Thousands of Miles from Home


Dealing with Public Officials

I would wait to post this later, but this week deserves posts in porportion to the amount of fun experienced. And otherwise I would become lethargic and forgetful.

Jittan is here for the holidays, with a brand new digital camera (many of the picture posts are hers). After the last Lions club meeting, and in a strange twist of fate, the club invited Jittan, Andee, and myself to another Lions club meeting at the Marine Hotel. We all acted as translators for Evelyn (Jittan for chinese, Andee for malay and english, me to eat leftover food). This would be a good opportinity to talk about not only Lions club meetings, but Rotary meetings as well. In Japan both the Lions and Rotary clubs open their meetings with a song (mostly japanese, sprinkled with english). The meeting then takes place with speakers and such, photographs are taken, and meeting is closed again with a song. The Rotary closing ceremony involves standing in a large circle, holding hands, and singing a song I did not know. The Lions club however, in a ferocious manner that would befit a lion, ends their meetings by making closed fists, punching both arms out horizontal to the floor, and saying three times, "we serve all." (Note: I am not making this up)

Following the Lions club meeting, Evelyn was scheduled to meet the mayor of Tamano. As it turned out I was supposed to meet the mayor the following day, but the Lions club asked me to come along anyway and translate. I figured I could size him up one day and know what to expect the next. Before the meeting, however, was a three hour stretch of time to kill. It was a nice day so Shoko, Jittan, Andee, and I went to nearby Shibukawa beach, and then to a playground. Shoko looked like a schoolgirl on the swings, and everyone agrees she is much more like a sister than mother. After the playground we had tea and cake at the Hotel, then left for city hall. The Mayor didn't keep us waiting, and we went right into a large conference room to meet him. He has a crazy hairstyle but seemed very friendly. And if I had a dollar for every translator in the room I could have easily bribed a public official. I did very little talking (it was Evelyn's meeting, anyway) but made sure he would remember my face for when I came the next day.

For me, meeting the Mayor was full of surprises. When I arrived at city hall with Shoko, the Rotary councellor and president (man who traded me the light up house for a box of cookies) had already arrived. Furukawa-sensei, a teacher from school, also came to translate for me. From what I can tell, when people come to meet the mayor they are expected to know little-to-no japanese. In fact, if I had met the mayor when I was origionally scheduled, it would have been a few weeks after coming to japan. It was rescheduled due to a typhoon that flooded Tamano, and then rescheduled again after a second typhoon and set of earthquakes hit Tamano (guess I'm bad luck).

When I walked into the mayor's office, a translator from city hall greeted me with a huge smile on her face. She came right up to me and said "I graduated from West Vriginia University." ::dramatic pause:: I couldn't belive it. She knew exactly where I lived and all about Morgantown. How wild! I forgot all about the mayor until the secretary told me I could go into his conference room. The mayor recognized me from the day before, and we had a really great meeting. I understood most of his japanese, and really didn't need any of the numerous translators in the room.

After the encounter with the Mayor I came back home where Jittan and Andee were hastily cooking food for that night's huge holiday party at our house. Tons of people came, including some friends from school, english teachers from the area, and most of Shoko's japanese friends. There was a ton of food, and during the party Jez (english teacher from Australia) played piano and sang. Jez told a funny story about renting a car to Ben from Ben Folds Five in Australia. When Ben returned the car he left a copy of his unreleased album in the cd changer. He came back to get it the next day but not before Jez had made a copy for himself. I would have just been happy renting a car to a rock star. On top of that, Neil, another english teacher, hung out with Guster at Tuffs, and John Davey lived near the Barenaked Ladies, his brother knowing two of the members. No fair. Much fun was had at the party but I'll let the pictures tell the story.

Until next year...


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