Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Hidemi’s Rambling No.456

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We took an Alitalia flight to Italy. It was a bumpy visit from the very beginning. I experienced the scariest landing in my life, in which the plane took several sharp dives during the descent under the perfectly fine weather and made me scream repeatedly. It landed with a couple of powerful bounces on the runway and while I was pale and near to crying, other passengers were cheering and applauding. We looked around tourist attractions such as the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, the Catacomb, and the Mouth of Truth that I stuck my hand in and I later realized had been a manhole lid of the sewer. We entered the Vatican City by showing our passports. Compared to Rome where I saw many old brownish buildings, it had luxuriously gorgeous buildings. Our hotel in Rome was an old small one. It had a hard wood floor instead of carpeting, which looked like an apartment rather than a hotel. By then, I had been unable to pack all my belongings into my small bag anymore as they had been somehow grown day by day. I conceded defeat to my mother that my plan to travel smartly with small baggage was a mistake and the war was over. We bought a suitcase at a bag store near our hotel and walked back. There were numerous horse-drawn carriages for tourists around the city and I rolled a new suitcase along the streets covered with droppings. Back in the hotel, I was short of fresh underwear and needed to do the wash. In the room with underwear hanging from a clothesline, I felt as if I had lived in a dilapidated tenement. I opened the small wooden-frame window and the stench of horse droppings rushed in. Next morning, the roar of the street cleaner woke me up before dawn…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.455

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During the trip, we put our suitcases out of the room at the hallway on the morning of checkout at each hotel and the porter collected and carried them onto our charter bus. In Spain, we saw our suitcases gathered at the lobby and one of the tour members found her suitcase was unlocked. She went to it to lock, saying she had certainly locked when she put it at the hallway. That made other members check their suitcases and some of theirs were also open. Some members said a doorknob of the room was jiggled from the outside during the night. My mother told them that I had had my pocket picked on the bus and how stupid I had been. She sounded as if I was the champion in this danger competition in Spain. But someone claimed her bag had been slashed on the bus and my mother fell silent finally. We went to Toledo by our charter bus. It was a long ride with a few stops for snacks or a rest room. I was listening to my most favorite band, Tulip, on my Walkman. As I passed beside the bus driver wearing headphones when I got on and off the bus, he noticed I liked listening to music. When I got back to the bus after one of the rest stops, he spoke to me. He was a local man and I didn’t understand Spanish, but he seemed to talk about music. He held out a cassette tape. Imagining from his gesture, it seemed the tape was his favorite and he suggested listening to it. It was Spanish pop music and I enjoyed it during the whole bus trip. When the time to get off the bus approached though, a doubt crept into my mind. Did the bus driver lend the tape to me or give it to me? Judging from his initial gesture, he could have given it to me. But if he intended to lend it, keeping it would mean stealing. If he had given me, however, returning it would mean discourtesy. I no longer had luxury to listen to the tape but focused my thoughts on whether I should return it or not. When I got off the bus, I gave it back to him because I didn’t want to be a thief. I showed my gratitude and how good it sounded as much as I could with my gesture just in case I was giving back something he had given. Instead of pushing it back to me as in ‘Keep it!’, he took it, but rather brusquely. Thanks to his ambiguous reaction, I still haven’t known which he had intended…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.454

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The next destination of our fourteen-day trip was Spain. We visited the Prado Museum as the tour package’s itinerary. Since we were a bumpkin family from an old-fashioned town, we didn’t appreciate art so much. We got out of the museum quickly and waited for the other tour members on the bench outside. It was a beautiful sunny day and I saw the blue sky above me. I had never seen such a clear, vivid blue sky in my life. The blue sky I knew in Japan was somewhat whitish blue while here in Spin, the blue was the truly deep blue like paint. Then we went to the head store of Loewe by a local bus. The bus was quite crowded and I was standing. A middle-aged local woman with three kids was standing next to me and she bumped against me when the bus stopped short at the red signal. She was a very polite, amiable woman and apologized to me with a warm smile. She and her kids got off the bus and I found my bag’s clasp was open. I looked inside and my wallet was gone. The middle-aged woman was a pickpocket. Her bumping, her apology and the kids were all part of her scheme. My wallet was a cheap vinyl one for a kid use but inside I had about $100 that was my entire allowance for this trip. I was shocked, but the first thing in my mind was how hard my parents would lash me. I searched every possible way not to tell my parents and concluded I would have to tell them soon or later, as I had no money for me for the remaining ten days. Now the timing was vital. I needed to seize the moment when my parents were in a good mood. We arrived at the Loewe store and my parents allowed me to choose a bag that they were going to buy for me. The budget was limited and they told me to add my allowance if my choice exceeded their budget. I had no choice but to tell the truth. As I had expected, my mother got furious at me, cursing me for being so careless and stupid. She repeated “You’re such a fool!” over and over. When my parents asked me how much I had been stolen, I said $50 because $100 meant they would kill me. They started guessing and discussing how much I had had in my wallet. Their main focus was simply whether or not it was over $100. In the end, I got countless rebukes and the smallest purse in the store…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.453

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The tour package we chose included almost every meal in its fourteen-day itinerary. Our tour members had dinner together on the second night in London at a restaurant called Beefeater. It was a medieval-themed restaurant where servers were wearing medieval costumes and the dinner assumed as a banquet held by the king and the queen. Our tour guide appointed a king and a queen for the night in the members. I was chosen as a queen and sat beside a king in front of other members, wearing a paper crown. The king our guide chose was a junior high school boy who traveled with his aunt. He seemed like a typical country boy with a rustic, somehow geeky look. I was flattered by being chosen as a queen at first, but pairing up with the geeky king, I wondered how I was looking to our tour guide. Every member in the tour enjoyed the dinner so much and laughed a lot while I gradually felt like they enjoyed and laughed at the comical king and queen. The meal was lavish although my appetite hadn’t come back yet. I was chagrined terribly at my lost appetite, as all I could manage was to have just a couple of bites. On the next morning, my mother’s patience had run out and she walked to the table of our tour members at breakfast. She asked why only bread, coffee and juice was served without the dish like egg or ham every morning, and we finally learned what a continental breakfast was. It appeared my family was the only one who didn’t know it among the party. As it turned out, I was the bumpkin queen who was more unsophisticated than the geeky king. We visited Windsor Castle that day and there was a small market with a few stands near the entrance. I found a cute, colorful cupcake at a handmade sweets stand and bought it. I had never seen a cupcake before. Carrying it in my bag, I left England that was packed with new discoveries for me…

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