December 10, 2003

Every day

Each day that passes I feel more and more at home here. Mind you, the upcoming holidays have brought up some sentimentalism and longing for home. Nonetheless, I am making new friends, and forming new bonds with people here. With every passing day I feel more comfortable. Although I haven’t yet spent much time with Japanese people (outside of the daily life aspect) I am looking forward to spend more time with Japanese friends this coming week.

I went to the Osaka International House, to sign up for language exchanges, and so far I have been in contact with a few people who want to practice their English and Spanish, in exchange for teaching me Japanese. Next week, I’ll be going for a walk around town with my friend Rika, whom I met soon after arriving to Osaka. I’ll bring my camera along to take some pictures.

Some of the most unique experiences I’ve had here are:

Buying beer from a street vending machine
Buying smokes from a street vending machine
Seeing a cemetery the size of my bedroom
Seeing a Cadillac STS with the steering wheel on the right side
Feeding deer at a park, followed by being chased by deer at a park.
Trying to find bar deodorant
Trying to find Colgate toothpaste
Riding trains everywhere
Walking home at 3am and finding a bar open
Not buying a cell phone
Getting my shoes shined at the subway station
Getting a massage where the girl walks on your back
Heated toilet seats with a water spray to help you get clean.
The balcony is for doing laundry
Waking up to the chanting of monks from the temple down the street
Eating and drinking for 10 consecutive hours, and waking up refreshed the next day
Having a beer and a cigarette in a subway train. Just doing as some Japanese do.
Jaywalking is illegal here. So when you do it, make sure you’re surrounded by Japanese jaywalkers.
Trying to fit into a 12 inch hole in a column at a temple.
Drinking chemical beer.
Eating a 900 yen potato.

These are only some of the things I have seen and experiences I can remember at this time. There is a shitload more things I can’t write down.


November 14, 2003

Osaka, day one

November 14th.

WOW, this city is amazing! I got into my hotel at about 7:30pm last night (13th, local time) its in an area of town so lively and loaded with neon signs. There are so many restaurants per square inch here its insane. I went out with three other Nova instructors to get some food, and man was it good. After that, I called Daow, and we met at Umeda station, about 15 minutes north by subway. This I did on my own, without much trouble. In the end, this city is much like the other big cities I have visited. I am particularly reminded of “Calle Braulio Murillo” in Madrid. Wide sidewalks tiled with textured tiles. The road signs are identical to the ones in Europe. I see ads for Nova every which way I turn, so much so that I have even seen t-shirts that parody the company’s mascot cooking “SOVA” noodles!

Umeda blew my mind. There are covered arcades that span blocks and blocks filled with restaurants and other stores, video games, “pachinko” parlors and more. There are also many brothels and other adult places all over the place. Even late at night, the streets are crammed with people, many going home after a night of drinks, others going home from work. One thing I noticed was how well people dress here. However, virtually all men wear black suits or deep navy blue suits. To really see fashion, you have to look at the girls. And what girls they are! Beautiful, some look as if they are made of porcelain. The elegance is simply stunning.

Daow took me to eat sushi at a restaurant in this covered arcade. The sushi is put on a moving belt, and you pick what you want from it. It was simply delicious, like no sushi I have tried in The Americas or Europe. Well, I am in Japan after all, so it is to be expected. I feel bombarded with energy. You can drink your beer openly on the streets, as we did last night after dinner. People smoke everywhere, but hardly anyone eats in public.

The people are friendly here, and also helpful. I had some trouble purchasing my train ticket to Umeda, and I asked this gentleman, in the most primitive way of communication that I wanted to go to Umeda station. I pointed to myself, then to the subway map and said “umeda”, he showed me what to do, and even pointed me to the right platform. People here are approachable.

Once again people in my group reminded me how desirable western men are to Japanese women. Daow also mentioned it. It is an interesting fact I suppose; one thing is certain, the women here are beautiful. Today I will go to Uehommachi station to us the free wi-fi access there, and upload and update my blog with this long and boring log hehehe.

Right now, its almost 9am, and in the hotel room is not the place to be. I will be taking a crapload of pictures today. Last night I scoped out some awesome places to photograph, so tonight, Friday night, I’ll be shooting like mad. One thing is certain; no amount of research and preparation would have prepared me to the pleasant surprises and the beauty of this city. Its simply gorgeous.

November 12, 2003

Detroit Airport

I’ve been at the airport now for more than 3 hours. The plane is parked in front of me, getting prepped for the trek ahead. I am preparing myself as well. I am starting to see some Japanese faces wonder around the gate (A56, McNamera terminal, DTW) but no one is sitting down, just me. I’m the only one in the waiting area at this moment, 10:47am. In less than an hour we’ll start boarding the plane. It’s a 747-400, capable of carrying over 300 passengers, but one hour before boarding only I’m at the waiting area.

Zeni called me last night to wish me a good trip, and to tell me she’ll miss me. I didn’t call anyone to say goodbye, cuz well, I don’t like to say good-bye. However, leaving home this morning, leaving my mother and my brothers behind was very hard to do. Over the last two years my family has supported me in every way, they have been there for me without hesitation and without question. And now I leave them behind for at least one year. It is something very hard to do.

Two more people have joined me in the wait, and elderly lady and her son? Another two people approach the monitors and walk about. The whoosh of the shuttle train inside the terminal punctuates and commands my attention over few minutes. From here, next to the window, I can see the ground crew going about their business, connecting huge yellow hoses to the underbelly of this winged whale. It is now almost 11:00am. 2 hours before departure, and still about an hour from boarding. Another Asian face approaches the monitor, and over the speakers a woman’s voice reminds me how smoking is prohibited in the terminals.

The sun peaks through the clouds now, burning away the fog and haze of this morning. I can see the sky now, deep blue the higher up you look.

So I am really doing this. At the ticket counter, with Edgar, it seemed so routine getting my boarding pass, checking my luggage, and going thru security. Edgar wanted to stick around for a few hours, until my plane left, but I told him that he should go home and be with Mom and Aldo. I didn’t wan to make the good-bye any more painful.

The sun breaks through the clouds again and bathes the outside with gleaming radiance. The heat from my laptop helps me imagine I am outside on the tarmac basking in the sunrays.

More Japanese people make their way to wait with me. I just begin to realize that perhaps the bulk of the flyers to Osaka are connecting from other flights. And that’s why they’re not around here yet, their planes haven’t landed in Detroit yet. Though I think I’m generally not stupid, sometimes I can’t put two and two together. The obvious escapes me sometimes.

Have I written enough for now? Perhaps. But what else could I do when my mind wants to record its thoughts, and I have to recharge the battery for this machine??

A boy and a girl just walked by. They seem scarcely 19, and they wear desert camouflage fatigues. I wonder where they are coming from, and where they are going. Very young soldiers, indeed serving their country.

The plane’s crew has arrived, and now they are also waiting with me, along with a guy on his cell phone talking about who knows what. The important thing is that he’s talking to someone on the other side. The medium is the message. I left my cell with Edgar.

I have seen all of Canada, crossed over the Bering Straight, seen, Siberia, I have never seen so much snow and ice. You don’t know where the clouds end and the snowy landscape begins. I have been flying now for about 9 and a half hours. Sleeping most of the way, periodically waking up to look out the window and take some coordinates on the GPS. Its been nearly 12 hours since I last pulled the laptop out of its case. I’ve kept it simple so far. Take some readings, take some pictures, take off shoes, sleep. I have been extrememly lucky, I have the whole row of seats all to myself, so I have improvised a bed of sorts. I have three pillows and three blankets, and the people around me are quiet. No children around here to make things noisy.

The food was ok, I’m starving again though. The most interesting thing is that outside the plane it has not stopped being daylight. Its almost 11pm back in Windsor, and its really bright out. I will arrive in Osaka at 5pm local time. This is indeed the longest day of my life, considering too that while its 11pm November 12th in Windsor, it is November 13th here, so two days for the price of one. I left at noon on the 12, get there at 5pm on the 13th. Fucked up I tell you. I’m hungry.