Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Andale Andale Arriba Arriba


There you are, standing ever so still in the middle of the chaotic ebb and flow of an ocean of people. You are narrowly but always missed by a billion bodies vying for a step in the right direction. Only, while all is brass band noisy, you have tripped and fallen head first into some self-reflection. You stand there thinking of how different your life is now. You feel the delayed rush of air as the trains race off like earthbound dragons, late for work and you see so many images per second that you are hypnotized into a dizzy, sleepy state of mind. Only when Roland slides into your field of vision carrying a bag filled with Mr. Donut goods and two vending machine coffees do you snap out of it with an almost audible pop.

A few months back, the voice shouting at me through the train station loudspeaker may as well have been the teacher from Charlie Brown for all I could pick out from the broken bits of sound but now I appreciate it as what train will be at what platform, when. The red dragon on its way to our neighboring prefecture of Miyazaki is the one we are meant to board and while this should be as easy as two foreigners plus train equals ride to land of mangoes and my South African buddy Buttermilk, the equation is bumped up to higher-grade by the addition of two bags, a pillow, chocolate pies and a futon. It is upgraded to university mathematics when you subtract the knowledge of decent Japanese. After much cursing about getting an airbed rather than lugging our futon around with us, we packed all our luggage in the overhead compartment and took our seats. A different world calls for different embarrassments and Roland and I had moved up from `hey look at that foreign couple` to `Hey look at that foreign couple who brought along their mattress, are they planning to take a nap on the train?`

Looking cool
I underestimated Japan and overestimated my level of boredom when I flung a book into my backpack for the three hour journey. As we left at 6am that morning, the only scenery Roland truly appreciated was the inside of his eyelids but I sat back and watched jungle transform into coastline and buildings turn into surfers and sand. I spotted churches and temples, campers lazing by the riverside and even two trees on two islands tied together with one Shinto rope. As my ears popped and the windows vibrated in the 5th or 6th tunnel I spied with my little eye a big city beginning with M.

Miyazaki, unlike other prefectures (looking at you Oita) has proper beaches.
 Not only was Buttermilk kind enough to let us Tatami timeshare her lovely apartment for two days but when I entered her home my boere-senses instantly started to tingle. There on the table stood a beautiful blushing milktart just waiting to be enjoyed with a nice cup of coffee. She had sculpted this exquisite piece of art in her home economics classroom amid many curios faces. As the smell and taste brought countless memories flooding back, it was time to go make some new ones. We piled into her far less geriatric car and headed to the land of the rising moon. The space museum was a blast (it is jokes like these that I will employ to torment my children one day) and thanks to a wonderful English speaking guide no one was injured while we created vacuums and tornadoes attached to great big Japanese warning signs. We spoke like aliens, composed symphonies with light and Roland stubbornly and after many tries, docked a spaceship to a spaceport. We were attacked by a giant squid (more digitally than literally) and I came to the conclusion that my booty might be a bit too bootylicious for an earth re-entry module. It was only a matter of time until hunger caused us to attach greater value to burgers and vanilla coffee than to space exploration and the dinner bell turned into the death knell for our astronaut training.

Roland proving he is just as smart as a Robot.
I am still nowhere near over how funny it is to get the old double take if more than one foreigner has assembled in one place and the fact that we were five non-natives in one car warranted many a triple take. The drive to the world`s second highest (not that Japan has removed the sign that says highest) suspension bridge was gorgeous and green and the actual bridge is so serene and beautifully balanced that you forget to get even a little bit anxious.

On the way back Roland stood on an ancient wooden castle and surveyed his lands while the others in our group assassinated an unsuspecting samurai. Although in Mr. Samurai’s defense, his swords were locked away in a glass box and this makes it difficult to avoid attacks from a rolled up guidebook. As is usually the case, a hard days castle climbing steered us right in the direction of our next meal. This turned out to be some very tasty Mexican food in a very, very Mexican restaurant. It took almost all of my self-restraint not to play with the Sombreros and wrestling masks or to speak like Speedy Gonzales while munching my Quesadillas.

This all belongs to Roland now.

Of course on the journey home the next day Roland and I accidently sat down in reserved seating and had to take down all our luggage, including that ever annoying futon and do the walk of shame back to the unreserved seats. As amazing as our little adventure was, I sat down next to Roland and told him that I was looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and getting back home and for the first time in my life, I was referring to Oita, Japan.

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