Sunday, September 22, 2013

On the Beautiful Blue Danube (Lesson with Kaneko-san)

Another morning with Kaneko-san.  It was a big week for him; he had only just yesterday returned from his first trip to America, to Hawaii, for his daughter's wedding.  He even brought back some gifts for me:  dried mango and macadamia chocolate cookies.  So now I have some gifts from America, which is pretty cool.

I asked him what he ate there.  The first night, steak, which he described with his hands showing the incredible thickness.  The second day, Chinese for lunch and Italian for dinner, which he said was a little different from Japanese Italian cooking, but mostly the same.  And finally on the last day, Japanese food.  He said "Onakaga ipai deshita!"  and then asked me how to say that in English.  "Your stomach was full," I told him.  And then wondered what that meant to him.  What does it mean when a Japanese person says they are full?  Does it mean they are stuffed?  Or just simply satisfied?  I told him how I had learned about "hachibunme," being 80% full, and how we didn't have such a thing in America.  So maybe being American full and being Japanese full means slightly different things.  It's funny how this sort of thing, as subtle as it is, can effect the way one chooses to translate.  "I was SO full." "I was very full."  "I was full."  "My stomach was full." "It was delicious."   So many ways to explain how one feels.  I'm sorry Kaneko-san, I don't really know how you felt or what you want to express.  But I gave him some options.

We then moved on to something that may or may not have been related to the wedding.  I think it was only related in temporal proximity.  He told me that a day after the wedding, for the first time in 7 years, his opinion was in the newspaper.  We spent of lot of time trying to figure out how to translate this into English, clarifying Japanese and English vocabulary words and word order.  "Putting"  something versus "listing" something, and opinion versus, well, I don't really know what it was that got published in the paper.  But dear Kaneko-san had made several copies and gave one to me.  Maybe someday I'll be able to read it and know what he thinks.

Kaneko-san's opinion
After about 45 minutes, much longer than our usual random chat time, we finally got around to the lesson of the day:  gifts.  I had to read a little snippet about someone receiving a birthday present at a restaurant, an ORUGORU.  I didn't know what that was but it was in katakana implying it was a loan word, and Kaneko-san assumed that it was from English and that I would know it.  I didn't.  He mimed it, explained it.  A music box!  And we looked it up in the dictionary, and there it was, right below ORUGAN (organ).  So it was an organ box.  Very clever.  I feel there is a game show in this somewhere....

Of course, not to be to focused on the topic at hand for too long, Kaneko-san told me that 10 years ago he went to Vienna and bought a music box.  "What did it play?" I asked.  Ohh...something by Johann Strauss....very famous....  He tried to remember the title.  And then, "Ah! Ukkushiku Aoki Donau."  Ah yes, the Blue Danube Waltz.  And I tried to bring the melody to mind.  I envisioned a floating space craft, weightless, timeless, but it just wouldn't come.  The feeling was currently being resided by the third movement of Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony and it would not clear the way for the sake of dear Kaneko-san.  "This week I will look it up on the internet,"  I told him.

I'm already looking forward to next week when I will not only get to present to him my yet unread essay on the differences between biking in America and Japan, but will also get to sing for him.  At a table in the Takarazuka International Friendship Association we will share the Blue Danube Waltz together.  Dadeedadadum.....dundun....dundun.....

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