Today was a day characterized by failure in communication. Rather, it was a good day, amidst a few bad conversations. Let me explain:
On my way to mail a letter that I was extremely happy to mail, I stepped up to the crosswalk, pushed the button for the signal to come up, and then waited alongside the busy street. The intersection isn’t so much an intersection as much as the busy Yamato Street and a few businesses that needed an outlet on to the street and a place for pedestrians to cross easily. Therefore, it takes a long time before the signal decides to stop the traffic and let people and bicycles to cross. As I was waiting, an older woman rode up on her bicycle. She had a white mask over her face and when she arrived at the intersection, she dismounted and pulled the mask down to her chin. I said “Konichiwa!” proudly and was answered with another “konichiwa” and a strand of phrases in Japanese that I have no idea what they mean. I promptly told her, “I don’t understand Japanese” in Japanese, which usually stops any further flow of dialog, especially with older Japanese people. However, this seemed to only throw fuel on the fire. As she clutched her bicycle handles, she raised her voice and sent another set of Japanese phrases at me…in the flurry of words, she released her bicycle and began making wild motions at me with her hands. I had no idea what she was talking about. So I again said, “wakarimasen…sumimasen (I don’t understand…I’m sorry).” and then looked away from her. She kept muttering things…even yelled at a woman walking on the other side of the street. She picked up her speech with me again, and made a motion to push the button. She thought this whole time that I hadn’t pushed the button and that we were going to stand there for all eternity until someone else walked up and pushed the button for us to cross. The light changed and I motioned for her to go…which she did and then quickly passed me and I ducked into the post office, much relieved.
The second occurence happened after I disembarked from the train at the Ayaragi station. There had been a young woman on the train sitting across from me with bright pink and white striped socks that came up to her knees, and thick eyeliner on, coming out from her eyes in a line, true 60’s-70’s style. I was walking away from the station setting out to walk up to the church when I felt a tap right in the middle of my back. I turned around and the woman started asking me something in Japanese. I thought maybe I had left something on the train…but she didn’t have anything…just herself and her rapidly spoken Japanese. I heard her say, “America” and I answered in the affirmative, hoping it would trigger her using English. It didn’t, surprisingly, because at her age she would have studied English through most of her time at school…but she seemed like she didn’t know any English. I told her I was an English teacher, and then we were at an impass. She kept talking to me, no matter how many times I told her I didn’t understand. I think I finally got what she was trying to tell me…she pointed at me and said, “Kawai! kawai!” which means, cute! So, either she thought I was cute, or my outfit was cute. I think I heard her say “German.” But I wasn’t about to open THAT door with my two phrases of, “Sprechensi deutch?” and “Komensin hir mein kin.” and don’t forget gazundheit. After a while of awkwardness, she said goodbye and went off in the other direction.
The third and last event was again at the Ayaragi station waiting for the train to come for Shimonoseki. It was running a little late, but they usually are in the evenings. An elderly woman was sitting down in the station and an older business man had just arrived in a taxi, and I was sitting down as well, just a seat down from the woman. The man asked the woman something and since they were pointing and looking at the timetable, I assumed it was about the train being late. Then he turned to me and asked me something in Japanese. I told him I didn’t understand Japanese…getting tired of using that phrase. Like the others, it didn’t stop him one bit as he went on and on, earnestly seeking an answer from me to his question that I had no idea what he was asking! He wore himself out and turned around. Me, in my goofiness and…possibly…idiocy…pulled out my phrase book and managed to say that the train was late…the woman answered, “choto…choto” (a little bit, a little bit). The man revived and started talking to me again in Japanese…I said quickly that I am an English teacher…and he said something which I assumed was him asking me where I taught at. I told him Shimonoseki Christian Center. I handed him a flyer and told him to keep it. He said without hardly any accent in English, “I want to teach me English.” Heh. I told him to call the number and get the information…but since we could no longer communicate, I said goodbye and walked out to the platform.
In all of this…the day was still, however, a good one because, walking back from the church to Ayaragi station, I found myself surrounded by a group of bats swooping down and catching the mosquitos all around me. It was amazing, and I was so excited. Yes, I was excited about the bats. I’m weird, but you know this. So, after all this…at least there were bats. 🙂