Sunday, March 30, 2008

Warning - contains poor Japanese!

I bought an alarm clock/radio, because I don't trust my watch's little beepbeep to wake me up, and because I wanted to listen to the radio shows of some artists I like. I neglected to take into account that this isn't a large town, and therefore only picks up one radio channel. But ah well, at least the alarm is loud.

I went to an electrical shop and found - nothing. Well, there some radios (including water proof ones) and some clocks, but only one with both, and the price of that was jacked-up (8,000 yen!) because it also played soothing sounds while you slept which I don't need. So I walked over to the Besia store which is where I do my grocery shopping and where I got my futon - it's farther away but it has just about everything you could want. And indeed, they had a much bigger selection of clocks, radios, and combinations thereof (including one fancy wall clock with bits of crystal dangling inside it.) But I got a simple small one with a handle on top.

As soon as I'd bought it I sat outside the department store and opened the box to make sure I didn't need batteries or something. It came with batteries, but curiously, no power cord. It also came with a lot of phone-charging plugs, and it has a recharge crank-handle, and there's a flashlight on one side. So it will be good in case of emergencies. I should make a emergency pack, since this is the land of earthquakes after all.

So while I was on the bench checking my new acquisition out, a tiny ossan came up. Ossan literally means old man, but it's often used as an endearment for grandpas or uncles, and it's also more of a character thing. Like, people in their twenties are 'ossan' if they enjoy hot baths and soft food. But this was a real ossan, of the kind that are kind of a national treasure.

He came up, asked something that I understood as asking what I'd bought, "...rajio desu ka?" Is it a radio, and I used the words I'd looked up before heading off on my mission, "rajio to tokei" radio and clock (with accompanying hand gesture of smooshing into one object.) "Ah, ii desu," that's nice, he said, followed by something rapid-fire that I completely missed. I used my all-purpose excuse, sorry, I don't speak Japanese, "Sumimasen, nihongo hanasemasen" (complete with apologetic head-lowering).

He asked what country I was from in English! Just, "country?" and I came prepared with "Amerika-jin desu." He asked something like "what you do?" and since we'd already established I was sitting outside the store gloating over my radio, I said "oshiemasu" I teach, belatedly adding "chuugakou" junior high - though I forgot the "at the" location particle. But he got the idea, pointed in the direction of my future workplace, I nodded furiously and said, "hai, hai!" a lot.

"Eigo oshiemasu," I elaborated, so he sat down and told me as much English as he'd learned from the children's television's programs - "hello, goodbye, how are you? would you like some candy?" (thank God for NHK.) And after asking if I was waiting for a friend ("hitori," I said, raising one finger and making a sad face) and turning back twice to tell me his name and to say "beautiful face" ("arigato gozaimasu," I said) he trundled off to his sardine-can of a car and I walked home with a smile on my face.

It made me happy to have my first conversation with a Japanese person not paid for that task, I was lucky that he had about as much English as I have Japanese, and it made me realize two things. One, I should sit around outside stores more often. Two, the language to charm little old men is universal <3


Beeniac said...

Hi Em,
I'm so glad you had an encounter with this ossan. You're right, you need to sit around outside stores more often.
I'm sure you'll find more interested, helpful people.
Love, Mom
PS I think my computer finally died. What files do you want me to save?

Beeniac said...

dear emily i believe these blog journals should be kept, they are subarashi. you have been preparing for this and have done well, you really astound me. i pray for favor in your friendships and your life there, you honestly amaze me Emily,
love in Christ, your old man