Still no internet at home, but here’s a quick proof of life post. I hope things are going well for everyone at home!
Before I left for Japan a few people asked me how I expected this experience to compare with my time in Korea. I was always unsure of how to answer. They are, in so many ways, apples and oranges. There is, however, one glaring constant: I don’t speak either language.
I’ve studied some Japanese but I am still unable to read katakana or hiragana, the two “easy” Japanese alphabets. Also, although I know a handful of useful words, I constantly use them inappropriately.
For example, “Hai” means yes. I know this. Still, more than once when people have said “hai” to me, I have replied with “hi!” This happens more than I ought to admit.
Last week I was finishing up a pretty important meeting with my principal; he had just finished giving me my official appointment papers so I thanked him. Thank you is a simple phrase in Japanese, one that most westerners already know thanks to Mr. Roboto. To be super formal we add a gozaimasu at the end, so it’s “Domo arigato gozaimasu.” I say thank you about a zillion times a day, so it ought to be pretty firmly implanted in my brain. I was feeling pretty good as I left, thinking, “One successful encounter with the principal sans embarrassment! 10 points for me!” Sadly, it was at this point that I realised I had not thanked him. I had said good morning. (Ohayo gozaimasu! Yeah, it sounds nothing like thank you.) On the up side, at least it was the morning.
The difference between my experience in Korea and Japan thus far is that this time around, I’m much more comfortable with my linguistic (and cultural) screw ups. I’m much less afraid of making these mistakes, which makes every day living much less exhausting. So, all in all, life continues to be good.