01 May 2010

The End of Thaime and Malaysian Pain

The seasons turn, days and nights innumerable. The sun and the stars take their turns joining the moon on its never-ending journey around the earth. Trees grow, flowers bloom, the tides rise and fall, nations are born and nations die. The wheel spins, ages go away, but ages that are lost return with the wheel's spin. Movies made in the 80's are remade in the new century. All this to say: It's been awhile since I wrote for you. Here continues the saga of Ashley's Adventures in Asia.
For a while, nothing much happened. Dayna and I were ensconced in our hotel room, until I did the math (I like math) and discovered that it would actually be cheaper to rent a bungalow. So we did. It was also much cooler in the bungalow than in the room. Did I mention that Thailand is a tropical environment, just without the cool spray of the sea nor the shade of the jungle? I continued to visit Yvanna daily and along came a new friend, Kristen. Kristen was visiting with Yvanna one day when I went to Yvanna's room, and we were introduced. She said to me, "Are you here to see Doctor Chettawat?" What the.... huh?!?!?

Kristen and I got along like bestest friends. She was only there for a couple of days, but we got along great. We went bra shopping together at the local mall (They have malls in Thailand!!!) and found out a closely-held secret... Thai women are... ummmmm... How to put this delicately? Flat.

Still, we had some fun. Kristen is Hawaiian. Kinda like the current president, except she's a whole lot shorter than he is. Also, she looks Polynesian. This means that wherever we went, she was unable to convince the locals that she wasn't Thai. They insisted on speaking Thai with her, but she couldn't understand them. Wow.

Kristen and I finished our trip to the mall with something every American visiting Thailand should experience: Pizza Hut®, Thai style. In 1978, one of the all-time worst movies was released,
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. In the 1988 sequel, Return of the Killer Tomatoes, tomatoes have been outlawed, and people are depicted eating pizza with toppings that don't require tomato sauce, such as peanut butter. Funny thing... In
Thailand, the pizza does not necessarily contain tomato sauce. However, it does sometimes come with "ketchup" on the side. This particular "ketchup" is not ketchup as we know it... It's tomato sauce. The kind found on pizza. And it's in little packets, such as Americans often find... you guessed it... ketchup. We dined at Pizza Hut and had pizza that was pretty good, after we added "ketchup".

Afterward, we explored a bit while the evening grew darker. It looked a lot like a shopping area you might expect to find at any other major city. Well, there were some differences... The child selling souvenir bugs comes to mind. There were a few street vendors selling some kind of salmonella-on-a-stick. I was having a great time with Kristen, but we had to find a cab (there was a line of them waiting at the mall) and found found our way back. Kristen left at 5:00 AM the next morning to go home.

Then came the day when the nurse came to check on Dayna and informed us that we would need to go with her, the next day, to the immigration office to extend our visas. I tried to argue that I don't have any credit cards, but she just didn't understand. That night, I should have realized that the thunderstorm was a warning.

We took a cab to the train station, took a train across town, and there caught another cab. I was fine. Dayna was miserable. It was the first time she had worn a complete set of clothing in nearly a month, and she didn't feel up to sitting or walking. At the immigration office, I spent nearly an hour filling out paperwork, only to be told that I had filled out the wrong form. So I filled out a different form with the same questions in a different order.

We then waited for close to an hour to be called. Dayna was approved to stay longer for medical reasons. This was a good sign... Obviously no government as peaceful and benevolent as the Thai government would allow her to stay but would send her caregiver (me) home, right?


I have to admit, this is the first time I have been officially asked to leave a country. I received a letter saying that I had three days to "vacate the kingdom". You know I kept that. I'll be showing it to my grandchildren.

So, we had to appeal. The next stop was the American Embassy. Dayna and I took a cab to the American Embassy, only to find it closed. Apparently, they take a two-hour lunch. We went for a walk, seeking some bottled water. The tap water in Bangkok is not rated for consumption. No, really... The city government tells the citizenry that the water can't be used for cooking nor drinking. So bottled water is very popular there. On our way back, we passed a building that was also labelled "United States Embassy", so I took a couple of pictures of the front gate. Nothing spectacular. Then we walked back and got in line to enter the appropriate branch of the embassy, and after a few minutes we (Dayna and I) were confronted by a man wearing a generic spook-grade cheap suit and two men with automatic rifles and US Marine dress uniforms.

Not my best moment.

They made me erase my pictures of the embassy. Apparently, digital photographs of front gates are a serious threat in countries with which we've never had any conflicts and where 97% of the population worships peace (the other 3% being American and British immigrants).

So, inside the embassy I got a letter asking the Thai government to pretty please let me stay. I then went back to the immigration office and gave them the paperwork. After another hour or so, they gave me a form letter, saying, "No." They did let me pay a fee that allowed me to remain a few more days.

Back at the bungalow, we were meeting more new people. We met a lesbian couple from Australia, a woman from Holland, and a visitor from Houston.

I said, "I know you, don't I?"

She looked at me and replied, "You look familiar. Are you here to see Doctor Chettawat?" That particular question was starting to get old, so I decided to do some research when I had free time.

The bungalow had some basic cooking supplies and a few dishes. It had a bottle of potable water (refilled daily), some kind of sandwich burner, a hot plate, a water heater, a sink and a fridge. Now, we could eat something other than what was on the hotel menu! I obtained some groceries (a large bag of rice, some eggs, assorted vegetables, mushrooms, peppers, meat, fruits) and became quite the domestic.

For a few days. I was still being deported.

Then, the Dutch lady (who was able to chat with Yvanna in her native tongue) said, "Why don't you just leave the country and come back?" See, I'm an engineer. I get paid to think outside the box. I have training in logic and my hobbies include various types of puzzle-solving. Yet, somehow, this had escaped me.

"But where should I go?" See? That's how smart I am. I have the Internet, plus a map of the world in the hotel lobby, and I ask brilliant questions like that.

"Anywhere." Duh! I was struck dumb by the obviousness.

This is what unemployment does to the human brain.

I discussed options with the nurse, and she spoke of a friend who was a travel agent and might be able to arrange a cheap car ride to the next country over. I asked about the country in question. Her reply: "Malaysia. Do you know it?"

For the second time in two days, I was struck dumb. I got online and messaged my old friend Foo. "Where do you live, again?"

Years ago, when I was part of an elite circle of hackers... well, enough about that. Let's just say that Foo and I were old computer buddies, and we had been wanting to see each other for a while.

Foo lives in Kuala Lumpur, the capitol city of Malaysia. It's a very odd name for the city, because they have none of those little bears with the big eyes. But it's an interesting city. I arranged to stay overnight, because the entire reason I needed to remain in Asia was to take care of a sick person. I could leave for a day and she would be alright, but she wasn't healing very well, which I was told was sometimes a problem with "white people". Hrm. I was unaware of this weakness. I noted it, and hope to be able to use it to my advantage in the next Choctaw War. Then... wait, where was I?

Right. Malaysia!

Anyway, I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, at a space station that looked like about half of the death star. I spent maybe four hours walking to the nearest exit (it's a big airport) and heard a voice: "Ashley!"

Foo isn't a bad-looking guy. But that's not important. What was relevant on this occasion was that we had known each other for years and years and had chatted, e-mailed, snail-mailed and spoken on the phone, followed each other's relationships, consoled each other's losses, and discussed some of the finer points of data security, but had never actually met face-to-face. This was a big moment for both of us. Also, I had conversed with him before, but always in English, never in Chinese. I discovered that when he speaks Mandarin, his voice drops and octave and my knees start to melt under the sheer sexy power of his words.

We chatted for a while, and he showed me some of the city, including his 'hood, but it was nighttime, and I wouldn't get to do a proper exploration.

He helped me find a cheap hotel, too. He had connections.

On the way to the hotel, he also showed me a sight I'll never forget. The Petronas Twin Towers (Also known simply as "The Twin Towers") in Kuala Lumpur are a pair of 88-story buildings, making them the tallest pair of twin buildings in the world, housing offices leased to a variety of companies from all over the world. If the airport hadn't convinced me, then these buildings would have... Kuala Lumpur is, indeed, a modern city in the 21st century.

He got me to my hotel, and I settled in for the night. Ladies... He was a perfect gentleman at all times.

The next morning, I did what I always do in a strange place. I woke up, got dressed, grabbed my backpack, camera and Oatmeal, checked out of the hotel, walked outside and got lost. As I've previously stated, getting lost is the only way to see a country. I found several international phone booths, all of which were out of order. Too bad. I wanted to call Jean and tell her, "I'm in Malaysia. No, really. Don't hang... hello? HELLO?!?!?" But it was not to be.

Still, it inspired a song, which popped into my head. I will cherish this song forever, and indeed I did drive Dayna to the brink of suicide upon my return by singing it over and over again, long into the night. Here's the song:

I'm in Malaysia, don't hang up the phone,
I don't know when I'm coming home,
I don't know how long it takes to learn Malay,
Send some money todayyyyyyyyyy....
I'll take some pictures, then I'm off to Rome,
And then I'm coming home.

This song was intended to be sung to the tune of Chanson du Toréador from the opera Carmen. Anyway, after walking around, taking some pictures, and finally finding my way to KLCC park at the base of the Twin Towers, I called Foo and he came and picked me up.

Unfortunately, we were running a bit late (my fault, totally), so he picked me up and headed in the general direction of the airport.

On the way, Foo was telling me about how nasty the traffic was, mentioning how at that moment we seemed to be surrounded by people with poor driving skills. As if to illustrate, the car in front of us came to an abrupt halt. That's when it happened...

The average automobile (in the US) weights roughly 4000 pounds. That amount of mass, moving at, say, 20 miles per hour, brought to a sudden halt by a collision, produces... forget it. I was going to do the math, but simply put, Foo did an excellent job. The car in front of him stopped unexpectedly, and he saw it, and was able to stop with about ten feet to spare. I looked at him and said, "I see what you mean." Actually, what I said was, "I ssss...", because the driver behind us wasn't really paying attention. The collision started us moving forward again, and in short order we were smooshed (scientific term) between two cars. The one that hit us was actually a full-sized SUV owned by... get ready... McDonald's Corporation. Yes, they're still out to get me.

Foo got out to discuss insurance agents and blunt weapons with the guy who hit us, while I got out to throw up. Something about the way I had hit my head didn't feel too good. I was glad we had been moving so slowly, but I felt terrible about my friend's car. He had only been there because of me. Nevertheless, he spent half the time after that apologizing to me, as if it were his fault, and after we were moving again (with some new noises coming from his car) he purchased me an interesting snack. It appeared to be iced tea with fruit and yogurt bits. It wasn't bad, and was indeed quite refreshing on that particular day.

He got me back to the airport and we said our goodbyes, and I took some pictures of his car for insurance purposes. Then, I made my way into the airport and decided that the day had been just TOO MUCH. Dehydration from my foot journey, the car crash, a minor run-in with a small criminal ring (an event I haven't related to anyone for reasons that are best not to go into until the statute of limitations expires, let's just say that I love my sturdy tripod) and the headache I had had since the accident were all conspiring to make me want to fall apart. So, I did what any modern woman would do. I went to the bathroom to let it out of my system.

Normally, this would involve finding a clean toilet stall, sitting down, shaking for a bit, de-stressing, making myself focus on the many good things that had happened, and then checking my makeup, all before pretending that I had actually used the toilet stall for its intended purpose. But... Remember how I said that Kuala Lumpur is a modern city? Yeah, well.... It still is, but some things never change. Take the toilets in the women's restroom at the Kuala Lumpur airport...

IT WAS A SQUATTIE!!!! Nothing to sit on, nothing to help me balance, just a hole in the floor positioned in such a way that there was physically no way for anyone weighing more than 110 pounds would be able to use it gracefully. Still, I'm an Engineer, and we're nothing if not resourceful.

Well, normally we're nothing if not resourceful. In this particular occasion, a few other words could have been used to describe me, none of them good. So I did my business, picked myself up from where I had fallen, stopped the bleeding, changed underwear, collected what was left of my dignity, and left the restroom with a trail of toilet paper following me. I think it was stuck to that little piece left of my dignity.

On the plane, I summed up the day I had, and decided that overall, meeting my old friend face to face was more than worth everything else. Still, next time I fly there, I'm wearing a diaper.

I got back to Thailand and had a whopping 30 days on my visa. I guess it worked. Back at the hotel, I took about six aspirin. Then, I called the Jean and said, "Guess where I spent the day?"

"Malaysia. I know."

I wanted to bite her.

Later, we had a party. We invited all of our new friends. Yvanna left earlier that day, which was sad, but we had a decent turnout. I purchased some goodies from a local grocery store (I was getting pretty good at this Thai shopping) and we partied at the hotel pool. Technically, we weren't allowed to have food in the pool area, but the hotel staff was really friendly with us so they looked the other way. That was nice. We had long chats, listened to music, and generally relaxed.

There were bats flying around the pool area. It was awesome!

About a week later, my headache still hadn't gone away. Jean was yelling at me on the phone for flying right after a car wreck, and Dayna was complaining that if I died she would have to fly home without me and that would be no fun. The nurse, who by now was on a first name basis with us, gave me some pills and told me not to tell anyone. I didn't. Heck, I don't know what they were, because the label was in Thai. I gather, though, that the pills were some type of prescription migraine medication, and I'm pretty sure it was charged to Dayna's account. I didn't care.

One day, I was walking to the bungalow and a cat joined me, spoke to me in Cat, and walked alongside me. I got to know her a bit and wondered where she had come from. I figured, my cat, Lucky, is Siamese, which means his breed originated in Thailand, and this cat, although all black, was literally a Siamese cat, because she lived in Thailand, formerly known as Siam. I reasoned (remember, I had hit my head on a car) that my cat must have missed me and was projecting his spirit across the world into a fellow Siamese cat so that he could be with me. I let her into the bungalow, and she jumped up onto my bed. Almost too creepy.

Once I settled down, she snuggled up to me, just like Lucky does. Dayna kept complaining about how she might have rabies and stuff. I don't listen too good, as my ex-mother-in-law would say. But the cat was sweet. She never did a thing to bother me. She went outside, she came in, it was like she belonged. Then, a few days later, Dayna was complaining. "That cat... She doesn't bother you, but when I tried to pet her, she bit me!"

I looked at her and spoke softly... "Lucky? Is that really you?" She mewed and then came over to me and rubbed on me. I knew it!

When Dayna was finally pronounced fit to fly, we made plans. First, we had our last-minute souvenir shopping. In my travels with Kristen, I had mastered this... There were two things to do. First, I made a list of people and possible... OK, three things. First, I made a list of people and possible things to get them. Then, I went to this big, huge open market thingie (called the Weekend Market) that was basically like a flea market, only out of one of those quasi-gothic martial arts motorcycle gangter movies that take place in Tokyo and have as a minor bad guy that skinny Chinese guy with the long iffy goatee. The fact that it started raining after I got there added to the effect.

I found lots of merchandise at both really good and really bad prices, got some select items for some select people, bought one of those meat-on-a-stick things from a person pushing a heated cart, and mostly tried to stay dry. I loved it! The whole place was just like out of a movie!

But I think I already mentioned that.

Anyway, the third thing I had to do was get Dayna up, dressed, and into a cab. Then, I took her to the mall where I had gone with Kristen. So far, so good. But... She kept saying, "It's a mall. Everything here is overpriced. And you can get this stuff anywhere!"

My reassurances were intentionally mysterious... "Do you trust me?" "Just wait..." "Yeah, isn't it?"

When we got to the escalators, she looked up and said, "How the hell tall is this place?" I explained that we were going up to the eighth floor, but the escalators only went to the seventh floor, so we would have to take an elevator at the top.

"Eight floors in a mall?"

"Well, the ninth floor is where the movie theaters are." hehe I like being all casual-like in situations like that, so I look like I know what I'm doing. The fact is that if Krysten hadn't taken me there and we hadn't gotten curious and had too much time on our hands, we would never have found.... The Eighth Floor!

It was like a flea market, again. Instead of shops and kiosks, like the rest of the mall, it had carts, and cubby holes, and stalls. And it had lots and lots of authentic-looking Asian goods at reasonable prices. We were careful to try to get stuff that actually was Thai, nothing Chinese or Japanese or any of those other -nese words. Some of the stuff was imported, but it all had something to do with Thai culture.

Back at the hotel, I managed to pack our bags, complete with souvenirs and my camera equipment, such that no bag went over the limit. Dayna still had Special Needs, and I was able to divide everything we would need for her between her carry-on and mine.

We had one last evening there, and dined with the nurse who had visited every day. Dinner was in an open-air restaurant. Had it rained, the entire place would have been closed. But it didn't rain. We got to know her better, but also had the opportunity to learn to eat seafood Thai style. I learned a lot that night, such as... Shrimp shells are edible. Did you know that? I didn't.

During dinner, I remembered a question I had... "Sree? Do you know Doctor Chettawat?"

"Oh, yes. He is a nice man. He is a surgeon. He fixes..." She circled her head with her finger.

"He works on faces?"

"Yes, faces." Then her face lit up... "You should go see him!"


We were both pretty cheerful at this point... We were heading home, my headache was lessening, Dayna was starting to heal, and we actually made it out of the country without further incident. I figured we were home free. I was smiling. Then Dayna did A Bad Thing. She said, "We're home free!"



"You did not just say that!"

"What? What did I say?"

The man in the seats behind us said, "Never say anything like that. That ranks right up there with 'What could possibly go wrong?'"

Dayna thought we were being superstitious. hehe

In Japan, our plane was delayed for three hours. When it finally arrived, we were tired, sore, thirsty, hungry, and my headache was starting to get worse. But... we got on the plane. Dayna and I got to board first, since she was in a wheelchair.

On the plane, we took our seats, front row, right below the movie screen, and waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

After another four hours, I was awakened by a flight attendant and told that we would have to get off the plane. Apparently, the restrooms had all stopped working. I can see the problem. Of all the things on a plane that don't actually involve flying, landing and breathing, the restrooms are about the most indispensable. Especially on a 14-hour flight.

So we got off the plane and walked to another terminal and waited for another plane. In the airport, I heard the gentleman who had been sitting behind us on the previous flight, he was sitting nearby and pointing Dayna out to some of the other stranded passengers. They were giving her dirty looks.

After we got on the replacement plane, Dayna started having... well, female trouble. She asked a female flight attendant if they had sanitary pads. The flight attendant spoke to a more senior male flight attendant (who I swear looked exactly like like Hiro's friend in the television series Heroes) and he started asking us if there was anything he should know. Dayna, quick thinker that she is, showed him the letter from her doctor saying that she was able to fly, and he looked more closely at the letter. "You just had surgery?" He walked away to make a phone call, and I started looking for something I could use to beat Dayna.

When he came back, he informed us that he had contacted a company "doctor" in Chicago, and we would not be able to fly until we got a letter from the airport clinic indicating that Dayna could fly without bleeding to death. I tried to explain that women sometimes bleed but almost never die from it, but... well, he was a man, and the doctor in Chicago was a man, and I guess these two men had never been married. And didn't have sisters. And didn't watch television, and didn't take health class in high school, and...

Aaaannnnyyyyyway... We got off the plane and as I wheeled Dayna past the passengers who were boarding, one old woman whacked her on the back of the head and said in a Midwest accent, "You should know never to say something like that until you really are home free!"

I didn't stop the woman, of course. I mean, Dayna's my friend, but someone had to do it.

Sooooo.... we had the "opportunity" to spend three days in Japan. Not Tokyo, mind you, but Japan. We wrangled a discount rate at a really nice hotel which plays host to flight staff and is really near the airport. It had a nice garden out back and Sushi on the menu. I couldn't wait to call Jean and Al and gloat. Al is a big-time Janophile (that's someone who loves Japanese culture and stuff, not that weird thing they do in Florida). I was going to call, but it was about the middle of the night in the US, so I refrained.

We settled in and went downstairs for our first taste of genuine Japanese food from Japan. I had eaten Japanese before, but that was in the US, or occasionally in Thailand. So I ordered the Sushi platter, with 15 different types of sushi (one piece of each) and Dayna ordered the steak.

Yup, no one knows how to go native like Dayna. She's a regular world traveler.

In the morning, I called Jean to gloat. She called me names. I can't repeat them here, because my child might read this blog. Then, I went for a walk in the garden. I took pictures. It was impressive. I still couldn't believe it... I was in Japan!

I should take a moment to share a little something here. I believe in past lives. Part of that was because I wanted to believe that we would all get multiple chances to learn and grow spiritually until we reached True Enlightenment, but mostly it was the fact that in all my life I've never been able to get rid of the images, sounds and other details of places where I had never been which continued to flood my memory. I never had any clear recollection of specific events, but I would look at pictures and recognize them, I sometimes knew what was over the next hill in a new place, and I couldn't get rid of memories that I shouldn't have had.

And whatever else happens, whatever other images I see, or voices I hear from the past (memories, not hallucinations), I know one thing for certain... In my most recent previous trip through this little blue world, I was Japanese. And I was happy. So the images I get are happy images, and the pictures I come across of modern Japan make me feel inexplicably happy, but also sometimes a bit homesick.

So... I was in Japan! I knew I wouldn't stay long, and I didn't want to, really, but one of my lifelong dreams was fulfilled. Sorta. I wanted to spend longer than a few days, but not this time around. Another time, when I didn't have a headache, and wasn't playing nurse to someone, and when I actually had some type of financial wherewithal to support my travels. But a taste of a good thing can be better than to never taste at all. Especially since I have every intention of going back, some day.

So Dayna worked on relaxing and getting well, and I took pictures. I got to see my first bamboo forest! She also called her mother and started a storm of fury that might bring an airline to its knees when it's over. Nearly a year has passed, and it's not over yet, so I'm glad I don't work for one particular airline. I don't actually remember which one it was, possibly due to a head injury, so I just avoid applying for jobs at all airlines.

Where was I? Oh, right, taking pictures... I took pictures. And I needed supplies. That is, I needed cash, and also some basic sanitary stuff for Dayna and basic stuff for both of us that you might not find in a hotel. So I went out to gather supplies. But I took my camera. I got to the end of the road that led to the hotel, picked a direction that looked promising, and started walking. I then proceeded to get lost.

As I've said before, getting lost is the best way to explore a place. Marco Polo, with his maps and his guides and his Italian accent had nothing on me, with my tripod and my getting lost. Plus, my phone didn't work outside the US, so GPS wasn't helpful. The problem this time is that it was already afternoon when I started walking, so it started getting dark. I eventually got past the woodsy areas and stuff and found what appeared to be civilization. But stores were closed, and while there were a few restaurants open, they didn't have what I needed. So I kept walking. At one point, when it was truly dark and I was wandering down a dimly lit street with high walls on either side, I started to wonder if maybe, just maybe, I should start to experience fear. Of course, I reasoned that I had my tripod with me, so I should be safe against anyone I would logically encounter. Basically, I should be safe from anyone other than someone with an automatic rifle. Or a Ninja.

Then it occurred to me... I was in Japan. I might actually get attacked by a Ninja. It could actually happen!!!

But it didn't. I walked for about five hours, then spotted what, so help me Google, had to be a 7-11. You remember, the original convenience stores, which went almost entirely out of business in the US decades ago? Well, guess what... They still flourish in Japan. I used the ATM, purchased what we needed, and then started trying to wander back in the general direction whence I had come.

By this time, I was a truly veteran traveler of Asia Proper. I knew the score. It was dark, my feet hurt, I was tired, and I was pretty sure that if I kept going in the direction I was walking I would never see home again. So I stopped to think. I knew I needed a taxi, and now that I had cash I could hire one. Having learned from experience, I had taken two different types of business cards from the hotel, so I could show that to the cab driver. Now, all I needed to do was find one.

This is where my engineering mind was starting to come in handy. I thought, if I were a taxi, and I didn't have a fare, where would I be? The airport was a given, as would be a hotel. But I needed something closer.

Hospitals! People leaving hospitals for anything bigger than a splinter aren't allowed to drive, so there might be a taxi. I stood still and slowly spun, consciously ignoring the fact that I didn't know how to spell "hospital" in Japanese.

In the distance I spotted... Nah, it couldn't be. I pulled out my camera (I love that thing!) with its biggest lens, zoomed way in, and... What are the chances that in a country which shares no common lingual roots with the West, and where the primary religion is neither Judeo-Christian based nor Euro-pagan, a hospital would be identified by a cross? Not the elongated kind that's commonly used on churches, but the kind with equal-length arms, like a plus sign (+). When I thought about it, it made perfect sense. Some symbols have become international standards. The symbols for radiation, biohazard, fire, a republican-controlled parliament, and emergency exits are all nearly universal (the US being a bit behind on the exit sign standard). This allows international travelers to avoid things like death more easily.

So I headed to the building, which turned out to be an honest-to-gosh hospital. And... Lo and behold! Across the street was a cab company.

I would like to thank my father, a former cab driver, for the opportunity to not die horribly at the hands of Ninjas. I spoke with a cab driver, showed him the cards from the hotel, and he took me back.

I kept telling Dayna that due to the loss of air pressure during the flight the best thing to do would be for her to wear an adult diaper. At first, she thought I was being kinky or something, which is just weird, because I was her caretaker, so kink wasn't allowed to be part of the equation, and also I'm not kinky (I'm not!) but eventually she saw my logic. Somehow, the airline thought that she was bleeding internally, and while that might be technically true, it wasn't what they thought, and this hotel was getting expensive for Dayna.

Also, when we checked in we were still waiting for our luggage, which for some reason contained Dayna's credit card, so I had to use mine to check us in, and my poor card was starting to overheat.

So I spoke with some flightstaff from a previous flight two months before (they remembered me!) and they told me where to find what I needed.

I took a free hotel bus to a largish (only three stories) mall. On the bus, I chatted with a pilot, who told me about a book he wrote. It was called First Officer's Log, and he gave me his card so that I could contact him to get an autographed copy. I'll give a book review in the near future.

My headache was getting worse, but I was armed with some Yen, a map of the mall, and a strong-enough command of the Japanese language to say "Good Morning" and introduce myself. I could just barely see the map, of course, because my migraines tend to have... side-effects. But I could see it well enough.

After walking back and forth for about twenty minutes in front of a toy store, wondering how my map could be so wrong, I turned the map upside-down, walked up to the second story and went to a spot exactly above the spot I had been walking on downstairs, and there it was. A drugstore. I walked in and got adult diapers and other feminine items for Dayna. She no longer cared about dignity or where I might have gotten the diaper idea from.... She just wanted to go home.

I also wandered over to the pain killers. Something you have to understand about this point in time... I said before that weird things happen when I get a migraine. Sometimes, I see things. Sometimes I'm totally blind or can't move my body. And sometimes.... I looked at the bottles on the shelves and I could read them. All of them. Each one. They were all in Japanese, and I could read them.

Weird, huh?

So I got something. I could, at that time, read the label, and I knew this was headache powder contained in little paper packets, but I couldn't have said the name to you. I was pretty out-of-it by then. So I called the stuff "Happy Magic Headache Powder". I would later learn that this is actually very close to what the label actually says.

I paid for my purchases and made my way downstairs and to a grocery store, where I acquired some Pocky, a snack popular in Asia, and to which Dayna and I had become thoroughly addicted, and some drinks and stuff. Just enough for that evening, because the next morning was our flight out.

I want to mention something at this point... The toilet in the hotel. I was sitting on the toilet, as modern humans are apt to do, and I looked down and noticed something.... different. There were buttons. Electronic buttons. I finished what I was doing and then said to Dayna, "Hey, there are buttons on the toilet. Electronic buttons."

She came over and stood outside the bathroom door while I pushed one button. A nozzle come down from somewhere behind the seat. Cool! I pushed another button and a stream of warm water hit Dayna in the face.

Turns out, there were different settings. It could spray on the backside (wonderful on irritated hemorrhoids) or move a bit further and spray... something else. It had different settings, temperature, pressure, position... This was one high-tech crapper! It's almost enough to make me want to move to Japan.

Anyway, the next day we were on a flight back. We had gone to the airport clinic and the doctor there had taken one look at the note from Dayna's doctor (the one that said that she was able to fly) and wrote us another note saying that she was able to fly, and only charged us about the equivalent of $80. He never looked at Dayna.

On the plane, Dayna was sitting next to me, and sometime over the Pacific she said, "Now, we're home free!" I was about to react when something hit her from behind.

I looked back, and a grandmotherly old lady in the seat behind us shouted, "Don't you EVER say that on a plane!"

She was right, too, because when we landed in San Francisco, we learned that the path the airline had mapped out involved a detour to Washington Dulles Airport and parts of New England, and we had another 28 hours of flight time left.

I went to the airline counter and told them to book us with another airline. Dayna's mother has a friend who is a travel agent, and gave us a Continental flight that was heading straight from San Francisco to Houston.

We arrived in Houston about 2:00 AM that night.

Our luggage arrived three days later. No, really. True story.

So when we were going through customs, the agent asked me, "Where's your luggage?"



"Yep." I was tired.

He eyed my camera bag. "Do you have anything to declare?"

"Yes. Don't go to Asia!"

1 comment:

sudheer said...

the photos are really nice.I wonder why you dont want to come to asia.It certainly is not as good as the USA but not so bad even.