Friday, January 13, 2006

Nihongo de?

there are some japanese words that are simply indespencible to me now. i learned some of them during the first week while Gabrielle showed me around the island.
"genki," "daijobu," "sugoi," "arigato," "junken," "kanpai," "izakaya," "onegaishimasu," "kudasai," "hai, dozo."
sometimes we joke here that we don't know how we'll live without those words back home. we'll have to teach "genki" to everyone we know in order for them to understand us...same goes for "daijobu," and "sugoi."

so it was funny to see how this theory played out when 20 some foreigners came to India to volunteer and the one thing they all had in common was that they were all working in one capacity or another (mostly as JETs) in Japan.

coming from one foreign country and having leaned some of its social manners and expectations, it was strange being in another foreign country where none of the same rules applied.
We kept saying "onegaishimasu" whenever we meant to say "please" in shops and restaurants. we asked people "genki?" when we meant to say "how are you?"
there are several kids in a small village in India who know the word "genki" to mean "lively, excited, full of energy" and can play "junken," the japanese version of rock, paper, scissors (a way better version).

we learned how to greet the indian way, by saying "namaste" or "namaska", putting hands together as if to pray and bringing the fingers up first to the forehead and then to the nose as the words left the lips.
i bowed every time i said it!
i bowed when saying "hello" and "thank you" and "goodbye"
Malati, the volunteer coordinator, joked that we all bowed so much during the coarse of the week we were all there, that she started bowing back.

whenever something is given or received in the japanese society, be it papers, presents, bills, money at a bank, it is given and received with both hands. I kept extending both my hands in india to receive anything.

the nice thing about having a language in common that is not english (as english is well spoken and understood in india) is that gives a "secret code" advantage.
of course, most of us are no where near fluency in japanese, but we do know numbers and how to say simple things, so we would confirm with each other about market prices, tip decisions, and rickshaw price amounts, in Japanese.
it was cute. and it gave us a bit of practice in japanese, since only a few determined souls in the group actually cracked open the study books while in india.

so here's an article that made me think of all this linguistic nonsence.


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