Friday, December 7, 2012

"Do you want that TO GO?"

This is just a lighthearted story from a few weeks ago.  Maybe it'll provide a chuckle at our expense and also give you another peek into our lives here...

Thanksgiving Lunch with our Team
     It was the Friday night before Thanksgiving, and Gina had promised to make a green bean casserole for our team's thanksgiving lunch on Saturday afternoon.  In case you (like me) have never made a green bean casserole, you need to know that those crunchy onions on top are absolutely essential to the recipe.  This fact is important to the following story...as is the unhappy reality that the aforementioned crunchy onions are a little hard to find here in Japan.
     To put things into context, we were on our way home from a shopping trip where I'd reluctantly spent $7 each on light bulbs (yep, go back and read that again...it's not a typo).  Gina pointed out that she'd seen some fried onions on the bar at a local udon restaurant where we'd eaten lunch the day before.  She asked if I would please go inside and get an order of fried onions "to go" so she could use them on her casserole.  Probably that seems like a reasonable and simple request...but NOTHING in our lives is simple right now!  I immediately started thinking about the mental effort it'd take to communicate that I wanted those fried onions..."to go".  After having spent so much energy (and money) buying light bulbs, there was no way I was going to such trouble for a casserole.  I started shaking my head before Gina even finished her sentence.  I explained how the casserole would be just as good without the onions on top...in fact, I surmised that it might even be BETTER!
     As I walked from the car to the door of the udon shop, I opened up "Google Translate" on my smart phone and started to put a plan together.  I looked up the Japanese word for "box" (bo-ku-su) and rehearsed it a few times before walking in the door.  When the lady behind the counter looked my way, I smiled and said "konnichiwa!"  She obviously understood my greeting, and I felt a flood of confidence wash over me.  I proudly pointed to the onions, opened and closed my hands like I was holding a take-out box, and pointed from the onions to the front door, saying "bokusu, deska?"
     Yes, it's alright to laugh at me...it really did look as silly as it sounds.  The lady behind the counter was doing her best to keep a serious face and listen intently, but she didn't seem to understand.  So, I repeated myself a little slower (and probably a little louder, because that's what we Americans do when someone doesn't understand us).  She left me hanging for what seemed like an eternity...pretending not to understand.  Then, in very good English, she said, "Sir, are you saying you want the fried onions take-out???"  I smiled sheepishly and replied, "Yes...I'd like the onions take-out...thank you."  She turned around and told the man behind her to put some fried onions in a take out box.  Actually, I'm pretty sure she said a bit more than that based on how they all laughed after she finished!
     You'll be relieved to know that Gina's casserole turned out great and was a big hit at our team lunch.  In fact, the fried onions from the udon shop were even better than the canned ones she'd used in the past, and everyone wanted to know where they came from.  So, I expect this won't be my last trip to the udon shop for fried onions.  Next time, I'll just tell them I want an order of onions "take-out"!

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