Friday, October 9, 2009

International point of discussion.

This afternoon in Seoul, south Korea, i met my daughter for lunch. Her boss had asked to take us to lunch to meet me and thank me for letting Sara come to South Korea and work. Sometimes it is better not to say something when silence works just as well. My daughter understood.
After lunch we left her office and proceeded to the underground for a day of travel and bon vivant. She wanted to find a piece of cloth at the cloth building. I wanted a silver ring, or two, set with cabochon jade.
Our passage to the subway entrance seemed impeded by a roll of cloth or rug or something in the middle of the sidewalk. Curious, but not difficult, to understand when one sees how material and such is transported in this town. It probably fell off a bike, motorbike, car.
As we passed this roll, it, magically, transformed into a man laying on his stomach upon a wooden pallet without wheels just skids. He was pushing another wooden pallet, same description,  loaded with his worldly goods in front of him. He wore his heavy coat and had his leg stumps wrapped in, what may have been, tarp plastic and tied to resemble the aforementioned rug. The man was covered in hat and scarf such that one could not see skin. He moved his possession pallet forward then would drag himself up to it and then push his pallet forward again. This locomotion method made him resemble an inch worm of sorts.
I collected all this information without so much as looking twice at this figure. No one else passing him seemed to care either. My daughter and I never hesitated a moment on our quest for cloth and jade.
Our journey ended in dismal failure when nothing could be had for cloth or jade or anything. We did, however, have a pleasant ride with 500 hundred other people packed into the railcar we rode to our destination. We, hardly, had to walk through the corridors for the river of people would have carried us forward we were packed so tight.Truly, in a city of 13 million, go to the subway during rush hour to understand the number 13 million.
We ended our journey of disappointments at the jewelry store. From here Sara remembered a pretty walk that i should see. So we set out to walk down the street towards the "castle". As we approached the end of the castle wall that bordered the street i noticed a tripodal artifact in the middle of the street. Again the eye was decieved. Yes, another man this time struggling to right himself from a fall had two feet and one hand on the ground and was making a valiant effort to stand. I looked away. Then when i looked back he was upright and glaring at some lady who tried to help him. She was backing away at a frightful pace. His cell phone was still on the ground. Battery trying to escape its enclosure. I watched this gentleman stand none too convincingly. It appears a butterfly flapping its wings in Mexico could knock him down, his balance was so bad.
Well, i guess, the butterfly flapped once to many. The gentleman of this discussion rocked a little then sat down without add of hand, just bottom to pavement. His momentum sent the rest of his body backwards down to the pavement with his head trailing on his neck such that the whiplash alone could hurt him. That, of course, is not the worst because the back of his head whipped the pavement with a resounding clunk. Much like a coconut hitting the ground thrown from 6 feet up, only it hit once and stopped.
Sara and I, both, watched this in horror, each thinking our own thoughts and passed by less that ten feet from this drunk, head bashed man laying in the middle of the street n Seoul, South Korea.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Returned to Seoul.

I spent four furous days in Japan. My host, Yoshi and his wif Mariko, kept me busy seeing the local sights around theri town then onto Kyoto and Nava. We were a busy band of merry souls.
Yoshi is a retired school English teacher. He taught for over thirty years in the school system then had a private classroom where he taught for many more.
I arrived in Osaka late Sunday evening and took a room at the Osaka airport hotel. I could have gone into Osaka but the train station is at the airport as well so for the difference in cost i stayed at the airport. Surprisingly it wasn't that much more expensive. Thirty bucks, maybe.
Monday morning i took the express train to Kyoto and met Yoshi. We, then, boarded a local train for Otsu some 20 miles to the East. I am guessing at the mileage but it wasn't far.
Otsu is located at the southern end of Lake Biwa(Biwako), the largest fresh water lake in Japan. There is a song about the lake. If you coax me i will sing it for you in English and read it for you in Japanese.  In Otsu, Yoshi introduced me to several governmental officials involved in the international work Yoshi is involved in the international society and works with the Shiga prefecture to develop relations with Michigan and several cities, Traverse city being one of them.

We ate lunch at the tallest building in Otsu. It is a combination hotel and business center. very nice and new though it maybe ten years old.
The food was very classy. We ordered something, well.. Yoshi ordered i couldn't read the menu. the meal was in courses so when the first course arrived on a big plate with a large silver dome cover, i thought i would not finish the first course. The waitress lifted the cover to reveal a leaf of lettuce, a tomato slice and not much more. It continued this way the the entire meal, big plate large dome, no substance. Good food though.
Lunch done we drove to Koka City, his town and met more people.
Koka City is the central government for five surrounding town that grouped together. more later.
As i said i returned to Seoul today, but that is another story.

Monday, October 5, 2009

It is Day 5 or 6 and i am behind.

I looked at my blog to find i am so far behind on the entries that i may never catch up. To that end i will consolidate the several days missing and get back to them when time permits. I have notes.
It is Tuesday morning and i am in Koka City Japan. To say Koka City is not to imply a single locale. It is a group of 5 cities that became a singularity under one government. It lies within a valley surround by mountains. It is good economics.
I got here my car, driven by my host Yoshi Onu. He is a 72 year old retired english teacher. He met me at the Kyoto train station and we then boarded a train for Otsu. He parked his car at the Otsu government building.
In order to retrieve his vehicle we toured the Government building and met many people. I was so uncomfortable meeting these people because i couldn't speak their language. Also, because, they were so nice and interested. So you stand there, smile, bow, say a common greeting phrase several times wrong and smile. All was accepted well and i would do it again in a heartbeat.
I arrived at Kyoto airport after boarding an express train from the Kansei airport in Osaka. Beautiful clean transport which took an hour plus to fly to Kyoto.
I stayed in Osaka at the Hotel on the airport grounds because i didn't want to venture out into Osaka and miss the train the next morning. It was a, surprisingly, inexpensive night if you consider the cost of a stay at an american airport hotel. For those of you wondering, i think, after exchange rate, about $115. The cheapest i found online and off the airport was about $80.
I stayed at the hotel after touching down on a flight from Seoul. That took about an hour. I must tell you about the super polite methods used in Japan and all the businesses. They actually make you feel welcome! More on this in another blog. The flight included a snack which was even healthy.
When i got off the bus at the airport from downtown Seoul where i left my daughter for this trip, I got my standard fear-excitement confusion again. When i travel alone i loose a lot of my bravado. So i am at the airport early enough to not miss any rescheduled flight(read the above blog). However, that didn't stop me from confusing myself with company logos and spending needless wait time in the wrong queue at the wrong airline. You can see blog coming from this one!
My daughter and i left her apartment early enough Sunday to take a subway to the airport limo bus stop and wait the requisite half hour. for the bus. It seems you have to wait as a right of passage. The weather was warm, almost hot when standing in the direct sun, and very sunny. Not so Japan. As Yoshi tells me the Monsoons are coming in another week or so and this cloud cover we see is the precursor.
There I have caught us up so now we can go any which time way we want.
Not behind anymore.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Arrived in Seoul

I had an uneventful trip from Narita to Seoul. I had this fear that it would be difficult to navigate gates and flight numbers and immigration. My bad! In this day of computer boards and world-wide travel, it is easy to find what you need without language.
By the time the flight took off at 8:00pm  in Narita, i was beginning to feel the effects of the day long travel. I napped, almost, missing the inflight snack. Some fruit, a fried chicken thing and two portable Sushi rolls.
You get this thing wrapped in clear cellophane. Following the instructions in Korean and Japanese or the, not so clear, pictures, you unwrap the cellophane cover to expose the dry seaweed paper. Then you unwrap the Sushi rice cone, it has a cone shape not a cylindrical shape, and wrap the seaweed around the whole thing. If you desire, which i did, you can squirt some soy sauce on it from a cute little plastic vile. Aside from the texture of the seaweed, it really wasn't bad at all.
On the flight, i saw everyone filling out a little card. I know i have filled out an entry card for every country, save Canada and Mexico, that i have visited. I did not connect the dots. That meant when i had a choice position in line, i went to the immigration office with passport in hand and no card. Back of the end of the line i went after filling out said card. Oh well.
I saw my daughter and Sasha and almost cried. I am sure i will when i leave but now held my dry eyed ground. It was nice to be done traveling and among people you love and missed.

On the road

A few thoughts as i sit in Narita airport waiting for my flight to Seoul.
I didn't do the one thing to start my trip proper. I did my early registration but did not look at the itinerary. I figured it hadn't changed since i booked it months ago. I couldn't be wronger.
I left my house to purchase some trail mix bars for the flight. I had an 11.15 flight so my leaving at 9:30 was just fine. I would get tothe airport around 10:00 fully ready to go. Turns out my 11:15 was changed to 10:15 and i saw my flight take-offf without me.
Since i was checking in, the attendants put me on the next flight. It arrived one hour before my trans-pacific flight took off.  An easy thing if we arrive on time and the gates aren't at opposite ends of the terminal. Interesting ly, i sat for my three hours in the Traverse city terminal and as the attendant prepared the passenger list for boarding she asked over the loud speaker, " we are over booked by one passenger. do we have any volunteers to wait for the next flight?" Of course, i didn't volunteer.
i hcve a pass to the flight club in the Detroit airport but couldn't use it since i was late. so i burned 3 plus hours in the Traverse City airport. worrying that something else would go wrong. It didn't.
I got to Detroit on time and legged it to the departure terminal to find my gate just south of where i entered. that meant i had time to go to the Duty Free store and purchase two bottles of Paddy's Irish whiskey. You can't get it anywhere else in the States. At the checkout with my booty, the cashier said i had to pass through another security check point in Japan when i switch planes and may lose the bottles. I opted not to buy and with good results. They did halt all liquids. I would have be mighty disappointed.
Now i sit in Narita and wait for my connecting flight to Seoul. the excitment builds. I hope i dont' cry.