30 September 2008

The trip over

When I moved to Japan, I famously had two bags and a guitar. I will probably tell this story for the rest of my life. When I moved to Niigata, I had added two more boxes. When Yoko and I moved to Shibata, it was some forty boxes and furniture. When we came to England, we checked 14 bags (3 free, one free bike, and ten extra bags) and carried on 6 bags. We were also supposed to have a stroller, but we left it in Mito by accident.

My plan was to have all these bags shipped from Heathrow to our Bed and Breakfast for some 150 pounds. All went as planned on the Japanese side—our bags were at Narita and I was able to get them to the British Airways counter with help from Iori, Yoko's brother's partner, who basically saved our lives for about a week before we left. That left us with the 6 carry-ons (one backpack, two duffle bags, two-wheeled bags, and a diaper bag). This was a lot (more than I would suggest, especially if you are travelling with a baby), but we managed, me carrying my backpack, pulling the two-wheeled bags with the diaper bag and duffle on top of each and Yoko carrying the baby and one or two of the duffles, depending on the situation.

I was worried that we were going to have trouble getting all of this on the plane, but nobody stopped us and when we got on the plane (before everyone, of course), I was able to get everything into the overhead compartments without too much trouble. We were in the bulkhead too, which was pretty nice, especially since we didn't have a seat for Naomi.

We took off and Naomi fed and didn't have any trouble with the pressure change (although I have a feeling that the technology has gotten better on planes because I don't have any problems with my ears and I always used to be really sensitive to it). About two hours after takeoff, some juice started to drip down from the ceiling on the row behind us which was pretty weird, and required everyone behind us getting moved. This turned out to be pretty great because the dripping stopped, but the people didn't move back, leaving us with another row to exploit.

Naomi did a really good job and slept on and off through the flight. I didn't get any sleep, but I did finally get to see the Sex and the City movie that I have been waiting to see and didn't think it was as bad as everyone had said.

When we landed at Heathrow, things went really well: we had visas so we went right through immigration and all of our bags came through without any trouble. I was able to get everything on three carts and we paid a porter 8 quid to push one of them to the left luggage.

At left luggage, I told them of my plans to ship everything (per the e-mails I had traded with the company). They had to take every bag individually and measure it and weigh it before they would quote me a price (although I asked a couple of times for a rough figure, expecting it to be, as I was quoted, about 150 pounds). After about 20 minutes of measuring, they finally came back and said it was going to be like 430 pounds, which I was shocked at and immediately refused. One of the guys at the store also told me that I could rent a van for next to nothing and just take it up myself. I had thought about this before and decided to just go ahead with it.

Well, I went to the car rental kiosk which is basically just a phone bank and asked the guy who was directing people there what I should do and he told me I should just put everything on the Avis van, go to the Avis office and try to change my reservation. So Yoko and I pushed the carts (now at 4 for some reason) out to the buses to get the Avis van. The Avis van comes and the driver looks at all my stuff sort of skeptically, but agrees to put it all in the van and take me to the office. Or at least, half of it, at which point he says, how are you going to get all of this in your car? I say, Well, I am going to change my reservation and he says, There is no car there big enough to carry all of this, you have to go rent a van. So he makes me unload everything.

By now, it's about 8 and Yoko is standing there on the curb with Naomi, who is on her back and asleep. The porter guy comes around and asks me what I'm doing and I tell him, and he gives me some advice about where to rent a van, so I leave Yoko on the curb, go back to the Kiosk to try to call the van rental place, but it is now closed, apparently. So with no other options and my wife and daughter out in the cold, waiting with our stuff, I decided to just punt and put everything in left luggage and work something out in the morning.

We paid the porter to put everything on a huge cart (at a cost of 16 quid) and take it back to the left luggage. At this point, I was a little worried about the reception we were going to get at left luggage as I had them go through this once before, but they were accommodating and took everything at 
£6.50 a bag (12 bags) and Yoko and Naomi and I went back out to wait for the Avis van.

When we got to the Avis office, I was pretty disappointed as the 'small' cars were not really that small, and the car I had reserved was, in fact, much larger than I thought. I would have been able to put at least three more bags into it if I had brought them, but by then it was about 9 and after explaining my problems to the Avis guy and him trying to help me, we just decided to go with what I had.

I had never driven in England before, and on no sleep, at nine in the evening, I was a little bit concerned, but I only made one wrong turn coming out of the airport, and was quickly on the expressway and in MK in about an hour (as we had planned).

All in all it was much more stressful than it needed to be on the arrival side. If I had just put everything in left luggage immediately, it would have been much easier, but it worked out as I just spent the next day couriering things back and forth and was able to get the flat in time and all of that. But you learn as you go