Wednesday, June 16, 2010

sick in translation

You'd think that without a full-time job, there's all this time to do everything. Except that there isn't. I have part-time work, on top of that studying Japanese intensely since I decided I might try to shoot for the JLPT N3 this December (yes, lots to study), and then I started a blog in February: Surviving in Japan: (without much Japanese) , for anyone new to Japan or even those living here who might find some unique resources. Oh that's right, you must be thinking, and didn't she say she was working on writing?

What have I gotten myself into.

The work is good, in many ways, perfect for where I'm at and what I'm doing,  and of course, gives us a little extra money. Japanese, well, it's nice to have some extra time to study more intensely. Finally found someone willing to practice speaking with me (in exchange, we'll practice English for her as well), as speaking is what I'm the worst at. I'm basically like an adult two year old who walks around saying the same ten words all the time, just smiling and grinning every time someone else says anything. Seriously, I'm learning this language the natural way, though I'd rather it all catch on more quickly.

What about the blog? I've been tweeting, socializing, networking, designing, programming and doing about everything I can to put myself and the blog out there. I want people to find it. And, hopefully, people will find it useful. So, if any of you know anyone going to Japan, send them the link, and let me know what else is useful to add - I'm beefing it up.

Never before did I understand how much work and time building something like this takes. Can't say I don't enjoy it, because honestly, I love it. It's fun and it incorporates things I love to do - writing, photography and design. A lot of the programming is self-taught, which makes the process take even more time, but I enjoy it nonetheless.

And then there's writing. Oh dear, sweet writing. Writing on this blog, or working on my book. I've discovered Starbucks is the best place to go - my perfect office. Except that Starbucks is a half hour away by train, so whenever I can go, I seem to be most productive. So for now, with all the other stuff, the writing is coming along, albeit rather slowly. Extremely slowly...

No matter. My body mounted a revolt against me last Friday - I have no idea what is wrong now. Sometimes I think I have some alien cells inside of me just mutating as they wish, evilly laughing as they poke around at my intestines, my liver, my bladder, my nose, my lungs, and whatever else they feel like disrupting. This should all seem normal - the extreme-I-can't-move-at-all fatigue, head that feels like it has doubled in weight, and volume, upset stomach, weakness that leaves me shaking just to lift a hand over my head. Yeah, yeah, been there, done that. I may as well dub myself the Queen of Illness and just move along with it.

As this happened over the weekend, and I had a training Monday morning, I frantically e-mailed my supervisor (since it was the weekend) letting him know something had happened and that I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it. Then I call Monday morning where the training was taking place, but no one answers so I leave a message. No one calls back, I wait. Then I decide to call again to make SURE someone had gotten the message and passed it along to my supervisor. The phone rings. A woman answers. "blah blah blah, company, blah blah," is essentially what it sounded like to me since it's Japanese, my head is cloudy and I can't focus at all. I knew she had just said the standard greeting, so I asked if English was ok (in Japanese).

She answers (in Japanese): "Oh yes! It's ok!"

Me (in English): "This is Ashley Thompson, Native Teacher. I have training..."

Lady on Phone (in Japanese): "Ah yes! What is your name? Are you a home teacher?"

Me (in English): "Ashley Thompson. No, not a home teacher, I'm a native teacher."

Lady on Phone (in Japanese): "I see. Where are you from?"

I knew she meant what country, but since this wasn't going the way I had imagined, I just said:


Lady on Phone (in English): "No, what country."

Finally, she speaks English...

Me: "No, no, I am a native teacher, and I called this morning. I left a message. I am sick. I have training right now. There is training and I am sick."

Lady on Phone (in English): "Oh! Yes, yes! Native Teacher!"

Me (thinking, I want to sleep, why is this conversation so difficult): "Yes, I called this morning. I am sorry to miss the training but I am very sick."

Lady on Phone (English): "Ah yes I understand! I will tell (supervisor). I have your number and will call you with any questions. Take care!"

Me: "Thanks. Bye."

I still don't understand how we managed to have this conversation, but alas. I don't fault her really, she may have been confused about what I meant for all I know, but I didn't have the mental capacity to explain myself in this other language I'm trying to master. It's just my life. My life in Japan.


  1. I've had conversations like this. Very frustrating when you are sick. By the way, thanks for the iHerb link. When we return back to Japan in August I am going to check it out.

  2. @maria,

    No problem! iHerb is amazing, and has made things so much easier living here.

    Just checked out your blog - looks like I have another to add to my Google Reader! What an inspiring story!

    Where are you guys based in Japan? (if you don't mind my asking - although I just followed you on Twitter so you can answer there too if you want to).

  3. Haha. Thanks!

    We live in Kannami-cho. About ten minutes south of Mishima by train.

    I'm adding both your blogs to my reader. We have been using Flying Pig, which is great, but they don't have some foods I want like protein powders (all the ones I find in Japan use artificial sweeteners) and chia seeds!

  4. @maria,

    Really? So you're in the same general area then. :D We live in Shimada right now. Actually one of my friends is living over there in Izu-Nagaoka (a bit farther from Mishima as you probably know), though she's leaving this summer...

    Yeah I know what you mean! I feel the same way. Takes extra effort to figure things out here. I don't know if you are into nuts too (but I'm assuming so) I actually discovered a cheaper way to get a 1kg bag of various nuts (raw or roasted) for a reasonable price. You may already know about it, but it took me awhile to discover! (They've got all kinds of other stuff too, although I can't get most of the dried fruit b/c most of them have sulfites in it - I'm allergic. But also bulk spices, and some other things.)

    It's nice to know there are fellow health-nuts around, lol, sometimes I feel strange or awkward when explaining why I do or don't eat certain things...