Well, what a long strange trip it has been…and though this is not drug-induced, it may be fever induced since I am typing away at this with a cold/possible sinus/ear infection I can’t seem to shake. Things have been going well enough and I did make an unexpected trip home. It was good to be home for a little bit and to take care of a few things, but now I am back in Japan and back in the swing of things as much as possible. Some of the highlights of being in MN during sub-zero temps and in the midst of snow were seeing my family (except my sister, she moved to Ohio), visiting with friends and extended family, having a colleague from Hiroshima visit for a couple of days on her way to Canada, and visiting some of my old haunts—oh, and really yummy scenic routes. All good things must end and this visit was no exception. Besides seeing my better half and doing more than I could have imagined, I have no fear of any nasty legalities getting in my way upon my return.
February and I arrived on the same day—in Japan. After an eternal trip from MSP to ORD to KIX, I was finally in Japan. But, oh, the adventure was just beginning! After I shipped my suitcase ahead for a mere $15 or so, I was on my way to take the train to catch a super express train (AKA shinkansen)! I had no problems figuring out how to buy my tickets, etc. and was on my way. (BTW: it travels in excess of 300kmp or about 200mph on longer streches!) Once I got on the shinkansen in Osaka, I settled in and met my neighbors. It was a mother/daughter couple and they were returning from a shopping trip in Osaka. That was when I first heard of the “snowstorm” Kansai/Chugoku regions were grappling with. You have to remember that much of this area is mountainous, so the several inches that we had in Saijo, for example, was much worse higher in the mountains and for driving. Course part of the issue is that it doesn’t seem that they clear the streets or sand anywhere other than right in front of certain buildings/doors. Regardless, I got back to Saijo in good time and even made it to catch the bus to campus. However, an older woman overheard me ask a student-looking girl in Japanese whether I had missed the bus. Then when the older woman’s husband came to pick her up they insisted on giving me a ride to my building. They live near the university, so hopefully I’ll see them again some time.
The next day after unpacking and organizing, I went into the office to say “hello” to everyone. Folks were pleasantly surprised that I stopped by since I just got back the night before, but I haven’t had any problems changing times besides waking around 5am when I didn’t mean to. (I’m an early riser anyway, so I don’t squawk about this one too much!)
Other than that, I was just getting settled back in and now I have this cold/cough/ear thing hit. I have a feeling I went through the “Saijo Cough” I have heard about when I first arrived back, but now I it’s the sinus and ear part I can’t get rid of. No worries! It’s gotta break soon! The sad part is that I had to cancel a trip to the mountains for a “Snow Day” my first weekend back and I also had to cancel a visit to an elementary school since I don’t want to get the kids sick, let alone I feel awful. I have been in the office occasionally even though it’s the University’s long vacation (mid-Feb through the start of April). Luckily, friends here know what’s up and have been very kind to me and yes, I’ve gone to the doctor. Of course, I study the vocabulary before going and so things with the University Health Center doctors have been no problem. They are quite patient and one of them speaks some basic English, though none of the nurses do. (The nurses are much more friendly though and they are so patient when I don’t understand their Hiroshima-ben/dialect initially.) Here’s the awesome thing: they have the instructions for medicines they commonly give out on little slips of paper in Japanese, but also in English. (The international student population at the University is something like 20% and most speak Chinese [many of whose characters are quite similar to Japanese] or English as their native/lingua franca language.) I was initially worried going to the doctor on my own that I wouldn’t understand any instructions they gave me.
After the initial round of medicine, I thought I was about done being sick and so went with a couple of friends to the Kaki Matsuri (Oyster Festival) on Miyajima Island. On our way to the festival, I got a call from my parents that my dad had been in a pretty bad car accident. Luckily, he was ok, all in all, though quite shaken and the truck was totalled. I was upset, but I really couldn’t do anything from here, so I decided to still go to the island. Talking with my friends in the car was interesting when I got off the phone since ways of speaking with one’s parents and expressing affection are quite different in Japan than in the U.S. They were especially surprised that we verbally express emotion rather than assuming it. I think it has something to do with the whole American perspective of ‘if it’s not said (or written down), then it never happened’ and the fact that Americans (and especially Germans!) are much more direct than people typically in Japan. Of course there are many other perspectives on this, but that’s my topical read on the deal!
We had a great time though the festival wasn’t much to look at, just a bunch of food stalls with really long lines. We decided to walk around the town a bit. We ended up eating oysters and okonomiyaki at one of the shops and wandered to the shrine. All the while we were trying to avoid the overly friendly wild deer that inhabit the island. They are considered sacred on the island (thereby are not killed or “controlled”) and rule over everything it seems. They apparently also eat ferry and train tickets frequently since on the local map, it specifically says to watch that deer don’t eat them! (Nelson-like: ha-ha!) After taking a couple of photos and walking around the shrine, we stopped at a tea-shop for tea and sweets. We then slowly worked our way back to the ferry and were on our merry ways. It was a really a nice time and a fun girl’s day out.
Well, after that lovely day out, the first day I had really started feeling very healthy, I ended up the next morning feeling sick as a dog again. I guess it was a bit early to go out for the day. So, I have been lying low since and went to the doctor. So, I guess that’s my big adventure since returning! : )
Posted by cassl001 at February 13, 2005 12:00 PM