Stories: The white guy
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|If you haven't read my post on the day I almost got married, you might want to do so, as this experience happened not too long after that one, and for me it was almost "revenge".
My first missionary companion, Elder White, was very cognizant of not only the Japanese language, but the gestures that went along with the language. For example, when someone we stopped on the street didn't want to talk to us, they would say "ii desu" ("no") and wave their hand in front of their nose. This is the way Japanese emphasize they don't want something. (I always remembered this because the hand-waving in front of the nose looked to me like "stinky", which is negative anyway.)
Anyway, one gesture that he used was to point at his nose. In the US, when we would say something like "Who me?", we would point to our chest to refer to ourselves. In Japan, they point at their noses. So, when Elder White would introduce himself, he would always point at his nose and say "My name is Elder White."
Well, one day were were going house-to-house and in the middle of knocking doors on a large apartment building--one of the buildings that was used a a dormitory back in the Sapporo Winter Olympics. It was Elder White's turn to do the door. He knocked on the door and in his usual fashion hollered "gomen kudasai" for good measure. He was in full swing Japanese mode.
Well the door opened and a young lady who was obviously NOT Japanese was standing there. Well, Elder White was stuck in Japanese mode. He paused for a split second--brain saying "something is wrong"--but then pointed to his nose and said "I am white!"*
Now it was my turn to laugh! Us greenbeans didn't really have "Japanese mode" yet, so Elder White's pronouncement of his race was hilarious.
The lady kind of laughed and said "I can see that", which made me laugh even more, and then I got to take over and do the door approach in perfect English while Elder White switched back into English mode. Sweet lingual revenge!
*The phrase "I am white" is perfectly grammatical in Japanese. "watakushi wa howaito desu" When referring to oneself, no titles are used, and rather than saying "My name is", typically you just say "I am name here." So, leaving off saying "I am" and leaving off "Elder" leaves you with "I am White". Gee, what if he had been African-American???
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