Somehow I've managed to get myself back home. I have to say I'm pretty impressed with myself - if I can travel halfway around the world and make it through two completely foreign airports all by myself, what can't I do? (Besides become Miss America, President or Queen of England...OK, so there's a long list!)
But seriously, there are a lot of people out there who don't do things by themselves or things that they're scared of. That's a crappy way to live! Sure, I was a bit scared - especially in the Tokyo Airport on my way over - but what you imagine is usually worse than what actually happens.
My trip back home was actually pretty uneventful. Well, I had two Tuesdays - I guess that's something that doesn't happen every day.
The First Tuesday -- Okinawa to Tokyo
Jen was back at school teaching the younguns the ways of the world, so Brian gave me a lift to the Okinawa Airport. We got me all checked in and had breakfast at the A&W Restaurant in the airport. (No more bean curd doughnuts!) I have never seen more A&W Restaurants in my life than I've seen in Okinawa. I think we have one near Columbus (chain restaurant champion of the world) and it's 20 minutes away.
I made it through security OK - except the check-out guy tried to hand me a pen and I had no idea what I was supposed to do with it so I kept shaking my head. I suspect he and the girl working with him got a few jollies out of this exchange because they were laughing - but it would be pretty unrealistic (not to mention rude of me) to travel to Japan knowing nothing of Japanese and expecting the natives to speak English. (Although I now know how to say 'good afternoon' and 'thank you' in Japanese - 'good morning,' 'good evening' and 'thank you very much' were too tricky.)
I sat by a fidgety Billy Bob Thornton lookalike on the way to Tokyo. All Nippon Airways is first-class - plush seats with footrests (although I might have been sitting in the fancy section), smiley flight attendants with snappy uniforms and adorable pink scarves, videos of takeoff and landing. It puts our airlines to shame! The only downfall of the trip was that the flight attendant walked around with a big box of Sokenbicha. Blech! She caught me staring at it (in horror) and started to give me a fill-up - but I shook my head. That stuff is NASTY.
Tokyo to Chicago
I had about two hours to kill in the Tokyo Airport - my flight took off at 4:20 p.m. It was really hot in the airport- didn't feel air conditioned. I kept trying to find a store to buy snack food - all I could find were duty free shops. What the heck is duty and why do I need to avoid it? I managed to get some snacks for the trip - including lunch, a rice ball wrapped in seaweed with some shrimp flavor. It was actually pretty good!
I upgraded my seat on the way back - it wasn't very expensive. I got way more legroom and was seated near the front of economy section. It was the best money I've ever spent - I basically had an entire row to myself! I was seated across from a couple of monks from Thailand. They were traveling to Chicago to teach meditation and they wore orange robes, wool socks with sandals and wool caps on their bald heads. (They got up a few times to use the bathroom and I almost saw what was UNDERNEATH their orange robes. Luckily I averted my eyes in time.)
They were so calm during the trip - no reading, no movie watching - I felt like an ADD-ridden freak. I watched Alvin and the Chipmunks on the plane. I also switched frequently between books, my personal DVD player and my mp3 player. Most of the time I sprawled across the seats and tried to nap. (Except some woman behind me kept hacking up a lung and I fretted about getting bird flu and bringing a pandemic to Ohio.)
Tuesday #2 -- Chicago to Detroit
We arrived at O'Hare 45 minutes early - at 1:30 p.m - which meant I had 1 hour and 45 minutes to catch my connecting flight to Detroit. Here's where the nightmare began. I made my way down to immigration where a man with muttonchops stamped my passport and asked me if the trip was worth the long flight. Then I waited for my bags...and waited...and waited. Mine were the last two off the belt - and we had about 100 people on that plane! I made my way to customs, which turned out to be really simple. A burly guy asked "Is that your customs sheet?", grabbed it and sent me on my way.
I next had to re-check my bags and take a train from the international terminal to the domestic terminal. Of course, my terminal was the last stop on the train. I had to clear security for the 4th time that day. (In Japan, they don't make you take your shoes off. I'm just saying...) The security line was a million people long and the people working security were the rudest people on earth. Of course, after making it through security, they needed to handcheck my bag for some reason.
My flight was in a different concourse - so with 15 minutes before the flight took off, I had to sprint through the airport with my 500 pound carry-on bag. My gate was at the very far end of the next concourse, but luckily I made it on time. People, the moving sidewalks are not rides at DisneyWorld. Move your feet!
I was in the very last row of the plane - right next to the smelly bathroom. The flight attendant kept spraying air freshener - I think only bleach would've helped.
My parents picked me up at Detroit, helped me collect my belongings, and picked up a yummy steak and sweet potato dinner from Outback. I got to see my cats who apparently were into everything at my parents'. On Wednesday, I drove back to Columbus with all my bags and two yowling cats - good times!
I'm really glad to be back in a country with tall, fat people with bad skin. These are my peeps!