October 7, 2017

Second home [confirmed]: Part 2

Day 4: Vehicle license renewals are easier! Meeting more old friends
- Up again quite early, out the door by 0530 to hear the frog croaking cease as soon as I was detected. Mist was coming off the rice paddies; old farmers were out starting the day's work.
- Motor vehicle license renewal. I felt instinctive hatred when I saw the Hiroshima Prefecture Driver's Licensing Center building again due to a difficult experience years ago (PTSD?), but then rational thought took over and I went in to start my license renewal. The staff there was perfunctory, efficient and unperturbed by my presence—having some of the language helps. I was processed and eventually found myself in line to take my two-hour driving safety lecture and learn about all the new laws.
- Old friends: Met the Vices for lunch and so wonderful to catch-up and hear about THEIR overseas adventure, hear about their kids. They are the first people from Hiroshima I met. And they are just great people.
- On country life in rural Japan: with no one around, you are at liberty to do whatever you want. Spelunking one morning, I decided I would sing “Wishlist” by Pearl Jam aloud in front of a lush row of rice stalks in a paddy near the town’s Buddhist shrine. It felt good to do something I would never normally do.
- It’s nice to take time to listen to the rain. It rained overnight, still drizzling in the morning when I awoke. I stayed quiet, quaffed an ice coffee, and listened to the thrumming of the rain on the roof, and on the ground outside. Small pleasures.
- One afternoon I went around the neighborhood rice paddies with Marina hunting for more frogs and geckos. The friendly neighbors all said hi to us.
- More old friends: Kanto Man Mike Penilski offered to get on a shinkansen mid-way through my journey to Yokohama for a catch-up chat and beer, stalwart fellow that he is. I talked him off the ledge and we settled for a Skype session instead. Next day, I reluctantly traveled to Yokohama for some business…

Day 5: Back in Yokohama (solo)
- In Yokohama, it’s nice to be able to get things done because I knew where stuff is located and how to get it all done hyper-quickly. Even simply walking around the Yokohama station area was fun, with all the throngs of commuters and crazy energy. As a visitor, I don’t feel a burden anymore because I know that I won’t face it every day. Plus, I witnessed a kickass sunset view.
- Back at the home office. Day of work catch-ups and relationship chats. Night of karaoke with K-7 friends and cocktails. Effusive banter with my work friends seemed like a Judd Apatow movie in that hilarious way.
Day 6-7: More, MORE friends, more baseball. Happiness!
- Took an early-morning train to visit old friend Jim Shortenance at his home. Supreme catch-up coffee and man-hugs. Next was a live baseball game with Jaker K. at hallowed Jingu Stadium. The game was entertaining as we watched the on-field action and trashed each other. This is the guy I climbed Mt. Fuji with and shared many other of life’s moments, not all good. But that’s the aquifer of true friendship. And two foul balls came to within 20 feet of us.
- On the way back to J.’s place something peculiar but wonderful happened. We were at Shinjuku Station about to board a train when heavy monsoon rains inundated the train platform, and we decided to wait for the next train. I dragged my heavy bag over to the passenger line-up lane where he was waiting. This prompted a sturdy North American woman of a certain age, with frizzy copper hair, to come over and launch herself into a conversation with me: “You don’t have to lift that heavy bag, just use the wheels on your suitcase…that’s what I have learned here in Tokyo,” she said. I was taken aback by this spontaneous-yet-pleasant banter. After a few more quips from her and my startled replies, she melted into the station area jammed with commuters, and Jaker actually mentioned something like “was that lady a reincarnation of your mom?” he said, kindly. Only after he mentioned it did the similarities really sink in. It was an odd but uplifting experience, and left me with a warm feeling.
- J.K., kind host of my last day in Japan this time around, and knowing well the dearth of beef in India, made a platter of delicious burgers and other succulent treats. I watched the Tragically Hip’s final concert on his plasma TV and marveled at his Canadian outpost in Tokyo’s suburbs. His family came home and we picked up from the last time I’d visited, one year prior, without missing a beat, and feasted.
- Early next day, I made my way back to Gurgaon’s 100-degree heat with a warm and fuzzy tranquility. I found myself at home singing Taylor Swift songs alone in the apartment, missing my family who were still visiting Nippon, and elated by the realization that I had re-claimed wonder and enthusiasm for my second home in the world.

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