Saturday, August 4, 2007

C'est le moment ou jamais

On Tuesday I went out looking for some cheap ramen. Instead I ended up kissing two French girls.

I suppose this requires an explanation.

Having no sense of direction, I double and triple checked the location of the train station on town. Right next to it are a slew of ramen shops, fast food places, book stores, and everything else that makes a city a city. I couldn't bear to eat anything else that came from the local Circle K, so I made sure I knew north from south, threw on some pants and a shirt and headed out.

The place was easy enough to find. I headed into the ramen shop and had a seat. On the other side of where I was sitting were three young Caucasians, one male and two female, speaking a language I didn't understand. Looking to make some friends, I tried English in hopes that they would understand.

"Hi.. where are you guys from?"

The guy, whom later I would find out his name is Antoine, answered back in moderately decent English.

"We're from France... you?"

I talked to the three of them for a couple minutes exchanging pleasantries until I asked if I could sit with them. They were sitting at a table that sat four, so it seemed natural that I should fill the empty space. I found out they were doing a study/work abroad thing for two months; their trip was free, but they had to work it off as they went. So they would travel, study, and then work various different jobs. Right now they're working at a hotel doing anything from scrubbing toilets to waiting tables. The three just arrived at Nagano City so they could visit a famous shrine, Zenkouji. Having nothing to do that afternoon, I gladly accepted their invitation.

We hopped on a bus to the temple, which was only about 10 minutes away. The temple was absolutely amazing; the entrance was so big it was impossible to get the whole thing in the frame of a camera. The road to the temple was lined with many shops selling Zenkouji souvenirs, icecream, restaurants, and anything else that would suck the money out of tourists' pockets.

A couple hours were spent exploring the temple's grounds, taking pictures, and shopping for souvenirs. The temple itself was massive (unfortunately they don't allow pictures of it). We paid the 500 yen admission and wandered in. At the very back, there is a pitch black tunnel that runs underneath the altar. Not knowing the tunnel was pitch black, I wandered in, wondering why it was getting so damned dark. I blindly felt my way through, having nothing but the voices of those ahead of me to guide me. (I found out later that the point of the tunnel is to find a"key to paradice", which, if touched leads to enlightment and eternal salvation. I hope all of that isn't too true, because I couldn't ever find the damned key)

I eventually worked my way out with the rest of my group. We headed back down to the bus and to the train station so they could get back to their hotel, which was 3 hours away. I shook Antoine's hand, telling him it was a pleasure to meet him (it was. He was an awesome guy). Next I stuck my hand out at Oihana, one of the girls, but instead she just pushed her face out in front of me. I wasn't sure what to make of it, so I gave her some sort of awkward hug.

"Oh, you don't want to? Okay..."

Then it hit me: They do that whole kissing on the cheek thing for greetings and farewells in France. I pecked her on both cheeks, as she did the same, and then did the same for the other girl in the group.

You would think that the only "internationalizing" I would be doing is that with the Japanese community, but you never know who you will run into, or who you'll kiss.