small children and “Haro Kiti”


I mentioned before that I went to Disney with my younger brother a few weeks ago.

We went to Hollywood Studios and had a great time, just the two of us. One thing that my family and friends have learned to accept about me is that I love interacting with small children everywhere we go. It sounds creepy, I know, but I can kinda-sorta-usually get away with it because I’m a bubbly, 20-something female who drives a Honda, not a 50-something man in a white van with leopard upholstery.

So, throughout the day at Hollywood Studios, Reid and I talked to a few different cute kids in various lines and rides.

There was one particular ride that I had been advised to go on by a Disney expert friend: the Toy Story ride. You play various arcade shooting-style games in this attraction and it sounded pretty fun, so Reid and I braved the bleak, misty, hour-long queue to go on it.

An Asian family got in line behind us for the attraction. It was a young mother and father with two children; the girl appeared to be about four years old and the boy couldn’t have even been two.

I started to speak to the mother and little girl and realized that beyond “hello,” their English was quite limited. (The mom also knew how to say “We don’t speak English,” which helped.) They told me that they were Japanese.

Most people would give a warm smile and give up here, but I still had almost an hour of line-time with these people. I was not giving up that easily. So, I pulled out my phone and began searching for easy Japanese sayings I could say to the little girl and the mom.

Note: I keep referring to them as “the mom” and “the little girl” because when they said their names, multiple times, I never could understand what they were saying. I was sad.

Apparently, my pronunciation was so poor that they still couldn’t understand what I was trying to get across, so I resorted to showing the mother my phone and pointing to what I wanted to say. Thank you Google Translate.

But the little girl couldn’t read, and she was who I really wanted to connect with.  I felt it my duty to help keep her entertained during such a long line!  Desperate for something, anything we had in common, I spotted her, on the hood of the little girl’s shirt: Hello Kitty.

Excitedly, I searched for what the Japanese name equivalent was for the beloved character.  I found the Wikipedia entry which I thought showed the pronunciation just perfectly.


Excitedly, I attempted to say “Kiti howaito” to the little girl while pointing at her jacket.  Her face registered no understanding.   I switched and used what I thought must be the Japanese pronunciation, “Haro Kiti.”  Hah-row kee-tee.  I said it a few times.  Reid began laughing.  Finally, what I was doing registered in my head.  It sounded like I was simply mocking a Japanese accent.  But I wasn’t!  I was trying to communicate with this little girl!  

Now I was not only a weirdo but was potentially being seen as racist.  Wonderful.

Finally, I showed the page to the mom who looked at it and declared, “Oh!  Hello Kitty!”  There it was.  The other English that they knew.  Right.

And so for the next twenty minutes, I stopped trying to speak and simply squatted down, doing Google image searches of weird or quirky Hello Kitty’s and showing them to the little girl, trying to get her to laugh.  Laughter is universal, right?

And every time a funny one came up, and she giggled, I felt my heart do a small victory dance.  It’s crazy what kind of odd photos and illustrations you find when you get to the 30th page of Google image results.

Eventually, my phone battery was exhausted and I had to put it away, but the whole ordeal definitely made the line go by faster for all involved parties (and a few amused bystanders).



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