These two cases depict two people catapulted into uchi (and simultaneous "adulthood") by two unexpected circumstances: the sudden illness of Devita's mother-in-law, and the language mistake Janine inadvertently made in telling her family about a broken stove. Devita is not a homestay guest, but a daughter-in-law in the household. She is an uchi member, and should be treated as an adult. But her mother-in-law worries that she can't really carry out her duties, so she continues to "wrap" her as if she were a guest. In this respect, this mother-in-law is like Stuart's host family who are overly concerned about his cultural competence.
But when Devita's mother-in-law suddenly becomes ill and is rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, Devita is left alone in care of the household. Now she gets a chance to show her competency. This time she manages not only the laundry, but all the other household chores, as well as taking care of neighborhood obligations, and the door-to-door collections. In Devita's case, the neighbors play the role of Stuart's friends at the dinner: they certify to the okaasan that Devita is indeed competent. The entire families' attitudes toward Devita change, and she is suddenly (and permanently) catapulted within the family.
Janine's case illustrates the complex trajectory of a homestay with two longterm visits. In her first visit she was largely a guest; her second visit shifted her into uchi and required her to deal with its responsibilities. But Janine was not really competent in the unspoken assumptions of uchi. She inadvertently made mistakes, and the homestay became fraught with conflict over what the family saw as a series of deliberate "failures" in her family duties. The situation came to a head when the family told Janine that, in effect, she must leave before the scheduled end of her stay. Janine realizes the implications of what they have told her, and when she notices the broken stove she tries hard not to implicate or accuse her family in the problem. She decides that the best way to communicate the stove problem to her family is by using the passive tense (which was translated in her Japanese textbooks as: "It came about that (the stove was broken)".
Nonetheless, using the passive tense actually communicated the opposite of what Janine had intended. She accused her family of giving her a broken-down stove (and by implication, of not taking care of her properly). This escalated the misunderstandings, and the family became even more irate at her--all without her knowing anything about this.The day after the stove incident Janine's host mother decides to take her into the family honne, and to convey that the family is upset with her. Janine then realizes that she has somehow managed to communicate exactly the opposite of what she meant to say.
When Janine laughs at the irony of this situation she manages to get through to the okaasan that she hadn't really meant to say what she had said. She had misunderstood the "unsaid meanings" of the passive tense, which did imply relationships, even if they were unstated. The okaasan stopped--taken aback, when she realized that Janine didn't fully understand something that no one could imagine not understanding. What followed this realization was a powerful bridging of the impasse simply by the realization that their understanding of each other's perspectives was now mutual. This mutual understanding was what now catapulted Janine into uchi--this time on a much more secure basis than before. This scenario illustrates that understanding the unsaid dimensions of "cultural bubbles" produces real consequences.