Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Untold Story: part 1

I have too much stress to sleep right now, and I really need to get to bed. In an attempt to relax the mind, I will tell the story of the first time I came to Japan about 7 years ago. (Time flies when you are living life strapped to a rocket.) Some of you might be familiar with this story, and some might not know much about it. And I honestly have to admit that a lot of it is lost in the haze of my incredibly selective memory. So some of this story will remain lost forever, either by personal choice, by bad memory or simply because I wish to build suspense for a further episode of my look up at the memories blowing away. (Warning this might be a little long.)

Somehow I ended up eating lunch with some international students at my small community college. The "how" of the situation is too much of a bother to explain at the moment. I remember the dull peptobismol-pink tables, the noisy people trying to be cool. It was usually the same table. I cant remember what class I was coming out of or going to. European Art History? Northwest American History? Seemed to have a lot of history classes for no reason that year. I had learned a few words in Japanese from my friends or students. I had been helping out in the tutorial center for about a year or so at that point. Well, I had been helping out with the benefit of $6.50 an hour that helped to put me through my early years in college. I was playing with the Japanese words I had learned and somehow it came to me. Why not go to Japan? The idea of a foreign country was more an abstract glow, I knew it wouldnt be like Canada or California, but I think I was niave enough to not even make a solid picture of it in my head. I dont think I even ran an internet search on it. I just thought, hey, I should go and check it out for the summer. Part of my reason probabbly had to do with the fact that because I wasn't going to go to school in summer, my dorm wouldn't let me live there. If I was "homeless" I thought I might as well enjoy a wild ride of it. I had been saving money for the last few years. I doodled out some ideas. Lets see, after buying a cheap airplane ticket, my budget would give me about 600yen (about US$6 at the time) a day for everything. Food, transportation, lodging, everything. Thats not bad. I showed my Japanese friends at lunch. I suppose saying they freaked out would be an understatement. They told me there was no way I could survive on such a small amount of money. That I couldnt even get a hotel for that cheap. I said that I was just expecting to sleep under bridges or in parks. I really said that, thinking back I either was incredibly stupid or just super happy-go-lucky or some odd mix of the two. Several of my Japanese friends spent the next few days trying to find me options, one of them found several people who wanted to let a "foreign person" stay at their house. Cultural exchange so to speak. So I was off. Not so fast young man! I found out my wisdom teeth needed to be taken out, they were impacted and it was dangerous to go anywhere with out doing anything about them. I got them ripped out and literally went to Japan the next day, with a pocket full of pain pills. My ride over was a haze. The only clear thing I remember through the daze of pills was looking down at my hand after eating some shrimp and seeing the perfect triangle of bumps that sometimes appears after eating shrimp. I must have some sort of odd allergy. I got to Japan, and the guy who I had been put in contact with to stay with first surprised me by meeting me at the airport. Tatsuya. Tall, thin, t-shirt and jeans. Glasses and a friendly but a slightly odd smile. As I got on the local train I realized that the air was thick, and it smelled different. The smell of air is something that always lets me know when I'm in a new country, every country seems to have a unique fragrence twirled into its translucent local atmosphere. I didn't know at the time that the airport was in the countryside, so the endless green streaming past the windows put me into a happy sleepy daze. A glimpse of the light that had begun to fade as we got closer to Tatsuya's and then I lost all my memories until I woke up later that night, a victim of jet lag, a smile on my face in the dark silence. A dog barked in the distance and I was in Japan!
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