This week (今週間) in numbers:
Time I recognize what people are saying in Japanese (日本語) (percent): 20
Time (時間) I can follow the gist of the conversation in Japanese (percent): 70
Class clown success in distracting strictest teacher (先生) (percent): 10
Class clown success in distracting least strict teacher (percent): 90
People (人) wearing facemasks (percent): 3
Vietnamese e-books bought: 4
Total time spent learning Vietnamese (minutes): 30
Russian words I learned: 1
Time my Russian friend was excited about me speaking my one word (minutes): 30
Other Russian friends she brought to hear me speak (言う) my one word: 1
Days (日) completed of Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s meditation series: 22
Meditation sessions (twenty minutes「分」each): 10
Hot baths taken for muscle tension: 3
Massages received (90-minute treatments): 2
Times I used a spoon, fork or knife to eat: 0
Days my roommate brought home free fruits and/or veggies from work: 5
Looking in All the Wrong Places
RELAX!!! Just like the nice machines are telling you to...
Adaptation seems to be, to a substantial extent, a process of reallocating your attention. - Daniel Kahneman
It’s actually depressing to write that list, and my brain won’t even let me reread it, because it makes me feel overwhelmed all over again. So I’m not going to say any more about it. Instead, I’m going to send you over to my favorite language blogger Benny the Irish Polyglot, who recently visited the Land of the Rising Sun. He writes about Japan’s “quirky cultural tidbits” here.
Speaking of adapting, I heard a large (50+) group of people speaking American English. It was my first time hearing so much English while here in Japan. It was a jarring feeling. They had just raced, and the video above is of their team, the vocal winners closest to the camera. They were a group of women whose husbands were in the Navy, and they live on base long-term.
Word of Mouth (or: if you can’t read, ask someone for help. Or a lot of someones.)
Instead, I rely heavily on word of mouth, like I did for the massage from my friend of a friend of a friend. And I ask for help A LOT. Even though I carry a map, I get lost constantly. Also, Japanese people are almost always happy to help, even in the middle of the night. Note: The Japanese addressing system is completely different from the US system, or most other places in the world, which makes it challenging to navigate. If you are interested in more details, read Derek Sivers’ excellent explanation here.
Vamos a Bailar La Salsa
A couple nights later, I went to another Salsa bar where they were teaching a beginning Salsa lesson. The teacher was rude to me, and also I couldn't take part in the lesson because I was a few minutes late. The teacher and the two other Japanese people I talked to would speak to me only in English. I also saw/heard at least four American men speaking English, with no attempt whatsoever to speak Japanese. I looked it up afterward, and this bar is highlighted in "Okinawan Nightlife" on an English-language website. Not exactly a good place to practice my Japanese. Or even have fun, after that intro. I left pretty quickly. Bummer.
Let's Fight Fire with Fire Extinguishers!
I have been pushing myself hard to learn the Kanji for a couple of reasons. I focused much more on speaking and listening while back in the States, because I wanted to be able to communicate with people when I got here, to be able to use natural conversation as a learning tool.
While I was successful at the above, I walk down the street and don't know what any of the buildings or shops are for except by looking for pictures or peering in through the windows (if it is on the first floor, which many are not). It is hard to find, say, a gym to work out in, when I can't look in a phone book, online or even recognize one when I pass it on the street.
Unlike with conversation, I don't know enough Kanji to even be able to guess even 10% of the meanings of the signs, maps, posters or anything else written, so using the world around me for learning just can't happen yet. However, I am determined to change that as soon as possible, which is why I have been studying Kanji so hard. Back to my books and apps!
That's all for now. Have a great week!