day 128: subtle effects of japan

tokWhile my flight from Tokyo via the Philippines to Bali takes off, I am sitting with relish in a kabuki performance – traditional Japanese theater – in the National Theatre Tokyo. Probably I´m dozing, the performance takes 4 ½ hours. The next day I’m at the airport and surprised: The flight was yesterday.

Good, new flight via Bangkok to Bali. But: There is a volcano erupting and spewing ash. After flying to Bangkok I´m stranded there with hundreds of other travelers. All are tense and whacked. No one wants to hang out with luggage at Bangkok airport, when he wanted to relax on the beach in Bali. Some are already here for 2, 3 days. They lie, sit and stand all around the Air Asia counter. The Air Asia employees try to put the people on flights to other destinations or on the flight tp Bali the next day – and maybe then the outbreak is over. But you do not know.

I can see how a young Russian woman next to me is stubborn and says that all employees always lie here and never tell the truth. I see an elderly Indian woman next to her, who wants to instantly see a manager – she lives in the US, the reason for the use of the “oh so beloved manager strategy“ in the US. I see a spanish lady who argues with a woman from the Caribbean. “Do not yell at me,” yells the woman from the Caribbean. “I am not yelling,” yells the spanish lady. Watching that scene I wish that hopefully I’ll get a scene as genuine as that one when I play improv theater the next time. People would scream with laughter. I see an Argentinian couple that fights at the counter, where they should go now. The staff member is waiting what she should do, and watches the two. The couple notices her and they switch to Spanish and argue further. A Frenchman comes to the counter, that his waiting-number is never called. “C-something is always called, for an hour, but never with a number A. And I have A-167,” he says. The Thai girl with the Air Asia vest, with the words “trainee” on, does not understand and smiles.

I wonder about myself, as I watch everything and enjoying myself. It’s not as if I was not tired. Since over 24 hours I’m at airports or in the air. I have hardly slept, I do not know what I should do, from standing my knees and lower back hurt. I’m tired and hungry. Had I just entered from Europe, I would have discharged my steam. But Japan has worked two months on me. I have not noticed, but now I am aware. The courtesy and tranquility that surround you in Japan, are passed on to me. I thank the staff and just wait. I see how hard they work and how the stress caused shimmers under the perfect make-up faces. After waiting for 7 hours and finally have my flight rebooked to Jakarta one of the employees tells me: “Fortunately, there are also passengers like you.” It is her first week in the job, I hope she hangs in there.

About Michaela Krimmer

35, anthropologist, Austrian, female

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