WENT HOME | 帰りました


First of all, I must say that staying diligent to blogging is quite a mission in its own right. Which is actually surprising for a guy like me who preaches and practices diligence throughout most areas of his life... maybe I still need to get used to blogging. In due time though, in due time.

I returned to Japan about two weeks ago on Wednesday the 26th of February. Besides touching base with my family and friends in South Africa, I had to renew my driver's licence and my International Driving Permit - something which came to bite me back in the ass. Shit! See, when I left South Africa in 2019, I did so in a rush. I left a lot of things unattended, including renewing my licence. I must admit though, it was expired for about nine months and I kept procrastinating. When I tried to applying to do my Japanese driving test to obtain a licence in Japan, I was told that I will need a renewed South African licence. Turns out a temporary licence (which is what I had) wouldn't even cut it - unless I paid ¥30ㄪ (¥300 000) to skip a few processes and get my Japanese one. I thought to myself "that's ridiculous"...and so I packed my bags and took the long flight back to South Africa. Keep in mind, there aren't any direct flights to South Africa from Japan and vice-versa. So with that being said, I had a layover in Beijing and Shenzhen... during this whole Corona Virus frenzy. It didn't help that I forgot my masks in Japan when I left. I was the only guy without a mask the entire time... but I didn't panic because my thinking was "I genuinely forgot my masks and they're sold out everywhere else, so luckily everyone is wearing a mask and I don't have to deal with their coughs and sneezes". I was technically protected by other peoples' efforts.

Anyway, I missed my initial flight to Beijing from Osaka but luckily there was another one that day. I quickly called the airline and asked them to squeeze me in to the next and only other flight to Beijing for the day and they did so immediately for free. It really helps to speak enough Japanese to explain your problems and express your feelings. I arrived in a cold and gloomy Beijing later that evening. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I could tell there was something wrong. So many people were in hazmat suits, and everyone else was wearing surgical masks and gloves, the international airport itself (which is massive, by the way) was empty and so much of it was closed off to the public. The limited amount of staff members and police were also so tense. After making me do runarounds to obtain a 24hr visa for my connecting flight, I literally just made it to the boarding gate. I nearly missed this flight too... My heart would've been so bleak had I been stuck in China during the Corona Virus epidemic. We made it to Shenzhen and eventually landed in Johannesburg the next morning. It was so lovely to feel the warm African sun again and to hear Zulu, Afrikaans and Sepedi ringing in my ears. After a few last health checks, I finally met my friend Jonah, and his dad, who had picked me up at the airport. What a headache it was to get home.

I had spent a few days and nights in Johannesburg then left for Pretoria. I also had a few friends visit my family residence for a braai (Southern African style barbeque) and a sleepover. We witnessed the beautiful stars by the poolside at home. It really sucked that they were only there for a night, but alas... there's always next time. I also spent as much time as I could with my mum and dad. My mum's health hasn't been too great recently but I'm hoping she'll recover soon - she's a fighter, so I know she will! Having been gone for seven months, you realise that you miss a lot of events and changes that happen within your family and your country. But on the other hand, you also miss your new life on the other side.

For the sake of time and cutting the content a bit, the slideshow below shares some of the images I captured, along with descriptions. So please feel free to look at those after reading the paragraph below.

During my time in the country, I got a call from China at about 04h25am (SAST) telling me that my return flight was completely cancelled and that the refund will take about 4 to 8 weeks. This Corona Virus has been such an inconvenience for so many people. I booked with Cathay Pacific two days later and managed to travel back to Japan stress-free. I always enjoy Cathay. It's such a lovely airline actually, with really beautiful air hostesses too. I had a layover in Hong Kong and nearly missed my flight, AGAIN!!! This time it wasn't my fault, I swear. I was just minding my own business, having a cup of coffee and a gentleman approaches me to tell me that the boarding gate for my flight to Taiwan had changed. Luckily he came to the rescue because I too was getting worried. As I was sprinting to the new gate, with a heavy art and chocolate-filled paper bag and backpack, I made it in the nick of time. However, as I got to Taiwan, I realised I had lost my wallet — probably in Hong Kong or in Johannesburg when I was buying omiyage (souvenirs) for my colleagues and apartment in Japan. Luckily the Japanese officials at the airport understood my dilemma and gave me no issues whatsoever. I think they could just see the tiredness in my eyes. I honestly just wanted to get home, shower, have a cup of tea then sleep. Luckily my supervisor paid for my train ride from the station I was meant to arrive at.

Lessons from the story:

1) Always have emergency funds. Life is full of drama and anything can happen at any given moment.

2) Cherish the time you have with family and friends. As we grow older and drift apart, our time with our loved ones shrinks significantly.

3) You're not always in control. Remember that!

4) Travelling in and out of countries that are the most affected by a virus during the peak of such a virus can be an inconvenience.

5) DON'T lose your wallet. Seriously... don't!

6) Always buy the things that will remind you of home.

7) It's okay to rest from time to time.

8) Don't procrastinate. Sort out your important documents well before time or you might have to catch a flight just to renew a licence. In this regard, don't be like me. Be better than me.

9) If you're open-minded, culture shock isn't actually a "shock" but rather a time to learn.

10) Don't take pictures of everything, but rather live in the moment. As they say in Japanese 一期一会 | ichigoichie.

Please enjoy the slideshow below.