Mixed reviews on the trip to Odaiba, although the bottom line was that it was very, very fun. This is despite the infernal meddling of the woman who, without consulting me (and I was planning the whole trip with another American mom and Dave- she wasn’t supposed to be involved at all) canceled the trip the day before, then scheduled Dave for another appointment after I started the ball rolling again. Fifteen minutes before we were to leave, I also found out that she had called all of the Japanese parents and given meeting instructions that conflicted with mine, so all of a sudden we had three groups of children all over the city instead of my planned and simple one.
I have to keep reminding myself of the Bambi principle… so I’ll try not to say anything too nasty, but I was absolutely infuriated. We spent 20 minutes trying to locate one of the groups at an enormous train station to no avail, then without the directional help of the Japanese kids who were supposed to be with us, I managed to get us safely onto a rail that would take us 25 minutes in the wrong direction.
Oh, hooray. We had limited time anyway and I’d already eaten an hour and a half of it, plus I was missing a kid. Role model alert. I threw down for dinner as an apology, and our first glimmer of a luck reversal came afterward when the entire group was reunited at the Odaiba station and when the Sega urinals turned out to be functional.
A group of us was dedicated to Legoland while the others wanted some shopping time, so we busted down to the entrance, only to be turned away. We’d missed the last entry by a mere few minutes… and my internals were once again succumbing to the relentless gnawing of guilt. And anger at the woman who’d thwarted me.
Luckily, yeehaw! The Sega Joypolis was open and it was fan-flippin’-tastic! Four of us had a private showing of Sonic the 3D Hedgehog, then discovered an indoor roller coaster that combined with a video game, so we could shoot zombies and then flap around wildly near the glowing pink intestines. A giant half-pipe dance dance revolution was next, and after an encore with the roller coaster we made our way to this giant ferris wheel that took us to the level of the tops of surrounding skyscrapers. Heights, wow. All the heebies were jeebieing.
We were scheduled for a trip to Nikko bright and early the next morn, so we cracked the whip and rode homeward. Turns out Nikko is a three hour trip, so I settled comfortably into my headphones once we boarded the bus. Headphones are an excellent blockade of intrusive, prattling conversation, so they turned out to be a good idea because I didn’t have to listen to her talk about how I’d ruined the trip she’d actually done her best to ruin, and I didn’t get madder until later when she exploded into my hotel room and started moving around all my stuff.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m working on it…
Anyway, Nikko turned out to be one of those places where you have zero idea where you’re going until you get there, zero idea of what the place involves once you do arrive, and zero say in your activities or food choices beyond “do I want to get naked with students in the public bath or do I want to poop on the rules and have a co-ed sake party with the American grownups even though co-edness was expressly forbidden by the phrase ‘do not get into each other’?”
Since one of the kids had described in vivid detail how weird it was for former exchange students to see a teacher nude by accident, and since there was no way in the deepest circles of hell I was going to risk being the naked protagonist of future stories, I went with sake.
And I was pissed, because Kim was really convincing when describing how cool the baths were. Kim lived in Tokyo as a kid, so before I left, we talked about all the things I should experience. The public bathhouse was one I was really jazzed to try, because it sounded like, you know, an authentic cultural experience, plus a way to challenge my boundaries.
IT DID NOT SOUND LIKE SOMETHING I WANTED TO DO WITH STUDENTS.
Grr. The waterfall in Nikko was pretty, though. The shrines: meh. I find it an arrogant, insulting slap in beauty’s face when people put cheap, plastic monkeys with price tags all over it.
So the hotel room itself was interesting. There were no beds, just tatami mats on the floor, on which we put a sleeping pad, blanket, and pillow. It was actually moderately comfortable except the pillow, which conformed to my head in much the same way a mountain range would, for example, after millions of years with a glacier. Since we only had the customary eight hours, I got to know the ceiling and walls pretty well and emerged an absolute crankmonster in the morning.
I think it was written all over my face. I’m not good with yielding control over my life, and will only do so willingly for small chunks of time and for measurable benefit. I am also not good without considerable hours alone, and am sometimes hermetic for days at time. This girl? Not so happy.
We were scheduled to leave at 8:30, and shortly before I was hanging out in my room with a couple of the kids. One poor girl had slammed a finger shortly before boarding the plane to Tokyo, and the result was pretty disgusting. The poor thing had never before experienced how colorful and how oddly shaped and textured an injury like that can get, plus she was half a world away from the comfort of family, so she was understandably stressed. I figured I’d have her in my room for a bandage change so I could look at it and reassure her. I’ve had similar injuries as a result of playing basketball for years in shoes that were too small, letting giant people jump up and down on my feet until my toenails turned weird colors and fell off. I’ve also had 35 years of watching other people’s misshapen injuries heal.
It was a good plan, until the meddler came back.
She barged uninvited into the room and started manhandling my possessions, “making” the “beds” and ordering us in harsh, clipped tones to do this and that. I gritted my teeth and asked her please to leave, that I was taking care of things and that we’d be down shortly. She refused. I repeated myself slightly more forcefully. She refused. Her hands were on my stuff.
I get it now. I get why people snap.
Luckily I turned the corner for a sec and deep-breathed all over the place, and the kids thought the whole incident was funny so that helped, too.
Back on the bus to head to woodcarving.
Brian’s another American teacher, and his wife is a huge curry fan. I found out here that so am I, and in a big way, like life-changing. Turns out curry was the transcendental food experience I described in an earlier post, and also the “soup” I had two bowls of. Brian had heard of this hotel in Nikko that’d been selling the same recipe for over 100 years, and they boxed it so people could enjoy it at home.
Well, it took him close to a dogged hour of very pointed, very persistent insistence before we, as two adults, were “allowed” to leave the group activities that we had no say in planning or choice in participating in to go grab some curry. And when the cab came, the Meddler hailed him in rapid Japanese, ordering him to wait at the hotel for us so we’d have to come immediately back. With no way of countering this, we were forced to either move as quickly as possible to rejoin the group (who’d be staying in the same place for over an hour) or pay handsomely.
Curses: foiled again.
My mood was not improving, but I did wind up having a good time at Edo Wonderland. It was like this pre-electricity “amusement” park, but with no rides. It did, however, have live comic ninja specials, a maze, and a crooked house, plus I got to hear a grown-up shriek when I surprised him in the wrong end of the haunted samurai mansion. The koi were hysterically funny in their feeding frenzy, so point-and-shoot for days, yo:
We also made friends with this cool British girl on holiday by herself, the knowledge of which filled me with insane amounts of admiration and jealousy. Oh, to have control over my own comings and goings! What bliss!
Finally got home, though, and I begged off the brewery and baseball plan for some much needed solitude and schoolwork completion.
I feel better now, but Bambi principle… Bambi principle… Bambi principle…
I’m sorry I couldn’t follow it.