The Beginning – December 2, 2010
I was hustling trying to get everything packed and ready for my first trip overseas. I remember telling myself, just make sure to have the passport and tickets. My mind was fixated on traveling; I guess I have a one-track thought pattern in this aspect.
My energy was high. I drove to Los Angeles (LAX) and ate at a fascinating, country-style waffle house. Of course, I ordered the classic waffles. The meal was irresistibly good. The waffles were golden brown, a moist cake-like center surrounded by a delicious crispy exterior topped off with thick whipped cream. Those waffles set the tone for the excellent food to come.
The International Airport…I have arrived. I walked around aimlessly since I have many hours to kill. As I wondered around, I noticed the rich diversity of people the airport had to offer. All of them were waiting to visit another land, just like myself.
Finally the clock was heading toward midnight. It was time for me to redeem my official airline ticket, but suddenly I was struck with a bolt of bad luck. I missed my flight. It turns out my original flight left at midnight the morning before. It was extremely confusing, but nothing was going to stop me from seeing the new world. So for an embarrassing fee, I eased my way on the flight that was leaving now.
My first flight to Beijing, China was 12 hours long. Being in a small place (although this was the biggest plane I have ever been on) for a long period of time is enough to slowly drive me insane. Luckily, I met an interesting, cute fella who was sitting next to me. He was from Venezuela, and I learned he was quite the traveler. He was on the flight to meet his girlfriend who was dancing in a competition in Xi Ann, China. Anyway after hearing many fun stories from my neighbor, going through China’s security, eating a scrumptious Chinese dumpling breakfast, and catching another 3 hour flight to Japan, I was finally in the large city of Tokyo.
Tokyo was chaotic with people in every direction, but it was still very orderly. This oxymoron was my best impression of the big city of Japan. Thank goodness though, many of the locals were studying English and were interested in practicing it. This did emphasize how many of us English-only speakers are spoiled when it comes to worldly communication… or maybe not. The huge downside is that we cannot easily learn other languages. Seriously, I tried to studying Japanese for a month straight and I still cannot say a proper sentence in the language. Sad! But this was beside the point! Many Japanese citizens were learning English for business purposes since the English language dominates the global market. However, Japan is keen on customer service. Learning English is also used to accommodate many foreign visitors. Relief!
Japan’s customer service wins the gold in my eyes. When I got lost in Asakusa, my home away from home, I came across an older gentleman on a bicycle. He was kind enough to take me straight to my destination, Khaosan Tokyo Inn, which was quite a distance. I wanted to offer money to show my gratitude, but thought it was rude, so instead I stressed the phrase “Arigato Gozaimasu” while bowing heavily. He was definitely a life saver.
I must admit, I was very disappointed with my sleeping quarters. This is because I never been in a hostel before, but sharing a dining and bathing area was all too familiar. Hostels remain me of college dorms, and that was not the experience I was going for when staying in Japan. But I was over reacting. I immediately got settled in and strolled through Asakusa’s nightlife, which lead me to my first Japanese dessert, creamy almond custard. It is to die for.