Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Trains and booze

I'm cold and tired, after another day of training. Some of it is physically tiring (having a big lad try to pull your hands off your arms always is), some of it is fatiguing to my self-esteem (being corrected by a youngster when we don't have a language in common is, it turns out, harder than when you aren't struggling for comprehension). I've also had a chance to get really bored by a powerpoint presentation.

I suppose it's quite exotic to travel to a foreign country where almost nobody speaks any English, and then sit in a freezing cold room with several hundred university students, and watch as the world's least interesting powerpoint presentation is narrated.

No, really. You might think I'm exaggerating for comic effect but ten slides of yellow Japanese text on a unvarying blue background later, I was beginning to fear for my sanity. At least when I do this, I splice in a picture of a kitten every few minutes to break up the monotony.

Perhaps luckily my Japanese comprehension is pretty much nil, which meant that although the man speaking appeared to just be reading everything on each slide, that wasn't something I was forced to endure by understanding everything he said. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

But I suppose while many people might journey to foreign countries, and some of them might even encounter powerpoint presentations they can't hope to understand, few of them would do so while wearing white pyjamas and surrounded by people in exactly the same clothes.

Later, I went to an okonimyaki restaurant with fifty Japanese students, played drinking games (the most prevalent one being "hold your glass up and drink whatever anyone puts in it") learned the Kansai-ben for thank you and "you're welcome" ("Okiini!" "Meido!") and ate some fried vegetables, which the owner delivered an hour after all the (delicious-smelling) meat arrived.

This was the same okonimiyaki place I visited last time I was in Tadotsu, and there was evidence on the wall to prove it. It's good to know that as I've travelled through the world, I've left some tangible trace, even if that's only my signature on a grease-soaked piece of cardboard, pinned to the back wall of the Yotaka restaurant.

Now I'm at Tadotsu station waiting for the train home. The station PA is playing the 'train arriving' music, a series of chimes that in my imagination accompanies a tiny Japanese woman singing:
There is a train,
Here comes the train,
It is a vehicle,
With many wheels
(All of them steel.)
It is a train,
A lovely train,
It will be arriving soon.

(Repeat ad infinitum.)
I hope the train home arrives before any more trains going towards Matsuyama or Kochi, or I might start singing along, and then shortly afterwards discover the Japanese for "restrained for his own good".


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