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Pongo's TV Debut!

The weather remained temperamental for the few days following our phone call, delaying our meeting with Hokkaido TV and our first taste of life in the spotlight. Not that it was an anticipated event. While Miki remained her usual composed self throughout, fear began to spring from the depths of my subconscious, most of which revolved around my Japanese and how it would cope with a camera that was going to immortalize, for good or bad, every pidgeonized word that would potentially trip, stumble or crash horribly out of my mouth. While my Japanese has progressed from the awkward mumbles that accompanied purchases in the local convenience store to awkward sentences that help me now at least find the toilet, to say it was ready for an on camera onslaught would be an embarrassing misrepresentation of the truth. Over the past few weeks, it has been known to jumble word order of its own accord, resulting in some rather mortifying constructs such as "Etchi no Miki" or "my salacious Miki" in place of the Michi no Eki s or roadhouses that we have been frequenting. "So what is your goal today?" "My goal is a salacious Miki!" I would often reply with a grin from ear to ear. Such mistakes, while terrible for poor Miki, pose no long term threat when confined to one or 5 people that we will now surely never meet again, however, the potential for such a slip to reach a wider audience was now playing on my mind, producing the kind of nerves that could quite easily result in an on screen disaster.

On the morning of our second last day in Hokkaido, we received the call.
"The weather's fine. We're on our way. We'll come find you in about an hour."
As I had had a few days to settle the nerves and to banish some of those fears to the deeper parts of the brain, the news of their imminent arrival did not have the effect that I had been so anxiously anticipating. In fact, as we continued on our way, we laughed and joked, becoming lost in the euphoria of nice weather and the knowledge that we were in spitting distance of our first major goal.

At 9.30, a van pulled over to the side of the road and a young man in a dress shirt and pants stepped out. " Hi, I'm Nakano. Sorry we're late." Together with his young crew comprising a camera woman and sound technician, they went about their jobs of preparing the scenes that they would need for our story while we watched mesmerized at the efficiency with which a TV news story was planned. Our story was to be a 2 1/2 minute piece detailing our last month and the reasons behind such a crazy challenge. The youth of each member made for a friendly atmosphere where work and a relaxed banter mixed freely making everything flow much more smoothly than they had anticipated. Before we knew it, they were ready and we were about to find out what life in front of the camera was like.

"Do this. Walk like this. Can you do this on stilts? No, what about this? Walk faster. Walk slower. Walk together. Line up this way." The directions came thick and fast as they tried to gather as many shots as they could to tell our story in their own way. We walked while they filmed and before we knew it, 2 hours and about 7kms had passed beneath all of our feet. For the first time since the first day, we had managed to string together a walk without breaks for longer than an hour and a half. And our feet were telling us so. As such we were relieved when Nakano-san asked us to stop ahead so that they could begin the interview part of the story.

Miki and I had talked about what they might ask and how we might respond. After 8years together, Miki had become quite adept at knowing precisely when to jump in to help finish a sentence or to help clarify some of the blabber that had on occasion found its way out of my mouth in public. However, there was something about having a camera fixed firmly on our faces that blighted any such cerebral connection between us. When the camera was on us, we spoke, and the when the camera panned away to the other, we sat locked in a state of alarm, pondering whether what we had just said was at all comrehensible. As such, I became acutely aware of the solitary nature that my TV 'debut' would take and at that moment, the fears bubbled back up the the surface of my brain like a boiling pot.

On account of my being non-Japanese, the reporter had wanted to include a question in English, with my response in Japanese. While initially relieved, it was this seemingly innocuous dialogue that would cause my downfall!

"So, how do you think Hokkaido?" asked the reporter in typically erroneous Japlish.
I had toyed with two responses to this most unchallenging of questions. One could talk about not wanting to leave 'Hokkaido' where we were, the other could opposingly talk about not wanting to go to the next place on our route, 'Honshu'. Either one would have been a perfectly safe, appropriate response to his simple question. Either one was easy to utter, even in my pidgeon Japanese. But it was such confidence in this simplicity that caused a horrible lapse, an unconscious merge that resulted in stifled laughter from the crew, and a look of shock from the reporter that will remain with me for many years to come.

What came out of my mouth that day was the spoken equivalent of the middle finger to the people of this big island. Under the pressure of the camera, the words flowed together out of my mouth and before I could reign them back in I realized I had just told the people of Hokkaido that due to our experiences so far, I never wanted to come back to their prefecture again! (Ima made no omoide de, kore kara, zettai Hokkaido ni ikitakunai!)

My first foray in front of the camera was memorable for one horrible slip of the tongue. Now the waiting game would be played out once more. Would this be a slip that would come back to haunt us? More importantly, would Miki ever be able to forgive me for my stupidity.

posted by Mick and Miki Tan @ 3:07 AM,


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