Okay, on to Shinjyo-san and our famous visit. Debb and I had been out walking with Brittney.
We used to like to go down to the "mama-san store" where Brittney delighted in looking at all of the colorful and inviting Japanese candies. Felix gum!! Oh, how we all loved Felix gum... and sadly, we have darn near run out of what was last sent to us. Thank you, Kym and Alan, for that last CARE package from Okinawa!!!|
As we were walking back from the store, we encountered Mr. Shinjyo in his yard. We exchanged polite "Kom-ban-wa" and "O genke desu-ka?" Before we knew it, Debb, Brittney and I were invited to go in for a visit with the Shinjyo family. Graciously, we accepted his invitation.
We removed our shoes at the door and were ushered into the first room which was cluttered with odd & ends - typical of the small homes in which most Okinawans live. This home was not dirty or even messy - just cluttered, like my house!! In the center of the room was a low table positioned in the center of a tatami covered floor. A low hutch was beyond the table and a number of colorful plastic boxes containing a variety of household items was to the right. Shinjyo-san gestured for us to sit and so we sat - cross-legged at the table. Mrs. Shinjyo brought in a small laquerware tray bearing tea cups and a bottle of Awamori.
It had been many years since I'd been on Okinawa and what little Okinawan dialect that I remembered was matched by Mr. Shinjyo's broken and limited English. Nevertheless, between the four of us, we were able to carry on a very rudimentary and polite introduction. We understood as Shinjyo-san introduced his wife. I regret that I cannot remember her name. *sigh*
It was my turn: "Watakushi-no namei wa Mick desu," I said, hoping that it made sense and that I hadn't mispronounced something that meant your zipper's down or some other equally gauche blunder. But, Shinjyo repeated, "So-so, Mih-kee?"
I thought it odd, that he had repeated it back and had added the "ee" but figured that almost all Japanese words end with a vowel, so perhaps it's just easier to say the word with "ee" at the end. No biggie! I mean, it's not that I'd get confused with all the other Micks in the neighborhood, right? So I smiled and said, "Hai! Mih-kee!"
Now, with a little hesitation, I introduced my wife. I know now that when referring to someone else's wife, it's okay to say Oku-san but that word isn't used when referring to one's own wife. But, at that time I didn't know that, so I said, "Watakushi-no oku-san namei wa Debb desu." Now, don't e-mail me telling me how grammatically pitiful that is. But that's what I said and apparently it was close enough for the Shinjyo family to understand.
Shinjyo-san picked up the flask-shaped earthenware bottle and gestured as to inquire if I wanted more Awamori. With pleasure I held my cup up and he poured. He then offered some to Debb who shyly declined. Only then, after we were served did he pour himself another.
A young girl entered the room and offered a tray which held some small, tan waffer-like crackers with tiny green chips on top and which had a very glossy glazed coating which made them shine in the relatively dim light of the tatami room. (by the way, those salty, sweet crackers became one of our most favorite snacks!) Not wanting to offend anyone, I bowed my head - more like an exaggerated nod - smiled and said, "Doomo arigato!" Likewise, Debb took one, nodded and said "Doomo!"
It's common courtesy among the Okinawans to serve oneself last or for two or more to serve each other. For example, let's say Shinjyo-san and I were at a club and had ordered a couple of Orion beers: the waitress would bring the beers, set them in the middle of the table and would set a glass in front of each of us. It is then proper for me to have taken a bottle and poured into Shinjyo's glass and he would reciprocate. Kinda nice, isn't it. Just another example of their gentle nature.|
Mr. Shinjyo then turned back to Debb and I and questioned, "Debbu?" I had just introduced her as my wife, Debb. Well, we thought, here it is again - Debbu instead of just plain Debb. Easier to say... ends with a vowel. So I nodded, Debb smiled and I said, "Hai!! Debbu!"
With that, Mr. and Mrs. Shinjyo broke into broad smiles which quickly turned to stifled polite giggles. Shinjyo-san summoned his daughter who came back into the room and knelt between her parents. In hushed tones, Shinjyo was chattering to her and Debb and I most certainly couldn't understand a thing. At one point during the chatter, he gestured toward my wife and enunciated the word Debbu! Then all three laughed out loud. They abruptly stopped the laughter and the young Miss Shinjyo, still giggling with her hand held daintily across her mouth, scurried off to parts unknown.
Perplexed, we smiled and bowed and toasted with Awamori. We visited for another 15 - 20 minutes then excused ourselves as it was getting past Brittney's bedtime. I didn't know how to say that so I just pointed to my daughter then laid my head against my praying hands and closed my eyes. It worked!! He knew what it meant as he gestured toward the clock on the wall and immediately stood to usher us back out. All in all, it was a wonderful visit and we had finally got to meet our new landlord. We had rented through a rental agency and had not previously met the owner.
Once back in our own house, Debb and I both agreed that it was a little weird that they had called in the daughter then laughed about my wife. We simply trusted that whatever it was, it was well-intended and not something to worry about.
The following morning, I related the story to Toshi, our Japanese clinic receptionist. She listened intently as I recounted the previous night's visit with our new landlord. As I was getting into the part of the story when I had introduced my wife, Toshi covered her mouth with her hand and began to giggle. "You didn't told Shinjyo-san your wife name is Debbu, did you?"
Gentle readers, if your name, or the name of any one dear to you is Debb, introduce her as Debbie or Deborah or even Gladys.
In Japan, debu means fatso!!!!
Oh!! And those goats! What can I say about goats? They were goats! Cool goats though!