More Sayonara Parties (送別会)
Raja's Farewell Party
While no one planned the Eisa dancers, but we did plan the party to happen the same night Raja’s monthly belly dancer performance. It was a treat, and at the end they dragged 80% of the “audience” onto the dance floor and we had a blast.
School's Bye Bye Party (学校の送別会)
The party they threw for me was fantabulous, though, and I enjoyed every minute of it. We had folks from other classes drop in as well, and generally enjoyed each others' presence and made merry together.
I also sang and gave a short speech thanking everyone for all the positive and fun experiences during my 6 months at JICE (Japanese Institute for Culture and Economics).
Okay Really Bye Bye Now
We were both too novice in Japanese to even converse when we arrived, and her English and my Vietnamese both suck, but lately we went at it like Tarzan-esque old friends. We may have to repeat ourselves 3 times to make a single point, but we can communicate!
My other roommate Hong went with me to the airport to see me off, because she didn’t want me to be alone and lonely, even at oh-stupid-o-clock in the morning. I was (and remained) touched by the gesture. Arigato gozaimasu!
Taipei, Taiwan (台湾の台北市)
I got to gawk at Taipei 101, the second tallest building in the world, which was my #1 sight-to-see in Taiwan. I also went to several famous malls and Songshan cultural park, where I learned oodles and oodles about the former tobacco trade and other Taipei history.
I also had the pleasure of meeting the Taipei police department when my tour bus hit a taxi. Whoops. No one was hurt; it was just a fender bender. We ended up doing a little more walking than expected, but that was fine by me.
After the tour, I made my way to my hotel feeling tired, overemotional, cranky, lonely and tired some more. I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in nearly a week, because I kept finding things and people I absolutely HAD to meet/do before I could leave. I was uncomfortable, but it was a good uncomfortable. I knew it would feel weird to be sleeping alone, in an actual bed, with walls that don’t move, so I didn’t let it bother me too much.
Then I an idea struck me like a ton of bricks in the noggin. I made writing motions, and they brought me a paper and pen. I wrote out “菜食主義者” which is “vegetarian” in Chinese characters. They chuckled incomprehensibly (to me) over them in Chinese, but looked delighted to see something they recognized. They motioned me to sit down, and brought me some noodles in a peanut sauce with vegetables. I felt like a million bucks.
“They” told me studying Japanese would be a waste of my time. Especially the Kanji, they said. “Why don’t you pick something more useful?” they challenged. This situation, where I can write down what used to be completely foreign characters to me, and get my point across to people I can’t even speak three words to? That makes me truly happy, and my soul feels nourished. I stand by my choice to make a lifetime studying language and culture, as I always will.
Things I Experienced At Singapore Changi Airport
My friends back in Naha are AMAZING PEOPLE.
Just because an airport has a United lounge, and you have a free pass, doesn’t mean you can use lounge. Perhaps, like Changi, they only allow you to use the lounge from 4am-6am.
Singapore’s half-day tour is excellent, especially getting off the bus and wandering around the Merlion.
The orchid and cactus gardens are stunning, and restoring.
The movie theater is excellent, but wasn’t playing movies I was interested in.
The pool and gym are probably great, too, but I was too tired to enjoy them.
The play structure was highly utilized and appreciated by screaming happy kiddos and their dark-circles-under-the-eyes parents.
The two-level butterfly garden IN AN AIRPORT is one of the coolest things I have seen. The air was redolent with the scents of green flowering things, and the splash of the waterfall feels refreshing.
Though spending 12 hours in an airport sucks, I have to say, I’d pick Changi over just about any other airport in the world.
Bangkok Without The Fanfare
By this point I was extremely overtired and hangry, and probably looked at her like I wanted to kill her. Yes, I know it wasn’t her fault, and don’t blame the messenger and all that, but I was seriously honked off, and she’s the one that told me, so she got the look of death.
However, she then piped in with “you can get there faster on the bus and train, and just get a taxi for the last couple of kilometers.” Despite her markedly limited English (and my whole two words of Thai), once I figured out what she meant, and bucked up my courage to try my hand at public transportation in Bangkok, she carefully explained it to me.
I managed to get myself to the hotel in about 90 minutes following her directions, and the only real problem was the taxi driver who tried to rip me off. He turned off the taximeter after he had already started driving, and then told me the price was 100 Baht.
Now I know that 100 Thai Baht is only $3, but I also knew damned well he would be driving less than 5 minutes to get where we were going, and it would have come out to much less with the meter. So as soon as he turned the meter off, I told him that I would give him only 30 Baht, or he could turn the meter back on. His English was nonexistent, so he just started babbling at me in Thai, giving excuses trying to rip me off.
I was exhausted and hangry and not in the mood to be screwed over, so I firmly repeated at least 30 times during our 3 minute drive that I would give him only 30 Baht, which I luckily had exact change for in my pocket. He started yelling at me when I got out and only handed him the 30 Baht, but I pointed at him, pointed at the meter, and waggled my index finger side to side at him in a “naughty naughty” gesture and turned around and left. He knew he was wrong, and drove off without further hassle.
I checked into the hotel, left just long enough to fill up on some Pad Thai for a late dinner, came back, and crashed in the bed. I’m pretty sure it was one of those “I was asleep the moment my head hit the pillow” moments, because I remember nothing else until the next morning, when I got up to head back to the airport to fly to Oslo, which I will talk about in my next blog!