Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Adopted Koreans

In my generation, born in the 70's, growing up in Sweden, there was a lot of Koreans adopted by Swedes. Most schools had a few kids born in Korea, but as they were raised in Sweden by Swedish adoptive parents from a very young age they're basically as Swedish as they can get apart from their Asian looks.
Unknown to many, he was actually raised in Sweden and goes by the name Lasse Svensson

When I'm in Sweden I don't really think about it and apart from briefly noting that they're of Korean ethnicity in my head when I meet one there's nothing really separating them from other Swedes. When I'm in Sweden this comes completely natural.

However, a while back I met an old Swedish friend here in Tokyo for drinks and he brought with him another Swedish friend of his own who happened to be an adopted Korean. This caused my brain to completely short-circuit... 

I have two basic settings in my head; one is for interacting with Westerners (in Swedish or English doesn't really matter, the setting is the same) and the occasional Japanese who grew up overseas or for some other reason is fluent in English and get the jokes. The second setting is my Japanese mode which I switch to when interacting with Japanese people. Obviously the default language here is Japanese (or in more rare cases simplified English) and all the Japanese unwritten "rules" on how to interact with the person in front of me come into play (what is my relation to the person in question? Who is senior? etc. etc.). I've lived and worked in Japan long enough now that this comes natural.

What caused my brain to completely short-circuit when meeting the Swedish-Korean guy was to have in front of me a person looking completely like a Japanese guy making my brain involuntarily switch into Japanese mode (he was dressed in a suit as well as it was after-work, further pushing my brain into the Japanese-business mode). But every time he spoke, with a heavy West-Swedish accent, it made my brain switch back to Western mode. My brain kept switching back and forth, short-circuiting several times until I hit the 4th beer as alcohol often makes my brain settle on one mode and puts the other one to rest...


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Meeting Ninja

The dogs were kinda hard without a throwing weapon...
Last night I had a teleconference with a bunch of people from head office to discuss one issue that affects one of the products I'm looking after. Late night teleconferences are not unusual as Japan often gets handed the short end of the stick when several continents are involved and it's notoriously hard to get people from other departments in the Japanese subsidiary to participate as they usually just shovel it unto us in business development and blame us if the laundry lists of topics we get handed doesn't have time to get covered.

However, in the meeting last night I managed to convince one of the regulatory team that he really should be in the meeting as regulatory issues would be the main topic and it would be best for everyone if he was in the meeting. He seemed to reluctantly agree that he probably should call in.

Come 11PM and I call in to the meeting and not to my big surprise I don't hear his name and assumed that my hope that he would actually call in was futile. In any case, the meeting goes reasonably well and close without any big misunderstandings or issue. I'm not particularly annoyed that he didn't call in as that would have been a huge paradigm shift in attitude to late night meetings, but a little disappointed as I felt that I had almost convinced him.

Then to my big surprise, this morning as I had just come in to the office and gotten started on my first of countless cups of coffee, the regulatory guy calls me up and says "
So Salaryman, I was in that meeting yesterday and I think it was really good that you asked me to participate. I just want to compare some notes with you on what went down". Cue me almost choking on the coffee as I had done all the talking from the Japan side with no clue at all whatsoever that he actually had been in on the call. "Wait, what? You were in the meeting the whole time? Why didn't you say anything?!" I managed to squeeze out in surprise. "Well, I thought you were taking care of things and I don't feel so comfortable in speaking English, so I just listened in" he blurts out like it's the most natural thing in the world.

I think this kind of meeting participating needs a category of its own and I think that "Meeting Ninja" would be a good label to put on this. Being a meeting Ninja means that you join the meeting undetected and slip out without anyone realizing that you were there in the first place... This is probably a lot harder to do in video conferences or face to face meetings though... 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hey, chalk one up for the pets!

He never loved you!
I think it's fair to say that Japan still has some ways to go when it comes to the treatment of animals. I'm not certain on how the actual animal cruelty laws look in comparison with those of the US and the major European countries, but I feel quite certain in saying that Japan is still lagging behind in this area.

However, recently there was some good news on this front. Up until now, some pet shops (
particularly in the Shinjuku area) had been open until well into the early morning with the puppies and kitten on full display in their little plastic boxes. Those shops seem to be geared towards the ladies of the night who feel the craving for a little puppy when they get of their shift at early morning... That there is a large pet market for that industry is another slightly disturbing subject...

But from June the regulation now states that a pet shop cannot have their pets exposed to artificial light past eight PM, which is at least a smaller step forward and might save a few puppies and kittens from early trauma. Still, plenty more that needs to be done, but at least a step forward!  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Learning the wrong language...

The fear and panic is real; the iPad ran out of juice
(First of all, apologies for the host of family related posts these days but with the two little angels/devils at home a lot of my mind and free time is consumed by managing the critters but rest assured that I will not forget the stuff in the other labels as well!)

I think that readers of my blog have already understood how much I love my iPad. My little paddy is nowadays completely essential to me, for home as well as for business travels when all the movies, comics, games, books and built in camera for Skype comes in very handy indeed. Mrs. Sunshine also has an iPad, unfortunately Toddler Sunshine has not completely grasped this and is under the misguided impression that the iPad is actually hers and hers only, severely limiting Mrs. Sunshine's ability to use it when Toddler S is around as she is bound to throw a fit if someone is using HER iPad.

The iPad is filled up with a considerable number of apps for preschool kids, mostly of the educational variety, puzzles and stuff. I have tried to find good apps for toddlers in Japanese and Swedish but the availability of good ones has been scarce so most of the apps are in English. As faithful readers of the blog might remember, I have an elaborate scheme on how to maintain the language dominance in the household
(refresher link to the post here). But in any case, our basic strategy for teaching Toddler Sunshine languages is to focus on Japanese and Swedish for now and not really try to teach her English just yet.

The other week, me and Toddler Sunshine was sitting in the sofa next to each other, me using my iPad while Toddler Sunshine was playing with her (read: Mrs. Sunshine's) iPad. I see from the corner of my eye how she starts up an app with English vocabulary training and does a game where a voice spells out a word and a number of pictures show up and the objective is to push the picture that corresponds with the word. I notice that she manages to hit the picture of an onion when the word comes up but chalk it up to luck, but then just a few seconds later I notice with great surprise how she effortlessly gets ten words in a row correct...

Then again a few days later she's playing with another app training vocabulary for colors in English and hear her gleefully and with almost perfect pronunciation repeats the main colors (for some reason she seem to like "yellow"). This is at a point where we have not gotten her to know the words for colors in Japanese or Swedish yet.

The iPad is a great and terrible thing indeed and the educational potential could completely ruin my plans for language domination in the household... Perhaps I should just delete all the English apps and fill it up with apps from a number of random languages to try to distort the damage already done...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

There was a time...

Fantastic movie, bonus points if you figure it out
...when a wet spot in the double bed used to indicate that some mutually beneficial socializing between me and Mrs. Sunshine had taken place. These days a wet spot in the double bed usually means that Toddler Sunshine's pee leaked from her diapers and that clothes and sheets has to be change in the middle of the night...

...when white stains on the sheet used to indicate that some
 mutually beneficial socializing between me and Mrs. Sunshine had taken place. These days the white stains usually marks the places where Toddler Sunshine has drooled in her sleep (wait, that goes for my drool too so maybe not that different after all...).

Well, we take some comfort in the fact that in about 25 years or so we get the house back to ourselves and a little more time to socialize (
except if Toddler Sunshine becomes Parasite Single Sunshine and just never... ever... leave).

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Nothing else matters

Baikinman, Doki-Chan and Shokupanman socializing
As father of a little toddler, I find myself watching more kid's TV shows than any other stuff on the TV... As NHK has some pretty good shows geared towards the younger kid's, for the first time I feel that we actually get something out of the money that we pay in the NHK fees. Toddler Sunshine enjoys the basic shows such as (readers in Japan with kids will know these shows I'm sure) "Inai Inai Ba" (Peekaboo), "Okasan to issho" (With Mommy), "Eigo de asobou" (let's play in English) and a few others. 

However, in the recent months Toddler Sunshine has gotten a taste for the classic Japanese kid's anime "
Anpanman". I find the whole premise somewhat confusing and bizarre, but the main character is a superhero with a head made of bread with sweet red bean paste filling and most of the cast are based on some form of popular bread as well. I haven't been watching the shows in detail, but they seem to involve a lot of singing and some occasional conflicts between Anpanman and his buddies against the mischievous Baikinman (Germ-man).

From a parent perspective, the Anime is quite ok. There's no promotional stuff thrown into the shows (
although the number of toys and merchandise featuring the Anpanman is too many to count) and there is generally some soft nice friendly message about how you should be nice to people baked into the stories. The popularity of the show and the characters is also quite amazing, basically all kids from ages 2 to 8 loves Anpanman, boys and girls. I tried to think about it a bit, but can't really come up with any Western cartoon that has the same level of popularity among the toddlers.

So at the moment, Toddler Sunshine's life seems to be focused around Anpanman. Whenever she sees a picture of the character anywhere (
which is quite often considering the amount of t-shirts and goods that other kids carry around) she gleefully exclaims "Anmaman" (she's yet to master the correct pronunciation) and in the house she often brings the remote control to the TV and demands to be shown Anpanman...

Me and Mrs. Sunshine has braced ourselves that Anpanman will be a substantial part of our life for quite a few years to come as Baby Salaryman is bound to follow suite in a year or so... 
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