Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Shimanesque 6: The Triumphant Return

"So what are your plans for this evening?"

"Well, I figured I would join you all for dinner and then head back to Muroran."

"Aww, c'mon Dustin, we haven't seen you for a couple of years. Stick around and have some drinks."

"I'd love to, but I have to work tomorrow, and I don't have a place to stay."

"We've got an extra room you can stay in. For free. And you can park your car here."

"Hmmm, I guess if I left early tomorrow morning, I could get back to Muroran in time for work...Okay, I'll stay."

Little did I know that that was only the beginning.


March 26th. Via a car ride, a train ride, and a bus ride, I got back out to Yonago Airport in time to catch my plane back to Tokyo. The flight was slightly delayed, so the attendant at the check-in counter told me that I should hurry after I arrived in Tokyo so that I could make my transfer on time. Oh, and that I should take all my baggage on the plane so that I could just make tracks and not have to worry about my luggage getting switched from the Tokyo plane to the Chitose plane.

Fair enough, but have you ever seen me pack? Not the best example of efficient use of space. So I lug my clothes bag, my backpack and my other bag o' stuff onto the plane, trying to avoid bumping into people and failing miserably.

Whatever. The pain started as soon as I got in my seat.

"WAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!"

For an hour and a half. Three rows behind me. A baby. Was crying. Loudly. All. The. Way. To. Tokyo.

And wouldn't you bet as soon as we landed the kid shut up.

So, extremely grumpy, I hustled my way over to my next departure gate, grabbed a quick snack to eat on the plane while everybody else was boarding, and then boarded myself.

This flight wasn't nearly as eventful...until we went into our descent. Then,

"WAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!"

In stereo.

As soon as one kid started in, another one thought it would be fun to join. And then another. And ANOTHER. This time, one of the kids was older.

"It hurts, Mommy! It hurts!"

Parents, if you're going to be taking your children on airplanes, please have the COMMON FREAKING DECENCY to either give them a pacifier, a lollipop, or an explanation about how to pop their ears and clear out the pressure buildup. Is that too much to ask?

So after a completely UNrelaxing three-and-a-half hours in the air (total), I was back in cold Hokkaido. I caught the bus back to the parking lot where my car was, and then I headed home.

Or not.

Actually, I headed up to Sapporo. The boys' and girls' volleyball teams from Akaya Elementary, one of the elementary schools in Hakuta, qualified for a national volleyball tournament in Hokkaido. They were coming up to represent Shimane in the tournament.

And one of the parents sent me an e-mail asking me to come along.

Does a bear...? Hell yeah it does. So I made my way up to Sapporo and then called Mr. Anno, who gave me directions to the hotel where everybody was staying. After the conversation above, I went back for my car, parked at the hotel, and then close to fifty people (parents and children, but excluding the team members) from Hakuta headed out into the Sapporo night life.

I tried to take them to a restaurant I had been to before, but I got confused, so I found a different restaurant that I figured would work. Luckily, they had enough seating for us all, so we sat down for dinner.

After a bit of food, the dads started in on me, trying to convince me to stay and cheer for the teams the next day.

"But I already took a week off, and I have to get back to help the first-year students with the play."

"Well, when's the play? Tomorrow?"

"No, but..."

"Then you can always help them another day. You won't have another chance to cheer for Akaya in Hokkaido."

Good point. Will...power...weakening...

Finally, I called up the vice-principal and explained the situation. He said it was okay, as long as I got somebody to cover play practice. I took care of that soon after. So things were cool for Monday.

After dinner, we all headed back to the hotel so the kids could go to bed. Then, I tried to take a group of people to a bar I knew in Susukino, but it was closed, what with it being Sunday and all. So we all headed out for ramen instead. It was decent stuff, and hit the spot. After that, I figured we were going to go back to the hotel.

Wrong.

We ended up going to a bar called "Kento's". (The link is to a Kento's in Osaka, but there are chains all over the country." It's a classic rock bar, and they have live music. The band even plays requests!


It was a lot of fun, although I'm not sure if the band was having much fun. They just looked kind of stiff, and didn't seem to be enjoying themselves that much. Apparently, it wasn't the regular house band, so their repertoire was rather limited, which led to a little frustration at our table as our requests kept getting turned down. Mrs. Anno and I got up and danced, though, so I still think we had a good time. Even if they made a lousy batch of onion rings.

The next day, it was on the bus and out to the Nopporo Gymnasium to cheer on the girls' team. I also wanted to cheer for the boys, but they were in a different location and the girls' team was going up against a hometown team (Ebetsu) in their first match, so I figured I should head that way first.

A couple shots of the girls' team in action.

We cheered hard. (I even messed up once and said "Hakuta" instead of "Akaya". Oops.) But unfortunately, the girls lost both their matches. It was a shame, too, because they could have take the second match. I think they mentally beat themselves.

I found this in a vending machine at the gym.

Who knew that he was in the coffee biz?

After the girls' team finished up their two matches, I said goodbye to them and wished them an enjoyable rest of their stay in Hokkaido. Then the parents and non-team people piled on the bus to head back into Sapporo to cheer for the boys.

One problem. By the time we got there, the boys were finished. The matches had taken a little less time there than at Nopporo, so I wasn't able to do any cheering for the boys. But I did run in and say hello, and told them to enjoy their stay as well.

Then it was back to the hotel, where I thanked everyone for letting me come along, packed up my stuff, said my goodbyes, hopped in my car, and headed for home.

Thus ended my Shimanesque journey.

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