Sunday, September 25, 2011

Commuting, Crossing the Line and Tokyo

I have been remiss, not by intent, but by default. My commute to New York's JFK airport is a time eater. These past few seasons Mother Nature has shown her power with persistent thunderstorms, an east coast earthquake and hurricane. I guess I didn't realize how much chaos that could throw into commuting to another city by plane. It seems that every time I think I have cracked the commuting code, it changes. Who needs crossword puzzles to keep the mind astute? Just commute. I used to ask people what it was like to make the commute from Boston to New York. I also wondered what it was like to then fly to far away places after that trek. Crossing the state line is much different than crossing the International Date Line. Add the 2 together and it gets enigmatic. How can it be explained and understood? Well...on a typical flight to Tokyo I start my day from the Boston area at about 11:30 am to get to NY for my 7:20pm flight to Tokyo. There are a lot more options flying into NY from Boston if you take the shuttle into LaGuardia Airport then cab it over to JFK.
Sounds crazy, I know, and sometimes I think it is. It is a trade off of stress. You're pretty sure you'll get there, but you have to add the NYC cab ride stress into the mixture. I like to give myself backup flights in case the weather or any other issue pops up. That means I usually arrive at JFK 4 hours early. After signing in for my trip I get on the plane and do the usual checks. Most often I am the purser, which includes briefings with the captain and then the crew. The flight plan is 13 hours long each way. And there is a 13 hour time difference. On this trip we left at 7:20 pm Friday evening and arrived Tokyo at 10:30 pm Saturday night. Now that is a mind bender. Your body just doesn't know what to do and when. And neither does your mind. Good thing we have a flight path on our video monitors to tell us where we are and where we are going. Our flight leaves JFK airport and travels toward the north pole. We serve 3 meals on the flight and since it leaves in the evening and arrives in the evening, they are all a lunch or dinner or breakfast. Where did the morning go? We crossed the line....the International Date Line. Our flight path goes east to west and north until we approach Japan. Coming back to the US we leave in the morning, and arrive in the morning so we serve breakfast all day...or is it all morning? Coming back we left Monday morning and arrived Monday morning. Yikes! You just really have to throw all concepts of time out of the window and just here now. The video flight path helps to keep it real. Looking out the window we see the lights of the Japanese fishing boats in formation down below. They almost look celestial. Then we see the blurred lights of Tokyo as we make our approach.When we land in Tokyo it is evening. After deplaning, we go through customs and obtain our temporary visa or shore pass as it's called. The ride to the hotel is about half an hour, and sleep is now in sight. I unpack and settle into my room but, after the long flight and time change, it is not a good idea to make important decisions. Does the toilet really need controls on it? And the TV remote is only barely decipherable to my tired western eyes. Phew!After checking email, I get ready for the long awaited sleep. My flashlight sits on my bedside table with shoes close by just in case my wake up call isn't the phone, but a swaying of the highrise hotel. We are, after all, in the Ring of Fire, the earthquake zone. The reality is unsettling, but fear is not my friend. The next morning it is luckily my phone that gives me the wake up call at 9 am. Our hotel presents us with a complimentary buffet breakfast as we look out over the Yokohama Bay. It is a lavish spread of western and eastern foods. I dine on a fusion of my own making by sprinkling seaweed and edamame over my scrambled eggs. The coffee is good and strong and plentiful. The day is ready to begin. It has been as hot as Hades outside with high humidity. Sunglasses, sunscreen, and a fan get tucked inside my bag beside my yen. A group of us decide at breakfast to go to a Japanese garden. Hurricane Irene is raging against the Northeast US, so 2 other crews are stuck for days since all have flights cancelled going into the states. Each 777 crew has 11 flight attendants and 4 pilots, and on this day there were 45 of us at the hotel. Usually it is only 1 crew at a time at the hotel. Organized, we hop on a bus to the outskirts of town to Sankeien Gardens. They are traditional Japanese gardens built and designed by Sankei Hara, who was a Japanese silk trader, and encompass 175 square meters of calm and beauty. As we walk toward the garden entrance there are small shops with local goods. We enter the gardens and notice a bin of parasols to help shield the hot midday sun. Very civil....and welcome as we walk around taking it all in. There are paths and pagodas. Bamboo and boats. And a lounging cat to remind us to stop and take a break before we return to town. Back to Yokohama we go as the day begins to close. Some of us reconvene for dinner at a local noodle house. We are greeted with a cold glass of ice tea as we sit down. I order a bowl of Ramen noodles as I sip my tea. The hot dumplings and bowls of ramen noodles arrive to the waiting addition of spices and condiments already on the table. There is a garlic press to squeeze fresh garlic in the bowl and crocks full of I'm not sure what, but I delve in anyway! I still dream of this warm, soothing and flavorful food. Every good day must come to an end and even the city prepares for sleep. The next morning brings us back to the airport at dawn. Taking off my shoes as I go through security, I am presented with a pair of slippers. This city and airport are the cleanest I've ever seen. A reverence and respect is given to that process. We return our shore passes and board and load our aircraft to head back to the US. The gentlemen giving us clearance, wave and bow as our 777 releases the brakes and pushes back for taxi. You always feel it is a privilege to be here and you are made to feel like the privilege is all theirs. So now we are off to cross the line again, but this time we gain our day back. Now that is my kinda math! After serving breakfast all day, New York is within reach again. We land at 7 am to calm skies in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. Home in Boston is looking good. It is 1:30 in the afternoon before I walk in my door and remove my watch with the spinning hands, and put up my feet. Now, where are my slippers?!

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Deana Sidney said...

I think Japan is just the best. I am mad for the food and the architecture and gardens and the people are wonderful. I think I walked 100 miles in Kyoto visiting all the temples... how else could I have lost weight eating everything in sight!!!

Thibeault's Table said...

Now that was a post well worth waiting for.

Diane, I have so missed your guided tours.

Looking forward to your next adventure.


linda said...

exhilarating & exhausting @ the same time!

i look forward to one day making the trip to japan & seeing all the beauty that you have shared with us.

La Table De Nana said...

I cannot believe the whirlwindish nature of your post and life:)

You must know..I am envious of your energy and capability of doing this..
One of my daughters ran 1/2 the MTL marathon today w/ her hubby.. 21 kms.. took her 2 hrs he 3..ap..
I admire them and you:)

Love the pics..the idea of a garlic press at the table..Love that.
You must be shopping your little prop brains out too..I hope so!

How exciting this all is and the photos are superb.
Thank you.
Take care~

2 Stews said...

Deana...I am jealous that you have been to Kyoto. Japan is a very special country. I was able to visit temples in Tokyo and can only hope to make it to other cities. Count yourself among the fortunate.

Ann...Thank you and sorry I had such a long break. It wasn't planned that way. I go to Paris on Tuesday and Rome on Sunday. Hoping to have more adventures to share :-)

Linda...Yes, it is all you described! It is a long trip, but well worth it if you can make it. Summer is hot...cherry blossoms in springtime sound good. That was my plan this past spring, but unfortunately the disaster struck. They are still recovering. Air conditioning is sparse, but good spirits are plenty. Bon chance!

Monique...Wow, congrats to your daughter and son-in-law!! I could never run a marathon and so admire those who do. I mainly shop for local food items and not much else. My life is full of abundance and all I really need is more time...but like many of us, I'm not sure how that will ever happen!

Good week to all...thanks for visiting, and thanks, too for all of the wonderful emails I've received. They, and you are a blessing!


Restaurants In Brighton said...

Beautiful ! The Pictures are really good & mesmerizing. Lovely.