Something that will only add to, and not decrease? Faith does not panic.
Did you hear me? Faith does not panic. Keep yourself pure, and God will show up. It's a promise.
If you like what you read here, share it. I insist.
Do you know there is something out there that will bring much more to your current circumstances?
Something that will only add to, and not decrease? Faith does not panic.
Did you hear me? Faith does not panic. Keep yourself pure, and God will show up. It's a promise.
Many of you know I am/was a former professional musician. I've found that I listen to a wide variety of music, and have a fairly undefined favorite style/genre. All said, I know that's not entirely true, as I do enjoy heavier music a bit more than the rest. That said, I thought I'd keep today's blog very light by introducing you to bands I love, along with the song that I think best identifies their particular style. I hope you hear something new today that makes you a lifelong fan as I am of these groups.
Enjoy the smattering of taste/style/sound you get here. I'm sure you'll like/love at least some of it.
Recently, I was talking to a lady at a coffee shop. After awhile, I could tell that we had gone past what she felt comfortable sharing with a stranger, even though she had instigated the conversation.
After a bit of discussion, she told me that she believed we were similar in how we process our thoughts. I asked what she meant and she told me about some classes she had taken a number of years back when she was considering being a counselor. In that class, she learned various techniques to discover how each potential client learned. She stated that I process my thoughts by speaking to others.... that talking wasn't so much about relating to others, but an outlet for myself.
I hadn't really thought it that way before, but maybe she had a point?
I've found that since social media has taken off, whether Facebook or Twitter, I have 'taken' to it, meaning I find myself processing my daily experiences here and there. I know it's not comfortable for many to share anything deeper than the surface of who they are, but I am a person that social media was clearly designed for.
I am the guy that needs to put it out there. I need to say what I'm feeling. I actually don't require your thoughts, your opinions, or advice. I just need to get it out in the ether... to purge, so I can feel better afterwards. Maybe even wake up feeling refreshed.
That said, if there was ever something I needed to post, it's the following:
I need a do over. So, I'm re-introducing myself to the world.
Hello, I'm Rob Jones.
For the first time in my life, I can say out loud.... I can actually admit, that I'm really struggling with depression. I am not suicidal, regardless of the frustrations I feel so strongly, but I do find myself wishing that I weren't here anymore. Most of it stems from strong feelings of helplessness...mostly in conjunction with what I sense is the pain I am inflicting on my family...my wife and my kids. That same feeling of helplessness is based on years of choices that I have made towards what I had hoped would be for the greater good of our family and others around me. Examples:
Here's the thing, though. I don't want anyone to help. Maybe that's the problem. Maybe my pride, or what's left of it, keeps me from moving forward? I can hear all of you saying yes. (BTW, I mean that in the sense of 'I don't want you to fish for me. I just need you to teach me how to fish.')
As many of you know, I am a Christian. I have openly proclaimed this. I am also not silly enough to assume that God will just magically whisk me to a mansion in the hills with all the money we could want, along with every need met forever. I get it. It doesn't work that way. However, I have found one thing that continues to beat me to a pulp:
I know better.
When a person spends a lifetime thinking or acting a very specific way, it can be attributed to naivete, ignorance, or childishness. When that same person goes through a number of cathartic experiences, most of which teach huge lessons on life, finance, faith, structure, retirement, family, credit, love, and giving.... well..... it's easy to get so caught up in the 'fact' that you now know so much more that you don't know where to start. In addition, you can't go back. You're no longer a virgin.
When I say "I know better," I am not insinuating that I know better than you, my reader, or that I live with more dignity or have a better relationship with God, or that I can make more money than you. No. I am saying that I cannot go back.
....and I so wish I could. I miss the Rob that didn't know so much. The Rob that enjoyed his life and his job and his family and didn't feel like he had to change the fucking world. I hate the new me. I hate it.
"If you do not see His glory being reflected through your life, then you need to ask why. He has promised to do so if we will walk in obedience to His commands."
- Os Hillman
I admit to being impacted, almost exclusively of late, to Os' thoughts and blogs. His words are cutting through me and working towards the core of who I am. I so need to find my greater purpose. I know it's there and I just can't see it through the haze of my current situations.
I know something is coming, yet I wonder if I'll even notice it when it happens.
Still, I am excited to see what God has in store for me. I am excited to see who and what I will become. I am excited to see how that affects the world at large. I am excited.
Today is my daughter's 24th birthday.... an amazing milestone and I'm so proud of who she is and has become. Because we are celebrating her birthday and I'm basically overloaded as it stands....... Here is an interesting tidbit from Os Hillman that I received in my email this morning. I thought it was very powerful and I believe you should all read this. It addresses all of us, right where we stand.
"Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!" Isaiah 30:18
Have you ever noticed that God is not in a hurry? It took 40 years for Moses to receive his commission to lead the people out of Egypt. It took 17 years of preparation before Joseph was delivered from slavery and imprisonment. It took 20 years before Jacob was released from Laban's control. Abraham and Sarah were in their old age when they finally received the son of promise, Isaac. So why isn't God in a hurry?
God called each of these servants to accomplish a certain task in His Kingdom, yet He was in no hurry to bring their mission into fulfillment. First, He accomplished what He wanted in them. We are often more focused on outcome than the process that He is accomplishing in our lives each day. When we experience His presence daily, one day we wake up and realize that God has done something special in and through our lives. However, the accomplishment is no longer what excites us. Instead, what excites us is knowing Him. Through those times, we become more acquainted with His love, grace, and power in our lives. When this happens, we are no longer focused on the outcome because the outcome is a result of our walk with Him. It is not the goal of our walk, but the by-product. Hence, when Joseph came to power in Egypt, he probably couldn't have cared less. He had come to a place of complete surrender so that he was not anxious about tomorrow or his circumstances.
This is the lesson for us. We must wait for God's timing and embrace wherever we are in the process. When we find contentment in that place, we begin to experience God in ways we never thought possible."
- Os Hillman
Ok, everyone. Have an awesome day. I'm going to ride bikes with my amazing daughter and younger children.
I have been thinking about God and miracles in general. When one reads the Bible, one reads about the miracles that God did.... that ONLY God could do. Parting the Red Sea, raising Lazurus from the dead, and so on.
Yet, today, God doesn't work like that. He could. He just doesn't. Granted, I have no personal idea how God works, and of course He may very well be doing miracles of Biblical proportion in some corner of the world, but He operates much differently with me.
With me, God shows off amongst my relationships.... my friends. God speaks to me through people. Through their actions. Their their selflessness. It's when I've given up hope and figure God is dead that He shows up in the form of a person, ready and even eager to assist me through my struggles..... big or small, He's there. I hope you see this when you live your days. I hope you see God in action in the small parts of your life.
God isn't hiding in the seams. He's not in between the lines. He's big and he does small things through the big hearts of others. He proves He's there, all the time.
I've been meaning to tell a brief story about a person I met about 6 weeks ago, named Jason Fike. I'll keep it brief.
It was June 26th. I was excited about picking up my wife and kids from Seatac airport, as they were flying home from Japan and I had about 90 minutes to kill before their arrival. I had just finished a business meeting with a colleague and decided to get some lunch before heading down to the airport.
When driving to a local favorite pho shop, I had noticed the faint smell of coolant, and hoped/prayed it wasn't coming from my van. Upon arrival at the restaurant, I stepped out of the van into a puddle of green fluid. Yep. It was me. Dang.
Now, if anyone knows me well, they know this sort of thing just freezes me. I'm really only good at a few things in life, and mechanics isn't one of them. I had no idea where to start, so I did what anyone pretending to try and fix a car would do..... I opened the hood. After propping it up, I saw that there was a burst hose near the back of the engine. I did my best to force it back on (it was a high pressure hose, I guess) and started up the car again. It immediately shot right back off and started shooting coolant all over the engine, me, and the ground under the car.
At that moment, a man in a large contractors truck stopped next to me in the lot. I made eye contact and he motioned to me that he saw I was in some sort of dilemma. After shutting off the van, he came over and offered to help me out. His name was Jason Fike. (Get used to that name)
After getting his hands dirty attempting to tighten the busted hose to the terminal, we started it up, but it just wouldn't hold. So, Jason rummaged through his truck until he found something that would tie it down. After spending a good 10 minutes, we gave it a go. It held for about 10 seconds. Now what.
Jason suggested we head down to the local Home Depot and get a tie strip that holds rubber to pipes.... basically a plumbing fix, albeit temporary. He drove me down and we started chatting.
After picking up the hose repair, we headed back and Jason spent about 20 minutes working on tightening it down. It was a very hard spot on top and back of the engine... no clearance and the hose was definitely stretched to the max. Somehow, Jason made it work. After a bit, we started up the car and the fix held. We left the van running and I offered to buy Jason lunch for his trouble. He accepted and ordered lunch, while I washed my hands and ran off to pick up my family at the airport.
Before I left, Jason comes running out and gives me his card with his phone number on it. He also gives me some of the food I had just ordered for him and tells me I need some nourishment. He tells me that if the car has any issues, call him and he'll help. After thanking him profusely, I drive off to the airport.
About a mile away, I am pulling onto I-405 and smell that smell again.... believing I'm just burning off the fluid from the engine, I don't worry too much, but it does make me nervous. After a short while, while merging onto the freeway, it's apparent that the fix didn't hold, so I get off the freeway to a park and ride.
Per Jason's kind instructions, I give him a call. I don't know what else to do. He asks where I'm at, and offers to come help. Again.
When he arrives, we work on the fix again, but it's obvious we aren't going to get it to hold. So, we call AAA and wait. Jason knows I'm stressed about my family at the airport and offers to drive me to pick them up. Seriously.
By now, my daughter Kaiya has arrived and offers to help as well. Kaiya was planning on being there because she was excited to see her family again, but now we'd need her help to bring luggage and family to the hotel we'd be staying at that evening. We lock up the van and Jason drives me to the airport.
After arrival, we discover the flight was delayed. Then, we discover that they've misplaced our car seats for the kids, which means my family is stuck behind customs until they get all the stuff. We waited at the airport over 90 minutes. All the while, Jason kindly stood by, offering anything he could and never complained... not once. Not only did he not complain, but he smiled and just seemed to enjoy being a part of the whole chaotic scenario.
Finally, my wife comes out and we gather up the luggage and leave the airport. Jason takes the boys and I (he has an extended truck) and my wife and Cadence ride with Kaiya back to Bellevue to our airport.
After 30 minutes in traffic, even via the HOV lane, we arrive in Bellevue, just in time for AAA to have me sign off on the van and hand over the keys. Kaiya takes my wife and daughter to the hotel. Jason then drives us over to the hotel as well, where he waits about 35 minutes as I unload our entire luggage load over the course of 10 or so trips. Thank God for his truck. Tomoko brought a lot of stuff back from Japan.
I realized as I was unloading that Jason quietly helped, never complained and was actually keeping my boys entertained. What was really shocking amidst all of this was that I was actually trusting a stranger to watch over my boys as I ran items up to the room. I just knew he was a good guy. Who else would do something like this? Finally, I finished the unload.
At this time, Jason offered to take me to the rental car location to pick up a temporary since I needed to drive about 150 miles the next day and a taxi wasn't going to work. Jason took another hour out of his day to do this, ensuring I had the keys and all was well with my transportation.
So, here's the point of all this: Jason Fike, the kindest man I've met in a LONG time, deserves our business. Our friendship. Our trust. He's an amazing man who gave and gave and gave and asked for nothing in return. No gas money. No promises. Nothing. Just a good man doing good things because he was there and had the heart for it.
Hook him up, people. Hook him up. Jason Fike.
My apologies to those that have faithfully followed my blogs, and the life that creates them. It has been a very odd time in my life, and highly stressful. That stress has kept me away from blogging as much as I used to, for a number of reasons. I won't go into them now, but know that all is ultimately well with our family and lives.
Hiccups occur and sometimes you have no time to waste on other less important aspects. Sometimes, you just have to run and fix it. Now. Right now.
So, with that..... today I won't be blogging either (well, ok, I guess I kind of am), but I read a really great blog from a new friend of mine and stumbled across a great quote she wrote in her first post this year. It goes something like this:
"Feel good about yourself, because you are here, with us, to explore your possibilities. Right now you don’t have to do a thing, except think and dream. It doesn’t cost anything, and no one will even know that you have the audacity to consider stepping out of your boxes."
- Lisa Hale
With that, stay in touch. Much love and blessings.
I was chatting with a friend today who had some serious spiritual questions for me and why I felt like I should continue on the path that I'm on, and/or for that matter am I on the right one? My comment was "well, you subscribe to my blog.... didn't you ever read that one from last September?" Her response was which one, to which I replied about the homeless family and giving food. She told me she'd never seen it.
I went to this site today and noted that indeed I'd never posted it here.... I have 3 websites, all with different "themes" and this one was very focused on faith, so it was posted to my "Christian" website FreeJapan.org
Anyways, I figured that virtually all of my subscribers are to my whoisrobjones blog, so I'm cross posting an old FJ blog for your reading enjoyment. Granted, the blog may make you feel uncomfortable. I am not attempting to Bible Thump you. In fact, I'm so not that guy it's not even funny. However, I do have a strong faith stance to love and live....and to do what I can to remain "judgment free."
All said, I hope you enjoy this post, lifted from FJ.
After a meeting last Wednesday morning, I had time to stop in Bellevue and get a quick lunch. I pulled into a local favorite lunch place and ordered. They had just opened and their Visa machine was down, but they started cooking my food and asked me to pay when I left.
While I was waiting for my order to be completed, I went to wash my hands. As I walked towards the washroom, I looked out the windows to see a family standing near the exit of the parking lot. I had noticed them when I came into the lot, but I hadn’t paid much attention. At the time, it didn't seem as though they were homeless. They were just congregated at the corner. However, every time I looked over my shoulder, they were there. It didn't take long to figure out that they were indeed homeless.
The ladies at the counter came to me and told me they'd need me to get some cash from the local Walmart, because the credit card machine was down for the count. I told them I'd do it immediately after the meal.
By now, my lunch had arrived and as a typical habit, I had ordered too much. I figured that if I didn't eat all my food, I could take some across the street for them to eat. I didn't know if they'd want it, but I made sure to box it so when I would present it to them, it wouldn't look like I'd picked the food clean and left them scraps. I knew accepting food or money can be humiliating enough as it is.
I walked across the street and held out the food. The family barely spoke English, so communication was very limited. However, when the children saw that I brought them food, they opened the box and started eating it immediately. There were 4 kids and it was apparent that they were very hungry. When I asked the father what was happening to them, he told me he lost his job and home and couldn’t seem to get anyone to help (in what garbled English I could understand, anyway). The wife looked at me with sadness, but some small gratitude. The kids smiled with the food falling out of their mouths. I told them that God loves them and I walked across the parking lot to Walmart to get the cash to pay for my food.
On the walk across the parking lot, the thought flooded into me that I needed to buy them some more food, so I picked up some bananas, oranges, bread and water. I wanted it to be portable and simple to eat. I also got some extra cash, because I could afford to help, at least a little. When I walked back, they were gone, and I was heartbroken and a bit upset. To be fair, I thought that maybe I'd been scammed and at the same time, I just felt that couldn't be true. They weren't standing at the corner anymore, but that didn't mean I couldn't go out and find them. They couldn’t be far, so I went into the restaurant to pay my bill and resigned myself to driving around until I caught up to them.
When I went inside to pay, they were sitting at a table in the corner, eating what they could with the money they'd earned standing on the corner. When the father noticed me, I could see a little bit of embarrassment filter through his head. When he saw that I had grocery bags in my hand, he looked down and seemed to be hurt with pride, because as I walked closer, he realized they were for him and his family. I smiled, and gave them the bags of food, some cash and then walked away, telling them again that God loved them and that it will all be well. It felt so good to do something nice for a family in need, and I felt like I could tick off my good deed for the day.
I went to the counter and paid my bill, then started to walk out. However, something came over me when I got to the door. I realized I still had change left over from paying for my lunch, so I turned around to give them the money. When I started walking back towards the family, the parents looked noticeably distressed. At the same time, the children were smiling at me with these big beautiful eyes. The wife began to cry, and for some reason I reached out to wipe her cheek. She looked at the floor and that moment broke my heart. I told them that this was God in action. I smiled and walked away. It felt good, just like before. Maybe even better.
As I stepped out of the restaurant, something magical happened in my heart. I had a very strong wave of emotion break over me, and I ran to the car. Once I got inside the car, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. I just sat there, and then it happened: I broke.
I sat in my car, leaning my head on the steering wheel and cried, hard, for the next 20 minutes. The whole experience just broke my heart, especially the plight of those children...those beautiful innocent children. After some time, something even bigger happened and I finally came to understand why I felt so sad, yet somehow accomplished… this weird bittersweet feeling.
I realized that when Jesus died on the cross, he must have felt like that…only a billion times over. He must have had that feeling of extreme joy, knowing that his sacrifice was one of such profound love for humanity... something that was done without expectation of any result or thanks. And yet, there must have been a sadness in knowing that He was leaving us behind to fend for ourselves (at least at the moment) and that there was so much hardship yet to come. Again, the children... all of us, His children.
It was at this moment, sitting in my van with tears pouring out of my eyes, that I felt like I finally understood what Christ really did for me. At least in how small I can explain or feel it. It was so intense, and it’s still intense, even 5 days later. I’ve never felt so raw. I cried when I went home and saw my children. It was such a bittersweet moment.
There are many families and individuals across this country (and the world) that need our help. Why did this family's plight affect me so profoundly? I'm not sure, but it did. Why am I sharing this with you? Because this is as real as it gets. Because God gives us so much to be grateful for and we rarely ever feel how profound it is... how special we are... how loved we are.
Many of you know that I feel compelled to share my thoughts, as well as what we believe is our family's destiny: to offer our help to families in crisis, in Japan. We feel that our arrival date is September 2016. How do we know? We just know. That’s 2 years away. There is a lot to prepare for between now and then, and we will need help getting there.
Here's what we are asking for. We are looking for prayer, endorsement of our business, and support however you may see fit, so we can provide other sources of value and health for people. Because I'm not a Japanese citizen, especially one who didn't receive an education there, the opportunities to work over there are extremely limited. Because of this, we are building our business up to provide for residual income which will ease the daily need significantly. We have much to offer the country and we're excited to get "boots on the ground," so to speak. If you're compelled to reach out, please do so. Your support means so much more than you'll ever know.
Lastly, I pray that each of you reading this has your own "family standing on the corner" story to tell. I pray that God reveals His plan and love for you as soon as possible, so you can strike out and do something profound and world changing. We're all built to serve the greater good. Leave a giant footprint. All your needs will be provided for.... you just have to trust. When you ask God for direction, He'll show you. His answers are as clear as the sun.
It's my hope that if you like what I write, or are interested in all 3 facets of 'who is Rob Jones' that you consider subscribing to each site, linked above. I have a finance site, a spiritual/non-profit site, and this one here.... which basically details the insanity that is my life.
Let's get back to the story at hand, shall we?
After many selfies with my Japanese ER crew, they sat me up fully to see if I'd have another episode.
Fortunately I didn't, nor did I get dizzy. I did feel a bit weak, as they dehydration had clearly taken its toll on my body. The doctors told me it'd be a few days. They also suggested that I head to the house and drink a lot of electrolytic fluids.... stuff like Pocari Sweat and Calpis. You know.... stuff that the very names make you want to vomit. To be fair, they aren't bad.... like thicker versions of Gatorade. Just not my thing. If you have to ask, I prefer Calpis bigtime over Pocari Sweat... it's just no contest.
As I dressed, my airport liaison came back into the room, and informed me he'd be escorting me back to the airport. The airline had expedited my luggage through customs and was waiting for me when I got back. I wouldn't have to go through customs.... which was kind of odd and made me think I shouldn't write this, so some would-be terrorist wouldn't fake a medical emergency in the future.
Regardless, the gentleman walked me through the hospital, to what I thought was the waiting car. Turns out I was wrong. We turned a few corners, and we stopped at a little nook, where an older man and woman stared at me. My liaison gestured to me to speak to the older man, while the lady generated some paperwork. She produced a sheet of paper with a whole bunch of unreadable information on it (to me) and pointed to the bottom.
It was at this moment that I realized what was happening. They were billing me. Right here. Right now. $125647 yen, which translates into approximately $1100 dollars. Now, I'm not saying that I shouldn't have to pay for the services, but I was livid because at the airport I had told them over and over again that I was just dehydrated and a hospital visit wasn't needed. Granted, looking back, I certainly would done what they did and make me go to the hospital to verify there wasn't something more nefarious at work in my body. Either way, they were now expecting payment. Right now. Cash money. After me telling them over and over again that they needed to bill me, they would just smile and point to the number at the bottom with the occasional mention of a word I recognized.... mostly "Visa" or "Mastercard." Incessantly.
Blah blah blah VISA... blah Mastercard... blah blah blah blah Cash blah VISA.
Finally, I'd had enough and just said take the card. I had enough on the card. That wasn't the point. They were taking all of my travel cash. I know people think it costs a lot to visit Japan, but it doesn't. Not at all, especially when you have family and know your way around. In fact, I've done 2 weeks in Japan and spent $700 the entire time (flights notwithstanding) and had a blast. A blast I tell you. One just needs to know someone there, and the right places to go that aren't centered around costing tourists a ton. As I handled the payment, the tension in the room seemed to ease a bit. I'm not sure if they were expecting me to go all "American" on them, but you could tell that they were very cautious in how they treated me until I'd paid. Hilarious. Bruce Willis, eat your heart out.
**Something you should know is that most credit/debit cards do NOT work in Japan. Japan is a fierce cash (no such thing as checks, either) society...it's still very 1990 there in regards to electronic debit systems, so your card has to have the "right" logo on them, and most now (especially the ones with the GPS chips in them) will not work at all. Not at least until 2040, when it will be 2015 in Japan. I was more than shocked that they took my card at the hospital, as I cannot buy groceries or rent a car or buy clothing with my card. I guess the hospital is the one place where they want to make sure they get paid....Maybe it's a scheme? Ha. Craziness.**
As I was exiting the hospital, I bumped into my ER doctor and head nurse, so I snapped a quick shot with them. More peace signs, of course.
They were both very cute and very kind. I have to admit that I'd love to get sick again, just to hang out with them. No idea who they are, or their names, but they were a lot of fun. Great personalities, plus the main doctor (on the left) spoke impeccable English, having lived in Boston for years.
When the liaison and I stepped out of the hospital, there was no waiting car. I asked him how we were getting back. He says Takushi (Taxi). So, I'm not sure what kind of help I'm getting now. Either way, he signals the taxi, and tells him we need to go back to Kansai International, which is approximately 2 miles away from us, across a long bridge out to the island airport. We get in the car, and we find out that he TOO accepts credit cards as payment. Madness!
What country did I land in, and what did you do with my country Japan?
We drive back to the airport, and the taxi pulls into this hidden area, behind the airport where you can directly enter into the network hub.... basically, a private entrance to the inner workings of the airport, all of which was easily accessed without security or even a drop down car gate. We simply drove up to the "back" of the airport and got out. After dropping $4000 yen, which was roughly $34 dollars (for a 2 mile drive... didn't I say it was cheap to get around Japan?), we walked into the building. Here I am standing in the nerve center of one of the world's most complex airports and nobody is checking to see why I'm there. Granted, I was with the liaison, but soon he'd gone away to get my luggage and not come back for a good 10 minutes.... meanwhile about 1000 different airport workers walked by me, all looking at me, but nobody addressing me, or asking questions why I was back there, or anything.
They just passively walked by. Typical Japan, if you know the culture, but odd in that I was in the middle of a highly secure (yeah, right) area of the airport and nary a question. (Another concern for future terror activities. Someone should note this.)
The only thing I could figure is that I'm either deliriously handsome, or they are just outright scared of us giant Americans. Or both.
The liaison finally comes out with my suitcases, along with his supervisor and greets me. The supervisor asks if I have a ride home and if I'm ok. I signal yes, mostly because I didn't want them to raise a stink and require me to wait for family to drive here to pick me up. By car, a journey to KIX is right around $80 one way, because of tolls and gas. That, and it would take them hours. If I took a bus and train, it would be about $40 round trip and get me there in about 75 minutes. So again... I just agreed. "Yep, the family is coming!"
The walked me out to the terminal center, and thanked me for being so patient, then they wished me good travels, good luck, and safety.... then, they bowed a very kind bow and I was by my lonesome. Now, to find the international cash machine (yes, they actually accept my card and get me yen) or which there are 3 in the entire airport.
I go to the machine, and it won't take my card. Seriously. So, I decide that maybe my pin was entered incorrectly. So, I try again. Nope. Then, I put in the card in every possible configuration. Nope. Nope.
Nope. I try the non-international machine next door. Nope. Now, I'm worried. I go upstairs (sweating by now) to the information desk (where they actually can speak solid English) and ask for another machine.
I head there, and push the card in. Nope. I go to the third machine. Nope. I go back to the first machine and watch a man from Europe use the machine. YEP. I try again. Nope. Now, I'm starting to freak out. I call Tomoko and ask what to do. She has no idea, but she suggests that maybe the bus ticketing machine has a card slot now. Heck, it's 2015.... they should.
I head out to where I need to buy tickets to Nishinomiya, and the machine is typical old school cash only.
That's definitely a big nope. However, there is a lady standing there, quietly. I ask her if she speaks English and she says 'a little.' I tell her I need to use a VISA to buy tickets to the bus. She motions me over to this hidden stand behind the ticketing area, tells me to wait and disappears. 2 minutes later, the window slides up, the lights come on, and she smiles at me.
"Visa, please. Round trip?"
Done. She was a magician. The bus is literally leaving in 30 seconds. I race over to the stand, they take my luggage, and I'm on. I'm finally on the way to the house. Chaos is over. Thank the Lord.
My brother in law is waiting at Nishinomiya to escort me to the house and is happy to see me. He says it's really cool that I tried to surprise my wife and kids. He even offers me a chance to stay in a hotel tonight, where the family won't be crawling all over me, and so I can rest to start fresh tomorrow. It's tempting, but not what I want. I want to see my family, even if I still feel like dog poop.
I finally get to the house after another 90 minutes, greet my wife, see my kids, take a shower and attempt to go to bed. I couldn't sleep, no matter what I did. It wasn't jet lag. It was the weird feeling in my body and being "so off." Lacking water.... lacking food.... lacking energy. It was so frustrating.
The next few days were a blur, as I still couldn't keep food down, nor was I desirous of eating. My only concern was getting my fluids back up. My mouth was sticky or tacky depending on the moment.
Although I had purchased a round trip flight for a week, it actually translates into 6 days on the ground, because of travel time and time zones. With 3 days down for being sick, I was down to 3 days with my family. Fortunately, by Sunday (the boys 2nd birthday), I was back on track.... at least for the most part.
Behind the scenes, it was anything but good though.
I learned something new about Japan this trip. I learned that one never surprises a family or friends. I used to think it was funny watching them kind of complain or maybe even freak out, as ultimately, they'd show how happy they were. However, this trip I learned they really dislike it. In fact, to go farther, they loathe it. Culturally, they want to know a visitor is coming, so they can prepare and so they can be ready themselves, simply because anything else is unfair and knocks them for a loop. The Japanese are all about being prepared. To the point that if they're not, they can't find their way through it. They aren't good at flying by the seat of their pants.
The Japanese are good at being worker bees.... very programmed to do things very specifically. Making on the fly adjustments isn't only bad form, but it's not taught. It's just not what they do. So, to be short, my family (including my wife) was pissed off that I "just showed up." They didn't tell me this until about 2 days before leaving, which is another Japanese characteristic (extreme passivity).... but when they did, they let me have it.
I felt so guilty and at the same time upset that they didn't appreciate what I was trying to do. They just couldn't wrap their heads around me wanting to be with my wife and kids, no matter what. They didn't see it as heroic or kind or genuine. They only saw it as frustrating, hugely assumptive, and annoyingly AMERICAN. What a bummer.
As you can imagine, it took every effort to try and explain to them my heart and intentions. Still, it didn't matter. I learned that some things don't matter in Japan. You never do them. Ever. So, lesson learned.
Don't surprise family or friends in Japan. Ever.
These are the personal (and sometimes business) musings of a former know-it-all.