Sunday, May 20, 2007


Yesterday, I took Eiko-san to Misawa Eki (station) to catch a train back to Odate, where she lives. She had to be at her shop today to dress a bridal party. (It took a few tries to figure that out).

I understand a lot more Japanese than I let on, and can follow along pretty well in basic, nonurgent situations, if the person goes at a pace used to address brain-damaged dogs. However, I don't have the grammar infrastructure nor the vocabulary to flesh out my communications. Combine my already rotten Japanese with my American accent AND the Aomori accent that tinges it a further color of incomprehensible AND add one slightly hard-of-hearing Japanese oldster and you get conversations like this: (transcribed from the mangled Japanese)

Eiko-san: I need to go to the train station (talking to her son), so I am leaving.
Bakagaijiin: Please wait (grabs stuff and begins walking). We can go!

Luckily Eiko gets the hint!

ES: Really? We can go in your car? I'm sorry for being a bother.
BG: It's nothing. Really.
ES: Where is your car?
BG: Over there. (points)

I go around and open the door for her. I realize I forgot to take my library books back to the library. There's a two-foot stack of them on the passenger seat.

BG: Shit. Oh! Sorry! (flings books into back seat)
ES: That's alright. She throws her purse and tote onto the seat and hauls herself up in to my truck and then proceeds to sit on her bags.
BG: Oh, um... (grabs bags out from under ES's butt)

In the car, driving:

BG: It's raining. I don't like rain. (I can talk about the weather- it's nice or I don't like it, simple)
ES: We're going to the station, right?
BG: Yes, Misawa station

We drive for a bit.

ES: We're going to the station, right? Isn't it that way?
BG: Yes, we're going to the station. (here I attempt to ask where her TRAIN is going)
ES: Huh?
BG: Where are you going? Are you going to Odate?
ES: The train station. EKI. MISAWA EKI
BG: (in English) I know that! (in busted Japanese) You're going to Odate, right?
ES: No, I'm going to the station. GO LEFT HERE! (I go a different way than she is used to and it is making her nervous)
BG: (in a sudden flash of brilliance) Aha! is the TRAIN going to Odate?
BG: Are you going to Odate today?
ES: No, I'm going to MISAWA EKI!
BG: Yes, yes. Fine. You're going to Misawa Station.

sudden shift in conversations, because now we're both annoyed about MISAWA EKI

ES: You [and Chris] have two cars?
BG: Yes.
ES: (I think she asks how old my truck is, not sure)
BG: Not new (because I can't drive, talk, and figure out Japanese numbers without killing both of us, she gets a two-word answer, which she understands is not meant to be rude, thank god).
ES: Oh, I see. It is used (the phrase is actually 'middle old'). It's a good car.
BG: I like it. It is cute.
ES: I don't have any English. I'm sorry. Where are we? Where is the station?
BG: The station is straight ahead. My house is over there (asoko "over there, a bit away).
ES: Really? Oh, look! There's the station (I'm sure she thinks this is a fucking miracle). That was much faster than I thought!
BG: The time is good? (implying we have enough time for her to catch her train)
ES: Yes, it is good. Thank you very much for taking me to MISAWA Eki.

(I hung around to see her off, because that is good Japanese manners, you just don't drop off and dash, plus I like spending time with her, even if it is at MISAWA EKI.)

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