Sunday, August 5, 2007

Post-Move Euphoria... Fading... Fading...

The move itself went surprisingly well. I got up early Sunday to take care of the last minute details. Throwing out crap, packing up things I needed until that morning, cleaning visible signs of evil gaijin activity.

I thought moving at 10am would be a smart idea. Beat the heat and humidity. But as I discovered at 9am while taking a load of garbage to the drop-off spot, the heat and humidity are formidable opponents here in Japan. Somehow they must've gotten wind of my plan, because they were out in force to stop me. I broke a sweat before I hit the corner and knew it was going to be rough.

My friend arrived right on time and we quickly loaded the first bags. That's right- bags. Garbage bags. It was either garbage bags or cardboard boxes, and I don't know how to say "cardboard box" in Japanese. A short drive later and we were at my new apartment, which is near a coin laundry advertised by a giant picture of a smiling gorilla with the words "Health and Happiness To You" printed under his hairy chin.

So if you're ever walking drunkenly towards my apartment, look for the happy ape. Then I'll show you the picture of the gorilla. It's very amusing.

It took two sweaty trips, but was much easier than I'd anticipated. But you have to understand, I absolutely loathe moving. Moving is my least favorite activity apart from dying in the jaws of a shark. The worst move ever was from Toyohashi to Hamamatsu. Multiple hikes to the train station dragging my overloaded suitcases, in the sun and humidity, no help whatsoever. Not one but two train trips between there and Hamamatsu. And expensive taxi rides.

Moving from Athens to Japan is a close second, but only because I had so much furniture. Oh, and boxes of books. All my college moves were much easier. Just my dad and me, an S-10 pickup truck and a straight shot on the highway.

The apartment itself is very nice. Probably the nicest place I've lived in since I first left my ancestral home, stately Bryan Manor. This apartment is basically two rooms. Or one big room with an entrance hall that doubles as a kitchen. The walls are a pleasantly textured white and the floors are a fake blond hardwood. It exudes cleanliness.

I'm also on the fifth floor of my building. Now I work on a 5th floor and live on one as well. So my view has the same perspective. Although from my classroom all I can see is the massive parking deck of the now-deceased Ito Yokado store, and the courtyard below where high schools sneak off to smoke and text message. I'm serious- when I was on my way to my Bentenjima class two weeks ago, I found a couple of high school girls in their uniforms sitting cross-legged in the breezeway between our building and the Ito Yokado.

Like Quentin Tarantino's wet dream fodder, they were smoking and text messaging with an air of casual sullenness.

From my apartment balcony, I can see other apartment buildings and busy roadways. It's a hot asphalt pizza oven there.

We dropped off the last of my stuff, then went to check on the dog my friend is caring for while its owners tour Europe... and then I bought lunch for the both of us (not the dog, unfortunately) at an Indian buffet. We had salad, curry and naan, and also some tandoori chicken.

After I got partially settled in and showered, I met him again and we went downtown to the big hanabi festival. Every August here in Hamamatsu, groups of men in tight leggins and toe socks walk around with giant sparkling fireworks, spewing orange flames and smoke all over downtown. The main street was blocked off and little tents lined both sides. Festival food sizzling, kids with brown summer faces walking around, lots of jimbei (a sort of short pajama outfit) and yukata (light summer kimono).

We had dinner at a noodle shop where they specialize in eel dishes and soba. It was very cheap and very delicious. The young woman who served us had a shiny wart on her forehead but was otherwise blemish-free and very pretty. The older woman who runs the place grinned happily at us. People here, at least the ones I've encountered, really want you to like their restaurants and the food they serve.

And now I'm at Popeye Media Cafe, just like in the old Nova days of yore, of yesteryear when ice cream scoops were a dime a dozen and movies cost 2 bits but you got a cartoon and a newsreel about FDR crossing the Delaware. I just bought a mama-chari, the ubiquitous girl's bike of Japan, ridden by nearly everyone.

Except the people who ride those folding bikes with the BMX-looking frames and tiny wheels.

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