For the past week my Japanese class been studying illnesses and injuries. This has been relatively easy compared to last week’s lessons on … comparisons. This week I have learned how to say, “I have a stomachache,” and, “I hurt my leg when I fell down the stairs” (this one will be most useful for clumsy me, so I am memorizing this one dilligently). Things are going fine, except that I can never remember the word for head. Instead of saying “My head (atama) hurts, I often say, my egg (tamago) hurts. Gives new meaning to the phrase, “egghead.”
And then there’s bempi…
You would think that a class full of grown adults would be able to make it through a lesson learning how to say, “I am constipated (bempi).” If you did, though, you would be wrong. Even if the idea of learning about constipation in Japanese wasn’t enough to set a classroom full of 20-somethings laughing hysterically, the word, bempi is just funny in its own right. Our persistant, dedicated teacher did her best to rein us in. “This is important!” she would say.
Little did we know that bempi might actually come up in a real conversation. Two days after learning that funny word, I was talking with another missionary who has been here a year already. At a convienence store, the missionary met another English speaker who asked him for help finding medicine for — you guessed it — bempi.
Our teacher is right. It is important.