1. I sit right by the entrance to the staff room. Many times visitors have entered the staff room, wishing to find someone or ask a simple question, and as I am the only one in the staff room often (as I have the most free periods) these questions get directed to me. I smile and shrug my shoulders every time. It confuses everyone. (As I type this now I just pulled this move. The guy just wandered off. Hope it wasn’t important…)
2. Shopping is difficult. Unless I can pick up the words “point card” in the sentence (which notifies me that they are asking me if I have a point card which I do not … I can barely say hello, if they think I have the capacity to fill out the form for a point card they are insane) then I have no idea what’s going on. Usually I just take a guess and say yes or no. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I end up saying “no” to “do you want bags for this?” and I end up having to carry all my purchases in my arms – because I don’t know how to say, “wait, just kidding, yes I do”. Sometimes I randomly get my food heated up in the microwave in the convenience stores, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I don’t even realize they are asking a question at all until I look up and they are just blankly staring at me. This is when I return to my infamous move – smile and shrug shoulders.
3. Restaurants are a true test of my ability. One might assume that after being here a couple months and eating out weekly I would have them down to an art. I do not. Did anyone watch that newest Family Guy episode? In the opening scene Peter says he wants to open a Japanese restaurant just so he can scream at customers.
(There was a clip here from “Family Guy” in which Peter is working at a Japanese restaurant and yells at the customers. It was taken off youtube and I haven’t been able to find it again.)
The clip is so accurate. Literally you walk into a restaurant and they just yell things at you. I have no idea if one is supposed to respond or not so usually I just beeline for the closest empty table without directly looking at anyone. Unfortunately, when I first posted the clip of the Family Guy scene on my facebook, it led to several of my new Japanese facebook friends to promptly message me and inform me that these waiters are simply “welcoming” you to their restaurant (although really it just sounds like they are yelling at you). Also ordering is never easy. You would think if you could just point and say “this, please” that would be fine, but there always seems to be so many varieties of what “this” could be, so they always follow up with questions. Smile and shrug…
4. The school schedule seems to change every single day. I never know where I am supposed to be or when. Often my JTE will run down to the staffroom and say to me, “Rachel-sensei, third period is now! You are supposed to be teaching!” and I blankly reply, “oh, thanks”. Third period is at a different time every day it seems. None of the other teachers speak English, so if they have something to say to me they will say “Rachel-sensei …” then look at me, then attempt to say something I am supposed to be able to decipher in Japanese and I stare blankly. Then they walk away. Honestly I don’t even know why they try. Once one of the teachers came back with a Japanese-English dictionary after struggling to communicate something to me for a while, and when she returned with a look of glee on her face I thought, “good, here we go, finally I will understand what she is trying to say.” She hands me the dictionary and it says “the devil’s tongue”. What????? I just smiled and shrugged.