Wednesday, July 6, 2016

From Busan Complacence to Fukuoka Insomnia

I left Busan, South Korea yesterday morning, to fly to Fukuoka, Japan. I really wish I had taken the ferry instead of flying, but it is what it is, and I made it intact. I am not the biggest fan of flying. I don't mind the flying itself, in fact that's kind of cool. What i don't like about flying is the bureacratic part of it. The regulations of what you can bring and how you can bring stuff, the focus that is going to be placed on you by probing individuals, and the general hassles involved with getting from one side of an airport to another relatively intact. I suppose a certain amount of that is unavoidable, but some of the details get downright surrealistic. The focus on things like liquids and shoes can seem a little heavy-handed. And a lot of this seems to be peculiarly focused on air transportation rather than other forms. I always have to do a complete air travel repack. Discard the big liquids. I left a bottle of shampoo and a bottle of cooking oil behind at the Busan hostel. I also had to leave a small bottle of hydrogen peroxide behind, because you can't take that on a plane.  Find all my liquids of less than three ounces and put them in a baggie. Put all my electronics in a carry-on. Sharps (pocket knife and nail clippers) go in the checked baggage. Then when I get to my destination, I have to reassemble from the airplane repack to a more practical assembly of my stuff. But, oh, well, the airplane dance is over for me until the next time, so time to focus on new things.

My shoe crisis is somewhat resolved for now. My old shoes are waterlogged and on the verge of collapse, which led me to seek new footwear in a land where I understand very little and others understand very little from me, and shoe stores were difficult to find. My first stop was at a shoe store that was small and really didn't have many choices that worked for me, but I had to get something. So I bought some water socks and a pair of soles. They handle wetness well, but are really not meant for heavy walking. So after walking about fifty kilometers over three days, they were pretty much ruined. The soles held up fine, but they both have nickel-sized holes behind the heels. There is thirty bucks down the tube, but I had to have something on my feet. Then I found an underground mall in Busan and had a huge number of small booth stores, and a much wider selection. So I got a pair of decent walking sandals with enough fastening around the foot to provide for good support and good bottom soles. Hopefully the problem is solved for now, but I eventually will have to buy some closed-toe shoes. And right now, I'm hauling around my waterlogged old shoes that I tried unsuccessfully to dry out with a hair dryer at the old hostel, and are now taking up huge amounts of valuable space in my pack. I have just had the one pair of shoes up until now, and now I have three, which means two pair (both wet) take up pack space.

When you leave a country you've been traveling in and go to a new country that you've never been to before, you have to discard a whole set of learned behaviors that you have acquired in response to the cultural norms and prepare to learn a whole new set of strategies. But some things you learned in one country might carry over to the next one, too. You never know. What you have learned about the country you have spent time in brings you to a certain level of complacence that you have to trade for nearly constant vigilance when you get to the next place. And the whole process, combined with the constant moving and the packing and the lugging, can be exhausting. When I got to Fukuoka, I was exhausted. But I still had to find the hostel with full pack regalia attached to my body. I went through the orienteering ritual, combined with the occasional moments of frustration ritual, with the sit-and-rest-and-mentally-regroup moments, and this process led me to the hostel, after circling the block a few times to find my elusive prey. Then I checked in and got settled and just collapsed in sleep on the bed at five in the afternoon. Now I'm awake at two in the morning, kinda needing to go through my pack and get some stuff done, but everybody here is crashed out or at least peacefully perusing their digital devices in bed, so now is not the time for a repack and assessment. Oh, well. Maybe I can at least dig out my Kindle and read some travel guidebooks or something, to kind of get an inkling as to what the Fukuoka plan will be. I already excavated some snack bars, so my rumbling tummy is relatively satisfied now. Gotta get some water soon...discarded my water bottles for the airplane but forgot to get some on the way to the hostel. Wish I could reach for some water right now, but I'll live. Hopefully, I'll survive the night intact and move on to more challenges on the morrow. In the meantime, I'm here wide awake laying in bed at two in the morning.

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