The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

1 Week Back

So, after having an all-too-brief 4 week visit back to Canada, I have come back to Japan. My flight was great, actually. The plane was about 1/3 empty, so right after takeoff I was able to change seats and move into a vacant spot right behind the bulkhead, with no-one beside me. The extra room meant that I could stretch out and actually get a couple hours of sleep. There were also a few good movies, so the 12-hour flight only felt like 8 hours or so.

I was really struck by something at the airport. Here in Tokyo, 2 middle-aged men were carefully picking up every bag on the luggage carousel, and putting them back down with handles facing outwards for easy retrieval by the owners. There were also shifting them together, so as to make best use of the available space. They were performing their job (which I'm sure is no picnic) calmly, professionally, and with care.

Contrast this with the scene at Chicago O'Hare, where a hulking young man was snatching bags off the carousel and heaving them down in a pile on the floor. I'm not exaggerating when I say that his face had a kind of dull meanness about it as he flung people's suitcases much harder than they needed to be thrown, as if he took pleasure in the thought that he might be damaging the property of strangers.

This episode encapsulates something about Japan, and goes a long way to explaining why I like it here. If Japan and the US are opposite extremes, I would say that Canada is somewhere in the middle, although tending toward the American end, I'm sorry to say.

After the airport, I had to stop in briefly at the Tokyo office to pick up my apartment keys and the map to my place. Now that I'm a "seasoned veteran" I no longer get an escort to my apartment, the assumption being that I can figure things out for myself. Well, let's just say that what looks simple on a map looks an awful lot different at night, in the dark, in an unfamiliar area, and when you're shockingly sleep-deprived.

Following a long train ride to my station, I wandered around for quite some time before giving up, going back to the station, and getting a taxi. Even with a GPS navigation system in his taxi, the driver couldn't find my place, so he dropped me off by the nearest recognizable landmark (the local elementary school) and I walked around until I finally found it.

And I went inside, right? Wait, one more slight hurdle: an electronic gate, which I had not been given the combination to. It was 10 pm by now, so a few moany phone calls later ("Sorry to call you so late, but I'm just FINALLY getting to my place NOW ... yeah, I know, it's been like 3 HOURS since I left the office ... it's REALLY FAR from the station and REALLY HARD to find...") and I was given the code. I dropped my stuff on the floor, got my bed set up, and slept like the dead. I was so tired that I had no trouble getting to sleep, and I woke up the next morning around 6 a.m., jet-lag defeated by sheer force of exhaustion.

For the next couple weeks, I'm working in the Tokyo office, which is a horribly long commute on a packed train, but I suppose I can endure it for 2 weeks. After that, I'm back to the same school I was at before. That's okay, I guess.

So, am I glad to be back? Umm, hard to say. I feel a lot less excitement and enthusiasm than I have in the past. My school is nothing to get excited about - the students are decent, but dull, and lazy. My apartment is far from work, and in the wrong direction from Tokyo. So, I don't know. It's hard to see any advantages this time over last time, but I have nothing to really complain about, either. So we'll see. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

I'm hoping to keep this thing updated more regularly, so we'll see how that goes, too...


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