Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Second verse, same as the first

(Mom and Gary do Japan: Day 2)

An early wakening took us on a long walk to see my school, and back home for showers and a delicious breakfast of omelets and fresh fruit salad. Still 640 degrees in my apartment, Gary and Mom found the positive in my excellent showering facilities and my delicious breakfast-making skills.

And then we left the house.

The cab ride was uneventful, and the first train ride too. But, I knew the day was going to be disaster when Mom said, 'So, where do we change our money at?'

Uh... yeah. Of all the things that I FORGOT to tell Mom and Gary to do (and of all the things that I take advantage of knowing as a seasoned traveler) is that if you don't know much about your country, just to be safe, you always exchange some or all of your money at the airport. Japan is a perfect example of why to do this, as we could not find a money exchange place anywhere between my house and the most major train station in Nagoya. Which effectively put my parents on a train, about to travel halfway across Japan, without a spendable cent in their pockets.

This led to an uncomfortable discussion between Gary and myself and the Shinkansen ticket seller that went something like this:

Train guy: (in Japanese): There is a money exchange place somewhere nearby.
Gary (at the same time): Is there a place nearby?
Wendy (angrily trying to keep her calm, and not being able to believe that Gary had forgotten the getting-lost-debacle from the previous night, and remembering that the tickets we have just purchased leave in 22 minutes): Do you know how to get us there? Are you going to lead us?

(later I apologized)

As in any problem solving situation, the facts were reconsidered, plans b and c were made, and the money problem was (semi-) solved.

But then...

As we got into the train station to transfer Mom and Gary's Japan Rail Pass vouchers into Rail Pass tickets (which lets them travel throughout the country for free, and is something I'm not able to get, nor do I know much about), the two of them were dragged out of the ticket purchasing line and taken to the Rail Pass transfer line. I waited in the purchase line still, hoping they would complete the transfer before it was my turn to buy the tickets, but no luck. And then, of course, as soon as I got to the window and was told to step back in line until my parents, with their passes, were also there, they finished their pass exchange, and came on over. To the back of the line we went.

Then....

When we got to the counter, we realized that Mom and Gary's rail pass did not allow for us to take the most direct train for our three-hour ride to Hiroshima, but that instead, we would be required to switch one time. Which wouldn't have been a problem if you could read the bloody timetable. Which, of course, was in Japanese. So, back to the help desk for a transfer question which was answered by two good-looking Japanese men whose only faults were making me speak Japanese for half of the conversation before admitting that they spoke English. Jerks.

The first train was easy and effortless and we landed at our transfer station right on time.

But then...

Because of the nature of our tickets, the second train ride was to be non-reserved seats, which means everyone and their mothers crams into the first three cars (so pray to God that you get a seat). I thought I was clever to find the shortest line possible to stand in, assuring we'd get a seat, which we did, until I realized that there was a reason that the line for car 2 was quite short. And, so, for the rest of the 90 minute ride to Hiroshima, we sat in a car full of sick, smelly, Japanese smokers (and one crying baby who obviously wasn't a smoker either). Needless to say, that train ride was not as enjoyable.

Other memorable highlights of the day:

Planning our whole day around the baseball game in the evening, only to be dressed and walking out the door when we realized that the game was not for tonight, but tomorrow night.

Reading brochures during dinner and finding out that one of the biggest fireworks displays in all of the country is set to go off in two days, one day after we leave.

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The moral of the story: sometimes it's just best to not leave the house.

1 comment:

NIK said...

Okay...I am SOOOO far behind on reading your blogs. But, I read this one and I felt frustrated for you.