Friday, August 18, 2006
trains should have names
this weekend was my first excursion back to a relatively large city; regional two-day orientation in the capital city of Tsu. a fellow orientee and i boarded an early train and rode two marvellously soporific hours (rocked gently by the friendly train) through Jurassic Park-esque panoramas and past stormy beaches. i couldn't resist taking a picture of my travel partner with her mouth agape in sleep and i continue to snicker that i have this picture and she has no idea. at each stop they play a loud but pleasant blinging sound to wake any sleepers so they won't miss their stop. however, i believe the japanese are so accustomed to mass transit that they have incredibly well-tuned inner clocks and always wake just before their stops.
tsu station was graced with my favorite of all fast food chains in japan--mr donut. also available was a baskin robbins, which is just called "31." the mint chocolate chip tasted EXACTLY like it does in the states, and i almost did a little dance as i ate. (they also have green tea as a standard flavor, of course) at lunch we were searching for an elusive curry place, and i tried out my first complete sentence on a stranger. "where is coco curry?" hilariously, she answered my japanese question in english. but i communicated!! yaaaay.
predictably, there was a party following day one of orientation and i felt i HAD to go since i had missed all bonding festivities due to my illness at Tokyo orientation. they pick the strangest venues for these parties...the melting pot is a windowless bar decorated mainly with crappy furniture and overzealous blacklight paint. but i guess it's as good a place as any to get drunk, which most people tried to do as quickly as possible. it was actually a great chance to meet some second and third year JETs like the darling aussie couple fiona and sam. we managed to have a real conversation about art over the blaring music.
that night i slept for the first time on a real japanese futon on the tatami. they're definitely spartan at only two inches thick, but i was perfectly comfortable--amazing.
at the end of day two, i was ready to go back and sleep in my own bed, so i got some help buying a ticket (thanks sean) and caught the last train headed for my little town. as i rode off into the night (knitting needles in hand), i had one of those "i can't believe i'm really doing this" moments. i was just nonchalantly on a train in the middle of japan, finishing a knitted sock, and going to a place i never imagined i'd call home. i hoped my bike was still at the station where i left it because i didn't want to walk anywhere at midnight. it was. i dislodged a cicada (holy crap, those things are weird) and rode off into the rainy night towards home.