Let me back up. Saturday’s Japanese class went fairly well, despite my brain working slower than normal due to the FECKING TIME CHANGE! AARRGH! I HATE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT! Anyway, one of my classmates is a nice guy, but I get the feeling he contributes to the poor American image when he’s abroad, which is a lot. For one, he makes loud jokes about other people’s accents and culture when they’re close enough to hear. Our teacher was late Saturday due to power outages and debris in the road from our latest storm, so another language institute employee – a Frenchman – dropped by the class and explained the situation in Japanese. When he walked away (but had not gotten more than a few steps), the other student said “A Frenchman speaking Japanese. I didn’t think they liked to speak any language than their own.” Note – I’ve also spoken to the guy in German, and he’s much better at both languages than me, although I’ve still got him in
Another thing about the other student is that his girlfriend is Japanese and so is the company he works for, so he has spent ample amounts of time surrounded by J-peeps and in their country for extended periods, usually weeks at a time. So why is he in Japanese 101? Because, despite the immersion in their culture, he has had no desire to learn anything from it. He admitted that when he travels to Japan, he brings enough prepackaged American food in his suitcase to get by until he locates the nearest McDonalds or other outpost of American food. Gotta love the irony – the guy with no interest in other cultures is dating the J-honey, working for the J-company, spending time on the company yen in Japan, etc.
But he has picked up a few things about their culture; mostly negative comments, but at least he shares them with the class. One of these is that the Japanese don’t pour soy sauce on their rice. I already knew this from the book I read, so I just assumed they dipped their rice into the dipping bowl with the soy sauce, but this is not the case. The other student said that in Japan they eat the rice plain and freak out (not that he cared) if you add soy sauce to it because that is a homemade recipe for cat food.
The first time I ate at Umezono, they seated me at the sushi bar which had a dipping bowl in front of each chair. The next time I was with a friend, so they seated us in a booth with no dipping bowls. I wondered how I was supposed to dip my food into the soy sauce without one (since I already knew I wasn’t supposed to pour it directly on my food), and I hit on the idea of using the lid to the miso soup bowl. I’ve always been more of a “whatever works” than a “what’s the proper way to do this?” kind of guy, although I honestly thought that’s what it was there for. The next time we ate there, the waitress-usagi took the lids away before we filled them with soy sauce, thereby letting me know I had screwed up once again. All this time I’ve been sitting there hoping they find me attractive and may want to have sex with me and I was unwittingly A) turning the delicious food they prepared for me into cat food, and B) eating the cat food. If they like me at all, it’s because I make them laugh.
Again, let me state that the other student really does seem to be a nice person, it’s just that his mannerisms probably contribute to the Ugly American stereotype, whereas mine just make us look like stupid cat food eating rednecks. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is better.
Final note – somebody answered sensei-usagi’s question of “How many teachers are in this room” with “ikko,” which is the correct number if you’re counting small, rounded objects. Sensei pretended to be indignant when she responded “I’m small, but I’m not round.” She hates me, but at least she’s entertaining.