Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Cove Chronicles - Day 1: The Forty-Hour Day Part 1

That's right, forty hours.

Up around 5 AM to do a last quick check of my bags and to get cleaned up for what is bound to be a long day.

Passport? Check.
Cash? Check.
Bags pack with stuff for folks back home? Check.
Comfortable clothes? Oh yeah.

A bowl of cereal followed by washing the dishes and taking out every last piece of garbage in the house. I'm not going to be back here for five weeks. I'd better darn well take all the garbage out or my apartment could look like the mold version of The Lost World when I get back. I can picture it now...opening the door to a hot, humid mold jungle...taking two steps inside...shutting the door...and getting disemboweled by some new life form that mutated out of the coffee grounds and onions that were in the trash.

No way am I going to get eaten by garbage.

Hiroshi picked me up around 6:30, and we headed over to Starfish High. Students were already arriving (goood), so we had to get ready for them. Once everyone was there, we had a "send-off" ceremony (oh, yeah, another ceremony) and then it was time to get on the buses.

We left around 8 AM for Chitose. I helped students on both buses practice "The Sukiyaki Song" in English and Japanese. They were going to sing it at a farewell party before everyone left to head back to Japan.

We arrived at Chitose, checked our luggage, then caught our plane.

Chitose-->plane-->Haneda (Tokyo)-->bus-->Narita

Tokyo was disgustingly hot. This is to be expected, as we were experiencing early spring-like weather in Muroran up until the day we left. Heat and humidity were two unpleasant shocks to...pretty much everyone in our group.

At Narita, we checked in for our flight to LAX. And ladies and gentlemen, we had a problem.

I tried to see if I could get my bags checked through to Boise, as I was going to be leaving all of those wonderful students behind in LA and going HOME.

"No can do, sir." (Mind you, this was all in terribly polite Japanese, the kind of stuff that makes you feel bad for making someone feel like they have to use that kind of apologetic language with you. But "No can do, sir." was the gist of it.)

So now, I have to get through customs, get my bags back, get from Terminal Way The Heck Over Here to Terminal Way The Heck Over There and check in for my flight with Southwest. Never mind that customs destroyed my suitcase last time I went home, for no other reason than I looked like a drug smuggler...ummm...well, I guess that could explain why they pulled the fabric away from the edge of my suitcase, but still...I didn't even lock the thing and they busted out one of the locks on it.

You can tell I'm still a little sore about that.

The airline was kind enough to slap a PRIORITY sticker on my suitcase, but there was no guarantee that I would make my connecting flight.

So, I'm doing my "Dustin-is-freaking-out-here" act that I do every once in a while.

I call Mom and Dad, waking them up at God-only-knows what hour of the night and tell Mom that I might not make my connection, but could she please call Southwest and see if someone could meet me at the gate to help me out with connections and such. (I felt bad, but there was a feeling of sweet revenge for all the times I've answered my phone "mrrfffremmuffrremm?")

That wasn't the first time I've pulled that one either. I'm getting to be pretty good at the "Wake-the-parents-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-with-a-phone-call-from-an-airport-halfway-around-the-world" phone call. Summer, 1995. I had spent a month in Germany after graduating from high school. My flight back home went Dusseldorf-->Brussels-->Chicago-->Salt Lake City-->Pasco. I had two hours in Chicago to get through customs and get checked in to my next flight. Here's the kicker. The flight from Brussels to Chicago was delayed...for two hours. So I call up Mom and tell her I might not be able to make my flight from Chicago in time.

Fortunately, both times I've made that call, everything has worked out alright.

We board the plane as a huge group and get put in the back of the plane. All sixty-plus of us. I can't even begin to imagine how annoyed the other passengers were with us, but I was ready to snap about three hours out of LA.

Never, ever, EVER travel with sixty high school juniors on an overseas flight.

Not if you want to keep your sanity.

I can't sleep on planes. It's not a fear thing; I just can't sleep on them. That's why I'm so grateful for the personal screens they provide in economy class now. Makes the eight hours go by so much quicker. So not being able to sleep on planes is no longer a big a deal as it was four or five years ago.

But for crying out loud! Students were getting up and walking around, talking too loud, and generally being obnoxious little s***s. Trust me, you would have felt the same way three hours out of LA.

As we made our final approach, landed, and taxied into our gate, I made sure I was ready to grab my carry-on bag and get the heck off of that plane. The seat belt sign turned off, I said bye to everyone, and boogied off of that plane. It was a pretty smooth go through customs, and I was back on U.S. soil. Aaah, smell that (cough cough) fresh LA air.

I hustled on over to the Southwest Terminal, and after rearranging my baggage a little bit, I got checked in to my flight to Boise without any real trouble.

Then it was on to the gate to catch that flight home...

And on that note, I will break this post into two parts. I don't want this to turn into The Forty Hour Post or anything...eh, Czar?

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