Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Sumimasen, Shirimasen.

The title of today's post roughly translates as 'I'm sorry, I don't know'. It's something that I say a lot. Partially because it's kind of a catch all that's awesome at simultaneously feigning linguistic ability and dodging having to construct a longer sentence, and partially because I'm still pretty new in town and I really don't know a lot of things about bus stops, exam timetables and the new Evangelion film.

Despite all that I feel like I'm making steady progress on the 'personal betterment' front. Me and Linda (now HMS Linda) have a new mutually beneficial arrangement where I get to go to work faster and save myself 150 yen in bus fare and she doesn't get all scratched up from me falling off every 30-60 seconds. I'm slowly adjusting to life as a bike commuter; I just wish someone would send my legs a sharply worded memo that all this 'pain' will not be tolerated. Still, I guess I could be paying money to ride a bike that sits in place at a gym, so I'll keep the moaning to a minimum.

Proof that I'm still being social; I run back to Sasebo every time I feel like life is 'too normal'. This is part of the cast that proves it's really *not*.

The language barrier is slowly starting to crack just a little under my onslaught of flash-cards and persistent listening exercises; I finally managed to get my head around the whole hiragana and katakana sybillary, and can now oficially 'read' all the manga and literature aimed at the under 15 crowd that I want. I say 'read' because being able to phonetically decipher something doesn't mean you understand a word of it; still, it means I can puzzle through the menus at family restaurants and read the names of students in my class lists, so there are some definite lifestyle improvements. I've taken to bringing random pieces of 'shojo-manga' (comics books aimed at young girls) into the staff room to 'study' at work. Consequently I've kinda become a lending library for the whole office. Life is strange.

Shauns latest addiction; berry 'soyjoy' bars. It's soy grain, berries and added iron. Astronaut food never tasted so good (for real!)

I like to think it's helpful though; I can hold down a rudimentary conversation now, which is more than a whole bunch of my students can do in English. I think may main problem is letting go of my cultural ideas about words and how to use them; 'sugoy' is a good example, it translates as 'cool', but only 'cool' as in 'that's really good', you can't use it (like I continue to do) to say 'that's ok with me' or 'good idea'. It can also mean 'that's awful' for bonus confusion.

So really, half the challange of learning the language is getting into a different mindset; the one where negatives and personal pronouns are really rare and you venerate everything about the person you're speaking to. The process is really interesting though; I'm more willing to cut those 'really shy' students some slack, since I'm sure I sound really boisterous in Japanese. Luckily people cut me a lot of slack, and I've got a girlfriend willing to nudge me with hints (even though she's a 'rowdy Okinawian'). I guess I'm destined to always be brash. :P

Today's Engrish signage is from Gion in Fukuoka city; obviously 21st century ideals of non-descrimination never made it to this noodle bar... how sad.

Anyway; life continues, lessons are taught and days become colder. Some weekends I get out and others I don't, some days I drink beer with friends in playgrounds, others I don't. You get the gist. Life is all good and cruisey.

And with that I'll leave it and go back to the non-cyber world; adios global denizens!