Monday, November 9, 2009

The Hostel

Friday, 6:15pm
I'm sipping hot tea on the tatami-mat flooring of my hostel room. The rice-straw has a noticeable, fresh scent; I wonder if it's new. I can hear some other guests chatting down the hall. The only words I make out are travel, hungry, and foreigner. I am pretty sure that's me. I hope they will be joining me for dinner. The wind whistles outside as I update my journal and wait to be called to eat. The hostel owner is serving fresh deer tonight and my stomach growls with anticipation. In Japanese fashion I give my belly a calming, circular massage until a loud call pervades the hostel. Dinner is served.

Friday, 11:30pm
Just finished dinner. I can barely move to prepare my bedding. I think I ate half a deer. We were served raw strips of venison, which we grilled at the table with vegetables. I met the 2 other men staying at the hostel -- an old fisherman and a talkative consultant who spoke some English. Armed with beer, sake, and potato-liquor, he did nothing to hide his objective of getting me drunk. Tomorrow will tell, but I'm pretty sure he'll be the one looking for advil in the morning.

To include the fisherman in our conversation, I spoke Japanese where possible. It was not so well accepted.

"Wow, your Japanese is terrible," the consultant had told me, following a botched verb conjugation.

His criticism caught me off guard. He was right, I am still a beginner, but in Japan, if you use even simple words (like a-ri-ga-to) people invariably tell you that your Japanese is excellent.

I took a drink and countered loudly, "I apologize if my faculty of speech in your mother tongue is incommensurate with your lofty standards for communication. Oh, did you not understand that? Wow, your English is terrible."

Maybe I am a little drunk.

Saturday, 8:15am
Did I pack any advil on this trip?