These last couple of weeks has been humblers for my husband, Rich and myself. In the back of your mind when things are going well, you know it will change. But that doesn’t seem to soften the blow when the hammer falls.
In January I got the flu. THE FLU. I didn’t leave the apartment for almost two weeks. So when an email announced that on January 21st The Hiroshima International Women’s Club was having a holiday potluck and white elephant gift exchange, I was bound to go. My mom had sent the necessary ingredients for my Aunt Kathy’s Cheese Log. I was anxious to share and eat this family Christmas traditional food. I read the email. The International House, good, I know where that is. As the date drew closer and I thought about riding my bike downtown, and still having phantom flu symptoms I vacillated on whether to go. The day arrived and I thought, yes, you are going. So I got “dolled up”, put my cheese log, dish, Chicken in a Biscuit crackers (a must), in a bag as good Japanese housewives do, put on my hat and headed down town. I was adventurous and took a different road than usual so I didn’t have to walk my bike through the memorial. I lock up my bike and walk in with a gentleman who expertly ignores me. We end up at the elevator together. I usually walk in with a group of Micron wives. Its funny how a place seems unfamiliar if you are alone. I think it’s on the 2nd floor but that proves a dead end. I get back on the elevator. I head down the hall of the 3rd floor where I join the gentleman I had walked in with. Something is wrong. I don’t hear the usual laughing and English. I don’t hear any female voices at all. The door is shut and I can tell that a serious meeting is going on. I must be at the wrong spot! Hot, burning irritation oozes through me like nauseousness. I dig out my phone and scan the email. Oh, International House. I have heard of this place, but where I am is the International Peace Center. Trembling, I go down to the information desk and ask where the International House is. It’s across town by Hiroshima station. I look at my watch. It’s too late. I am really mad. We always assume we are mad AT someone. But I wasn’t. I just was mad. The bicycle ride home was long enough for me to process the situation. How had I done that?! I realize that when I read International my brain immediately attached the picture of the International Peace Center to the word International and didn’t process that it was a different building. I call my neighbor Amy and tell her I am bringing an appetizer to Happy Hour.
The next week a woman looking for someone to take over her conversational English group contacts me. She wants to meet at the Grand Intelligent Hotel for lunch. I am trying not to be dependent on Rich so much. I google the name. I click on the map and recognize Hiroshima Station. Her email said it was nearby. This should be easy. The day of I dress up a little and head out extra early wanting to give a good impression. The walk there is around forty minutes. On the way I realize that things are looking familiar. I am reading the Japanese script and a few Chinese kanji on the buildings. I am solid. It feels wonderful waving at my friends working the car park of the Sheraton Hotel. Minutes later I am in new territory. It’s all tracks, overhanging wire, and over passes. I have to cross at a place where there are three sets of tracks. Many people are waiting for the gate to go up. I can see a big pedestrian over pass. To my surprise a schoolgirl cruises down the center on her bike! Cool as a cucumber, she is using the path made smooth for bikes. A bell rings and we start crossing. To my surprise I hear an alarm just minutes after I have begun to cross. The gates are falling, alarm blaring, I am in the back of the pack but do not hesitate to start running to the other side passing many with much more decorum. This would be the first of many signs that day that I was not on the right track. When I turn and walk parallel to the track I can see Zoom Zoom stadium on the horizon. I realize I have walked this before. We walked to a Carp baseball game using this route last September. The horizon is very busy. There is another pedestrian overpass, an elevated expressway, and much construction. In Japan if they are working on a building for any reason they cover it with fabric sheeting. I can see a big sign Hiroshima Intelligent Hotel through this sheeting. There are workmen and big trucks in front and it is at a weird intersection. The foyer is small and full of Victorian vases and decorations. The chairs are covered in plastic. I arrive fifteen minutes early. I notice that there is a lot of commotion upstairs and a mixture of business people and construction people going in and out. I read my ebook. At noon I reread my email. She said to meet in the lobby. It is then that I notice that it says Grand Intelligent Hotel. Hmmm. Surely this is the place. What is one little word?
At 12:15 I send her an email. 12:25 I get up and walk upstairs. No restaurant. My heart is racing. I don’t want to try to ask the women at the front desk. They are avoiding my eyes. I sit down and read some more. At 12:30 I go outside and walk down the street because there is an arrow above the plastic display of what is for lunch. No luck. We had not thought to exchange text information. At 12:45 I head home. When I leave I observe workers throwing big objects from the second floor from the shrouded building. (It did not occur to me to use my phone to google Grand Intelligent Hotel.) Again, agitation and frustration bloom inside me like the flowers we see on slow motion film. Walking back the two sides of me have a discussion about the situation. One consoling and one “should” having. Later I learn there are three or four hotels with the word intelligent in the name. A rookie move to just click on the first in the list in a google search. Later that evening my neighbor, Etsuko san, invited me to dinner since both our husbands were working late.
Rich is also having a time. After the New Year, life at Fab 15 (Micron’s name for the Saijo plant) has intensified. Everyone is working longer and more pressured days. The Friday after my incident, he noisily came into the apartment. “Oh man, oh man, I did a bad, bad thing.” As a mother of three boys, I know this can mean a variety of things so I hit the pause setting on my panic button. “I was reading the paper and just not paying attention. I put the key in the hole and it just wasn’t working. So I did it again. Nothing. Then I look up….no heart wreath on the door….and then I see ….3..0..1. About that time I hear a female Japanese voice and I realize what I have done and I panic and run away…This is so bad……” I am getting a beer out of the fridge and am glad to be making pork cutlets and mash potatoes. Rich continues, “I know she looked in the peephole and saw me. She must have been terrified thinking someone was trying to break in…..and what must she think as she watched me run away?!”
Luckily my good friend Etsuko san lives next door. She will know what to do. She does. We write a note apologizing. I write in English and she writes it below in Japanese. We put it in their mailbox and feel good being proactive. Monday afternoon there is a note. I am surprised so I open it and read it aloud. At the end it says “actually this is the second time you have done this and scared my wife”. What?! I look at Rich. Sheepishly he looks down. “Well yes that is true. Greg and I accidentally did it when the boys were here. It was worse because we tried to open the door. We ran away that time too. “
OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!!! I did not tell Etsuko san. Rich took the note to work and asked his language teacher what to do. She says to let it go, but to not do it EVER again. Rich is taking the elevator now.
Just yesterday I thought I was going to a birthday party. It was not meant to be. From the beginning of the day, life events, my reaction to them seem to be under someone else’s control. It ends with me humbly waving a white flag so to speak. And the recently overused phrase “I’m sorry”. Eating humble pie has gotten old. It has given me new insight into my students’ mistakes. I think of them daily, my elementary students. I continue to develop a deeper understanding of their choices, errors, and behaviors. My brain processes my current experiences through both lenses: teacher/learner.
I think the worm has turned. This afternoon while Rich sleeps battling the flu, I write to soft jazz. The music seems to draw out my thoughts like a snake charmer. Every time I look up the sunset is differently beautiful. My son, who had Face Timed earlier in a panic, is now safely in his bed at Bruins Circle. I live in the Land of the Rising Sun and luckily tomorrow is a new day.