Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Ohayo Kitakyushu!

July 8, 2014.  We got into our taxis hours before daybreak.  We headed off to Kansai Airport way earlier than my alarm clock’s daily reminder for a run.  Our troop didn’t like taking chances.  Our flight to Fukuoka was the first flight out.  Given the choice we could’ve spent the entire night at the airport.  I wasn’t in total agreement of course and so instead we slept at the hotel, woke-up very early, took specially arranged taxis, and napped close to check-in gates albeit only for a little over an hour, maybe two.  The moment they opened was a relief.  At least it meant we needed to wait only a few more minutes … over an hour prior to boarding.

The arrival hall at Fukuoka Airport was small, drab of interesting detail, and with ends fairly visible at a glance.  The most eye catching non-artistic but welcoming pieces of installation were the few ordinary chairs and tables we can wait at, and a number of long cold benches looking like prime real estate we could use for lying down, just in case we needed blood to rush back up our heads.  We had to wait for the remainder of the delegation who took a much later flight.  The wait felt long.  We played Monopoly Deal many times over, amused ourselves with the vending machines like they were slot machines in a casino, drank hot coffee in cans, and walked the short length of the arrival hall back and forth like lab rats being studied for an experiment in a drab room without the slightest hint of where the cheese is really at.

We expected proper sleep after everyone got to Comfort Hotel.  It was too early however for check-in and so we walked out of the lobby.  Check-in was still in a few more hours around 3:00p.m.  We “zombied” around a few blocks, had our much needed lunch, and “zombied” a bit more.  Our backs haven’t had the chance to hit our beds yet shortly after dropping our bags in our respective rooms when Prof. Hiro Fukuda arrived.  He to took us to meet Prof. Bart Devancker and the local students at the Kitakyushu University. 

Introductions were over an obscene amount of pizza, pasta, fruits, and sushi of the most ridiculously fresh and tasty variety.  The welcome dinner greeting us at the University was nothing short of a feast for the most honorable quests.  Were we being fattened up for the kill?  The following day would start the series of workshops and academic interactions between U.P. College of Architecture and students and faculty of Kitakyushu University.  We will all switch to academic mode after one last fitful sleep.  In the meantime, with new found energy, that early evening was spent socializing, eating, and building international “relations” through a lot of enthused conversations.   

Perhaps the most exceptional event of the day however was laundry.  After six fast paced full days, all ending around midnight, we were able to slow down time like magic to wash dirty clothes and replenish our dwindling supply of fresh underwear.  We boys got cozy in the small cramped common laundry area.  Guiab jammed all of his huge five foot nine frame within the small window-sill, Tong leaned over the washer, and Dan and I rested our backs on the vending machines making the small space well stocked of junk food and soda like a panic room prepped for a zombie apocalypse.  The coin operated washer and dryer were also new to us and so provided the perfect platform from which we capped-off all male-bonding rituals.  Four people in a cramped space watching clothes go in spin cycles may seem unlikely the perfect situation but it actually works.  It can form the backbone of a thesis on human behavior in cramped spaces.  Seriously.  I could now understand better how brotherhood and even intimate conversations develop with simple sentences like: “Do you have extra coins, can you lend me some,” and “I’ll pay you I promise.”   

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