My body is cold. The color white surrounds me. My hands and feet are already numb as snow has somehow gotten through my mitts and boots. My lips have stayed blue and chapped for a while. A puff of cold air escapes from my burning nostrils, and I hungrily watch others order the hottest meals on the Japanese menu. One thought stays frozen in my mind.
I’m next in line. I take a hesitant breath and begin to communicate with the Japanese cashier.
“Can I get hot chocolate?”
“Do you have -” I charade a cup with my shaking hands.
“Hot, chocolate? Hot cocoa?”
“Hotto… Hotto chokoreeto? Hot coco?”
I look up and stare at all the colorful signs. I don’t know what any of them say. Let’s depend on the pictures.
That looks like a pastry… looks like squid in picture 28, but I’m not feeling it for tonight… oh snap – there’s noodles! Udon? It has to be. I don’t know what that side dish is, but we’ll find out.
Traveling in a foreign country brings unpredictable risks and excitement to those who seek their own stories. You’re either proud or humbled once enlightened by a culture completely different from yours. You acquire a new identity within yourself once you take that risk and leap out of your comfort zone. And trust me – it’s worth it.
The Japanese man hands out the cup of I-think-it-is hot cocoa. Depending your order on a stranger who must guess your charades makes you hold your breath and excitedly wonder if they got it right. The man chants foreign words to me as I take the steaming cup. We both exchange satisfied smiles to each other to show that our silent communication has succeeded. I kindly whisper through my chapped lips, “Arigatou Gozaimasu,” and drink my bounty.
I sigh with a smile.
Good. It’s cocoa. Now let’s go to round two: dinner.