My initial method of dealing with the unknown Japanese phrases offered to me at the end of the work day was to mumble something like this: "---esss". Japanese verbs, conjugated in the positive present (and polite) form all end in an 's' sound, and besides - that was all I could understand of what they were saying! When I passed someone in the hallway at the end of the workday, or on the way out to the shuttle bus, I received a nod and this mysterious phrase. I figured that as long as I nodded and "--esss"d back to them, I wouldn't come off as rude.
Fortunately, about the same time I switched to a more populated office, I finally learned what it was and meant. "Otsu kare sama desu" - meaning, "You have done your work well." or "Thank you for your work." Said quickly and without pronounciation, the person on the receiving end (me) hears, "sama dess". But - now I can say it myself, properly! This poses another problem, however.
The majority of the people in my office work later than me - so at the end of the day I say, "Otsu kare sama desu" as I leave my desk. They respond (politely) with a: "saammaa desss". These sounds (I can hardly call them words) come all at the same time, in low monotones. Every day - every single day - I say my politeness, and when the politeness is returned, I have to quickly turn the corner, lest I - heaven forbid - giggle. Or laugh outright. I'm not sure why it's so funny to me, but I have to stiffle the giggle that bubbles up, and quickly run away to laugh about it to myself in the hallway. It's difficult to describe properly, but I assure you - it's funny. If you're really nice to me, perhaps I'll do an impression for you.
Another interesting thing I noticed is the tone I take. I am not a quiet person, I am rarely a shy person, and I am not usually a reserved person when I speak. However - when I say "Otsu kare sama desu", I sound like a mouse.I speak softly, gently, and very quietly. I'm not sure why - it's a strange sensation to hear myself speaking like that, especially to the extent I do. Self-analysis required!
T minus 8 days until Mom comes to visit! I am so excited - for so many things! I think it will be a wonderful 5 days, but it will be really really hard to see her go. I did tell her, though, to bring two suitcases - so perhaps I can squeeze myself into one and get back to Canada! :)
I was asked to write a short article about my coop work experiences for the Coop Connections newsletter, by the end of the month. I realized today that I haven't even thought about it. Shoot.