Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pulled From The Pages: Surprise suprise

 September 28th

“Time for a mini break,” proclaimed Kathy as we fell into the sofa exhausted from our crazy schedules in post grad hell.

“Sounds great but where can we go that’s cheap?” I said, thinking of the paltry two hundred dollars in my bank account.  

 Midori hopped on the computer. “Leave it to me.”

Kathy and I stood behind her as she searched for cheap options taking into account we needed a country close to Japan and hopefully someplace we’d never been before.  After much debate, we finally settled on Korea.  Midori found a hotel and booked our tickets.

“We’re going to have a fantastic time. I heard the you can score unbelievable deals at mall after mall.”

I winked at Kathy. “I heard stuff is practically free.”

When we arrived in Seoul, Kathy and Midori where excited about all the great shopping ahead. They planned to spend at least two days in the malls.  I on the other hand, was looking forward to spending some quality time in a real bed. Because our apartment was in the traditional Japanese style, the three of us slept in the living room/bedroom in futons on the tatami mat floors. After two months, I had finally gotten used to waking up with a backache. Yet I still dreamed about a western bed.  

Midori was all smiles when she proudly said, “You are going to love the hotel I picked out. It’s just like home.”

I looked at her smiling face and wondered if putting her in charge of the hotel was such a good idea. “Do you mean America home or Japan home?”

 She threw back her shoulders. “Why Japan of course.”

There went my vision of a big fluffy western bed.

“You’re joking right?” said Kathy finally catching on.    

“You guys, it’s supposed to be really nice.”

Our first clue that the hotel was going to be anything but nice was when the taxi driver dropped us off and said, “Be careful. Don’t walk around here when it’s dark.”

Midori still confidant laughed it off. “Ha ha, very funny.”

Kathy and I looked at the hotels dirty brick façade and entrance doors covered in trash and grabbed each other’s hand. Midori pushed past us. “Everyone knows Seoul’s a dirty city. But I’m sure the inside will be quite luxurious.”

I wasn’t so certain knowing our budget. We walked through the door and were greeted by a lobby that looked like it hadn’t been redecorated since WWII. The filth factor at least was a bit less obvious. Midori picked up our key and we rode the elevator to the 10th floor in silence. The air was filled with the pungent smell of stale cigarettes mixed with kimchi.   

Midori opened the door to our room with a flourish. “Look, it has an amazing view.”

If you could call a view of the city partially blocked by the building next-door amazing. Kathy ever the mediator said, “The sunset is pretty.”

Then Midori flicked on the main light to the room and the sound of scratching on hardwood filled the air.

I looked at Kathy. “What the hell is that?”

Midori tried hide the goose bumps on her arms. “Everything looks fine. The sound must be coming from next door.” She walked up to the sliding paper doors and said, “Look. Just like I promised.”

She pushed the doors aside to reveal a traditional Japanese style room. On the floor lay the all too familiar three futons. I threw my suitcase in the corner. “Fantastic.”

Kathy walked up next to me and whispered. “Look, I’m as thrilled as you are. But what can we do?”

Midori put her suitcase by the futon next to the window. “I don’t know about you guys, but I could use a nap before we head out for dinner.”

I hated to admit, but I was tired too.  If only I could flop into a fluffy western bed. “Fine.”

We crashed on our futons and slept for over an hour. When I woke to the sound of scurrying little feet the room was dark. “What the hell?”

Kathy shot up straight. “Something is in my mouth!”

Even Midori, who could sleep through anything, woke up. “My arms itch.”

I got up and walked toward the light and felt something crunch under my foot. “Yuck. What the heck is going on?”

Turning on the light, I was faced by hundreds of cockroaches scurrying for a place to hide.

Kathy and Midori jumped up and down on their futons screaming. “Gross!”   

I looked at Midori and tried not to gloat.  “You sure picked a fantastic hotel. Did we have to pay extra for the roaches?”     

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pulled From The Pages: Why me?

While I lived in Japan, I wrote a series of journals chronicling my adventures. Recently, I read one of them and had fun walking down memory lane. I thought my fellow fish out of water members might enjoy a new series of posts pulled from the pages of the journals.

August 30
Boob Patrol

Today it happened again. I was walking along minding my own business when a guy plowed right into me. Mind you, he had plenty of room to get around me since rush hour wouldn’t start for two hours. This problem had plagued me since I first landed in Japan. Usually at least one guy a week runs into to me. Could be despite the fact that I stood out like a neon sign; to certain types of Japanese men, I was invisible.

Today was my bi-monthly lunch with the girls in Shinjuku, so I decided to ask my friends if they too had the same problem. “Hey, was wondering if any of you have a problem with guys bumping into you on the street. Happens to me all the time.” 

They all shook their heads except Jenny. She pointed to my boobs. “That’s why they bump into you. They’re to shy to cop a feel but if they ‘accidentally’ bump into you then they can get away with it. Used to happen to me too.”

This totally made sense. Japanese men have fascination with large breasts. Just look at the Anime cartoons.  In fact Jenny, with her blonde hair and hourglass figure, could be a model for one of the characters.

I rubbed my chest still sore from my morning encounter. “What do you do to stop them?”

Jenny laughed. “I elbow them in the chest. Knocks the wind right out of them. The jerks!”

Keiko looked incredulous. “I don’t believe you. Japanese men would never do that.”

I threw my shoulders back. “Really? Then why don’t you follow behind me and you’ll see for yourself.”

She jumped up from her chair. “I will!”

We walked out onto the busy streets of Shinjuku. I turned to Keiko. “I bet it will take all of two minutes for a guy to bump into me.”

She shook her head. “I still don’t believe you. The streets here are just too crowded."

To prove my point, I turned down a less populated side street.  And then…WHAM! A middle-aged guy with plenty of room to get around me, plowed right into my chest.

He copped a feel and then in a low voice said, “Sumimasen. Excuse me.”

Keiko stood watching the whole thing horrified. Then she jumped in front of the man and stuck her finger in his face. “You're a dirty man. Do think she doesn’t know what you're doing? You're a disgrace to the Japanese!"

The man hung his head and quickly walked away.

I gave Keiko a hug. “Thanks for coming to my defense.”

Her face turned bright red. “I’m so embarrassed. What a thing for you to have to go through.”

“Well, I always wanted a breast reduction. Guess I’ll get one for free.”   

We laughed as we walked down the street. Then as if on cue, another man changed course and walked straight toward me. I remembered Jenny’s remedy. I waited for the man to lean in, lunged forward and gave him an elbow to the chest. Winded, he stumbled back with a pained expression on his face.

Keiko gave me a smile. “That was pretty good. But if I were you, next time I’d aim lower.”