After a long, sweaty, uncomfortable journey from Numazu to Narita Airport followed by a turbulent flight, I was happy to be back in Canada. I landed in Vancouver and was greeted by a great view of the Canadian Rockies.
Returning to Canada after being away for 2 years comes with an element of culture shock. The first thing I noticed was the baggage handlers. At Narita airport, the baggage handlers were dressed very professionally in their uniforms, looking like an efficient, hardworking team. In Vancouver, the man driving the baggage cart was wearing cargo shorts, wraparound 80’s sunglasses, and drove with one foot up on the dash.
I switched to the domestic terminal and had a quick flight to Winnipeg. I landed just before 7:00pm on August 20, a full 15 minutes before I had left Tokyo. Traveling across multiple time zones is weird.
My parents met me at the airport, loaded me into the car, and took me to the Health Sciences Center, the hospital that had been my sister’s home for the past 3 weeks. Usually visiting hours end at 8:00pm, but my parents told the staff that I was coming home from Japan to see my sister, and they were happy to make an accommodation for us.
My parents live in nearby Portage la Prairie, which is about an hour west of Winnipeg. They came into Winnipeg earlier in the day to visit my sister, and then stuck around waiting to pick me up from the airport. We wanted to surprise my sister, so my parents decided to tell her that they had stayed in Winnipeg after the morning visit to do some shopping, and wanted to stop by the hospital one more time on the way home. I would wait outside the hospital room, then come in to surprise my sister.
I waited outside the room as my parents entered. My sister was surprised to see them again, and also happy to see a friendly face that wasn’t a doctor or a nurse. 3 weeks in the hospital is a long time!
After about a minute, I casually walked into the room and said hi, trying to act like it was completely normal for me to be there. My sister stared for a minute without saying anything, trying to process the fact that her brother who had moved to Japan was standing in front of her. Finally she asked me “are you really here, or am I dreaming?”. I assured her that I was actually there, and that I had come back to visit her. After another minute of staring and trying unsuccessfully to form sentences, she told me that she was really happy to see me.
We visited for about an hour or so, and I explained that I was in town for at least a few weeks to help out. Before I left I had to promise that I would still be in Canada the next day. On the way out of the ward, I was greeted by most of the nurses who had known that I was coming to visit. I was upset that my sister was in the hospital, but I was smiling the whole way out knowing that I helped make her day better.
My parents had agreed to help me with the price of my (very expensive) plane ticket. On the way out the the hospital my parents stated that my sister’s reaction to seeing me was totally worth the cost of the ticket.
I am very fortunate that I had the money and time to get back and see my sister. I am grateful to my parents and the NOVA head office staff who were able to accommodate my short notice request to leave the country. I was also very happy to be home.