The Great Japan Adventure: Getting There!
So, I wrote this post awhile ago and when I went to actually put it up my internet freaked out and lost it. The. Whole. Amazing. Thing. I was a little too depressed to rewrite it right away, but here’s to a new (and hopefully just as awesome) post! (That’s also being saved every other word!!!!!!!)
March 20th. Just an average day I’d lived through about 23 times, but 2014’s was a bit different. It was the day I left home, family, and everything familiar and understandable to venture off into the unknown for a year. My first ever trip abroad!
It was so hard not to cry the whole time I was frantically trying to shove the last few bags of American candy into my carry-on (I had to leave a few behind…) and watching my mom work miracles on luggage I had spent all night trying to pack to fit and still be sub-50lbs (see pre-departure packing woes here). So as my dad gave me one huge hug and my cats ran from any hugs I tried to give them, I was fighting tears the whole time.
L.A. is known for its traffic, but shockingly it was light that morning. Everything about the trip went (mostly) very smoothly. I was nervous because I knew the regulations and check-in procedures were slightly different than for domestic flights and because I wasn’t exactly sure if my big suitcase was going to check-out all right on the scale.
As it turns out, people love to fly on random Thursdays. The terminal was packed to bursting and parking was incredibly scarce! There was one long line that we could make out actually in the terminal so we stood in it. Turns out, that was the line to check baggage after you got your boarding pass. Luckily, the computers for check-in were pretty empty and after leaving my parents in line and attempting to force a broken machine into submission I successfully scanned my passport, got my boarding pass, and payed a ridiculous amount of money for my extra bag. At this point, I felt like I’d packed heavier than anyone else on the plane with my big suitcase, my hiking backpack, and my two carry-ons (a giant purse and a rolling suitcase).
On the scale, my big bag wound up being about 53-lbs… Oops! But as luck would have it we either found the nicest people or they were too busy talking about my university’s unexpected win in March Madness (my dad was sporting the shirt) and their overall chances they didn’t notice! Probably the first one though.
With my bags checked, it was time to go through security and say the final goodbyes. This was the hardest part of the day, and yes, I looked back. There was a decently long line for security (of course) and I was getting more than a few stares for my wet eyes and sweaty face (too many people added to the fact that I get really hot when I cry… Weird, I know).
Getting through security was a hassle as I’d forgotten that you have to take out your laptop (which was buried at the bottom of my rolling suitcase carry-on), I had to take out my bag of liquids that I wan’t sure would pass the size test (it wasn’t a regulation bag), I had to take off my shoes, jewelry, empty pockets, and find space for the big jacket I was carrying because it wouldn’t fit in a bag! I definitely didn’t have enough baskets for all my stuff and was the unprepared jerk holding up the line. Also, I almost left behind my passport, ID, and boarding pass while putting everything on the conveyor belt but was then saved by a lovely civilian hero behind me! I was stopped going through because the bag of pennies I brought for prizes that was in my purse showed up as one giant hunk of metal on the x-rays, red flags all over the place! So as I hobbled in my socks with all my stuff hurriedly grabbed from the belt, trying not to drop anything while running after the employee who had taken my bag to an examining area I never realized my laptop was still in the basket at the bottom of the conveyor belt! Only after I started re-stuffing my purse in a new game of tetris that I lost (everything had been pulled out and unceremoniously dumped in a heap) did I remember that something was missing. Still grateful that it was there! Thank you L.A. for not living up to your rep.
With security firmly behind me all there was left to do was wait for the plane. There were many people just hanging out at the gate and I began the game “Interac or Non-Interac?”. The only other girl from my interview was supposed to be there but I didn’t find her until we were already in Japan, but I did finally suck it up and meet someone and gained a brand new friend from Tennessee! The first on my adventure!
When we were on the plane we wound up sitting there for about an hour due to problems with one of the wings that I could see clearly from my window. Not the most assuring sight, especially when the captain announces they had to call the head office in Atlanta to figure out how to do something… But, obviously, I’m alive so all’s well that ends well right?
Being in the air was so surreal, it hadn’t hit me yet that I was ON MY WAY to JAPAN! I watched a million and one movies on the 11-hour flight (thank goodness for strong tail winds!) including “Frozen” in both English and Japanese (their voices are so cute!) and was that weirdo who wouldn’t go to sleep for fear of missing a snack or a meal! Despite having stayed up most of the previous night, in my mind it was still late afternoon and sleep was nowhere to be found (despite the cabin being kept dark the whole flight, with dinner and then breakfast served… We landed at 5pm, I don’t know what timezone they were on!) I also was a horrible procrastinator and started working on the lesson we needed to have prepared for training the next day. Oops! (It depends on your branch whether that lesson is important or not, thank my lucky stars it wasn’t all-consuming-life-or-death in my branch, it was a terrible lesson but I just wanted to watch “The Lion King”!)
I had never flown internationally before and so had no clue how to fill out the customs and claims forms they gave us at the beginning of the flight, luckily we (the guy from Jamaica who was also an Interac that I was next to) had a Japanese girl studying in America in the aisle seat and she’d been back and forth enough to know what was what so she guided us through. No foreign beef jerky Japan? Really? At least my giant bag of BBQ Pop Chips made it through all right!
In the airport I followed the crowd as best I could, found my new Southern friend, found my fellow L.A. interviewee and met a few other people waiting in long lines to get our passports checked, and then to get our Residence Cards issued about five people at a time in a back room. We were pretty much the last group so we got to bond over getting lost in the airport, watching our bags go around and around and around the baggage claim all by themselves, and chat with the customs people making sure they weren’t accidentally letting drugees and smugglers into their country to teach their children! Super nice people though! Changing money in the airport was a breeze, even at 8pm, and we eventually found the Interac representative there to make sure everyone arrived and to point us to the correct hotel bus.
Japan. We’d landed and we’d officially begun our year long adventure. What kind of excitement awaits our heroine next? Stay tuned to find out more! 😀