Friday, July 09, 2004

Joy the Traveller

July 7, 2004

Andi and her mum came to drop me off at the airport. We left at 9.10 because they assumed that the worst of the rush hour traffic would be over and they were right because we got there in plenty of time since there were no traffic congestions or anything. The topic of discussion in the ride to the airport was prices of the houses in Batavia. I was amazed to hear what some houses were sold at. Although, I do think Batavia being a relatively safe neighbourhood especially near Andi�s home is a reason for the high prices. I think there was something wrong with Andi because when we said good-bye something didn�t seem right but I didn�t have time to talk to her about it since her mom was waiting for her outside. Andi couldn�t stay with me at the airport because they have to get back home since Felix was leaving the same afternoon. I guess that worked out since I didn�t really have to wait to board the plane. I got an express check-in and then the security check was a breeze. I got to the departure gate in 10 minutes.

I called Kristin while I was checking in to see where she was and what she was doing. Unfortunately, she was in Terminal 5 while I was in Terminal 1. And there wasn�t time for her to come and see me since her flight departed 55 minutes after mine and she wouldn�t have enough time to get back. She was with a large group of 15 people going to Hong Kong outskirts to do volunteer work. I hope she had a safe flight. I also blogged while waiting to board. I actually did a 5 min blog which maxed the amount of time I could audioblog. I filled up on the last few days since I couldn�t sit down for a sustained period of time to do a long blog. I talked to Doll for a bit just to tell her that I was boarding the flight was going to leave in some time. I also called Komal because I hadn�t talked to her for a long time and wanted to tell her that I was going to Japan for a couple of weeks. I also messaged my parents and they called me back immediately and we talked for a few minutes. They were also leaving for Nigeria the next day with a day�s worth of stopover at Dubai. They will do some shopping. I wish I could also go through Dubai and see the shopping malls and arcades it�s famous for. Robi�s schooling in India has commenced too. Now, he is a non-resident Indian where ever he goes.

We were allowed to board the flight at 11.40 am but the plane did not take off till 12.20. I assumed at that point that we were running a bit late. I actually talked to my parents while I was in my seat. And then I shut my phone off, and that would be the last time in a couple of weeks that I would be able to use it. I didn�t feel as nauseous while take off as I normally feel but then that could have been due to the different posture I was in. And there begun the 13 hour non stop flight to Osaka, Japan. We were served two lunches and a snack during the flight. Actually, the food was pretty good and I was hungry. The snack was Chinese noodles which were really tasty and the smell lingered on for some time after they were served. I slept for a while although it was partial sleep most of the time. I did watch a couple of movies: The Whole Ten Yards and Jersey Girl. I think I am going to junk my cd player when I get back. It hardly recognized any of my cds again. So, I had to listen to the music on the channels in the plane. Actually, most of the music was popular tunes so it wasn�t all bad. 7 hours into the flight, I decided that I needed to get up and stretch. So, I stood and walked around for the next hour. I read a couple of magazines while standing. One of them was Runner�s World which had a lot of interesting things I needed to know while running. It had a lot of good tips and new techniques.

The plane arrived early which was amazing because we apparently made fantastic time while in air. When I saw out of the window it seemed all sunny and bright so I assumed that it was warm outside. The humidity level took me by surprise while exiting the plane. Luckily the airport was airconditioned, so I was dry for the next 15 minutes while I went through customs and baggage claims. I was really surprised to the efficiency of the custom officials because I was in a long line yet I got through in less than 10 minutes. I only had to wait for the bags for 5 minutes and they were out and carts in Japan were still free so I decided to use it while I still could.
Now, the apprehension about the train travel had returned because that was the next thing to do. I went out to search for some place to use my japan rail pass exchange order to change to a rail pass. Luckily the JR place was right outside the door so that was easy and the girl who handled my pass knew enough English to communicate. She gave me directions to the train station and an English map of their rail lines in Japan. It was a good thing that I wore cargo pants for the journey because all these things were going into its many pockets. It was particularly convenient because I had to flash the pass all the time to get through the gates. I got to the right platform because there were English being flashed along with Japanese on all the signs. And I would point to the name of the city I wanted to go to and the people there could guide me to the right spot. Since, I got to Kansai International earlier than expected, the train schedule that Masao sent me did not have the right times. I decided to take the risk and extrapolate the times from the existing schedule I had and from the overhead information LCDs. The first train was the Airport Express Haruka from Osaka-Kansai International Airport to Shin-Osaka Station. The airport was pretty far from Osaka. It was a 50 minute journey. I remember being very excited to be on the trains and on the last leg of the journey. I took some pictures on this train. I also noticed that the train conductors and everyone else were very respectful to each other and they bowed all the time. The seats were very comfortable; actually they were better than the ones on the planes. And 50 minutes later, we arrived at Shin-Osaka station. I had to take the Shinkansen Bullet train called the Hikari Rail Star from Shin-Osaka to Hakata. This was the longest of the individual train travel times. It was a 2 hour and 45 minute journey. I was excited because this was my first bullet train journey. I managed to get my 3 bags from the first train to the next in 7 minutes because the train left pretty soon. I got there just in time. And by that time, I was sweating due to the humidity. It took me some time to cool down after I got on the train. I was trying really hard to stay awake but it wasn�t working because I was tired and it was night time in the US. So, I did have a bit of jet lag. I did nap for a while but never for too long. I liked the country side of Japan with the paddy fields and interesting houses. They also had a mesh sort of thing going on in the hills; I couldn�t ascertain what they were. These trains don�t stop at all stations and they are fast! I remember trying to take pictures of the country side and we were zipping by too fast. We finally arrived at Hakata and I had to get off quickly because they would stop at the stations very briefly. And then I found the last platform for Kumamoto. This time I took the Ariake express train. By this time, it was dark here already. And this was the last train to my destination. I slept through most of this train journey too because I couldn�t keep my eyes open. And finally, I got to Kumamoto and got off the train.

I started looking around for Masao even though I didn�t know what he looked like. I hoped he would recognize me. After waiting for 10 mins, I decided to move around on the platform. I saw a man sitting through 2 trains so I walked towards him. I think he finally recognized me with the Coe shirt and foreign looking Indian appearance. Masao is a relatively short man who looks like he is in his sixties. I also realized that he might have arthritis like my grandmom because his hand�s deformities resemble that of my grandma. We took a taxi to my apartments and it was conveniently placed above a handimart. He bought sandwiches, yogurt, an apple filled something and OJ. He showed me some things in the apt like how to operate the AC and stuff. And then he left saying that he will be back tomorrow morning at 10 in front of the Handimart to take me to the university.

I went down and bought a soap to shower with next day. I also went a bit further to buy a towel. I should have brought these with me. Too bad because a single soap was $1.5 and the towel was 10 bucks. I realized how expensive this place was pretty soon.

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