Maiko decided to come down on Sunday after her family said goodbye to her brother at the airport, but since she wasn’t going to be here until late afternoon/early evening, I had some time to kill. I saw the Catholic Church in town had English mass twice a month at 3:00 PM and I asked the priest if there was mass on the other Sundays in Japanese. He told me yes, but there was a communication problem (probably a lack of listening on my part) and I understood that to mean there was a 3:00 PM mass every week. I showed up at the church (Mikasa Catholic Church) and went inside to find a few Philipinos and no air conditioning. I sat down and said a few prayers, when I heard a man’s voice saying ‘Is that Strader?’ It was a friend of mine from the base, John, and his girlfriend. John is an officer on one of the ships and his girlfriend is a contractor with the Department of Defense.
About 3:10 or so we came to the conclusion that the priest wasn’t going to show up and that there was no 3:00 mass this week. We decided to get something to eat and ventured out into town. We decided on udon (thick white noodles), but none of us knew a good place to eat them, so I asked some of the Japanese sailors from the MSDF. One guy knew a place around the corner, so he showed us the way. The old lady at the restaurant and all the customers sort of stared at us as we walked in. Everyone in Yokosuka is used to seeing Americans all over town, but I don’t think many Americans venture into the small restaurants where nobody speaks English and there aren’t any plastic models of the food out front or pictures on the menu. I really came to appreciate my modest Japanese ability here, because it seems that the 15,000-plus Americans here are confined to certain businesses here because they can’t communicate. It seems like a terrible price to pay because many of them can only choose from the restaurants near the base where the food is not all that great and the prices are higher than anywhere else.
So the lady says ‘Japanese noodles, Japanese noodles!’ to us in English as we walk in, and was taken aback when I told her (in Japanese), ‘Yes, I know what udon is.’ Many of these restaurant or other business owners don’t seem to notice I am speaking Japanese until I have said at least five sentences, so I usually try to say as much as possible and ask as many questions as possible when I first get there, just to establish myself. This can backfire, though. Once the old ladies realize you can speak semi-intelligible Japanese, they won’t let you go. Don’t get me wrong, I like getting my ego massaged as much as the next guy, but flattery can get old after a while.
John and his girl thought it was hilarious that the old lady kept making such a big deal out of my language ability. They thought she was going to kidnap me and keep me as her own. Very funny…
Anyway, we went to Starbucks and had a pleasant conversation about the current geopolitical situation. Given that my counterparts work for the Defense Department, I don’t think it would be appropriate here to discuss anyone’s personal views on the Internet, but don’t worry, they didn’t disclose any national secrets to me.
Maiko arrived and we shopped for a few minutes, went home to clean up, and went back out to the Internet Café to watch videos. All in all, it was a great way to wind down a very pleasant, relaxing weekend.