24 May, 2013

A blah day

I'm struggling to get down to any decent work today. It was an encouragement, this morning, to read this quote:
"It's normal to have days where you just can't work and days where you'll work 12 hours straight." Alain Paquin, Whatsnexx (from here)
As I ponder my "blaaah-ness" I've figured out something of where it's come from. That's not always possible, but I have some potential candidates for reasons right here:

  • "Home church" situation. I wrote about it last week here. We're communicating with various relevant people, finding out all sorts of information and opinions on what we should do. We Skyped with trusted friends about the situation last night.
  • Some days the complications of missionary life just
    make getting through a day feel like climbing a rock wall.
  • One of our boy's behaviour at school has had us meeting with teachers at various times over the last two years. We had another meeting yesterday. They're usually emotionally draining and yesterday's has left us with needing to make some decisions.
These are the two biggies that are straining my concentration on the tasks at hand. But there was one more today that is a classic story illustrating how difficult partially knowing the language of your host culture can be.

Last week a trainer at Curves approached me and asked me (I thought), if I'd like to try the protein drink they're promoting. I figured there's no harm in that, so said yes. To my surprise she took me over to the counter and asked me when I was free in the coming week. She wanted to make an appointment with me! I thought that was a bit strange, but cooperated. When I left the gym, I promptly forgot about this appointment.

On Tuesday at around 11.45 I turned up for my workout and as I pulled my shoes out of my bag saw an unusual slip of paper at the bottom—it had my appointment time written on it, for 12.30 that day. As I worked my way around the circuit I watched a group of ladies in the corner—they were clearly being educated about the amazing powers of the protein drink. Far from a simple taste test, they were getting the full nine-yards: a 30-minute sales pitch. I began to panic, because I'd already run myself short of time that day with everything that needed to be accomplished and didn't have 30 minutes to spare. I spent most of my exercise time obsessing over what I should do and how I should do it, especially about how I should get out of this obligation.

In the end I tried to slip out of the gym just a few minutes before the appointment I'd made, but they caught me! Then I played my innocent, "Oh, I forgot! Actually I have something I have to do." (yakusoku - a very useful word in Japanese). It worked a treat. No one lost face and I made myself understood (rather than blathering around not knowing how to explain my situation).

However, it didn't all go my way. She didn't miss a beat before she had her calendar out rescheduling me for another time! Argghhh. This time I knew exactly what I was getting into, but I couldn't find an easy way to wiggle out of it.

Today was the day. I turned up at the required 12.00pm and sat through the sales pitch. Actually I was surprised at how much I understood. It was accompanied with some lovely diagrams and I followed along fairly well, especially when the presenter only required me to nod and smile nicely. A couple of the direct questions were a bit tricky.

But I'd spent the week being concerned about this and obviously this morning too. The biggest worry was how I could feign interest knowing that I'd not be buying the product (I'm not good at feigning interest). And then how I could wiggle out of buying the product. 

As it turns out feigning interest wasn't a problem: I had to concentrate hard to understand as much as I did and that looked sufficiently like interest. For wiggling out of buying it, Japanese as a language is good for this. It is sufficient, often, to give a vague answer and smile, and an apology or two thrown in never harms either.

So, in the end it wasn't worth the worry-work I'd put into it. It actually turned out to be good Japanese language listening practise, and I surprised myself at being able to cope.

But the end result of all this is that my concentration today is shot to pieces. I have lots of nitty gritty details to deal with for the magazine, but I'm clearly not up to it. I think most of them will just have to wait until Monday.

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