Haven’t Written Anything In A Bit, Better Fix That

November 26, 2009

I’ve come a long way since I first arrived in Japan back in July. I instinctively remove my shoes when I enter a house now. I can greet people in Japanese. I can go to the supermarket without causing a major international incident. These are all accomplishments worth celebrating on the four-month mark of my stay on this side of the world.

With that said, I still absolutely suck at most aspects of Japanese life. Here’s a collection of recent slip-ups. Let’s go to the highlight reel.

– Due to a childhood preference for food best eaten with a fork, spoon or, best of all, out of a trough, I started using chopsticks way later than most people. Like, in college. I felt proud at first as I successfully moved food from plate to mouth. “This isn’t hard at all,” I thought pecking at rolls of sushi, “Japan will be a breeze.”

Turns out I’m a remedial utensil-user after all. My once-triumph of being able to pick up food with chopsticks draws very few “oooooohs” and “ahhhhhhs” from anyone in Japan, mostly because my form is an absolute disaster. You’re supposed to only move one of the sticks, leaving the other one motionless – I flail around with both sticks like an epileptic crane game. It’s gotten to the point where dinners turn into tutorials where I hopelessly watch as people try showing me the proper way to grasp chopsticks. “Just hold it like you hold a pencil!” They’ve clearly never seen my handwriting or how I hold a pen like a knife.

And you wonder why half the entries on this blog are about fast food.

– More dinner-time follies. I’ve learned how to more-or-less say “itadakimasu,” a little phrase you whip out before eating, but the concluding statement remains a tongue-twister. Written out, it goes “gochisousama deshita.” When trying to say it, it comes out “I really wish I’d chosen to starve myself so not to try saying this phrase.” Much like with chopsticks, the end of dinner turns into Japanese 101, at least until I say “OK, think I got it!” Which is really just a ploy to steer the conversation back into English.

– A majority of teachers at one of my schools have started saying “good morning” to me instead of the Japanese sentence for it (which I use in an effort to fit in). This could be because they want to have a delightful language exchange…or they don’t want to hear me destroy their native tongue anymore. I don’t know, entries like this need three bullet points and I’ve just noticed this change in the past two days.

(Japanese Fun Fact #30: It’s Thanksgiving in Japan! But…that doesn’t mean anything. This pretty much sums up how the Japanese perceive the holiday…one of my students thought Americans ate pelican for dinner.)

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