Walden led Ned to The Border, Tsukuba's largest gaijin bar. It being a Sunday evening, not too much was going on there with only about ten other customers present. The pub's capacity was well over a hundred, and on Friday and Saturday nights it was jammed. On the stage, two older Westerners and two younger Asians were playing classic rock music with a few rough endings.
"Those guys practice here every Sunday afternoon and then play for the customers after the bar opens at 8:00. They're sounding much better than they used to," Walden explained.
The Hungarian bartender recognized Walden and greeted him, as he had to. Ned, the other nerd, was introduced and hands were shaken. The scientists took seats at the bar and ordered beers and nachos. As they chatted, the place began to fill up a bit. A group of four stunning young ladies, all nurses as it turned out, entered and took possession of a corner table. Another pair of beauties arrived and sat on the stools next to Ned. Walden elbowed Ned and gave him a male bonding kind of wink. Ned blushed.
The nachos arrived, but were ignored, as the men were still stuffed from the Kobe steak dinner they had enjoyed earlier. Ned surveyed the decor of the pub. He wasn't impressed. The Border boasted a large room with dance floor, darts, table football, sound system, DJ booth and kitchen, but the overall impression was one of shabbiness. In general, Japanese drinkers prefer a newer, well-polished establishment with much brass, glass and chrome on offer. The ones that came to the Border did so mainly to meet gaijin, practice their English or check out a weekend band.
The girl nearest turned to Ned and smiled. "Where you come from?" she queried. "New Zealand. How about you?" he asked. She laughed in reply, "Japan, of course." "Oh" he responded, not knowing what else to say. She turned back to her companion, raised her eyebrows and rolled her pupils, this being the internationally recognized gesture for: 'What a geek!'
As Walden Helmsly sniggered into his beer, Ned went to find the toilet, which was like none he had ever seen. It seemed like a porcelain hole in the floor. He was thankful he only had to do Number One, and not Number Two, as he would have been at a loss as to how to proceed.
Rejoining Walden at the bar, he ordered another Kirin and pecked at the chips. The lovely lass to his right addressed him anew. "What kind your work?" "I'm a scientist. I study bugs." "Oh. That's very interesting. Please tell me more." So he did.
Ned went off on a long monologue describing his entire history of research and experimentation. He bought them both a drink, then continued his tale. Bored, Walden wandered off to play chess with one of the musicians. As her friend was flirting with the bartender, Chikako bought Ned another beer and listened wide-eyed as he went on, and on, and on. Ned was getting drunk and feeling ever more affectionate towards the alluring vision before him.
When she was able to get in a word, Chikako asked Ned if he would like to teach her English. "Is the bear Catholic?" Ned joked. She didn't get it. "I'd be happy to help you learn English." "Great!!! Here's my business card with cell phone number. I must go home now. Please call me soon. Bye, bye." She grabbed pal and purse to exit.
Ned perused the card:
Chikako Honda Stylist Hair Brains Saloon 09034300573
Wow!!! His first day in Japan and he already had a pretty girl's phone number. Incredible!!! He'd never had much luck with Kiwi women, so he was thrilled and rushed to inform his host. Walden was very congratulatory in his reaction. "Way to go, Dude!" he exclaimed in dated hip. "I'll loan you some English grammar and vocabulary books. Then you can prepare some lessons for her."
"But I haven't a clue about teaching languages" Ned stammered.
"No worries, Mate. Most "professional" English teachers in Japan are hired without previous language teaching experience. You just have to be a native speaker and look like a Westerner."
"No way! That's awesome! So just about anyone can get a job and stay here for as long as they like."
"That's right. Well, you must be all tuckered out from your voyage. Let's head home so you can get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow I'll introduce you at the university and explain the schedule of the entomology conference."
But Ned didn't sleep well. Images of Chikako danced in his head and the excitement of the day refused to subside. What new wonders would the next day bring? (To be continued...)
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