Thursday, September 07, 2006

Don's Trek Part I - The Flights

My journey began at 6:00 PM on Monday, September 4th. My mom, dad, and myself packed the van with my two large suitcases, my two carry-on bags and everything else required for the journey and headed off to Thunder Bay. The 3+ hour van ride was uneventful (as that drive usually is so no surprises there) and we arrived at the Travellodge hotel safely. Once settled in with a bit of food in our stomachs (Wendy's at 10:00 PM is a bad idea! The chicken did not sit well!) we slept until 4:30 AM, which is when we had to begin final preperations for the triple threat of flights awaiting. We travelled to the airport, met up with my Uncle Gary and Aunt Evelyn, grabbed the last Time Horton's hot chocolate (something that will surely be missed those early mornings before teaching) and I said good-bye to my parents. Time to start this journey.

Now, for some bizarre reason, I am flying on three different flights and much of it requires a lot of backtracking. I am flying from Thunder Bay to Toronto, Toronto to Vancouver and from Vancouver to Narita Airport in Tokyo. Would it not make sense that I fly from, say, Thunder Bay to Vancouver and save myself roughly 4-5 hours of travel time? I guess not, but that's neither here nor there. I didn't set up the flights and it was still cheap so who knows. There must be some logic behind that mentality that I'm just not seeing. The flight from Thunder Bay to Toronto began with a piece of the aircraft falling off when I put my carry-on luggage in the overhead bin. Great! Just what I wanted to see! Luckily, it was just a piece of molding for the overhead bins so it's not life-threatening. The flight goes off without a hitch and we land in Toronto. Toronto to Vancouver, fortunately, goes off the same way, just for 5 hours rather than 2. We watched Nacho Libre, I tried to avoid the annoying high school field trip that occupied the 20 rows behind me and we land in Vancouver.

Now it's time for the big 'un! 9 painful hours on an Airbus crossing the ocean to Narita Airport. The first 4 hours breeze by without any sort of problem: we watch Mission: Impossible 3, have our first meal which is quite good, the girl sitting next to me is doing a similar program as me so we chat about that and it looks like I should be set for the next 5 hours left. Right? Wrong! While there were the minor inconveniences on the flight that make air travel less enjoyable the main problem I had with this flight was that I mixed up the times of when we were flying in. Rather than arriving at 3:15 AM we are arriving at 3:15 PM, which means that it's daylight for the entire journey. I haven't seen darkness since 4:30 AM this morning and sleeping in a plane that is engulfed in perpetual light for the entire flight makes it difficult to sleep. By Hour 9 I'm ready to fling myself out of the aircraft just to rid myself of the tortures of flying. It sucked. Big time! Luckily I only have to do that flight once again in a year from now so that's a relief.

The flying is finally finished when we pull up into Narita Airport. We walk off the plane and the humidity smacks us in the face like a wet towel. Unbelievably muggy! At the airport we are greeted, given the proper places to go for customs and getting our luggage delivered to our apartments (free of charge), given a package the size of a bible of information on where our apartments are, locations of our training and teaching branches, an apartment key, the whole works. The Canadian group meets up with the Americans and the Britons and all 48 of us, which is a ridiculously large amount of teachers, head off to our destinations. There are 6 of us catching the Narita Express Train to downtown Yokohama so we all group up and head out to our destinations. I met this really cool Scottish guy named Graham who just joked around and marvelled over Japan's incredible talking toilets. We arrived at our train station (Kamiooka) and I was met by Michael, a NOVA rep. who has been in Japan for 8 years. He walks me to my apartment through the oddest, most traffic-filled backstreet in Kamiooka, the suburb I am living in, and luckily only got lost once.

With the trip finally over I walk into my apartment and meet Russell, the American roomie, and say my hellos and such before I inform him that I am so unbelievably tired and just flop down on my really comfortable futon. Sleep. Glorious sleep!


At 7:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew's Pedantic Japan Tip #003:

If you see men either well dressed(formal, expensive), or bizzarly dressed(formal, but with weird colours or other accessories), they might be yakuza. Tatoos and missing pinky fingers are another indicator, though the latter is not nearly so common as it once was. Sunglasses, bleach blond hair, and utter contempt for foreginers are other good indicators.

Or they could be costumed teens on their way to a convetion. Either way, something to avoid.

~ Andrew


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