Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Rumpled raincoat and a beat-up newspaper

I live within walking distance of Myŏngdong (loooong walking distance, but it's good exercise), so I go there a lot to shop, hang out, or practice my measly Japanese with real-live Japanese tourists. I look for Japanese tourists (usually women, but sometimes men who really look like they need my help) who have a map out and are looking forlornly at the 안내도 maps or at the buildings around them. Then I ask them—in Japanese—where they are going and if they need my help. Usually they are happy someone can speak with them, except if the conversation gets too detailed too quickly, I end up asking them, "英語をはなしますか?" (Do you speak English?).

Today there was a trio of young women from Kyūshū trying to figure out how to get from Myŏngdong Station to Lotte. I walked them out of the station and was about to show them where to go, but all of a sudden they seemed to be in a panic about me showing them the way, like I was going to kidnap them or something. They said they remembered where they were and thank you very much and they quickly shuffled off. There I stood, suddenly realizing how disheveled I looked in my rumpled raincoat I hadn't worn since last spring, carrying around yesterday's beat-up International Herald Tribune. I would have thought I was kidnapping me.

This post is devoid of humor or point, except to see if the Japanese characters appear as they should.

By the way, today is the autumnal equinox, unless you're in the southern hemisphere (the only hemisphere I've never been to) where it is the vernal equinox. So happy fall to everyone!


  1. I'm with Space, this post is a pretty good one. Stop scaring those poor little Japanese girls will ya?

  2. Sorry, couldn't see you Japanese until now... it is はなします, don't forget the な!

  3. Thanks, San Nakji, I have corrected that. I don't know how that got in there like that (はんします).

    On a Mac, if you type in Japanese, a bunch of kanji possibilities will pop up. For はなします there are three:


    I'm pretty sure it's the first one, but I didn't want to risk looking really, really ignorant in the post (though it's okay in the comments section).

  4. You are doing well. Keep up the Japanese. For a Korean speaker, Japanese is pretty easy, except for the wacky kanji thing.

    話is the right kanji for this one.

  5. Your description sound more like a flasher than a kidnapper ^^

  6. Kidnapper, flasher... toMAYto, toMAHto.

    Upon further reflection, I think I can understand where these young women were getting their panicked idea. Let me lay out a little more of the scene:

    I was waiting to meet someone in Myŏngdong, but that person was going to be about half an hour or so late. And I was really tired, so I decided to take a nap on one of the chairs there on the platform. So I was in my rumpled raincoat, head probably propped back (with Adam's apple pointed upwards, like a cartoon character), with beat-up newspaper on my lap.

    That's when the Kyushu trio walked past me and asked someone else where Lotte was. I was tired, and didn't care about helping, but the trio was asking a Korean in English and the Korean woman didn't understand. So I jumped up and walked over, told the Korean woman, in Korean, that I would help these poor women, and then I started talking to the women in broken Japanese (I was groggy, so it came out "英語をは... は십니까?").

    So that's the full picture: some guy in a rumpled raincoat with a beat-up newspaper sleeping on a subway platform chair suddenly takes an interest in "helping" these lost strangers, promising to take them somewhere.

    That's right: I am the man your mother warned you about.

    Well, at least I was clean-shaven and my hair was combed.

  7. It was clean when I put it on.

    By the end of the day, who knows?


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