Misery… and soba!

So… first day of work, first day of work!  It went fine, relatively uneventful.  A bit of planning, a bit of strategery.  Tomorrow will be busier.

I was also completely miserable most of the day.  My nose / sinus / head is rebelling against something.  On the plane ride over I was utterly dried out by the utterly moisture-less air and fought against issues with that.  Things were okay Sunday while I was out, but today… man, that was hell.  I was blowing my nose all the time, sneezing, fighting some degree of dizziness and general stuffiness.  There were times of the day that disappeared into a haze of snot… it was not nice.

I left the office around 7 – normal time – and headed to the hotel, catching a bit of quiet, eyes closed time on the train.  In the hotel room I wore my dust mask for a bit to act as a humidifier.  After a little more quiet, eyes closed time I made a choice on dinner.  According to the map the hotel gave me, there is a soba place at the end of the block and I wanted some nice, hot soba.  I generally knew the place in my mind, as I’ve walked by it nearly a half dozen times now, so I set out to find it and eat up.

Then I found it… and it was the place I was thinking of.  The place with only Japanese writing on every sign outside the place.  I wandered around a bit, making sure this was the right place and that it was the place I really wanted to eat.  It didn’t strike me as the place that was welcoming to foreigners.

I decided I wanted soba.  I mumbled the phrase “do you understand English” under my breath a few times to make sure I was comfortable with it.  I dove in.  There sat an older white haired man.  He wasn’t going to know English… he just wasn’t.  I pulled the trigger – I asked the question.  He pointed up the stairs.

Wait.  Huh?  Did I say something wrong??

Ok, whatever – I want my soba.  I’ll go upstairs.

I get upstairs and there is a young woman working.  I ask her, she, a bit embarrassed, says she knows a little.  That’s fine, we can sort this out.  I sit down and then we just said ‘uhhh’ to one another when we tried to figure out how I’d order food.  She disappears down the steps and back up again with a book in hand.  It’s an old travel book about food in Japan and they’ve marked the page with all of the various sobas.  I look over the book, make a selection to which shes asks ‘soba or udon’ except she pronounces udon properly, slightly unlike an American does.  I chose udon after she repeated the question again.

She goes to the corner, stands there for a bit, and then I hear a dumb waiter come up.  Being Japan, the dumb waiter stops, opens and then thanks us for using it.  She brings over a beautiful bowl of udon and broth.  I was delighted.  The steam and heat helps me breath.  The noodles fill my belly.  The broth tastes delicious.   It was great.  I sat at the table, looking out the window at the street, and I congratulated myself on coming into this place, sorting out ordering and then getting an awesome dinner.

As I sat eating, I kept thinking this waitress knew English better than she let on, and I kept thinking of the Japanese phrase that I have somewhere in my head that is “you know how to speak <language> well, don’t you,” but it wouldn’t quite come to me.  Once I had finished dinner and headed down to pay, we said ‘thank you’ to one another.  Her pronunciation seemed fine, so I told her that I thought her English was just fine and that she should be happy with it.

I got downstairs, paid the man (who seemed a little happier or talkative than when I came in) and headed back to the hotel.



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