Ned, the Kiwi scientist, awoke early from a fitful sleep marred by conflicting visions of passion and pain. The passion involved Chikako, the stylish stylist he'd met the previous evening. His dream portrayed a private English lesson that devolved into an urgent coupling of momentous primeval impact. The pain reflected the subconscious underlying fear of his father, the Reverend Rollins, whose stern authority easily spanned the significant distance from Christchurch, N.Z., to the lakeside city of Tsuchiura in Ibaraki. Ned pondered the doubtless severe paternal disapproval ensuing from any potential premarital dalliance on his part. To atone for his sinful fantasies in slumber land, he dug out his well-worn Old Testament and perused the pages at random for thirty minutes. Then, following a short prayer session, during which he requested divine guidance in matters erotic, he made his way downstairs to shower and shave. Feeling jet lagged, hung over and morally guilty, he searched the kitchen for some java, finding only instant, with neither creamer nor milk. Nonetheless, he brewed up a cup of joe and was sipping daintily as Walden Helmsly, mentor and host, entered the room.
"Ohayo gozaimasu!!!" The older man greeted Ned cheerfully, if with a bit too much volume. "How did you sleep? How's the jet lag? How does your head feel?"
"Everything's fine" Ned lied. "What's the plan for today?"
"After breakfast, we'll drive to the university center and I'll show you around a little. Then it's on to the biology building where I have to gather my notes for today's final planning meeting. That session will take up most of the day. Bentos, Japanese box lunches, will be delivered to the conference room, thereby denying us an escape opportunity. The entomology convention starts tomorrow and will run for five days. Already many insect researchers and specialists from around the country and abroad have arrived in town. At the meeting, you will be asked to give a synopsis of your scheduled symposium, 'The Social Interaction of Selected Japanese Pismires in the Post-Mating Environment'. When the meeting concludes, we'll go to a yakitoria for dinner. I hope you like chicken!"
"Sure. Anything's fine with me. What's for breakfast?"
"Leftover rice, pickled vegetables, fermented soybean curd and miso soup."
"Oh" Ned responded, with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm, already looking forward to the bento lunch, whatever that might turn out to be.
They ate, dressed and left. It was another hot, cloudless, August Monday. The campus of Tsuchiura Science University was expansive and expensive. Trees, landscaped gardens, sports fields, bus stops, classroom buildings and scurrying students lined the broad boulevards. Walden gave a running description of pertinent sites and sights as they motored along, pointing out the library, bookstore, administration building, gymnasium, medical center and the school of nursing, which in particular peaked Ned's interest, although he felt guilt again for this prurient attraction.
Walden parked the very mini-van in his reserved space and led Ned to the head inside the six-story, 15-year old biology building. Relieved, the ant authority followed the associate professor to an elevator that raised them slowly to the fifth floor. Entering the office shared by Walden and two native entomologists, Ned was introduced and bid welcome. While Walden gathered his notes and thoughts, the visitor was offered a hot cup of green tea, which he gladly accepted, knowing of its beneficial health qualities. While the evident disarray of the office dismayed and disappointed, Ned was pleased with the congeniality of his mentor's colleagues.
In the opulent conference room, dominated by a large teakwood table, Ned met the department head, Professor Miamoto. Aged 62, she was portly, yet accomplished. However, her English language ability was next to useless. The meeting commenced and was, of course, conducted in Japanese. Ned wondered why he and Walden were required to attend when so little could be comprehended. The noontime delivery of the bentos was greeted with general relief. The steaming containers held vegetable tempura, fish, seaweed, bean sprouts and other rabbit food, as well as the inevitable rice. Better than the typical sandwich and potato chips on which scholars back home usually dined, Ned mused. The accompanying beverage was, of course, tea.
Following lunch, the meeting resumed with Ned's one-hour outline of his scheduled presentations. The others present nodded wisely, but few questions were asked. Ned could only assume that he had been understood. The session then reverted to Japanese and finally ended at 6:30 with standing bows all around. Several of the faculty members chatted with Ned as the others filed out. Although the lingo and customs were different, he felt surprisingly comfortable in this academic environment. The seed of an idea was planted and began to grow in his mind.
Later, at Captain's Yakitori Shop near the station, Walden and his protege enjoyed all manner of delicious, and less so, chicken kebabs. It was the first time Ned had sampled raw chicken, a big no-no down under due to the danger of bacterial contamination. Initially fearful, he found that he quite enjoyed it. After his second beer, Ned asked to borrow Walden's cellular phone. Nervously, he punched in Chikako's number. "Moshi, moshi" her sweet voice intoned.
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