Friday, May 09, 2008

From Tourist to Local in 24 Hours

From my journal on Wednesday morning, after having been locked out of the house without my luggage:

Actually on my way to Japan by myself. I can't believe this is happening. This, so far, is the best decision I have ever made.

5/8/08, On the Plane

Same day on my personal clock, but tomorrow! I've crossed the international date line! Never done that before. According to the Northwest Info screen, Tokyo is 16 hours ahead of Seattle. Huh.

Note to self: Flying sick is the worst thing ever. I seriously thought my head was going to explode.

5/8/08, Just an Hour Later

I have visited two Japanese bathrooms (looking for tissue, and also looking for a really high tech toilet, found the former but not the latter). Have successfully bought a cold green tea from a vending machine and a pack of gum from a kiosk. Have leanred that the right way to say "thank you" is to say it all at once, with emphasis on the Do: DOmoarigato. I think I can do that.

I find the Japanese signage, packaging, and everything endlessly fascinating, despite not being able to hear out of one ear. (Leftover from plane ride.) A lady next to me on the train is playing Sodoku, probably a Japanese game in the first place. Numbers are the same in every language, always a comfort--at least buying things is easy! (A little too easy. Suddenly I wish I were bad at math.)

I felt so miserable on the plane that I briefly considered flying home again and crawling into bed. Never have I felt that pessimistic on the start of a trip, even business trips. I felt--and still feel--truly awful, although the excitement of being somewhere new--and interaction with other humans, even more critical, even something as little as learning to say hello--has helped a great deal.

5/8/08, Still Later

I have learned many important things.

1. Make sure the signature you use on your traverler:s checks is consistent. Don't use the long version to buy them and the short version to turn them in for cash, and especially, on the only one you bought using the short version, don't decide to cash it in using the long version. You will cause yourself and some older Japanese men several minutes of anxiety. In the end I think they just gave me my money to be rid of the crazy foreign lady.

2. Using the toilet is apparently not foolproof. In many public bathrooms, they have bidets--female urinals, a great idea--and I cannot use them. I tried once, and am sure I got it all wrong. Now after 24 hours in Japan I will still walk a long way to find a western-style toilet.

3. Shoes that you thought were comfortable won't be after 12 hours on your feet.

4. Even after being up for 36 hours, jet lag will still hit you hard at 3:30 am. Be productive and just get up.

More to come, on how I felt pretty hip and local-like until I ordered four meals worth of food and it was all brought to my table.

Miss everyone, enjoying myself hugely.


Megha Bansal said...

I have always wanted to visit Japan! it's such an exciting and innovative place. I would feel very lost I think, but it's worth the effort!

You have fun there and I think you're doing really well, considering it's a country whose language you don't speak and is probably not easy to master!


Aarwenn said...

Hi Megha,

THANK YOU! Really enjoyed your comment! (Flattery will get you everywhere.) ^-^