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My wife ensures I do not forget special occasions. Notices of her birthday and our anniversary start at least a month out. This year we are celebrating in New Orleans. Our first time and I am on the hunt all weekend for seafood.
She has been inquiring if I will be writing a tribute post. I can take non-subtle hints. Delta’s further gutting of its Tokyo-Narita hub brings me back to our first Narita transit.
As students we traveled around China. As young professionals we made steps into Southeast Asia and then looked farther.
When I had my first true expatriate package we gained more financial flexibility and I was starting to learn the value of my frequent flyer miles. Shanghai did not yet have nonstop flights to Saipan so I booked a Northwest award ticket via Tokyo-Narita. It then required an additional stop in Nagoya on the way down.
I was coming from Beijing, she from Shanghai. I reached Japan first and realized I forgot my driver’s license. I hadn’t driven in months, never in China, and did not have my license in my travel wallet. Crap!
While she was still en route from Shanghai I desperately called a colleague who agreed to go to my office, dig out my emergency key, hustle to my apartment, dig it out of my sock drawer, and return to the office to send me a scan by the time we got to Nagoya. Thank you, Helen! She later gave us a memorable wedding gift.
First, though, was us uniting in Narita. She emerged from transit security and my heart was aglow. I showed her all my favorite spots in the terminal. I taught her to sign along with the terminal PA announcements, “North-a west-a koko…” In the Northwest lounge I showed her my ‘command center,’ shown here years later when rebranded as Delta.
It was a thrill to share with her a happy aspect of my life that symbolized both times when we would be distant and when we would soon reunite.
Once in Nagoya the driver’s license scan had arrived. The Northwest club printed out a giant A4 blow-up of the license.
Our visit to Saipan and Tinian was great fun. Yes, after some hangdog expression they let me drive with my giant A4 license. No, don’t tell them that she took the wheel for a few minutes on Tinian’s North Field, once the busiest airport in the world.
After our island sojourn we returned to Narita with a full day transit. We went to immigration to ask if she could have shore leave. The Northwest representative was called down, there was rapid discussion and immigration was convinced we were legit. Thanks to the earnest representative we had our shore leave.
We went to Narita town, first strolling through the traditional shopping street up to the Narita-san Temple. We held hands viewing the gardens and pools of the temple.
We closed the afternoon with a stop at the Narita shopping mall, then took the shuttle bus back to the terminal for another parting as I returned to work in Beijing and she to Shanghai.
My most memorable Narita experience because it was with her. Happy anniversary, my love.
(Note: by my wife’s choice I do not publish her name or photos other than cameo appearances of her hand in food scenes.)