Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Japanese Adventure VII

Ha ha, okay, so maybe I'm a little behind on my updates. Returning from Japan left me with a lot to do and not much time to do it in, so I've been putting off updating the blog. However, I now will finish the job. Yikes, can you believe I originally intended to go back and put in more detail on the last entry? Not anymore. It will be enough just to finish this sucker off. Ah well.

Sunday 6/6
Okay, this was the first day on the trip that I found myself feeling miserable. I woke up and felt quite ill. I couldn't figure out why. Had I not slept enough? Perhaps I was hungry? Either way, I just felt exhausted, sore, and generally unhealthy. There was no helping it, though; I was going to church! Hooray for my first trip to church since arriving in Japan! Maeda-sensei agreed to take me to this large (for Japan, apparently) Presbyterian church in town. It's a shame he himself is not a Christian, but I figured this was a good opportunity for him to at least have some exposure. He picked me up and off we went. One of the members, an older man, knew some english and translated as much of the service as he could for me. Actually, it turns out most of the 100 or so members were older. I saw very few people under 30, and I could count on one hand the number of people under 20. Oh well. Seeing a Japanese church was a cool experience, even if I couldn't understand a word of it. It was pretty much like any other traditional church service.

Returning from the service was a blessing. I had been feeling light headed the entire time, but by the time I returned, I thought I was going to just fall over. Yasushi ate a light lunch with me, but reminded me we were going to the park to meet Fujiko for a picnic at 2. The lunch helped some, so I thought I would be all right.

We left and arrived at the park to find Fujiko and another family there, with the children off playing. I talked with them a little, and ate a little bit of food, but I spent the afternoon napping in a chair off and on. They kept offering me food, but between my tiredness, my sore back, and my queasy stomach, I wanted nothing to do with it. I ended up leaving about 4, with Yasushi guiding me back. I returned, and slept then from 5 until 7. I awoke and prepared for bed and finished watching "The Fujitive" (Yay for movie channels in english!) and then went back to sleep. I was definitely sick.

Monday 6/7
By this time, I knew I was sick with something. I woke up and felt miserable again. Thankfully, I had no class until 1, and Fujiko wanted me to stick around so she could run errands. This was a fine opportunity to take a nap. Sadly, I slept on my hands, and when I woke up, Fujiko walked into my room to see me attempting to wake my hands up, waving them around and grasping at nothing. Ooops. Getting to class was then quite miserable. During class, I was so out of it that Fujikane-sensei surely noticed the funk I was in. I was barely coherent, much less teachable. Yikes. I went back right after class (another miserable ride) and rested the entire evening.

Tuesday 6/8
Tuesday did not fare much better. I felt much better and much livelier (is that a word?) . . . at first. After class in the afternoon, my stomach began to ache horribly. I thought the ghost of my appendix had returned to torment me, until the truth came out . . . pun intended. Let me just take a moment now to say that I apologize for nothing; having gas is part of being human and it really affected me at this point in my trip.

I spent my time after class that day sitting at home and trying to get rid of gas the natural, God-designed way :-)

Wednesday 6/9
This was a full day. It started with lunch on the quad with some of the Japanese students. "Jingis kan." Ha ha. It was fun, though socialization is hard when you don't speak much japanese, and the other don't speak much english. Someday, I will return with more and get so much more out of the trip. In any case, Dan and another guy were taking shots out of some bottle that was 110 proof or something. He was pretty buzzed by the time we made it to class later. What a loser.

It was after class that I found out that Aggie, one of the Chinese girls, broke her nose the night before. It made for an awkward moment when Dan and Young were comforting their respective girlfriends and I sat at the computer, wishing I wasn't in the room. I wanted to visit her in the hospital (she had to have surgery to fix this), but nobody ever took me to go or told me where it was she was staying. Grrr.

We had to write speeches in class for the farewell party given by the university that night. We arrived with our speeches, Fujikane-sensei translated, and we left. Wee . . . waiting for the others was boring. She did buy us gifts, though. How very thoughtful!

That night, at the party, I was a celebrity again. I took more pictures with people I hadn't seen since the welcome party (or even at all!). We gave our speeches, and apparently my pronunciation and rhythm is butt-kickin'! We saw a recorder group play, our host families gave speeches, we received gifts . . . it was a grand, if somewhat dull, occasion. Saying good-bye was hard, but all things must end.

On a side note, my gas was even worse this day. I had to do some very creative work at the party, let me tell you . . .

Thursday, 6/10
This day was really bad. First sickness, then gas, and finally full-blown diarrhea. I just knew the food was going to get to me at some point or another. I stayed home the entire day. I didn't want to leave at all. This was sad, though, because I was to go see a museum with the man who had translated at church for me on Sunday. I felt bad for cancelling on him, but there was no way I was going anywhere. By the evening, I felt a bit better, and went with Fujiko to the Hippo meeting. This was actually fun for the first time. I was sad to say good-bye, but it must be so.

Before the meeting, Fujiko bought me a pair of "jin-bei." It's a pajama/kimono thing, and I now look like a weirdo when I sit around the house :-)

Friday 6/11
Oh, I was glad to be feeling better this day! I went to Biei with Mike, Dan, Ayaka, and her cousin. This was pretty fun; being around Dan isn't bad all the time. We saw some mountains and flowers . . . very dull to explain, though the pictures are pretty. We made some stops along the way. The first was at a 7-11, where I tasted my first and last "Golden Grape Fanta". If I ever find this again, I shall be a happy man. The second stop was to try lavender flavored ice cream. Not bad, really. The third stop was so Ayaka could smoke. Oh well. We had a lot of fun all the same.

I returned, but Fujiko was not there, so I walked downtown to the grocery store and bought a bunch of Pocky. Yes! I hope to find it in America somewhere, because I am definitely now hooked on this stuff. The rest of the evening was TV and cards with the family, but we did have sushi for dinner. I must say, I'm not a fan, but it's the wasabi, not the sashimi. I had fun being with the family, though I couldn't sleep, so ended up watching some late night TV with Yasushi and Fujiko. Worked up, I guess.

Saturday 6/12
This was a ridiculous adventure. I have never packed so much into so little. My suitcase and other bags were literally bulging at the seams. I was afraid they would explode. Yasushi had to leave for work, so he said good-bye before I left. The rest of us went to Michael's at 9, with our plane departing at 10:30, and Mike wasn't ready to leave until almost an hour later. Yikes . . . I was so afraid we were going to be late because he couldn't pack his bags on time. We arrived at the airport to see the other guys, half of Hippo, many of the university students, and our professors. Wow. It was nice, as we were taking pictures and saying good-byes and people were continually shoving gifts into our hands and bags. (We guys agreed: We were already on the verge of collapse due to the weight of our bags, and there's a fine line between breaking your back and enjoying a warm muffin.) Lots of tears in saying good-bye to Fujiko and family, but it must happen.

Unfortunately, this is where my luggage adventure began. I had my 4 wine bottles in 2 boxes packed in my suitcase, but apparently this was not allowed. They made me take them out, but allowed them to come on the airplane in bags they provided(never mind the corkscrew in the box!). Now I had 3 carry-ons, but no one cared.

On the plane to Haneda, I read a newspaper in english. It was heavenly to see an english publication again. Arrival, though, alerted me to the fact that my combined luggage was WAY too heavy to lug around a lot. Quite miserable. When we made it to Narita, it was still perfectly fine for me to take 3 carry-ons . . . on. We had dinner at the Big Boy in the food court. Let's have some math . . . Airport + Japanese "American" food = Weird. At least it was food. It was also nice at this point to see westerners frequently. I missed english and people who didn't look at me like I was an alien. It was a good day . . . Dan and Mike got along, we made it to our destination . . . it was good.

The flight out was long, boring, and uncomfortable. I couldn't sleep, so I watched movies. What do I say about this? Long flights are boring, and my thoughts were continually centered around the same things they had been the entire time I was in Japan. Arriving, though, was a pain. First, we had to wait in LONG lines. Stupid customs. Customs stole my food that Fujiko had given to me. Apparently beef curry mix is too dangerous for America. Go figure. Then the airport shuttle was so crowded, and yet people insisted on shoving me and my abundance of luggage into a tiny space. Grr . . . To top things off, the luggage nazis of O'Hare suddenly refused to allow 3 carry-ons. Why was it okay in Tokyo but not Chicago? I managed to get it done, but not after a lot of hassle and a lot of dirty looks from people who were held up by me (If you want more details on this, just ask, but be warned: The story gets me riled up). Incidentally, the corkscrew still made it onboard. These people are not doing their jobs.

By this time, waiting for my flight back to St. Louis, I was so exhausted I just wanted to sleep, but I was alone now, having split with Mike and Dan, and thus was too fearful of luggage being pilfered to take a terminal nap. I was dead-tired, hungry, sweaty and gross (the bathrooms did not help the gross feeling, sadly), and could do nothing about any of those. Well, I did eat some dinner, but the place was so crowded that I didn't really get to enjoy it. Ach.

At least the flight back wasn't so bad. I got to chat with some very nice people. One was a guy who just finished finding an apartment in Boston near the university he was transferring to. Apparently he's a really good jazz pianist, as well. Cool. The other was a girl starting university in the fall who just returned from Europe. We all had a good chat before landing in St. Louis.

Well, after landing in St. Louis, my trip was finally over. I was very glad to see my family again. We talked a lot, but I mostly slept. I was glad to be home, and I continue to be glad to be home. I hope you all enjoyed reading the epic tale that was my trip to Japan, and do feel free to ask for any additional details or stories. I will gladly provide :-)