It’s go time.
The flight for the Canadian Women’s National Team and staff didn’t leave until almost two-thirty in the afternoon but we were all up pretty early getting things organized and packed up into a few vans and taking off from the hotel four-and-a-half hours ahead of time to fight through traffic from Surrey to Vancouver and get all of our international dealings done and over with.
I showered and finished packing and unplugging all of my freshly-charged devices in time to take my stuff to the vans before most people got there. It didn’t take long to get everything in and we were soon on our way in a caravan of three vehicles for almost an hour trip to the airport.
There, we added our party of almost 30 people to the already-long lineups for everything. When I finally got through the first luggage lineup, my bag was overweight (of course). Thankfully, Cindy Saavedra – right-handed relief pitcher – was next to me and had extra room in her baseball bag. My camera was at the top of my suitcase, so I pulled it out and handed it over, and with the loss of that and my hairdryer, we were all good to go. Basically, she saved my life.
While half of the members of our party waited for the other half to get their luggage through, a few of us went to the currency exchange office at the airport. I am sure we probably took a large stash of the Japanese yen they keep because everyone was looking for some. I had already purchased a little bit at the kiosk at Masonville Mall in London, just to see what it was like, but I got some more at the airport. The exchange rate was better, but they charge commission so it evened itself out on the savings.
After some complicated decision-making, the team and staff decided we would grab some food to eat on the other side of airport security, making sure we got through first before we did anything else. Wise choice, I would say.
As I went through the pre-screening area of the security line, I was once AGAIN flagged. The customs agent, or whoever they are, also grabbed Vanessa Riopel – a righty starter from Quebec – because she was in line behind me, so he let us “stay together.” Sorry, Vanessa. He wanded us down and went through our carryon bags, but this time he actually let us go and it ended up being faster than if we had waited in the regular line. We zoomed right up to the front, unlike that time I tested positive for explosives. Yeah, that.
We smiled and waved at the rest of the team as we walked past them, laughing at their inquisitive faces. But then we had to wait for them before we went to eat and made our next move anyway, so it really didn’t matter at all. Not one bit.
The majority of Baseball Canada’s passengers – myself included – opted for lunch at Milestones, where they happened to be serving a lovely brunch. I sat with Cindy and Bradi Wall – Team Canada’s shortstop, originally from Swift Current, Saskatchewan – and we all ordered brunch food. We tried to do so as fast as possible so that we would get ours first, but it really didn’t end up working out that way. While we were sitting, waiting, and getting to know each other a little better, they mentioned they were enjoying all of the pictures I was taking and posting on Facebook of the team, so that made me feel a little great, obviously.
Our food took a while, but we had time to stop at Tim Horton’s before our plane took off. Some of the other women wanted to get coffees and things of that nature but I grabbed an extra bagel and a muffin just in case I wasn’t into the food on the plane. This would turn out to be a good choice, in addition to the stellar move I made before we left Moxie’s, taking the extra individual packets of peanut butter at our table. Genius.
I also made a pitstop at the Duty Free shop to get some Canadian goods to bring to Scott Mathieson when we go to the Yomiuri Giants game in Tokyo against the Hanshin Tigers. I purchased maple syrup in a maple bottle plus some vanilla and chocolate maple cookies. And then I might have also purchased a small bottle of vodka, just because the glass it’s in is shaped like a skull and I thought it was cool. I am an impulse buyer and I understand that to be one of my faults.
It wasn’t long before we were loading ourselves onto the plane. I was on an aisle in the middle row, but quickly moved to the aisle of a side row beside rookie Kelsey Lalor when I saw it was empty. As soon as I switched seats, I saw that three seats in the row behind me were empty all next to each other, so I moved again and sat there so I could stretch out if I wanted to. The guy at the other side of the row of four seats probably wasn’t too impressed, but whatever. We each had at least two to ourselves. The plane seemed really nice though, and Japan Airlines had individual pillows, blankets, television sets, toothbrushes, you name it. It reminded me of flying Qantas to Australia, which I enjoyed very much.
As we started to take off, I put on the movie Transcendence, not knowing anything about it. I fell asleep about 20 minutes in, though I wouldn’t determine that until later. When I woke up – figured out later that it was a little under an hour’s worth of naptime – a Japanese flight attendant was asking me to choose my meal, by pointing at one of two pictures.
I chose, and ended up with a bottle of water (drank that), a normal-looking salad and dressing (gave that to one of the players) a fruit cup (also gave that away), some sort of weird pasta salad-like mixture with a slice of what appeared to be ham folded on top into a triangle (couldn’t give that away), a tiny portion of plain noodles with a tiny plastic bottle labelled ‘Noodle Sauce’ (ate that), and a rice/carrot/green bean/chicken mix that I think they called chicken cattiatore (tried it, ingested some of it). Then the bagel, peanut butter and muffin came out. They were all good choices.
After dinner, or whatever meal it was supposed to be, I went back to Transcendence and tried to figure out where I had left off. Rewinding the movie helped me deduce how long I had been asleep and when I first passed out.
While I watched my movie, I went to work finishing my story on the team’s rookies and moving onto some catching up on my blogging. I might not have had my full attention on the film, but it was a little bit weird for me. When it finished, I put on Spiderman 2 and continued to work while half watching. I waited after the movie’s credits to see if there would be any additional scenes or previews for another movie, but if there is, they don’t have them on the plane version. When that was done, there was still almost four hours left in the flight and so I continued to work. My third and final go-to movie was The Other Woman. The choices were limited and I wasn’t really watching the films anyway so it was a good enough pick for what I needed it to do. I finally got through a couple of blog posts, so I could add pictures and set them free on the Internet when we landed.
I started to get really tired with just an hour left in the flight but couldn’t sleep. I no longer had any idea what time it was or what time my body might have thought it was, or what I should have been doing in that moment if I hadn’t flown across the world. I tried to stay hydrated because I heard that would help me with jet lag, something I am terrible at dealing with, but I had no idea if it would work.
After leaving Vancouver at two-thirty in the afternoon on Friday, we arrived in Tokyo at four-thirty in the afternoon on Saturday. Just before our arrival was when I realized I had somehow missed almost two full days of story opportunities, not posting anything Friday or Saturday. But then somehow it was also only Friday night at home so I really only missed one day. It’s all very confusing.
We had to fill out customs forms before we landed and I really had no idea whether or not I had done mine correctly, but I figured it would be good enough because there would be other people in the same boat as me right in front of me in line throughout the process. When we went through customs we had to give our fingerprints and let them take a head shot before we picked up our luggage.
I’d been told that the best place to get portable wifi was at the airport so after we had all gathered our belongings and before we hopped on the bus to travel to Kazo City from Tokyo, I tried to have a look around to purchase what I needed. I talked to one person who spoke a little bit of English but I couldn’t deduce if he knew what I was looking for and actually had it to sell to me or not. I opted out of purchasing with reassurance from our group that we would find Internet elsewhere.
After a more-than-10-hour flight I am sure what everyone wants to do is go on a several-hour bus ride, so that’s exactly what we did, though a couple of hours on the bus isn’t as bad as when Team Canada was last in Japan and had to take an eight-hour bus ride after the same flight. So we were in good shape.
Well, minus the fact that I was allergic to Japan. From the moment we stepped out into the airport and onto the bus, I could not stop sneezing. There were barely any breaks between the sneezes, although occasionally there was one long enough for me to ask around for a tissue or just wipe my face on my sleeve. This is usually the time of year when I experience the effects of some allergies, but I thought with the different climate that I might not have a problem. Plus, my ‘allergies’ only started a couple of years ago so I don’t really know how they work yet. In the end, my sneezing became one big joke on the bus, and despite the fact that I was panicking inside without any allergy medication or anything to get me through the next two-and-a-half weeks, out loud I laughed.
Between sneezes, I snapped a few pictures from the bus on my phone, not the greatest-quality photos I’ve ever taken but they will suffice for posts such as this one.
I’m honestly not really sure how long the bus ride took, both because I was tired and sneezing nonstop, but also because every few minutes someone would ask how much further or longer and someone else would tell us it would be about 15 more minutes and/or 15 more kilometres. It obviously wasn’t true every single time. We learned later that our driver was a little bit confused and we actually missed the first place we were supposed to stop at (I think…we were all confused), but eventually we landed at a mall with a food court.
I didn’t know what I was doing – obviously – so I followed some other people around until something looked decent and they stopped for it too. Sean O’Brien, the team’s third base coach, and manager Andre Lachance stopped for sushi so I thought I would try that out with them too. It was cool because the sushi rolled around the tables on conveyor belts and you just grabbed whatever you wanted off of it. The restaurant charged everyone at the end by the colour and number of plates left at your table.
Plus, there were sushi trains. If you ordered something off of the menu that wasn’t already coming around on its own, they sent it to your table on a sushi train. It was awesome. We wouldn’t have even known that was an option but the table behind us kept ordering things from the train, and I am so glad they did. So of course, we had to order something too, and I tried to be ready enough to get a video of it. I got a short one.
The food was awesome and incredibly cheap. I think for the three of us to be stuffed full, it was about 17 dollars in total. And apparently there is no tipping in Japan, just like Australia, though I had a hard time with that at first.
We all loaded our bus back up to head to Kazo Center Hotel. I was looking forward to getting access to some wifi to upload stories and pictures and all kinds of stuff. It took a while to get our keys sorted out and to get everyone up to their rooms. There was one tiny elevator at the hotel and everyone obviously had a lot of stuff. I took the stairs and immediately ran into some giant cockroaches, so off to a great start for sure.
Then I got to my room.
We each had our own, but that was pretty much essential because they were so small. I suspected they would be because this is Japan after all, but I try to paint an accurate picture for anyone who wasn’t in my room with me. I couldn’t open my suitcase anywhere other than on the bed, because that was the biggest space in the room. There was a desk with a TV and enough room for me to roll the stool out from under it to sit at the desk and get work done, which was lovely. Other than that, there was nothing else. A teeny tiny fridge was under the desk also.
The bathroom was efficient. The side of the tub/shower was really high though and I banged my knee every time I tried to step in. A few other people we were travelling with also had trouble with this, and banging their knees on the sink. It was a tight space. I took some pictures but I’m not sure if they really get the idea across.
At first I couldn’t find the air conditioning, but someone helped me with that. It was on the headboard. I also wasn’t sure how the faucet and shower worked because they shared a nozzle, but eventually I got that too. Also, my sneezing stopped, so things were really rolling at this point.
The biggest problem was the lack of Internet. There was no wifi at the hotel and according to a conversation I had with the people at the front desk through our lovely translator Rena, there was none anywhere close to where we were either. I was told we were out “in the country”. So I had a minor panic attack.
I talked to Andre and tried to figure something out and he told me to ask Hiroko, who was meeting with Penny. I believe Hiroko is the business manager for the Japanese women’s team, but she has been great with Canada in the past and helped to plan the team’s exhibition games and trip to the country prior to the World Cup. I found them and Hiroko gave me her personal Internet connection. I didn’t understand at first but it’s basically like walking around with the wifi you have at your house all the time. She rents it by the month and was kind enough to share it with me.
I was sad to let it go at the end of the night, but I didn’t have to. Hiroko told me I could take it for the time being and give it back to her afterward. She must have seen the desperation on my face. Even with the Internet issue solved, I ran into some trouble posting my first story from Japan, on the squad’s four rookies. I was emailing Adam nonstop and eventually it made its way up to the website and can be found here, but not without me pestering a lot of people.
Not off to the best start, but maybe some solid rest on a tiny, incredibly hard bed will do the trick.