Two Days As An Interpreter: Tuesday

Tuesday was my second and last day as an interpreter for the group from Bangladesh. On this day the group of people in charge shifted around. The CIR and I were still there, but the others were replaced with two Japanese girls. One had lived in England for a while and was thus serving as interpreter. The other was from City Hall.

We had been warned the night before that we had to tell the group to meet up a half hour earlier than the actual time we were supposed to meet. I’ve heard that cultures whose languages don’t express tense tend to run perpetually late – I have some friends, Indonesian and Hmong, who certainly seem to prove this correct. Though I don’t know anything about the language of Bangladesh, I am now wondering whether this holds true for them as well. We told them to assemble in the hotel lobby at 8:30. They were assembled at 9:30.

Our first destination that day was Sakurajima, the lovely volcano that plays the role of Kagoshima’s mascot. I can see it everywhere I go in the city, but until this day I hadn’t actually been there. I was quite excited – possibly more so than the group. The moment we got on the bus, they were asking if we could go shopping again later that day.

The bus was transported to the island by ferry. From there we drove to the visitor’s center. It was just a small place with an informational video and a tiny museum. It reminded me of so many visitor centers back home from when I used to go on family vacations.

In fact, most of the time while we were on the island, I kept thinking about how my parents would probably love to explore the island. It was definitely one of the more untouched places I’ve been in Japan. At least where I went. There are people living on the island, and there are schools there too. A few of the other ALTs actually get to go to work by ferry.

After our brief visit to the visitor’s center, we headed up a steep road to a scenic overlook. It was funny to see the sidewalk that went all the way up. The CIR and I laughed about this. “Can you imagine riding your bike down that?”

The view from the overlook was impressive in every way. Turn one way and you were looking up at one of the more interesting angles of the volcano. Turn the other way and you could see the entire city of Kagoshima laid out between windmill clad hills. Our timing turned out to be absolutely perfect. The morning had been rainy, but as soon as we got to the outlook, the sun started to come out.

That morning, my job wasn’t so much interpreting as it was taking pictures for the Bangladeshi people. It was a regular photo shoot up there near the volcano. Lucky for us, the ash was heading in the other direction.

When every possible angle had been captured, we headed back to the bus. The original plan was to go to a shrine (at least I believe that’s what they were saying) in Kirishima, an area maybe an hour or so out of Kagoshima. The group decided they would rather do more shopping than see the shrine. However, since we had booked a buffet at some place out in Kirishima, we still had to drive out there.

I really enjoyed the scenery along the way. Due to a past lava flow, Sakurajima actually connects to the land, though it takes much longer to go around that way than it does to go by ferry. The roads we went on were lined with unique rock formations created by the volcano. There were also points where the sea was littered with fisheries, which isn’t something I get to see very often. The bus ride lasted maybe an hour. I was the only one on the bus awake at one point – I can’t sleep on moving vehicles, for whatever reason.

The second half of the day consisted of shopping in a strip mall back in the city. The group was scattered all over, but when I did run into members of the group, they were fairing well on their own. One shop that was popular had one clerk who was pretty good at English. The most popular store was the 100 yen shop, which doesn’t really require much translation. We spent several hours here. I mostly just wandered around aimlessly.

For dinner, we had KFC. It’s hard for me to comprehend why a group from Bangladesh would come to Japan and want nothing more than to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken. Maybe they don’t have them in Bangladesh. I really have no idea. I also had no idea you could book a floor of KFC for parties, but apparently you can. I suppose so far as fast food goes, KFC is higher up on the quality list. Japanese KFC only makes me disappointed, though. They don’t have mashed potatoes here.

At the end of dinner came the biggest culture shock for me. I said before that the people from Bangladesh like to barter. In the stores, it came off as a joke. When a man from the travel agency came to collect money, however, it wasn’t so charming. I heard one of the Bangladeshi men in charge of the group trying to talk the price down: “This is my offer. $800.” The Japanese interpreter didn’t even bother to convey the words. “Okay, I don’t have yen, but I can give you $900 U.S. dollars. That’s my final offer.” I had no idea what was going to happen. Bartering doesn’t work in Japan. Especially not with a travel agency.

What ended up happening was that the Bangladeshi man living in Kagoshima would trade them the proper amount of yen for the dollars. We had to go back to the hotel to meet him. The walk from the KFC back to the hotel was a bit tense. The Bangladeshi man was ranting to me about how the travel agency should just take the money. I tried to explain about currency exchange and Japanese business policy, but it fell on irritated ears.

It was a huge relief when the man came with the yen and everything was worked out. That short incident raised my stress level by quite a few points.

As parting gifts, we were given shirts with the name of the group on them. They were very warm in their goodbye. I was a bit surprised. In all honesty I didn’t converse with them all that much, but they gave me a farewell as if we’d become good friends. It was very nice.

That was how my two days as an interpreter went. Despite the difficult things here and there, it was overall a really fun job to do. Going to school the next day felt like a bit of a drag. I wanted to do more touring! Of course, now I’m back into the normal swing of things. But I suppose this experience has given me a taste of a possible future career. Who knows what I’m going to do after JET is over? I certainly don’t.


~ by megumiwasframed on October 30, 2012.

3 Responses to “Two Days As An Interpreter: Tuesday”

  1. What kind of KFC doesn’t have mashed potatoes?!

    Do you think your parents will ever visit?

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