A match made in France?

In my first year of college, I went on a traveling Janterm, where we spent two weeks studying French in Cannes, and doing tours to the nearby towns and famous spots, and one week in Paris, exploring as we wished.  During the first two weeks, while a group of us were on a city bus, I noticed a French kid about our age.  He was sitting in a seat, on the left side of the bus, somewhat near the front, listening to music with headphones on.  I was curious what music he had playing.  I also thought he was cute.  Therefore, I wanted to talk to him.  The easiest thing for me to say to him was to ask him to what music he was listening.  I fought constantly with the insides of my brain and the fluttering of my stomach, and at last, I believe, he got off the bus.  Or else, we got off the bus.  I really don’t remember. However, I remember making eye contact with him at least once, if not a few times while we were all riding  the bus.

Well, I was incredibly disappointed that I had not spoken with the boy, though not entirely surprised at myself – even today, I have to psych myself up for odd situations like that.  However, I usually succeed in making the interaction nowadays, whereas at the time, I did not.

But this tale does not end sadly.  At least, not yet.

I believe that it was that same night, or perhaps the following – but I really think it was that same night – that a group of us decided to go to a nightclub in the town.  Some of the older guys who were working at the dormitory where we were all studying offered to take us to some cool bar and club.  We all happily agreed.  Well, some of the girls and guys and I agreed, but not everyone.

So, a small band of foreigners temporary living in Cannes so they could study French headed to a nice bar for a while, and then to a dance club later on that night.  On the way, I learned that a Romanian speaker can understand other romance languages rather easily.  (Fun Fact: This was my first interaction with someone being able to understand another language that is similar to his/her own, without necessarily being able to speak that language.  Of course, I can now do that with various languages myself, but it was a fun start to the concept for me.)

The bar was fun and interesting, and we didn’t have to check our coats, but we did have to buy drinks to compensate for having not checked our coats, and we had to deal with a huge pile of coats, which we were somewhat hiding in the corner.  However, I need not say much more about the bar.  Rather, anything more.  The club is the important one, you see. 

First off, the club was huge and, really, quite an awesome dance club.  I was amazed at the environment, as well as the clientele.  People danced by themselves or with a friend or with friends, and it didn’t matter which they did.  There were no circles forming awkwardly, or anything like that.  People weren’t doing official or formal dances of any kind, though.  They were just free dancing, having a wonderful time, doing their own things to the music.  I happily joined in in this type of merriment, while being amazed that on one side of me could be a 17-year-old, and on the other side of me could be a 40-year-old – no one cared how old anyone else was.

In short, I loved the club, and I loved dancing in it.

And, while I enjoyed dancing in it, I saw a familiar head.  When he turned and saw me, we looked in each other’s eyes, and there was this sort of understanding.  We both knew that we had seen each other that day.  We both knew that we had not talked to one another.  And it felt as though we both knew that I at least had wanted to talk to him.  This time, however, it seemed quite clear that he wanted to talk to me, as well.  Shortly after seeing one another, he was dancing in front of me, with me.  We held hands as we danced with one another, and we danced without holding hands, too.  

Even though I could manage French rather well at that time, he never got to find out this fact, because he addressed me in English.  It was somewhat iffy English, but adorable, and I loved that he was trying and that he knew we had all been speaking English on the bus.  He had been listening to music, of course, but he clearly had been paying enough attention to us nonetheless.

I don’t remember how long we danced or how we started dancing with one another, but I remember that it was absolutely wonderful.  At some point later in the evening, a couple of the girls who were with me told me I needed to give him a way to contact me.  I didn’t have a phone, of course, but one of the girls had just gotten one that day, because she was staying for the whole semester.  So, we wrote my full name and her phone number on a piece of paper.  In the French conjugation of the verb to want, I couldn’t remember if the you form ended in an or a t.  So, instead of saying, “If you want,” I wrote, “If one wants,” which, in French, can also be read as, “If we want.”  (Si on veut.)

I handed him the paper and I said goodbye and rushed out with my friends.  I don’t even remember what I said to him, or if I even said anything to him as I gave him the paper.  I just know that I gave it to him.

I spent several hours throughout the following months searching a particular page on Facebook.  It was the page for the club where we had been dancing.  I was scouring the faces and names of all the people who had liked the page, looking for this guy.  I used to know his first name.  I honestly couldn’t tell you what it was now, though.  I do remember his eyes, though… those gray-blue, yet bright eyes.  But I searched long and hard for his Facebook, to no avail.

He never called.

Or, at least, if he did, it was after I had left, and my friend with the phone never told me.

I am reminded of all of this, because today, for the second time in my life, I gave a piece of paper with my name and contact info on it to a guy.  (My full name and LINE ID, to be exact.)  He has already contacted me.

Post-a-day 2017

Math class in Japanese

Have you ever tried to do math in a written language you don’t know?  I have.  Forget about the part where you might have to wrack your brain, in order to recall certain mathematical formulas and rules from a decade or three ago.  What good does a formula do you, when you understand neither the givens nor the question?  Plus, how do you even find a formula, without knowing what you want to do (like what is being asked of you)?

I think we tend to be consice with our words in math problems in English a good amount of the time.  Sure, we have word problems, but the non-word problens usually are quite short on wordage.  For example, the following:

  • Find the following:
  • x = __  y – __ ∠A – __ lineAB – __
  • Given x = √7, find y.
  • Solve for b.

That sort of thing.  In Japanese, however, I’ve been unable to solve the problems, simply due to the fact that I can’t figure out what the problems are!  Usually, as soon as someone shows me what’s being asked on these Japanese math problems, I know the math to solve it.  However, the sheer magnitude (is that applicable here?) of words in the math problems throws me entirely to the sharks.  I’m usually quick with math, but I’ve never been slower than I am now with Japanese math.  Aargh!  😛  Haha  😀

 

P.S.  Just for reference, do recall that I am not actually in school as a student, but am a teacher.  And yes, it was normal for me as a teacher back in the US to join math classes.  Because I love it, really, and I can’t imagine life being quite so exciting as it is when I get to do fun math.  😛  I’m a total nerd, I am aware.  😀

 Give it a go!  These are even a bit easier than what I had in class. 😉

Post-a-day 2017

 

Eggs and Trilingual Songs

While dying eggs for Easter tonight, my friend and I were listening to and singing along to various songs from various musicals.  For the most part, this was all in English.  However, when I decided that, judging the songs and musicals we’d had so far, it was time for a bit of Frozen, this all changed.

Frozen, you see, happens to be one musical that this friend doesn’t know too well in English, but really only knows in Japanese.  I, naturally, picked up all the words in English due to the extreme cultural love of the songs back in the US.  And, to make things more exciting, and to test our true knowledge of the songs, I happen only to have the soundtrack in French. (I know, I’m a special one.)

So, what does that all mean?  Well, it means that my friend and I had a grand ole time singing along in Japanese and English to a song in French, both of us laughing regularly as we did our best to focus on the words we knew that we knew, but seemed so incredibly difficult to get out.  I’m not sure that I have ever focused so much just to sing along to a song before tonight.  It was somewhat intense and absolutely delightful.  I’d totally do that again.  😀
Post-a-day 2017

Pork Buns and Handkerchiefs

Today, at the train station, my brother and I were looking for a place to sit down and eat our lunch.  We found a single spot on this rounded bench, and went for it.  I originally attempted sitting on my bag, but was uncertain as to its ability to withstand the weight, so ended up sitting on the bench (at my brother’s insistence), with my brother squatting in front of me.  We were chitchatting about the food as he opened up the bags (it was some dumplings and pork buns from this famous local bun shop, 551), and the old lady next to me readjusted her belongings a bit, and scooted to her left enough of army brother to sit down next to me.

He thanked her in a fabulous Japanese fashion (so proud!), and took the seat.  As he had the box of buns in his hands, when he opened it up, he offered one of them to the lady.  After some coercing, she finally accepted a half, and even one of the shrimp dumplings, as well (she seemed to perk up a bit when she saw the dumplings, and had no hesitation in the offer of one of those).

She and my brother continued a bit of chitchat about the fact that the buns were from the famous shop, as well as why each of them was there (This was all in Japanese, of course, so I understood the bulk, but couldn’t quite jump into the conversation due to the Japanese and the fact that we were on a rounded bench, so I couldn’t quite see the lady, unless I leaned way forward.).  Eventually, after she learned that I was his younger sister, I heard the same comment I always seem to get here in Japan: that I am “cute”.  While it is not exactly something we love to be called back in the US, it is actually a quite nice compliment here in Japan.

Then, as my brother explained about my living in Japan, she asked me how I liked it.  I gave a half smile and wobbled my head a bit, but couldn’t bring myself to spit out any words – I truly had no idea how to answer, and I could feel something uncomfortable rising inside me already.  Fortunately, my brother, perhaps sensing my hesitation-slash-unwillingness-to-answer, took over answering the question for me.

His answer, however, surprised me – he was quite open and honest with the woman.  I, just in thinking about it all was already starting to tear up, but I felt a small sense of relaxation and relief as I listened to my brother share with the lady how I was not having too easy or good a time (and that that was part of why I had come down to visit him for the weekend).  I had finished eating what I was going to eat, so I excused myself, saying it would be good to jump in the line for the bathroom before I had to go get on my train.

Once I reached the bathroom line, I couldn’t help it, the feeling was so overpowering: tears started pouring down my burning eyes, as I gasped quietly for air.  I couldn’t quite understand what was happening with me.  I had noticed that I was a bit borderline already earlier in the day (borderline tears, that is), but I hadn’t known why, nor had I expected something like this to send me into such a state as I was now.

I used the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and went back out to my brother, who was standing ready by my bag.  I broke right back into tears when he asked if I was alright, and he just held me in a big brother hug for a bit, soothing me, before gently telling me that I had about 8 minutes before my train, so we’d do well to head toward the gate now.

He was holding a marigold handkerchief in a little clear plastic bag, and he proffered it to me, explaining that it was dyed with actual marigold, and the old lady and her sister (the one whose son is a pianist, and whose concert the old lady was coming to see) had wanted me to have it.  They said that they wanted me to enjoy my time in Japan, and that they hoped things improved for me.  They had wanted to talk to me, too, but had had to leave, so they left the well-wishes and the handkerchief with my brother to pass on to me.

Naturally, there were even more tears at this point, but with a slightly different edge to them.  : )

As we hurried off toward my train, I expressed how my visit to my brother and his girlfriend was so wonderful, that, now that it was at an end, it was difficult for me to think about going back to my life, my town.  I had gotten a taste of so much of what I had been missing these past seven-ish months, and I didn’t want to go back.  Not that I had any intention of not going back – there was just a taste of dislike for what awaited me.  I had finally started to be accustomed with my circumstances, it was hard being reminded of what had been wanting from my life.  I know that I’ll be okay, and that I likely will very much enjoy these next few months – it’s just never so easy to go back to plain white bread when you’ve had all your favorites available to you.  (That sort of idea, anyway)

Yeah… that’s all I have to say about that.  : )

 

Post-a-day 2017

 

 

“Chocolate”

Okay, here’s an anecdote from the wonderful dinner we had tonight (despite the fact that there were people smoking off and on in the restaurant).

My brother, his girlfriend, and I all had dinner with my brother’s private student tonight.  He’s this older Japanese guy, perhaps in his fifties, who is quite fun and silly, and who loves his family and my brother.  At one point in the night, we ended up on the subject of the pronunciation of English words in the Japanese style (Katakana English, as we like to call it), and specifically the struggle for Japanese people to say the word “chocolate” like a native English speaker.

My brother’s student was determined to pronounce chocolate like a native, and so we kept having to say it ourselves, and then analyze and critique the student’s pronunciation.  Most of the time, there was some special vowel added to the middle of the word, because Japanese doesn’t have consonants side-by-side (only “ts”, “ch”, and guttural stops written as a double consonant [e.g. “tt”, “kk”, etc.]).  So, instead of the native’s “choc-lette”, it tended to come out as “cho-koe-lay-toe” or “cho-ku-ray-toe” (They also don’t have R’s or L’s in Japanese.).

Back and forth, back and forth we went, my saying “chocolate,” followed by my brother’s student saying “chocolate,” the two pronunciations forever being different from one another.  But the student and my brother’s girlfriend, being Japanese speakers and non-native English speakers, couldn’t quite hear the differences.  Whereas my brother and I heard the difference every time, resulting in a good amount of laughter and face-making (You know how you make a face when something isn’t quite right?  That.).

The student even called over two of the waitresses at one point, explaining the situation to them, and asking them to listen to me and him saying each of our versions.  ‘Did the pronunciations sound the same to them?’ he wanted to know.  Yes, they did.  However, when I then said both versions myself, they heard a difference.  So, having lost that bit of the battle, he had them try to pronounce chocolate like native English speakers.  No, they couldn’t quite get it right, that middle “cl/kl” sound being the constant culprit in the matter.  This, of course, created and even greater flow of laughter in our corner of the restaurant.

There is a Japanese comedian who goes around to places (I’ve only seen and heard of ones in the US, but he might go elsewhere, too), asking for different things, but using Japanese English and odd translations.  For example, he walked around New York asking for a “boat-plane” or “sky mamma”.  He was, naturally, looking for a naval aircraft carrier.  The Japanese characters individually mean “sky”空 and “mother”母, and it is, of course, a sort of boat with airplanes.  The whole purpose of his show, of course, is to be silly in interacting with the Americans who have no idea what he is asking.  Having talked about this show earlier in the night, I eventually wondered what might happen if this guy were to try ordering the Japanese version of “chocolate” in, say, a coffee shop or restaurant.

My brother and I did our darndest in listening, but we couldn’t hear the words as people who didn’t know what was being said.  That is, we understand and are accustomed to Japanese English, and so couldn’t figure out how it would sound to people who don’t understand Japanese English.  So, we decided to send a voice message to my mom, recorded by my brother’s private student.

“White chocolate, dark chocolate, bitter chocolate…. please!”

(rather, “Waiito chocorayto, dahku chocorayto, beetah chocorayto… pureezu!”)

Naturally, my mother had no idea, no matter how she tried, what on Earth was being said.  Then, when we went for some other variations, – that is, his attempts at pronouncing it as a Native English speaker – she thought he might have been saying something about a certain kind of energy used in Reiki.

As one can ascertain from that, his “native” pronunciation has some room for improvement.  He declared that his homework was to practice only pronouncing “chocolate” all week.  He even has a voice memo of me saying, “Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate,” on his phone for reference.  We’ll see if he ever manages that native-sounding “choc-lette”.

Now, for anyone concerned about the fact that, ‘Well, chocolate does have an O in the middle,’ recall that that is not the point.  They are not saying the word differently out of righteousness for the fact that the O is there and therefore must be pronounced, but out of the fact that the “cl/kl” sound is just somewhat impossible for Japanese folks.  It makes for some pretty funny-sounding words in English, if you ask me.  😛

 

Post-a-day 2017

 

 

 

Breakdown in Town

Today I did a sort of volunteering, and I had a total breakdown for myself.  (Yes, tears and all!)  😀

As I noticed my irritation at being skipped over for helping with certain things, I wondered why I cared – it’s not like any of this takes master brain power, or special Hannah skills in the first place, so why am I annoyed at being asked to do this task versus that task?  I eventually got to the source of my irritation:  I was asked to do this task, because it doesn’t required any Japanese knowledge or use.  I was not asked to do other tasks, because the assigners believed me incapable of accomplishing them (due to my level of Japanese).

It was a three-part annoyance initially.
1) They aren’t letting me to something, because they think me incapable.
2) They didn’t even check if I were capable of the tasks, but just assumed me incapable.
3) I actually was incredibly capable of those particular tasks, and had even done them before, when my Japanese was a much lower level than it is now.

Now, these are all things that could cause some real annoyance, right?  Right.

However, I looked further than that.  I am here, making a difference, and that’s my purpose of being here.  So why am I getting annoyed at this whole thing?  What’s behind those three concerns?  Well, I didn’t know at first.

As part of the thing at which I was helping, one of the conversations was about complaints we have in life, and what we get out of those complaints, as well as what we miss out on because of our having retained the complaints.

The area which stuck out to me instantly (and which I did not want to address, of course) was my job.  Almost immediately from the start of this one-year-contract job, I disliked it.  And, here I am, four moths later, still hating it.  Even though there are plenty of things I love about it, I still have this utter dislike of my job.  It’s boring.  It’s a waste of my time.  I’m better than this.  They’re doing it all wrong – it would makes Loads more sense to do it This way instead.  They’re stupid – they just need to listen to me and let me do it.  Why do I have to do it This way?… This way sucks! And, most of all, Why do I have to be here in such a crap situation?

So, seeing this constant, repeating complaints about my job, I looked at what I got out of the complaining.  More than anything else, I get to be right, and I get to avoid responsibility.  I get to be right that my job sucks and, obviously, everyone telling me what to do or how to do things is totally wrong, as well as that I shouldn’t be here and am better than all of this boring nonsense that a Monkey could do.  I get to avoid the responsibility of finding a job I love, and putting forth the effort required for such a task, allowing me to be a victim of the situation of my job, as opposed to the fact that I was lazy, and just went one of the easier routes in finding an international job.  This sucks, and it’s totally not my fault at all.  That was about it.

And, what did I miss out on by being right and by avoiding responsibility in finding a great job?  Relationships with the people around me each day.  Sleep (from staying up, hating having to go to work the next morning, and so putting it off as long as possible).  Fun at work.  Joy in my day-to-day.  Sharing my love and wisdom with the world.  Being happy, and spreading my usually-infectious happiness all around me.  Being calm and relaxed (because I was so stressed all the time with the annoyance of “My job sucks.”).  Loving life.  Being me*.

So, what did this have to do with my annoyance in the volunteering?  Well, with all of my complaints around my work, I had been so focused on proving to who knows who that everything is just wrong about my job, that I had sacrificed not only getting to know the country around me, but also really studying, using, and learning Japanese.  So, essentially, I was pissed off, because I had kept myself from learning more Japanese, which had caused the problem of the people here today thinking I didn’t know enough Japanese to help with certain fun tasks.  Wow.

 

Now, I cried tears of fury when I finally saw that.  Total breakdown, right?  Right.  So, I declared that, in terms of the Japanese learning and studying, I would write out the list of phrases and such that I normally would learn (when learning a new language) before going to bed tonight, and that I would have them translated correctly to Japanese by 6p.m. Wednesday.  A first step in creating my advancement in the study of the Japanese language.  And I’m actually really excited now, thinking about all the fun and silly and crazy things I’ll get to go do, now that I’m actually taking on learning Japanese (and by “actually taking on learning Japanese”, I mean learning it Really, ridiculously well).

I’m still not willing to give up everything on the work complaints, and I’m not so sure why…, but I’m going to look into that this week.  There’s something still in the way for me in letting that all go.  I’m okay letting go of most of it, but something deep down is holding tight to a wadded handful of complaints. (Haha, how ridiculous does this sound?  Ridiculous to me, and yet I still won’t let it all go!  Craziness, Hannah.  Craziness.)  😀  How about we plan that I get over it by Tuesday of next week, 12 noon?  Sounds good.  I can get my final hours and days of being angry at my job, and hopefully see how utterly ridiculous it, and just let it go and have a breakthrough where I create something new and fabulous (and beneficial, of course!) in its stead.  I’ve had a breakdown, so now it is time for a breakthrough!  Okay, go!  😀  Yess!  😀

 

*I, because I do care about grammar.

I'm part of Post A Day 2016