Flight Summary & First Weekend In Japan

(Sorry, this is a pretty long entry, so you better equip yourself with a cup of hot tea or coffee and some snacks. :-) )

Finally, after a whole nine months of waiting, anxiety, arguments and pain I finally landed in the arms of my wife Midori in Japan on Friday, September 23rd (coincidentally a national holiday).

Midori mentioned earlier that I hate long distance flights, and indeed, I do, but I gotta say that this SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) flight from Düsseldorf (Germany), via Copenhagen (Denmark), was one of the better, if not the best flights I ever endured. My very first flight ever coincidentally was the same route, back in 2008, and as luck/fortune/karma/god/whateveryoubelievein will it was that flight which brought Midori and me together. We met for the very first time then, because she was assigned to be the welcome and greeting "team" who had to escort the new exchange students from the airport to the dormitory rooms back then. Unfortunately it was also the one flight that made me hate long distance flights, cause it was not only painful to sit in a very confined space for more than 10 hours, but also because I could not get any sleep whatsoever during the travel time and felt like a chicken skinned alive when I finally landed, totally over-exhausted and with a whole lack of sleep. This was also partly due to me getting seriously sick with some kind of virus infection at the same time (thanks Stefan! :-? ).

Anyway, I digress. Let me begin from the start on Tuesday night, two days before the flight.

On Tuesday night my family, brother, sister and my parents, as well as my aunt and uncle (both 70+ years old), met for a last family gathering with me to say good bye and see me off. It felt like the usual Gollub family gathering with the usual arguing and yammering about local and national politics, but this time you could also feel a touch of everybody being relieved and happy for Midori, the kids and me being able to live together.

Then, on Wednesday, my best buddy Stefan had organized a little birthday and good bye party for me at his place. We had a couple of beers and snacks with our closest friends, and it was a really great time. We talked a lot and everybody wished the best for Midori, the kids and me, which was really, really nice. Thank you, guys (and girls)! But I gotta say, one of the best presents ever somebody made for me was Stefan's really cool photo collage!!! Buddy, I so gonna frame this one!!! It's AWESOME! (Sorry, can't really show it here, because I don't have a scanner available at the moment - it's like 1:30am and I don't wanna wake up my wife.)

The next day, Thursday, my parents drove me to Düsseldorf airport in the morning and saw me off. It was a pretty tough time for me, because I was so nervous and anxious that I could neither sleep nor eat for the longest time. I even woke up several times during the night from Wednesday to Thursday morning because of this.

However, all my anxiety and nervousness was unfounded and for no reason, because the flights weren't really that bad at all. The flight from Düsseldorf to Copenhagen was not even one hour, and although it started 10 minutes late we still made it on time for the connecting flight to Narita, Tokyo.

The thing that sticked out the most to me on that part of my journey was how beautiful Copenhagen airport is. It is, from all the airports I have ever been to, the most beautiful one. Heathrow is the worst one, but that's just because I was treated like a criminal when I had to go through it 2 years ago. Düsseldorf airport is okay, nothing special I'd say. Same goes for Aéroport Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle, Cologne/Bonn Airport and the airport of Vienna. Narita International Airport on the other hand is a really simple, yet beautiful "small little" airport (disclaimer: that is the feeling I got. I have no clue whatsoever how big or small it is in comparison to Köln or Düsseldorf).

But coming back to the story at hand. The connecting flight to Narita, which took somewhere between 10~11 hours, was actually quite okay, although I had such bad experiences with long distances flights before (see above; with "bad experiences" I don't mean bad service - never happened so far, and I used all the major airlines like SAS, JAL, Air France, Lufthansa, BA). They served dinner and breakfast on board, as well as some little snacks in between. To kill some time during the long flight I read several entries/chapters of Bram Stoker's Dracula (in English) and watched three movies: Pirates 4, X-Men: First Class and Rio. However, I became really anxious about 45-30 minutes before the actual landing, kinda like a kid who can not wait for Christmas/Birthday to happen: "Why are we still in the air? When is this thing gonna land? Come on! Land already!"

When the plane finally landed, I got through immigrations pretty fast (thanks to my spouse visa and CoE) and could claim my bagge without problems. One last inspection from customs and I was greeted by Hikaru, Sasuke and Midori. Hikaru came running into my arms and nearly jumped at me, while Sasuke was a bit shier and Midori just smiled happily. It was a really, really happy moment for all of us and before we went home via train and bus to a little small town in Saitama, we enjoyed the observation deck for a bit.

Strangely enough I was not really tired at first after we finally arrived home. We had some nice lunch, after which I took a 2 hour nap, and then we all went to Hikaru's violine class (a private home teaching class). The teacher was quite nice and although pretty much a non-stop talker, he was so nice to not only take a picture of us (will upload this at a later date), but also print several copies for us as well. After that we went home and had an awesome chicken dish (you gotta have to ask my wife for the recipe, cause I only remember it being delicious) before we went to bed.

On Saturday I woke up very early, around 6:30am, because I couldn't sleep any longer, which probably was due to the time difference: Jet Lag, oh how I hate thee. The good thing about the early awakening was that I could join my wife and the kids to go to the local kindergarden sports-festival and I gotta tell you, never have I seen so many parents and kids take part in a sports-festival (to be honest: the last time I saw a school-sponsored sports-festival in Germany was around 1990 or something: kinda like a more fun-oriented competition than Bundesjugendspiele, if anybody remembers that). It was quite funny to watch, although the burning sun (26~28° I guess) gave me some headaches.

Sasuke and Hikaru took place in the second-to-last competition (basically jumping rope, running and stuff I don't understand yet writing their own names in Hiragana or Kanji according to my wife), which was for the graduated children (both are already in elementary school), and both of them got 1st place in their rounds. Yeah. :-) But the most interesting and entertaining thing for me were all those older kids (elementary school as well) who "played" around with the "wildlife". They caught frogs, ants (big Japanese ones), very small lizards, and other insects and showed them each other. Whenever they didn't show them each other they just threw them either around or into each other faces. Yep, fun to watch. But the most fun part was when this one kid asked Midori to look what he got, so she came down to his level, and he then opened his palm in which he had a HUGE FREAKING PRAYING MANTIS - my wife jumped like 10 meters backwards. Hilarious!

Also, the grown ups didn't seem to mind what the kids were doing. Some were playing in a rice field, and no one cared. I swear if this would've happend in Germany in a corn field, the people around or the farmer himself would have shouted and screamed at the kids: "GET OFF MY LAWNFIELD" for sure.

So, after that we went home and had a nice hiyashi soba Sōmen lunch before we had another nap, which turned out to be a bad idea for me, cause it kept me awake until now. It's nearly 3am and finally, after an awesome shrimp, fried potatoes and sausages dinner (gotta link you that recipe later if you know Japanese, here is the link 茄子と海老の韓国風揚げびたし), I feel tired again. I hope you enjoyed my little story time so far. I will update this as soon as I get the foto and recipe online.

Gute Nacht. :-)

Aftermath of 311: Tokyo and its suburban areas

It's a heavy and serious topic to start with, however, its only true that this is the most horrible incident I've encountered with so far and still many things are under the influence of this event.

First of all, my most sincere condolences to all who suffered. It is my strong wish that
we all take care of each other to rebuild and reestablish strong and firm economy under
the trusting politics (quite bluuurrr right now, how shame!). There are just too many things
we "should" deal with, such as nuk plant issue, guarantee/security for evacuated ppl, and
resume healthy land in Fukushima! Although there are very little I can contribute, I am
determined to play my part, with donation or participating in volunteer work. Let's make it
happen! 頑張ろう、日本!

So what was it like on March 11th to me? Here is how it went: I was working inside the office, on a 1st flr of big building. The 1st & the biggest shake, hit at 2:46pm if I recall correctly. First 30 seconds, I was like, "yep, another shakes, will be resumed in a sec, just keep working here.." then it didn't stop at all!! The shake was getting bigger and bigger then we all realize "maybe we should evacuate the building, like asap?" so along with coworkers, we all run outside with fear by the time. Everyone was there, some were feeling sick from stress and fear, some just stood still, some trying to calm down by talking to others.

It was less than 5 min, or at least so I felt, then we chat "it was the biggest shake I ever experienced!" as we went back to the office. Some shelves were leaned down, messy desk, but we did not expect anything larger than a usual shakes. First thing, we turned on tv to see where it originates, how bad other areas were. Cell fones were out of service, due to the crowded lines, but landline worked fine. By then, Tsunami were hitting the coat and slowly, we became to learn it was indeed one of the worst Earthquake happened in Japan. It was devastating, to see those mega waves hit to destroy coastal areas, sweeping off all the houses and buildings.

As I went back home, I saw ppl in usual habits, like walking dogs or taking babies on stroll, I thought "really? so.. it wasn't bad as they show it on tv?" turned out, it was!
Most trains, buses, highways were resumed to normal in just a few days to few weeks. It was Friday, On next Monday, surprisingly most of us made it to the office and were working, with additional workload that derived from the quakes. First one month from 311, the record says we had 600 shakes or so (maybe way more? pls refer to scientifically proven ones if you want) and we still have minor (M2-3) ones from time to time.

This horrible incident surely made a huge mental impact on us, including myself. how? One of my friend were going to buy a house -> decided not to! Single ppl -> more energy to look for the partners to be with. To me, hmmm.. I guess I appreciate every minute spending with the loved ones. It's precious. And, be more giving, helping, kind to the ppl in need. I should be appreciate by not suffering from this incident (only 5 glasses
broken!) so being healthy and able, I should help those who in need. With limitation, I'd like to contribute as much.