“Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

After my sojourn to Hiroshima, I headed back to Tokyo for a final night before catching my flight out the next day. My time in Japan was both fascinating and deeply moving.

Selfie-stick warnings in the train station in Japan
Adorable construction guards at a train station
“Sound Princess” sign in a bathroom explaining the noise machine to cover the sound of your business if you’re shy
Be careful, people.

On the lighter side, I was heartily entertained by some of the signs I saw, the vending machines and the toilets. I was warned about the toilets, and they did not disappoint. Japanese toilets are very high-tech. They come with lots of extra features like bidet and other washing options, white noise to cover the sounds of your business and heated seats. The toilet pictured here is one I saw at the airport and comes complete with its own instruction page. I found toilets like this everywhere I went in the country.

A seemingly self-explanatory situation…
Until you look closely and realise, “That’s a lot of buttons.”
That’s why there are instructions.

Vending machines, similarly, are high-tech, offering a wide range of items. Most of the ones I saw in the train stations had food and drinks, though most of the drinks came either heated or cooled. I learned to pay close attention to the colours of the buttons: red means hot drink, blue means cold. I was also impressed by the delicious array of boxed foods available everywhere – take-out is clearly a big part of life in Japan. You can get a quality take-out meal almost anywhere: bento boxes, spring rolls, sushi, you name it; it comes in a lovely box. On my way to the airport, I enjoyed a dumpling bento and discovered to my dismay that sometimes the wasabi is yellow. You’ve been warned.

One of many vending machines in the train station in Japan
Plane map between Tokyo and Mexico City

From Tokyo, I flew to Mexico City on a bumpy flight operated by AeroMexico. Checking in at the Tokyo airport took forever, and then I got flagged for extra screening through security, narrowly making it to the boarding gate in spite of arriving 2 hours early. Once I arrived in Mexico City, I checked in for my next flight to Havana, Cuba, and was befriended by a group of Korean gentlemen who were finishing up a tour of Macchu Picchu in Peru. None of them spoke much English, but they insisted on helping me move my (rather small) bag through the check-in line and insisted I cut in front of them in the queue. It might have been awkward except for their friendly insistence on helping out a lady traveling alone. As I started through the security line in Mexico City, I saw a TV crew setting up to film some kind of event in the main departures lobby. People were cheering and lining up, though I never did get the full story. Once through security, I got some ceviche and picked up a few last-minute items before my trip to Cuba. At this point, I hadn’t slept for many hours, and jet lag was setting in, so it was a real struggle to just stay awake to get on the Havana flight. Sure enough, boarding that flight took forever.

This is the most I saw of Mexico City
Ceviche in Mexico City
Plane map between Mexico City and Havana

Arriving in Havana was an adventure all its own. I was traveling there on a student visa, which is one of the few categories under which US citizens can travel legally to Cuba. I didn’t have any issues arriving but definitely waited about an hour for the bags to be brought out. A friend of my cohort mate met me at the airport since she had just arrived for a visit, so we chatted while we waited. We also had to fill out forms related to our medical status, my first inkling of how seriously the Cuban government is taking the Zika threat, though that is a tale for another day. Monday I will get into more details about my first impressions of Cuba. I’m switching things up around here a bit – I will be posting on weekdays but not weekends going forward.

Title quote: Bette Davis, All About Eve

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