Pre-Travel Jitters: Haggard Birthday
The day before my flight was my birthday. I spent all day preparing this and that. I had a gimmick with a few friends the night before so I got at my apartment ngarag and so late. When I got at my apartment, I still had to pack my things and clothes to bring so I can carry them at home on the next day (a few hours). I want to spend my birthday at home. At the same time, I want my family to be the ones that I’ll see before I leave for another country. I wasn’t able to sleep anymore because I spent the whole night-morning listing and packing my things. I guess I also have to reply to everybody who are greeting me Happy Birthdays that late.
At 7 in the morning, with only 2 hours of sleep and three heavy bags to carry, I rushed to Ayala to ride a bus going to Alabang.
Back at home, I thought I could at least spend a few hours of sleep but I was wrong. I have to buy some installers for my re-formatted laptop. So I went to Alabang after lunchtime with my office mate Joseph (who didn’t greet me until I finally reminded him) and bought some installers. When I get back, I visited the parlor for some beauty rituals (a waste of time actually, not worth doing for those who prefer rest than vanity). I was sleeping in the parlor while the parlorista was scrubbing my feet. Hehehe. When I got back home, I started the installation and other things… The bad thing about it, the 2nd installer that I bought was defective! I had to go back to the store in the afternoon to return-exchange it. When I get back after my second Alabang trip, I went straight to the church to attend my birthday mass.
I will be meeting one of my mother’s best friends, Ate Sally, there in Japan. Her relatives in the Philippines packed a bag full of pinoy things and foods so I could give the bag to Ate Sally when I get to the airport.
My things… err… well my mother was actually the one who packed for me while I do some laptop stuff. She ironed my clothes, prepared my other clothes and toiletries to bring, and almost everything! Thank you very much mother dear! 🙂
A little nervous, I was traveling alone. I was with my officemates and with some tour guides on my first international flight back in February 2005. So this is really something new. I met Kuya Mario while I was on the line for the luggage check-in in NAIA. He’s an Engineer in Japan. He said that he went home for 2 weeks just to attend to his five year-old daughter who had an accident. He told me that it was very depressing for him and his wife (he petitioned his wife after his third year) not to be there for their three kids when those kinds of accidents and other events happen. After we got our boarding passes, we met another Filipino, who turned out to be our seatmate, bound to Canada (stopover in Tokyo). He is an immigrant in Canada. Unfortunately, after some 5 hours of talk, I failed to ask for his name. He and Kuya Mario were talking about some oil reserves in Canada, about Canada being the second largest, next to the Middle East (I am not sure about this information).
Anyway, in the airplane, I remembered ordering a Red Wine because this Filipino-Canadian man told the stewardess with much conviction,
Stewardess: “Sir, would you like some white wine, red wine or oth…?”
Him: “RED WINE!”
Then I changed my order and told the lady I’d like some red wine too. It sounded like it tasted so good. But I was so wrong. I didn’t like the taste. Maybe I need more practice on drinking red wine.
4 hours flight went shorter when the plane’s starting to land and I saw the view. The excitement went up and I couldn’t remove my sight off the window. The feeling of disbelief of me being dispatched by my company is still there.
After an hour of Narita airport hassles, I met ate Sally and her family (Kinoue Family). They’re Makoto (pronounced as Makuto), her husband; her children – Riki-ya (Likiya), Tomo-ya and Nao-ya. I met them already a few years ago when they visited Philippines. I think I was still in high school back then, the kids were smaller (nao-ya was still a baby).
Ate Sally convinced me to extend my stay up to Sunday since it’s a weekend anyway. She said that she wanted to treat me to Disneyland with the kids. Who could resist that – an all-expense paid Tokyo-Disneyland treat? She also insisted that I should stay at their house after my business trip in Shin Yokohama – another irresistible offer – another all-expense paid (not to mention the series of shoppings and night outs) 5-day stay at their house with her kids and all. So there I was, letting Makoto do the Japanese negotiations with JAL. I was actually anxious about it because I told my boss that I would only extend up to Friday (VL), I am supposed to go back on a Thursday. I still had full of worries.
Ate Sally lent me some things – a digital camera being my most favorite… and a Japanese translator.
The Kinoue Family took me to some airport restaurant – my first taste of Japanese pasta. I thought I was very matakaw and I can carry any type of food but I was hell wrong (see next posts).
Finally at 5pm, I took the limousine bus for a 2-hour (?) trip to Yokohama. I was, again, on my own… and this time, no more Filipinos to talk to. A Taiwanese guy (he was with another Taiwanese friend) took the seat beside me. Good thing I was able to practice my English (and definitely my communication skills) with him. He was also on a business trip. From the YCAT, I took a taxi (I had to show the driver my map because we don’t understand each other).
When I got to the taxi and to the hotel, I took out the digicam ate Sally lent me and took a lot of pictures of myself and the places that I passed through that I consider interesting. I am so thankful for the camera. I really should buy one. What would I do if I had none? It really must be so sad!
At the hotel, I availed the unlimited Internet access because I had to email my boss about my return flight. I am really nervous about that, you know, I am just new in the team and all…
First International Encounters
Training Day 1: At approximately 7 in the morning, I received a call from Doug Meyers (FUJITSU Australia), one of my “classmates” in the training. He was the one who set an appointment for us three (there were only 3 of us in the training) to meet for breakfast at 745 am. We were in the same hotel, Prince Hotel at Shin Yokohama. He really made me at ease with him because he made a funny description of himself. He told me that he looked like Santa Claus!
And I, being unable to control my laughter, wasn’t able to return a funny description of myself.
So I just made a boring description that I have long hair and brown skin. Pretty boring.
Then there, I met Juliano Lao (FUJITSU Brazil), just at the elevator. But we were not aware that we’re co-trainees. We had formally introduced ourselves at the hotel breakfast room. I was still nervous. I worry that I might not understand them, or they might not understand me. That was my first time to communicate with purely international people. I would really just have to rely on my English skills to understand them and for them to understand me. Anyway, my co-trainees were very accommodating and so kind. They’ve been working for quite some years now. They somehow understand my apprehensions. Maybe my actions were really obvious. Coz while waiting for our trainer to pick us up in the hotel, Doug patted me on my back and told me “Relax… Everything’s gonna be fine…” That was really sweet.
Then at 9, we met the Interstage god Akira Yamazaki. I quite have some few impressions about him. I knew that he was really good, and I thought that he is the serious type. But he was so cool. In jeans and plain shirt, and in a very good English, he arrived at the hotel to pick us up.
The 3 day training was really exhausting. You see, I need to extract all the juices that I have from my brain so that I can cope up with the technicality of the training. Fortunately, I was able to carry on.
After the training, Makoto-San fetched me at my hotel and took me to their home. The Home of the Kinoue Family is more like a condominium here in the Philippines. They live at the first floor, and they got a big lot area. They bought the house for the simple reason that their kids are getting older and will be needing more rooms for themselves. The house is cozy. Almost everything is automatic. They don’t have Internet connection yet coz they just moved in. I need to check my mails… So Ate Sally and I, at noon, went to an Internet shop just near them. Haay, it was such a hassle trying to do Internet stuff to some Japanese PC terminals. When I type, the letters turn into Japanese characters! It was such a hassle, good thing, I know the icons and short cut keys so I managed to navigate. After the internet shop, we meet ate Sally’s sister, ate Mischelle (my kumare), and did the favorite part of all, shopping!
Despite the urge to study Interstage (I wanted to take the Certification for a free shuffle!), I really could not resist my host’s (ate shally) invitation to have fun and play bowling after we did our shopping. Disclaimer: I did not spend anything.
I traveled 2 hours all by myself by train to get to Shin Yokohama for the exam. It was exhausting but is worthwhile since, after a lot of drama, I passed the certification exam. I was really happy that time. Juliano was still in Yokohama (Doug already went back home to Australia), so he treated me to lunch, then we said good byes. I think I got lost. Good thing I had my translator that lead me back home to Ate Sally’s house.
This day was spent for another day of shopping.
In the car, while we’re on our way to the mall, we talked about our families. I had lots of reflections back there in the car. And these two people made me think about sad realities of life. That I am luckier coz at least I got the chance to know my parents, and that my parents, through thick and thin, never left us. Unlike them, they have to rely on themselves (they’re four sisters) only coz their parents somehow left them. It’s not yet late. Though it’s really hard for selfish people like me, I’m still hoping I can make a change.
After a few tears, we then resumed our shopping galore. At night, we played billiards, darts and spent hours in a karaoke bar singing Filipino songs…
I have been looking forward for this day since the Kinoue Family will be taking me to Tokyo Disneyland. I woke up so late (what’s new?) in the afternoon, at 12… ate Sally was even later.
Then I thought… we’ll have shorter time now… at almost 1.30 and with ate shally already up, I had this feeling that we’ll not make it to Disneyland since Makoto and the children aren’t getting ready. And yes, it was a goodbye Disneyland experience for me.
I saw Nao-ya and Tomo-ya playing soccer in their field. I was depressed that I didn’t get the chance to at least have my picture taken at Tokyo Disneyland. But when I and Riki-ya joined Nao-ya and Tomo-ya in their soccer game, the sadness just faded away. I had fun playing with the kids (Riki-ya + Nao-ya vs. me and Tomo-ya). We lost. Riki-ya is a good soccer player. Tomo-ya is a good player too, it’s just that he was paired with a soccer loser. Well, Nao-ya is still a kid, but I bet he’s better than me.
Finally we got tired playing. My co-trainee, Doug, told me and Juliano that Japanese people love soccer. In the morning, Japanese kids (and adults I guess) would line up in soccer fields for a slot to play soccer. And he was right, Makoto and his kids love soccer. He even bought a soccer ball (World Cup original from Germany), and a banner of Portugal, also from Germany. Obviously, Makoto is a Portugal Team – fan.
Before 3pm, ate Sally told me to get ready, just dress up… we’ll be meeting ate Mischelle and again, we’re going somewhere.
A Trip to Amazon Forest
In the car, ate Sally and ate Mischelle told me that we’re going to onsen and have sauna baths. I thought it was just like the spa that I know here in the Philippines. But my gut feelings were wrong again. It’s the best part of my trip. Here…
We did all the types of relaxation that my body could carry. First, we get inside to a much more like a public swimming/whatever place for women.
I was shocked. Everyone’s naked! As in everyone! At first me and ate mischelle were covering ourselves with our best friend, the small brown towel. Then ate Sally joked at us in Filipino, she was telling us to look at the women around us, some have big stretch marks, some are fat, some no boobs (seriously flatter than mine!) yet they weren’t embarrassed to show what they have.
And after a few laughs, we finally gave in and bared it all!
Inside, there’s a big Jacuzzi pool. 2 sauna rooms, 2 cold pools, and shower places in the middle. I was a little afraid to try the Jacuzzi since I never tried them at least once in my life. Then there, I tried it… the feeling was very fabulous! (forgive the innocence please)… it was like a nice massage at the back.
Outside, there’s a big hot swimming pool, with bubbles everywhere (much more like a Jacuzzi but not that hot) and a hot rock spring (very hot one).
After a few camera shots (its not allowed but we hid it somewhere and took our sexy shots… hehehe), we went to another part (now with our yellow kimonos on) of the onsen building and got ready for our Sunibaru. I have no idea what that is. I wasn’t able to notice what it’s all about in the picture. Here it goes; first the person in charge there instructed us to wear their special kimono then told us to go inside this big room with a floor of hot sand all over. The crew (two of the family members) made three flat sections drawn like a bed in top view. The three were made for each one of us. The family members told us to lie on our backs there, face up, and hands on our sides. Then they would pour those hot sand to our whole body (except the face) using their shovels (pala). It was like you were being buried alive. It was sooooo freakin’ hot!
Uneasiness overshadows the relaxation that I should be feeling since my face and my whole body (yes including the underarms!) is sweating… and I cannot do anything at all since I cannot move. But they told us that it’s relaxation so I kept on convincing myself that “this is relaxation this is relaxation… hooo sahhh”. I was just singing and humming some songs that don’t exist just to divert my attention from the discomfort.
Finally, after 10 minutes of lying down and breathing in and out, I finally yelled “Sumimasen!!!!!” (means excuse me in english, but at that moment, it meant “save me save meeee”)… and there, the Japanese girla saved me… I had never loved the gentle flow of the air from the big window that much. Ate Sally and ate Mischelle yelled next, but it seems that they didn’t feel that much discomfort as I did.
Final Onsen experiences
We ate at a big auditorium-like room. There’s a stage and low tables and thin pillows everywhere. In the middle of our dinner-merienda, a show started. I didn’t understand any of the show at all since they’re in Japanese, so I insisted to go back to amazon forest. And my mates willingly obliged.
And the last part of my onsen experience, the body scrub… I loved that too! After a few minute-dips in the amazon rivers, we went inside a small room (still within the area). there are two cool half-naked ladies who would scrub your whole body… I liked that part… Anyway, I weighed after everything. In spite of the food I just ate, I still lost 3 kilos. nice!
Makoto arranged a dinner for us at Yakiniku restaurant near their house. So after the onsen, we rushed back to Ibaraki to have dinner with Makoto and the kids and another pinoy, Jessie. Anyway, in my opinion, I like Japan beer better than San Mig light. It’s not that bitter-tasting.
Last Day: Savor the Moments
I told ate Sally that I wanted to wake up as early as possible coz I still want to “savor the moments”. She did not wake me up, I just woke up at almost 8 am.
We played soccer again, this time with Makoto+Nao-ya and Me+Riki-ya. Tomo-ya was out for baseball practice. Another enjoyable and exhausting moment, but again, we lost. I am a soccer loser.
Haay I wanted to post more here. But I guess it’s enough for now, need to recharge and refresh my memory.
pics will be posted later…