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The truth and the not so true

December 17, 2008

1)  My first Japanese word is probably "Arigato" 「ありがと」or "Sayonara"「さよなら」 (which is seldom used by the japanese for goodbyes unless it’s goodbye forever) but whenever I amuse my Calculus class with "Demo, maa, nanto ka…."   「でも、まあ、何とか,成るでしょ」 I told them my very first Japnese sentence I perfected was "Kanojo, konban ohima desu ka?" 「彼女、今晩、お暇ですか?」Which literally means "Hey Miss, are you free tonight?"  That would draw a hugh laugh from the calculus class.

2)  My first marathon was when I was 14 but I usually mask that and tell people my first marathon was when I was in the military.  That will be my second marathon. I like that better because my time was pretty good.  My very first marathon was a total disaster.  I was in Sec 2 or 3 and with only less than 1 month of preparation, I jumped into the marathon registration and force myself to complete the race in about 6 hours.  Terrible and painful.  It was no preparation and sheer torture on my part.

3)  My first Malay sentence was "Nama saya B**n W**" when I was in Secondary One GESS called during the National Language class.  But anyone who ask me what is my first sentence is, I’ll answer "Saya ‘tak tau Bahasa Malayu".  Isn’t that funnier?

4)  I never say "Gesundheit! " because only American Germans or Yiddish say that when someone sneezes.  Now every pseudo intellectual American linguist will say that when someone sneeze.  Kind of like once upon a time, French was trendy amongst the Aristocrats in GB.  Or have you ever been approached by a train conductor who’d address you as senor or senora (or senorita)?  Once a student in Japanese 102 asked the teacher what the Japanese for "Excuse me" and "’bless you!" was and the teacher answered.  So whenever the teacher sneezes he would say 賛美しなさい or when he sneezed in class he would say "Sumimasen"「すみません」 which to me is strange (I must’ve rolled my eyes every time).  No where in any Japanese or Korean language book/tape explain what to say when someone sneezes.  So much for literal translation/cultural difference.  

5)  Once, in Rocheser, a Taiwanese student (whose Grandmother spoke fluent Japanese) challenged me by asking why I said the the man crossing the road slowly was "ojii-san"「おじいさん」 after he said "ojisan"「おじさん」.   I told him there’re differences in the two.  He took Japanese 101 the very next semester to find out.  Halfway through the course, he told me there was no mention that there was something called "ojii-san" and that the two are the same.  Later he dropped the course because I think he couldn’t bear getting a C or a D for it.  He was just an undergraduate and courses in Rochester are exhorbitant to say the least.  What a waste of time and money!  And after all that, he still didn’t know the difference?  During his first month of class, his grandma even said his Japanese was improving.  Grandma ("Obaa-san") apparently never had the heart to tell him the truth.  Actually I never took Japanese 101, I jumped to japanese 102 because two crazy Hongkonger pulled me along after their Jap 101 and asked me to join them in Japn 102 so that we can all watched Japanese animate w/o subtitles.  Good thing I never have to pay a cent for the course for 3 months.  たかかたですよ!

6)  I always tell people I taught myself how to drive.  But the truth is, after I bought my car, I begged a few people to teach me.  And after many hours of free lessons from them on my manual shift Ford Escort, I spent many, many hours practising in the empty parking lots.  There were also countless times, my car stalled.  A month later, I took the road test and passed it.  I would have taken it earlier but the state of New York requires one to pay to attend 6-hour courses similar to those for drunk drivers before you can do the road test.  Since then I always agree to teaching foreign students  how to drive.  They never have to beg.  And I would spend hours if I had to help correcting them.

7)  In my resume, I said I know C++.  But in reality, I’ve never taken that programming course.  Before you call me a liar, let me explain…I assumed that C++ is just another programming language.  After learning FORTRAN and Pascal in NUS, and COBOL and BASIC in ACJC, I never cared what Object Oriented Programming was all about.  Until in the year 2000, I was told to co-teach C++ and some Java in Gustavus Adolphus College.  When I read the book, I realized I was miles away from where I left off in 1988 NUS Pascal.  But I bit the bullet and taught myself C++ while teaching the Minnesotan students this object oriented language.  From then on, I never tell anyone I knew anything by assumption.

8)  I always tell people I’ve never gone for my own graduation(s) and has never worn the regalia.  The former is true but I wore the Ph.D regalia once.  That year my sixth aunt came to visit me and I borrowed the gown and roti prata hat from a colleague during James Jones graduation.  James Jones is now a medical student in Philadelphia and he probably still remembers me turning up for his graduation but he probably didn’t know that that ceremonial gown was not mine (nor does he know that’s only for Ph.D).  This Friday I will have another commencement to attend but I’ll be in my own dress and gown I bought without any collar or colour and it’snot for a Ph.D!  Don’t even know what school or major it’s for.


9)  Our garage is so cold, we keep our milk and groceries in there.  No, not really.  In December, it might be 49°F (8°C) or 25°F (-3°C).  So it might be just right, it might spoil your food.  But last night we left our slow-cooked Bak Kut Teh in the garage.


I don’t really encourage it in Jan or Feb.  Most of the time during those months, your beer will freeze and eventually burst.  It would even be colder than your freezer.  And one morning you might mistakenly take out used oil from car oil change and thought it’s peanut butter, because after we oil change out car/lawn mower, we put our used oil in big margarine container.


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One Comment
  1. Vicky permalink

    To be actually more precise, I think your first Malay should be Marikita…

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