6pm found my stomach demanding food, so I did what any self-reliant, fiercely independent young man would do – I cooked myself some dinner. For reasons of national security I cannot divulge my recipe, but I can say that there were vegetables involved, some chicken, even the odd spice or two. Ok so I completely made it up, but there was also a noticeable absence of smoke and/or fire, which have traditionally served to notify everyone in the vicinity that I’m using the kitchen. In fact, things were going so well that I inspired my dear friend Satoshi to make some gyoza.
In my 22 years of life I have consistently managed to avoid all opportunities to learn how to cook. Now, finding myself in Japan in a culture where so many people cook that the campus Cafe is only open for breakfast and lunch, well, my body weight is in jeopardy.
However, I am not too proud to ask for help, and by now my inability to manufacture culinary items is a well-known fact among my building’s RAs. To this end they have decided to help me learn to sustain myself on groceries, to become my cooking support group if you will. At this point I recognize the handicap that is not knowing one’s way around a kitchen, and I am eager to learn.
Today APU conducted opening ceremonies in Millennium Hall for all Fall 2005 new students. Monte Kassim, APU’s top-dog, kicked things off with a short speech telling us how much we all kick ass. Of course he didn’t say it in as many words, but he did say that APU has hit 80 nationalities this fall in only its 5th year of operation, making it the most internationally diverse university in the world. On top of that, 98% of job-seeking seniors in the most recent graduating class were hired by companies in Japan or back in their home country. That ain’t too shabby. His was the first speech among a half dozen we heard from a stage full of important people I don’t think I’ll ever see again.
Not having anything particularly pressing to do today, I decided to head down the mountain into town and hoof it through the west side of town. I only had two destinations in mind, Beppu Koen (park) and Uniqlo, a Japanese clothing chain.
Upon arrival at APU I was issued a semi-crappy map which was today’s key to the city. The map is useful in that it shows all the bus routes through town, and yet at the same time it is most definitely crappy in that whoever made it wholly arbitrarily decided what landmarks to notate on the map. Useful + Definitely Crappy = Semi-crappy! So, I had brought my semi-crappy map along, for as you well know by now Japan doesn’t bother with naming any small roads, and at this point I consulted it. My first primary destination west of Beppu-eki was the Koen, but I had some walking to do before I got there so I looked on the map for some interesting places to check out on the way. After all, any traveler can tell you that often the journey is more interesting than the destination and today was no exception.
Today was my first bass fishing trip in Japan, and a memorable one at that. Kazu, one of the RAs in my building, is a fishing addict. Once he found out I also share the vice, it wasn’t a question of if, but only of when. Well, for better or for worse, “when” turned out to be 5am this morning. As I waited for Kazu to bring his car from the lot, it was obvious that only four hours of sleep takes its toll on a man.
After 45min of winding roads, hair pin turns, and the gas pedal firmly mashed to the floorboards of his Honda Civic, Kazu pulled onto a small side road that fizzled out in front of a creek and pronounced us there. In the predawn twilight we bushwhacked through 30min of weeds and giant spider webs before finally arriving at the rocky shores of a large impoundment.
Today APU had its graduation ceremony for students who finished their studies last spring. Replete with red caps and gowns, students and parents milled about outside Millennium Hall until 1 pm when the ceremony began.
The scene was pretty much the same as what you would see at any American college or university, save for one particular trait – everywhere you looked the strong international flavor of APU was on display. At one point to my left was a New Zealand Maori wearing traditional ceremonial clothing and taking pictures with his proud family, and to my right was this dashing (and engaged) couple strolling towards Millennium hall and turning nary a head.
From the moment my flight left Tampa at 7am Saturday morning the 10th, to the moment I stepped off the bus and into the blinding mountaintop sunlight at the entrance to APU, I logged exactly 44hrs of travel. Mind you, it needn’t have taken that long. My travel agent got a little carried away with the flight scheduling and took me on a minor jaunt to Osaka when I could have flown directly to Oita from Tokyo. However, spending the night in Osaka was a mini adventure in itself.