It’s common for people here to eat lunch with their coworkers – typically a whole team will go to the cafeteria at lunch. But my team is spread all over the world, with only my officemate (currently on holiday) and our boss (somehow management never seems to eat in the caf on a regular basis) located here. Also, my meeting schedule shifts too much to allow me to eat at the same time every day. There are a number of other teams I work with and could eat with and soemtimes I do, but it’s not much fun. People only switch to English when they’re speaking directly to me; for group convos they stay in Dutch. I can just barely get the gist of a conversation in Dutch anyway; I can’t follow a group conversation at lunch because there are generally three of them going on at once and the background is noise level is way high. Also, unlike a work conversation that’s on a predictable topic, they drift the way lunch conversations do, so one minute I catch something about video games and the next minute it’s something about the Pope. So unless I’ve got reason to eat with someone or my officemate is going when I am, I’ve given up on all of that. If there’s something I like that’s portable, like a sandwich, I bring it back to my office. Otherwise I bring my iPhone and find an empty-ish table to sit at. This week, instead of eating with my colleagues I have been having lunch with Chaz, Daphne, Hafhida, Todd, Brady and Lau, plus of course Falkner and Reyes – the first season of Shadow Unit, thanks to the iPhone and its Kindle app. I’ve been enjoying it; somehow, sitting at a crowded table trying to look interested is much lonelier.

Meanwhile, next week I’m really on my own. My trip to Japan just expanded, not in duration but in complexity. I will fly from Amsterdam to Seoul to Nagoya, then take a bus for and hour and a half to Yokkaichi, which apparently stops right near the hotel. (And if I miss that, it stops by the train station, which is a short walk. Monday I recuperate, since it turns out to be a holiday, Marine Day. (Odd, since the people in the Japanese office picked that week as the best time for me to visit.) I could have stayed in Nagoya which apparently is an older city with more to city, but I think walking about Yokkaichi will provide plenty of interest. Tuesday-Thursday I work in the office there. Then Thursday afternoon I take a train back to Nagoya and another one from there to Hiroshima. I stay in a hotel near the station, then on Friday morning take a train for half an hour to the office, in a smaller village. After work I think I can just use a taxi to get to the Hiroshima airport. I stay in a hotel there, then fly out, back to Seoul and thence to Amsterdam.

Taiwan is so much simpler! Taxis there are cheap, so you’re just met at the airport by a driver holding a card with your name on it. However, I have all sorts of handy presentations prepared by the local offices, complete with phrases in Japanese in case I need help. There is one for how to get from the airport to Yokkaichi, one about the office there with a map, one for how to get from Yokkaichi to Hiroshima, and one for how to get from the Hiroshima station to the office. (There was one for how to get from the Hiroshima airport to the office, but I didn’t print that out because it said to take a taxi and I can have someone in the office call one for my trip to the airport Friday night.) They are very well-prepared, with lots of maps, pictures of tickets and minute instructions but it’s making be a bit nervous that I’ll need so much! Also, there are a couple of crucial tidbits missing, like where to buy the bus ticket from the airport to Yokkaichi. Anything else, I can ask at the office, but that’s almost the first thing I’ll need. Which is, of course, why I’ve been spending today going through all of this while there’s still time to ask questions.