What's there to say? This is the final part. The rather uneventful last day of Touhoucon, the unforgettable dinner at Benihana, and everything that followed that up until my return home.
People appearing in this without being :dev:-mentioned in the recap:
20 September 2015, Day 3
I actually woke up fairly late this morning, compared to the previous mornings. Still well before the alarm, but it was nearly 7am when I looked at the clock. Today would turn out to be a rather uneventful day either way. Aaron and I underwent the usual morning routine of struggling to get his ass out of bed, showering, and eating breakfast. This time, he had what I had yesterday, while I decided to play it safe and go with the Belgian waffles again. Aaron adamantly refused to use a knife to cut his burrito with, which resulted in him knocking his bowl of sour cream off the table... and getting a bigger one as compensation. So much to encouraging him to use a bloody knife...
The hours just went by, as there was only one particularly interesting panel that day, and that was Porygon's "Intro to Danmakufu". Highlights involved using Junko to show the attendees how to make basic danmaku patterns, and at the end of the panel, he presented us with a limited supply of CDs containing the trial version of his fangame, Ephemeral Unnatural Balance. Aaron and I tried it out while waiting for the crossplay gathering that would be at 2:30pm. Said gathering was incredibly meager, and despite having an hour allotted, was over after half an hour because of the lack of attendees. I guess the crossplay theme was just too narrow, but it makes me regret not having gone to the previous day's cosplay gathering even more.
And, well, that was it for Touhoucon. The only thing left was the true highlight of the trip: dinner at Benihana! Aaron, Nova and I sat in Bleach's dad's car, although the drive itself was rather uneventful. Just a bit of smalltalk. At the restaurant, it took us a good while until our tables were ready, and even then we were a few chairs short. Apparently, there were more people in our party than Bleach had made reservations for, so I ended up sitting rather sandwiched with Aaron to my left and Nora to my right. My appetizer was a few slices of beef which were cooked on the outside, but raw on the inside. I'm always very apprehensive about eating any meat that's short of well-done to the point of being nearly charred, but it was absolutely delicious. Poor Aaron had never used chopsticks before (hell, it'd surprise me if he's ever used a knife in his life), but was determined to learn how to use them or starve. I taught him how to hold them, but experience is the best teacher, so that's all I could do. Sitting to the right of Nora were some more girls who I wasn't familiar with, who were quite intrigued upon learning that I was German. Eventually, the chefs came in (we sat at two Hibachi tables) and started preparing our food, me getting a bowl of fried rice (oh my god, it was Heaven in my mouth) and the yakisoba I ordered as an entree (it had mushrooms in it; I gave those to Aaron). My meal was so filling, I couldn't eat any more, and the girls had to convince me to have it to go, even though I wouldn't be able to have any of it. Oh well, whoever ate my leftover yakisoba, I hope you liked it.
During the meal, Spaz stood up and gave one of the most epic speeches I've ever heard. The Walfas Station Wagon had been existing for four years now, and having as large an amount of Walfasers meet up in real life like this just goes to show how far we've come. Even though I've only been riding along for half that time, I truly felt like they were like a second family. When he proposed a toast, I held up my near-empty bottle of 0.2l Ramune and cheered along with everyone else. Truly a night to remember - nay, a weekend to remember.
Before we headed back, we had a group picture taken. See Nora's journal for that (I linked to it in Part 1 of this series). After the pictures were taken, I asked Spaz to spare a moment to come to Aaron's and my hotel room.
The trip back to the hotel was slightly more eventful. Same setup as last time, only this time it was Spaz instead of Nova. He and Bleach's dad were talking about music, with Aaron and me mostly silently listening. When we got to the room, I opened up my drawing notepad and had them sign it like a guestbook. It was the first ever real-life meetup of Team Gaijin Alex, which was a special moment to me. Afterwards, we would talk some more before Spaz took a selfie with us and the view of the Anaheim skyline at night, followed by a group hug. Before he left, I told him to come knocking at 9 so we could eat breakfast together.
Aaron suggested that we pack our luggage since we had to leave tomorrow. He did, but I put it off until tomorrow...
21 September 2015, Day 4
I don't even remember when I woke up. Was it close to 8 or in the early morning? Either way, while Aaron was still sleeping, I took a shower, got dressed, and packed my stuff, waking him up at 8 so he would be ready by the time Spaz came. Spaz happened to come knocking pretty early, and he wasn't alone. He was there with Nova and Mini (?). Aaron was still in the bathroom, delaying us for a bit, but we eventually made our way downstairs, where Spaz had to use the restroom. While he was gone and we were waiting for him, Nora, Bleach and Porygon came along, Nora having had to leave early because she had an early flight. We talked for a bit, lamented the fact that Spaz was currently not there, then said our goodbyes. Hugs all around, and a big group hug at the end with Nora and me in the middle of it. (God damn, she's just too huggable!) I also ended up lifting Bleach off the ground while hugging him because that's what short people are for. As Nora and Bleach were leaving, Spaz just came back, so we hurried outside where they were nowhere in immediate sight, but I called out to Nora when I saw her getting into a car, and they were getting out again to say their goodbyes to Spaz, Bleach getting lifted off the ground yet again.
And then it was off to the nearest IHOP with our group of six: Spaz, Aaron, Porygon, Nova, Mini, and myself. While waiting for our table, Porygon and I were talking about his game and I gave him the thoughts and opinions I developed while playing the demo. I also got to try Mountain Dew for the first time. It tasted pretty good, but the dish I got... oh my god, it threw everything I had eaten prior to that out of the water. Fried chicken with a honey mustard sauce and waffles. I never thought that the flavor of mustard mixed with sweetness would be such a blissful combination. When it was time to pay, Spaz tried getting the check split. When that didn't work, he simply paid for the entire thing, refusing to accept money from anyone.
Back at the hotel, Aaron and I went for our luggage and then checked out. We tried looking for Spaz, but couldn't find him anywhere, so Aaron texted him. Luckily, we caught him just as he was about to enter the shuttle, so while the last goodbyes were short, they were heartfelt, Spaz even refering to us by our names as opposed to our online handles like he usually does.
And then it was just Aaron and me, waiting for our pickup. Because our ride didn't want to put up with the dense traffic that would occur at noon, we arrived at the airport way early, with me being the one who was seen off first. Before I left, I gave Aaron a 5€ bill while I received a 1$ bill in return. Not exactly the most equal of trades, but 5€ is as small as it gets. When it was time to say goodbye, Aaron held out his hand to shake mine. Instead, I drew him into yet another hug before moving on through the TSA's security measures that require you to take off your shoes, but apparently your glasses are fine to keep on. Since we arrived at the airport so early and my flight didn't leave until 5:05pm, I had hours upon hours to spare. Feeling thirsty, I even came across some drinking fountains, but I was too afraid of just splashing my entire face with water to try using them, so I went into the nearest restroom and filled up my plastic bottles at a sink instead, earning a few glares. The rest of the wait was spent playing Etrian Odyssey until I got stuck, then just idly sitting there as the time passed by until the plane was finally ready to be boarded. The flight to Munich took only 10:30 hours, an hour less than the flight from Frankfurt to LA. When I arrived, it was 2:40pm German time, 22 September 2015.
I got a little lost at the Munich airport, but thankfully didn't miss my flight. What got me a bit nervous was the customs control, which looked through my carry-on luggage and asked me to show them what I brought with me from the US. I showed them my Touhoucon badge and the 1$ bill, which I explained were mementos, and I was let through. Having arrived at the gate after taking a much-needed piss (I didn't use the plane lavatory at all during my 10-hour flight), I called my father to let him know I'm finally back in Germany. Boarding time ended up being delayed by about half an hour for some reason, and after that it was another hour-long flight back to the Leipzig airport, from where I made my way back to the dorm I lived in.
The immediate effects of my return were that I got Discord and rejoined the U-Haul after saying I'd never use RaidCall again. I would stay up until 4am or so, go to sleep, then get up at 5pm-ish feeling incredibly sick. The cold wore off after a few days. The jetlag didn't until recently. But aside from that?
Sometimes, I look back on that weekend and find it hard to believe that that actually happened. In the beginning, there was this Skype group for Walfasers going to Touhoucon, made to coordinate people. Aaron convinced me to join the group and come to Touhoucon. I bought my plane ticket in May and got all of the paperwork out of the way by the end of June. But what surprised me the most was my parents' attitude. I remember having wanted to go visit a friend in the US when I was still 16 years old and my parents strictly forbade it. For this event, both of them supported me all the way, my father even paying the fee for my ESTA application because I didn't have a credit card, and trying to help me get a credit card, although we procrastinated on that and then I ended up having to sit on others' wallets. I guess it's because I'm an adult now, capable of making my own decisions, so they probably saw no reason to stop me. Still, having had this kind of support from my parents was wholly unexpected.
As for the trip itself, oh man... When I was going through customs at the LAX airport, I haven't felt this anxious since one of my final exams at school. I could barely breathe, and I'm STILL getting nervous just thinking about it. Meeting all those people in real life when I've only ever seen on the internet before was a new experience, but I feel like I've grown stronger bonds with each of them. I mean, we came together for the sake of a convention of a series that brought us together in the first place. That takes a certain level of trust, even moreso for someone coming from overseas such as myself. And as the events show, my trust has not been betrayed. I took the risk. I trusted that all of this was real, and it not only was, it turned out to be the best time of my life. I speak no hyperbole when I say that.
I'm looking forward to next year's Touhoucon, in the hopes of meeting even more Walfasers than this year. DeityDiz93, I've got my sights set on you in particular...