It's because I'm in school, which means that every single day, I'm learning something. Every. Single. Day.
Every day I learn a new verb conjugation in Japanese, or a new rhetorical concept. Today I looked up at the whiteboard after my Statistics class, completely covered with numbers, symbols, and graphs after the lecture, and I thought to myself, I get all this.
That feels pretty good.
- - -
The very first day I woke up in Japan was Christmas Eve, 2000.
I had flown in to Tokyo the day before from Seattle. I arrived at about 4 PM local time and watched the sun set over Tokyo as I rode into Ueno on a Keisei Skyliner smoking car. I drank a can of hot Kirin green tea from the vending machine on the train (of course there are vending machines on the train), smoked a Cabin Mild, and listened to Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" on my brand-new Diamond Rio MP3 player (capacity: one album). I had a little Palm Pilot, one of the early ones, with a little fold-out keyboard, and I was in the middle of typing some notes into it when it just up and died, presumably out of embarassment.
I made it to Ueno, caught a cab to my hotel and checked in, then walked across the street to Lawson for something to eat. I had heard of Lawson Station, the convenience store chain, from reading manga and looking around on the web, so I spent a solid thirty minutes in there looking at everything. I finally bought a couple of manga and a nice-looking bento, some chips, and a can of tea, and went back to my room.
There was an anime movie on TV Asahi, so I watched that, even though I realistically had at that time a Japanese vocabulary of maybe twenty-five words. I leafed through the manga, smoked another cigarette, and sat there, thinking, this is me, in Japan.
I don't remember falling asleep, but I woke up smartly, just snapped awake. I checked my watch; still on Seattle time. No good. I checked the alarm clock by the bed: 5 AM.
There was no going back to sleep at this point, so I took a shower, got dressed, and headed out the front door. There was a brief problem with the front deks clerk. I thought he thought I was checking out; he just wanted my key because that's how they do hotel there.
Eventually, we worked it out. I decided that I would like a hot can of tea. There was a vending machine in front of the hotel, but it was out of order. I walked over to Lawson's, but it was actually closed, so they could strip and re-wax the floor.
Sigh. Of course, I no idea at the time that finding a vending machine in Tokyo is about as hard as finding a NASCAR fan at a Skynyrd concert. I walked half a block and found another machine, this one also stocked with hot tea. I sipped thoughtfully as I wandered through pre-dawn Asakusa. I walked over to the bridge across the Sumida River and stared out across the water and the city, Cabin in one hand, tea in the other.
This is me, in Tokyo.
I eventually went back to the hotel and had a little rest before heading downstairs to the hotel cafe for breakfast. I was offered the choice of a Western or a Japanese breakfast, and I chose the Japanese.
A whole grilled fish, bowl of rice, salad, pickles, tea, and bowl of delicious miso soup later, I got up to leave. An American couple was seated near the entrance.
"How's the weather in Seattle?" the woman asked.
"How did you know I'm from Seattle?" I gasped.
"It's on the back of your shirt," she replied.
I was wearing a BSA motorcycles T-shirt with "Dewey's Cycles, Seattle, WA" on the back.
"Oh, right," I grinned sheepishly. "Must be jet-lag. I'm not usually this thick. See you later."
"Sure thing. Oh, and Merry Christmas."