SURPRISE! We’re not in Nikko anymore. We’re on North American soil, where the salsa flows like water and licorice is plentiful. Pardon my six week blogging absence but things went nuts for a while there and I felt kind of bleh and I’ve just now started to get my wits about me. So HI. I’m back.
Our trip was long. So, so long. But safe and relatively uneventful. I started packing up our apartment about two weeks before our flight and on the same day the suitcases came out of storage Falcor started boycotting breakfast and losing fur in clumps. That exact moment is when the trip started for me.
Our itinerary was like this: 3 hour drive to the airport, 10 hour flight to LAX, 11 hour layover in LA, 4.5 hour flight to DTW, 2.5 hour layover in Detroit, 1 hour flight to Marquette.We arrived to the airport in Tokyo 3 hours early, thinking we might have overdone it, then used every spare minute only to walk up to our gate as the flight was boarding. The profuse sweating started before we even got through security. And this is my travel hell.
You know when you have 8 pieces of luggage, 2 dogs in crates and a toddler and you get assigned to the desk with the agent in training? Perfect. Really perfect. To be fair, this was probably a great case to train her with, they had the binder full of instructions out and called a manager several times and tagged our luggage in incorrectly before finally fixing the situation. While we endured the longest check-in process ever in the history of commercial aviation, I ask you to imagine the sound of Enid is shrieking like her leg is in a bear trap echoing through the terminal. Envision Vesper running around like a toddler five hours past her bedtime (there is no metaphor for that phenomenon that describes it better than just that) adding the second layer of sweat as I chased her then Dave chased her then she threw the contents of my purse on the floor then ran for it once again. At that point, she was still the cute foreign child acting like a crazy, adorable foreigner and the Japanese love of all things cute combined with their politeness meant that they just smiled and laughed and cooed ‘kawaii kawaii kawaii.’ I thought to myself ‘enjoy this now…because when we step off that plane in LA you are just another unruly American child with a dirty face running through an airport.’
The packing, planning, and coordinating of travel for two adults, a child and 2 child-like dogs combined with the stress of that check-in process led to a situation where getting into our almost painfully uncomfortable seats on an old Delta plane for a 10 hour flight actually seemed like a relief. The initial turbulence was disarming, the controls on our TVs were faulty, the food was how it is, and yet I felt so (relatively) relaxed. I was thankful to the airline that they (FOR ONCE) actually provided our special meal request, I was thankful for the extra seats for V to stretch our on, I was thankful to the Sikh man next to us who was so gracious when V she loudly inquired “What’s on that man’s head mommy?” We were full and relaxed, V was an angel, I stopped sweating for a brief moment. But we had to land eventually.
We landed in LA and, in an attempt to pre-comfort myself in case anything went majorly wrong, I said “We are on US soil. We could rent a U-Haul and drive home. We could walk. I could call my mom for a ride. We are going to get home.” Whenever I travel, no matter how many frequent flier miles I’ve accrued, I get anxiety. When my dogs are flying too, that anxiety is multiplied. I had nerves about going through immigration, nerves about collecting the dogs, nerves about finding our airport shuttle, nerves about our next two flights being cancelled due to weather.
Our 11-hour layover was spent eating American pizza in an American sized hotel room that was, no joke, nearly as big as our entire apartment in Japan. We watched TV in English while Vesper investigated (“Mommy! I found a book in this drawer! Mommy! Tiny bottles! Mommy! A bathtub!”) and had a nap for a couple of hours. Dave politely suggested I change to a clean shirt for our LA to Detroit to Marquette segment, but I shrugged. Seriously, what would be the point?
Quick sidenote: Air travel is the worst, but there were some pretty awesome individuals along this trip that made things way easier. Shout out to the immigration officer who literally asked no questions (a first for us), to the LAX employee who got us an industrial cart for our luggage and fast-tracked us through customs, the customs officer who didn’t even peek into the dog crates, and, shockingly, basically every single Delta employee we came across, particularly the agent who re-checked the dogs at the special services desk in LAX. Seriously friendly, efficient service. Several layers of sweat were spared by these heroic actions.
We nervously ate bagels in Detroit, fretting over threats of bad weather and worrying about our dogs as we watched snow blow all over the tarmac. Our girl ran around like a chicken out the coop, and we chased her down moving walkways sort of just constantly chanting ‘sorry, sorry, pardon us, sorry’ to anyone who might get in the way. Confession: I’m not sorry, I just have Midwestern manners. This is an airport and she is 2 so just deal with the chaos, can’t you see how sweaty I am!?
It’s been a long, long time since I felt the kind of relief I felt when the wheels of our plane landed in my hometown. This season was an amazing adventure, as they all have been. But it was tiring by the end. It was lonely at points. Our families felt further away than usual. Japan is beautiful and the Japanese are lovely but living there can be so dang hard.
I have this dream of being the kind of true vagabond that feels at home anywhere, that adapts easily and laughs (instead of sweats) during travel mishaps. But not-very-deep down I’m a homebody with control issues and the sweet sight of home warmed my heart. Despite the snow.