We're near the end. There's little more.
I write this approximately 15 minutes from the halfway point on my flight from Osaka to San Francisco. The journey home, while quite welcome, contains six parts - three flights and three hour-plus rides in buses or cars. So I've time to think and work and rest as I hurtle back around the globe to where I make my home.
"Where are you from?" a man asked. I looked away from the road, where I'd been watching for the shuttle, and turned to smile at him. He repeated the city when I answered and I nodded encouragingly. "I learned to speak English - a little bit," he told me, "so I can talk to people." I complimented him and he ducked his head in charming acknowledgment, turning to speak to his wife in Japanese when she returned.
"Did you sightsee?" he asked and I nodded while mentioning a couple of items. After we climbed on the shuttle, I began a mental review of my trip, preparing for the executive summary I should now be writing.
One...Night on the plane.
I completed a good deal of work on my arriving journey. I suffered through the lengthy and numerous flights, but I'm improving my tolerance for such experiences and didn't think it too terrible. I read both my books, wincing when I realized I'd meant to save one for the trip home, and flipped through magazines, reviewed manuscripts and replied to email that has been waiting for me.
Two...Nights in Korea
Contrary to my expectations, I felt more comfortable in Korea than I did Japan. My colleagues there seemed more relaxed and open - we talked and laughed and were very flexible about strategy and execution. They gave me gifts - I do like presents - and credit cards were accepted for everything from coffee to cabs. My hotel was beautiful, especially the bathroom, which was lucky since I spent a good deal of time being sick in there. It's nice to be in a pretty place when you're throwing up and wishing for death, isn't it?
Three...Nights in the Japanese Countryside
I landed in Japan with the realization that my connection was fairly tight and that if immigration was slow, I was screwed.
Immigration was slow.
But when I once would have freaked the hell out, I instead breathed deeply and avoided looking at the clock. 'There is nothing you can do about this,' I told myself as I inched forward in line. 'There is nothing critical tomorrow morning, so if you miss this flight, there will be another. Just relax and wait and breathe. Otherwise, you'll look panicked when you get to the officer and he won't let you in at all.'
It required nudging people out of my way once I was through the fingerprinting and photo-taking process and jogging in my flip flops to the check-in counter, but I did make my plane with time to spare. I also caught the bus without problems and was soon in a new hotel (that smelled musty but was better after opening the windows).
I took meetings and used chopsticks, doing better than I expected at both tasks but still finding it a bit painstaking and difficult. I began to use vending machines to acquire precious Pepsi Nex or Coke Zero and appreciated that the busy schedule always stayed precisely on time.
Four...Nights in Tokyo
Despite being ready to come home, I'll admit to a bittersweet twinge when the limousine bus pulled away from the hotel and into Tokyo traffic. I'd enjoyed my accomodations very much, with the shops and restaurants there in the same building. I spent time with Adam and Bob, walking the city or drinking sake or sipping wine at the top of one tower while sitting in the lounge.
I worked, oddly enough, only one full day, spending Tuesday at the office for about 10 hours having meetings. I took over said meeting, which I suppose is predictable to the point that I didn't mean for it to happen. Yet it somehow did - the force of my personality standing out just as my red shirt popped against the background of dark suits that filled the room.
"Do you understand?" an earnest colleague asked, and I looked at him and squinted at the picture he'd drawn and frowned. I tried to think of a question or some point to clarify but I really had no idea where to start.
"No," I finally said simply, helplessly, and was startled when the room erupted in laughter. I looked around and smiled, always pleased to amuse someone, I smiled back at them and apologized to Earnest-san and he began to perform a small but helpful skit that elicited more laughter and enough understanding for us to clarify the point with reasonable questions.
My arms ache a little from holding on to the straps as the train sped through the country. I am rested, for I found the pillows remarkably comfortable - both flexible and firm. I wish for them now, a bit past the halfway point on part 4 (fly across Pacific Ocean) for the tiny pillow encased in thin blue fabric much like paper is not nearly as lovely.
So I'll leave this post with four comments.
1. I'm glad I went.
2. I'm glad it's over.
3. The return to normalcy is generally sweeter after a pleasant disruption and I'm happy I have a job that affords me those.
4. The world - the more I see of it - has me convinced that the world is both larger and smaller than it seems, housing such diversity that words can't express it yet with surprisingly similar in those moments of shared understanding and laughter.
"I hope you have a wonderful trip," I told the man and his wife as I climbed off the shuttle.
"Good luck," he replied with a smile and I gave my last bow in Japan before entering the Osaka airport and deciding that I'd tote whatever luck I gathered along with the luggage that rolled behind me.