Monday, January 24, 2011

Two Weeks in Twenty Minutes: GO!

Whenever I finish a trip or experience that is as full and exciting as my holiday trip home was, I feel too overwhelmed to write a proper blog. There is just no way that I can devote all the time and energy necessary to capture every amazing day of my vacation. So, instead of writing, I hem and haw and waste my time, promising myself that I will do it eventually and putting it off until it is not fresh anymore. Instead of prolonging it any longer, I will just give you a brief, brief highlight of my two week craziness.
Adventures with An Yang were a bit more exciting than either of us would have liked. You can refer to my previous blog, Planning Your International Trip, for the details of our crazy itinerary. The gist of it is that my friend who was traveling with me couldn't board the international flight because we had a layover in Canada. Something about China and visas.. ugh. In the end, she paid for a direct flight to Seattle, and we flew separately. So disappointing.
Eventually, we made it to Idaho and were greeted by my wonderful family.
The next two days were a blur of holiday cheer. Snow, food, family, family, family, presents, more snow, more food. It was perfect. Just the sort of Christmas I had missed last year when I stayed in Okinawa.

After Christmas, we had a whole week to just enjoy Idaho. I saw many friends, including my old classmates, we played in the snow, went to church, went snowboarding/skiing, and ate so much delicious food. My mom is such a great cook!

When our time in Idaho was over, we were both sad to be leaving "Narnia" as An calls it, but looking forward to our next adventure: Seattle!
To set the tone for our week, our very first stop, direct from the airport was Century Ballroom for a night of swing dancing. An was hesitant at first but she picked it right up and was dancing happily the whole night. I, of course, was thrilled to be back in my old swing scene and lindied my way around the room with a bunch of my favorite leads. Pure joy.

The rest of our trip involved three more nights of dancing, adventures all over Seattle, Kirkland, Bellevue, and Edmonds, more cups of coffee than I care to count, and more friends than I possibly deserve. I was completely overwhelmed by how many wonderful people still, not only remember, but care about me. I am the luckiest girl on the planet.

At the end of the week, we were both exhausted, a little grumpy, and a lot socially exhuasted. So, though I shed some tears to leave the city and the people that I love, it was a relief to finally (after two days of travel) be back in my new element: Okinawa. With great friends here, my own space, my car, and my pet turtle, I feel right at home.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Planning Your International Trip

I am no stranger to traveling overseas, but previously all of the nitty gritty of the details have been the responsibility of someone else: the JET program, a choir director, a professor, a pastor. Until now. Most of you know that I went home for Christmas break, but what you may not know is that I did a terrible job of planning my flights and layovers. To save you some heartache on your next international trip, here's a cautionary tale of my experiences.

But first, a pretty picture. I love clouds from above. :) 

What Not To Do When Planning Your International Trip

Departing Flight: 

Decide to book your international and domestic flights separately to "save money" without considering all the factors. 

Book through Canada Air because it's cheaper at the time and then find out that a Japanese travel agent could have SAVED you money.... and a TON stress. 

Fly Okinawa to Haneda airport in Tokyo (domestic).
Take a $30 bus ride to Narita airport in Tokyo (international). Begin to feel anxious.
Have two hours to kill before you can even check in for your flight.  Feel restless. 
Attempt to check in and discover that your travel companion cannot go without you because she doesn't have a Canadian visa for the layover in Vancouver. Panic. 
Watch your travel companion spend an extra $3000 for a direct flight to Seattle. Cry. 

Fly to Vancouver alone. Sit next to an anti-social grump who begrudges your need to use the restroom twice during a nine hour flight. Sleep.
Arrive in Vancouver. Go through customs, Drink coffee. Email travel companion who beat you to America. Feel sad. Wait for two hours. 
Board puddle-jumper to Seattle for a 45 minute waste of time. 
Claim baggage. 

Re-check baggage. Check in for Horizon flight. Meet travel companion. At last. 
Wait two hours. Delay. Delay. Delay
Board another puddle jumper for a 1 hour trip to Boise. 

Meet family after midnight. Sigh. 

Return flight: 

Fly to Seattle. Don't look at ticket closely. Take 3 hour trip which should have lasted 1 hour. Stop in numerous tiny Idaho towns with one-lane airports. Sigh. 

Arrive in Seattle. 

One week later, return to Seatac. 
Say goodbye to travel companion again. Fly to Vancouver alone. Drink coffee. Wait three hours. 

Wait longer. Delay, delay, airplane change, delay. 

Board international flight. Sit next to man who, despite his small size, takes up half of your room with his pokey elbows. Shift uncomfortably. Sleep. 
Arrive in Tokyo at Narita (International). Customs. Claim bags. Greet travel companion at last. Sigh. Smile a little. 

Board subway. Change subways. Change again. Ignore arm pains from lugging suitcases all over Tokyo. Lose smile.  2 hours later, arrive at stranger's house. Sleep on floor. 

Wake up. Board subway. Squish in with two heavy suitcases. Try not to feel guilty. Transfer to train. Change trains. Arrive at Haneda (domestic) two and a half hours later. Wait 30 minutes. Get in wrong check-in line, wait thirty minutes. Move to correct check-in line, wait another 30 minutes. Go to security. Try to push slightly too large bag through x-ray, get yelled at, transfer some stuff to other bag. Finally pass security. 

Try to suppress eye twitch. Wait one hour. Sit in massage chair. Realize you're out of cash. Kick massage chair. 

Wait two hours. Type this blog and feel angry at yourself. Listen to calming music and wish you knew meditation techniques. 

Board flight to Okinawa. Close eyes and breathe. Arrive in Okinawa, 3 hours later. Drive 30 miles in over an hour. Lug giant bags up stairs. Crash. Collapse. Die. 

What To Do When Planning Your International Trip

Resolve to use the travel agent next time and book your luggage all the way through, regardless of the cost. Also resolve to pack lighter.  And buy more omiyage (souveniers). And get more sleep. 

To end on a positive note, here is a rough version of the video I made to show students about my trip: CLICK HERE!