It is July 5th, a day after Independence Day. This particular year, however, it still is a holiday even though it is Monday, July 5th is the official day to observe and cerebrate. That served Norimi and Heidi conveniently for there was hardly any traffic on the freeway during the morning rush hour. In the outskirts of San Francisco, the rush hour traffic is typically tremendous between 6 O'clock to 8 O'clock in the morning. It would take at least two full hours to get to the San Francisco International Air Port from Danville where they live. It could have been a hectic morning since Norimi and Heidi had to be at the airport two hours in advance of the departure time, so regulated after the 9-11 incident. The departure was set at eight O'clock in the morning but they had to be there at 6 AM instead. On an ordinary day, they would have had to leave their home at three in the morning. With the convenience of this being a holiday, they left home at 5 in the morning and spent only one hour on the freeway.
Norimi and Heidi awoke at 4 O'clock. And 45 minutes later, they were on the freeway.
A peculiar reason caused Norimi and Heidi to travel
separately on different flights with different airliners.
Norimi traveled with Vlad, his student, who was born in Ukraine
and spoke Russian fluently. Their flight was with United Air Lines while
Heidi traveled alone by British Air until they rendezvoused in Kiev.
This trip was in the planning stages for three years. They
purchased their tickets ten months in advance using tickets awarded
through the frequent flyer programs. All the airliners promote free
travel through the accumulation of miles by any one airline. Heidi
travels a lot, therefore, she had collected enough miles in the past
three years to cover 3 round trip tickets between SFO-KIEV.
Unfortunately, the miles had accumulated in two separate airline
programs, thus forcing the trio to use different airlines for their
first, Norimi did not like the idea of Heidi traveling alone.
And yet he felt comfortable since Heidi had traveled by British
Air quite frequently. Heidifs flight was bound for London where she
would have a layover of one night and would arrive at Borispol, the Kiev
International Airport the next morning. Since Norimi and Vlad had a very
short layover in Frankfurt, they arrived in Kiev a day before Heidi.
The group departed from San Francisco only one hour a part, and
journeyed to the airport together by being chauffeured by their son
When they first began planning this trip, Aaron did not yet have his driverfs license. Luckily Aaron managed to pass his driving test, and therefore the car was not left at the airport for the duration of the trip.
Norimi dressed light like a casual traveler as he carried on
his shoulders a back- pack he borrowed from Aaron.
In his right hand, he carried a small rolling suitcase, which
once belonged to Heidi. Though
they named this trip ga pilgrimageh, it also was a chance to gather
journal data for gThe Root of the Hunt.h Consequently he equipped
himself with two cameras, a conventional one and a digital camera
complete with both still and video functions - all of which were packed
in a pair of shoulder bags.
Norimi thought of himself as reluctant, and therefore, a
somewhat clumsy tourist. And
yet, he was committed to this trip, as he believed it would be a trip of
a lifetime. He was comparing this trip with his childhood memory of
sixty years ago when he traveled through the northeastern part of China
as a Japanese refugee with his family.
At 05:30 A.M. they arrived at SFO.
Despite the early morning hour, heavy crowds shielded the counters of United Airlines. Heidi and Norimi found Vlad who had arrived promptly at the prearranged rendezvous point. Norimi is ever so fond of him because of his reliability.
Norimi thinks this trip would have never materialized if Vlad
had not been able to join us. After all, it was Vlad who located a very
detailed and current road map of Ukraine.
It was Aaronfs job to look after the home and given that
responsibility and the gleeful chance of being alone, he remained quite
content. Obviously, he was
looking forward to managing the household by himself, driving any car he
wished and generally living an existence without any supervision from
It still disturbed Norimi that he would be separated from
Heidi – albeit for only 1 short day.
He forced a smile, affirmed that he would see her in Kiev at the
airport. They exchanged their good-byes with a hug, and Norimi made his
way toward the metal-detector for the departure gate with Vlad.
According to their itinerary, Vlad and Norimi would have a total
of three flights. The first one was United Flight 16 bound for New York.
At Kennedy International they transferred to Lufthansa Flight 407 bound
for Frankfurt. The last leg
was Lufthansa Flight 3236 from Frankfurt to Borispol, Kiev International
The flight in San Francisco departed on time at 08:00 AM.
Four hours and fifty-five minutes later they landed in New York at 05:00
PM. The flight was 30
minutes ahead of schedule. Transferring flights can be troublesome as
one is never certain if the next connecting flight will be met on time.
If their flight arrived on time there would have been only one hour and
twenty minutes to catch the next flight – Norimi was fearful that
the time was too short. However, arriving ahead of schedule was certainly helpful
– they now had plenty of time with which to make their way from
the domestic gates to the international gates at Kennedy.
Norimi and Vlad, in fact spent more than 20 minutes walking from
Terminal 7 to Terminal 1, including transportation using the monorail.
The walk was fortuitous - Vlad found extra time to shop at the
duty free at the international terminal. Vlad, whose father is a heavy
smoker, brought a couple cartons of gCamelh cigarettes.
Norimi, on the other hand, had finished his souvenir shopping
the night before. Two
cartons of gCamels.h were already in his possession.
According to some of the guidebooks to Ukraine, one of the most
welcomed souvenirs is a pack of American cigarettes.
He will learn during his trip that this is not always the case if
the cigarettes are not appropriately presented.
Vlad decided not to buy souvenirs in San Francisco because he
knew that he would save money buying them at the duty free store at the
airport. He was well aware
of this fact, as he is a frequent traveler to Eastern Europe. While
cigarette allowances into Ukraine was unknown to Vlad and Norimi, with
some risk of having the souvenirs confiscated at customs, Vlad purchased
two cartoons, one of which contained 240 cigarettes.
They were clearly over the legal limit.
The flight out of New York was scheduled to depart at 5:30 PM
Eastern Daylight Savings Time and would arrive into Frankfurt at 7:20 AM
the following morning – it would be a 7-hour flight. This time
last year, Norimi traveled to London and he found that he did not sleep
on the flight. The same
happened on this trip. It
was difficult since upon arrival into Frankfurt, it was not midnight yet
in San Francisco.
Air travel these days is not as pleasurable as it once was.
The service is poor and one feels as though one is traveling on a bus.
However, Norimi found Lufthansa was not so bad. Even at the Frankfurt
Airport, which has a bad reputation among American travelers, everything
appeared to be well systemized. Norimi did not realize how efficient of
an airport Frankfurt was until his return trip through the Warsaw
airport on the Polish Airlines, LOT.
At 07:20 in the morning on July 6, Norimi and Vlad arrived at Frankfurt on schedule. After waiting comfortably for two hours in the general lobby, they checked in through the gate lobby for their last leg - Flight 3236 bound for Borispol Kiev International - but were delayed for 30 minutes once they passed the gate ticket agent. It was then that Norimi had an embarrassing experience. @
AT FRANKFURT INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT