It is almost mandatory that all my trips start with me running around. I had a late afternoon flight to Japan. Of course I did not take the day off. I woke up super early to get my work done. Even though these days I have waaaay more leave days than when I was in consulting, I still tend to be a hoarder with my days. I continue to live a Candy Crush life with my leave days – only using them when I absolutely must. Nguhi, see me looking at you and your Candy Crush leave days life:-). I will rationalize it – yeah. I am sure I can finish sending off that document – on the runway (a la Nungari during the Rwanda trip in 2011 or so. A story for another day.)
I slept at 5am and was up early to finish work. I hastily packed from 1:30 – 2:15pm. I consider myself a semi-seasoned backpacker. As such I know the essentials to pack. What really holds me back is the stupid stuff I add. I confess that I added around 2kgs of necklaces, bangles, rings and earrings to my 16kg backpack bringing it to an epic 18kgs (of which 2kgs was frivolity at its best.) I got to the airport. My backpack was weighed and that’s when I confirmed that it was indeed 18kgs. Ciku! Oops I did it again. I always pack my backpack with the best of intentions, but then end up adding jewelry, nail polish, lipsticks en masse. This is the monkey on my back. I think it might be a demon. The demon of packing unnecessary stuff.
At the airport I started bumping into some of the other #mirozinjapan – some of whom I knew quite well (close friends and colleagues and others I was meeting for the first time.) Our excitement was palpable. “It’s finally here! Japan, here we come!”
“How heavy is your backpack?”
“You checked your backpack in? What if it gets lost?”
[Good question – Dear Jesus, do not let my backpack get lost. I don’t think they have mitumba in Tokyo or Toi market. I will be rewinding my one outfit for 3 weeks.]
It was a 3 hour flight to Addis with a brief layover followed by an 8 hour flight to Hong Kong, but we didn’t have to get off the plane. We arrived in Tokyo to the friendliest immigration officials. Too many experiences have always left me tentative at such interactions – waiting for it to be a hassle, waiting to be pulled aside on a technicality etc. So when I walk through immigration without any problems, that is worth mentioning. All our bags also made it to Tokyo! We had landed at 8pm and of course none of us had Yen. All the exchange bureaus had closed. We were wondering how we would get money to pay for our train to our home for the night. After a while we found a vending machine that took your dollars and gave you yen. Amazing, right?
We found yet another vending machine that sold sim cards…What is this country where things work like clockwork? We were all impressed, but trying to play it cool. Of course we have vending machines in Africa for changing money and buying sim cards! Mschew! Where do you think we are from? The fifth world? No my friends, we are from the third world:-).
Finally we got our train tickets and jumped into the train. It was to take us 90 minutes to get to our stop. I was assigned as the one to be on the look-out for our stop. I was vigilant for the first 60 minutes, but then I started getting distracted by the bright lights and lovely shops outside the train.
Suddenly I was daydreaming, smiling to myself, “Japan, Japan, Japan. I am in Japan.” Listening to the rest of the crew chatting and laughing when I looked out and saw we were almost pulling out of our train station, “Jujo!”
“Guys! Jujo! Jujo! We’re here! Quick quick! Get your bags.”
It was mad rush as everyone grabbed their backpacks to get out of the train before the train doors closed. We all made it out and spent a good two minutes dying of laughter about how we almost missed our stop.