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The never-ending faux-pas and encounters with new and unexplainable things continued as I approached three months living in Japan.
One day, a student of mine, an older woman named Mitsuko, asked if I’d be interested in doing a language exchange. What’s a language exchange, I asked.
She explained it to me– basically where two people taught languages to each other in exchange for the other’s teachings. In other words, she would teach me Japanese, and I’d teach her English, and no money would need to change hands. This sort of thing was frowned-upon by Nova, as it meant that their students wouldn’t be paying the fees for classes, and to be honest, I didn’t really want to do it.
I mean, I didn’t have any formal training in how to teach. Nova classes were very little more than encouraging conversation (we joked about how bad they were, but I guess they worked for some students), and I didn’t enjoy teaching them, amusing anecdotes aside. Who wanted to spend more time doing a job that they hated, even in exchange for Japanese lessons? But, as I often did back then (okay, still do on occasion), I felt like I was obligated to say yes. She was very insistent, and I had a weak will. I thought that I would be better off learning on my own, or going to some sort of class that I paid for . Still, I said a grudging yes.
On December 7th, I found myself at her house, a charming but typical old 2-story wooden Japanese house, packed to the gills with furniture (I’ve only been in a few old Japanese houses, but quite unlike the zen stereotype, they’re always filled to the brim with furniture). She served tea and cookies, and then she lavished on me crackers and persimmons (I’d never had any.. I’d never even seen one in real life). All that I got her, though, was a very wet bathroom.
Ah, um. well, Japanese toilets. There are several kinds. US-style but with a sink in the top of the tank, like this:
Then there are squat toilets, like this:
And then, there are scary-complicated ones that do everything but wipe you. Like this:
These last two images courtesy of Wikipedia. Thanks!
She had the last kind, and what’s worse.. it didn’t have a handle to flush. So, I finished my business, and looked around.
Umm….. how do you flush this thing?
There were buttons on the wall, of all things, that flushed the toilet, but they were written in Japanese, without any illustrations, and it never, ever would have occurred to me to look to the wall in front of me for a button to flush the toilet. So, I looked at the complicated lid, and pushed the one that looked like a fountain of water. It was the closest thing.
No, that was the bidet.
AS I was NOT ready for this, it surprised the heck out of me, and I leaped up, and the bidet proceeded to soak the wallpaper in front of the toilet. Ni joke. That was a powerful bidet, and I had no idea how to shut it off!! Like most Japanese restrooms, there was no towel in the restroom, either. So, I had to leave the restroom after mopping up with toilet paper and ask meekly how to flush the toilet (omg!).
That was one of the most embarrassing times of my life. ._. I can’t even. Ahhhhh….
Yeah. Button on the wall. Got it. She also noticed the wet spot, because of course. Of course she did. I died a little bit inside, but I can laugh about it now.. while dying a little bit more inside. Nobody’s perfect! ^o^;;;;
See you tomorrow for some more hijinks, and my first purikura, too!