Homesick? At ‘home’?

Hello again Faithful Reader,

Well, as I type this I am no more than a metre or so from where I used to sleep for much of the first 27 years of my life.

Or, in other words, I’m in Australia at my parent’s house.

Without my own little brood in tow. Just me.

And to be honest, I’m starting to miss them, hence the odd title up there. I’m at ‘home’ but feeling a little homesick…

Odd, huh?

To those who are in the dark as to why I’m several thousand units of distance measure from Japan, here’s the concise timeline of events in the past week or two.

Friday, Jan 27 my grandfather had an accident, fell down and broke his pelvis.

Sunday, Jan 29 my mother called me at 3AM and told me grandpa had passed away.

Monday, I was looking at my options. You see, my passport had expired (which is not unusual, nor normally a problem) as I’d not expected to be going anywhere for a while. My visa in Japan has nearly 2 years on it, which is all that’s actually important. So for me to get to Australia I’d need to get a passport and then a re-entry permit and a plane ticket and actually make the plane.

It was not looking good…

So I made a few phone calls, worked out the possibility of getting the needed paperwork and everything else, and worked out it was ‘possible’ to get the needed things, but time might be a problem, and I might not be able to get there until today, Monday.

Dad told me my cousin could make Friday, but not Monday for the funeral, so the date was locked into Friday and I needed to get things sorted out and do all I could to get there.

Tuesday, made some more phonecalls to work out the particulars of what I needed. Found out that I was looking at a 3 hour bus ride to the heart of Osaka, a 4+ hour wait on an emergency passport from the consulate in Osaka. Then a possible 45 minute subway ride to the Osaka immigration office to get a re-entry permit which should take an hour “if we’re not busy”. It could take longer, and was likely to. Then a subway ride back into the heart of Osaka and out again for 35 minutes to the airport to catch a plane. And even then, I wasn’t guaranteed the re-entry permit would be issued, which I needed or I’d be kissing a plane ticket goodbye.

Wednesday…

5:30AM, I’d slept through the alarm and the taxi was waiting outside for me. Taxi to the bus stop, then I waited for the bus. Saw one come in, was ‘sure’ it was the wrong one, and watched it go. Thought it might be the right one, and panicked. Badly. Screwed up before I’d even got going for the day. I was wrong, my bus arrived at it’s scheduled 6:12AM.

(Thank gad for Japanese schedules!)

9:20AM, arrive at Osaka station. Walk up to the train station, train is 3 minutes late (!) and waiting for me. Jump on as the doors close. Then walk to the consulate, luggage over my shoulder.

9:35AM, arrive at the consulate and start the ‘estimated/quoted’ 4+ hour process.

9:50AM, was informed that I’d given all the needed info, and that if I could spend an hour using the interweb and reading books, they’d have my Passport ready.

10:40AM, they lied…

10:50AM, after talking (and crying a little) with the wonderful, delightful and fantabulous Mrs. Ueda at the consulate, I walked out, passport in hand.

11:50AM, arrived at the Osaka Immigration office, ready for what might be a really long wait and a really thorough wringing out at their hands.

(I need to explain here a little. I live in Takamatsu, which has it’s own Immigration office, where I get all my ‘stuff’ done. I live there, so by law, I need to get ALL my stuff done there. I’d been told I should get the Passport, go back to Takamatsu, get the re-entry permit then go back to Osaka to catch my plane. Ignore that it’s 3 hours each way and costs at least $100 per return journey. Then got told I should fill out a form explaining, in explicit detail, why I needed to flout the law and get Osaka’s office to look after me. Oh boy, this was going to be F-U-N-!)

Midday, explain my situation to the lady at the desk. She hands me the appropriate form and sends me off. I protest that I need more paperwork, she waves me off. Ok…

I fill out the form, take it back with my old, mangled passport and my new hamstrung one and take a number, expecting the worst. I take a risk, buy a drink and a ‘revenue stamp’ to cover the cost of the permit. Haven’t even got it yet, but I’m hoping for the best.

12:20PM, number is called. Here we go.

12:21PM, handed a bit of already filled out paperwork to say I’d paid for the permit, and handed my two passports. I hold one in each hand, look dumbly at them both and ask “is that all?!?” Rather gruff looking gentleman there says “Yes, no problem. Enjoy your trip.”

12:22PM, I lost the plot. All the stress, worry and concern about keeping my grandpa waiting bled away. Left a trail of eye water to the exit.

(Let me explain. Until I was 8, grandpa was my ‘dad’. And until I left for Japan, I saw him nearly every day at least once. We were as close as it was possible to be, and to say goodbye to him was something I needed to do. I was looking at being denied doing my own lack of foresight (mostly) and bureaucracy (partly) and here I was, stuck in the heart of Osaka with 5 hours to find something to do with.)

Wednesday afternoon, ate lunch, went to a few stores, looked around, rinse, repeat.

Wednesday evening, checked in, got onto plane, ate dinner, slept.

Thursday early morning, slept.

Thursday early-mid morning, ate breakfast, slept.

Thursday morning, arrived at Gold Coast. Found 3 intercontinental aircraft arrived at the same time. Saw long line, panicked.

10 minutes later, “All Australian and New Zealand passport holders and their families please walk this way”.

(Citizenship has it’s privileges…)

1 hour later, hit customs…

5 minutes later, “please walk down aisle #1″

1 minute later, exit customs.

(Honesty has it’s privileges…)

1 more minute, curse. Boarding is closed for my plane. Nice lady says “you’re ok, come here please”.

Thursday 9:00AM, plane leaves Gold Coast. Sleep.

12:05PM, arrive at Melbourne airport. Get off plane…

Friday was grandpa’s funeral and I must say it was very, very good. Very emotional for everyone, but very, very good and I feel honoured to be part of it, as well as having such a good man as my grandfather.

And since then, I’ve been catching up with folks left, right and centre. Just go, go, go and that’s about it.

So, if you’ve made an order or asked a question, all of the above and then some is why you’re not getting much activity out of me. I’m spending time with my family, it’s a rare event and I need to milk every second of it I can.

I’ll be back in Japan late Wednesday, and back to work on Thursday.

And that’s it.

Thanks to all for your kind words, thoughts and prayers. They’re all appreciated, and while I do have some regrets about not seeing grandpa before he slipped away, I can also say with absolute honesty that every memory I have of him is a great one, and I’m finally learning how much of an influence he was on my life.

And how proud he was of me. Even though I’m far from perfect, I was pretty special to him.

That’s all I can say for now, I can’t see the screen any more.

Stu.

3 comments to Homesick? At ‘home’?

  • Chris Griggs

    Glad you made it “home” to say what was obviously a very important and difficult goodbye. Thanks for sharing. I wish you peace and happiness in this difficult time, and safe travels back to your family in Japan. Keep well.

    Sincerely,

    Chris

  • Pete Chast

    Our Condolences.

  • David

    Please accept our sympathies for your loss.

    Sincerely,

    David and Eugenie