To America and Back
After a long period of silence I finally got enough complaints that I haven't sent an update email in awhile, and since I have had a very eventful month I figured I had enough pithy stories to satisfy my update email expectations. So here goes.

I spent my spring break in Iowa. I decided to come back to the States on a whim a week before break started. I was talking to my coworker, Rachel, about how homesick I was and how drained I felt and how I just wanted to forget about school for awhile. As we talked we both figured that a trip home would be just what I needed. So we hopped on the internet and found a reasonable ticket for me. Then I realized how much crap I had to get done before I left. I had to go to a city office to get a multiple re-entry visa that cost about USD $60. I had to tie up some loose ends at school (which proved to be difficult. Apparently I needed permission to go home during my vacation time. I was more than a little annoyed). I had to pack. I had to figure out how to get to the Fukuoka airport, then how to switch from one airport to another in Tokyo. Most of all, I wanted to surprise my family and just show up in Des Moines on Saturday. Well, that didn't work out so well. The airline had to call my listed emergency contact number, which happened to be my family's home number. The conversation between my father and an airline representative a few days before my flight probably went something like this:

"Hello, Mr. Oooompthum?"
"This is Northwest Airlines. I'd like to speak to Ruthann Oooompthum regarding her flight from Fukuoka, Japan on March 24th."
"Oh really. This is the first I've heard of it. If she's flying from Japan, why are you calling the United States to find her?"

From that phone call my dad figured out (wily fox that he is) that I was coming home for a vacation. So he told everyone. Well, ALMOST everyone. He kept it a secret from my grandma Wood and the dog, he said. Although, that didn't stop my mother from trying to pretend like she didn't know I was coming when I called. She tried so hard to convince me she was clueless. It was cute.

So I came home. And the first meal I had in the States was...... takeout Chinese food. How hilarious is that? I surprised my grandmother at her retirement home and I was afraid for a moment that the shock was going to kill her. It was great. I also got to surprise her friends there. My grandma was the proudest lady in the joint that evening. She was showing me off like a prize-winning poodle. "Look who came all the way from Japan to visit me?!" she said, her face glowing. She was kidding, of course.

Here are some things that surprised me as I re-acquainted myself with the United States:
  • Americans are rude. Seriously. The difference in decorum between the flight attendants on my Japan flight and the international flight was STAGGERING. The Japanese flight attendants are the epitome of grace. They always look like they're in control. They are always smiling. Their body language is fluid and calming to watch. In contrast, American flight attendants often look busy and annoyed. Sometimes they don't even use polite language. For example, instead of, "Excuse me, could you please put your seat back up for the landing?" I often heard "Sir, could you put your seat up? Just put it up." In the Minneapolis airport the difference in the attitude of the store clerks and restaurant workers was glaring as well. At Subway the two workers I encountered weren't paying attention to what I asked for, talking with their friends, didn't use "please" or "thank you," didn't smile. Before I went to Japan this stuff bothered me a little, since I've worked in the service industry and I know what I like to see in a clerk. But after living in Japan for nine months their behavior seemed so rude.
  • We have a lot of space in America. I don't think people realize how good they have it to have a huge front and back lawn, let alone a huge house. Most Japanese houses have a tiny walled-in garden that may or may not contain a small patch of grass. If you have any kind of grass in front or behind your house that resembles a lawn, you are sitting pretty. Seriously.
  • Americans hug a lot. This is one thing I noticed that I really missed while living in Japan. Americans are just more touchy-feely. When I went up to Northwestern I was hugging twenty people a day or more. People I hardly knew were coming up to me for a hug. It was great. In Japan the personal bubble is not necessarily bigger than in the US, but it is definitely kept personal for most people.
Since being to Japan and China and Eastern Europe I have grown to dread international travel. I'll tell you why: it is a headache and a half. Here's the schedule I had on my journey back to Japan:

10:00 AM depart from Des Moines Airport.
(1 hour time change)
1:00 arrive in Detroit Airport. Go through customs and baggage check and eat lunch.
2:20 PM depart from Detroit Airport. Don't sleep on the plane at all (because for some reason you are physically unable). Watch three movies and read a little for 13 hours.
(14 hour time change)
4:00 PM Arrive at Tokyo Narita Airport. Go through customs and baggage claim and buy snacks for a very unhealthy supper.
4:45 PM take a bus from Tokyo Narita Airport to Tokyo Haneda Airport. Be forced to listen to American Navy guys talk about all the Japanese women they want to have sex with. Ugh.
6:00 PM arrive at Tokyo Haneda Airport. Go through customs and baggage check. Sit in the airport for two hours watching Japanese TV ads that loop over and over again.
8:00 PM depart from Tokyo Haneda Airport. Actually sleep a little!
9:50 PM arrive at Fukuoka Airport. Go through baggage claim.
10:05 PM board a subway for Nakasukawabata.
10:18 PM frantically run from the subway to the bus stop, because if you don't make this bus, you're probably stuck on this island until morning. Hail a taxi and make him drive you a block and a half because your bag is too heavy to pull behind you.
10:28 PM board a bus from Shimonoseki. Sit, relax, and wipe all the sweat off your face.
11:54 PM finally arrive in Shimonoseki. Hail a cab to take you to your apartment, because you're just too tired to walk 10 minutes from the bus station to your apartment.
12:00 AM Collapse. But remember to set your alarm for 6:30 AM because you have to go to school tomorrow.

So now I'm at school. I don't really feel so tired yet. It'll probably hit me tonight. I dunno. But I'm back safe in Japan. I made all my flights and subways and buses. And I can't take credit for that. It was all a God-thing. In fact, it always has been, hasn't it?


written by Ruthie @ 9:27 PM  
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Name: Ruthie
Home: Japan
About Me: I want to know who God is and what his truth is. I love getting lost in beautiful music and cloudless star-filled skies, especially in the fall. I hate being bored. I like big cities. I want to travel the world.
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