Wednesday, June 4, 2008

China trip wrap-up

The end of my trip was long and uneventful. I was scheduled to leave Xiamen Friday, May 30 at 2:15 pm local time. The general advice for international flights is to arrive 2 hours before hand. (Dad don't kill me, but) I arrived 15 minutes before my plane boarded. The challenge is the fairly rigid 12 - 1 pm lunch time that Chinese workers (at least the companies I was interacting with) maintain. Regardless of the reason, I got to the airport, checked in, rushed to Immigration only to have the police officer at Immigration take what felt like 20 minutes to scrutinize my passport. I think it is because I have a new passport and they've upgraded the design. I couldn't tell her to hurry up (both because of the language barrier and because any effort to speed up the process only would lengthen it).

Finally she let me through and I run to security. I had myself streamlined for getting through, with my laptop and toiletries at the top of my luggage, and quickly went through the security. I usually don't take my insulin out of my pocket because it doesn't set off the detector. Well, this time it did, so I had to take it out and when the security guard took of the lid her face became instantly alerted when she saw the needle. She showed it to another guard who also was alerted, then a third. Finally they go over to the guy running the x-ray machine and show it to him. Though I don't know what he said, he was non-plussed and basically told them it's both legitimate and common. So they gave it back to me and off I went to my plane.

Fast forward, slight rain delay, easy flight, land in Japan. Can't figure out where the ride I'm supposed to be getting to the hostel I reserved. Spend two hours exchanging money, asking people at different desks, making phone calls, waiting, making more phone calls, and finally getting picked up by Takashi. So Takashi is the owner/operator of:

Airport Hostel
326-6 Takada, Shibayama
Narita, Japan
Tel: 81476285875

The reason I include the address and phone number is because I strongly recommend to anyone flying through Narita. Takashi is a former backpacker (having spent 3 years traveling around AsiaPac) and really wanted to start a hostel that quite simply cost less to stay at. So that's what he did. He set his price point at half of what the other local hostels cost (~US $15 compared to $30). But the thing is he offers accommodations and service that far exceeds the other place. For one, he picks you up from the airport. He also offers rides if needed. He took me by McDonald's on the way to the hostel b/c I hadn't had any dinner. I don't know, I just liked it so much more. I also enjoyed talking to him. This is a video of Takashi and Min (a fellow returning to S. Korea from a trip all around the US) and I talking on the way to the airport on Saturday).

All in all it was just nice to spend some time with a nice guy in the middle of my trip. Especially since I was traveling alone and so didn't have anyone to talk to most of the time.

My second flight went fine, it was 11 hours long. I left Japan at 10:45 am on Saturday and arrived at 8:20 am on Saturday. Because I crossed the International Date Line, my Saturday was something ridiculous like 37 hours long. I spent Saturday (in the States) forcing myself to stay awake. Sunday I went to church and waited to be reunited with my family. Katherine and Lyla had gone to Ohio for the weekend for Katherine's cousin's wedding. They got back around 6 pm on Sunday and fortunately both of them still recognized me. They both smiled real big when they saw me.

Being away from my girls was the hardest part of the trip. Both because I missed them but also because I wanted to share all the new experiences and great conversations with them. Katherine really is my partner in the fullest sense of the word and I know that every great thing that happened in China would have been better if she had been a part of it. Fortunately I'm pretty sure the Lord has plenty of adventures planned for us, but right now I'm glad to be home.

Various photos from Japan:
Dining area at hostel:
The hostel is in a converted restaurant:
Screen in my bedroom:
Surrounding rice paddies: