The water supply got contaminated by a radioactive material which amount was above the intake limit for babies. A few days earlier, a dangerous level of radiation for overall intake had been detected on spinach from the areas near the exploded nuclear power plant.
Since the earthquake hit Japan, a new fear has arisen day after day. This time, the TV news showed a long line of people at stores, who came to buy bottled waters. The water in my town was also contaminated over the intake limit for babies temporarily, but now the amount of a radioactive material has dropped and the water is drinkable. I look up the readings of radiation for the area I live in on the Internet everyday and fluctuate between hope and despair. Aftershocks and scheduled blackouts still continue. Worries and fuss that I had regularly had about a move to my new place seem so trivial now. Just surviving is fortunate enough. Being able to use electricity and water supply is fully grateful. For the first time, I found myself longing for cherry blossoms to bloom soon…
Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods
A trip can require an enormous effort. In my case, it starts by making time to plan in a hectic daily life which consumes me with work. Once I manage to find time for planning a trip, a long way to finish it awaits. I search all over the Internet for the best possible deal for a hotel and transportation that suits what I want to do during the trip. I narrow selections, choose the most saving plans, combine them into an itinerary, book everything, adjust my work schedule, and pack. The latest trip I took after that lengthy process was by plane. I could have taken the bullet train since the time that would be taken to the destination was almost the same because the airport was much further than the train station from my home. But that particular airline carried a limited-time sale so that the fare was lower. My choice was decided on a plane for that reason.
No matter how many times I have flown, I feel nervous each time. Although I know that the chances of a car accident are much higher than a plane crash, that kind of logic doesn’t help me. I see many people drink alcohol before the flight and that shows I am not the only person who is nervous of flying. A long time ago, I took a flight to Dallas. Before landing, the plane was sucked into nasty turbulence. It repeated steep dives several times that gave some passengers screams and vomits. I was in a window seat and seeing the wing in the midst of a thick cloud that told me the plane tilted sharply. I heard something fall and break everywhere. Above all, I was most terrified when I saw the flight attendants panic, who were supposed to get used to and be trained for this situation. The plane finally got out of the thick cloud and I thought I would see out of the window broad highways or the edge of the runway that were common views after the plane descended that much. Instead, what came into my sight were tips of green trees. Because I had never seen trees so closely from the airplane, I was convinced that we were going to crash. I vaguely thought it was least expected that my end was Dallas. Then, the plane stopped descending and flew ahead horizontally. It made turns above trees with a move that was more like a bus’s rather than a plane’s. It seemed to spot the runway by doing so, and we landed safely.
For the latest trip I took, I checked in at the airport and was informed that my flight was delayed for two hours due to machine maintenance. I wasn’t sure if the airplane I was going on board would need further maintenance or a backup plane would fly in from somewhere, but either way, it made me uneasy since it came on top of the existing nervous factor that it was a low cost carrier. After I went through the security check and waited at the gate, the further delay was announced. I finally got on board a few hours behind schedule and the door of the plane was closed. Yet, it remained stationary, and wouldn’t move. The captain announced it was waiting for takeoff permission from the control tower. It sounded absurd because it was a small local airport where the runway was empty and only few flights a day came in and out. Forty minutes passed while many things crossed my mind. Why can’t a takeoff be permitted? Is there any problem? Is that the true reason? Does this plane still have some sort of machine troubles? The cabin was dead silent and tense as other passengers sat quiet and strained for the whole forty minutes. I thought this was the very time when we needed alcohol most. By the time the plane took off and safely finished its 90-minute flight, it was already night and I was exhausted. My elaborate travel itinerary got messed up on the first day though I had made it with full of leeway. The massive delay ate up the time for a meal at the restaurant. The express train I had booked from the airport to the city had long gone.
Flights are always accompanied with troubles. Other than delays, I have had my fair share of troubles regarding baggage, other passengers or attendants. Even so, I don’t hate flying. I don’t know why exactly, but I feel like I become a different person each time I take off and land on the destination. It is as if I jumped into a different dimension where a better version of my life exists. I like that feeling so much that I feel stuck circling at the same spot over and over without any changes when I haven’t flown for a long time. That’s why I need to take a plane to a different place once in a while in order to become a better self even if it’s nervous, risky and troublesome. I might as well stay home just to relax as to travel. It would be peaceful, calm and tranquil for me. But I know I couldn’t enjoy that because staying at the same place without traveling feels like being dead. Travel lets me keep changing so that I stay alive.
A Rich World Requiring No Wealth
The most luxurious hotel in my small, rustic town is not far from my apartment. I visited there again the other day, not to stay the night but to use the club lounge.
The club lounge is exclusive to a member of the hotel’s loyalty program. The members can use it free of charge. The hotel has a regular lounge for its guests which menu has heart-stopping prices. Nonetheless, it was alive with customers who came to ski on the skiing slopes adjacent to the hotel. At the entrance, just by telling the server that I am a club member and flickering my membership card, she ushered me to the back of the regular lounge. Behind the glass door was the club lounge.
Once I stepped inside, I was in a heavenly place. Despite the hurly-burly of the regular lounge, I had this secluded section to myself. A cartridge coffee machine brewed freshly each cup. Bottles of sparkling wine and club soda stood in the ice-filled silver cooler. Kiss chocolates in silver wrappers, Hershey’s almond chocolates in gold wrappers and packs of a specialty cookie were arrayed. The place used up two-story-high vertical space and the wall-wide window reached to the second floor ceiling. Out of it was a side of the snow-covered mountain. I enjoyed sparkling wine in a flute glass as much as I wanted, sitting in a cozy sofa.
The thing is, I didn’t pay a dime for this service since the membership fee is free. Other occasions I use my membership card except for this lounge are when I travel to the city a couple of times a year and stay at one of the same hotel chain to happiness seems to be enlarged 10 times when a gorgeous experience costs none. I don’t think that the wealthy feel happy when they pay a lot of money to use a luxurious hotel lounge because it’s how things usually go. I’ve seen many rich people who don’t have a good time with a frown no matter how expensive the place they are at is. My parents used to be rich, but they were always unhappy and pulled a long face. The schools I went to were exclusive Catholic schools, but the students and their parents alike didn’t seem happy at all from any angles I could have ever taken to observe them.
It’s an illusion that money brings happiness. I have just finished my second book that I wrote disregarding big sales. Since I didn’t bother about how many copies would sell, I had fun in all the processes such as writing, an enormous amount of editing work and publishing. My happiness is 100 times as much as the one that I felt when I was desperate to be famous and rich.
A long time ago, I got in a facility of a soft drink company when I visited Walt Disney World. The visitors there were allowed to drink a various kinds of soft drink from the dispensers as much as they wanted for free. The minute I entered the place, I noticed a strange atmosphere. It was crowded, but people were all smiling. Each of them was laughing, talking, jesting, and having fun with a small paper cup in their hand. While I lived in U.S., it was the only place where I saw people look joyful and relaxed without influences of alcohol or drugs.
Does wealth really make people happy? We can be happy without it if we overcome fear and create the world where money doesn’t work on us. I know, though, the way to happiness is of course long and hard…
My OC marathon is going on. I watch three episodes of ‘The O.C. Season 2’ every night before going to sleep. PCH often appears on the show. Before I lived in OC, I had visited there as a traveler. First time in OC, I transferred a local bus at the entrance of Balboa Island on PCH. There was nobody but a man wearing sunglasses at the bus stop. He talked to me about the bus being late. As a person who fears everything, I started panicking with bad imaginations. What if he is a serial killer? I’m wearing cheap clothes but he must know I’m a traveler and have traveler’s checks. Isn’t this a perfect place for murder with no buildings or people around and just the bush behind the bus stop? I was about to be sure I would be killed here by this man, when he began to rummage through his big bag. Now I was more than sure it would be a gun. My fear culminated when he held out something to me. It was a pack of biscuits. “I got three packs for a dollar! Good deal, huh? Take one, I’ve got plenty!”, he said, and the bus came. He was just a kind, friendly man and I was a paranoid traveler. Those were the best biscuits I’d ever had…
Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods
When I woke up, it was already Easter evening. After lunch, I walked to the train station to shop for party foods.
On my way, I enjoyed cherry blossoms in full bloom, taking pictures at a park. Because it was night, there was nobody in the park so that I monopolized the view in the quiet environment. One of a few good things living in Japan is safe enough to walk around a park at night. Then, I arrived at the supermarket at perfect timing as they had just started putting half-off stickers on the unsold prepared foods. I got tons of Chinese food and took more pictures of cherry blossoms from a pedestrian bridge on my way home.
As soon as I came home, I had to take a bath because I’ve set a cutoff time for a bath not to disturb my next-door neighbors with the noise, which is all because of the thin walls of my apartment as I’ve mentioned. By the time I finally sat at the table for our Easter party, only half an hour was left to midnight. I had been looking forward to the party for some time but it turned out to be a short one…
Episode From Surviving in Japan by Hidemi Woods