Travleing home was crazy. I stayed up as late as I could the night before I left, I made it to around 1:30. I woke up at 3:30 am in Tokyo so I could bring my Mom, step-Dad and girlfriend to Tsukiji Fish Market. You have to get there really early to get into the tuna auction. They've become very strict with how many people get in. Anyway it was a grand old time. We went back to the hotel and were there by 6:30am. Everyone else went to sleep, I decided to stay away so I'd pass out on my flight home. I also tried to use some of my frequent flier miles to upgrade to business class. I figured this was my 8th time flying between Japan and America, I deserved some pampering.
I got to the airport early and I could barely stay awake. I was running on about 2 hours of sleep. It got the point where I couldn't tell if I was saying things aloud or not. I'd think something in my head and hear myself say it but I really didn't say it. Or I'd start to have a dream and not realize that I was dreaming and mention something about it aloud and no one would know what on earth I was talking about. Then I'd have to cover up really fast. Example:
They played "California Girls" by Katy Perry all over the place in Tokyo when I was there so it got stuck in my head. I had a dream about it on the bus to the airport and thought I was listening to it. I was like "This song has great bounce." to my girlfriend and she didn't really hear what I said, she said "what was that?" then I had to cover up but the best I could say was "Oh, I said I'm so tired."
I got to the airport, I was denied an upgrade to business class since the flight was full. I got to my seat and the two people next to me were in their early 60s and had giant name tags pinned to their shirts that said their names and then "TO PITTSBURGH". I could tell from their last name, Nguyen, that they were from Vietnam. Also because they were speaking to each other in Vietnamese. They both look like they had no idea what was going on. They kept saying/kind of yelling stuff to me in Vietnamese and I'd just kind of raise my eyebrows and smile and try and figure out what they were saying. They were asking how to lean their seats back, where their headphones jack is, stuff like that. We figured it out.
Once we took off, I couldn't sleep. I'm an anxious flier. It also didn't help that we didn't get those personal TVs for each seat. I know that sounds kind of spoiled, but every flight I've flown to Japan has had those, the first time I flew was in 2002 and this plane STILL didn't have them? Just the one screen in the aisle for people to watch the selected programming... booooo. Our first meal came... curry chicken with rice, a roll and butter, a salad and dressing. I ate some of the rice, the chicken was bad, I ate my roll, didn't touch my salad. The woman next to me opened her butter and started eating with with a spoon. After about two bites she screamed something in Vietnamese. I'm not sure what it was but I'm pretty sure it meant "I THINK I JUST ATE A SPOONFUL OF BUTTER!" The same thing happened with the salad dressing. I felt bad so I tried to show her that the butter goes on the roll. She took this as "GIVE ME YOUR ROLL!!!!" so she started looking scared and shoved her roll at me. "No no no" I waved my hand in a "no no no" kind of way. She imitated this movement and then yelled at me in Vietnamese, then shoved the roll to me. "No no no, you." I gestured it to her with a smile. "NO NO NO!" followed by more Vietnamese. I showed her with my roll what I did, then she just put the roll (it was wrapped in plastic) into her purse and went back to sleep.
There were occasional other moments like this throughout the flight. I never really knew what she was yelling at me about, but it was kind of funny and kind of scary... I was seated in the middle section of the plane on an aisle. Then next to me was the lady, followed by her husband, then some other American guy. The husband was doing the same thing to the other American guy. We often gave each other a look like "Do you happen to understand what is actually going on here?"
Eventually the flight attendants handed out our customs and immigration forms. I filled mine out. The lady next to me was asleep when they handed them out and about 30 minutes before we landed. They hadn't filled out their sheets so I tapped her on shoulder and showed her the slip. I showed her mine which was filled out. She took out her passport and handed it to me. Then she gestured that I write for her. "No no no" I said, again. Then I gestured toward her to do it. Again, this was followed by, what to sounded to me like complete gibberish. I filled out everything I could. I had no idea how to explain to them things like "Do you have any disease agents, cell cultures, or snails?" "Have you been in close proximity to any livestock?" and so on. So I just checked "No" for all of the things. I knew I was definitely going to get arrested. I gave it to her to sign. I pointed to mine, showed her that I signed it and she looked terrified and again, yelled at me in Vietnamese. She shoved the pen back at me and I signed her name for her... I wondered, what if I just checked "Yes" for "Has disease agents" and handed it back, they'd have no idea... and it'd be the craziest welcoming to America ever for them. I didn't, but it's just a slightly entertaining thought. They would have been fine, it just would have been crazy for a while.
My dad picked me up and I was home.
It's been one whole year since I was in America and here's what I think...
1) Grocery stores are amazing. I forgot how many kinds of apples, onions, tomatoes, chips, cookies, cereals, juices, yogurts, and crackers actually exist. The aisles were massive they towered above my head. In my local grocery store in Japan the aisles were about 5 feet high and I could see the entire store over the tops of them. I could see all the shoppers and all the items pretty much. Here, the aisles must be about 40 feet tall and are filled to the top with all sorts of crazy items.
2) People are giants. Not that everyone is short and skinny in Japan but honestly, most people are. Especially in Urasa where the highest age population is 60-80 (it's a fact, I looked it up on their city's website). People were often tiny. In America there are some really really tall people. There are, of course, tons of fat people, but in general people are just larger. Like you just zoomed in on someone and they became that size... does that make sense?
3) It's weird seeing Asian people who are so good at English. I know it's a bit "off" sounding, but it's just weird. I was surrounded by tons of people who, even if they were great at English, still had a strange accent. Here, Asian-Americans of course are naturally fluent in English and it was so surprising.
4) Diversity. I don't think I saw a single mexican person in Japan. That means I went over a year without seeing a single Mexican person. That is weird. I saw a couple of other races but no mexican or latino people. When I went to the grocery store it was amazing, there were all kinds of people all walking around and shopping. It was amazing. America's population is soooooooo interesting looking. I love it so much.
5) We really do have bad attitudes. I was at the deli counter at the grocery store. I was the only person there, with my dad. The woman behind the counter goes "who's next?" in a slightly cold tone. I didn't really hear her so I said, "What's that?" She got mad and repeated herself. "Oh, I am. Can I have a half pound of the oven roasted turkey breast?" Then, of course, my Dad goes "WAIT! I'M NEXT!" as a joke. I thought it was funny, he though it was funny, the lady at the counter... she didn't think it was funny. She rolled her eyes and stood there. When my Dad and I giggled, she just grabbed the turkey and walked away. I got my half pound, but I got it with a side of attitude.
In the parking lot, I saw a guy kicking his car. I imagine because it didn't work. I wasn't really sure what was going on.
My first few meals were the following...
1) Poppy-Seed Bagel with turkey and provolone cheese. YES. CHEEEEESSSSEEEE I MISSED YOU! TURKEY! I MISSED YOU TOO!! BAGELS!!! OH MY BAGELS!!! I MISSED YOU!!!!!!
2) Mexican food. Salsa, Guacamole, rice, refried beans, and some tasty softshell crab. Hooooooray!
3) Limeade. Limes are expensive everywhere but in Japan, one lime cost between 2 and 4 dollars. You can't just buy a giant bottle of limeade, it'd cost about 150,000 dollars. I bought some here and it was magnificent.
I'm so glad to be home. I miss Urasa, I miss my students, I miss Japan, but damn it's good to be back.