@

A PILGRIMAGE TRIP TO UKRAINE

@

DAY ONE

DEPARTURE SAN FRANCISCO

@UNITED FLT 16

Monday, July 5, 2004@@@08:00 AM  @

@

 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 travel.

 At 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. Heidifs 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 Aaron.

When they first began planning this trip, Aaron did not yet have his driverfs 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 pilgrimageh, 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 Aaronfs 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 his parents.

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 Airport.

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 gCamelh 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

    At the gate for the flight bound for Kiev, passengers started overflowing into the corridor. Norimi, who was born and raised in Tokyo, was accustomed to commuting in a packed train where people read their newspapers by holding them above their heads with both hands. Norimi was surprised when he saw an Asian man reading the Japanese newspaper by holding it in that manner – may be this man was one of the Japanese who corresponds with Japanese tourists in Ukraine.  Norimi walked to the man and started a conversation. Unlike Americans, Japanese generally do not carry conversations with someone with whom they have not been formally introduced. However, Norimi, though a Japanese, had spent most of his life in the US, and had acquired the habit of starting conversations with complete strangers as if he were a long time friend. And yet the Japanese man Norimi found did not share such a habit and consequently was quite disturbed when spoken to by Norimi who spoke Japanese with strong American accent and had an attitude most Japanese would not approve of.  Norimi learned very little about him only that he was a resident of Kiev who had just returned from his home country. Norimi was not encouraged by the conversation and quickly excused himself from the stranger.

The following day, Norimi discovered a Japanese restaurant in Kiev, which demonstrated that many Japanese are already living in that city. This made Norimi feel so ignorant by the way he became excited to find a Japanese at the gate bound for Kiev.  In fact, over the next couple of days, Norimi encountered quite a few parties of Japanese businessmen in restaurants in Kiev filling the air with Norimifs native tongue and a group of about 25 Japanese tourists visiting the catacomb temple, one of the main Kiev tourist attractions.   Alas, Kiev was not at the furthest end of East Europe for Japanese. Once again, Norimi became slightly embarrassed of his naïveté.

Luckily boarding had started.  Norimi and Vlad found their seats to be conveniently located immediately behind first class.  Once seated, Norimi settled himself down from the embarrassing moment and concentrated on the excitement of arriving in Kiev; the final stop was only two and half-hours away.  Next stop: Borispol - that is, Kiev International Airport.

@

@

@