I think I just leveled up today; after over three weeks straight of grinding and building up individual skills (my skill in “Paying Attention to Things I Don’t Understand” is significantly higher than before, as is my “Enchanting” skill), I believe I can honestly say I have made the next level, after a grueling battle this morning.
See, it was raining this morning. Granted, not hard, but it was more than a light drizzle, which is what (I’ve observed) Japan usually decides to do whenever the weather-people (of whom I’ve seen none) decide to put the blue dots on the map. No, today I was going to need an umbrella. No problem, I’ll just borrow one! (Umbrellas are more common than face-masks over here, and believe me, that is a significant comparison.) Now I need to leave, because it takes ten minutes to get to the train station by… bike… oh…
Okay, no big deal, I’ll just hold my umbrella in one hand and steer the bicycle with the other! I can ride one-handed half the time anyway! Right?
No, I’m sorry, riding a bicycle with an umbrella is NOT an easy task, despite what you may think based on the dozens of Japanese people riding around shielded from aerial barrages of di-hydrogen monoxide. No, because, as with most things I’ve discovered here, there are factors you aren’t taking into account, and cannot take into account until you’ve tried it. (For instance eating with chopsticks. Sure, you may THINK you’re good at it… but when you actually show up, they give you the shiny new “guest” chopsticks, made of sparkling plastic, with fancy designs. You THINK you’re getting the special treatment, but they’re not telling you why the guest chopsticks are so shiny. It’s because they like to laugh at their guest’s expense when they can’t pick anything up. Oh, and they serve a lot of nice, wet, slippery noodles, too; and then they fall on the table, and you can’t pick them up! Even grabbing some out of the bowl, they all fall out of your grasp except, if you’re lucky, a few poor, short, soggy ones, which you manage to scarf down like so many crumbs of bread tossed to an inmate in a gulag for laughs.) In this case, the thing I didn’t take into account was wind.
I used to like wind; nay, I would go so far as to say that (read slowly) I used to love wind. Then I had to use an umbrella while riding a bicycle down the streets of Saitama. (Almost wrote Tokyo there! Another thing they didn’t tell me: I don’t live in Tokyo, though I go to school there. Had to figure that one out on my own!) Along the way, I tried at least three different methods for holding the damn thing, while also trying to not get my bag (containing my laptop) too wet, as I wasn’t sure how much of the water would really be kept from the bag if I shielded myself exclusively; but I was also trying not to crash the bicycle, surely to injure myself.
I did not injure myself, but on that last point I did, in fact, fail. It’s rather disturbing being part of any accident you see coming. Train-reck in slow motion and all that nonsense… My balance became quickly precarious when the wind (“Damn you all to hell!”) decided to blow rather strongly, and I had to shift the heading of the bike to avoid falling off into traffic because the stupid umbrella (“Kaaaaaaaahhhhhhhnn!!!!”) shifted my balance into traffic. The new heading, by the way, was straight into a curb. I saw it coming for almost ten feet, probably, and could do nothing but try to brake. Tried and failed. (“Soylent green is PEEEEOPLE!”) I survived the incident without a scratch, but when the bike fell over the curb, out flew my bag, which hit the curb, then the ground… Since you are reading this, you can rest assured that the machine runs fine, and nothing was screwed up in the crash… but as you can surely see from the photo, all was not just a well for the event.
On a tangential note, I have officially decided that I need a better laptop-carrying bag. This one is too bulky to carry around on a crowded train, and it does not well-enough protect the computer. Ryan, when you read this, please look for a better bag. I need only hold a couple notebooks and books adding up to about the thickness of our electric engineering book from the Lemur King’s class. And, of course, it must value the protection of my poor computer more than its own soul, assuming bags have souls. Dad will get the money for you. And when you send it, Dad, I will return the bag I currently have back to you guys, and would request that you please return it to REI… assuming I’ve correctly remembered that as the place we went for laptop bags. Oh, and if it’s backpack style, that’s probably okay, too. Either one. I like carrier bag style, but backpack style is probably better for me, and easier to balance without endangering its contents by placing it in the front basket on a bicycle.
So back to my point, the REASON I know I gained a level (“Babbah ba-bah dah dah dum-ba-daahm!”) is because as I was heading home today, going down to the train platform whereupon I await my train’s arrive (dang, writing makes my speech so much more… elegant? …confusing?), I caught myself seeing the people, and noticing something I’d never noticed before: that I wasn’t really noticing anything. I didn’t feel different from everyone, and I didn’t feel like everyone was watching me. I wasn’t on edge trying to make sure I don’t screw up some propriety-matter, and I didn’t feel out of place at all. It was weird.
Maybe, JUST maybe, by suffering through the Umbrellabike ™ ordeal alongside a third of Japan, I somehow joined them in their ranks; I have managed through group suffering to weasel my way into the outskirts of Japanese society such that I am no longer quite alone anymore…
Now, seeing how my host mom is sick, I am sure that my next step will likely be power-leveling through a cold… but we’ll see. >.>
*cries for the bottom-left corner*
Oh, yes, and the brown thing next to my computer’s damaged corner is a “Meiji” brand chocolate bar. It’s about as common as Hershey’s in America, but it doesn’t seem to have as much of the wax content. It’s good! I’ll try to remember to send some of my favorite Japanese candies home soon.