Some Mothers Wish They Were

, , , | Related | September 28, 2017

(I am teaching a pair of six-year-old twins, a boy and girl, when the topic of birthdays comes up. Talking with them and their mother…)

Me: “…and sometimes twins have birthdays on different days, months, or even years if they are born at midnight.”

Girl: “How can you have a baby at midnight? You are sleeping!”

Some Americans Are Friendlier Than Others

, , | Learning | August 20, 2017

(One of my students takes my lessons just so his English skills don’t deteriorate, so we mostly just tend to chat during the time. He lived in the US for several years, so his skill level is quite high, but occasionally some cultural aspects still slip by.)

Student: “I just think it’s so much more stiff and formal in Japan. I mean, Americans are just so friendly!”

Me: “Well, I think that depends on the person, but overall I probably agree with you.”

Student: “Everyone’s so open and welcoming! There are even ads on TV telling you to call them if it’s late at night and you want to chat to someone!”

(He didn’t realize those were phone sex lines.)

Unfiltered Story #91666

, , | Unfiltered | August 16, 2017

(One 12-year old I have lessons with is completely wonderful. I encourage her to talk about her interests, her school and stuff like that in English, but we often end up chatting after class. This happens a couple weeks before I am to leave for home. I had only introduced myself by name to her once, in our first lesson, about eight months ago. Also note that in Japanese, you usually say a person’s name or title instead of “you.” On the whiteboard, I write “1. I live in Kyoto.” “2. I am living in Kyoto”. As my student’s English is not yet sufficient to discuss grammar, I usually switch to Japanese for those explanations.)

Me: “So, one of those is something you can say, and one is something I can say. Can you tell me which is which?”

Student: “The first one is me, because I live here all the time. The second one is…” *she pauses* “The second one is [My Name]! Because you are leaving soon, so are only living here temporarily.”

Me: *absolutely delighted* “You remembered! Wow, you actually remembered my name even though I’ve only ever said it once!”

(This student also brought me doughnuts on our last class!)

They’re Never Above Your Station

, , , , , | Hopeless | July 24, 2017

(This happens a week or two after I have just arrived to Japan for a student exchange program. I have yet to have my phone connected to the Internet at this point, so I have to rely on memory to get around. This, coupled with my liking to walk rather than go by transport, results in me getting lost a lot. This time I’m trying to walk home from university, but end up in a different part of the town altogether, and it’s getting late so I decide to just find the nearest subway station. Luckily, I at least speak some Japanese.)

Me: *walks into a convenience shop* “Excuse me, could you tell me what the nearest train station is and how to get there?”

Clerk: “Well, it’s a 20-minute walk from here and it’s a little complicated… Hey, [Coworker #1], there is a foreign customer asking how to get to the train station. Can you explain to her?”

(Coworker #1, an extremely nice middle-aged lady, calls Coworker #2, a young man, and together they try to explain the way to me in half-English, half-Japanese. Unfortunately, I am not yet familiar with local landmarks and find my Japanese vocabulary significantly lacking for words such as “highway” and “T-crossing”. Eventually they draw me crude map and, having thanked them, I walk out with it. They had even offered to walk part of the way with me, but that seemed like an obnoxious thing to accept, so I refused. As I am trying to follow the hand-drawn map, I hear footsteps behind me, and see a young man dressed like a typical office worker trying to catch up.)

Young Man: “Excuse me! I heard you talking to the clerk in that convenience store, and was wondering if I could help you find the way? Where do you want to get?”

Me: “[Neighbourhood where my dorm is], but I’m fine with just finding the train station.”

Young Man: “Well, if you keep walking like this, you’ll end up in Nara!” *a town over 20 miles away in the opposite direction from where I need to get*

(He then walks with me to the train station, making polite conversation as we go. I assume he just needs to go in the same direction anyway. As we get to the station:)

Young Man: “Do you know which station you have to get off at? I can look up on my phone.”

Me: “Oh, thank you, but I know. It’s [Station].”

Young Man: “Than you just need to board the next train from [Platform]. Here, use my train pass.”

Me: “Oh, no, thank you. I have the money.”

Young Man: “Are you sure? It’s [fare]. My pass is unlimited, so it’s okay if you use it. My company pays for it anyway.”

Me: “No, no, but thank you. Thank you very much.”

(As I head to the ticket gate, I see him waving and turning to walk off.)

Me: “Aren’t you going?”

Young Man: “Me? Oh, no. I actually live in an opposite direction; this isn’t even the station I have to board from. I just wanted to make sure you were all right!”

(Young man, thank you so much for helping me get home that night! This encounter meant so much to me back then, especially since I was in the middle of adapting to the new country!)

ATMs Are Not Always Working

, , , , , , | Working | July 1, 2017

(There are only a few businesses open 24 hours in Japan, but there is one thing that really surprised me my first year there and still boggles my mind. It came up in my second year when I and some other teachers were answering some questions to some of the local residents in our area.)

Question: “What surprised you most when you came to Japan?”

Me: “Oh, that’s easy: ATMs close.”

(I proceeded to explain that ATMs in the States operate 24 hours a day, which they found strange. When I first got here, most ATMs closed at six pm; three pm on Sundays. Now they mostly stay open to nine pm except at the post office where they close at seven pm or so. On New Year’s the ATMs and banks are closed for about three days so you have be ready for it. Still confuses me as to why.)