Wednesday, August 02, 2006

D is for Denver!

I'm camped out in Denver, siphoning some stolen power from an unattended walljack and transmitting on the (unsecured! Ha! Information wants to be free!) wireless network. I haven't slept in over 26 hours now, and I don't have any intent to chnage that until I've arrived in Detroit, and found my bed- this being, of course, my genius anti-jetlag plan. I'll be so dead that my body won't know which way is up! Take that, biology!

So it seems I've got some time. My flight boards at 5:55 PM, and it's 4:15 local time. In my head, it's 7:16 AM. I don't know whether I'm gaining a day, losing a day, trading a day, investing it... whatever. What I do know is that I can overhear conversations in English, and it's slowly driving me mad. With Japanese, I could turn off my understanding when I didn't want to listen to people. Korean, I never understood in the first place. But English... I've only heard English when people are talking DIRECTLY TO ME over this past year, which makes incidental encounters of my mother tongue somewhat distracting/disturbing/terrifying. It's as if everyone in the world is talking to me, and I've got little to nothing to say to them beyond "coffee".

I had meant to use this time to post all the pictures from my Korea trip. The connection is just fast enough to let me surf, but keeps timing out on the photos. I'll have to put them up later.

Hello from the Mile-High City. Whoo hoo. The airport, she is exciting.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Airport Report: 38th Parallel

All right, so it's been awhile. Internet access, once they shut the tap off at my house, was sporadic (in the sense that sporadic means nonexistent) and I've not had a chance to update.

In short:

I finished my work at the last school, had a few teary goodbyes, and gave yet another speech in front of the student body and assembled parents. There was much crying, and clapping, and bowing, and handshakes by all parties. The students (bow) presented me with a boquet of flowers (bow), two of my elective-subject English kids gave a cute little speech (first in English, then in Japanese) about never forgetting me, having had a lot of fun, and other things tailor-made to make a man break down and cry.

Had a sayonara enkai (Japanese for "big drinking party") with the Board of Education- I've got some pictures that I can upload from all of that later- and was given a pile of gifts that strain my carryon bag as we speak. Afterwards, "Mike"1 took me out for a drink at his favorite nomiya (drinkin' house), just like he did after my welcome enkai. Rounded out the experience quite nicely. The next few days were spent frantically cramming a house into boxes bound for the post office. Those of you who might be, in the future, planning on shipping things from Japan: Don't wait until the last minute. Sea mail departing Japan is quite reasonable, but takes a month. Airmail triples the cost. Express is like having someone take all your money and burn it in neat piles on the countertop.

Once all that was taken care of, I spent a beautiful last night in Kyoto setting fireworks off on the Kamogawa with the Foreign Legion. The next morning, 5:45 AM, "Mike" was kind enough to pick me up at my house and drive me over to the train station to wait for the first train. I watched my last sunrise in Japan filter gently through the smoke of Mike's cigarettes.

So then, Korea. Korea's a bit of work to blog without pictures; I'll give a preview. Korea is an extremely enthusiastic Japan. It's big, it's bright, it's colorful, and it's got something to prove. Where Japan will let a UNESCO World Heritage site sneak up on you unnanounced (right next to the Pachinko parlor, two doors down from the convenience store) everything here is lit up in neon and declares itself to be the absolute best in the world of whatever the heck it is. To be fair, they boast a few "biggest"s that do make the record books. They've got the biggest indoor amusement park in the world (Lotte World), the biggest flagpole and flag in the world ("Propaganda Village", North Korea), some really big gates and throne rooms. But really, it's Japan with kimchi, some more Western culture, and a decorator's eye towards extreme color. All the somber red-cedar temples and gates of Japan are, here, painted in greens, blues, whites, oranges- every color of the rainbow. The stately imperial brocades which are, in Japan, single-tone colors in muted shades, are Josephian coats of many colors. And the kimchi. Oh, god, the kimchi. It's delicious, but the smell permeates Korea like the odd, fleeting smell of fructose wafts through Japan. I can't wait to get home, and find out what my country smells like.

Best part of the South Korean trip (and it was all awesome- I went to this old, busted-up amusement park yesterday and tempted death on rollercoasters that looked as if they'd last been serviced before the Cold War- speaking of the Cold War:) was when we took a tour north, to Panmunjom and the Joint Security Area. The JSA sits on the North Korea-South Korea border in the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). It's surreal. Armed guards in twin buildings sit all day staring at each other through the gaps between the UN conference rooms. A few of the conference buildings sit right on the line between NK and SK, and in there, I got to step over and spend a few minutes in Communist North Korea. I did not see Kim Jong-Il. I cannot confirm or deny that his ridiculous pompadour is real, rather than a trumped-up construction of Communist propaganda.

So I've got an hour or so before my flight back to the States. We're stopping first in San Francisco, then Denver, and finally, tonight at 11:50 PM, we're landing at home in Detroit. On paper, only ten hours pass between my departure at 1:50 and my arrival at 11:50. In reality, I've got 22 hours of transit time between now and then. Since I got to the airport (as required) two hours previous for security check, I'll have the exquisite pleasure of spending the next 24 hours in the fuzzy, comfortable haze of international travel. See you all when I hit stateside- I'll re-update this with pictures from my last week in Japan and my Korean Adventures.

Ja... matta, ne.