Saturday, October 27, 2007


The other day I had a very enlightening conversation with my Kouchou Sensei (Principal). He informed me in the restroom that he would be coming to my next class. I didn’t understand what he said until about 4 minutes later (he talks fast and in anither language to boot). He arrived and waited on the class to come. Unfortunately they did not come. We chatted (more like speaking on his part and grunting on mine). He told me they weren’t coming and we should go back to the teacher’s room. I followed him and sat down at my desk. He pulled up a chair and we shot the bull for about 45 minutes. It was the longest conversation that I have had in Japanese. We talked about fall in Japan, apples, salted fish, salmon, hot coffee, iced coffee, winter in Japan, snowboarding being a young man’s sport and skiing and old man’s sport. We talked about ramen, miso soup and salmon eggs (I told him that in America we used them for fish bait and he laughed and said he loved to eat them. I don’t really love to eat them (they are really juicy in your mouth) but I have definitely eaten worse things.) I really enjoyed the chance to talk to him and he helped me with my Japanese. I have had a hard time adjusting to the work environment here in Japan. It seems much more serious to me. I do have a skewed view of things because I don’t understand what people are talking about most of the time so I am sure it seems much more serious than it actually is.

I have been training for a half marathon on November 11th. I hope that I don’t completely fall apart. It is strange to me to be away from the college running scene and away from so many of my running friends. I usually run on my own unless I plan far ahead and invite some friends along. I am really excited about racing again and I think it will be interesting to race among so many Japanese people. In the races I have run I usually stick out because of my height and frame. I can only imagine what it will be like to be running in a pack of Japanese runners. I think that I might win the awkward award and I will definitely be a lock for the Clydesdale award. I also plan on running an ekiden (a Japanese style relay race) on the day after Thanksgiving. We get Nov. 23rd off of school and a friend of a friend asked us to join their team. From the results last year I think that we might have a shot at winning. Because of the races I have planned I decided to purchase some racing shoes. I looked all over town and on several Japanese websites but I was hard pressed to find anything that was remotely close to my size. I had to order shoes from the US. I was hesitant to do so when I noticed that it would cost around $60 for shipping only (the shoes weigh less than a pound). I decided to ship them to my parents house and then ask them to ship them to me (hopefully I can weasel my way into having them send me some goodies too.)

If you happened to drive by Kencho a couple of nights ago and caught a glimpse of someone walking beside their scooter, it was probably me. I have recently noticed that my scooter hasn’t been quite itself. I decided to take it for a walk. It broke the leash that I put it on, so from then on I had to push it. We strolled along enjoying the evening air. I stopped to let some children pet it but they weren’t interested (neither were their parents from the scowls they gave me). When we got back home I tried to start it up but no luck. The next morning I had to leave her at home. She kept whining when I tried to start her. I rode my bike to school and when I came back I walked her down to the gas station. Have you ever walked a scooter into a gas station? The looks that I received were interesting to say the least. I even tried to sit on it and get a rolling start so it looked like I was pulling in. No luck. Fred Flintstone must have been really strong to build up any kind of speed in his car because after three seconds of “Flintstoning it” I was exhausted. I got off and accepted the walk of shame to the nearest pump. As you may have guessed some delicious fuel was all she needed. Maybe I should get the fuel gauge fixed, along with the odometer and the speedometer.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Misadventures in a foreign language…


I have to admit that my mastery of Japanese has been thwarted thus far by the fact that I my brain is small and there is only room for so much. I think a breakdown of my brain space is the best way to make the point clear to you.

27% a detailed list of my favorite sweets both past and present (the time I ate a quart of chocolate brownie ice cream in a day, the nights of dipping oreos into peanut butter, buying and sneaking enormous amounts of candy into movie theaters and then eating it all, throwing up after eating too much Halloween candy when I was 6, I think it was a vanilla tootsie roll that put me over the edge while driving back from trick or treating at Jane Archers house.)

23% memories of my childhood

13% the English language

13% a detailed list of my favorite foods both past and present

11% memories to tease my parents with (the Clovis zoo, burned toast, baseball to the face, etc.)

8% memories of participating in and viewing athletic events

2% useless facts

1.5% things I learned in elementary school

1% things I learned in college

* I slept through junior high and high school

0.49% remembering my telephone number and every computer password that I have ever used except the one that I need right now.

0.01% Japanese

As you can see I am all fulled up (despite the squiggly red line under fulled, it sounds better this way). You can imagine how painful Japanese class can be. With each new vocabulary word I am weighing my options. Do I really need to know sentence structure? I would much rather keep remembering that my 325nd favorite candy is Bit o Honey. Should I try to remember the phrase for,” I am lost” or can I get by with “Where is the 7-11?” If I can ask where 7-11 is I bet I can ask for directions to my house from there. Except that there are billions of 7-11’s in Japan. Oh and…I neglected to remember how to ask for directions in favor of keeping the memory of filling up the hole (5ft x 5ft x 3ft) in the back yard with water and making Jana (sister) walk over it on a 3 inch beam (she was muddy afterwards). I just forgot what I was trying to remember, crisis averted.” Because of this dilemma I am forced into difficult situations when speaking in Japanese. The partial nature of my memory can cause problems. I often say things that do not make sense and because of that the skin on my face is a permanent red. I no longer have to blush to show embarrassment at the meaning of the words that came out of my mouth. People don’t even know when I am embarrassed anymore. In fact I eliminated the ability to register embarrassment in favor of learning the Japanese equivalent to “Three packets of ketchup, please”. I would like to share some mishaps from my misadventures in clumsily wielding the Japanese language (if it was a sword I would no longer have limbs).

After being introduced to all my coworkers for the first time I wanted to say, “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” (“Nice to meet you.” and other things depending on the situation). It came out as “yukkuri onegaishimasu” (“Slowly please.”)

When asked if I enjoyed climbing Mt. Fuji I wanted to say, “fuji-san wa kirei desu.” (“Mt. Fuji is beautiful.”) It came out as “fuji-san wa karai desu.” (“Mt. Fuji is spicy.”)

In replying to “Are you hungry?” I wanted to say, “watashi wa onaka peko peko.” (“I am starving”). It came out as, “watashi wa onaka piko piko desu.” (“My stomach is shiny”)

And my all time favorite, while studying adjectives I learned how to say something is funny or interesting. When practicing this phrase I pointed at a girl and I wanted to say “anohito wa omoshiroi desu.” (She is funny.) It came out as, “anohito wa omorashi desu.” (She is to wet your pants (literal translation “to wet oneself”)). The good thing about that last mistake is that now I know how to tell people I didn’t wet my pants when I get soaked from the rain (refer back to July 5th).

All joking aside I am really enjoying the challenge of learning the language and working up the courage to put it to use in daily life. My teachers have been so gracious in helping me learn and have invested so much time in teaching me I am very thankful for what they are doing. Now that my Japanese has improved it has been nice to communicate with people who I could not communicate with before and learning some of the nuances of the language has helped shed some light on the Japanese culture itself.

Recently I have been struggling through some hard times missing family and friends, but I have been comforted by friends and “family” here. It has been nice to deepen some of the relationships that I have formed and to be encouraged by those. I was able to attend a church workshop this past weekend and I really enjoyed learning some new songs in Japanese and enjoying the fellowship. We spent time studying and then had some skits that displayed some of the characteristics of some of the different cultures that make up the church. It was a great time to reaffirm what the church as a body should be all about.

I also went to Costco yesterday in Chiba (2 hours away) and it was nice to wander through huge aisles of familiar things. They even had samples. I hit every stand at least once, and some twice. I think that I was borderline on the last fly by. The ladies were starting to eye me and they were gripping their wooden spoons in preparation for an assault on my greedy hands. Being a well trained sampler I knew when it was time to lay low for awhile. At least until the memory of my hungry eyes and dripping mouth had faded. Unfortunately as I began planning out the logistics for my final strike they began to roll their carts to the back of the store. My howls of pain and misery were drowned by the chatter of endless shoppers and the tears that slowly rolled down my cheeks were caught by a bag of rice that began to swell from the moisture. I was consoled by the fact that I still had shopping to do. I tried to make purchases that I could not make in Mito. I bought oatmeal, raisins, salsa, peanut butter, soap, hot chocolate, chai, pickles and my prizes Reeses Pieces and Gummy Bears. The latter 2 purchases concern me the most. Since Costco sells in bulk, both bags of candy are the largest I have ever purchased. That in itself does not concern me. The fact that candy is my kryptonite does. I reserved a bed in the hospital for tomorrow. I wonder what it will be like to have a belly swollen from a five pound mixture of peanut butter with candy shells and gummy bears. I will probably have to drink lots of hot chocolate to wash it down. One thing is for sure, I will have a hard time explaining why I will have to miss the next week of school because I ate too much candy.