Narita rest house

I was not expecting to have the first stamp in my new passport be Japan.  But then, as they say, "The best laid plans...".  My trip started out close to perfection;  I got a ride to the airport from a dear friend, there was no line at check-in, I got the priority line at security, flight was on time, and I had met the captain who was flying me to Tokyo the day before when he was commuting on the flight I was working.  Serendipitous!  To top it off, when I boarded the plane, I realized that I knew part of the crew as well, they were friends of my good friends who I had been out with before in the city.  Small world.  As I settled into 17F, "comfort economy", the woman behind me says "Hello again!".  She was the one beside me at the ticket counter, I noticed she was a very friendly, savvy frequent traveler.  Her name was Mirabel from Manila, I kneeled on my seat facing backwards to her and we started chatting about the places we were going, and some places we had been.  In the midst of it all, we found a very special connection, and both feel that we were destined to meet.  As I was sending off my last texts, I heard another voice form the aisle, "I think we have a seat for you up here"  she said, and I grabbed my splay of belongings, trying not to let them all fall out of my arms as I followed her to the first class pod.  "I'll come find you later!"  I said to Mirabel, and we both smiled at each other in gratitude.  During the flight, my new favorite word became "lie-flat-bed".  My God, what a difference!  Sashimi, Rioja vino tinto, soup, flan... I was in heaven!  It was the best flying experience I've ever had, and again my mind knew I was destined to be there.  Side note, I have always been afraid to fly Delta due to a recurring dream I had when I was younger.  Like Ritchie Valens.  So I never booked a flight on Delta.  Ever.  In all my years of flying.  Wait, there was one hop from Boston to New York, yes, and I remember holding my breath the whole way, but since I escaped doom on that flight, I thanked the Gods and never booked again... until yesterday.  "Time to get over this!"  I told myself.  So all of my luck on the flight was like my angels guiding me safely, helping me to feel calm, protecting me.  I guess there was just so much goodness and luck packed into that flight that my luck ran out once I reached Japan.  At the Delta guest care desk, they informed me that I was not allowed to fly internationally on them, that we had no agreement and there was nothing they could do. My flight was supposed to leave in an hour, there was only one more flight to Bangkok that night, and it was on another airline that I was not allowed to fly!  I felt panic rush through my veins, I got a little light headed and my world shrunk into a little circle of "Fuck."  I was now stuck in Japan, no airlines that I could fly were going to Bangkok, and I was afraid I wouldn't even be able to get back to the US.  In come three amazing and stunningly gorgeous ANA airways ladies who all seemed like it was their mission from above to help me.  I found a way to rebook via Cathay Pacific the next morning (thank God, they were the only ones who I could purchase a ticket on-line with), and I set out to find a hotel.  I remember at that point thinking back to when my brother and I were traveling around Europe and we missed the train from Madrid to Paris.  He had the panic in his eyes that I had felt tonight, but I knew that we would be ok.  Things always worked out, sometimes even better than the original plan. 

This little hotel room is just how I remembered Japan.  Everything is small.  The ceilings are low, there is a kimono in the drawer, green tea with a tiny cup on the table, slippers, and a heated toilet seat.  Instead of the bible, there is The Teaching of Buddha (which, I really would love to take with me...along with the kimono...and tiny cup...)  Opening to a random page, I like the following passage:  "There are three kinds of people in the world.  The first are those who are like letters carved in a rock; they easily give way to anger and retain their angry thoughts for a long time.  The second are those who are like letters written in sand; they give way to anger also, but their angry thoughts quickly pass away.  The third is those who are like letters written in running water; they do not retain their passing thoughts; they let abuse and uncomfortable gossip pass by unnoticed; their minds are always pure and undisturbed." 

So, as I continue on this journey, I will try to have my letters written in water, and take things as they come, knowing yet again that it is not only the destination, but the journey that teaches you along the way.  


The Kingdom of Swaziland

Re-u-ni-ted, and it feeeels so good!... The song is stuck in my head this morning as I return to my blog, I did miss it, like a new puppy that I haven't seen in too long and comes to give me wet kisses.  

I sit here a bit dazed however, trying to think of where to start, what to say first, which photos to post, how to describe...  My world has been thrown off its axial tilt, and I am in love with its new orientation.  I'll start with the kingdom of Swaziland...

"What do you think about going to Swaziland for a few days?"  he asked, as we started to plan our five days together.  "Sure, I'm up for anything!"  I had no idea what or where this was, but apparently it was awesome.  Just 120 miles by 81 miles, Swaziland is a tiny, but breathtaking monarchy which sits inside of South Africa, bordering its north east side with Mozambique.  It took us a little over three hours to drive there from the backpackers in Nelspruit where I was dropped off by my new friends Sue, Lisa, Prince, and Mbali.  I walked into Funky Monkey slightly nervous to find my travel companion, as we hadn't seen each other since our wedding over a year ago. (Yes, I will remain cryptic for the time being, but don't worry, you'll get the whole story soon.)  As we saw each other, smiles filled us and we came together in a hug that said all was well, arms around each other we walked out to say goodbye to the gang as they wished us a happy journey.  I found myself having a hard time looking away from him, as it felt surreal, almost like we had been here all along.  We sat poolside and chatted with his friends, telling our story in brief and sipping on Castle Light beers.  I was happy to be on yet another adventure, having no clue as to where we were headed, and not having a care in the world about it.  I knew I was in good hands.  I loved these people around me instantly.

I'd never been in this part of the country before, we were headed towards the eastern plateau, the Highveld, which rises to 5,700 feet.  The drive was like nothing I had expected, there were layers upon layers of mountain range silhouettes in the distance, soft, green rolling hills scattered with granite and occasional farm houses, waterfalls peeking out from the valleys.  The DJ had a perfect soundtrack playing, and I was mesmerized by everything my eyes were taking in.  He said, "Just wait, you're gunna be blown away by this place..."  As we soared around the last curve, he showed me, "There!" and pointed to the speckles of huts on the hill ahead.  My jaw dropped as we slowed down to turn onto the dirt road, as I wondered how I got so lucky.  



26 in Boston!

24 hour layover in Boston, and it just so happens that my roommate Amy is there too! After getting in from the redeye, I slept for three hours and dragged myself out of bed to go meet up with her & her friends for the day.  She's been saying for so long, "You HAVE to meet my friend Steve, and his boyfriend Joe!!  You will LOVE them."  So, today was the day... and Amy was right, I absolutely adored both of them beyond words.  We wandered the streets of the North End, starting our day off at a cozy little Italian restaurant where we ordered practically every appetizer on the menu, along with a round of "espresso martinis".  If you've never had one of these delights, go to Boston and order one, they are fantastic.  (Be sure to also order the pumpkin beer;  they serve it rimmed with sugar, cinnamon, & nutmeg, it's to die for.)  The five of us wandered around town the whole day, stopping at local watering holes to sample the "water" as well as the atmosphere.  There's nothing like Boston in the Fall on a Saturday afternoon... it just works!