Friday, May 13, 2005

Still in one piece


Today I went back for my driver's test again. Guess what? I failed again. Why? Same reason. But So and so san at the end of the test said, "Better than before, Barzak san," then laughed. Jerk.

On the way home, I took a wrong turn and ended up in the mountains. I could see the sea suddenly at one point. I finally got turned back around and, while I was traveling through a tunnel in a mountain, a semi-truck driving beside my car slammed into the side of me.

I am not making this up. Yes, it's Friday the 13th here.

My life stopped flashing before my eyes in time to pull my car away from the wall of the tunnel thankfully. Then me and the semi driver continued driving until we got out of the mountain and were able to pull off the road and call the police. The policeman was nearby and was there in a flash, and suddenly I was barraged with questions in Japanese. Somehow I was answering back, though mostly I thought I wasn't making any sense. I used the conditional tense right for the first time, though, and was able to pick the right "if/then" statement out of the four choices they have here (which just screws me up all the time, we just have if and when in English for the most part). Sadly, even though I was able to tell the policeman (who had to be in his sixties, it seemed to me, and did not want to deal with a foreigner, or maybe just not accidents in general) that if he spoke a little more slowly, I would understand him. He did not slow down, but the man who hit me kindly did. When I finally got to a point where I couldn't understand something they kept harping on, I called my company and had my coordinator talk to them. An hour later, I was back on the road.

As I was driving back home, I was still in shock and pissed off at the whole thing that I was already mentally buying an airplane ticket. But then I got back to my company's office and as I was complaining about not being able to make myself understood, my coordinator told me that I *had* made myself understood actually. When she was on the phone with the police officer, she asked if he needed her to ask me questions over the phone but he said that I had been able to tell him when it happened, where it happened, and that when the man who hit me tried to say I didn't have my lights on so couldn't see me (making it my fault) I had said that wasn't true and that I was pretty sure I had them on. I gave him various forms of id when he asked for it and was able to say I wasn't hurt, and that the only thing I wasn't able to understand was legal and insurance terminology.

Which is weird, because the whole time I was representing myself, I didn't feel like I was representing myself well. But apparently I was able to enough to get the other guy's company to call mine and apologize and admit it was his fault within fifteen minutes after I was able to get back on the road. I doubt my own ability to communicate even while I'm doing it, but I guess I'm more capable than it felt. Also I was in shock of some sort, I think, the life flashing thing, and really just wanted to speak English really really badly.

Along with fantasizing about hopping on the next plane, I could not help but think about how that jerky driving inspector failed me again and then I get into an accident and it wasn't my fault. Totally not relational, I know, but still.

I think I need to karaoke.

And a side note for anyone reading. Be nice to residents of your country (whatever country it may happen to be) who don't speak your language, or don't speak it well or who are learning it. It's frickin hard, ok? You try it. (Noted because I cannot help but remember ignorant f***s who on occasion back home would say, "Learn the language!" whenever they heard someone speaking anything non-English. By the way, the USA doesn't have an official language anyway!)


Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Oh Chris, my Chinese was also best when I was really mad and worst when I was flustered. I don't think if I'd been knocked into a wall by a semi, I could speak much English, to be honest. I think I'd want to be sobbing into my cellphone to Bob. And there you are, alone in a foreign country.

Like Cathy said, *hug*.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Ugh. And whew. Glad you're OK, man. And just from reading about your progress, I'm not at all surprised by your mad skillz with the language.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Thanks and *hugs* back. All is well, though I'm still sort of coming off of it in a weird way. Part of me has this ridiculous pride in being able to get through it all speaking a different language, and relatively doing all right with that, and the other part of me is still like, what the hell are you putting yourself through this for?

I seem to always put myself in situations where I'm never at my best, and then try to overcome. Which isn't a bad thing in and of itself. But sometimes I wonder if it would be such a bad thing to let myself just find a comfortable way of living.

Then I think, well, I'm still young. Might as well do this now, rather than look back and wish I'd done something different with my life, something that wasn't as comfortable as it could have been.

I did want to hug a lot when I finally got back home. But alas, I had no one to hug.

I will have to wait till school next week, when the seventh graders who had me as their elementary school teacher and are still in "little kid" mindset can do all the hugging they want. (Not a lot of visible hugging in Japanese culture, but the little ones like it!)

So much can be taken care of with someone there to feel like they're holding you up for a bit.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Also, I should add, the man who hit me called my coordinator while I was in Japanese class tonight and apologized and asked her to apologize to me because he couldn't speak English and wanted to make sure I had made it home safely (because he realized I had gotten lost and was far from home when he hit me). So that was nice. And he *did* slow down for me when I asked (even though the cop didn't). I want to say cops suck in any culture, but I know there are good ones out there too. But still, just to indulge for a moment, cops suck in any culture. (Even though I know there are good ones, ok!!)

12:05 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

While blogger is down, messages of love and support can graciously be donated here:

We thank you for your support!

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hug, hug, hug. I'm glad you're ok.


8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yikes! I'm glad you're okay. That sounds awful all around.

But it sounds like you handled the communication pretty well, all things considered. Like Maureen said -- immediately after my accident I could barely speak English, let alone another language.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Thanks, Jed. It was weird. But I felt like I sort of had to. At one point they were trying to figure out if my visa was good and if not, maybe they wouldn't have to worry about this little incident, so I kept having to say, ahem, wait a second, I you are not talking around a complete idiot.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Thanks Haddayr! I'm really going to miss seeing you (and all you other great people) at Wiscon this year. I could use some time with my people right about now.

10:49 AM  

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