Archive for category Return to Canada
After waking up in the dirty, dirty fraternity house, I got cleaned up and went for brunch with some friends. We went to Perkins, which was a regular eating experience during my university days. Perkins was popular with students because it was close to campus and some popular campus bars, and it was open all night.
Going back as an employed adult during the day is far less enjoyable. The food wasn’t great, but the visit with my friends was.
After brunch I spent some time visiting my sick sister, and then returned to my parents’ house in Portage la Prairie.
With my sister doing better, I was able to spend some time with friends. I went out to my first Premier Championship Wrestling (PCW) show in two years.
When I was a student, my friends and I went regularly to the weekly show at a bar near campus. Local pro wrestling is hit and miss, but some of the wrestlers are very talented and might just have a future in the business (if they can get out of Winnipeg). The crowd was smaller than it used to be, but I still saw a lot of familiar faces.
One of the familiar faces was The Ex, who came up to ask how my sister was doing. We hadn’t really talked since my last return to Winnipeg, and weren’t on the best terms. Because we have a lot of mutual friends, I sent her an email before I left Japan explaining the situation with my sister, and letting her know that I would try to get to a wrestling show. The intent was to avoid any awkwardness with our friends and where they were going to sit. To my surprise, she showed up at the hospital with flowers for my sister the next day, which was a very nice gesture. Our relationship may have ended badly, but The Ex was a good person and legitimately cared for the well being of my sister.
The wrestling show was pretty good. PCW was nice enough to bring back their wrestling trivia contest just for my return. I was the reigning wrestling trivia champion, and won a few drinks for myself and my friends. Also, we were once again the loudest section in the building. It was a fun evening!
(2015 Update) The most successful wrestler to graduate from PCW is Kenny Omega, who currently wrestles for New Japan Pro Wrestling among other promotions. If you have never had the pleasure of seeing Kenny wrestle, do yourself a favour and go to YouTube now!
One of my favourite Kenny moments online is his “Champion of Anywhere” match, where he challenges Winnipeg wrestling mainstay Mike Angels to a match at Angels’ cabin. Awesomeness ensues.
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.
This morning instead of getting ready for work, I finished packing my suitcase to fly home to visit my sick sister. My suitcase is the maximum size for Air Canada, and was completely loaded with clothes and last minute souvenirs. In addition, I also had my trusty Canada flag backpack loaded up to keep me entertained on my 3 train rides and two flights. To save time, I skipped breakfast and instead picked up a sandwich at 7-11 across from my apartment to eat on the train.
Japan in August is hot and humid. Unbelievably humid. I have been in less humid saunas. Usually I take my bike to the train station, but there was no safe way to bring my giant suitcase with me on the bike. I did consider trying, but thought that wiping out on a narrow road filled with traffic would probably not help my chances of getting to the airport on time.
The walk to the station with my large wheeled suitcase and fully loaded backpack took me about 20 minutes. By the end of the walk I had sweated through the back of my shirt. I loaded my giant bag onto the train for the short ride to Mishima, ignoring any dirty looks from other passengers. At Mishima station I rolled my giant bag from the main platform through the station towards the shinkansen platform. Fortunately this walk was completely inside and air conditioned. From Mishima to Tokyo I had the giant suitcase jammed between my legs and the seat in front of me. Usually I regret that I am not a very tall person. This was not one of those times.
Once I arrived at Tokyo station, I had to once again drag my mammoth suitcase through crazy crowds of people, past all the souvenir stands, and then down to the lowest level in order to catch the Narita Express. Fortunately the Narita Express is designed for travelers, and has ample storage space at the ends of the cars for luggage.
Train travel in Japan is quick, efficient, and convenient, unless you are bringing a large suitcase. When I came to Japan, NOVA was smart enough to get all of the teacher’s suitcases delivered to their new residences. The last time I went back to Canada, I did bring my suitcase, however it was not a horrible humid day like today.
By the time I got to Narita Airport I was sweaty, cranky, and exhausted. I was much happier and lighter when I was finally able to check my bag. Getting through security and immigration was quick and easy, and my flight left on time.
The first 2-3 hours of the flight was TERRIBLE. Our flight experienced non stop turbulence which got so bad that it occasionally shut down the in flight entertainment system. I rarely get motion sickness, but several people on the flight were not so lucky. The only thing worse than choppy air is the sounds and smells of other passengers barfing in a crowded, enclosed space.
The pilot did come on the PA several times to apologize and explain that the skies were quite busy, which prevented our flight from adjusting altitude. After about 3 hours of bouncing around, the air finally gave us a break and we enjoyed the remaining 7 hours in relative calm.
I was very happy to finally get on the ground in Vancouver. Whoever says getting there is half the fun is an idiot.
I was awake at 4:45am Winnipeg time, and managed to get to the airport at 5:30. It was below minus 35 degrees outside, so I was looking forward to getting back to a more sensible winter in Japan.
When I checked my bags, the employee at the Northwest airlines counter switched my seat on the Minneapolis to Tokyo flight so I could sit in an exit row. I am not a very tall person so leg room is not usually an issue on flights, but I was not about to turn down extra space. After checking in, I was pleasantly surprised that my friend Janet woke up early to meet me at the airport for a farewell Tim Hortons coffee.
After a short visit, I went through security where I was randomly selected to have my bag searched and shoes X-rayed. This was my first time ever to be selected for this kind of screening. It was a minor annoyance and was over quickly.
The major annoyance came at boarding time. Northwest announced that the air temperature on the runway was -35 degrees, and that their deicing fluid was only certified to -33 degrees. They said that we could not take off until the temperature increased enough to deice the plane.
There are a lot of annoying delays with air travel. However, people are far less likely to complain about delays related to safety. Nobody wants to take a chance with frozen wings on a plane. After about 30 minutes of waiting, Northwest announced that they were going to borrow some of Air Canada’s heavy duty deicing fluid so we could finally leave. I am not sure why Northwest didn’t have the serious deicing fluid in Winnipeg (Winterpeg), but that was probably a decision by someone in a warm office somewhere far to the south.
Remember friends – when traveling in the winter, make sure there is lots of time to catch a connecting flight in case it is too cold too take off.
Today started with a great breakfast at the Wright Spot with my dad. I then went for a haircut, appreciating the fact that I could communicate properly with the stylist. After that, I finished my packing and my family took me back to Winnipeg.
We had a nice dinner together at Earl’s, and then I got dropped off at a hotel near the airport. My flight to Minneapolis is at 7:30am tomorrow, so it’s convenient to be near the airport. Compared to most of the rest of my visit home, it was an early night. I can’t believe how quickly my return to Canada went by. I will miss my family and friends again, but I will not miss the crazy winter weather.
See you soon Japan!
My car was still stuck in the parking lot of my sister’s apartment building. This was especially annoying because the parking lot in the neighbouring building had been cleared of snow 3 times since the big snowstorm. The neighbouring building also had a different property management company. Unfortunately the apartment vacancy rate in Winnipeg is very low, so property managers can get away with being lazy.
I ended up taking a Greyhound bus back to Portage la Prairie. The Greyhound bus was just as glamorous as I remember (i.e. not very). However, it is a safe, reliable way to get between cities on horrible winter roads.
The only exciting thing that happened in Portage was a visit to the dentist. Apparently the dental hygienist was flirting with me and was asking about me after I left. As usual, I was completely oblivious.