My experience with international travel began on my honeymoon to Jamaica in 2004. We took a couple of fairly short flights, got on a bus in Montego Bay and road to the resort where we spent 95% of our international time sitting on a beach drinking Red Stripe. No complaints about that trip! When I was given a work project last summer that looked like it would result in a trip to Singapore for me and my project team I was a mix of excited and terrified.
One summer before we had kids Cory and I took off to go to a family reunion with my family in Missouri and about 2 hours into the trip I told him that i couldn’t handle being away from home. We turned around and went back and I immediately felt better.
When my tickets were booked for Singapore I looked over the flight details…the hours I would spend in the air, over the ocean. *gulp* The time it would take to get to my destination. The time it would take to get back home if my family were to need me. The 14 hour time difference between home and my Asian destination, where I would be traveling with 5 co-workers, all men, all acquaintances that I had never spent more than an hour or so together with at a time. This was a recipe for a panic attack. But I survived to tell the story!
After a change in plans because of the crappy Iowa weather we drove to Chicago the night before we expected to leave from the Eastern Iowa Airport. We got to our airport hotel at about 9:30 on Thursday night and on Friday morning we were off to Ohare. We got settled into our seats in preparation for our 13 ish hour flight to Tokyo. Then plane troubles. Everyone off the plane. It was a roller-coaster of are we going or are we not, as not 15 minutes after we were escorted off of the plane we were told to get back on!
As the attendants were making their announcements we see an attendant scurry up the aisle to the man making the announcements and then I hear in the background of the intercom, “a gentleman in the back says that he may be having a heart attack.”
The intercom went quiet for a moment before the announcements for any Doctor’s on board to identify themselves. As disappointing as it was to still not be moving and to be pretty sure that we were going to miss our connection in Japan, I am thankful that this happened before we took off. For his sake, and selfishly, for my sake–an extra landing and take off was not on my list of fun things to do.
When we finally got rolling, things went really well. I was tired from the stress of travel and I was able to get some sleep on the plane. And, as a bonus, international flights have free alcohol and lots of new movies to watch. We had our own screens and controls so I was able to watch more non animated movies on my collective flights then I had in the last 5 years. Best of the bunch – I would have to say, Argo.
We landed in Japan and were met by several airline employees waiting to give us our fate. No big surprise, the four (the other two in our party weren’t flying with us) of us were set to spend the night in Japan and head to Singapore in the morning. The good point: We got to sleep at a pretty regular hour and we were still nearly on Singapore time, as the difference between Tokyo and Singapore is only one hour.
The bad points: Another weird airport hotel. This one smelled like an ashtray had real metal keys. When was the last time you stayed in a hotel with actual keys?
The room itself was…odd. There were three little twin beds and a sign by the phone advertising cash only massages available from 3 pm to 1 am. In case you were wondering, I didn’t call.
The toilet, as was the case with every toilet I encountered in Japan, had a heated seat and a baday. I didn’t have a great night in Tokyo. I went to bed pretty quickly after we arrived. I went to my room and freaked out a little bit about the non English characters everywhere and the no English speakers on TV. So much unfamiliarity surrounded me as a sat on my tiny bed and thought about how far I was from home. Even the warm toilet seat couldn’t bring me any comfort.
The next morning I showered in the weird shower and headed down for breakfast. The restaurant was super crowded and the four of us were wandering around looking for a place to sit when this couple waved me over and moved a table down. John and I sat down and started in on our breakfast…then this lady comes by and points at piece of paper with Japanese writing on it and says, “reserved!” Oops. She told us not to move and took her paper with her somewhere else. I blame the people next to me, but it took no more than 1 hour in public in a foreign country for me to screw something up.
Next step…checking in at the airport. The Asian women at the airport were all beautiful. So put together with perfect hair and make up and beautiful smiles. The men…stern and serious. The most puzzling thing about Japan for me was the masks. Lots of people in airports wear masks. I couldn’t decide if I should be appreciative that they were keeping their Ebola to themselves, or offended that they assumed I was going to infect them with Americanitis. A quick Google search tells me it is because they are sick and don’t want to spread it. Thoughtful once you know what’s up. Kinda anxiety inducing when left to your own imagination to explain…like it was for me until just now when I did a quick Google search.
The flight from Tokyo to Singapore was worse than childbirth. Hyperbole? You may think so, but if given the option–that exact flight including the last seat in the plane, constant turbulence, crappy diet pop and fish omelet’s served for lunch, or–7 hours of hard labor at the University of Iowa Hospital with my husband by my side and I take childbirth every time. Every. Time.
I never could have imagined how excited I would have been to touch down in a foreign country as I was after that experience. I strolled right through security with my chewing gum in my backpack, and my marathon travel spanning 3 days – at least i think it was 3 days…You have no idea how much that time difference screws with your mind on travel days–was officially over!
More on the trip itself later!