Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sudden departure - A misadventure

Did you have any idea of how crazy leaving a country is? I didn't. 

Did you have any faintest idea of how insanely crazy leaving a country suddenly is? I surely didn't.

It's like a level 5 hurricane that storms only into your daily life and leaves shatters behind. It's like a Richter 9 earthquake with epicenter right under your feet. 

But let's take a few steps back…

You move to a foreign country, with hopes and dreams. Half a year later you learn you lost your job. Alright, that happens all the time, alright. You then are forced to move up your scheduled departure and have to deal with everything last second. Not fun. Not fun at all.

One of my good friends was caught up in such an apocalyptic escalation of events and, believe it or not, she could pick up her belongings, terminate contracts and such, only -ONLY- the day before her flight! This means (on the positive side, if there is one) there's no time for desperation, no time for sadness, no time for goodbyes, no time to think, no time to let things sink in. I-DEAL deal.

My friend, though, was lucky and even got last minute presents. Oh, OK, not really presents, but, hey, that's what we found in our bags. It was a last minute thing, remember? No time for proper ceremonies, so: chopsticks, a new toothbrush, a lighter -from FRANCE!- she'll never use as she is no smoker, cheese, a map of Tokyo subway lines…best set of random gifts ever! But straight from the hearth. 

Emptying an apartment and fit all of one's belongings in a 25kg baggage within 24 hours is….heh….I bet many of you know exactly what it is. Many panic when their 5th pair of heels can't fit in the 40kg suitcase packed for that ONE WEEKEND trip to London…..imagine the challenge of moving for good.

Friend is supposed to crash at mine on her last night in Japan. Friend is wasting time in buying flowers (whaaaaat?) and thinking of where to take me out for dinner (yes, she took me out on a date!) instead of packing. Friend has stuff that doesn't fit in her luggage. Friend doesn't know post offices have shipping counters that are open 24/7. Friend doesn't speak Japanese (not that I can help much with that). Friend doesn't have any clues at this point, you get that she is not rational at this point anymore. So, I go with her and help (Guess what! She got me flowers! And her yoga mat…).

We agree on hiring a cab to carry my suitcase containing her box containing her extra clothes. First one we stop is "very sorry but I only serve Tokyo area, I don't know the wherebouts"….suckerrrrr. Second one knows exactly where to drop us, but doesn't even get off his car to help and load my suitcase (containing her box containing her extra clothes) in the booth…luckily for him I left my temper at home and brought my common sense with me.

Agony of the shipping procedures: we have to ship to country A, woman doesn't know where it is. Then we find it. We ask for registered shipping to country A. Cannot be done. We ask for airmail shipping to country A. We fill the form. Then we ask for insurance. We have to fill a new form (to tick the box where it said "insured") plus another paper with the declared value of the items. Declared value is too high for country A. Cannot send the parcel. We say we then touch the declared value. Cannot be done (horrified expression on woman's face). Then, idea: we ship to country B! Woman knows where Country B is. Insurance shipping is possible. Not for the same value, though. We don't care, we just want to send the f***ing box somewhere! We fill another form to country B, registered airmail, almost no value is what we declare. Woman is perplexed but at this point we don't care. Process. It. Right. Now! Oh, we forgot politeness… FFS! 

Five paper forms, a dozen of puzzled customers and a couple of hours later we are free of goods and famished, so we head back to my neighborhoods and find a place for the final act, our date, where to wash away our hustle&bustle with warm nihonshu. 
Friend really can't use chopsticks! I noticed it at the restaurant, and it was before alcohol intake. How has she survived all this time in Japan without learning will remain one of the biggest mysteries of humanity. Even the waitress at the restaurant must have felt something: first time in 7+ years I am given a plate of rice together with a SPOON!

We crawl into bed just 4 hours before wake up call, then the ride to the airport is smooth and perfectly timed. Where's the catch? There must be a catch…

First stop once at the terminal mobile phone counter to cut her line, second stop money exchange (collapsed at the sight of euro-yen exchange rate), third stop baggage wrapping -with the intention of keeping it from opening up in the plane's tummy but without making sure the weight is within the limit…fingers crossed. Check in almost done, but…here's the catch: the damn lighter is in the luggage and can't be checked-in. Pretty lady at the check-in counter has gone back to stone age, the only thing capable to say being "cannot check-in sorry cannot check-in sorry cannot check…." OK. GOT IT! We cut the wrapping, get the lighter out, tape the luggage. Done. Pretty lady at that point had recovered both speech and smiles. Why does my friend carry a lighter? If clueless, that means only one thing: someone need to work on stretching that attention span…Oh, never mind. 

Meanwhile, at the airport it is time for goodbyes. No no friend, don't cry. I said don……sh*t! She was contagious, too.

On the train back home I realized I had spent the last 36 hours in constant mood high, keeping the brain sane, operational to compensate for my friend. But after she was gone I felt the full weight of the emotional breakdown. 

Well yes, because after yet another separation not only one deals with the results of such a separation, one also lets sadness incorporate all one's own delusions, as if blaming the departure would bring consolation: love relationships one is still paying for, friendships harder and harder to keep, career choices, Japan, one's inability to learn from one's own mistakes, one's inability to let go…