Snap Shot #9: Lost in Translation



Should I put on a mask or not? I do have a packet of them in my bag but they were bought more as a joke than as a practical purchase. I got them in Tokyo after my wife, son and I had giggled at the numerous locals walking around with unflattering white cups over their faces. But as I sit in the waiting room of a Kyoto hospital, donning a mask is beginning to seem like a good idea. There are only a few other people waiting and a couple of them are masked. Given how unwell they look, I am grateful. But I’m less grateful about the unmasked old dude coughing his guts out not too far from me. Maybe, to be safe, I should put on a mask. After all, I can’t look much more ridiculous than I already do. Before I make a decision, I am called over to the desk. A nurse is found who speaks enough English to take my details. I must be put into the Japanese health system and in return, receive my very own swipe card. Very efficient. Though not surprising. Next, a young doctor who also speaks some English invites me into a small examination room. I point to my face. What had started out as an angry pimple in Tokyo has ballooned into a puss filled heaving mass just below my right eye. It has gotten so bad that its starting to encroach on my vision. So it was decided that I should get it checked out while my wife and son continue to explore Kyoto. The handsome young doctor has a look and a bit of a prod. He nods knowingly. “Yes – I know what it is. But not the word in English”. Then his face lights up. He takes out his mobile phone, opens an app, then speaks in Japanese. There is a pause. Then a robotised female voice says: “Fondue.” We look at each other. “Um – I’m pretty sure that it’s not a fondue”. The doctor shakes his head. “No, no”. So he gives it another go – this time saying the word with his most precise Japanese elocution. Another pause. “Fondue.” The doctor just rolls his eyes and shrugs. “It’s ok. Just bacteria. Will give you cream.” I walk out soon after with a tube of anti-bacterial cream and a new family phrase that will forever be used to ridicule me: “Dad’s Fondue”.