Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Do you ever have moments you just hope your mother never hears about?

Did you also have a blog wherein you were obliged to write about your adventures, even the ones that you fear will make people back home groan in terror and throw their arms in the air crying out, she will never survive, this one! ..?

So one day back in like February or something I was waiting at the bus stop. It was super early in the day, and I had been dismissed early to go to a meeting at the BOE, but the only bus that would get me there on time was the bus that would get me to my house like an hour early. Oh well! So I was waiting for that bus.

My bus stop is right by a little store that has a little parking lot. Sometimes, cars drive into the parking lot and stop, as that is what parking lots are for. So it wasn’t strange to me when a little white truck pulled into the parking lot. What was strange was when the little old man driving the truck got out and started speaking English to me.

“Excuse me, where are you going?”

I blinked at him. Where was I.. what? Oh right, I was at the bus stop. I told him I was headed to Yamasaki, which was true. He offered me a ride. The thing about Japanese English is, when someone offers you a perfectly innocent ride (like, for example, when my English teachers would offer me a ride home, or to some school event), the words they usually use are “Please get in my car.” I can’t explain to them why this is a sketchy phrase, but it just is.

So this little old man I have never seen before is in the backcountry of nearly nowhere Japan speaking fine English at me asking me to please get into his car? What would YOU do? Well of course you know by my preface what I did… I hopped right in.

As the car pulled onto the road I wondered if I had lost my senses completely. But I do have senses, and I do use them, occasionally. When he asked where he should take me, I said the name of the store across from my apartment complex. No need to tell this guy where I lived, right? I told him I needed them to change something in my cell phone settings. Then I sat with my phone in my lap, ready to dial BigBrotherJET if things got weird.

We chatted, sort of (I had become inexplicably tense about the decision to ride in a stranger’s car, though he gave no indication of intending harm), along the way, and he found out I was headed to a BOE meeting.. and offered to drop me off there. But the meeting wasn’t for like another hour, as I’d said, and I told him I’d rather just make my own way down there.

It really confuses people when I try to tell them I have a car. They don’t get why I would be riding the bus all the time. Yeah, good damn question (sometimes, anyway). I got a new bus card today.. three months of rides to and from work for like 62,000 yen. That’s a lot of gas money, as CatJET pointed out. But I digress.

Somehow along the way he convinced me that I should see the little school he runs, where he teaches math, his son English, and his wife Japanese. This must have been after I found out he knew one of my adult English students, because once that suspicion was confirmed, I was able to relax a lot more. Anyway, I consented to have him take me to this juku (cram-school). So I went and poked around and borrowed a book and went home for only a few minutes before I had to run to the BOE.

Crisis averted, but social obligations hoisted. Because he had this starry-eyed dream of me coming to their juku regularly, allowing his son to practice English, and in return I could study kanji with his wife. I told him I had Tuesday free. Which is true. But it is also the ONLY free day I have and I just cannot take on another class. He called a few times in the intervening months but I was always too busy. I felt bad, but what could one do. Finally, he and his son came up to Ichi for BigBro’s and my class.. but it happened to be the night Brother had advanced students and I taught beginner. They invited me to get some coffee afterward but I was like, man, it’s 9:45, are you crazy? I gotta get home and go to bed!

I finished the book I borrowed that same day though, and meant to call him the next day to

But I could tell that all he wanted was for me just to hang out with them, and so I assured him that I did want to do that, some Tuesday, just not every Tuesday.

So, today, I went. We ate ramen, his son was super shy, and his wife taught me a little kanji afterward. It was pretty hilarious because the dude himself had to run off to teach his math class before I was done eating (um, I am slow).. and once I WAS done it was clear that we were all there basically to indulge his dream of having us all be there, and we had no idea what to do next. His wife and son were like.. what do we do next? Do you want to learn kanji? And I was like.. uh, I guess..

His son is really good at English, though, and was pulling out crazy words I never expect second-languagers, especially JHS/HS formal ed only (then just self-taught) to know. He had a pretty good ear and accent, too. I could tell he was shy about speaking English to me because I’m a native, and I always used to HATE speaking Japanese to native strangers.. also I got the impression that his dad was a bit too delighted to have a cute female foreigner to visit his roughly-my-age son to speak English.

So it was magically awkward, but at least it’s a warm night and the ramen was really good, and I ate chicken cartilage for the first time and it wasn’t half bad. Seriously you can eat anything if you fry the hell out of it.


  1. Sounds like an adventure! I interviewed for the JET program and I am still waiting to hear back. Are you an ALT?

  2. Yep! Hang in there; the waiting is the hardest part. Also, getting into cars with strangers is not safe, but if I had to pick one country where it's safest, I'd say Japan.