Flying During A Pandemic From Narita Airport, Japan, To Denver, Colorado, USA
Flying During A Pandemic From Narita Airport, Japan, To Denver, Colorado, USA
Just before we returned to Tokyo, we were contacted by the TV crew that had interviewed us when we first arrived in Tokyo three months ago.
They wanted to know how we were doing and if we had been able to complete our pilgrimage during these difficult times.
We assured them that we were healthy and strong, and that our walking pilgrimage had been a success, as we had visited all but two temples that were closed because of the coronavirus.
At one temple in Uji, we walked up to the gate, which was closed, and at another temple on a small island in Shiga, we walked up to the ferry terminal on Lake Biwa, but the ferry was not running and the temple was closed.
Overall, out of the 33 temples on this famous pilgrimage, we successfully visited 31.
The TV anchorman asked us if we would be willing to meet him at Narita Airport, for a lengthy interview about how it was to walk a major pilgrimage during these times of the coronavirus.
We considered his request, and decided to decline the interview.
We explained to him that we were very sorry, but that we were not sure that we wanted to be on TV talking about our journey when the people of Japan were under lockdown and stay at home request.
We felt that it might anger some people to hear that we had continued walking our spiritual pilgrimage towards enlightenment, during such difficult times.
We felt concerned and wanted to show the proper respect for all those who had become ill with the virus.
We did not want to challenge their beliefs at this time, by bringing attention to our belief in the prevailing abundance of health and to the reasons for sickness.
We believe that all of us can manifest perfect health and vitality, under any and all circumstances.
But perhaps now was not the right time to talk about that publicly.
He accepted our refusal with good spirits, and asked us to return to Japan during better times in the future.
To be honest, we were a bit nervous about returning to the USA, which has the highest number of infections in the world, and about flying during a pandemic.
We were not sure that our flight, with all the special airport procedures would be on time, or if places in America would be open at all.
We were also nervous about managing with the three bags that we now had, plus our carry-on bags.
But everything worked out perfectly and was very easy.
From our hotel in Ginza, we got a taxi to the Narita airport bus terminal, just outside Tokyo Station.
The limousine bus was mostly empty, with just a handful of other people.
The bus driver was very friendly towards us when we got off the bus at the international terminal.
He handed us our bags, asked where we had come from and where we were flying to, and wished us a heartwarming goodbye, waving to us many times as we loaded our bags onto the airport luggage cart.
We were the only ones who disembarked at the international terminal.
We saw no other cars, buses or shuttle vans outside the terminal.
We had never seen Narita Airport so empty…
The flight board showed almost all the listed flights as being canceled.
Almost all the shops inside the airport’s terminal were closed.
But the Tully’s Cafe was open, and we sat there until the check-in counter for our flight opened.
We were told that our flight would not be canceled, and that there would be about 70 passengers today, out of the full capacity of the plane of 350 people.
At the United Airlines check-in counter, we debated whether or not we would be able to make the connection for our flight from San Francisco to Denver.
It was scheduled to depart only an hour and a half after our landing in San Francisco, and we had heard that we would have to go through a medical screening, as well as the usual immigration and customs checks, and then yet another security check point, for our domestic flight to Denver.
The agent told us that there were two other, later flights from San Francisco to Denver, and that we would have no problem getting to Denver that night, in case we did miss our flight.
We had been reading the news of what was happening in the USA.
Demonstrations over Black Lives Matter were happening in all major cities, including in Denver, with the police using tear gas, amid reports of violence and looting.
Denver had imposed a citywide curfew from 9PM until 6 o’clock in the morning.
We had booked a room for one night at a charming Bed and Breakfast in Denver.
We usually do this after a long flight, before driving five hours up into the mountains the next day.
The Bed and Breakfast we had booked was located right on Colfax Ave, where the demonstrations and riots were taking place.
While we fully support the anti-racism demonstrations and really hope that some good does come out of the tragic killing that sparked the protests, we were not sure we wanted to drive into the neighborhood where tear gas was being used to disperse the demonstrators.
We really hope to see one day a deep and fundamental change in the USA, from police departments that act like a violent military force towards the public, to police departments that are more service and public safety oriented.
We decided to contact the owner of the B+B and see if we could delay our stay to another time, and book instead a hotel near the Denver airport, where we would not be in the middle of the riots.
She generously agreed to let us stay at another time, despite her no cancellation policy, and we booked an airport hotel instead.
After clearing security in Narita, we noticed that most of the airport shops were closed.
This was because even though the emergency state had been lifted all over Japan, still the borders were closed and there were almost no tourists left in Japan.
Luckily we had bought some food for the flight at Tokyo Station, while waiting for our bus.
On the plane, everyone was required to wear a mask, and we noticed that nearly everyone was cleaning their seat areas and trays.
We were served meals and drinks on the flight, but no open containers like hot tea or coffee.
The flight was uneventful, and we spread out on the empty seats next to us.
The international terminal in San Francisco was also nearly empty.
Since we have Global Entry status, we walked into the USA in less than five minutes.
We also have TSA Pre status, which allows us to use an express lane at domestic flight checkpoints, and no need to remove our shoes.
But the security checkpoint was very slow, and our carry-on bags were searched by hand, which took a lot of time.
Because there were fewer flights, the TSA were very understaffed.
But we still made it to our flight to Denver on time.
The Airport hotel we had booked for the night was also mostly empty.
But instead of upping their cleaning during the coronavirus times, we were dismayed to see that this Hilton hotel was really dirty.
The cleaning crew was not using vacuum cleaners, just hand held swiping dusters which do not work on carpets.
The first room we got was dirty with wrinkly sheets.
The second room we were transferred to was not much better, but I cleaned the floor with wet tissue papers and we stayed in it.
Instead of going out for dinner, we ordered Vegan Chinese food using Uber Eats.
The driver delivered our tasty food after the 9PM curfew, and we really hoped he would be OK driving back home.
The next day we drove home to the mountains.
It felt eerie to be back in the USA.
Instead of the politeness and kindness that we had encountered throughout gentle Japan, we now had to adjust to another atmosphere.
At the Starbucks in Frsico, we were yelled at when we cracked open the door to see if we could sit inside.
“You must wear face masks to come in here!!!!!!” they yelled at us from thirty feet away, and we quickly closed the door and backed away.
The shopping experience at the Natural Grocers organic supermarket was much more enjoyable.
We wore our masks and it was nice to be mostly alone in the store.
Our house had remained in very good order, although the power company crew was replacing a power line on our road, and we had no power for a few hours.
Our indoor orchid plants are in self-watering pots, and even though we were away for three months, our beautiful orchids were blooming and looking healthy.
The Rocky mountains look wonderful.
Everything is green and lush and the rivers and creeks are full of sweet water.
Jules put out the hummingbird feeders and in just an hour, they were attracting curious hummingbirds.
I spent some time in my studio, packing a painting that I had sold to an art collector in California while we were on the pilgrimage.
They had agreed to wait until I returned home.
I also felt a strong urge to paint some of the flowers I saw in the herb and rose garden in Atami.
I will post some of what I am painting in a later post.
Overall, it was surprisingly easy to fly during the pandemic, into a city with major demonstrations, scattered looting and police violence.
Everything was on time and pretty calm.
It was yet another living proof that you can create your own reality at any time and under any circumstances…
Wishing you love and light,
Tali and Jules