Aldael in USA


     Once again, I’m not dead, I’m doing other stuff. And this time ‘stuff’ was quite inevitable and unavoidable. And, as the title proclaims, this ‘stuff’ involved taking a work-related trip to the other side of the Atlantic. For the first time. And, as with pretty much every more important experience, I get an itch to put it on paper. This time, not as privately as always. So yeah.

     So, I was travelling with my two co-workers, let’s call them Colleague A and Colleague B. That’s not particularly important but makes the story a bit smoother later on. 10-hour flight (yep, I’m a European) wasn’t something I had ever experienced but I was surprised myself how well it went. Well, watching movies definitely made everything seem quicker. Oscar-winning Parasite was something, though pretty weird to say the least (more about that maybe another time). Joker however didn’t live up to the hype. Knowing the end-result somehow almost defeated the build-up of the film where everything bad that can happen to a poor person happens just because. And then happens again. And again. And yet again. A rather forceful introduction of the Batman backstory didn’t make things smoother at all. Oh well.

Just fit for a desktop background

     Once flight attendants started dispensing drinks, I noticed that after the first question (“Tea or coffee?”), they were forced to ask another (“Milk? Sugar?”). I decided to make their lives a bit easier, so when I was asked myself, I answered “Just plain tea, thank you”. Colleague B started giggling and only after her explanation I understood that it sounded exactly like “plane tea”. I seem to be quite accomplished at telling dad jokes. Even inadvertently.

     Arriving to San Francisco also went pretty smooth (all the dealings with customs and stuff). However, once we started looking for our luggage, it simply wasn’t there. The staff explained that, unfortunately, our bags didn’t make the flight (apparently time window between our two flights turned out to be too short). We would’ve received the bags the next day, only San Francisco wasn’t our final destination. For that, we first rented a car.

Da Bridge!

     Driving in another country feels weird, but Americans (at least in California) seem to be far more relaxed and forgiving compared to drivers in my own country. Getting used to the car and its GPS took some time – we drove across the famous Golden Gate Bridge two times instead of one, but you can’t really be upset about that, can you?

     First serious stop – Walmart and full bags of toothpaste, socks, sandwiches and other tools of survival (by the way, our bags arrived 2 days later safe and sound). Lots of driving later (and a sleepover in a motel) we came to see the sequoias. My country is quite forested so we thought it was quite funny that we came all this way to see some trees, but damn, it was worth it. You can’t see that much during half a day, but it was impressive indeed.

Sequoias! Huge!

     I might have mentioned some time that I easily get car-sick (or whatever you call it). However, I was ok when we were flying. I was ok when we were driving up the mountains, and even semi-ok when we were descending. The funny part is that it was straight roads of ‘Murica that turned out to be too much for me. For that, poor Colleague B had to drive the absolute majority of the journey – she either wanted to drive herself or I was car-sick, and that wasn’t great. I managed to get fit and take the wheel for some time near Los Angeles. It definitely feels weird when you have to drive in a huge car faster than you’re accustomed to and there’s traffic all around you. Thankfully our Ford was quite clever – I didn’t even know there could be a function that restores the car to the lane it’s been driven if the driver inadvertently starts to stray out of it. Neat. Still, I like my old tiny Opel (1,6 l) over any huge SUV (such as our rental beast with 3,5 l engine).

View from San Diego Convention Center

     Our final destination – San Diego. And no, it has nothing to do with Comic-Con or anything related. Work-related stuff followed, so I’d rather not discuss that that much. It wasn’t particularly interesting, though some new contacts and other useful stuff made it worth it. Spare time saw us visiting the San Diego Old Town which wasn’t that old by my standards and was surprisingly Latino compared to the rest of the city we saw which was very American-like. Beach was another stop and though it wasn’t particularly hot, I managed to get my forehead tanned a bit. And that’s weird, considering I could see a few patches of snow on a sidewalk through my home window just a few days ago. Oh well, UV has its ways.

San Diego Old Town

     It was San Diego after all, so one evening (probably the only free evening I could find) I did take a trip to find a comic book store with a secret wish to find something anime-related. Not a huge success, but not a failure, either. I did pick up used copies of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and some volumes of Isaac Asimov. There wasn’t much of anime-related stuff, but there was some, and for that I was quite grateful. If I hadn’t already bought the entirety of Oyasumi Punpun way back, that would’ve been my dream capture. There was some Junji Ito stuff that I deemed too expensive for its worth. I wasn’t getting out empty-handed, so I ended up buying two issues of original Viz’s release of Nausicaa manga (1989, if I’m not mistaken). Can’t say it’s my best purchase ever, but it’s sure something to have and remember.

Purchases! (some of them)

     So yeah, after about a week of work-related stuff, some mild tourism and a few very satisfying talks with Colleague B over some drinks, with bags full of Reese’s candies for friends we successfully departed home. On the way back I watched Skyfall. The theme song definitely was a highlight, as was the aesthetics, especially initial action scenes. The story, however, was surprisingly forgettable. Or I was simply sleeping (which by itself doesn’t give the film any brownie points, either).

Colleague B and a random bird on the Coronado Beach in San Diego

     In Amsterdam a rather funny incident happened. We all were definitely tired. Colleague A went to the restroom while Colleague B was left with me to chatter. Suddenly, a well-dressed guy appeared out of nowhere and inquired if he could ask some questions about the airport and its convenience. Colleague B managed to growl “Can I please not?” while I was a bit more cooperative with “I don’t want to, but yeah, I can”. The guy started asking questions, which I dutifully answered. After a question “Have you tried any of the restaurants there? Have you tried local food and drinks?” Colleague B interrupted “Excuse me, where can I smoke?”. Priorities… The last question was about my age. Usually I don’t try to remember the correct number (which changes every year). It’s more convenient to remember the birthyear and calculate every single time. Colleague B suddenly exclaimed “He’s 28!” (which I’m most definitely not, and she does know that alright) and confused both me and herself, so my next line was “Uh… What year is this?”. Yeah.

     Once we returned, it turned out that there’s piles of papers to be filled (thanks, bureaucracy) to account for all the finances of the trip. It’s especially frustrating that US and Europe have different measurement systems. All the American gas receipts and car specifications are written with gallons, miles and dollars and in all our accounts all that must be converted to liters, kilometers and euros. Damn the bureaucracy. Another funny thing is that just before our trip my Uni finally decided that all the trip papers should be filled electronically so nobody really knew how the system actually worked. It took us pretty much the whole week to settle all the accounts. When Colleague B finished (it was her who was responsible for all the car rentals and gas receipts), it was 28th version of her account. Yeah… Other stuff that was left unattended for those 9 days also surfaced up. On last Monday I left work at half past 11 PM, took about an hour to return home and eat and then went to finish all the works. Bedtime came at 3 AM. Yeah…

A Sequoia egg!

     So yeah, anime wasn’t my main concern to say the least. During this weekend, I decided to take a rest and do whatever. That involved watching surprisingly disturbing Tokyo Sonata (2008 Japanese film directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa), watching a few sports matches, taking a random walk, for a few hours looking internet stores for origami paper (with some but not particularly satisfying results) and relaxing by playing my piano (a more appropriate term would probably be ‘playing with my piano’ since my skills aren’t nearly as professional as I would like them to be). Probably the most random thing was visiting a bookstore and discovering a tiny English book – The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (who won Nobel Prize in 2017). In my country not every bookstore has a corner for books in English, and if it has, the books are either something extremely popular (GRR Martin or Stephen King) or something extremely shallow (and popular). Either way, there’s usually about 30 books at best. Luckily, several months ago, I found Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. While its literary value (in my humble opinion) is disputed, love of Scandinavian mythology got better of me that day. It was kinda worth it though. At this time, they had Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a brand new copy, and cheaper than the one I bought in San Diego. Damnit. Oh well. But my eyes scanned book covers further and just managed to linger for a second on a Japanese-looking name on a cover and I was half-sold right away. A quick glance at a summary was all that was needed to convince me that it was a book for me. Well, it sure was – all the spare time I could use during 3 days went to reading. Worth it.

     So yeah, that’s my life now. Time to watch some anime.

Hope nobody’s affected by the virus. Stay healthy!

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  1. Anime stuff can be frustratingly hard to find in America… the perils of being a niche interest in a large country I guess.

    Anyhow, glad you made it home safely, be well!

    Liked by 1 person

  1. Musings and Reflections – Winter 2020 Weeks 6-11 (yeah…) and status report (sort of) | Aldael's Attic

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