Saturday, June 30, 2007

Day One

It:s actually not really 24 hours though - time zones and datelines - who knows how long it was.

my appologies for formatting and such - I am using a public Japanese computer mostly cut-n-pasted from my laptop, and I am not really sure what I am doing.

General news if you don`t want to read the whole thing (it is really long): life`s good, I will get pictures up hopefully soon-ish :)

Well, I made it. I’m here in Japan, and I shouldn’t be surprised, but things have been both wonderful and wonderfully frustrating already. So - beginning the beginning.

Now we’ve already covered the whole idea that I’m not a respected scholar hosted by a fine academic institution here. I’m just a traveling student barely a step above the backpack and youth hostel crowd. Actually, maybe a step below. More on that under the ‘wonderfully frustrating’ heading in your hymnal. Because I had to get the ticket at such notice, I didn’t really get my first option for flying. That would be first class on a direct flight from my front yard to my hotel here. I had to settle for a coach flight from Hub of Doom to Taipei, then a connecting flight to Tokyo. It’s fun to look on the map and see that my plane flew very nearly over Japan on its way to Taiwan. If only I could have gotten a hold of a parachute I could have saved many hours off my itinerary. Also as a side note, I paid about the same price (within $50 I think) of the price offered three weeks ago. And I bought my ticket around 12 hours before wheels up. Fun, eh?

Props for the airline, even though we fly jets mainly now. China Air (not to be confused with Air China – next time I’ll make sure the shuttle bus driver understands the distinction) had monitors in the back of the seats, each of which was wired to a little video controller that slid out of the armrest. Hours of entertainment could be had playing poker, shoot-‘em-ups as well as various and also such games. I chose the movie channel. I got to see The Namesake (good but a bit muddled, even though I think that was the point), The Curse of the Golden Lotus (just awful, but quite pretty to look at. Maybe I should have turned off the audio), and Words and Music ( ?) (Very cute, and just what you’d expect it to be – mediocre mind-fluff)

All is well at the Taipei airport. I got a nice congee with peanuts and cucumbers and then set off to the plane switches were made with minimum fuss (although we were security screened again after we got off the first plane – eh?). I was off the ground again and on my way to Narita airport in Tokyo.

Now, I write that last bit as a joke. The airport codes might lead you to believe that Narita is in Tokyo, but that’s a cruel joke. Narita is hours away from Tokyo, but I get ahead of myself. I came in at about 12:30, cleared customs – a bit frightened to realize on completing the entry paperwork that I only had $12 in cash on me, and got my bag with only a minor kerfluffle (bag was - like Amazing Grace - thought lost, but then found. However, still to my knowledge cannot see). There was suppose to, but wasn’t anyone there to meet me. Or rather she was there, but at the wrong terminal, although I didn’t know that at the time. No, worries though, right? They’re probably late I’ll just hang out here for a while. A while goes by slowly. I’ll just call the school and let them know I’m here and they’ll figure things out. Except I don’t have any yen. No problem, I’ll find an ATM. All of which seem to be for domestic cards only. Ah ha! At last a Citibank ATM appears and I get some cash, buy a phone card (and a Coke – no cucumber Pepsi to be found yet) and call.

Why yes, she is there, she’s paged you a few times already and getting worried. Hooray! After an hour-long comedy of errors in which I’m convinced that she’s in the wrong terminal and she’s convinced she’s not, we get everything straightened out through the good offices of the information booths and a lot of paging. Thing is, she’s picking up some others over in that terminal. Apparently, that’s why she was over there in the first place. Sigh. No worries, I’ll wait over here until you pick them up.

Good thing I had a book, right?

Tah-dah and she arrives, leading me to a little café where I can sit and meet the others she has gathered while she goes off to find another wayward duckling. The crew so far is a big beefy Bahaman wearing a suit which miraculously is in perfect shape after about 20 hours on planes and even – gasp! – going through ATL, a tousled Hong Konger who once opened a snack shop in Shanghai – ‘it went pretty well while it was new and exciting, but the new wore off and then it didn’t do so well,’ and me. I learn that our poor guide isn’t the one normally tasked to do this and she’s really afraid she’s screwed the whole thing up.

In fact, she’s done quite well in shepherding the last of our gang, a French man who speaks flawless English with only a hint of an accent, to our table. Then we strategize on how to get to the hotel. Our Japanese is abysmal, but her English is passable, so we eventually tease out our options. It’s now about 4pm-ish, and we can take the ambitiously-titled ‘limousine bus,’ which she worries will be hopelessly caught in traffic, or we can take the train, which she worries will have too many transfers and ‘maybe there won’t be any escalators.’ I should mention that at this point, the idea that we’ve got another 3-4 hours of travel ahead was not cheer-inducing.

In any case, no one seemed to have any strong opinions on the matter, so because I’m nearly always a fan of trains when I can be (I’m looking at you Amtrak), I say let’s take the train, and whoosh, we’re off. The train was actually really nice. There were only two transfers and fairly easy ones, although there was a little squishing and shoving on the last train – nothing worse than in NYC though, and it was mainly because of our luggage. After the last train, we get out at the station nearest our hotel and because it’s getting dark, and starting to drizzle a bit out intrepid host springs for a couple of taxis for the rest of the trip.

Now, all this time I’ve been calling it a hotel, but it really is more like a student hostel or a foreigner commune. It’s nestled in a very residential area about a 10-15 minute walk from the station. Pretty cozy, really. However, there are some unexpected surprises. First – no sheets. No towels. No pre-wired internet. Bathroom down the hall and shower downstairs. Now, honestly, most of that isn’t a big problem with me, but the thing is I didn’t know about it beforehand. So I didn’t bring sheets or towels or anything else – hangers? Who packs hangers?

The manger on duty seemed a bit surprised that we didn’t know about all this, so I’ll lay the blame on the school for not getting the info to us. The other downside is that it’s already 8:30 and everywhere that we might have been able to get such sundries is closed. And in any case, my last yen went to pay the deposit for the room (that one was my fault. I was told about the deposit before). The manager very kindly lends us some sheets (but no towels are available – no shower tonight after nearly a full day in the air for you!), and while the rest of our merry crew heads out to get a bite to eat, I’m feeling oh-so tired (I did a 4 mile run before I realized I was going to be on a plane that same night – not such a good idea as it turns out), so I crash on my borrowed-sheet-clad bed.

1 comment:

zerodoll said...

the no shower after all that flying would have put me over the edge!