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Geez!

This trip, as I was afraid of, has had its little snafus–or rather, it(where is the freaking apostrophe on this Japanese keyboard…oh there freaking apostrophe on this Japanese keyboard…oh there) it’s not been one of those trips where I can sit back, relax and just go with the flow.

Eun Jeong saw me off in a taxi at 7 AM. I already miss her. The guy in front of me in line for the airport limo bus was the last one on, so I had to wait for the next one. No problem. I had a lot of time to get stuff done. I had forgotten to get money from the ATM, so I thought I would do that at the airport.

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The bus came, and I sat in the back. Fascinating that the soju-reeking businessmen are also on the 7:30 airport shuttle.

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When I got there, I headed to the Korea Air desk. They looked at my e-ticket that Chris printed up for me yesterday and said that I was on Asiana instead. Funny. The itinerary I had received earlier said Korea Air. Looking more closely at my ticket, it also departed twenty minutes earlier.

I lugged on over to the big line at Asiana and waited and waited. I got to the desk where there was a trainee learning the ropes–which meant it would take a long time while the trainer explained everything she was doing.

Eun Jeong and I had packed the suitcase on Sunday. I was worried it would be too heavy and considered bringing the smaller one as an extra. Eun Jeong said it wouldn’t be a problem, citing that the suitcase she brought back from Canada years ago was heavier than mine.

I guess the rules have changed.

My suitcase was seven kilograms overweight.

“What should I do?”

“You should put some of the items in that suitcase in your carry-on.”

The big question was what to take out. Much of the stuff in there, like liquor bottles and sharp instruments, would never pass through security. I took out some books, magazines and DVDs. It barely made the weight, and my carry-on strapped on my shoulder was weighing down.

I barely had time to get money out of the ATM, change money, go through security and pass Immigration. Luckily, that all went smoothly. The currency changing lady was happy to hear me speak Korean.

I had just enough time to duck into duty free and get one last bottle of Korean liquor before boarding.

The flight itself was uneventful. I didn’t get a window seat (the check-in lady said there were no more available), but the couple who were behind me in line had one. That was because they went to a desk that wasn’t in the middle of training someone.

Oh well, that’s life.

I got off the plane and followed the signs. There were two: Arrivals and Connecting Domestic Flights and Connecting International Flights. Since my next flight is a connecting international flight, I followed the sign that said “Connecting International Flights.”

And I was the only one there, surrounded by bored security folks. They asked for my boarding pass. I didn’t have one yet. I showed them my e-ticket. They let me through and then got alarmed by seeing the Korean liquor in my duty free bag, opening the bag that said “Do Not Open.”

They said it was a forbidden item in the airport.

A closer look at the ticket showed that since I was going on an American Airlines flight, I needed to still go through Immigration and Customs and go to Terminal 2.

Okay, went through Immigration and Customs. Now, where’s Terminal 2?

It took some wandering and asking to find that I had to go to Bus Stop #6 (a very intuitive place to go when just arriving in Tokyo) and take it to Terminal 2.

The bus to Terminal 2 only goes to Arrivals and Connecting Domestic Flights. I had to get off at Arrivals and take a few escalators to the International Departure Lobby.

The American Airlines check-in girl was the first calming and inviting part of this trip. She was very personable and helpful. She even helped me rezip my shoulder bag. I decided to make a major switch and stuff my Korean liquor in there while moving the stuff I wanted to carry on the flight (Ken Follett book, MP3 players, notebook) in the Duty Free bag. That way, I could just check the shoulder bag and have a lighter load.

I had five hours to kill. I decided to shop and get some food.

Shopping first. I found a cute child’s kimono for my niece with some shoes to match, along with what looks like a sushi chef headband for Chef Ben. But unlike Incheon Airport in Korea, Narita doesn’t take American dollars. So I went down and changed some dollars into yen, a process that is a lot less convenient than in Incheon, which, I guess is another one of the reasons that Incheon has won this award for best airport in the world for two or three years in a row.

I bought the stuff and had a light lunch of my beloved cold soba noodles with fresh grated wasabi and a beautiful draft Japanese beer. As much as I am the lone dog in defending Korean beers, the first sip of the Japanese beer revived me. They actually have some FLAVOR!

I did some more shopping. Got some cool kitschy knick-knacks. The types of presents only Joe would give. Luckily, my family has a legendary sense of humor.

I’ve now passed through Security and Immigration to await my next flight–to Dallas. That was easy. There’s a Yahoo! Internet Cafe here that gives free access. Just chilling out here for a while. I thought I’d be going nuts–buying food and drinking beer, but I’m really not in the mood. I have been a lot more–well, I feel better when I can keep my vices (beer and unhealthy food) under control.

The long part of the journey is still ahead, and I feel like I’ve been away for two days already.

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