Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lost in Translation

I know, I know. It has been too long since my last blog. I blame it entirely on my laziness. I should have found time in between applying to med school, teaching 60 hours a week, flying to multiple countries for interviews, moving apartments in New York, getting accepted to medical school, applying for loans, blah, blah, blah. There really is no excuse....

Anyway, a few events have occurred over here that I wanted to share with you. The first one is a perfect moment of miscommunication. This is not to say that this is the only moment of miscommunication (there have been too many to count and remember), but it was so funny and horrifying (for my student, not me) that I wanted to share it. The minor moments that I do remember are listed below followed by their translation.

I was really boobed (I was really moved).

I want to be a cock (I want to be a cook)!

You have a very small face (You are very pretty).

Can you ride my cigarette? (Can you light my cigarette?)

I heard you fell ill of your digestive organs (you had a stomach virus).

You have nose disease (Um...not really sure. The doctor told me this one and I was a little freaked out-luckily, it wasn't flesh eating).

Oh, the list goes on and on and on...but here is the main event:

Meet Ken (we'll call him that anyway). Ken is a business man, who works hard, drinks hard, has a wife and two young kids, and takes his life very, very seriously. He is a dedicated student of my class who really does try hard. But, his pronunciation is, well, bad. For the most part, I am pretty good at deciphering the bizarre and very confusing pronunciation of L's and R's, but tonight, I met my match....

Andrea: So, what is one of your goals in life, Ken?

Ken: I want to go Australia.

Andrea: Cool! What do you want to do there?

Ken: I want touch coral.

Andrea: Coral? (well, everyone has their dreams, right?) Uh, ok. But, you do know that you are not supposed to touch coral.

Ken: No? You can't touch coral?

Andrea: Well, no. For two reasons. One, it is very fragile and breaks quite easily, therefore damaging the ecosystem (and right there, I have lost him), and second, because its very dangerous.

Ken: Dangerous?

Andrea: Well, yeah. It can kill you.

Ken (horror stricken then using his index finger to touch the tip of his nose to emphasize that he meant himself and no other): Kill me?

Andrea: Well, not only you. Everyone.

Ken: Why?

Andrea (Yes! I get to talk about bacteria!): Because it has very old bacteria in it.

Ken: Bacteria? Like a virus?

Andrea: Well, not exactly (or at all), but in the way that they can both make you sick, yes.

Ken (His face is completely crestfallen): Oh. So, I can't touch coral?

Andrea: Well, no (what is the friggin' deal with coral?).

Ken: But, I thought...

Andrea (Ok, this is exasperating): It's too dangerous, Ken! When it scratches you, you get an infection, and sometimes that infection can kill you (leave the coral alone, already).

Ken (now actually looking frightened and quietly asks): Really?

Andrea: Yeah. When I was swimming, I accidentally got scratched by coral, and it was a very bad infection. I had a fever.

Ken (looking incredulous and horrified): When you were swimming?

Andrea: Yeah, there is coral everywhere in the ocean.

Ken: There is?

Andrea (deciding a visual aid may help and therefore began to draw an ocean on the board): Of course (duh!). It looks like this...

Ken: Coral is in ocean?

Andrea: Um yeah (what, are you an idi...) wait, are we talking about the same thing?

Ken: Coral, like bear.

Andrea (guess not): Oh, you mean a koala. K-O-A-L-A!!!

Ken: Yes, coral. They are in ocean?

Andrea: Um, no. They live in trees that are not in the ocean.

Ken (still wary and again, out comes the index finger): But they kill me?

Andrea: Um, no. Not usually.

And with that, the rest of the lesson was dedicated to pronunciation. I can only imagine the images that were floating around in Ken's head. Koala infested oceans with great big claws laden with bacteria, slashing around looking for their next victim to infect and kill, particularly people like Ken. I couldn't understand what his fascination was with touching coral, and even after my extremely thorough explanation of why it's bad to touch it, he managed to still look more horrified than appreciative of this bit of survival advice. Obviously, when you put the word koala in place of coral during this conversation, you can see why. After reassuring him that koalas were in fact quite docile creatures (albeit really smelly), perhaps his dreams are not completely dashed. Although, he may never look at a koala quite the same way again-especially those crazy ones that lurk in the ocean.

Ah, the joys of teaching English....

On a completely separate note, my friend Rachel and I recently had the thrilling opportunity to watch huge men in mini thongs (that was redundant) slap each other around in a tiny, tiny circle. You guessed it, we were watching SUMO!!!!!!!!! Let me just say that it had to be one of the most spectacular things I have seen. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it was pretty cool. First of all, the fact that these men have made a sport out of bitch-slapping is pretty phenomenal. They are, after all, about 896 lbs each, and could easily crush a monster truck with their left thigh and right pinkie toe, but instead they slap each other with an open palm. Or, better yet, they push each other around for awhile until someone steps out of the circle. My favorite maneuver was when one sumo man picked up the other sumo man by his thong-diaper thingy, giving him the ultimate wedgie, and then threw him out of the ring face-first! Each match only lasts at most 2 minutes, but man, are they exciting. Of course, we had no idea what was happening the entire time. We simply cheered when the everyone else cheered, yelled when we deemed appropriate, bet on the wrestlers based on the color of their mawashi (the thong-diaper thing they wear), ducked when pillows were thrown, then cheered again. It was a blast!

Unfortunately, to my bitter disappointment, I did not get to touch a sumo wrestler. This was not for lack of trying on my part, however. We did follow one, but he ducked into the staging area before I got a chance to grab him. I did hesitate a bit since on the back of his leg there was a bruise the size of another human being (some things you don't ask about) and he easily could have wrapped my own legs around my own torso about 7 times, slapped me silly, then picked me up by my thong and thrown me across Osaka. The other lost opportunity was when we saw a wrestler sitting outside the stadium on a bench, hunched over his gigantic belly and wrapped in nothing else but a soft, floral, lavender robe. The whole image was so devastating and against my preconceived notion of these monster men that I couldn't bring myself to do it. My friend Yoko told me that it was good luck to touch one, but I am pretty sure she was not referring to the ones in floral, lavender robes. O'well. I guess I will have to still cash in on my two trips through the nostril of Buddha.

I miss you all!!