William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

2. Flight

[Finally, some Internet! Today was my first day of work, and we’re permitted to use the Staff Room computers for personal purposes after the workday is out or during lunch, and we just got off work. I’ve got a few entries saved up now, and will post one every weekday until I am caught up.]

Now in Tokushima, January 3rd: I will limit myself to one retrospective blog tonight, and then do the other tomorrow. I still have to unpack, you see. When S., a computer engineer by education, came in, he said, “I like your priorities. Computer first, then food, then clothes…” I had to stop him there, because “I would have left this food out, but I just realized some of it needed to be refrigerated.” Priorities… the stuff will still be there after I’ve forgotten what it was I was going to write!

2. Flight

January 2nd, 1:14 am
or January 1st, 11:14 am, depending on your point of view
On AA167 from JFK to Tokyo Narita

It’s an interesting situation when you go back an hour, but then ahead fourteen, all while travelling west. That’s the International Date Line and the round Earth for you.

We’re safely and comfortably on board now. When I was in the departure line, the Japanese AA man asked me for some kind of H-95 (?) green card…
     did you get it?
     did you fill it out?
     did she give one to you?

No, I didn’t know…
(looks again at my passport)
Oh, Canada! Oh, okay, go ahead, I’m sorry – I didn’t read your passport…

I should probably be leafing through my Japanese phrasebook. Unfortunately, it’s in the overhead bin. The curses and blessings of a window seat.

* * *


How can time pass by so slowly?

It’s too late to turn back now. We’re… 133km from Coppermine, NT. (Whoops, make that Kugluktuk, NU! Guess it’s time for AA to update their Air Show.)

It’s been an okay ride, but the seatback video screens are out (without so much more than an, “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing we can do,” over the PA back in hour 1), so there’s not much to do to make the time go more quickly.

And comfort? Well, the economy section of this 777 is the last word in luxury and amenity. The seats feel like you’ve just driven from New York to Los Angeles in a Yaris. Pillows were supplied for sleeping, but mine was swiped while I was fussing with the overhead compartment [update: actually, it dropped down below someplace at that time, and I only found it again when we were packing up to leave the plane a year later], so I’ve been letting my weary head rattle on the bulkhead for what seems like days but has only turned out to be less than a third of the flight.

I daresay we’re near the halfway point, though. Whoops, no, make that… thirdway point. I don’t believe this, we’re still over Mountain Time.

There are certain things it’s best not to think about, like my preparedness… did I wrap and tag the homage gifts properly? Did I… I just feel like that if things tank, I’m in trouble. It’s not until now, now that I’m here on the plane, that I gave any thought to the risk I was taking in doing this.

R. told me that once, a while ago, a participant got cold feet at the last minute and no-showed the flight. I’m serious. Well now I know why J. at the school was like, “So how do you handle culture shock? Do you freak out?” They’ve evidently had some interesting experiences with the ones who have.

Anyway, I have every reason to think things will be okay, but all that separates me from being a wandering Nova Groupie is a thin veneer of a job. At least my health isn’t acting up on this flight, so I’ve got that to be thankful for.

Current Mood: calm
Current Music: Stan Rogers, “Northwest Passage” (in my head, anyway)

* * *

Current time, Tokyo: 7:02 am
Time of arrival, Tokyo: 3:30pm (wow, 10 minutes early!)

It’ll be a blessed miracle when I arrive in Tokushima. The idea has regressed from certainty to mirage. I forgot that Japan is all but another planet away. I don’t know how I’m going to deal with so many Japanese people. What if I’m always doing things they think are gross? Apparently even blowing your nose is… well, not something you could do in public. Please know that I’m not picking on the Japanese; I kind of felt the same way before Poland and Ukraine.

I just can’t see how this is real. I never really took it seriously. [Typing note: Never trust a smiling recruiter. =) ] Part of that was a reaction against how seriously the people around me were taking it. And if I had a dime for every stupid question I’ve had to endure…

“So Japan’s on, what… the Indian Ocean, right?”
“Oh, you can go visit your cousin Kent in Australia!” (Distance from Tokyo to Melbourne: 8,199km ... not much better than Tokyo - New York, 10,852km)
“Oh, a bilingual school? So you’ll be teaching in Japanese too?”
“So what are you going to do for food over there?”
[Typing note: That last question… wasn’t so stupid after all.]

- Boy, that Beaufort Sea looks frigid… it’s oddly distressing that there are many cracks – it is no longer one continuous ice sheet…

- BJ told me that one of our cousins sends her bags ahead of her when she travels. It’s beginning to look like a pretty good idea, and I’ll add that to my mental list of things to start doing after I’m rich. I sure hope the busses in Japan are more bag-tolerant than the airlines have been…

- I’m doing long division to keep myself occupied, and also because I will need it to teach math. I take our speed in kilometres per hour (example: 829 km/h), then divide that by sixty to get kilometres a minute (13.816), and then again to get kilometres per second (.23027), so that gets me 230 metres per second. That’s not bad, but compare that to the space shuttle at 11 kilometres per second – or 11,000 m/sec. The speed of the aircraft keeps changing, so I do it again and again – the fastest I saw it get was 890 km/h, or 247 m/sec… imagine clearing a kilometre in four seconds!

* * *

4 hours to Tokyo:
[waking up]
Oh, I’m on a plane.
Why am I-
Oh, I’m going to Japan.


But eastern Siberia, which we’re flying over now, is beautiful. I was tempted to take pictures, as I had been of the New York sunrise and the pageant jewel of Halifax just before sunrise.

I notice that we have to keep making little course corrections as we go. I suppose any number of factors could be involved, like currents, but I’m wondering if any of our little redirections have anything to do with ETOPS regulations (unlike a 747 or A340, this 777 has only two engines, so we always have to be within a certain distance of an airport or landing strip).

After this, my seatmate got up again, and so I took the opportunity to get my MP3 player from the overhead bin after coming from the washroom. That made the rest of the trip pass by a little more smoothly.

My first sighting of Japan was the northern coast of Hokkaido, which I noted had some snow cover, as did northern Honshu when we saw it. Towards Tokyo the ground became bare; the area around Narita was brilliant: it looked like a miniature playset. Even the gravel piles were nice and neat! And the giant power lines were precious, too. I also saw great plains of crops, but with high plateaus that were also cropped; the hilly parts in between were rings of trees. It was utterly beautiful.

And the people at the airport were friendly, too, and I went on to have some remarkable experiences there, but that is another story…

Tomorrow: Tokyo to Osaka
Tags: air travel, japan, travel
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