[The American Years]

Saturday, December 31, 2005

It's nice to be loved.... or at least coveted

After we had our Oyster Stew by candlelight at Nanny's, Zane wanted to blow out the candles on the table. Someone made him laugh when he tried, and he just couldn't get the breath together. Then we laughed at his trying to blow out candles through his laughter. Our laughter fed his laughter and vice versa. The madness and giddiness hit the whole table. Only the candle remained unaffected. Sadly or gladly, I didn't get a single picture of it. I say gladly, because I got to see Zane in a pure boyhood moment, and I wasn't thinking about focus or red eye reduction. Then on New Year's Eve, Kathleen made a lovely dinner which we enjoyed by candlelight. As if on cue, Zane cracked himself up trying to blow out the candles. This time the camera was handy. Here's a series from that. I challenge you to not smile at this boy.

News news news. Note for those of you who might want to someday work for a company like mine: Plan nothing. Everything will change. The only thing constant is change. But you'll get used to it.

The story through now: There have been 3 different Japanese entities who've had opinions about when I would start my term in the motherland. (1) The project leaders want me (or any warm bodied gaijin) over there to pick up the workload as soon as possible. (2) Global Human Resources in Japan who officiates the Inter Company Transfer policies says all transfers have to happen in January or June. So that would mean I wouldn't go until June. (3) My big Japanese boss in the US is the VP of Engineering. He called in a favor to get me approved to go in March. Lovely compromise. Everyone's happy. I thought we were all set. .... THINK AGAIN!

Now enter the fourth entity. (4) The big Japanese boss at the location where I'm leading the current project thinks I need to stay put through the end of March to see this project through. You'd think, fine: put (4) in touch with (3) and let them fight it out. That sounds easy enough. Yes, maybe a bit too easy. You see, the great compromiser (3) the VP of North American engineering has gone back to Japan. His 3-year term here is done and he's repatriated. So now (4) can push around the American management that remains. The incoming Japanese VP doesn't know me from rice pudding, and would respond: "Kan ke nai". Or as the Japanese say :"I doesn't know; I doesn't care."

So the long end of the story is that something might change, but maybe not. Maybe only my departure. When the family all joins me is largely set. If the solo portion of my Japanese trip is shorter, nobody happier than me.

I routinely make fun of the way the Japanese speak English, because I want the Japanese to clown me as much as possible. Which of course, they'll never do. Too dadgum polite.

Interesting language note: Kathleen's name is difficult to pronounce for the Japanese. Having the 'TH' sound followed by 'L' sound is especially challenging. Japanese doesn't really have either sound. It'll be interesting what they make of it. Our Latino friends speaking the Spanish language (which also doesn't typically have 'th' sound), use the Latin equivalent of her name: Catalina. Very lovely. Both as a salad dressing and an island. Kathleen loves that pronunciation because of all the beloved people who call her by that name.

The Japanese are more likely to substitute a hard 'S' for the 'TH' sound in foreign words. [This week's trivia contest: Is there or has there ever been a Japanese car model from any maker which has 'TH' in the name? If someone can think of one, please share. None come to mind for me right now. And nope: Thunderbird is either the Ford product, or the delicious fortified wine. Both would be pronounced Sahn-dah-bahd in Japan. Both also have more kick than most of the domestic Japanese output in either market.]

Back to Kathleen's name. It's very likely that Japanese could pronounce 'Kathleen' very similar to 'Gasoline' if we're not careful. Don't tell her, but I guarantee there'll be one jokester in our household who will be less than careful with the pronunciation during introductions. This person will ensure it's pronounced and even spelled 'Gasoline', just for giggles. Has a nice ring to it. "Mmm, Very crazy Americans name their children after petrolium products.

I've got a little more to write, but I'll save it for next week. First rule of show biz: Keep 'em wanting more. My man Ray Milland taught me that much.

Thanks for the comments which have been posted. Many people emailed saying they prefer not to comment, but are happy to email nice pats on the head to me, which is really all I'm after. Public or private, all any of us wants is validation.

"[The Japanese] are extremely good imitators — and so polite they even copy the mistakes." - Earl Scruggs, Bluegrass legend, b.1924


Christy said...

Lovely piece!! And, yes - the photos of Zane got muchas sonrisas from me!! Thanks for inviting me to see your blog...I always look forward to hearing/reading what's going on with you guys. What's more - I always enjoy good writing!
Ciao for now.

casister said...

Well, I was at the first candle blowing event. It was something I'll never forget. Of, course I'm one that thinks there's nothing like the sound of children laughing!
Hey the people might mispronouce Kathleeen's name, but will love her and your cute adorable children! Eric you're still pretty cute too!