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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Noboko And Andrew: Nein, I Mean Nine

Tonight, Tuesday, July 13, 1993 is the chance for the Ohtawara International Friendship Association to throw a good-by party for me and my pony-tail and my watch. I'm still wearing that watch in 2015. I love that watch.

It sucks.

No… not the party or the association, but rather the fact that I have to say good-bye to all these wonderful folk who befriended me and looked after me.

Seriously… almost from week three or four on in Japan, thanks to an invite myself, and Ashley got from Matthew, who was apparently asked by the OIFA to invite us… we have been the lucky recipient of some wonderful meals - all free, of course, which was part of the reason they were wonderful - and free booze.

Really? If you mention "free booze" to a foreigner in Japan, there's going to be a stampede to the bar.

I'm sure I drank my weight in beer and sake many a time over the past three years.

Now… I have to admit that as of 2015, most of the evening is a bit of a blur.

I think one of the party games was "Name that smell!" It wasn't me. Man... I loved that beard. I'd grow it again, but now there's grey, and I don't want any chemical burns on my face from the massive amounts of dye required.
Not because of the excessive booze - because I didn't go nuts, wanting to remain sober for some quality time with Noboko after - but rather because the whole evening just seemed surreal to me.

This was my first goodbye party in Japan.

Yes, I had been saying goodbye to students and schools for several weeks now, but an honest to gosh party in my honor… it kindda hit home.

According to this party, I'm going home. And I may not ever be back.

My plan, however, was to go home and come back to Japan in a month or so to figure out my relationship with Noboko… to marry her or to break my heart trying. To agree to be mine despite her father's wishes.

To stay in Japan or to come with me to Toronto and live.

Heck… I just wanted her to come to Toronto for a week's vacation… which would have told me she could leave Japan - for me - but even that seemed to be a difficult thing for her to do.

Meanwhile, she continues to defy her father by spending every non-working waking minute with me, and even the sleeping minutes.

Except for all of these little commitments I must attend to.

I have nine more days left in Japan. Nein, nein, nein! Yeah, I can speak German, mostly picked up from watching Hogan's Heroes reruns, reading Sgt. Rock comic books.

After work—two more days left at Ohtawara Chu Gakko (Ohtawara Junior High School)—I go home.

Noboko is there, surprisingly, and helps me get undressed and dressed again an hour later after another shower.

We're snuggling on the couch when the doorbell rings and Mister Suzuki arrives to take me to the party.

This is Suzuki-san, a flower farmer who speaks very good English, is exceedingly polite, smart and funny. He will be much missed by me.

I get in the front seat of his mixture flower truck, and off we rumble. He's dressed rather well in a suit and tie. usually he dresses well, but not this fancy.

Me… I'm in a green silk shirt with red threads, so it changes color depending on the light (yeah - like that effing dress, I suppose)… and a pair of black raw silk pants—both of which I had a hand in designing while I vacationed in beautiful Thailand two summers previous. I had also purchased another blue silk with red threads, and a red silk jacket (which looks smashing, but makes me confused for a car jockey at a fancy restaurant) - all for about $40. Plus they made it overnight. Plus they delivered it to my hotel. I love Thailand.
We get to the party area… which is upstairs of some small shop, I think (the haze, the haze)… and inside are about 20 people, most of whom I think I know.

Whatever. It's my party and I'll sigh if I want to.

Okay… like I said… hazy.

No dinner. Snacks. Drinks.

Gifts.

There were two very special gifts presented to me. One a very nice vase, which I used every day until a few years ago.

The other… chopsticks. Twenty pairs of wooden chopsticks.

Now… you might be wondering WTF, is that it?

Well now… sure. They don't owe me anything. They paid me (and Matthew) to teach adult English classes after work, once a week. They hosted parties once a month or so and invited damn near every foreigner who wasn't a bartender to them.

I know… you have heard all these great stories about how I (and to a lesser extend, Matthew) was a G.O.D. in Japan. Just kidding Matthew. But, in this case, G.O.D. is an acronym meaning 'gaijin on display'…. so chopsticks.

Well, it turns out that these chopsticks were all hand-carved by one of Japan's living treasurers… the man responsible for carving chopsticks on behalf of the Japan Royal Family.

Who's your G.O.D now, eh?

Nice honor, eh?

But, as mentioned, I got far more use out of the beautiful vase.

Anyhow… party over at 9PM, I say my goodbyes, hugs to the Japanese people, because this is what I, a foreigner, want to do - so screw bowing or handshakes…

I think it surprises them, but no one shies away.

K: "Hey Matthew... I loves the free booze." Andrew: "My name's not Matthew."
I'm more than a little bleary eyed at the end of the night when Mister Suzuki drives me back home.

I've already hugged him, back at the party, so this time I honor him the Japanese way, with my deepest possible and longest bow.

He gets in his truck, waves, and is gone from my life.

I walk slowly towards the sake/convenience store two levels directly below my apartment, but the place is closed.

I'm sure if I knocked on the side door, they would open up and get me a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola, but then the old man and his son would invite me in to drink, which would then force the old woman to have to go to work—and I'm not that cruel.

I turn around and walk up the stairs beside the elevator, stop, go back and unlock my mail box, just Japanese junk mail addressed to "Occupant", and walk up to my third floor apartment.

The door magically opens up as I arrive. Noboko.

A sight for sore eyes.

We're deep in the middle of a kiss when the doorbell rings followed by some impatient banging on the door.
Noboko jumps as the door begins to open.

Japan… there's no such thing as a locked door where friends are concerned…

Noboko races to the nearest bedroom and hides behind the door frame, as the front door opens.

It's Mister Suzuki… apologizing for interrupting my evening.

No problem I stammer as I follow his eyes down to the pair of very female beige heels sitting backward in my entrance way.

"You forgot your presents," he smiles. "Have a good night."

Secrets.

I lock the door after I stammer a thank-you, good-night and a good-bye.

Noboko comes out and swears softly at me in Japanese for my stupidity at not having locked the door earlier.

The Japanese man in me wants to suggest that she, the Japanese woman, should have done that for me, but I'm not Japanese.

I am starving, and like freaking radar, Noboko has dinner for both of us.

How the heck did she know there wasn't a dinner for me at this party?

She just did.

I smack her butt in apology and a couple of hours later we snack on some of her cold dinner. She really isn't a very good cook, but I don't care.

We can eat that for breakfast tomorrow.

Itadakimasu,
Andrew Joseph

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