RTW01 1980-81

In 1980, my company, NCR Comten, sent me to NCR Japan for software support of the first installations of our Networking Communications Processor.  Recently, a reply to my comment in Cook the Beans blog reminded me of that trip and my visit to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, East Malaysia on the island of Borneo in 1981.  This was one episode of that first trip aRound The World (RTW). This brings me back to the original idea of this blog to reflect on journeys and paths that brought me here.

I saved the diaries of my travels during those times for many years.  With our moving on, I wrote up some summaries and highlights and saved on Google Drive.  Much of the information written was technical notes and contacts.  Certain parts of that fourteen month trip are very vivid; other parts are just a mesh of several trips through the same areas.  My notes suggest I left Minnesota around 1 October 1980 and returned to my parents home for Thanksgiving in late November 1981.  Unfortunately, only a few blurry pictures and some scraps of mementos remain from that trip.  The many transitions of life and work resulted in a box or two purloined in various archives and the dumpsters of life, later to be left for collection at the side of the road.

Collecting and Collating digital searches, memories, and artifacts for this post reminded me of several amazing coincidences and connections that played out over the years.

First, a link to the itinerary contains a few notes gleaned from my diaries.  It’s a placeholder for my memory as details begin to fade.  The experience was so new and fresh, I never expected the frustrations trying to remember details today.

Itinerary RTW 1980-81

Itinerary1980-81

Here is the list of cities I visited in approximate order.

St. Paul, MN; Tokyo, Japan; Nikko, Japan; Yokohama, Japan; Kyoto, Japan; Kamikura, Japan; Busan, Korea; Seoul, Korea; Taipei, Taiwan; Hongkong; Macao; Manila, Philippines; Batangas, Philippines; Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia; Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei; Singapore; Melaka, Malaysia; Georgetown and Penang, Malaysia; Bangkok, Thailand; Rangoon (Yangon), Burma (Myanmar); Rome, Italy; London, UK; Paris, France; Milan, Italy; Belfort, France; Bitche, France; Basel, Switzerland; Mont Saint-Michel, France; Cherbourg, France; Windom, MN

Three artifacts:

Three meetings:

The hardware tech assigned to NCR Japan was Sanford “Charlie” Brown.  After Japan, we worked together in South America, New Zealand, and SE Asia. Our paths still cross.  He taught me how to wirewrap.

In a Singapore hostel shared breakfast table with sisters Bea and Ev from France.  Years later they would pick me up from Luxembourg airport after spending ten days crossing the Soviet Union.

Anura Guruge at ICI UK.  He sent me to consult in Paris and Milan on a remote printer problem.  Some years later, I would find and read his first book, SNA Theory and Practice, in the NCR Japan technical library.  Some years after that, I would work with Lisa Lindgren an associate of Guruge’s consultancy.

Three things learned

Don’t be surprised.  Different cultures, different languages, different circumstances all have their ways of dealing with the situation of the moment.  Some of these will be completely different to what you might find usual.  Observe and Appreciate.

Grammar and Language: “Order word not necessary is.” Along with: “Verbs not necessary.”

In those days, I could live in Melaka, Malaysia for U$S 3 / day.  Knowing that, I only worked for fun from then on. I always knew that I did not have to put up with a bad job after that.

Here is the full map thanks to Google:

RTW_1980-81.JPG

In the years that followed, I circumnavigated (both westward and eastward) the earth many times providing onsite computer networking support.  There were some trips to South America and to Africa.  The type of technical career I did no longer exists.  In the past years, we have deviated from the original route more and more as we have free time to venture to different countries.  Here is my TripAdvisor Map:

TripAdvisorMap

Kagoshima Autumn

When I was posted to Tokyo many years ago, I loved the city.  This fall, Kagoshima became my favorite Japanese city.  The three things I like most are:

  1. Its natural setting set among hills and a bay across from a volcanic island.
  2. Trams and public transport are easy to follow.  City is the end station for the Shinkansen (Bullet Train).
  3. Lying in south of Kyushu Island, the citizens enjoy the warm weather even in the fall.

To get to Kagoshima, we flew from Kuala Lumpur to Osaka with Air Asia.  After two days, we boarded the Shinkansen for Fukuoka.  Spending a week in Fukuoka gave us the chance to visit Nagasaki on a day trip.  Then we traveled by long distance bus to Kagoshima where we spent a week.  Afterward, we returned to Osaka for two more days before flying back to Kuala Lumpur.

Our November sojourn there was filled with many subtle kindnesses.  Strangers were patient and ensured we made connections.

In small restaurants Google translate augmented our very basic Japanese to experience some typical and some atypical dishes.

Taxi drivers provided very positive first impressions of the cities we visited.  With limited English, one in Osaka showed us that the taxi stop across the street would save us time and money by taking the taxi in the direction of our hotel.  In Kagoshima, another finalized the fare several blocks before the station so that there would be no extra charges while waiting to find a stopping place at the station.

Learning Japanese

My daughter likes the anime of Mushishi. I remembered that mushi meant worm or bug in Japanese so I wondered if this was the same word.  A quick search for the websites revealed that yes indeed, it is the same.  Mushi in this context is germs and the stories are about a man who could be described as one who is a disease master. Mushi is used also to refer to software bugs and especially viruses.

Now, my mind plays a funny trick on me.  When did I learn these words? It feels like I have known them since high school.  Of course, that cannot be.  The first time I went to Japan I was over thirty  years old.  Although I studied some then, it was when I took some classes that I learned a few oddball words.  Logically, working it out, I must have been around 34 or 35. However, I still have the feeling that I have always known these words.

So, I pulled down the few books I still have on Japanese and showed them to my daughter how the hiragana looks compared to the katakana. Then, how knowing these two helps pronounce words in the manga sometimes.  She looked at my onion skin pocket dictionary and commented, “the writing is really small.”  That’s true.  These days I need a bright light and a magnifying glass to read it.

Megan at the piano with music downloaded for anime
Megan at the piano with music downloaded for anime