Illness

I picked up an Easter package from my parents on Saturday, and demolished about 90% of its edible contents by Sunday evening. I wasn’t feeling very well when I started to make myself dinner that night, but I decided that the problem would likely resolve itself once I got some real food into my system.

 

I’ve been told that a hangover is partially a result of your body trying to divert its energies to expunge a poison. I have proposed that I am subject to chocolate hangovers… and my defence systems spent the next several hours violently trying to expunge all traces of the substance from my body. I arranged every piece of bedding in my room to prop me up in a position that didn’t hurt, and when I gave up around 3:00 a.m. I went and laid myself down on the couch in the living room to play video games. My body settled down enough to let me fall asleep around 4:00.

 

I woke up at 7:00 a.m. when my new housemate from Australia opened the door behind my head. After unsuccessfully trying to keep my promise to go to an International Village in Izu with a friend, I spent the afternoon attempting to ingest a single slice of bread.

 

That night, a teacher from my school came by to borrow the newspaper, and when she learned that I was sick, she worried that I wouldn’t be able to cover her shift the next day as planned. I told her I’d probably be okay. I was feeling close to reasonable by that point. Besides, Tuesday was my last day. My posters all advertised my Farewell Voice session that afternoon. I couldn’t miss it.

The Last Day

I concluded my Blight career with an appropriately terrible low-level lesson. At the end of the class, I asked the recalcitrant students in Japanese if it had been difficult or boring.

 

“Boring,” one of them immediately replied.

 

Ah well. Nobody died.

 

Then I had my Farewell gala in the Voice room. Departing Blight teachers like to notch up how many people they have at their farewell Voices; The English and The Canadian had had about twenty when they’d left in December. My Farewell was scheduled at 4:00 in the afternoon, which I knew was inconvenient for many people, but I had an early shift so there was nothing to be done. I also hadn’t been telling my students I was leaving, but I had posters in all the stairwells, so I figured that anyone with eyes would have noticed I was leaving.

 

I like to think that, if I’d been a little more vocal about my departure, things would have been different.

 

I walked into the Voice room to find it populated by a grand total of two people. One was a friend of mine, and the other was the low-level girl who’d told me my lesson was boring. About five minutes later, another student showed up: a Voice regular who came in every other day. A fourth student, an oddly serious middle-aged lady from my old school, arrived a little later and asked why I was so interested in Izu and The Village. And that was it.

 

I had at least racked up a few gifts by the time I left. My Business English student had given me an interesting earthenware cup and a thank-you note, and my friend from the Voice room had given me a box of Pocky that I wouldn’t physically be able to touch for months. The Head Teacher even gave me a box of chocolates for doing “a good job” as Voice Coordinator, which made me feel a little badly that I really hadn’t done anything at all. I did, however, tell him some of my ideas for reducing tensions between staff and teachers, but he didn’t look as if he was going to take them very seriously.

 

As I was about to walk out the door for the last time, K-chan asked me if I could wait about thirty minutes for the Staff Manager. I had no idea what was up, but my time was a little tight since I still wanted to get to kendo. 

 

I was very impressed: the Staff Manager presented me an elementary school kanji learner’s dictionary on behalf of all the staff. It was very thoughtful. I just felt badly that I’d bought a similar one the week before.

Preparation

I had a good deal of running around to do before I left to meet The Rover at Narita Airport on Wednesday. It was the first day of my vacation, taken on the first possible day: exactly six months after the start of my contract.

 

As I was waiting for the above-ground-subway-thing that would get me downtown, Number 2 gave me another call and I subsequently missed a few trains.

 

Apparently, the apartment she’d promised me, which had amazingly low rent, was no longer available. They’d found me another, but the rent was more than twice as much (50,000 yen). Although it was still a little less than what I was paying in Shizuoka, my new job paid less than Blight, and the fact that my disposable income was going to remain roughly the same due to the rent difference had been a key factor in my decision. She said it was the only apartment available in The Village and offered, very reasonably, to increase my salary to compensate for the difference. This all sounded fine. Then she told me I’d have to pay key money. I asked her how much it was.

 

For a moment, I misunderstood and thought she’d said 20,000 yen. Then I did a double take and realized she’s actually said 200,000. That’s about $2500.

 

Ironically, I’d just been thinking that I was finally building up some savings after six months in Japan. I’d even been thinking of buying a printer for my computer since I had a little over 300,000 yen in my account. But I was going to Tokyo, and I didn’t know what The Rover wanted to do. I had to move, and I still didn’t know how much that was going to cost. And if 100,000 yen sounds like a lot of money, I’d like you all to recall my Thousand-Dollar Trip to Tokyo.

 

Number 2 asked if that was okay. I didn’t have a choice. Then she asked me if I still wanted to pay 20,000 yen for the last tenant’s washing machine.

 

After that, I bought a ticket for a bus that would get me to Tokyo with exactly enough time to get to the airport the slow and inexpensive way. Then I ran to check e-mail since I still didn’t know what terminal The Rover was coming into.

 

E-mail that morning was joyous. I received The Rover’s flight information minus the terminal, a message from my mom telling me how horribly guilty she’d felt about the events I’d described in my Toronto Star article, and another freelance presentation design job to do, each of which added a new notch to my stress-o-meter. I considered writing a brief mass-missive entitled, “My Life Is A Giant Raging Ball of Shit” and couldn’t help but laugh when my mind automatically generated a visual image.

 

Then I trotted straight back to the station, got on a bus to Tokyo, and arrived an hour late.

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April 2002