Thursday, February 7, 2008
Lucille Ball in Japan
Well that was me today. Today I was the most annoying and noticeable foreigner in Japan, I'm sure. I started school today, and you would think I would have embarassing moments in class, being clueless since I don't know any of the language and our teachers only teach in Japanese. But school went just fine. I went to a Wal-Mart kind of store today, and thats where my crazy day sort of began. I was bending over to look at something on the bottom shelf, and as I did, I heard a little breaking glass sound. I turned around and realized that my butt had just knocked over a ceramic figurine onto the floor and it had broken!! A Japanese woman was standing nearby and saw it happen. I looked at her to see her reaction, and she was telling me something, which I thought was "pick it up." But no, she was telling me to sweep it under the table. I pointed to the store clerk to gesture that I was going to go tell on myself but this woman said 'no no' and waved her hand for me to walk away and ignore it. Well, I hung around for a few seconds because I felt bad just walking away, and two other women came into the store and started pointing at it and saying what I assumed was "Oh no, look at that! Someone knocked over that figurine!!!" So I went ahead and turned myself in because I felt really bad. I didn't know how they were going to see the situation. Did I just have a little accident or did I do something horribly offensive or klutzy to them? (I mean, it was klutzy, but I don't know all the social rules yet). The store clerk was surprisingly and fortunately very gracious to me and said it was ok and that I did not have to buy it. I was SO relieved!!! So then I finished my shopping and went up to the counter with two baskets full of stuff, (which no one in Japan goes to the store and buys 2 baskets worth of stuff, they only buy about half a basket at a time, I've noticed). I realized that they did not take debit cards and I only had $10, but my things were probably going to be $50. In America, I paid with a debit card most of the time, so I'm not used to carrying cash with me or making sure I have some cash before I go to the store.) So I started trying to ask the cashier (through charades of course) if she could hold my things behind the counter until I could come back after school with money to get them. We went back and forth with gestures trying to communicate, then she said this Japanese word that all store clerks say which is very loud and nasally and sounds like "EEEEEEE," which means "I'm here to help you." Well when she said that, about 5 store clerks come from all corners of the store and they were saying it back to her. They came up and were trying to figure out what was going on with me. So we did more gesturing and I figured out that I THINK they are saying its ok for me to return later to pay and they were going to hold my things. I left and hoped that I understood them right. So I went back to the store after school, and while I was grabbing one more thing to add to my basket a Japanese guy (probably about 20 years old) came up and said to me "Excuse me, English?" And I said "Hi" which in Japanese is "Yes." Why in the world did I speak Japanese to him when he asked me "English" while I speak English to people who are speaking to me in Japanese? I confused him for a while but then he asked me if he could take his picture with me. So I said OK and he used his cell phone to take our picture. So weird! Some people here think we're amazing, others are scared of us and think we're weird. So anyways, I went to the front of the store and noticed that the clerk had in fact held my baskets for me so thankfully I was able to buy everything just fine. So then I drove home and was getting ready to turn left into my neighborhood. I was on the left side of the road, trying to turn left. (Because they drive on the left here.) A car was trying to come out of the street that I wanted to go in but she was waiting for me. She was sort of in the middle of the road, but sort of on her left side. Well I forgot to go on the left and so I drove around her to enter the road on my right, which is the wrong side. Because she was in the middle there was a little room for me to go to the right side, but it was still a very tight squeeze because like I said she was in the middle, but just enough to her side to make it difficult. So I was pulling around her trying to squeeze through thinking "Geez, could I have a little more room?" Then I realized she was looking at me like "What are you doing?!" Which is when I realized I was on the wrong side of the road and was looking like an idiot trying to squeeze past her. Thankfully there were no other cars around besides her so it wasn't dangerous and I didn't look like an idiot in front of a lot of people, just 1. That was the first time I've driven on the right side of the road (besides in my neighborhood). So, all of those things added up plus school made for a very eventful day for me. I hope these kinds of things will happen less and less as I live here longer!