Friday, June 06, 2008

Sprite, Please.

We said good-bye to Tetsu this morning at LAX. A teary good-bye for Tetsu and Leiya even after my last post about smiling. Tetsu is a softy and he gets more choked up about things than I do. I guess since I've had lots of practice saying good-bye every summer to my family that I'm an old hat about it nowadays. Leiya has always been an easy crier and but seeing Tetsu's tears set off Marcy and my mom too and we all stood around half laughing, half crying at the airport security check-in. Let's see. He should be a quarter of the way over the Pacific about now.

As often happens when Tetsu and I come to America together, I realize how Japanese he really is and what a difficult situation he is in. He brought along his business cards which of course he never had a reason to hand out. That is a very common Japanese custom. He was continually pulling out American money and trying to remember which bill was worth how much but finally just handed me his wallet and gave up trying to pay things. It must be hard for him. Granted, I was the one who for 30 years has adapted to Japan, and makes the daily adjustments, but sometimes I honestly feel more comfortable in Japan than in the States. Tetsu makes the trip to the States about once every three years and often it hardly can be called a vacation for him.

For one. with the language barrier, coming to the States means that Tetsu is completely dependent upon me and often that doesn't sit right. Usually he is in the lead position in our marriage and I rely on him when things get beyond my understanding. This works well for us since women usually take a lesser role but coming to the States and having to ask me to buy things for him in the stores, explain situations to him, waiting for me to translate for him, makes Tetsu feel ineffectual.

Sometimes the situations we are in can get extremely stressful between us just because I've not translated clearly for him or he doesn't understand the problem. This happened at the Ohio airport when we had lots of luggage and weren't sure if all of it could be checked through. I had concerns about overweight luggage, Leiya's host mother had advice about paying the extra luggage fee, Leiya had one free baggage allowance while Tetsu and I had two piece allowance but of course Tetsu didn't understand the airline system and we also had a crazy shaped package that we could have been charged extra for. Between the four of us at the check-in counter, Tetsu's stress level was sky rocketing and there wasn't a dang thing he could do about anything! Just leave it to the women folk who started opening suitcases and redistributing weight in hopes of avoiding extra fees. I could practically see the smoke rising from him!

That is only one incident of Tetsu trying to manage in the States. Another one, which we had a good laugh about was that on the flights to California Tetsu and Leiya and I had to be separated and for a couple hours and Tetsu didn't have me as a seat partner. Usually I am the go-between for ordering on the flight but this time Tetsu was on his own. The stewardesses came around during beverage service and I guess each time Tetsu asked for a Sprite. When we landed in California and got back together he says to me,

"You know, I really just wanted some water but the stewardesses don't understand my pronunciation so I kept ending up with Sprite.
"Sprite, please." they understand. I say "Uoa-ta-, please." and they ask me to repeat and it gets very embarrassing for everyone."

We all had a good laugh at that and even Marcy and my niece and nephew were trying to teach Tetsu to pronounce "water" correctly for his flight today. I think in the end they advised him to say, "H2O, please." Wonder what he's drinking right now up in those blue Pacific skies.


Amanda said...

Poor Tetsu, but I think it's probably good for him to get a reminder of what it's been like for you.

Denise (Nour) said...

I liked your real-life story very much. It causes me to reflect about the differences in my own bicultural marriage from another perspective. Thankyou!

Clare said...

Speaking as one who is still struggling with the language in her new country, I really sympathise with Tetsu. It is so frustrating.

anne bebbington said...

I concur with Clare - we were in France for 6 months and I struggled with the language too. The most annoying thing was, having really laboured in our bank branch for the whole six months with often difficult explanations etc I was in there with Nigel just before we returned home and we made a joke in English between us at which the cashier laughed - I was so annoyed that he had had a thorough understanding of my language all that time but let me struggle along in his - I never minded trying to use French and always did so but he could have been kind and helped me when I was out of my depth and he chose not to.

The Calico Cat said...

I was in a similar situation in Israel - my husband is fluent, I am "not." (Luckily a lot of Israeli's speak English.)

I had him make up cards for me, so that I could get by if I had to. (I had one for the toilet, etc. - next time you can make him a water card, unless he likes Sprite.)

Shelina said...

I can understand his frustration. Traveling anywhere is disorienting anyway, and with the difficulty of using the language, that makes it all the more frustrating, especially if all the people around you are handling it better.

Diane said...

I am glad you were able to see the the funny side of your travels. Laughter eases a lot of the tension. Hope Tetsu had his

OzJane said...

What a wonderful opportunity for some English lessons. vbg.
Having a morning to start with where you only speak English.
But yes, that comes from the independent Australian female perspective. I went to the Phillipines many years ago and stayed a month and was easily able to move around Manilla by myself but so much English is spoken there and I managed a few words of tagalog.
I have a little Compassion girl there and would love to dream I could visit her one day but my budget does not run to first class and I doubt I could sit out economy now.

artfilstitch said...

Good to hear about your travels today. When all else fails, laughter will work everytime. Just hope that Tetsu doesn't end up with something stronger than Sprite. :>) (that's an alternative)
Many more happy visits with your family and friends in California!

meggie said...

I feel for Tetsu, coming from a different culture. I also feel for you, having to learn his customs & ways. I think the women in this world are more adaptable than the males.