Turning Japanese Again, Returning to Canada

I can’t even call this a “last day”. Yesterday, really, was our last day. Today is the packing/travelling day.

And the day to say goodbye to dear friends. I hate leaving friends behind.

Chris is one of my dearest, closest friends. (Of course, you already know that.) When he moved to Japan almost two years ago, it hurt to have him leave. When Therese and Stuart moved to Montreal, it was hard to handle. But as I stood in the doorway of the train today, I looked back at my friend — my brother — and wondered when I will see him again.

There is never enough time. Too many things happening, and too much distance separating us. I miss living with Chris. I miss the knowing glances and mouthed expressions we could give each other that conveyed meaning on a level only we knew.

But such is life. Life is change, life is motion. It has to continue, lest life stop.

Chris didn’t come to the airport with us, but Kaz was kind enough to guide us. When we arrived, we’d found that our flight time had changed. We had originally been booked for an 18:35 departure, but had been rescheduled for a 15:30 departure … or so I’d thought. The boards read a 17:15 departure, so I began to wonder if Air Canada had changed the times on us again, and not informed us. In retrospect, I think we’re okay, but I’m not 100% on that yet.

Normally, a chance in flight times wouldn’t worry me. But I have to catch a flight in Calgary to take me to Kelowna, and I can’t afford to miss that flight. At the time, I started to worry. I had based my flight from Calgary on the changed (and perceived) time of 15:30. If we were now leaving Japan later, I might not make my Kelowna flight.

Either way, we were at the airport far too early to determine what was going on, so it was just a matter of waiting. Putting the bags into storage (we had almost two hours to wait until we could check in), we went in search of lunch.

One of the restaurants offered beef don, or a relative facsimile thereof. Jen was dying for beef, so this is where we went. Kaz and I had more traditional Japanese meals. It was a way of using up the remaining 2,000 yen I still had. (As it turns out, not such a wise move, since we had to pay to get the bags back, which was 1,500 yen.)

We did a bit of shopping. Well, looking around, anyway. The only thing we really needed to buy still was a bottle of sake for Uncle Mike. But Terminal 2 really didn’t offer anything particularly interesting. And as we had time to kill, anyway, we went over to Terminal 1.

I finally figured out why I’d been so disoriented when we arrived two weeks ago. Last year, I came in at Terminal 1, which I think is a lot nicer than Terminal 2. It was quite clear when we got close enough to see inside.

We returned to Terminal 2 to check in. This is when we got another nasty bit of news: Jen and I were not sharing the same flight coming from Vancouver to Calgary. We had set it up that way so we didn’t have to worry about the flight. In fact, there supposedly weren’t any available seats at all on the flights and we didn’t really have reservations. I urged them to correct that sitation, but the best we could get was two flights over three hours apart. This is something I’ll have to sort out in Vancouver.

Once checked in, we had to start heading to the flight. Kaz walked us to the security gate, where we had to say goodbye to her. Kaz and Jen had grown close (mostly as a result of yesterday’s rather interesting shopping spree). Kaz is my best friend’s wife. I don’t know her nearly as well as perhaps I should, but if she’s able to capture his heart, I know I will miss her as much as I miss him.

The flight boarded only a few minutes later than scheduled, but far in advance of us departing the gate. The flight isn’t completely full, so is rather comfortable. Hopefully, the flight will be a short one, so we don’t have to sit down for too long.

Jen and I chuckled a bit at the first movie. Not just because it is a funny movie, but because it was very appropriate for all the Japanese/English mishaps we’ve had throughout our trip.

“Lost in Translation.”


The plane arrived more or less on time. We hustled from the plane, bypassing many of the passengers (they were taking the escalators, we took the adjoining stairs) and getting into the immigration line. We had to go through Canadian Immigration in Vancouver before heading to Calgary.

This was the only time — only time — throughout the entire trip that someone asked my relation to Jen in an official capacity. I had legal documents on me that stated that I was Jen’s legal guardian, but never had to show them to anyone. Even the clerk at Immigration didn’t ask to see them, but said that I might have to show them.

I never had to.

We had to collect our bags and go through Customs (which amounted to them taking our form of Declaration, not even saying “thank you”) and check them in again for our connecting flight.

It was the connecting flight that was a bit of an issue. As you might recall, we found out at Narita airport that Jen and I were not on the same flight. This had me mildy irked, because we were supposed to be on the same flight. It’s not that I didn’t trust Jen to get back to Calgary on her own, but I was supposed to be her legal guardian, and wanted to make sure she got back to her parents.

Fortunately, the flight I was on was not completely full, and the Air Canada clerk was reasonably certain that Jen would be able to get on the flight. She set Jen up as stand-by, and even checked her bag to Calgary (so even if Jen didn’t make it, her bag would). With that, we went off to our gate.

I got pulled over at security again. I always seem to get pulled over in North America. It’s all my freaking electronics. Japan didn’t care. Maybe they’ve got better technology. I mean, they’ve got vending machines that will take bills upside down, backwards, and probably crumpled beyond recognition. They’ve gotta have better scanning machines than we do.

At the gate, after giving the clerk a few minutes, we asked if Jen could get on the flight, and if it was possible if we could sit together. The clerk, originally seeming a little harsh, turned out to be quite congenial, and settled our last hurdle quite easily.

At that point, I called Aunt Brenda. (I had my cell phone with me for in-Canada communications upon my return.) I let her know we were on the 12:00 (PST) flight from Vancouver, getting into Calgary around 14:30. She was quite happy to hear we’d be home soon, and said she’d meet us there.

The flight was quite hot. Unlike our A340 plane, our little A320 was quite warm, even with the air vents cranked all the way open. But it didn’t really matter. Soon, we’d be at home. Thankfully, the flight went quickly (that happens when you sleep for half of it … or all of it, in Jen’s case), and soon we were exiting Gate A to the awaiting arms of Uncle Mike, Aunt Brenda, and Nana.

Now, you’d think at this point that I’d be somewhat relieved to unload the responsibility for handling Jen back to her parents, right? Not really. It was at that point that I realized that Jen hadn’t really been that hard to handle. Aside from having to curb her manga-buying sprees, and encouraging her to see more things (which was more trouble than I would have thought), she was very easy to get along with. But then, we already had a good relationship.

Jen immediately became a chatterbox, telling Brenda and Nana about the trip — almost entirely randomly-selected portions — while Mike and I exchanged a few thoughts about my perspective. All this while waiting for the bags to come out. Then it was back to their place to unload.

Now, dear reader, this is where this tale should end. But it doesn’t. While Jen’s journey was over, mine still had a bit left to it. I had another flight to catch. I’m now in Kelowna. Why would I be coming to Kelowna? Two words:

David Bowie.

Remember when I said that if David Bowie was returning to Canada anytime soon that I’d go to see him? I wasn’t kidding. A couple of months ago, during my only sick day of the year (so far, anyway), Tamara had burst into my room in a near state of ecstacy because David Bowie was playing in Kelowna. In an auditorium that holds only 5,000 people.

Naturally, we were going.

This was after I’d booked my flights to Japan and back, and had Jen booked in. This meant I had to catch another flight from Calgary to Kelowna. With WestJet, not a particularly huge deal. (The flight cost about as much as the ticket to David Bowie, at least before adding on all those ridiculous taxes.)

I passed out in my chair on the plane (an aisle seat) mere moments after doing up my seat belt. I vaguely remember the word “juice”, and awoke only when the plane slapped the tarmac at Kelowna. I dozed until the plane finally stopped. I was soon met by my roommate Tamara, her boyfriend Dan, and her friend Andrea. (They’d driven out earlier in the day.)

Our first stop was the White Spot, a BC-favourite for restaurants. Not one of mine (don’t really care for the place), but it was food and it was cheap. That was enough for me. Then it was to the hotel (the Royal Anne Hotel, situated in beautiful downtown Kelowna, a mere block from the lake, and four blocks from Prospera Place, the site for tomorrow’s David Bowie concert) to dump the bags.

We went bar-hopping, in search of something fairly decent. The sad part is that most of Kelowna’s downtown has either really seedy biker bars (read: strip clubs, and we all know how much I like those places) or yuppie pubs. We weren’t thrilled by any of them. We finally gave up around 21:00 and went back to the hotel.

I shaved off two weeks’ worth of beard (much to my delight — the damn thing was driving me crazy) while Tamara and Andrea watched “Princess Bride” on the TV. Dan had already passed out. The four of us were asleep before the movie was over (and we only came in halfway-through).

God knows I needed the rest.