Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day 1: If it can go wrong, it will

My motto for the day was to be positive; stay in a good mood and just roll with the punches! Whatever happened, happened, if it was out of my control then I might as well just make the best of it and not let it ruin my mood. Well, that was the plan. And it even worked, for a while.

Stop one: SeaTac. I guess I packed too much... Kind of a girl thing. Delta has a weight limit for luggage, and that weight limit was 25lbs below what my suitcase weighs. I was told that the fees for a bag that overweight would run me $200 - each way. The lady was thankfully quite friendly and suggested I run downstairs and purchase a separate bag so that I can distribute the weight. Perhaps I should have rolled the suitcase around my apartment a bit before I left, I would have realized what a pain that + a carry on + a heavy camera bag was to drag long distances. SO, got my now two bags checked, and was pleased to learn there was no fee for an extra bag. My bag passed weigh in with a 2 pound margin. This day was starting out just fine!

The flight was great, I actually really enjoyed it! I had a window seat and no one sat next to me so I was able to stretch out and keep comfortable the whole time. Best part was the view. We flew right over the Olympic Mountains so there was a beautiful view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, then all along the west side of Vancouver Island. The Pacific Northwest really is breathtakingly gorgeous, especially from that angle. OH! And I saw a lake that looked like a killer whale!

Once we got further offshore the clouds took over, but cleared as we passed over Russia, which has a pretty unique beauty of its own. Once we started flying over what I figured should be Japan, I looked down and saw a large ship. A twinge of pain shot through my body as I realized that could very well be a whaling or dolphin/porpoise hunting vessel. I proceeded to scrutinize every boat I saw until we landed. Oh, I noticed these pens, which remind me of the dolphin pens in Taiji. Could be for aquaculture (fish farms)?

Then we landed, and that's when the fun began. I must have looked like an idiot by the way, walking around alone with a big smile, taking way too many pictures... Anyways when we got to customs they wanted to know where I would be staying so I wrote the name of the hotel, Charmant, as well as the city, KiiKatsuura. I instantly regretted that decision. I wish I'd thought to look up the name of a hotel in Osaka. As soon as she saw where I was headed she called over an Immigrations Officer who pulled me in a security room. He spoke very little English and got a translator on speaker phone so he could begin to drill me. What was the purpose of my visit? Why KiiKatsuura? Who was I meeting? How did I know them? Where did I work? Where is the Olive Garden located? How much money do I make a month? Then every once in a while the two would converse in Japanese and he'd say pretty much the only thing he knew how to say "We're going to take a break", and walk out of the room for 5 to 10 minutes. This went on for over an hour, and I was terrified. I didn't know how long they were going to keep me there or what the possibilities were. I was also dead tired after having been awake for the past 40 hours. Yeah, I decided not to sleep the night before the flight hoping that I could sleep on the plane, but I had too much adrenaline for sleep. At one point he came back in the room to find me with my elbow on the desk, chin resting in my hand. He swatted my elbow off the desk. Oops, apparently I offended him. Good thing I was afraid he'd throw me in jail, it was the only thing keeping me calm and in line. His final round of questions was much more to the point: what did I know about Taiji, would I be going to Taiji, have I heard of Sea Shepherd, have I ever been to a Sea Shepherd event, blah blah blah. I considered pulling out my Save Japan Dolphins gear just to convince him I wasn't Sea Shepherd, but I wasn't sure that it would really help my cause. Eventually denial won, and he let me go.

At this point I was not only exhausted and flustered, but now I had to find my train station before my train left - being detained hadn't really helped my schedule. Again, I dealt with the ridiculous heft of my luggage. Good thing I was only told to go 3 different places in order to purchase a train ticket! After waiting in the very long line, it was my turn at the counter, and what do I find out? The train I'd planned on taking didn't exist. Neither did my back up, should I miss the first one. And that's when the tears started flowing. The guy at the counter didn't speak much English, but he did know "I'm sorry", which he said over and over again as I tried to, at the very least, delay my breakdown for a more appropriate time. He got me a ticket for the next train to KiiKatsuura, a good 14 hours after I'd planned. I wrestled to get my suitcases out the door, moved a few feet over, sat on the ground, and bawled uncontrollably. I have never felt so alone in my life.

I gave myself a few minutes to let it out, then forced myself to pull it together. As luck would have it, this little meltdown took place right next to the airport hotel, which is where I'm writing to you from, now.

This day is coming to an end and I couldn't be happier for that. Not only is tomorrow a new day, but if bad things really do come in 3's, I should be in the clear.

On a side note, I noticed these hanging at the train station. Wonder what it says - welcome to Japan where we murder and eat dolphins?!

Tune in tomorrow to see how I do navigating the Japanese train system... :)


  1. So glad you're there....well almost. Looking forward to reading these updates. Good luck over there my friend! I'm thinking of you and all the dolphins!

  2. Thinking of you every step of the way ... so wish we could have been there with you last night!!! We'll be as relieved as you once the train is out of the way. Love you :)

  3. Crossing our fingers that your train transfers are easier to navigate than the airport. I'll be working late again if you need anything tonight.

  4. Heather! What an incredible ordeal! That said, you are strong and I know that this will really be an eye-opening experience for you (which means something has got to go wrong along the way!) I'm looking forward to hearing all about your trip and am so proud of you for doing this on your own! :)

  5. We're hoping day two is much better for you. Someday the memory of day 1 will bring a smile to your face, probably not anytime soon though. Your experience and memories will last a lifetime.

  6. I am sorry you had to go through that, that sounds awful. but I guess it was good for you to find out quickly that they are very strict with the whole thing. I wish you the best of luck in fighting for our brothers and sisters.