The distant future, the year 2000

Have you ever seen the delightful romantic comedy Serendipity, starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale (and described as “sheer romantic entertainment!” by Jeanne Aufmuth of the Palo Alto Weekly)? Neither have I, but the title of that film happens to be a nice way to describe an event that happened to me last week.

I received this:

“The Great Robot Exhibition”!? That’s right – after searching Japan in vain for some months for traces of robotic civilisation, here they were, hiding under one conveniently packaged roof! Barely able to contain my excitement, I tore down my posters at home of my favourite robot, the one from Lost in Space whose name I can’t remember, and prepared to submerge myself in a better, brighter future.

This is the first thing you see upon entering. “Robotto ga suki!?”. This means either “do you like robots?”, or “I like robots!”. To that, I would have to answer a mighty “hai” (instead of “hai”, we say “affirmative“). This could only be good.

More pictures and robotic tales of intrigue after the link!

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Yatta!

Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu – Happy New Year! I’ve been back in Japan for a week now after a very relaxing, though active holiday in Australia, and it was fantastic catching up with everyone I was able to see. After nine months living in Japan, it was also very valuable to take a step back and get some perspective and reflection on how the last year has gone, and to set a game plan for the next stretch.  Already, though, the Japanese-learning demons haunt me once again…

Some good news – I started the year with a win! As fans of Heroes will know, “yatta” means “I did it!”.  For the canonical lyrical reference to yatta, please also see the craziest music video about a word ever. In a sign of the times, my favourite Japanese translation website also translated “yatta” as “w00t”. I don’t know whether to cheer or cry.

So, on to what I was yatta-ing about. I recently ordered a copy of Presentation Zen from Amazon.co.jp. As luck would have it, when my book arrived this morning, I was out. And when you miss a package delivery, this is what you get in your letterbox instead:

Oh dear. The last time I got one of these, I got one of the guys at work to help me reschedule the delivery time. This time, however, it was the beginning of a long weekend in Japan, and I was pretty keen to get my book, so I gave it a shot and rang their phone number.

Of course, there’s no English option. Here’s how the conversation went.

Pleasant Automated Female Voice: Konopigo arpeggio Pelican Delivery Company burble murble bumble honored customer. Speekle splort input your mobile phone number please. [Silence]
Me: (Slightly relieved that it sounds like I got the phone number correct,  enter my phone number)
PAFV: Thank you. Mumble grackle confirm. (Reads my phone number back). Blurkle yes, press “sharpo” cabble. Blurkle no…
Me: (Presses the “sharp” (hash) key.)
PAFV: Hooble google gabble. Spackel input your quankle number please. [Silence]
Me: Err… (enters an important looking number on the delivery slip)
PAFV: Excuse me, hobble dobble bingle. Brangle doo. Rinka input again please. [Silence]
Me: Okay… (picks another important looking number)
PAFV: Thank you. Hooble gooble shooble. Rickle input your quijangle number please. [Silence]
Me: (Tries the first important-looking number again)
PAFV: Thank you. Wankle shamp gangleon blurn. One, today. Two, tomorrow, three…
Me: (1)
PAFV: Potify graqua drangla, time spackel makel bobble. 12:00 to 14:00, press…
Me: (I cheat and use the handy timetable provided on the docket.  At least I can read numbers.)
PAFV: Thank you. Bongle damgle yutter. Wera yuta kobina using chogo. [Disconnect].
Me: (Experiences a deep sense of uneasiness that I don’t know exactly what I just did, but I hope I didn’t order my book shredded or something).

Well, strike me down if I didn’t get a knock on my door at the appointed hour with the very book in question:

Hoora…. uh, w00t!

There’s nothing like moving to a foreign country with very foreign language to lower the “satisfying achievement” bar – often, to below ground level.

Now I’m off to read my book, whose delivery time I rescheduled all by myself, while drinking a drink whose name I cannot yet pronounce.