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First days in Morioka

8/5/14
I was surprised, on my walk back from the tourist center (which is my only source of wifi right now), to see bottles of water sitting outside on the street, gathered around poles outside buildings. I’ve seen that practice just once before in an anime where it was mentioned as a superstitious custom used to keep cats away.

Well it’s fucking working, because WHERE ARE ALL THE CATS. Or the dogs for that matter. This little town is immaculate, and I’ve only seen one dog (which was hilarious, btw, small and fluffy, with a smushed-in face that always looks like he’s about to whip out a cigar and call someone mugsy, see?). I was also very excited to see a small dish of salt by the window of a shop! This is a custom whose name I can’t remember now, which was started by a woman attempting to draw the horses (who love salt) that drew the emperor’s carriage to her house so she could make out with him and have his babies. That woman was a genius.

It’s afternoon now, and I’ve seen two more dogs, one of which lives at the end of my block and is a giant gray Irish Wolfhound, and seems friendly but totally beaten by the heat, poor lil’ pony.

So, quick recap:
I arrived at Narita airport, went through immigration, got a resident card, and picked up my luggage which I immediately arranged to have shipped to the school where I’ll be working. Next I exchanged some cash and bought a bus ticket into Toyko. I kept passing out in awkward positions during the 45-minute bus ride. I’d nod off only to wake up with my mouth hanging open and my head dangling off my shoulders at an odd angle.

I got off the bus and immediately started looking for a cafe where I could hook up to some wifi. I stopped into the first one I found, bought a sandwich in a plastic bag, and asked if there was wifi. There wasn’t. I stuffed the sandwich in my purse and kept moving. I turned up a small street and hit a Starbucks. Bingo. I bought a scone and a bottle of water out of a sense of obligation, and sat down to discover that I needed a login and password to use the wifi. I went back to the sales lady, and showed her my phone. A look that resembled “Oh, honey, you’re so screwed” flashed across her face, then she quickly said, “I give you mine!” She snatched the phone out of my hands and started typing furiously while I bowed deeply and thanked her in the most formal way I knew how. Once back at my seat, I discovered that the research Boyfriend had done on hotels were nearby the wrong train station. I found a few in the area, and decided to try the nearest, which turned out to be adorable, affordable, and very, very small. The man at the front desk was very kind and efficient, and waited awkwardly behind the desk, avoiding eye contact once he had given me the “women’s package” (a small bag with a pink clip, some nail polish remover, etc.), until I mustered up the courage to ask, “Sumimasen, demo, key desu ka?” (Excuse me, but is there a key?). He burst out laughing and apologized a few times while he handed me the card for the room he had forgotten all about.
I laughed at the tininess of the room, ate my sandwich, changed and went to bed. In the morning, I returned the room key, and went to find the train station. Once accomplished, I bought a Shinkansen (bullet train) ticket ($135) to Morioka, and barely found the right platform in time.
The train ride was a breeze, but I didn’t sleep. I bought food on the train, a few tiny onigiri and karaage, and tried not to cry.
My coworkers met me in Morioka about an hour after I arrived, since I came on an earlier train than expected. They drove me to work, where I volunteered to teach a couple classes before I was declared unfit for duty and duly driven home.
When I arrived at my apartment, the electricity was off and there was (and still is) no internet, which I didn’t notice until my coworkers had already left, making arrangements to come back after work to help me find a grocery store nearby. I laid down and tried not to cry, to no avail. I didn’t sleep.
They came back, turned on my electricity, and we drove around, bought some food and they dropped me back at my place, at which point I noticed the water was off, too. I figured out how to turn it back on, only to discover later the next day that the gas has also been turned off, and won’t be turned on until the gas company comes by to “verify [my] existence” (my coworker’s exact words tonight).
I fell asleep yesterday, my first day in Morioka, around 7pm and woke up this morning around 3am. I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I ate, watched Wreck it Ralph, then decided I didn’t want to wait until noon for my coworker to pick me up. I wanted control. I wanted familiar faces. I wanted some fucking wifi.
I got dressed, procrastinated a little, and finally set off in the direction of a tourist center based on the combined information from a map printed out at work and a pamphlet I had picked up at the train station. About a mile later, I had gotten to know my neighborhood a little better, and the tourist center had just opened up. It was 830am.
I stayed until about 11, facetiming and chatting with friends, and watching the rain come down outside, hoping there would be a break in the weather for an umbrella-less tourist to make her way home eventually. And there was. Because Jesus loves me.
I got home starving (finally), ate some chashu on rice I bought the day before, and watched Ghost in the Shell until my coworker showed up. We chatted easily on our way to work, and bought some food for lunch at a nearby grocery store. Once at work I was on my own, and did a much better job than the previous day of paying attention and being engaging and energetic. I feel less like a zombie today than I did yesterday (no thanks to my uterus, which, fuck you, uterus, why, of all days, jesus christ), and I’m willing to bet tomorrow will be better than today.
So now I’m finally home, in an apartment I’m looking forward to making my own, and hoping I can find enough cool stuff to do when my friends and family come to visit. Either way, it finally felt like it’s all going to be ok, and I know the moment that change happened: when I got a shitty little loaner bicycle. It’s so fucking small, and it’s so shitty, and it’s mine, and everything is going to be ok.

UPDATE: Later that night…
So I just realized the hard way that without gas, there is no hot water. I had a cold sponge bath and sit with a nice warm laptop on my legs to warm up, and comforted myself with the recognition that I’ve had worse. Much, much worse. I survived Belize, where the only water deemed fit to bathe in still wasn’t fit to drink, given that it was captured rainwater held in a cistern that was often populated by frogs. It was also totally unheated. We were told to turn on the water to get wet, then turn it off, later up, turn on the water to rinse, and that was it. So having a cold sponge bath in a secure apartment in a clean, safe city using water I’ve been drinking for 24hrs with no ill effects is hardly an issue. It’s a fucking luxury. Still, note to self: get the fucking gas turned on already.

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