3/16/07

Lawrence of Nihon

Snow gently fell from the frigid Sapporo sky as I sat in a warm bath drinking a cool Japanese beer. On the vanity sat a miniature television with Lawrence of Arabia on.
I recalled envying Lawrence the first time I had seen this film. How I’d desired to break into a foreign culture as Lawrence had. I wished to gain the same respect necessary to be invited in to live among the tribe, be given their clothing, food, friendship, and respect

Then a realization of having fulfilled these rites of passage crept over me. Though my accomplishments had lacked the cinematic flare of Lawrence’s at times, I too had lived among the tribe. I had been given traditional Japanese clothes. Eaten with families in a traditional Japanese manner and gained their friendship, respect, and love. This very moment was part of that life.

Feeling rather proud of myself, I settled back into the tub and watched the snow outside dance as only Japanese snow knows how.

3/14/07

Some people cannot hold their Soju

The weather had started cool, hinting at winter’s inevitable arrival. Having just arrived home from work, my good friend Mi Kyoung called to invite me out. In spite of it being a work night I readily agreed to meet up with her. After a short Taxi ride, I met Mi Kyoung and four of her friends whom I had never met before. Being a foreigner and new to the group I was given a proper initiation by being made to drink countless shots of Soju.
After drinking and eating our fill we decided to change restaurants. We drunkenly stumbled outside oblivious to how cold it was. After a short walk we found a new restaurant. Though I did not want to drink anymore, Mi Kyoung’s friend Young ordered another bottle of Soju.
After yet another shot, I needed to pee went to the bathroom alone. Standing in the bathroom, a large smile crept across my face. Here I was in a foreign land having a great time with people I hardly knew.
My day dream abruptly ended when I noticed that a Korean man who had just walked into the bathroom was staring at me. I zipped up my pants and quickly tried to exit the bathroom. “Are you laughing at me?” The drunken man demanded. “No no, I am sorry I was just using the bathroom,” I replied. “No you were laughing at me!” The drunken man snapped back.
Feeling the situation was escalating, I began pushing past the drunken man to exit the bathroom. Not wanting me to leave the drunken man pushed me away from the door and slapped me in the face. “Whoa! Are we fighting?” I asked, just as he took a kick at my balls.
Not wanting to get kicked hard in the balls I took a swing square at the drunken mans jaw. The punch sent him reeling backwards out of the bathroom and out into the restaurant. As we burst into the restaurant Mi Kyoung caught sight of us and screamed for Young to intervene.
With Young between the two of us the fight soon ended. The drunken mans friends came over and made him sit down. As one of his friends began to talk to him, the drunken man grabbed a box of chopsticks and threw it against the wall. As it smashed against the wall countless metal chopstick chopsticks flew in slow motion throughout the restaurant.
The restaurant, not wanting anymore trouble, pushed us out the back door before we could even pay our bill.
Knowing the police might be coming we ran to the front of the restaurant to hail a cab. No sooner had we hailed a cab, did the drunken man burst outside and try to start a fight again. Before Mi Kyoung and I could get into the taxi, it sped away leaving us with the drunken man. Once again Young jumped in-between us as the drunken mans friends tried to pull him away.
Luckily Mi Kyoung succeeded in quickly hailing another taxi and we took off into the night, never to know what happened to the drunken man.

Smoke and Breeze

Sitting at the traffic light and taste of smoke gasoline cut deep into my eyes. My full face helmet did little to quell the noxious air from reaching my face. I began to breath as shallowly as possible, hoping to keep most of the pollution out of my lungs.
Praying that the light would change, I thought back to a time when I had neglected to wear eye protect during rush hour. As I had ridden my eyes had burned from the smoke and exhaust assaulting my eyes. The stink of gasoline had raced through my sinuses making it hard to breath as well. It was an experience I had made sure to never replicate again.
Finally the light turned green and twenty scooters and even more cars revved their engines pushing even more exhaust into the thickly polluted air. With my eyes burning, I pulled back on the throttle and quickly pulled ahead of the pack leaving most of the dirty air behind me.
Heading out of city the air slowly began to clear and the tasty subtropical breeze washed the city from my clothes. Soon the shroud of pollution lifted and the cool mountain air allowed me to open up my visor.
That first taste of clean air never failed to invigorate me. It tasted damp humid and smelled of countless trees and flowers. Each time I found the clean mountain air it reminded me how beautiful Taiwan truly was. Yet I knew so many people who rarely ventured away from the city. Tied to their job or uninterested in taking the time to drive into the mountains, they rarely knew the pleasures that I took for granted several times a week.
Having no idea of where I was going I headed deeper into the dark mountains passing town after town. Soon there were no more street signs and the towns became fewer and fair between. Feeling completely lost I knew it was time to turn around. Down through the mountains I wandered, at times wondering if I would be lost forever. Nothing looked familiar anymore. Hoping to retrace the route I had taken into the mountains I looked for familiar landmarks.
A slow creeping feeling of panic began to eat at me. Then I realized there was nothing to be worried about. I still had plenty of gas and I could always stop and ask someone where Hsinchu- 新竹市 was.
Then as suddenly as I had become lost, I found myself back on a familiar road. Riding back into town, the traffic and pollution had died down. The urban air had begun to balance out as the clean ocean and mountain air mixed with the filth of another day.
Tomorrow morning rush hour would start and the city would forget about beauty for another day.