Friday, January 29, 2010

politics of language

A few days ago, I was walking to my train station. It was bitter cold and dark, but suddenly a woman asked me (in Japanese) "Excuse me, do you know where Komagome Hospital is?" I was kind of surprised. Often in Tokyo I get ignored because of the colour of my skin. I tend to complain about this with my friends while tossing back beers or whatever. But this felt like a beautiful colour-blind moment! Perfect except I wasnt sure where the hospital was. "uhm... i've never been there, but..." I began to offer. She looked right and left, and pointed right, "Well, do you think it's that way?" I was a bit late to meet my friend, but I decided to do my best to help this lady out. I thought I was being a little rude having a conversation with her while I was bundled up behind my hood, so I pulled my hood down and started to say that I thought she was right, but in literal slow motion I saw her see my face (why she hadn't noticed my accent I'm not sure) and her eyes literally go round with shock. She held up her hands, and said "Oh, it's OK-- I'm fine." and turned around and headed in the direction she had assumed. Oh. So much for a perfect moment.

A few days after that, I was standing at an intersection near my house. I was going to the laundry mat, and so I had my laundry bag slung over one shoulder. I was appreciating the glimmer of the cold sun (it's still winter after all!) when suddenly behind me I heard someone say in Indian accented English, "Excuse me, sir." I turn around and a kind of pudgy man sitting on a mountain bike is looking at me. I offer "Uhhh... yeah?" and he says, "Can you tell me where [midnight] is?" The word midnight was the only thing I could make sense of the word. It wasn't English, it was Japanese, but that was the only thing that registered. "Uhh, sorry, what are you trying to find?" I asked. He repeated the same thing, and I shook my head and said "Up there is police box, they might be able to help you." He looked up the short hill and said "It's too far away, and it's a hill so I don't want to go up there. I'll ask someone else." At that moment the pedestrian light turned green for me, so I wished him goodluck and crossed the street.

(Also, 88 new photos in my photo album if you wanna take a peek! Yes. I went mad. Tons of random photos [maybe too many red leaves!] from all over the place. And I haven't even finished uploading all the pictures I took so far! Anyway, enjoy.)
All original content CC 2002-2012 BY NC SA - first design from dilarangmelarang altered by neonvirus and thunderbunny.