the trouble wasn't over once we arrived at akita airport either. it was 3 in the morning, and we neglected to think about whether or not the airport would actually be OPEN. there was NO ONE around, and our flight wasn't until 7:35, and we had no idea when they would start letting people in. what with the snow still going crazy, there was no where for us to take shelter until the airport opened! and so, the taxi driver made a call to his company, and he actually STAYED with us THE WHOLE TIME!! the airport opened at 6am, we soon found out from workers trickling in, and i couldn't believe him when he kept saying "daijoubu, daijoubu!" (i'm okay, i'm okay!) he even kept the car running the whole time so we could keep warm. let me stress this again, FOR THREE HOURS he kept the car running! and gas is so hard to come by these days, we couldn't believe what he was doing for us. it was amazing the generosity of this man... we didn't know if he had a family back home to attend to, or how freaked out he might have been by driving us through that blizzard... all in all we were just floored by his actions and decided to leave him a very very fat tip when we finally got out.
we spent the 3 hours outside the airport doing nothing except talking about how freaked out we were driving over there, and about the whole situation in japan and having to leave home early in a way we really didn't want to. as we talked, a bunch of bulldozers drove around our car, as they worked to push all the snow out of the way. some of the bulldozers came incredibly close to our car, freaking me out even further! i don't think i've been this stressed for such a prolonged period of time... needless to say i stayed up the entire night and didn't get one wink of sleep until later...
once those long three hours passed, he dropped us off at the entrance and then we left him an extra 10,000 yen (like $100+tip!) at first he wouldn't take it but we didn't let him give it back to us. he deserved it for what he did for us, and finally he accepted and left. inside the airport were some other foreigners leaving the country, and they talked to us about the escalating nuclear situation, which strangely made me feel relieved that we were leaving when we did... it would only get worse from here on out trying to leave the country...
and so we began flight 1 of 4 out of akita airport. this flight only took an hour but i don't remember any of it as i slept the entire time. when i woke up, we were in tokyo. at this point my cousin and i had to say goodbye to my two friends who were going their separate ways to LAX. i knew i'd see them again in the future, and by that point i was all out of tears and was just too exhausted for a long winded goodbye, so we laughed and promised to see each other very soon. thus began the next leg of our journey... i got some onigiri for my cousin and i to eat for breakfast, and shortly after we caught our next flight out of tokyo to fukuoka.
fukuoka seems like a nice city... it's in the very southern part of japan, completely unaffected by the earthquake and tsunami. we had a 7 hour layover here, but i didn't care, i was just happy to be out of tohoku. we spent the time eating lunch (sigh, the last time i would use japanese for a long time), then buying some last minute souvenirs for my uncle who would be putting us up in the philippines, and exchanging some cash for pesos. the rest of the time we just sat and waited for the ticket counter to open. when it finally did, and when we were finally able to board the plane, i rested a bit easier... only one more flight left.
we landed in seoul, and i thought we were almost home-free. little did i know that we had a whole mess of other crap to deal with. first of all, our connection time was less than an hour. second, we had to go through security again, with the most evil security nazi ever as he demanded to check everyone's tickets and passports again. third, we had to go to the other side of the terminal to pick up our boarding passes (as we were switching airlines as well), which involved an underground train and way too many escalators and people in our way. and once we finally got there, out of breath and sweating, we found another obstacle... they wouldn't give us our boarding passes until they had proof that we were leaving the philippines. and that meant having a paper copy of our tickets out of the country for april 29th, which we didn't have! all we had was my cousin's ipod touch, and we could check our itinerary from there, but all it gave us was an itinerary number, not the ticket number they needed. the attendants made a bunch of phone calls, and when it seemed that we couldn't take anymore, they managed to get our numbers somehow... and we were allowed on the plane. without a second to lose either, cause at that moment, people were starting to board.
my cousin was very shaken up once she got on the plane, and i was tired beyond belief. after all our trouble, i couldn't believe all the unexpected problems that came up. still, i was happy it was our last flight, and we'd be in the philippines soon. it was our longest flight too... 4 hours, and we sat right behind a crying baby, sigh. but somehow, we arrived in manila, and we soon got through customs and were waiting for our things to go through the baggage carousel. at this point, my stomach didn't feel well.. maybe it was the crappy airline food or whatever, but things didn't sit well. but over time i started feeling better, and once we were actually able to LEAVE the airport (filipinos don't line up, haha) and i spotted my uncle who was there to pick us up, we both breathed a huge sigh of relief... it was 30 minutes past midnight, and after a whole day of traveling, we made it to manila.