Saturday, June 11, 2011

(not so) Alone in Narita

Arrived at Narita Airport around 8:30am (with slight time change) and headed out. I have an 7 hour layover. My goal - to go to Tokyo. I calculated it carefully yesterday. A train into the city takes an hour and a half, so lets call that 2 hours to be on the safe side. So that leaves 4 hours. Minus 2 hours to be at the airport 2 hours in advance for an international flight. That leaves 1 hours. I can do this, and I'm feeling less tired that I thought I might after the red eye from Bangkok.

However, when I get to the train, a very nice woman who works there and who speaks really good English (incidentailly from living in Daly City for a while) explains that although my calculations were correct, I did not take into account the train's schedule, which I guess I just assumed ran more frequently. When that was factored in I would have closer to 45 minutes without buffer time AND be well past my 2 hour before hand deadline. It was impossible.

She could sense my disappointment, but suggested I go check out Narita (where she was from) guaranteeing that it was "very Japanese." I didn't want Japanese, I wanted The Future - but anything beats 7 hours at an airport, and as I said I wasn't even feeling that dead yet.

So off to Narita. I found to my dismay in the real airport beyond the duty free, that my credit card was not acceptable. Luckly my little coffee drink could be paid for by US cash, of which i had $5, and got the exact right amount of Yen for the train back as change.

Stepping out, Narita was so quiet. I realized for the first time how relatively loud Thailand is, probably because of all the motorcycles everywhere. Perhaps also because I was traveling with my Mom and bro, so I haven't been alone for long for a while. There is a Temple here, my Daly City friend had told me, so I would get something to eat (there were bakeries everywhere), and head over to see it and sit in the adjoining park and rest in the fresh air before going back to airport land. I thought...

The same problem of having a US card persisted. I had hoped not to have to change money, for my 3 hour stay in Japan, but it seemed now that I had no choice. I needed water and food and more caffeine, but even without these, I needed a train back. Where was the nearest ATM I could use? Unclear, but as I understood it it involved a bus, or better yet - there was always the airport.

I was beginning to feel very alone and how futile this excursion was proving to be. When I was turned down at yet another store, a young woman took pity on me and told me that an ATM in town that could take my card was at the post office. She explained the directions, which were very complicated. Then looked at my now, much more tired face, and, as if reading my mind, pulled out a piece of paper and wrote my destination on it so I could ask others for help when I fell off track.

Which I did several times, my most notable of helpful townspeople being a little aging lady dog walker who walked with me for a few blocks back the blocks I overshot, telling me about her daughter who lived in New York.

Make it to the post office to find it closed. Why? Oh yeah, its Sunday. I ask again, and the 711 is my new destination. To make a long story short, I did get some cash and headed to see if I could find an internet cafe. I ask some "young people" who pointed me toward McDonalds. Okay. Went to McDonalds, and on their porch I tried again. There were some more "young people" hanging out there, and I felt like I was starting to get delirious because I could understand what they were saying - but it wasn't English. Either way this internet wasn't going to happen so maybe they could help.

No - they couldn't, because no one spoke English. Then I asked - Espanol? Yes, that's what it was. They were a group of students, two Japanese and two from Peru. They took an interest in me right away, and rather than indulge my interest in getting online, the offered me a tour, they would take me to the Temple.

So somehow I had stumbled into my own personal tour guide (the leader who stayed with me after the rest pealed away), who (entirely in Spanish) answered all my questions about the Narita, the Temple, Tokyo, Japanese Culture, and filled me in on where the chillest cities in South America were and what it was like to be Latino in Japan. When I made my way back to the train and tried to buy a ticket, languages were completely mixed up in my head. I think I am wearing out.

Oh! and he bought me a shaved ice. For those of you who know me, you know my latent passion for snow cones, so the was the icing on the cake. (That metaphor feels mixed, but I don't thing it is)

My new friend (we have already connected on "the face") will show me around Tokyo next time I come - for longer and definitely must be in August, which he and his friend must have told me about 2 dozen times, is the best time to come.

Meanwhile - don't ever get stuck in Narita International. Somehow I just end up having a $40 Sushi lunch. It was good - but not that good. I am tired not (Kirin). I believe this concludes my posts on this travel blog. Thanks for reading.

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