Saturday, October 13th, 2001

If you go to live in a foreign country, right after you get there you should learn to do a few key things: In the local language, ask for directions to the toilet, which you usually learn right after asking for beer; dial your own telephone number from off-base, which can be surprisingly difficult; and use the local buses and trains, or at least the taxis, because sometimes that’s the only way to get home.

To learn the last one, we signed up for a day trip sponsored by Outdoor Recreation. They’re supposed to be shuttling us about in the most discreet manner possible, by the way, but they must’ve figured that today was the terrorists’ day off, because they loaded us all onto an eighty-foot, Army-green military bus with “U.S. Air Force” stenciled on the side, and the driver ran into everything in the parking lot at the train station. Attention-getting? Maybe just a bit.

Trains are surprisingly easy to use in Japan. Each station has an automatic ticket machine, so you don’t have to talk to anybody. There’s a big map on the wall over the machines, and the price of a one-way ticket is written right under the name of the city you want. The only time this could be a problem is if the sign doesn’t translate the kanji characters into English.

We rode the train to Hachinohe and walked through the shopping district before returning. The train was fast and clean, and Hachinohe was agreeable enough, but this trip and others I’ve been taking away from Misawa is teaching me a valuable lesson: What it’s like to be utterly different from everybody else. Apparently I’m something of a curiosity to the Japanese, who stare as I pass, sometimes open-mouthed. I’m enough of a novelty that some want to take pictures of me, as if their friends might never believe what they saw without evidence. To make me even more like a monkey in a cage, I can barely speak. It’s an outrageous experience.

trip to Hach | 5:54 am CDT
Category: daily drivel | Tags: ,
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