Category Archives: japanese

A fun-filled day: part 1. Lunch with Nishida

My day started with lunch with Nishida, a Japanese businessman setting up the Philippine subsidiary of MSI Corporation. MSI was my host company during my internship, and I’m greatly obliged to them for the opportunity to see how the Japanese software industry worked. I was nervously thinking of what they might want assistance with, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this was a social call. We met at the lobby of Shangri-la Makati and walked to Zen for (unsurprisingly) a Japanese lunch.

I had fun chatting with him in Japanese. He said he must’ve been to
all the Japanese restaurants in the area, and he proceeded to list
them. They were just imitations, he said, but they were much cheaper
than food in Japan so he wasn’t unhappy. He had some problems figuring
out the bento box system at Zen, so I tried to explain how it worked,
and I also asked for the Japanese menu. (Good thing my mom and I
peeked at the Japanese menu a week or two ago!)

We then chatted about life in a foreign country. I told him how I’d
quickly made friends through free conversations with volunteers,
technical conferences, and nomikais (informal get-togethers). He’s
been in the Philippines for over seven months but has been having
problems making Filipino friends. Although he went to a few karaoke
bars (you know the Japanese and their karaoke), he didn’t really get
to know people there. As he said, women there just hit on you because
they want to marry a Japanese guy. I laughed and told him I have a
wonderful boyfriend; he doesn’t need to worry about me. He has a
Filipina assistant who sometimes teaches him about Filipino culture
(what to do and what not to do), but they can’t hang out because they
work together. All the other people he knows are Japanese, so they
chat in Japanese. As a result, he doesn’t really feel comfortable
chatting in English.

Of course, I offered to switch to English so that he could practice.
He declined, saying he was just so relieved to find a Filipino who can
talk to him in Japanese. I told him a lot of people learn Japanese
because of anime, and offered to help him look for friendship circles
and other things like that.

We also chatted about cultural misadventures. Food was, as always, a
source of great humor, from balut (which we both can’t stand) to
chicharon (which he found absolutely horrific—how can anyone eat that
sort of stuff? I just grin). He told me about this morning’s phone
call. When he called up the house to confirm our lunch, of course he
asked for “Chua-san”—I always used my last name in Japan, following
convention. My dad answered the phone, and it took some back-and-forth
and a bit of panicking on Nishida’s end before my dad realized the
call was for me. Heh. That’s also why I tend to call guys by their
first names instead of by their last names, even if that _is_ their

(You can ask Ernest about the very first time I called him up. See,
his nickname was not only “Baello” (his last name), but he also had
the same name as his father_, so I couldn’t just ask for “Ernest”…
To be safe, I specified his _full_ name instead. That made his mom laugh.)

Anyway. We’ll take care of introducing Nishida to some other people
and taking him out to see some places; it’s the least I can do to
repay my obligations to the volunteers who helped me so much in Japan.
I wish Dominique was there. They’d probably have gotten along very
well. My mom might have fun chatting with him, too; she’ll know how to
make him feel relaxed. Tita Raquel, definitely. I wonder who else
among our friends can help the poor guy… =)

「それではおまえにねこを一匹とってきてあげよう」と、おじいさんはいいました。 “I will get you a cat, my dear,” said the very old man.

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Odd things

On our way back from Infoweapons (and on the prowl for non-fried
places to eat), Paolo and I spotted a brightly-lit cafe with Japanese
characters sprayed on its windows. We stood there for a moment,
deciphering the inscription: 喫茶と軽食. Tea house and snacks. Coffee
and snacks. Something like that.

Then we saw the bookshelves overflowing with manga.


We went in and stared at the manga collection for a moment. I amused
myself by trying to translate the sign posted above the bookshelf. The
English caption mentioned Japanese people who want to converse with
Cebuanos. Being neither Japanese nor Cebuano, I wondered if they’d let
me come and practice Japanese anyway. A look at the clientele—old
Japanese businessmen, pretty Filipinas—and at the high prices posted,
and Paolo and I looked at each other and laughed. It might be like one
of those snack bars I saw in Shinjuku…

Hmm. Maybe we can have a cup of hot chocolate / coffee and read as
much as we want. Maybe Wednesday. Hehehe…

私は妹に新しいコンピューターを使わせてやった。 I let my sister use my new computer.

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Knowing how I wanted to practice my Japanese, Mark Chignell told me
about a couple of Japanese-related events this weekend. (Isn’t it nice
to have a research supervisor who keeps track of your extracurricular

The first event was a language exchange session held last Saturday, at
which I ran into no other than Baryon Posadas. Come to think of it, I
shouldn’t have been that surprised. Of course he’d be at a
Japanese-language event.

Everyone was heading off to Starbucks to chat over coffee. I wanted to
ask how he had been, but I needed to go to Clarkson Station to meet
Tita Sol. We tried to work out some other time to meet, but he had
promised to help someone move and he needed to find an apartment, and
a lot of other things. Technically, I think I’m supposed to e-mail him
if I want to meet him for coffee (or hot chocolate), but now that I
think about it, I don’t have much to chat with him about. Except
perhaps for general settling-in questions, like where’s a good place
to open a bank account or get a credit card, and I already sorta know
the answers to those questions.

Anyway, I went to the barbecue today because it meant a free lunch. I
didn’t get to practice my Japanese, though, as I didn’t feel up to
making small talk in a foreign language—not when there was a
perfectly good conversation to have with Mark about research plans and
what I should do while he’s off in Japan. (Yes, we were talking about
work. On a Sunday! During a long weekend!)

During a lull in the conversation, we wandered around in search for
non-MSG chips. Baryon was there at the table with the unflavored
chips, so I briefly introduced them to each other. Mark got drawn into
a conversation with a bunch of Japanese girls, so I was left on my
own. I asked them if I could sit there. I sat there for maybe a
minutes, idly munching on chips. Got bored, found it difficult to
break into a clique, eventually thought of a question to ask Mark and
left the table without a word.

Anyway, the entire thing prompted a reflection on divergence. I’d
borrowed a number of books from him before (speculative fiction,
mainly), and that was our common interest. Now my reading tastes have
changed (non-fiction and children’s lit) and our worlds are really
very different now.

Mark’s a pretty good judge of character, and he picked up on the
differences too. <laugh> In fact, he thought Baryon was strange.
I shrugged and said, “He’s from humanities.” (Nothing against the
humanities, of course. Hi Marcelle!)

I think that energy makes a big difference to me. Mark’s a positive,
high-energy kind of person, which is one of the reasons why I get
along with him very well. Baryon and a number of other people I know
don’t show that kind of energy often. They’re more reserved and

If you take a look at the people I love hanging out with (Hiya, Just
Geeks League! ;) ), they’ve all got positive energy. One of the things
I like about chatting with Dominique is the way his smile comes
through so well in his voice, and you know his face shows it too! Even
Sean’s deep and serious voice hides playfulness and wit. (You should
watch his Hulk impression… It’s hilarious!) Even though they have
problems like everyone else, their upbeat personalities make the tough
times easier to weather.

I don’t know if Baryon’s like that, and I somewhat remember that he
laughs and joke about some things. Although it would be nice to pick
his brains about stuff I need to know as an international student in
Toronto, I think it would be a fair bit of work to get to the point
where conversation’s comfortable. I’ll probably focus on developing
new contacts instead, at least for now.

もうすぐみんなが自分のコンピュータを持つだろう。 Everyone will have his own computer before long.

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Basic Technical Japanese

JC Helary reminded me that I’d bought a book called “Basic Technical
Japanese”, which is now sitting uselessly in a box or bookshelf
somewhere in the Philippines. I remember really, really loving that
book because of its examples. I’m serious! The examples talked about
atoms and nuclear fission, beakers, computers… Totally, totally
geeky, and totally, totally cool.

Did I give it to someone else, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to take
it to Canada during the first trip? Argh. Anyway, if I did, chances
are that I gave it to one of my barkada. Anyone?

I definitely have to get it next time I fly home. It’s a pretty hefty
book, but I’ll make space for it!

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E-Mail from Jean-Christophe Helary

Random Japanese sentence: 問題は誰が猫に鈴をつけるかだ。 The question is who will bell the cat.