Asian-English teatime with the bff sister

This evening, by a wonderful unfolding of events, I ended up having tea with my best friend’s little sister.  As my best friend’s little sister, she holds a sweet spot in my heart.  What’s more, the fact that she’s the first person I’ve seen go from little kid, singing nursery-rhyme-type songs, to a mature young adult (and soon full-blown adult), makes that spot even sweeter.

As we sat in the tapioca teahouse, drinking our warm (Taiwanese style, I think – at least, that’s what a friend of mine saw constantly while in Taiwan, and which we haven’t seen much elsewhere) bubble tea, our attention somehow turned to the menu on the wall.  Naturally, we hadn’t thought anything special of it when we actually were looking at the menu to order earlier on, but it was suddenly relevant to our conversation, so our attention turned to it.  She is studying Mandarin this year (since August), and I’ve just moved here from Japan.  So, we have some common ground on understanding Chinese characters.  (For those who don’t know, Japanese kind of stole the characters from Chinese, and adapted them a bit, so loads of them look exactly or almost exactly the same and have the same or very similar meanings.)

We joyfully pointed out that “ice” was on the end of each name in the ‘Snowy Drink’ category, and that “little” was next to one other character on the “Snacks” sections – likely ‘little meal’ or ‘little food’.  Something like that.  And then we discussed how we were scouring the menu, picking out little pieces that we understood.  It was like a fun little puzzle that we were putting together, piece by piece… one that we know will take months, even years, but the timing of which doesn’t seem to bother us in the slightest.  We’re just excited that we’re able to make the little sense of it all that we already can.  And we aren’t even using the same language to do it, technically, making it simultaneously that much sillier and that much more awesome.

So, we got to enjoy one another’s company and be nerdy language-lovers together, while sipping warm asian versions of English tea (Earl Grey) on a cold, cold night (for Houston, anyway).  Blessings abound when open our minds and schedules to them, it seems.  And I am grateful for this one in particular.  🙂

Post-a-day 2017

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Time for Multilingual Christmas Stuff

My task for today (from my tea advent calendar) was to listen to a Christmas song in every language I speak.  Seeing as how it was likely to be difficult to find a song other than “Jingle Bells” (which is definitely not one of my favorites on repeat) in a bunch of different languages, and taking into account that it could get quite boring, listening to the same song over and over again, I chose to interpret the assignment as being any Christmas song for any of the languages (i.e. different songs for each language, as opposed to the same one in each language).  These are the songs I picked.

 

German:  Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht
(It was originally written in German.  I love the version by John Denver and the Muppets on their joint Christmas album.)

French: Minuit Chrétiens
(One of my favorite Christmas songs, and it was originally in French.  This isn’t my favorite version, but it’s still nice.)

Japanese: All I Want for Christmas is You Japanese cover 
(Clearly not originally Japanese, but I like it anyway, so I listened to it.  I loved the ridiculous Christmas music I would hear in the shops while living in Japan, but I can’t remember any of it.  This one does justice to some of the better covers I heard, though.)  😀

English: Mary, did you know? 
I first remember hearing this song at Mass at my aunt’s Church in a small town in Texas. A boy around my age sang the song during Mass, I believe during the meditation time following Communion (when everyone goes up to the front and takes some bread and wine).  I thought it was magical, hearing this twangy-accented high schooler sing his heart out with these words and notes.  This version reminds me of a grown-up version of that first one I remember hearing.

Italian: Tu Scendi Dalle Stele
(Originally written in Italian.  I love this guy.)

Spanish: Los Peces en el Rio
(I’d never heard this one, but I love it.  It is originally in Spanish, and also quite popular as a Christmas song in Spanish-speaking cultures.)*

 

Seeing as I don’t speak any others fluently or conversationally, I didn’t do them – this took some time and consideration as it was!  But it was totally good.  Just made me want to listen to loads more in each of the languages, really.  Also, I totally forgot about English and Spanish songs until after I thought I was already finished with this task.  Whoops.  😛

 

*If you want some awesome, quality, unoffensive music in Spanish, check out this song.  Be prepared to be a little shocked when you see the artists performing, and how strongly it contrasts to the sound of the music.  It rocks.  Try listening to it without seeing the video for a minute or two.  Enjoy!

Post-a-day 2017

Japanese Animal Crackers

Because this small interaction with some of my Japan people was awesome, I thought I’d share it.

……………………………………….

Person 1:

Person 2: Cuuute. Where’s that from? 

Person 3: Kawaii

Person 1:


Person 1: Animal crackers!

Person 4: M. Duck. We’re one step closer to learning the duck’s first name.

Person 4: Any bets on what it is?

Person 1: Haha, I thought the same thing

Hannah: Mallard duck

Person 4, simultaneously: Common sense says something nature-themed like Marigold, but I’m voting Marzipan

Person 4: Shh, no one asked for rationality.

Hannah: Okay, then. Obviously, it’s Msteven Duck

Hannah: The M is silent

Person 4: That’s the spirit

Hannah: Don’t you mean “mspirit”?

Hannah: :P.

Person 4: Hahah

Person 4: Touché

Sticker from Person 1: Punked?!

Later, from Person 1, again: Some of these are oddly specific, while some are not


……………….

I really do love Japan’s odd relationship with English.

Post-a-day 2017

My real voice

In college, I spent a summer studying in Germany.  It was a language school setup, filled with foreigners, but in such a small town that everyone knew that we were studying German, and so everyone always spoke to us all in German.  I had already studied abroad a few times before this adventure, and I had learned firsthand about what works and what doesn’t work, in terms of language immersion.  I was dedicated to learning German, and so I made sure that I only spoke in German with others, even if they spoke to me in English.  This made friendships hard among the people in my program’s group, since they all used English together; I came across a bit snobby, but I was just really committed to learning German.

I made friends with other foreigners rather easily, though, and especially ones in higher levels of German, which was even better for me.  My German was improving immensely.  But this led to a unique situation one day.

One day, near the end of either my time at the school or my friend Paul’s time there (he’s British), I found myself faced with a desperate Paul, actually begging me to speak English.  Why?! was my repeated question to his pleas.

“Because I want to hear what you sound like!”

I don’t know if he was pleased or not by how I sound in English, but I spoke a little for him.  And it was way weird, using English with him, despite the fact that I’d heard him speak English loads, and that it’s our common native language.  I had just never used it with him.

And then this brought up a unique and interesting sentiment.  He wanted to hear me, and that meant speaking English.  I can guess that my native tongue was the one in which Paul believed my identity to lie.  I know that it felt like I was setting aside a sort of mask when I switched to English with him.  I even felt a little called-out… as though I had been hiding somehow, and it had been behind German.  The real me (I) lay in English, in the English part of me.

Yet, years later, here I am, missing the parts of me that belong to these different languages in which I have lived.  A part of me, true me (I), exists only on German, and others in French, in Spanish, and in Japanese. So much so that the real me (I) is this whole combination of languages – I feel a huge emptiness and feel not myself when I am using only English in my daily life.  I listen to Spanish-speaking radio when I’m in Houston, mostly because I don’t get to use Spanish often enough.  I read every night in French, and trade off an English book for a German one at times for my evening reading, too.  I regularly pull out a Spanish book to read, or my German audiobooks.  And I have noticed that I have been searching for a tolerably satisfying way to have Japanese in my near-daily life, too.  (For now, it has just been the occasional music, and a perpetual repeat of a certain song being stuck in my head.)  When I don’t have them all, it is as though a part of me is missing, and suddenly getting to speak with someone in them, almost reminds me of that mask I was setting aside in Germany with Paul… like I am again setting aside some mask I have been wearing.

Perhaps it is now a mask of monolingualism, pretending that I only speak English, while I long for the world to talk to me in several languages, all the time.

Anyway… I’m exhausted.  And I miss Paul.  He was studying opera, and was a really great guy.  I wonder if he’s been really successful with opera these past several years.  Maybe I can go see him perform one day.  That would be awesome.  🙂

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Books for Previews

I read books in the movie theatre.  It’s true.  I really do.  Not during the film, of course, but beforehand, and sometimes even during previews.

It all started when a friend of my dad’s gave me a book called Staying Alive in Year Five.  I think it might be an Australian book.  Whatever its origin, I loved reading the book.  I remember being so excited to see what happened next that I took it with me everywhere, so I could read whenever I had the chance.

This, naturally, included the movie theatre.  We always get to the film early in order to get good seats, and then the movie itself never starts at the specified time, anyway.  So, I sat down in my seat by my family members, and I opened up my book and read.  I was excited for the film, but I was also disappointed at having to stop reading, when it got to the beginning of the film.

Nowadays, I still read before a movie, if I’m there at all, of course.  There hasn’t been much to spark my interest lately, so I haven’t often been at the cinema.  And Japan was different, simply because I wanted to learn as much Japanese and Japanese culture as I could, so I watched all the previews and everything rather avidly.  Aside from those specific circumstances, I read.  I almost always have a book with me.  Living in Japan meant that I ended up always having my Kindle, since hard copies of books in not Japanese weren’t so easy to come by.  I would read at work, on the train, and at home.  While walking around (once I bought earphones I could wear again [Thanks, Korea!]), I listened to audiobooks.  Occasionally, I listened to music, but typically not.  I just love books.

Post-a-day 2017

I can’t walk right…

I walk on the wrong side, too.  Whenever I’m on the stairs, or even if I end up in a sidewalk/hallway sort of situation most times, I don’t even realize that I’m in the left side until I reach oncoming traffic.  At those times, I resort to my Japan automatic behavior of scooting simply to the middle of the stairwell, as opposed to switching sides entirely.  While escalators and roads were set sides, stairwells and walkways often had signed alternate setups for walking (due to high traffic in train stations and such), so I regularly was too confused when either there weren’t signs or people united them.  It quickly became a habit of mine, especially at school, just to put myself in the middle of the stairwell, and to let people go around me as they pleased.

And now I find myself always starting on the left side, and pushing quickly to the center as people approach, just like in Japan.  I find it amazing, the habits we build in life.

Post-a-day 2017

Getting to the airport

So, I still hate living in Japan, and it reminded me of this fact on my way to the airport this morning.  However, I also still truly love parts of this place and culture.  My trip to the airport reminded me of this fact, too.

As I struggled with three rolling bags and a guitar (I know, I know – stupid.  But it was unavoidable.), the terrible signage and lack of findable elevators was driving me insane, along with the constant rumble strips for hard-of-seeing individuals (I don’t blame anyone for that – it merely added to my struggle, is all, with the suitcase wheels constantly getting stuck in them.).  

So, rather than just being able to take an elevator to the right level, and walk flat to my airport train, and then take a second elevator down, I took what felt like an insane route, due to poor signage.  Struggling to exit the final tiny escalator (width-wise tiny), and get my stuff out of the way for the people behind me, I was totally I surprised to find myself outside with rain.  Yes, the whole station connects in a covered and underground area.  But this was the only path I could take, based on signs (which I know is false information, because I’ve been to the same area before, just from a different direction).  I finally gave up attempting to pull both big bags at once (one had the smaller rolling bag on top of it, and was somewhat impossible to manage off smooth, flat terrain), and just left one sitting near the escalator.  I trudged through the rain with the two bags, and wasn’t even sure how far I would go before turning back for the other bag.  I was unconcerned about leaving my bag, though, because 1) this is Japan, 2) it’s freakin’ heavy and hard to move, and 3) some station staff were standing right near it, and they saw me leave it there in my struggle.

I could tell the station staff guys were a bit concerned about my bag, so, when I found a spot covered from the rain, just around the corner, I propped my two bags against the wall, and started heading back for the other bag.  Of course, there were no signs for the train line I wanted, but that was no surprise – this is Japan.

As I came around the corner, however, one of the old men station workers was heading my way with my bag.  I thanked him in Japanese, and started to go to take the bag from him, but he asked in adorable English (meaning I understood, but it was not really correct at all) if I were taking the Narita Express.  I said that I was, and he just nodded, kept walking, and pointed up the escalator to the left.  I quickly grabbed my other bags and followed.

The big bags barely fit on the even smaller escalator we were using, but we managed.  At the top, I expected he might return my bag to me, but he again kept walking ahead of me, showing me the way to a train whose signs I still couldn’t find.

Remember that this is Japan (as if you could forget), so, of course, we came to a staircase now.  No alternate route.  None.  But we took an escalator to where we were, so it makes perfect sense for only stairs to follow.  But then, the upside of Japan came again, and a young-ish guy helped us carry the bags up the stairs, once he saw the station worker attempting to pick up one of my bags, as I carried another up with the guitar.  I heard the station worker comment to the guy that I was alone and carrying all three suitcases, and I smiled – people really can be super sweet here.  I in no way deny that.

So we continued on, and found our ticket barrier for the train.  I still had to buy a ticket, so he asked the window worker, and she sent me to the machines.  Unfortunately, the 7:13 train that was about to leave didn’t have any tickets available on the machine.  The next was at 8:00-ish, which started to put me into a panic.  I quickly asked about the 7:13 train, and my old man asked the window people for me.  Yet another station worker came from the window, and started tapping at the machine screen for me a few moments later.  Eventually, despite various issues, I got a ticket for the 7:13.  At least, it would let me on the 7:13.

Again, I heard the conversation happening about my being hitori desu! and mitsu desu ne.  The worker who helped me get my ticket then took over for the old man from the other section of the station, and took one of my big bags for me.  I thanked the old man profusely, and marveled one last time at his light blue eyes.  He wished me luck and courage.

I got stuck in the ticket barrier.  Yes, literally, because the one bag was too wide, and so the lady let me go back and bring my bag through the side area.  However, that meant that my ticket was eaten by the machine, since I didn’t make it all the way through the barrier.  And I only had so many minutes before the train.

The lady rushed over and opened up the ticket barrier, pulled out my ticket from a bin, and handed it to me, wishing me luck and courage, as well.  I thanked her greatly, and started rushing after the worker who’d taken my other bag.

We had just barely five minutes, and I could  tell we had far to go, simply by the fact that he was checking his watch and hurrying along so quickly.  The long corridor that greeted us as we rounded a corner made me a bit more nervous.  We rushed down the walkway, though, and he eventually declared that it would be okay.  He led me to an elevator (phew!), and we went down to the track.  The whole time, he had been talking with me, chatting about my stay and whatnot, and then telling me about where I could sit on the train.  Some good final practice for my Japanese, I suppose.  It was really nice to have someone to chat with me casually, though, especially with the physical stress and mental workout that had been going on so far today (and that still awaited).

He helped me on the train, showed me the secret seats in the wall, and wished me safety and good health.  After a few minutes on the train, the ticket checker guy who’d seen us get on came out of his little room and smiled at me as he walked past.  A few moments later, he came back and summoned me silently with the Japanese wave.  I followed, and he offered me a real seat in the cabin.  I thanked him, and collapsed into the seat.

Now, a bit of snacking and a bathroom break later, I am almost to the airport.  I don’t know how much my bags weigh.  One is for sure okay, the other concerns me a bit.  I’ve never measured 70lbs before, so I don’t know how that feels.  I’m a rather good judge for 50lbs, though, and my second checked bag is right close to 50.  My carry-on is way heavy.  But it might still be okay.  We shall see…

I still have to cancel my phone contract at the store, too.  And get through security with my Fuji-San hiking stick.  And make it on the plane, of course.  So, let’s hope for the best here, eh?

Fingers crossed!
P.S.  Oh.  And, as a side note, I happen to be sick right now, too.  It all started with the whole smoking at dinner the other night. My throat started burning then, and hasn’t stopped since.  :/

Post-a-day 2017