Thursday, August 25, 2011

living without understanding

This morning I learned how to pay a bill in Japan.  I had 2 pieces of paper; one in English, one in Japanese, and I had to ask the building manager what to do.  He suggested that I could go to the bank on the paper, or go to the post office (there is one right by the kid's school) to pay the bill.  He printed us a map, and I decided that the post office was a closer option, so N and I headed down there. When I got there, the nice person behind the counter spoke at me for a while, I showed her the papers, said "chotto Nihongo" (which means little Japanese, but I think they get it...) and she said something else.  Then she held up a finger and took the papers back to someone else.  In a few minutes, she came back and said some more things but was shaking her head.  I took this to mean that I couldn't pay the bill there.  I asked her "kore wa?" (which might mean where, but might also mean what) and pointed to the bill.  She said some more words.  I nodded, pointed to the bank and said something presumably unintelligible.  We ended with "Hai's" all around.  Interesting.

On the way out of the post office, I got some cash at the ATM, so at least we won't starve to death.  I can get money!!

I went home, traded kids with W and took M up the street to the bank.  When you go to a Japanese bank and walk up to the teller, they say "no no, go get a ticket" (in Japanese, so you don't actually know what they are saying) and so you go take a number and sit down.  We had sanji go (35), and the teller was helping sanji san (33), so we only had to wait for 2.  There was, again, a lot of yammering back in forth in two languages but eventually I wrote my name in カタカナ and signed it a few times and wrote my address in a few spots (thank goodness I typed it into my phone!!) and then she took my money, plus 350¥ as a payment fee (not sure if its a percentage or a flat fee) and disappeared.  She pointed towards the chair as she left so I sat.  La-de-da, and in a few minutes, she gave me part of the paper back as a receipt and I was done!  Easy peasy.  Don't even need to know any Japanese (but it helps to know a few key words like "ticket" and "bank" and "money").  Exciting times.

I have spent the last 2 hours catching up on email and working on some things in my office. I don't have a lot to do here yet, but I do know that I will be giving a research presentation here (and hopefully at Kyoto University as well) So I need to convert my old powerpoints and data into a 50-60 minute talk.  My host came by earlier while I was working on my talk and we decided that we would talk science on Monday, so I should probably at least skim the abstracts of his last few papers by then.  It's been on my to do list since February....

Here is my lovely view from my desk at work (taken from my cell phone):

the kids have been retained to create art.

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