Sunday, September 15, 2013

A New York; Sashiburi Kaneko-san

The rain has been steady for most of the day.  A typhoon comes from the south.  But this morning I saw Kaneko-san again, a bit of sunshine on such a rainy day.  We covered a lesson on writing postcards which was a good starting point for our normal various diversions.  Today we talked about written versus spoken Japanese vocabulary, the many places I'll be going on tour with the HPAC orchestra, and how he had lived in several of them as part of his job transfers which happened every 3 or 4 years as part of being a "salary man" in Japan.

Later in the day, I was invited to go to a new Japanese friend's apartment because her college friend was visiting and wanted to meet foreigners.  I don't think I'm fully aware of what it means to be a foreigner in Japan, what that means to Japanese people.  It seems very special to be able to have that new interaction with someone, for them and for me, so it's a great deal.  She had a nabe dinner, but I came late and brought Reese's cups and York peppermint paddies to share.  This meant that I got to see two Japanese women eat a York for the first time, the surprise and delight on their faces.  They loved it.  I also got to see them carefully unwrap the Reese's cup and set it on the table, likely waiting to nibble on a treat that we Americans just pop into our mouths.

And during the time that I was visiting, my friend turned on the television to a program that they would sometimes watch to help them learn English and English pronunciation.  It was a game show with an announcer from Pakistan or northeast Africa who was giving them games to learn English.  They would have to improvise a conversation that ended up going something like this: "Good?  Bad?"  "So, so.  What's up?"  Later they had to sing two phrases of "Can you feel the love tonight?"  being rated for  their differentiation of l's and r's, v's and b's.  Kind of like a postmodern version of My Fair Lady.

It's exciting to have these cultural exchanges.  To explain that squirrels and chipmunks are two different animals, neither of which live in Japan outside of zoos.  To experience new foods, learns new customs and ways of speaking, writing, listening.  It makes the world from which I come seem new, almost as new as the one I'm just coming to discover.

As I was leaving my lesson this morning, Kaneko-san stopped me to asked a few questions.   He'll be going to Hawaii this week for his daughter's destination wedding (apparently a common thing for Japanese people to do).  It will be his first time in America.   "Eigo de 'kissaten'?"  I told him the word in English for kissaten is "cafe."  "Cahfay?"  I said it a few times.  "Uwhere ees a cahfe?"  He also checked on the words needed to get an ice coffee.  I think he's ready.

I wish that I could see him on his vacation to Hawaii.  I wish I could have an American experience with Kaneko-san.  But I guess I am, every time we meet.  What a beautiful thing.

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