceptionally well.

He tells me he's a doctor who studied in Sydney. He's been practicing there for 10 years now.

"What do you do exactly?" 

"I fix broken joints here," he says, pointing to the sacroiliac joint, "or when this gets fractured," now referring to the area of the pubic symphysis. "I'm here for a vacation."

He's a curious guy. When he learns I'm a medical student, he asks me where I study. "There are so many things to remember, right? But don't worry. You'll understand more of them when you rotate in the hospital."

"I hope I'll reach that stage," I say. He assures me I will.

"Oh, is there a bookstore in your University?" he asks.

"No, I'm sorry, but there's a store nearby." I write the address on a yellow pad. "It should be open by 9 am on weekdays."

He looks excited. He goes back to his table, excitedly speaks to his friends in Nihonggo. I overhear them but don't understand a thing.

As they're about to leave, he comes to me and pats my shoulder. "Have fun in med school. Don't think of earning money first; think of helping people above all."

"I hope you enjoy your stay in the country. Goodbye!" I say.

Minutes after, I find myself lost in my notes once more. Thankfully, this time, the noisy girls are gone.


  1. what he said last makes so much sense :)

  2. hahaha nice experience lance. i have bad bias among japanese people (bad, its a sin) but in ur talk with him, he seems nice. i suggest you go to another place not in coffee shops.

    my ofw friend visited philippines and he said, i know that im in philippines...maingay sa coffee shop :)

  3. What a reminder, AAce, isn't it?

  4. I wonder where that bias stems from, Ate Me. He seemed nice enough.

    Maingay talaga mga coffee shop dito! Haha.

  5. I see hope for the Japanese people

  6. Wow. The amazing coincidences of everyday life. :)

  7. Haha, funny that you should say that, Kuya John. They probably see the same thing about us.

  8. This is my first time reading your blog, Lance! haha Nice story! Kakatuwa naman..

  9. Haha, life is full of surprises, gahrbej.

  10. Hi, Kim. Thanks for dropping by.

  11. And that is why there are several short stories set in coffee shops. :)

  12. that's an amazing and encouraging story.


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