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Tales of Airports, Jetlag and General Confusion

Posted on 2007.07.25 at 11:58
Current Location: someplace very strange but normal
Current Mood: confusedconfused
I think this'll be a pretty long post.  At least I'm finally alive enough to get going on it.

I got up on Monday at 6ish and finished packing up my stuff.  I took Durin on a last walk around our neighborhood in Sendagi.  It was hard to understand the idea of not being there.  I was a bit anxious about travelling just because I always am, and a little excited, but mostly I felt reluctant to leave.  My host parents drove me to Ueno, where I was catching the 10AM train to the airport.  On the way down in my building's elevator I realized I wouldn't be getting in that elevator again.  I'd been spending half my time in that elevator.  There was a big lump in my throat.

I said goodbye to my host parents at the ticket gate at the station.  My host mom hugged me.  We were all crying a little.  I hauled Durin and all my stuff down the stairs to the platform and cried while I waited for the train.  It came and I dragged all of my stuff onto it and took up the space of about four people.  My backpack was huge and heavy, then there was Durin in his bulky cage, his toilet in a bag plus a smaller bag with stuff I needed to cram into my big suitcase that was hopefully waiting for me at the airport.

I watched the vast tangle of houses and lights and potted plants and wire-covered telephone poles and hung-outside laundry go by for the next hour and tried to imagine what it was like at home.  I was upset.  Durin sat quietly in his cage, eyeing the other passengers, who were sneaking looks and smiles at him.  He fell asleep towards the end.  I realized when we were almost there that I had gotten on a slower train than I meant to because we arrived twenty minutes later than I had planned for.  Feeling a little nervous about how long we would need to spend at the Animal Quarantine Office I put everything on a cart and headed off to find it.  It was around 11:30 when, two information desks and an elevator and back hallway later, I found the right place.  The guy there checked my forms, copied some stuff and had me verify information and sign things while I eyed the clock nervously.  We took Durin out of his cage and the guy poked around on him a little and about two minutes later proclaimed him fine.  The whole thing took maybe fifteen minutes, putting me nicely back on schedule.

I went and got my boarding passes, dropped Durin off at a special place, ran into Laura while getting my big suitcase from the mail service people, checked it and the dog toilet (they wouldn't let me carry it on because it was too big, but I didn't really want to haul it anyway).  We found Michelle and went through security, which took no time at all, and then immigration where they took away our cool Alien Registration cards, then found our gate with plenty of time to spare for our 2:10 flight.  I asked the gate people to tell me when Durin was loaded onto the flight so I would know, and sure enough when we got on the plane they announced it.  We took off.  I felt strange.  

The flight (11 and a half hours) went surprisingly well.  I reread Harry Potter and even slept a little, and mostly didn't get nauseated because I was careful to keep myself fed.  Even though it was a really long flight it didn't feel like forever.  When we started to land in Chicago I looked down to find the tiny ant cars driving on the wrong side of the road.  It looked so incredibly backwards.  There were so many trees.  And, somehow, it was now 11:30 in the morning again, still Monday.

At the airport I found myself surrounded by Americans- tall, loudly talking, laughing, hugging, interacting English-speaking people who looked really different from each other.  It was very odd.  Americans are so big.  I forgot that I'm small over here.  I heard Spanish and was confused.  We went to the baggage claim to get our stuff.  I went to pick up Durin, and he was just fine.  We waited on my other bags for awhile.  Luckily I had a long layover, three-ish hours.  Immigration and customs were easy.  I rechecked my other bags and took Durin to a special area where I was told that I was required to take him out and walk him, which was really good.  He was so happy to get out of the cage.  We ran around this little grassy area for ten minutes or so, then I took him back in.  After getting harrassed by an annoying security guard until I could convince her that no, I'm not a terrorist, the guy at that office told me to go walk my dog, I took Durin back inside and put him in his cage again.  He really really didn't want to go back in there.  They took him from there to check him for our flight to Houston.

I headed for another terminal, starting to feel nauseated.  I tried eating a little of my bread, which came back up almost immediately.  I waited at the gate for over an hour, throwing up every so often, until I finally boarded my flight.  I was out of bags so I asked the stewardess for some, feeling really bad for the people sitting next to me who were luckily understanding and nice.  They announced Durin being loaded onto the plane as "To the person who was worried about it: your cat is on the plane", which was really funny.  I started drifting in and out of sleep, still horribly nauseated.  The flight was only two hours but it was so much worse than the long flight.  I watched out the window as we descended.  So much green, and the same wrong ant-sized cars.  We could see the skyline.  Previous landings in Houston I've had a huge relieved sense of normal.  This time all I could think of was "strange".  Well, that's the translation anyway.  I was actually thinking "okashii".

The stewardess called the guy with the car thing to come take me to the baggage claim, and he was loud and funny and very American all the way across the terminal.  I surprised my parents by getting there quickly, and my bags surprised me by showing up quickly.  Mom and I walked Durin outside.  Mom is so excited to have Durin here; it's hilarious.  He adores her so much.  On the drive home everything was just weird.  I can't even list it all: billboards in English, wide lanes, wide highway, huge cars, so much sky, downtown was just odd-looking- all those skyscarpers at once jutting out of short buildings, so many trees, grass (wow! I remember grass!).  All of it was familiar but odd, not just because I'd been in Japan but also because the last time I was here I wasn't seeing all three dimensions yet- my medication hadn't started working really.  Everything has a crazy amount of space between it.  Who knew?

Once home we got Durin settled in and let him out to run around some, then I ate a boring dinner very slowly and felt better.  It was, at this point, still Monday.  Longest Monday ever.  I went to bed at nine feeling terrible and confused but with my trip finally over.

To be continued later when I'm not tired of typing a lot.

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