Tag: Japan


16

Aug 2018

Fukuoka 20 Years Later, post-China

I studied abroad in Japan for the 1997-98 academic year. During spring break, a friend and I hitchhiked from Osaka to Fukuoka. We visited from friends of mine, and explored the northern half of the island of Kyushu. Now, just over 20 years later, I’ve just visited Fukuoka again. This time the differences I noticed felt meaningful, and it’s not because of Japan. It’s because of me, and the 18 years I’ve spent in China in the meantime.

Obviously, this is a personal take. So-called “evidence” I cite is anecdotal. It doesn’t take into account the societies as a whole. I know, Fukuoka is not Tokyo. But if you can handle all that, read on.

The overwhelming sense I got which took hold of me early on in the visit and just wouldn’t let go is that Japan hasn’t changed much in 20 years. Of course it’s changed. But having lived in China, where pace of development permanently stuck in “breakneck speed,” Fukuoka really made me feel like Japan’s development is at a standstill. I’m no economist, but I’m into technology, so that’s one of the areas I was constantly checking up on. Remember when Japan felt super high-tech, back in the 80’s and 90’s? Now it feels kind of like Disney’s Epcot center, the “city of the future” conceived of in the 1970’s.

Just a few things that left an impression:

  1. Vending machines everywhere. This is one of the things that’s so Japan, and I take no issue with the approach, except that these are literally the exact same machines from 20 years ago. They really haven’t changed. Meanwhile, China is outfitting these machines with scanners to support WeChat and AliPay.

    "Gachapon" Capsule Toy Vending Machines with WeChat, AliPay

  2. “Cashless” restaurant ordering also means vending machines. My wife’s mind was blown that so many Japanese restaurants use meal ticket vending machines. This way the staff doesn’t have to handle money at all, and no one has to take orders. Makes sense, right? The modern Chinese solution, though, is to just put QR codes on the restaurant tables. Diners scan, order, and pay right away. The restaurant staff knows which table you ordered from. You barely have to talk to the staff, much less give them a ticket. No cash, no paper, no human interaction necessary. Cold efficiency.

    China

  3. Japan’s rail system is still legendary. Again, exactly the same as 20 years ago. You buy train tickets from vending machines. There’s a very real sense of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and I can understand that. The train system works so well! It’s easy to use, and the trains all run on time. Shanghai’s subway and light rail system is not better than Fukuoka’s. And yet, there’s this feeling that in 10 more years (if that), Shanghai’s will be clearly superior, and Fukuoka’s will be the same.

    IMG_3764

  4. Japan’s still doing great with recycling and environmental protection. I know, Japan still kills whales and does other bad things. But in general Japan is great at recycling, the streets are clean, and a retreat into the mountains (also clean and relatively unsullied) is never far away. I’m not sure if it’s possible, but it would be so great if China could catch up in this respect.

    Lawson Japan

  5. It’s not hard to be alone in Japan. Sure, the cities are super crowded, and apartments are small. But if you need to get away from it all, it feels way easier in Japan. You can hop on a train or bus, and a short ride later be headed into the mountains where you’ll be totally alone. Sure, it’s possible in China, but harder.

    Gen on the Path

I could say a lot of these same things about China and the US, especially if I cherry-pick my cities. One interesting thing, though, was that when my wife told Japanese friends about how we use mobile payments for everything in Shanghai now, they were surprised and blown away. They had no idea.


10

Aug 2018

Down Time in Japan

It’s been a busy summer so far, so it was nice to pop over to Fukuoka for a week to unwind a bit. I ended up doing a lot of thinking about Japan and China. More on that next week.

Untitled

Gen on the Path

Forest Buddha

River Crab

P.S. River crabs (河蟹) are totally real in Fukuoka and actually crawl all over the mountains!

Taito Game Station


29

Nov 2012

Japanese Fortune Cookies in China

As most of us in China know, fortune cookies are not a Chinese thing. They’re an American thing. ChinesePod just recently did a lesson on American Chinese Food, and user he2xu4 linked to this TED talk which gives more detail on the issue: Jennifer 8. Lee hunts for General Tso. (ChinesePod also once did a lesson on the fact that you can’t get fortune cookies in China.)

The thing is, it looks like now you can get fortune cookies in China. I took this photo in my local Carrefour supermarket:

Chinese Fortune Cookies!

OK, so it was in the “imported foods” section (they seem to be from Japan), but the packaging is in simplified Chinese. They come in two flavors: “cream” and “chocolate.” It says on the package: 装密语签语饼干, which means something like “Secret-containing Fortune Cookies.”

Probably the best thing about these fortune cookies, though, is that they feature Pac-Man. The Japanese may have had the invention of fortune cookies stolen by the Chinese in the United States, but at least as they introduce fortune cookies to mainland China they’re sneaking Japan’s home-grown video game icon into the mix!


04

Oct 2012

Diaoyu Islands with Cake and Murakami

This is an “apolitical” blog, so I won’t say much. But I was highly amused to see this cake for sale in Chengdu while I was there over the holiday:

"Nationalist" cake

One of my favorite authors is the Japanese master of magical realism, Haruki Murakami (村上春树 in Chinese), and I liked what he had to say on the issue:

> “When a territorial issue ceases to be a practical matter and enters the realm of ‘national emotions’, it creates a dangerous situation with no exit.

> “It is like cheap liquor. Cheap liquor gets you drunk after only a few shots and makes you hysterical.

> “It makes you speak loudly and act rudely… But after your drunken rampage you are left with nothing but an awful headache the next morning.

> “We must be careful about politicians and polemicists who lavish us with this cheap liquor and fan this kind of rampage,” he wrote.

Quote via China Digital Times.


23

Mar 2012

Ramen by Infographic

I was introduced to this ramen infographic recently by the creator.

Ramen (ラーメン) is actually Japanese, but it has (somewhat unclear) historical connections to Chinese noodles, which could possibly be either lamian (拉面) or lo mein (撈麵 / 捞面).

We Love Ramen Infographic
Created by: HackCollege.com


23

Mar 2010

Stand on the Right, Walk on the Left

I remember when I first arrived in Shanghai, thinking, “I wish that people in Shanghai, when riding the escalators, would stand on the right and let people by on the left, the way they do in Japan.” It’s just such a more courteous and efficient way of doing things.

But yeah, I know… this is China, not Japan.

So when recently riding the Shanghai subway for the first time in a while, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this practice is finally really being adopted in Shanghai. Not only are there signs asking people to do it, but people actually do it.

Stand on the right, walk on the left Standing on the right

Could it be due to the Expo? I don’t really care… I’m just excited to see a change.


03

May 2009

Visa Fest!

My blog posts about visas probably generate more e-mails from random strangers than anything else. This suggests to me that a lot of people are out there scouring the internet for more info on the subject, so I’ll share a bit more. In the past two weeks, I have been involved, to some extent, with 5 Chinese visa applications: three to the USA, one to Japan, and one to Thailand.

USA

It’s been a while since my wife and I had to go through the visa ordeal. Now we’re married, and we want to take her parents with us this summer so they can see Florida as well. We were a bit worried that it would seem like the whole family was trying to immigrate to the US, but all three of them got their visas.

Some relevant details:

– My father-in-law has been to the USA once before in 1992; my mother-in-law has never left China
– My in-laws own property in Shanghai and have savings
– My wife was in the USA last in 2005

Japan

I haven’t been to Japan in close to five years, and my wife and I have been meaning to make a trip for a while. We finally settled on this May, but realized we had a visa problem: the typical Chinese tourist to Japan must go with a tour group and stay with the group the whole time. I refused to do that, and my wife didn’t want to either. We wanted to hang out in the Kyoto/Nara/Osaka area and take it easy, rather than the typical tour’s “10 cities in 5 days” approach. If we didn’t want to go on a tour, though, we would have to get my wife’s visa “sponsored.”

The process is kind of complicated, so I won’t go into it to much here [Chinese link, Japanese link], but the bottom line is that your Japanese friend needs to supply a lot of paperwork, including:

1. Proof of a relationship with the Chinese visa applicant
2. Acceptance of responsibility if the Chinese visitor remains in Japan illegally
3. Lots of personal information, including tax information

In the end, our visa application failed because our visa sponsor filled out the form with all the tax information but didn’t include full information for their income history. After several mail exchanges between China and Japan (faxes are no good for this procedure), we were already cutting it close time-wise with our application, and we didn’t have enough time to fix the last problem.

Really, though, we didn’t want to fix the last problem! My former homestay family was so nice about sponsoring my wife and filling out all the paperwork — even including their tax information — and I really did not want to ask for even more personal financial information. It just doesn’t seem right. I’m close to my former Japanese homestay family, and they attended our wedding in Shanghai, but asking for someone’s tax and income information is just not cool. What a shitty passive-aggressive way for the Japanese government to discourage Chinese tourism.

Fortunately, the situation is changing as early as this fall, as Japan changes its regulations to let in individual Chinese tourists that are rich enough.

Thailand

Thailand is one of the easiest countries for the Chinese to get a visa for. Even with the recent unrest, while tours have paused temporarily, individuals can still get visas easily.

So forget Japan… we’re going to Thailand!


02

Feb 2009

John DeFrancis

I’ve been feeling guilty for a month for not saying something about John DeFrancis’s passing. I have have no words more eloquent or meaningful than these three, however:

– Victor Mair (on Language Log)
– David Moser (on The China Beat)
– Brendan O’Kane (on his site)

Not surprisingly, I especially liked (and identified with) Brendan’s. If you don’t know DeFrancis and you’re at all interested in Chinese, by all means, check out the man’s work.

I’m also a little embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until recent word of DeFrancis’s death that I realized when it was that I first read The China Language: Fact and Fantasy. While I was studying in Japan in 1997, I checked it out from the Kansai Gaidai library. It was perhaps that book, more than anything, that kindled the spark of interest I had in Chinese, impelling me to formally study it after I went back to the U.S., and ultimately to travel to China after graduation.

Thank you, John DeFrancis.


29

Oct 2007

New Notebooks

Shopping for stationery in Japan is an absolute pleasure. In China it’s sometimes fun as well. Looks like at least part of this latest round of designs is Korean-inspired:

notebook01

notebook02

notebook03

UPDATE: Brendan has a good post on how English like in the top notebook above comes to be.


10

Sep 2007

Big Brother Godzilla

Godzilla

Godzilla photo by Nanther

For reasons which will become clear soon, I was researching Godzilla recently. I was curious about the name. Godzilla seems like a great English name, but it’s a Japanese creation, and the Japanese name is ゴジラ (Gojira). So I had to wonder… did the Japanese start with the English name “Godzilla” and transliterate into Japanese, or did they start with “Gojira” and semi-transliterate into the fantastic “Godzilla?” The use of katakana for the monster’s name to me suggests the former.

According to Wikipedia, it’s the latter. The Japanese name is a blend of the Japanese words for “gorilla” (ゴリラ) and “whale” (くじら), referencing Godzilla’s enormous size and power. That “Gojira” transliterated so neatly into “Godzilla,” a name which conjures images of god-like power in lizard form, is largely coincidence. I don’t know how the Japanese feel about the name, but I can’t help but feel that the connotations of the English translation of the name are even better than the Japanese original.

Then there’s the Chinese translation of “Godzilla”: 哥斯拉. All three characters could be considered meaningless transliteration, and only the first one could be considered remotely relevant semantically. means “big brother.”

So let’s sum that not-very-objective analysis up in a nice visual aid:

Godzilla Translations


20

Oct 2006

China, More Tissues (please)

handing out tissues

handing out tissues in Japan

When I went to Japan in 1997 to study for a year, it was my first time out of the United States. I knew Japan would be different, but I had very few expectations. I went out there with a year’s worth of Japanese, eyes wide open, and a brain ready to soak it all up. Of the many, many cultural peculiarities I noticed in Japan, one of the most convenient was the tissue pack advertising.

It’s a simple method. Someone goes to a crowded metropolitan area with a box of small packs of tissues. On the tissue packs’ plastic wrappers is advertising. People are quite often willing to accept free tissues, and happily carry the advertising with them wherever they go. Everyone wins.

When I first arrived in China, I discovered how important tissues are here. You use them as napkins, you use them as paper towels, you use them as toilet paper. You really shouldn’t go anywhere without a small personal tissue supply. I found myself really wishing that the Chinese would adopt the tissue pack advertising method.

Here in Shanghai the primary method of street advertising is handing out business card-sized ads in and around the subway stations. I imagine it doesn’t work well at all. The workers handing out the cards are extremely annoying, and no one wants the cards. Subway sanitation workers are always sweeping them up. It seems like the tissue pack advertising method would be perfect for China.

I have actually seen the method used here in Shanghai at least twice. I got a free pack of ad-swaddled tissues outside of the South Huangpi Road (黄陂南路) subway station just last week, and I saw it once before, a long time ago. This really needs to catch on.

Related:

Tissue Issues (Sinosplice)
examples of Japanese tissue packs (Flickr)


10

Jul 2006

How to Spot a Jap

How to Spot a Jap

Chinese and Japanese faces

In 1942 the US War Department produced a Pocket Guide to China, which includes a comic book-like section titled How to Spot a Jap. The goal of the section is to teach American soldiers how to differentiate the Chinese from the Japanese. It covers differences in the face, feet, stride, and pronunciation of English. (Do any veterans out there remember this thing?)

I found How to Spot a Jap a fascinating little piece of wartime memorabilia. Go on and “nostalge” about the US’s racist wartime policies. (It sure is a good thing that’s all a thing of the past, right?)


05

Apr 2006

Like Syntax from Takeshi

Kitano, Takeshi

Kitano Takeshi

This is a picture of Kitano Takeshi (北野武), AKA “Beat Takeshi.” (I always find his Chinese name, Běiyě Wǔ, surreally different from his Japanese name.) My syntax teacher looks a lot like this guy, except for having smile lines around his eyes instead of Takeshi’s perpetual mask of indifference. They seem to share a love of the cigarette.

So sometimes when I’m listening to a lecture on Chinese syntax, my teacher’s visage sends my mind back to a scene in Hanabi, or images of a gangster hanging out with a little boy in Kikujiro. Except instead of spitting out tough guy talk, he’s outlining how the latest cognitive linguistics research affects our understanding of phrase structure. Then he cracks one of his bizarre jokes, and those smile lines seize his face once again, shattering the illusion completely.

I like my teacher, but I’m really not so into Chinese syntax theory. Somehow, though, Takeshi’s Chinese doppelganger helps get me through those classes.


19

Nov 2005

Ah, ah, ah! Hey, hey, hey!

I went to a punk show at Live Bar on Thursday. I especially wanted to see the Japanese bands. (Japanese bands usually know their punk… moreso than me.) Some observations:

– There were five bands: three Chinese, two Japanese. One of the Chinese and one of the Japanese bands were all-girl bands. Another Chinese band was composed of three guys with a female vocalist. Girl punk invasion!

– The Chinese bands, when setting up, usually test the mic by saying “?” (“Hello?”) and “听得见吗?” (“can you hear me?”). Both Japanese bands said “ア, ア, ア! ヘ, ヘ, ヘ!” (“Ah, ah, ah! Hey, hey, hey!”) over and over. It sounds pretty funny.

– The music was all right.

– I wondered about the practicality of a Japanese band coming to China on tour, and a tiny little local bar like Live Bar at that. I asked one of the mohawked Japanese guys how it worked. He said they have to pay for their plane tickets, but the rest of the touring costs are covered.

– I confirmed that after five years in China I can still speak Japanese, but I am starting to suck at it. Yikes. I have to do something about that, or my major is going to become completely meaningless (and it wasn’t worth a whole lot to begin with!).

Two photos from the event, via Shanghai Streets (click photos for more):


30

Jul 2005

Why can't Asia just get along?

I don’t read a lot of blogs these days, and the topics I write on tend to come from my own experiences rather than the internet. Here’s one blog entry on Harvard’s Global Voices Online that I have to point out, though (via Peking Duck):

Inside the Japanese Blogosphere – The Anti-Korea Wave

Also interesting:

News from Chinese Blogosphere

P.S. Scheduled posting, it would seem, refers to the minimum quantity of posts you’ll see. So there might be extras, from time to time, like this one.


29

Jul 2005

Buying a PS2 in Shanghai

I went to my local video game shop last weekend. I took a look at the PlayStation 2 prices. I’m pretty sure this is what they were:

– Imported PS2 with mod chip installed + 1 locally manufactured controller + 10 free games: 1399 RMB
– Imported PS2 with mod chip installed + 1 imported controller + 10 free games: 1499 RMB
– Locally manufactured PS2 with mod chip installed + 1 locally manufactured controller + 10 free games: 1599 RMB
– Locally manufactured PS2 with mod chip installed + 1 imported controller + 10 free games: 1699 RMB
– imported 8 MB memory cards: 149 RMB
– imported controllers: 149 rmb

That’s right, the PS2’s manufactured in China cost more, and according to the owner the quality isn’t as good. I asked the owner why. The conversation went something like this:

> Me: Why are the ones made in China more expensive? Shouldn’t they be cheaper?

> Owner: Sony is Japanese! The Japanese always do this! They make good stuff and sell it to the USA, then they sell all the crappy electronics in China, for higher prices than the good stuff sells for in the USA! Why do you think we hate the Japanese?

> Me: Ummm, I thought that had something to do with historical events…

> Owner: No, this is why!

A very “Shanghai moment,” that.

The imported controllers are more expensive than locally manufactured ones, though. The owner highly recommends them, as the locally manufactured ones break/wear out too easily.

In that shop, pirated PS2 games go for 5 RMB each! I remember when I was a teenager I had to mow quite a few lawns to earn the money I needed to buy the NES cartridges I was dying to have. Nowadays, kids in Shanghai can get the newest video games for pocket change. The cost of the system itself is a bit prohibitive, though.

While I was in the shop, there was a high school boy in there seeking out the owner with all the anxiety of a parent going to visit a sick child in the hospital. It seems his mom got so fed up with his excessive game playing that she picked up his PS2 and smashed it against the ground. The owner said he could actually fix it! Meanwhile, the kid, in desperate need of his video game fix, was returning to the shop every few hours to inquire about the status of his precious PS2.

One of the games the owner was recommending was God of War. Now, I pretty much outgrew video games in college (except for the occasional game of StarCraft or original Alien Hominid), but this game had the magic to draw me completely back in. At least for a little while. There’s just one word for this game: stunning. (Also shockingly violent — not for the kiddies!) Greek mythology has never been so fun (even if it is a bit off).

If you know me, you surely know about my staunch anti-piracy stance. All this rampant piracy in China should not be supported.

But yeah, I’ve been playing quite a bit of PS2 lately.


30

Jun 2005

Origin of Koi

So many inventions and customs originated in China that it’s not uncommon for me to learn one that I never knew about before. Sometimes, however, the claims get a little ridiculous.

My favorite is the claim that the Japanese are actually a lost tribe of Chinese from southern Zhejiang, and that the Japanese language has evolved out of the dialect of Wenzhou. I think the first part is simply a creative attempt to explain Japan’s financial success while holding onto Chinese pride. The second part is undoubtedly rooted in the fact that a lot of Chinese people think that Wenzhou’s dialect–a dialect reknowned for being totally unintelligible to speakers of virtually any other dialect in China–sounds like Japanese. The people that say it sounds like Japanese usually understand no actual Japanese. As someone that understands Japanese, I can assure you that Wenzhou-hua sounds nothing like Japanese.

Recently I ran into another possible example of a far-fetched claim related to Japan. The claim is that the practice of keeping koi (colorful carp) originated in China. I immediately found this suspect, but then figured it was probably largely because my time spent in Japan was my first significant contact with the tradition, and the word koi has been imported into the English language from Japanese (not Chinese) recently. Obviously, neither of these reasons are real evidence that the practice of raising koi really originated in Japan.

I checked my favorite reference, Wikipedia. The koi entry had this to say on the matter:

While a Chinese book of the Western Jin Dynasty (4th century) mentions carp with various colors, Koi breeding is generally thought to have begun during the 19th century in the Niigata prefecture of Japan.

This doesn’t prove anything conclusively, so I thought maybe it would be wise to ask an actual domesticated carp where the practice originated:

koi

Yeah, I thought so.


09

May 2005

Gaijin Complex

Remember Marco Polo Syndrome? Well, Marxy of the excellent Japan blog Néomarxisme has recently written about a parallel phenomenon:

>…all foreigners with interest in Japan hate all the other foreigners with interest in Japan. The Colonialists all like their ex-pat buddies and pubs, but the Japanese-speaking foreigner contingent is in constant battle with themselves, vying to prove linguistic abilities, obscure knowledge, and depth of societal penetration. I call this the “gaijin complex,” and I’m only finally finding my way out of it now after a long period of affliction and convalescence.

It’s very interesting to me that the phenomenon in Japan involves “vying to prove linguistic abilities, obscure knowledge, and depth of societal penetration.” That’s something that few expats in China attempt. Sure, there are those with the obscure knowledge (especially political), but all three?

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of creature the “China expat” evolves into. With China’s continued economic development, will he resemble his cousin in Japan someday?


21

Jun 2003

John in Oz

I’ll be in Australia for the next two weeks, so I won’t be updating for that time. Australia’s a big country, so I won’t try for more than a few places of interest in Queensland. For the time I’m in Brisbane, I’ll be staying with Ben, a friend and former ZUCC teacher. Wilson is meeting me at the Brisbane airport. He’s already been in Sydney for over a week.

In the meantime, you may want to check out some of the new blogs in the China Blog List. Brad F’s new blog kind of reminds me of mine. I especially like his “answers” entry.

When I get back to Hangzhou, I’ll be just teaching about 15 hours a week and hanging out, hopefully studying some Chinese in preparation for fulltime Chinese class come fall. Derrick will also be here in Hangzhou for about a month. I might be able to make it to Beijing this August, and possibly to the wedding in Kyoto of the oldest son of my Japanese homestay family. If I do that, it’ll be a boat ride from Shanghai to Osaka. Could be cool. At the end of August I’ll be busy helping the new additions to the ZUCC foreign teacher crew get settled. It’s gonna be a great new semester.

OK, I need to sleep. I leave Hangzhou for Pudong Airport at 7:30am…


26

Dec 2002

Home for Christmas, finally (part 2)

Sunday, December 22nd. I get to the airport at about 8:30am. Check-in goes smoothly. Before long I’m on a plane. The only snag is that what I was told was a nonstop flight from Shanghai to Detroit was actually a flight with a stopover in Tokyo. Maybe I wouldn’t have to get off the plane, at least, and I could just sleep. I was ready for that.

On the plane I notice there are a lot of young people. Turns out there are two singing groups from universities in the U.S. which had been invited to Shanghai to perform. That includes religious Christmas songs. Kind of interesting; not interesting enough to keep me awake, however. My last thought as I drift off is, “I hope they wake me when they serve the meal….”

I awake as we’re arriving in Tokyo. I ask the girl next to me if there was a meal. “Yes, she tried to wake you. It was like you were dead to the world.” D’oh! Oh well. I was dead to the world. It’s the best way to sleep.

They make me get off the plane and wait around in the Tokyo airport for two hours. It’s strange hearing so much Japanese again so soon, when I wasn’t planning on it at all. Mostly, though, I’m just tired and hungry. I fall asleep in my chair and awake to the boarding call.

The flight starts off pleasantly enough. To my left is a silent Asian man. To my right is a large Marine, headed home from Okinawa with his family for Christmas. His family is behind us. He seems nice enough.

It isn’t long, however, before the trans-Pacific ennui sets in. I succeed in sleeping for a while. I devour a decent in-flight meal and sleep a little more. Soon, though, my Marine friend’s little 4-5 year old son “E.J.” becomes possessed. He is noisy. Then he starts this thing where he lies on his back in the seat and pummels my seat from behind with his feet. Not exactly conducive to restfulness. I can’t really complain because his parents tell him to stop. Thing is, he keeps just waiting a little while and then starting up again.

There is a mother and two nice young boys in front of me. They all love to recline their seats. I suppose that’s their right. My long cramped legs are forced into straddling the seat in front of me, my knee caps jammed up against the back of the arm rests of the seat. Then they come up with this fun game of repeatedly putting the arm rests up and down for no discernible reason. Are they doing it solely to keep painfully whacking my knee caps? Thanks.

My agony is interrupted by a new form of torture called Santa Who? — a “heart-warming” story of an amnesia-inflicted Santa who meets a selfish news reporter who needed a holiday change of heart. I watch the whole thing. I want to die.

Wait — now E.J. is pummeling me again and my friends in front of me are crushing my kneecaps with renewed vigor. Now I want to die.

There are only two good points to the flight. First, there seem to be an unusually large number of attractive women onboard. Not seated next to me, of course, but they are on the premises to give me something else to focus my attention on and help me pull through it. Thanks, ladies. Second, the airline serves ice cream after Santa Who? ends. Ice Cream! All right.

Silent Asian man is Chinese, as it turns out, and can’t figure out his immigration forms. I help him. He seems pleasantly surprised that I can help him with that in Chinese. His English doesn’t seem too hot. I found myself wondering if he always asks for Coke because he likes it, or because that’s all he can say.

Scooby Doo the Movie comes on. Vowing not to make the same mistake again, I refuse to put my earphones on. Still, my eyes stay glued to the screen, however, and I’m soon angry over the stupidity of the film. I manage to sleep a little more.

Hope comes in the form of the second in-flight meal. Not only does it satisfy my hunger, but with it comes peace to the whole plane, for a short time.

For the remaining stretch E.J. tests my patience. But I hold out. I don’t crack. We land.

Things start getting better after that, because I am actually in the U.S.A. I have just eaten, but I decide to spend some of my 3-hour layover in Detroit eating. I get chicken tacos with chips, salsa, and guacamole dip. You can not get that stuff in China! As I’m eating I notice someone else eating chilli cheese fries and I almost regret my choice of food. The discomforts of the past 13 hours quickly fade into the background as my stomach takes the spotlight. Plus there are more hot women in the Detroit airport. Hot American women. All right.

Before long I’m on my final flight, bound for Tampa. Is it just my imagination, or is the leg room shrinking with every flight?! My legs are really uncomfortable, but at least this flight is relatively short. As the plane lifts off the ground, I gaze out over the landscape. No snow. It looks like a sepia world, all in browns, tans, grays, drabs….

Despite the short travel time, my level of discomfort seems to rise proportionately. It is all I can do to keep from flipping out. I can’t sleep. I try to pass the time with the new issue of The Economist. Biotechnology in China. Hmmmm… (Ouch, my knees!)

In the end, after 24 hours of travel, I make it. As I arrive at the baggage claim, the familiar face of Paco greets me.



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