IMR: 1999: May: 13 —  Thursday, 1:55 p.m. HST
Seat 49J, United Airlines Flight 851, 900 Miles East of Honolulu

I'm not watching, but listening, to the in-flight flick, "You've Got Mail." Sort of.

We're in the second to the last row of this gargantuan aircraft, and the roar of the engines are so loud, shouting is the only effective means of communication. I certainly hope the crew doesn't have anything important to say, because I haven't been able to make out a single announcement since "attendants prepare for take off."

Otherwise, its been an uneventful flight. We just finished our gourmet Pacific lunch, engineered by the famous Sam Choy. In addition to the standard roll and salad, we had "Hawaiian pulehu steak with natural glaze, offered with corn medley and roasted red potatoes," chicken stir-fry and udon noodles, served with a vegetable medley," and "bay shrimp with sliced vegetables." These dishes, we're told, "are Sam Choy specialties."

Too bad good writing doesn't change the fact that it's still served in square plastic bowls.

Honestly, it wasn't bad. It wasn't Indigo, but it beats the reconstituted 15-percent beef patties you usually get in the air. Apparently before we land, we're due for "somen noodles with soba sauce and a fruit appetizer."

Last night I head to go out to mom's to wash all the new clothes I'd bought, and I ended up spending the night. Grandma was unusually energetic, and since she had control of the television well past 10 p.m., I've seen more than a month's worth of "Walker: Texas Ranger," "Father Dowling Mysteries," and "Diagnosis Murder." At least I have the comfort of not having to deal with Senior TV for a couple of weeks.

Todd had his Magic team out, and lying on the table I spotted a draft constitution for the "University of Hawaii Magic Club: A Registered Independent Organization." I can only presume he expects to still be attending classes next semester, despite staying up until 4 a.m. every morning sorting through his card collection.

I crashed out at 1 a.m. on the couch with Friskit, the skittish cat, purring by my side. It was nice to have company, but of course not as nice as having my family around to keep me warm. The Magic game in the family room was still going strong, and I fell asleep trying to decipher the lingo.

I woke up when Todd's gang finally broke up at 4 a.m. Todd had to take everyone home and bring the car back before mom drove me to the office.

(They just bleeped "hell." Personally I was more offended by "Starbucks.")

Someone had apparently jumped from an overpass onto the Ewa-bound lanes of the freeway, so traffic was a mess. Much as I enjoyed chatting with mom during the protracted drive, I realized I've been spoiled by town living.

I still got in before seven, and double- and tripled-checked all things computer related. Anne and Jennifer came in, we packed up what was left, shut everything off, and jumped into a cab. Half an hour and two passport checks later (my first!), we plopped down where I am right now.

Hmm. I just typed myself in a circle. I really wish I made better use of my miniscule battery time. It's an eight-hour flight, meaning most of it will be spent reading and re-reading "Hemispheres," United's not-that-bad in-flight magazine.

Well, speaking of nasty jumps, William told me yesterday that one of his fellow dormmates had taken a fatal hop off a fourth-floor balcony over the weekend.

The last remaining atoms in my body that still give a damn about the campus were rather intrigued. Fortunately we both still keep in touch with Capt. Donald Dawson at Campus Security and made plans to call him later to get the scoop.

Mostly, though, I was thinking about how glad I was that it happened after Ka Leo stopped publishing for the semester. Not a soul left there would know any better and if this had happened a week ago, I know there'd be a 72-point banner hed on the front page, complete with a photo of the stained white sheet. They'd be so excited to have an actually death on campus, no one would remember the basic code of journalists that suicides are simply not covered.

Of course, if it wasn't a suicide, that's a completely different story. But I'd wait for the Star-Bulletin to get the right story.

I don't know why but I'm tired. I think I'll take a cue from most of my planemates and take a nap.

IMR: 1999: May: 14 —  Friday, 4:51 p.m. (Tokyo)
Connecting Flight Concourse, Narita International Airport, Japan

Do the time zones in Asia have neat three-letter acronyms like they do in the U.S.? Would Tokyo be TST, or Hong Kong HKT?

It's late afternoon here, although my body is sure it's 10 p.m. And now that we've crossed a purely conceptual line in the Pacific Ocean, it's Friday. My brain is tying itself in knots trying to figure out what happened to the majority of Thursday -- the day it's convinced it's still experiencing.

Anne, Jennifer and I are sitting on the floor by a pillar so that our three laptops can grab some 100V juice before the four-hour flight to Hong Kong. It was quite an adventure figuring out whether plugging in was going to cause our computers to catch fire, but as it turns out Japan current is weaker than U.S., meaning it just takes longer to charge. It's okay... we've got all the time in the world. By the time we're on a plane again, we'll have been here for five and a half hours.

We're quite a sight, actually, surrounded by bags and 140-yen bottles of "Crystal Geyser" water, hacking away while other travelers amble by and gawk. (The fact that both my traveling companions are blondes is probably also a factor.) I'd love to share a picture of this odd scene, but I can't.

And that's a big problem.

Turns out I left the 16MB CompactFlash memory card for my digital camera in Honolulu. It and the attached PCMCIA adapter are the only way pictures get from the camera into my computer. And since it's sitting in a desk drawer in an office on Fort Street, the device currently sitting in my lap is essentially a fancy looking metal brick with buttons.

Bad karma, man. It was on its way out and I was just comparison shopping online last night for a new one.

So in Hong Kong, we'll only be armed with a convenient but ultimately low-resolution Sony Mavica to get shots of VIPs and meetings for the website (and later, various publications). Pictures from that camera are always awful, and images take eons to transfer since they're saved on crummy 3.5" floppies. The office had come to think of it as a backup to my camera.

That'll learn 'em. The office should just invest in a new, megapixel unit.

Not that it would help right now even if they decided to get one. Argh.

Deep breaths, deep breaths. There's nothing I can do about it now. I already checked the neat electronics shop here to no avail. I can only hope CompactFlash and PCMCIA are common enough standards in Asia to find something in Hong Kong.

We had quite an adventure here when we first landed.

Working from extensive advice my father gave me yesterday, we had grand plans of sneaking through immigration by way of a temporary pass and seeing other parts of the airport during our layover. Otherwise, we were told, we'd have to spend the entire time confined in a holding area until it was time to board again.

Narita Airport is my first official experience in a foreign country. In a way, it's exactly like yet completely unlike what I expected. There's just something remarkable about the first time you're somewhere surrounded by people who suddenly don't understand a word you're saying, and following signs you can't read. (God bless international symbols.)

And the weird thing is, of all places, I know the airport is probably the best part of any country designed to be fairly navigable by foreigners. The fact that we still got lost doesn't bode well for our eight days in Wanchai.

The first thing I did was teach my traveling companions the phrase, "Eigo wakarimasu ka?" Do you understand English? It was uttered two dozen times our first hour in the building.

(Brenda Foster, the governor's assistant, just stopped by. She said we 'board' very soon, since apparently 'boarding' is being loaded on a bus that takes us to the plane, which is apparently very far away.)

We circled this whole place I don't know how many times, looking for a way out. Every thoroughfare we found was only a way in. First we were told we simply couldn't leave. Then we were told maybe we could, but we should see the United agent at the gate. She told us to see the information desk, which was unfortunate because it was said desk that sent us to her. Finally a Northwest pilot said we definitely could, but it's a big hassle and by the way there's really nothing to see.

As it turns out, the fabulous new shopping plaza my dad was talking about — the place we had to escape to see — was the very facility we found ourselves trapped in. Sometime between when my dad was last here and now, the "new terminal area" became "the main terminal area," and a major expedition was no longer needed to see it.

And it's nice, but not all that interesting. Of course, after orbiting the place so many times, it's easy to get bored.

The elecronics shop was neat, seeing various models of CD players and cameras that won't be available at Sears for another couple of years. It's bizzare, after years of the new American health ethic, to see people smoking indoors. And little things just make you smile. The fancy Haagen Daaz vending machine, or the crowds of people blithely flipping through porn magazines like they were back issues of Good Housekeeping, or the computerized female announcer who speaks somewhat stilted but surprisingly good English, Japanese and Chinese.

Hmm. I changed $20 into two-thousand something yen (US$1 to 119 yen today), but all I've bought is water. I guess I'll have to spend more lavishly during the return trip.

Oop. Time to go. Hong Kong here I come.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 13 May 1999 · Last Modified: 16 May 1999