Tag Archives: History

Meeting Washington

My grandmother, whom I called Marmie, hated to fly. Hated it. In my time with her, I never knew her to fly anywhere. Perhaps she had when she came to see me or my cousins when we lived farther away, but she had an enormous fear of flying. Although, nothing would keep her from seeing her grandchildren and her children. She was a major customer of Amtrak (which is a train company in the United States). I’m not entirely sure why, but the United States has still not taken part in the

Mom outside a high speed train in Belgium
Mom outside a high speed train in Belgium

high speed train industry. Our trains are quite slow. When my dear friend Martin was coming from Fiji to America, he was very excited to see the vast lands of the United States and was insisting on taking the train. I tried to warn him on how slow it actually is, but he did it anyway. Yes, you are able to see the desserts and mountains and forests and lakes and plains, but it takes days and weeks to get somewhere.

Well, in the summers my Marmie would take me on these trips when I was a kid to see my cousins. It was important that I spent time with them. Not only were they my family, but they were female cousins of my same age. They lived in North Carolina while we lived in Chicago, so it would take us a couple days. Sometimes on our route we would have to take a train to Washington DC and transfer to the next train down to North Carolina. I have been to DC several times and I only have blended memories in which I cannot differentiate the time between them. But the one memory that is still so clear in my mind is the Lincoln Memorial.

Marmie was making my cousins and I write reports on Washington DC landmarks before we went there. I am cursed with this evil brat self within me and it comes out sometimes without warning. I have gotten a hold of it now at the age I am now, but when I was young it would appear often and loudly. When the brat had come out, I screamed and cried how much I did not want to write the report. How it was unfair and I did not need to do it. Eventually Marmie got me to write it. She had a very magical way about her and I wrote the report on the Lincoln Memorial. When we arrived in Washington DC, my cousins took turns reading their reports at the national landmarks we each researched. When we arrived at the Lincoln Memorial, I was so incredibly nervous because I wanted mine of course to be the best and to read it without messing2012-03-02 11.30.24 up. I got through it and everyone told me how good of a job I had done. Marmie gave me a big kiss and squeezed me tight, telling me how wonderful I had done.

To this day, I do not travel anywhere without the researching first. Next week I will be visiting Washington DC once again with my mother. Coincidentally, it is the annual Japanese Cherry Blossom festival in DC with all sorts of Japanese artists, and performances. The Japanese gave the United States a gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees to represent the good relationship between the two countries in 1912 and now every year there is a festival to celebrate. After the trip I had with Wayne, I was somewhat disappointed I did not have the opportunity to do and see all I wanted to because of my injury. Perhaps I was always meant to experience more of 2012-03-02 09.19.47the Japanese culture than I had and now I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to have a second chance. The universe guides us on mysterious paths. Especially those who have this wanderlust addiction deep within their beings. Sometimes we are meant to go or see or meet people in a certain place.

Ultimate Language Barrier Extreme!

Ok….places I’ve been with English as second language: France, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, Malawi, Ghana, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Street of Red Light district
Street of Red Light district

 

imageNow don’t get me wrong! I am not bragging, I am just trying to make a point. In all these places there was a large language barrier. Giant in fact. But never once have I ever felt the severity of a barrier as I do here….In Tokyo. No one speaks English (and if they do then they lie and tell me no). No one.

I do not expect a lot of English. But I am baffled by Tokyo’s reputation as a world wide hub. All streets are in only Japanese, every customer service person truly wants to help you but lack the ability for explanation translation. I couldn’t even read the map (which hasn’t been an issue since I was 7 years old).
Tokyo is such a great city, it’s too bad they do not cater to the English Language. Not culture! They’ve got that one down to the tee. They really try as best they can, but why the disconnect? Wayne mockingly called us “arrogant” for demanding more English around. But honestly, why not? Americans are spoiled ignorants when it comes to some culture. We are only expected to learn English (and sometimes even that’s a feat-Honey boo boo), now the rest of the world? They learn their language AND English. Even British folks learn French in school. But this only proves my point! If everyone else in the world has some English down, isn’t this our common denominator?
Again, I am only complaining because I am beyond baffled. When preparing to come to Tokyo almost all my research confirmed that language would not be a huge problem because everyone in Tokyo mostly spoke English too. Every restaurant here even has English menus but No ONE understands you! Perhaps, everyone does know English…woman on escalator who ran into me spoke perfect English to say she was sorry, and those 3 girls giving out free hugs in the park knew exactly what I was saying. Is it a joke against me? Most customer service people know what I am trying to ask, they just are not able to answer. Perhaps against all tourists to avoid the nonsense? Well played Japan…welled played.