As I sat in my window seat on the train from Chubu Centrair International Airport to Nagoya, I stared out onto a world that I had never seen before. (I mean, besides what I’ve seen at Epcot.) However, over the course of that 30-minute ride, it became crystal clear that I was not riding the monorail in the wonderful world of Disney; I was, in fact, in the wonderful world.
The world that I saw on globes, maps and documentaries. The world that, upon quitting my teaching job two years ago, I declared I wanted to see, hear, smell, touch and taste. On that train, in that seat, looking out of that window, I realized just how full of wonder the world really was.
It was then that I also realized that I had a decision to make. Up until that point, my Japan journey mainly centered on me worrying and rehashing all the reasons why I should be worried:
a) I couldn’t speak or understand Japanese.
b) Out of 127 million people in Japan, I only had the phone number for one (1) person who, incidentally, I had only been introduced to – via e-mail – just a few months prior.
c) There was the great possibility that this trip could end up just like my other hare-brained, half-baked trips; venturing out and finding myself…on the verge of homelessness and hunger.
It’s one thing to almost be stranded in the States, I thought. But to be stranded in Japan? A whole ‘nother country? Dear God, what have I done?
I realized that I could worry about all the what-ifs, what-thens and the what-happened-last-times, or I could embrace the what-now, the fact that I was in Japan on somebody else’s dime to become acquainted with new people and new ideas, and have new experiences that I knew would have a huge impact on my life.
By the time the train reached my stop and I, soon thereafter, found my hotel, I had made the decision to see my present circumstances as a gift. But by the time that I started the check-in process at the hotel, my “gift” looked like it was turning into a pumpkin.
“Check out on Thursday? But my flight doesn’t leave until Sunday! I can’t check out on Thursday!”
Pools of sweat instantly formed in my armpits. The receptionist gave me a worried look then looked again at her computer.
“I’m sorry, but our records show that your reservation is for two nights. Your checkout is Thursday,” she said.
Oh my God, it’s happening, I thought. I’m stranded in Japan.
“Please call this number,” I pleaded.
I was holding my cell phone approximately two inches from her face. On the screen was the phone number for my one person out of Japan’s 127 million. The receptionist smiled weakly, pulling a phone out from underneath the counter.
“There’s no answer,” she said after several seconds had passed.
Dear God, what have I done? I thought. I knew this would happen, and yet… Man, I’m a glutton for punishment.
I looked down at the floor and opened a barrage of self-aimed attacks.
“I left a message,” the receptionist said, with a hint of reassurance.
“Okay,” I mumbled. “Thank you…arigato.”
“In the meantime, though,” she continued, “you can still check in.”
I looked up.
“I can check in, can’t I?” I purred, slowly breaking into a grin. “I don’t know what’s going happen on Thursday, but at least I have a room for tonight and tomorrow night.”
“Yes,” the receptionist replied, now mirroring my grin.
The next morning, I met up with my lone Japan contact, Keiko, in the hotel lobby. The much-needed rest that I received in my private junior suite – yaaas – was just what I needed to take the edge off the edginess I displayed at the reception desk the day before.
“Welcome to Japan!” she exclaimed, also greeting me with a smile and warm hug.
“Thank you,” I said. “I’m happy to be here.”
As more members of our party, about seven or eight people, trickled into the lobby, Keiko revealed to us that yes, our checkout from the hotel would be Thursday, but no, we would not be stranded. (Thank God.) We would actually be moving to another hotel.
“Really?” we all seemed to ask in unison.
“Yes,” she answered. “I want you to experience as much of Japan as possible in the time that you have here.”
And boy she wasn’t kidding. By that Sunday, we stayed at a total of four (4) different hotels in four (4) different cities. (YOLO.)
However, I didn’t know that that was going to happen–obviously, given my minor meltdown at check-in. Actually, I didn’t know what to expect from the trip in total. Yes, we had been sent information packets and itineraries prior to our flights to Japan, but everything still seemed so…fluid.
(For those of you who know me, or have read my post, “Flowing With My Knowing,” you know that being “fluid” a.k.a. “going with the flow” is an area that I’m growing into. In other words, I’m trying but I’m not all the way there yet.)
In hindsight, it’s no wonder that God provided me with this “fluid” experience–it was a perfect opportunity to practice. Though, as I practiced flowing through the sea of uncertainty and change that I was presented with in Japan, there was one thing that I was certain would be a constant for this trip–MAROWA. (It just became a matter of figuring out what the heck MAROWA was.)
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