- Listening to:Speak Without Words by Howard Donald
When we last left off I was still (relatively) fresh off the plane and in a taxi supposedly heading towards our hotel. The time is close to midnight, and we're travelling 120 km/h (unthinkable in Japan) on a massive highway. There a lots of big building on either side of the highway, but save for a few exceptions the only lights come from the street lights. The lights reflect off the smog/dust and give off an orange glow sort of like when street lights reflect off fine falling snow back home. The dark buildings along the highway, combined with the orange glow sort of reminded me on stretches near the Decarie in the winter. The darkened buildings are somewhat unnerving since they look abandoned, but there are just too many of them to imagine that they're not filled with people.
While contemplating the similarities to Montreal and Tokyo, our taxi made its way off the highway and onto a major road. The driver pulled over and seemed to indicate that we had gotten to the place on the map, but there was nothing resembling a hotel nearby. After some awkward pantomime, the driver started moving again. After some back tracking we pulled up to some sort of guard station. The driver exchanged some words with a uniformed guard and we were let into the premises. We figured it out later, but the hotel is on the grounds of a university.
The there was a sign welcoming us to NEAO 2009, so we knew we were in the right place. Since this was the tournament hotel, we assumed that the staff would understand some English.... Oh how wrong we were, With no tournament staff to greet us, we were left to fend with the hotel's front desk staff who spoke minimal English. The three of us were eventually issued 3 rooms keys, 2 for one room and 1 for another. Two of us retired to one room, while the other went to the other room. However, after a few minutes of settling in, the person who got the single key came back to tell us the room seemed to be already occupied by two people. I use the word seemed because there was no one in the room. Not wanting to split a double occupancy room three ways with complete strangers, we tried contacting the tournament staff to see if they could resolve the situation. While we managed to get someone on the phone, they promised to raise the proper authority and call us back. We never heard back from them again. At this point it was getting late, and I decided the easiest thing to do was to volunteer to sleep on the floor in the ICU guy's room. While this solution was met with some protest my insistence that I did this all the time at debate tournaments, and unlike everyone else I hadn't actually paid reg eventually lead everyone to agree. So I found myself at my first debate tournament in Asia in a familiar position, sleeping on the floor.
There we have my first few hours in China! I'm going to wrap this series up in a much less detailed post tat will cover the actual debating and tell one quick story about "hentai chicken" and the scariness of the Japanese concept of 年功序列. Expect that post shortly.