Stuck in the Land of the Rising Sun…

Ooopppsss How to make it back to the other side? Photo: seanwhite.net

Ooopppsss How to make it back to the other side? Photo: seanwhite.net

This is the first story of my blog, where chronological order doesn’t exist . This tale take us back to October 2003, precisely 6 years ago. After traveling for 5 months around the globe, it had arrived the time to fly back to America (American Continent!). After one stop of 4 days in Bangkok City, Thailand, we flew to Japan where my nightmare would start.

When I’m traveling I normally forget about many things including that in order to be in transit for 2 hours in certain countries as a Venezuelan citizen I need a visa. As soon as we land in Japan the airline girl at the counter would give me the sweet news that I couldn’t keep traveling, due to the lack of 2 visas in my passport.

Characteristic of Japanese kindness, this girl make some phone calls and rapidly get in touch with the Canadian embassy and find me an appointment for the next week. She shares with me that in this way I will make it to Vancouver as my ticket says but I have to forget about stopping in Houston because in order to get a transit visa to USA it will take about two months.

In this way I say goodbye to the possy that travels with me. Sean gives me some money for my week in Japan and promises to find me a ticket that doesn’t go trough Houston (Japan/Canada/Mexico/Venezuela).  Herminio says goodbye a little bit upset, I guess thinking on the party we could have in Tokyo if he had not visa.

I sit down on a corner at the airport where I’m planing to spend the night. Suddenly I see Sean running toward me. He gives me a paper and says that it is the phone number of the girl from the airline counter,  and tells me to call her at 10pm.

It is still early, around 3 pm, so I decide to look for a place to storage the 100 kilos of baggage that I carry with me. I find the storage, drop the load and then I take a walk around the airport.

In my walk I run into an airline girl that seems Latin American and automatically we say “hi” in Spanish. We start to talk and I share with her my situation. She asks me for my passport, she checks it out, and gives me another sweet new: as a Venezuelan citizen I’m allowed to be in transit in Japan without visa for 2 nights so in order to make it to my appointment I have to leave the country and come back. My best choice the closest country: Korea.

The Japan/Korea airfare round trip is the $1000. This is exactly the amount of money I have in my pocket, so no way I can get this ticket. I stay close to the airline office and few minutes later a new girl shows up. We start to talk, and of course I share with her my problem.  She starts to work at the computer and she offers me one of her companion tickets for $400 which I buy right away.

It is already 10pm so I get in touch with the airline girl who gave her phone number to Sean, and 5 minutes later we meet outside the airport.

In a short chat she explains that they don’t use to invite unknown person to home, and that this could be dangerous for her job but anyways she will do an exception and she will give me shelter while I’m in Japan.  This cool action of my new friend Nakki takes me from sleeping on the floor at the airport to a cozy apartment in Narita City.

After having dinner and sharing couple Sakes, we arrive to Nakki’s, where, of course, everything grows vertically, one of the peculiarities of these islands with short area and with the world’s tenth-largest population. I laid down on the floor and start to chat with Nakki, who has seen great part of the world due to her job in Nippon Airways.  Our conversation takes us from one place to another, meanwhile her cat “Chocolat”, that is as big as a dog and it’s not used to visits, scratches me with no mercy. The next day I wake up on the floor and with more energy. I pack few dirty items on my backpack, take the train to Narita’s Airport and embark on my flight to Seoul, Korea.

Two hours later my plane land on Seoul’s airport. I find a phone and make a reservation in a hostel, and right away and get in the bus to Downtown’s Seoul. It is just 5 pm and there is still some light outside so I decide to get lost in the streets of this metropolis. As soon as the bus exits the freeway and gets stuck in traffic, I get off and start to walk with no specific destination in mind. The crowd that walks by these streets is impressive, well not surprise in a city with more than 10 millions of inhabitants.

Seoul has not escaped from the attack of the big western monsters, here you can find from a cheese burger with fries at the Capital “M” restaurant to the last fashion designs from the Great Apple that contrast with an ancient culture fanatic of Kimchi and colorful kimonos.

I keep walking among the crowd that gets more dense and drifts me toward what it seems to be the main avenue. I realize that we are not just walking on the sidewalk but also we have taken the street. I try to runaway from this massive flow of people but it is too late.

Our pace increases and as soon as we get to the main avenue I understand that I’m part of a huge demonstration. Among banners that I can’t read and a battle-cry that doesn’t sound friendly at all I try to keep myself on my feet and get as far as I can from the front line. 20 minutes later I appear in a save place, I don’t remember how…

Overwhelmed and exhausted of my debut and farewell as a protester in Korea I find a map of the city, and walk for one more hour to my hostel where I pass out right away.

Among Seoul’s Tower, some of the temples that survived to the Japanese invasion and the Local Market  my 2 days elapse.

I fly back to Japan and before I pass by immigration I stop by the airline counter. I can see any of my airline friends so I talk with the girl in charge who asks for my passport, just to check. She finds that the flight I’m trying to take in 2 days leaves Japan everyday and there are seats available for the next flight that takes off in few hours , for this reason and due to my transit status Immigration will force me to take this flight to Vancouver so I won’t make it to my appointment at The Canadian Embassy. This situation will put me in a total illegal status, because I can aboard the flight without a  Canadian visa and I can’t stay in Japan either.  At this point I do believe I’m inside an endless nightmare so I slap myself couple times but nothing happens, I’m still in front of the counter.

The choices are pretty much “zero”, well I could flight to Europe and then to America but this would cost me 8000$, I have just 300$ in my pocket. The girl at the counter look at my dramatic face, and tells me that there is another choice to enter the country. She says that she hasn’t never tried it and if this doesn’t work the result could be drastic. She doesn’t hesitate and gives me a sticker to stick on my passport with a number “2”. This means that the airline confirms that the earliest that my flight leaves Japan is in two days. Of course, most of the time this information is rechecked by immigration and if this happens I’ll be f……

I cross my fingers and I head to immigration. I get in the queue and immediately an officer sends me to the line number “3”. The big Japanese guy that is in charge of this line stares at me in a weird way and keeps  checking the passport of the person in front of me. Eventually this big officer starts to argue with the person in front and as soon as the quarrel gets a little loud I am sent to the line number “8” where a young and cute Japaneses lady receives me with a big smile, ask me couple questions, laugh for my answers, doesn’t check my flight and stamps my passport.

On the other side of immigration the girl from the airline, that is happier than me to see me getting into the country without any problem, waits for me. As soon as I make it to the other side of the line we hug and laugh like crazy without sharing any word, there are not necessaries.

My friend Nakki, who has become my main protector in Japan, is in the city of Saporo so this night I have to look for a hostel in Tokyo. I call to the hostel, make a reservation and get on the train.

The habit of finding the hostels in the street with the usual blue house sign makes me walk along the same street at least 10 times. After couple hours of hanging around with no luck I start to ask in the street but well my Japanese is not good enough. Finally I run into a police officer and between signs he guides me inside the elevator of a tall building and pushes a floor button that exceeds the two tens. How can I imagine that a hostel is in a 20th floor? well folks welcome to Tokyo.

The next morning I woke up and run to check my e-mail to see if I already receive the e-ticket I need in order to get my Canadian Visa but there is not sign of this ticket. I have just one day left for my appointment but well no ticket=no visa.

Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

That night I meet with my friend Nakki, that is back in town, and we walk along Shibuya that is known as one of the fashion centers of Japan, particularly for young people, and as a major nightlife area. We find a Pub, ask for a beer and I finally forget for couple hours about my crazy journey. The morning of what could be my last day in Asia arrives. It is just 7am and I haven’t get my e-ticket yet. After couple phone calls finally the airline realizes that there was a mistake with the credit card number, they fix it up right away but it will take certain time for the system to send it to my email so the only way to get it on time would be by fax. I have just 2 hours left for my appointment so I decide to give to the airline The Canadian Embassy Fax number. I take the train, get to the Embassy and wait for my turn. I have a short window to get my visa and run back to the airport to make my flight with destination Vancouver. While I’m waiting I check the wall clock that shows:

“WEDNESDAY 30 OCTOBER 2003, 10:30 AM”

It is my turn, I walk to the window and ask to the girl in charge if she has received any fax with my name on it, she gets angry right away and with louder voice tells me that this is an official fax number that doesn’t allow any document from provenance unknown. After yelling at me she says that I have 20 minutes to get my printed ticket and come back to that window.

I run to the street and try to find a public fax to get my ticket. Right in the corner I find a store that receives fax, but well I speak zero Japanese and between signs I try to be understood by the friendly store owner, but I ain’t gonna have any luck.

I have just 10 minutes left so I run back to the embassy and right at the entrance I beg to the receptionist to use her phone and her fax, she take one minute and agrees to my request. I call to the airline and finally i get my ticket.

With 3 minutes left I run back to the window and as soon as I get there the security guard is closing the main office door and prevents me from entering. I stay outside the office waiting for one miracle to save me once again. One minute later the girl who I pissed off earlier lets me in, upbraids me for the inconvenience, gives me the via and wishes me good luck.

I run one more time and get on the train. I get to the airport, look for my 100 Kilos of baggage and I arrive a little late but I make it to get on my flight to Vancouver.

24 hours have passed since I left the Canadian Embassy. I’m in Vancouver chilling at my favorite place in this city to relax the famous “Blunt Bros Cafe”. I drink a tea and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of this place where the only thing that is prohibited to smoke is cigarettes. I wait for couple friends that invite me for lunch while I make time before I get on my next flight to Mexico City. In front of me there is a clock hanging from the wall that shows:

“WEDNESDAY 30 OCTOBER 2003, 10:30 AM”

I don’t understand, according to the clock I have had twice the same day, is this possible?

Time has been created by us and we are attached to it. We live fighting against the clock for this reason we get old.

If time really exists then today here in Vancouver I turn one day younger, incredible how we can cheat time.

This was what I wrote that day in Vancouver, and today 6 years later I still believe that time is a human jail to achieve certain goals, that if we don’t hurry up we won’t get a bunch of stuff that we don’t really know why we want them but someone told us that we need it. I’m still attached to time but one day i will be completely detached from it.

Even though I can deny that I had tons of doubts and fear during my week in Asia, the result is as usual a huge lesson: It’s to know that when you least expect it someone extends you a hand, that when we don’t trust that is the end, that there is energy flowing  all around but we are so connected to what we can see and touch that  we ceased to believe without seeing.

After staying in touch with my Japanese protector Nakki for the next five years, finally we met again in Hawai’i to laugh of everything that happened.

Thanks for taking “The Time” to read this my first story, I will keep passing most of them from the paper to the monitor. See you soon…

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