Cross Cultural Storytelling: The Lighter Side of the East West Center is a project that hopes to be a repository of notable East West Center impressions. When different cultures meet, poignant, humorous, and uplifting experiences create treasured memory recalls that last, and are quite simply, unforgettable. A new story will be published each week.
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SUBMITTED BY: Deborah A. McGlauflin
FIELD/AREA OF STUDY: East Asian Studies (M.A. from U.H.)
YEARS AT THE EWC: 1977 – 1978
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
CURRENT COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE: USA
It was a cold snowy winter night out in Kofu Japan back in the 1970’s when Kofu was still a very provincial capital of a rural prefecture with very few foreigners. I needed to catch a taxi to get to a nearby junior college to teach an English class. Since I was all bundled up in a snow parka with my hood up over my head, the driver of the taxi that stopped couldn’t tell he was picking up a foreigner — at least not until I hopped in and pushed my hood back. He looked totally dismayed as, in perfectly passable Japanese, I told him where I wanted to go.
“I don’t understand English,” he said in Japanese.
“No problem,” I said amiably, “because I’m speaking in Japanese.”
His response was a blank stare, and another, “I don’t understand.”
As I repeated the address, adding some small talk about the weather, he pushed the button down on the microphone and said to the dispatcher, “Hey, I don’t know what to do. A foreign woman got in the car and I don’t understand what she’s saying and where she wants to go. How do I get her to get out?”
I confess I was now getting frustrated and needed to hurry to get to class on time, so I interrupted saying, “Please, I need to get to Eiwa Tandai (Eiwa Junior College) right away. It’s just straight down this road.”
The driver apparently still had the button pushed on the mic and the dispatcher heard me. He said back to the driver, “Is that her? What’s your problem? She’s speaking Japanese.”
With that, the driver turned and looked at me disbelievingly and said, “You speak Japanese?!” After that, he had no problem understanding me and he laughed at himself as we chatted all the way to the college.
Current job/institutional affiliation: President, Insights in Action, Inc.
Brief family update: Married. At last count, six grandchildren.