Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Family of Four

From the back seat of the minivan, I quietly watched the driver and his wife argue in Japanese.

"This is the perfect time, what's wrong with you?" he asked, heatedly.

"I can't, I just can't do it!" she protested.

"Why do you study English then? What a waste! There is an American in our car, and you've only said hello!"

"Actually, I'm Canadian."

"Did you understand him? He said he's Canadian. Two years of listening to those tapes every night, I hope so! Ask him something. Ask him a question."

She slowly turned around to face me, straining the seatbelt; straining her nerves. I saw fear and embarrassment in her eyes, and I felt sorry for her. "You ... you ... you ... how old?" She looked at me anxiously. I didn't have time to answer.

"That's not right, mom!" I heard from behind me.

"Yeah, you got it wrong," said the second kid. "How old ARE YOU!"

I turned around to face the brothers, surprised. "I'm 25. How old are you?"

"I am 13 years old," he said, proudly. I looked at his brother, who straightened his back and theatrically declared, "I am 11 years old!"

So the kids practiced their English with me, while the husband bemoaned the high price of his wife's apparently useless English lessons. After asking for my name and what sports, movies and music I like, we switched to Japanese, and I learned that they wanted to be a doctor and an actor someday. That gave the parents a good laugh, who'd had no idea of their kids' career ambitions.

They dropped me off at a highway service area, having driven half an hour out of their way for my convenience. I bowed and thanked them. I gave Canada pins to the kids, thrilled to have met them and their quarreling parents.

The wife, who'd clearly been rehearsing in the car, bowed back and said in English, "Please enjoy travel, I miss you."

No comments:

Post a Comment