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April 29, 2008 in My Funny Irish Friend

To elaborate on the sign off for my last post: Sean called me “Miss White Trash” because I had responded to his gentle reminders to “clean up” the place with drawling howls of “Nuh-uh!! I ain’t gonna do it ’til I feels like it!” Sean, who has never seen White Trash, dropped his WT Bomb and announced he was going out for a nice dinner – with his notepad in tow.

“Why do you need your notepad?”

“You’ll see.”

Behold the fruits of Sean’s labo(u)r:

The marks next to the chores are kanji, the character for kuchi or “mouth.” Here, they represent tick boxes. This is, by far, the most elaborate means anyone has ever undertaken to whip me into cleaning shape but I suppose I knew what I was getting into when I selected Mr. Clean as a Whistle for a roommate.

ATTENTION. A pretty awesome Irish joke was deleted from the above paragraph at Sean’s insistence. I am duly chastened. In order to make up for my racist breach of etiquette, I leave you with:

Candy

April 26, 2008 in Japanese Mix, My Funny Irish Friend, Oishii

On the desk today at work, a candy tin set out by a particularly lovely staff member:

Sweet.

P.S. Sean just began another cleaning Nazi speech to me with the words: “Listen now, Miss White Trash!”

Type “A” is for ….

April 25, 2008 in Japanese Mix, spazarific

Adult students at our school have profiles attached to their text books, listing their level of language ability as well as some personal facts including age, full name, occupation and city of residence. At the end of each class, each teacher must write a few encouraging remarks in this space, as well as something helpful. Practice pronouncing the “si” sound, please. Remember to use articles. “I am drinking with my friends from highschool” (smiley face) vs. “I am drinking with high school students” (frowny face). Today, I glanced at a student’s profile as I prepared to write something similarly vague and immediately, my eye caught it:

“Fantastic work today, Maki! Remember – study your prepositions and articles to!”

Something scrawled by another teacher the week before, perhaps in a hurry. It was gentle and kind, sure to boost Maki’s spirits. Nonetheless: “to.” Without thinking, I quickly added the necessary second “o” at the end of “to.”

And then, as soon as I realized how unconsciously and perhaps foolishly I had corrected this careless error, I realized that I was writing with red pen. The teacher had written their remarks in blue. Should that teacher look at this profile during their next lesson, they would see that someone had snobbishly corrected their well-meaning comment and, perhaps be embarrassed. This had been the furthest thing from my true aims and I regarded my work with horror. As I gazed at the blood red mark of shame, I suddenly remembered that the pen I’d stolen from the teacher’s desk had 3 colors of ink. In about as much time as it took me to unthinkingly edit this teacher’s comment, I carefully covered the red “o” with a blue one. To my relief and shame, the evidence was undetectable.

I wish I could say that I corrected this teacher’s remark out of company pride or because I miss my real life’s work. Unfortunately, this is the kind of person I am – type A; A for “anal” or “authoritarian”. Or something else. I only hope that the crowd at the writer’s circle I will attend tonight will be kinder.

Round Two

April 20, 2008 in spazarific, The Children

The new school year has begun, and my two strongest impulses of the week were to, first, kidnap my extremely tiny, waddling 2 year olds to keep as pets and, secondly, to string the sock monkey puppet up by his neck with a sign attached to his chest reading: “Goodbye, cruel world.”

There are brand new names for me to forget and new parents to court using only smiles and gestures. I have a half black, half Japanese student in one of my classes this year and in her, I see my beloved Peaches as well as the potential for my first true teacher’s pet. For his part, Sean has met my evil former class of 13 year olds and described the experience as “grand.” I don’t know whether I am relieved or disappointed.

I have two classes of kindergarten-age children this year; children without their mama-sans for the first time. The first few weeks of any 5 year old student’s life naturally might result in tears; add a pale, big nosed, funny-looking alien freak to mix and the terror becomes unreal. Out of 8 students, 3 absolutely refused to enter my class the first day, screwing their faces into their mother’s soggy shirts, barely muffling their shrieks of “No!! No!! I won’t go in!” Tears are contagious – I, too, felt on the verge looking at those absolutely miserable, petrified faces until I realized that my evil scheme was right on track. You see, I don’t consider a day worth living unless I have made a Japanese child cry. At this rate, I might hit 20 this year after all. Yatta.

Your 107-Word Mini Japanese Culture Lesson

April 18, 2008 in Japanese Mix

The Japanese do not wear outdoor shoes inside their homes; to do so is viewed as rude and dirty. Stacks of cloth slippers are piled at front doors for home owners and guests alike. Sodden outdoor shoes are slipped off and replaced. Cue soft padding around, curry rice dinners, variety shows, Japanese pops on the shee-D player.

My question:

What do the Japanese do in the event of a home-hosted occasion that requires formal clothing? A dinner party, say. A romantic, candlelit birthday evening. A 25th anniversary fete. Call me crazy, but little black dresses or black suits simply don’t match plaid slippers, socks or bare feet….

Why You Cryin’? I said, “Why You Cryin’?”!

April 13, 2008 in engrish, Japanese Mix

We’re making a puzzle: Edvard Munch’s Scream, currently in construction on the same plot of cardboard that houses our marble game.

The puzzle company’s box insert:

Hmph

April 10, 2008 in I'm Learning Japanese ... I Really Think So, spazarific

To the men in the train station who come to me and, even though I’m wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase (i.e., obviously not a clueless tourist), ask if I need help working the self-explanatory ticket machine … where the heck are you when I need help getting my ADSL switched from one address to the other? I sure don’t see you scrambling to help me when I’m sputtering horrendously incorrect Japanese grammar to you, over the phone – helpless, burning with a hard, gemlike shame – or about to write my birthday in the “today’s date” box on the form because I mixed up the kanji.

Get organized.

Fake Out

April 9, 2008 in Japanese Mix, Looking

If we assume that the random, middle-aged man I asked for directions to my new ward office last week was just confused when he told me to go in the opposite direction, adding an hour to my journey, then we may pardon him, for it was an honest mistake.

If we assume that said random, middle-aged man who gave me false directions a mere BLOCK from the right ward office was simply having a little fun with foreigners … then we may pardon him all the same, since that long, ambling bike ride to the next ward over was studded with newly blooming cherry blossom trees, blanketing my mistaken way with sprays upon sprays of frosty white boughs. The cherry blossoms are here, my friends, and they are beautiful.

Roommates

April 7, 2008 in My Funny Irish Friend

The soba noodles and cups are on the high shelf, which I can’t reach without a chair.

There are small, black fuzzy cat stickers suddenly appearing on my work shoes and purse.

Sean says: “You’re cooking? Can I have some?”

Liv: Okay.

Sean: Cheers! When’s it coming – I’m starving! I’m so hungry I’m going to die!!

Liv: So what are you gonna do – flee to America?

Sean: Oh, brilliant. Just brilliant. Hilarious!

Liv: Just be happy I’m cooking at all. In fact, you can help. Would you please peel the potatoes?

Sean: I don’t see why I have to be the one to peel the potatoes all the bloody time!

Liv: Why do you think?

Later, Sean’s revenge, taken while I napped on the couch:

Translation: racism

My revenge – to sneak up behind and scrawl the first kanji I could think of on his crooked elbow, which happened to be “ima” (now)

“Is that supposed to be ‘ima’? You think that’s ‘ima’???”

This is what “ima” is actually supposed to look like.

My books, papers and various cosmetic items are scattered about, rendering neatnik Sean calm with despair.

I wake up in the middle of the night, pad to the one bathroom and, without my glasses or my contacts, in my muddled state, fall backwards into the open-lidded toilet with a screech.

“What? What is it? What happened?”

“I fell into the [stupid] toilet. Put the [freaking] seat down, will you? Your roommate is a girl!!!!”

“You what? Oh, lord. Oh my god. Oh, sweet Jesus. That’s absolutely brilliant!!!!”

Never seen him happier.

I’m So Rejected

April 4, 2008 in Japanese Mix

My suspicion was correct – I did not get the textbook proofreading job I interviewed for. I know this because a hand-addressed letter came to my apartment, two days after the interview. Enclosed, a very gentle note:

“Dear Ms. E,

Thank you very much for sparing your time for the interview for the proofreader position. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for your willingness to apply for this position.

We really regret to announce this, after a careful consideration and discussion with the people concerned, we have decided that the position will be offered to another candidate. We would like to thank you again for your application for the position and ask for your continued support. Please don’t hesitate to offer your valuable feedback for our text book production in the future, too.

Once again, thank you very much for taking up your time.”

Never have I been sent a rejection letter, let alone such a delicately worded one. I suppose I should have seen it coming – I live in Japan, for Pete’s sake, where a terror of offending others is so ingrained that the Japanese break up each syllable of their McDonald’s orders with “sumimasen.” 8 years in New York City have hardened me, however – in the city, my job searches almost always resulted silence, and the few interviews I did get usually generated silence, too, when I was left hanging to wonder whether or not I’d gotten the job. That, or a tepid “Sorry, we’ve decided to go with someone else,” when I finally summoned the nerve to call them up myself. If it weren’t for the custom of the follow up call, I believe most New York City recruiters would happily never speak to job candidates once they shuffled them out of their office. Thus, I regarded my rejection letter with awe and, above all, gratitude. An interviewer taking the initiative to give the brief relationship closure? Unheard of. Words so carefully and perfectly chosen that I almost didn’t mind being passed over? Delightful!

During the interview, I had realized very quickly that getting the job would require me to give up my new 3-day schedule, so the rejection was already primed to come not as a blow but as a relief. Even sweeter; the proofreading gig was a job offered by my current company, meaning that I would not only be reimbursed for my travel expenses to and from the interview, but – get this – I would be paid overtime for my time in the interview as well.

All in all, the Japanese can reject me any day.