Awake in western Tokushima

I didn’t get a chance to write anything in the lead-up to the trip because I got absolutely slammed. I was at work till 9 PM the night before I flew out, I spent an hour at the post office trying to make the lady at the counter understand the Japanese address format so I could express-mail the reply letters to my students, I had a list of people I “needed” to buy omiyage for and brought an extra bag full of cookies and chocolate and tea and coffee (though I had to leave a few people off the list for my own sanity)…

Then two very relaxed days in Houston happened, I spent some good time with my aunt, and I caught a cold.

Then four less relaxed but fun days in Austin at SXSW Interactive happened. I learned a lot and had fun, but the evenings were boring since I was there by myself. I hope I can come with a friend or colleague next year–it was more web-oriented, so it wasn’t directly relevant to what I do, but it’s where I want to head, and I still got a lot out of it. And Austin is an amazing city.

Then I checked out of my hotel room at 5 AM on Tuesday, caught a 7 AM flight from Austin to San Francisco (half the passengers were SXSW attendees), and caught a slightly uncomfortable and interminable flight at 1 PM to Osaka. Then, as if it were second-nature and I’d never been away, I chatted in friendly Japanese with the immigration and customs agents (and actually, they made the foreigner fingerprinting process painless and cutesy-happy, with smiling anime character images, so I didn’t really register what it was till it was done), dropped off my suitcase for shipping, picked up my gorgeous AU rental cellphone, drew some yen, bought a konbini dinner at Lawson’s (egg sandwich, strawberry yogurt, and mugi-cha), and traveled several more hours by train and shinkansen (I passed some of the time by calling Yaemi and Tomoko and Mayumi–it was so good to talk to them again!) to get to Ikeda, where Julie was waiting to pick me up around 11 PM local time.

The feeling of getting off the JR Shikoku Nanpu at Ikeda’s train station, of stepping onto that same platform I’d walked across over a hundred times, of going up the two flights of 13 steps to the overhead walkway and down the two flights of 16 steps to the entrance and ticket window, of the silhouetted mountains looming around and the tracks merging and curving out of sight around the buildings and trees on either side…I nearly laughed and cried at the same time. What an amazing feeling it was to be there again.

We got to Julie’s place in Mikamo a little while later, and stayed up till midnight talking and hanging out. Now it’s 9 AM and I’m wide awake, relishing the comforts of her futon and kotatsu (AAHHH OHMYGOD KOTATSU!) and the familiar scent of tatami, though I know I’ll really crash early this evening from jetlag, which mainly concerns me because I’m going to my JTE’s home for the evening around that time.

The luggage delivery people said they could deliver the suitcase “gozen-chuu“, but I’m not sure exactly what that means. I just know that if I go take a shower, the Kuroneko Yamato delivery truck will come by while I’m out of earshot; maybe I should call. I’m remembering how thin the walls are here–I can hear people walking outside, I could hear the neighbors talking and laughing…I keep jumping at sounds, thinking any of them’s the delivery guy, but no such luck yet.

The plan for today: laundry! I did not get to do laundry in Austin, as planned, because the hotel charged an arm and a leg for it. Once my suitcase comes in and I’ve showered and everything, I can wash my clothes, then go wander around Mikamo and have lunch at Paparagi and kick off the first of many reunions. (And drink lots of coffee, to stay awake as long as I can past my inevitable 6 PM jetlag wave.)

I just hope the delivery truck comes soon, though. I feel guilty for having come this far and just mooching off Julie’s internet all morning. And it feels strange, being here and not being at school. It’s…wait, it’s Thursday, since I lost most of Tuesday and Wednesday in transit. They’re practicing for tomorrow’s graduation ceremony in the freezing-cold gym, probably laying out the tables and tarps and chairs and wiping down the floor. Man, it’s going to be crazy to be at my junior high again tomorrow! (Tomorrow!) Once I do my laundry, though, I can hit the ground running–today’s that “limbo” day, resting and waiting off the jetlag, but it won’t be a total waste. I’m keenly aware of how precious and scarce my time here is and I can’t wait to make the most of it.

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