Monday, December 27, 2010

Sakasai, Amsterdam and Leeds

I was going to write about job interviews and Milan and vending machines and poker faces but i tried to get on a plane to Amsterdam on last Saturday so i’ve got something completely different to write about.

I’m in England by the way. I came home for Christmas after finishing my contract and my stint at the university which ended with a lot of alcohol being consumed and friends being made. I left Sakasai at about nine thirty last Saturday morning and headed to the airport for the flight back to England via Amsterdam. Jake, one of the other teachers that i’d been working with, was on the same flight as me so we stood in the queue at the airport ready to check in. Except we didn’t. Amsterdam was swimming in snow and the flight had been cancelled. We stood in the queue for five hours being entertained an elderly South African man who plans to sail around the world and didn’t have a good thing to say about his home country. Jake paid for a wireless internet connection and we stood and watched the Ashes and gave complete strangers weather updates. That night we got put up in a busy hotel that had no spare tables in the restaurant so we ate instant noodles and soggy sandwiches from a gift shop and watched the BBC world news lead with a story all about weather chaos in Europe causing huge travel delays at airports which just kind of rubbed it in really.

The next morning Jake got on an earlier flight and i stood in line for an hour or so again. It’s strange how people strike up conversations with each other when things go wrong. If your plane or bus or ferry is on time you don’t say a word to anyone - you spend the whole time with your head in a book or music in your ears. As soon as shit happens it becomes perfectly acceptable to put the book down, switch the music off and have a chat with person next to you. So i met Dianne, an artist from Ireland who gave me a book and told me that i had the right idea with “all that teaching English stuff” and her advice that “you should just travel your arse off for the next ten years, you’re only young” was warmly received. Unfortunately the plane wasn’t as comforting as it had some technical problems that meant we were late setting off from Tokyo and I’d miss my connection to Leeds from Amsterdam on the Sunday night. Eleven hours, one book and two movies later I arrived in Europe.

Amsterdam airport looked like a futuristic refugee camp. The snow outside gave the whole place a lunar landscape and at about midnight i was directed to a business class lounge where KLM had set up a load of camp beds and sleeping bags and pillows for stranded passengers. I hunkered down and started snoozing and, amazingly, didn’t wake up until 8:10. Shit. This meant that i might be late for my connection to Leeds. I quickly got my stuff together, threw everything in my bag and with my coat inside out and hanging off my back and dashed to the toilet on the way out. As i was washing my hands i glanced at my watch again. Hang on. 8:10? I looked closer. It was 1:40. I’d been asleep for about an hour. Back to bed. In the morning we all got free sandwiches for breakfast and the connection to Leeds left late but at least it left. Some people have been in Heathrow for a week.

So now i’m back in Leeds again amongst the snow and old friends and family and Christmas. It's been freakishly cold here with snow and ice lingering longer than usual and all i seem to have done since i've been back is get drunk, get a cold and eat half my own body weight in food. But then it's Christmas in England. That's pretty much what everybody here does.

I start a new job in Tokyo in the first week of January and i leave England on Wednesday and fly via Milan back to Japan. Well, hopefully, if the weather allows. I'll try and write more about Japan in the New Year. Happy Christmas, have fun and best of luck with 2011.

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