Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Getting to Japan

12:30 PM Michigan Time

Only 24 hours to go - I log onto Northwest's website to print boarding passes. I can't get four seats together, so I take two rows of two. The program doesn't allow me to specify a Vegetarian meal for Joshua, so I call. "Sorry, you just missed it," the lady cheerily replies, "We need 24 hours notice."

6:30 AM Michigan Time - 7:30PM Japan Time

Both kids are so excited that they are already awake and waiting form me. I wake up and get cracking. I have the kids fed and dressed and coffee made when Andrea wakes up. I take a quick shower while she eats. I'm ahead of my schedule for getting to the airport on time, which I thought out with the kind of military precision with which my mother-in-law plans things like having leftovers for dinner two Thursday's from now.

I come downstairs to kiss her goodbye, but she's already gone. I pack up Andrea's car and am off to Panera for victuals, lest we starve in the benevolent hands of the airlines. As soon as I start the car I see the fuel gauge on empty, despite the fact that Andrea, when asked a day earlier, assured me that the tank was full. So much for precision timing.

I get gas and lunch for all of us, because although the airline expect us to check in at 10:30 for a 12:30 flight the first meal that they plan to provide is dinner. I get 2 Fuji apple chicken salads, four bagels, and 2 ounces of cream cheese, wondering if I'll get it through security. Taking the big gamble I leave the dressing on the side.

On the drive to the airport Andrea complains (again) that we'll arrive at 2:30 in the afternoon, check into the hotel near the airport for the the first night and have nothing to do. My assurances that we'll be a little late, that it will take time to get through customs and immigration, and check into the hotel seem to make as much of an impression as they've made the first five times we've discussed this.

12:30 AM / 1:30PM

Having successfully smuggled salad dressing that was not in a ziplock through security, we're on the plane. About half an hour after scheduled departure the captain informs us that we'll need to go around an ash cloud from a volcanic eruption in the middle of the Pacific. We'll be landing in Seattle to refuel. An hour later it turns out Seattle's main runway is closed for maintenance and the alternate is too small so we'll be refueling in San Francisco. Oops, too much fuel on board to land in San Francisco so we'll need to drain and rebalance it. We take off at 3:30.

During the flight I was hoping to study just a little more Japanese. Pimsleur is just too difficult so I amuse myself with my Japanese phrasebook. Clearly the authors had a sense of humor. Here are some examples (with the section that the phrase is from first):
Hairdressing -- Please use a new blade, Shave it all off, and I should have never let you near me!
Meeting people -- I'm unemployed and I've been made redundant
Romance -- Leave me alone please, Go Away!, You're a pain in the neck!, You're annoying, Piss off!, Fat chance!, Stop it!, Do you have a condom? I won't do it without protection, Don't worry I'll do it myself, You're just using me for sex, I don't think it's working out, I never want to see you again...
My favorite phrase in the book, of course, is "rat infested", though I haven't had a chance to use it in Japan yet.

9:30 AM Michigan / 10:30 PM Japan

We've made it through customs. With a seven hour delay, Andrea is no longer complaining about all the time we'll have to kill at the airport hotel. Now she is upset that we don't understand enough about Japan to be certain that we're in the right place to get the bus to our hotel, what time its coming, whether we need to phone the hotel first, and so many other little questions. Getting to the hotel is an ordeal, because it takes us twenty minutes to figure out that we just missed the bus and the next is not for forty minutes, but by midnight we're there. Andrea let me know, really really know, how disappointed she is that we didn't just take a taxi. I've now been up 30 hours, less a small nap on the airplane. I've planned to be good and sleepy so that I can sleep and get onto Japanese time.

11 AM / Midnight

Preparing for bed and I hear screams and howls of laughter from the next room. Andrea calls my name. I rush in to find that Ari, unfamiliar with Japanese toilets has presses the "clean my bottom" button while trying to flush. Water is shooting up from the heated seat in a huge arc, spraying the ceiling. I press stop and explain toilets to my wife and kids.

The kids are giddy, laughing, keeping each other and us awake. We separate them, Ari sleeping in one room with me and Joshua in the adjoining one with Andrea. Ari begins to cry because he can't sleep so far away from Joshua. I calm him down and we're asleep.

12:42 PM Michigan / 1:42 AM Japan

I wake up with a splitting headache, probably because of caffeine withdraw - it's been a day and a half. Take Tylenol, melatonin and eventually manage to get back to sleep.

4:19 AM Japan time

The rented Japanese cell phone starts getting kanji text messages. We're up, Ari can't get back to sleep so we're off on day 2!

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