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Monday, April 13, 2015

Noboko And Andrew: The Misterhood Of The Traveling Pants

When I left Toronto the second time to go to Japan, my father did NOT have to convince a panicked young man that Japan was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

When I was to have first left for Japan back in July of 1990 on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, I didn't want to go. I had only applied because the woman I liked back in journalism school was applying, and I figured it would be fun if we went together.

I got in, she didn't.

She had also applied to become a participant in the Toronto Star Summer Internship (newspaper reporter) Program, so I had applied figuring it would be fun if we went together.

I got in, she didn't.

It sucks to be superior. Kidding. It doesn't suck at all. Kidding.

I just wanted to get laid. I wrote that in my very first Rife blog back in 2009.

It's 1993, and I've landed for my second go-round in Japan - this time as a visitor and not as an active worker on the JET Programme.

I have two plus weeks to ensure my Japanese (do I have to say her nationality - it made/makes little difference to me aesthetically) girlfriend knows I want to be with her forever.

I don't even know what day it is… I left Toronto on September 3… and now that I've landed at Narita Airport, I've spent over 30 hours straight traveling.

I flew from Toronto-Dallas-Nome-Seoul-Tokyo (Narita Airport, actually).

Let's see, that's: 
  • 1,200 miles (1,931 kilometers) - Toronto to Dallas;
  • 3,590 miles (5,777 kilometers) - Dallas to Nome, Alaska;
  • 3,273 miles (5,267 kilometers) - Nome to Seoul, South Korea;
  • 782 miles (1,258 kilometers) - Seoul to Narita Airport (Tokyo, basically)
Total: 8,845 miles (14,233 kilometers)

Then, Narita to Kuroiso-shi:
  • 134 miles (215 kilometers)
Grand total of Andrew's travels:
 8,979 miles (14,448 kilometers).

Traveling the shortest distance around the world (North Pole to South Pole and back again - the equator route is longer because the Earth bulges a bit there) is a distance of 24,859.82 miles  (40,008.0 kilometers)... that means I traveled what would amount to 36.1% around the fricking planet. 

 Just because I wanted to save $300 on my plane fare.  It was $1100 as opposed to $1400.

Until this very moment of me typing this out here on this blog… I had no friction' clue that it was traveling between Dallas to Nome was a LONGER distance than crossing the freaking Pacific Ocean!

I saved $300 and wasted 15 hours or more.

I thought I could better spend the money on Noboko… not once did I think that I could have an additional 12 valuable hours with her if I hadn't cheaped out.

When you are traveling next - think it out better than I did at the time.

So… 30 hours in airplanes and in airports. I don't mind flying, despite being a Brown guy with hippie-length hair and blue-black-purple striped jeans that just screams to Customs and Airport Security that I'm hiding drugs somewhere on person or luggage.

Not true, of course.

The biggest obstacle to the 30 hour trip (so far) was the fact that I don't sleep in airplanes.

Not because I'm afraid, but because I'm concerned for the well-being of my fellow passengers.

I'm afraid my snoring might frighten the other passengers into believing the airplane has engine problems, and who needs wholesale panic when you're trying to catch a few Zzz's between the best in-flight movies ever. No they weren't. 

To quote Gilligan talking about the Skipper's snoring "He sounds like a jet plane with asthma." Best. Line. Ever. And, it's à propos when describing me.

Leaving Narita, I find the express train that will take me to Tokyo-eki (Tokyo train station)… that's 60 minutes not including wait time, as I just missed a train.

From there, I take a shinkansen (bullet train) north to Nasu Shiobara-eki (Nasu Shiobara station), which is another hour long ride, but longer because I just missed one.

From there, I depart the shinkansen station and take the local JR (Japan Rail) train north one stop to Kuroiso-eki (Kuroiso station), but the eight minute ride is longer because I just missed one, and have to wait another hour.

Once at Kuroiso, I take a taxi to Colin's apartment.

Despite having known Collin for two years now, this is the first time I've ever been to his place.

Colin, originally from Calgary, is the senior boys high school assistant English teacher in Kuroiso. He's a very good friend, who has graciously allowed me to crash in his apartment for the next 17 days.

Getting a taxi in Kuroiso isn't as easy as I would have guessed.

There were only two taxi's at the train station when I arrived, and the only two travelers on that same train snagged the cars.

Although it was only a five-minute drive (didn't know that before), it was longer because I had to wait until one of those two taxi's finished with their current fare.

Finally… in the September drizzle (it's always raining when I travel in Japan)… I arrive at the second and highest floor of Colin's apartment building… ring the door bell… drop the one suitcase and shoulder carry-on… shakes his hand and give him a hug… and beg for a shower.

Thirty-six hours nearly on the dot after leaving Toronto, I'm back in Japan, in the city of Kuroiso-shi… the same city where Noboko lives with her parents.

With the stink of Toronto, Dallas, Nome, Seoul and all the various seats I compressed myself into to arrive in Kuroiso, I spend an hour making light chit-chat with Colin - I brought him a big bottle of Canadian Club whiskey per his request, and refused his offer of payment, before I casually asked if I could use his phone.

"To call home?"

"No… to call Noboko."

Hmmm, I suppose I should call home to let them know I have arrived safely… but love over safety, any day. Right? Right.

Colin excuses himself from the room to avoid being sick while I talk to Noboko, and I anxiously and nervously dial (not press) the number.

"Moshi-moshi," says Noboko.

"Mosihi-moshi, yourself," I says to her, I says.

The sigh and the smile… I didn't know you could hear a smile over a phone, but it was pointed out to me a year ago, that you can.

Despite my friendship for Colin, Noboko and I arrange to meet and hang-out tomorrow. Alone.

Somewhere it looks like smooooooooth sailing,
Andrew Joseph

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