Please come to Boston for the springtime, someday…

I changed my Boston trip reservation again – for the 8th time! With my new schedule it will be three years since my last trip to the U.S., assuming all goes well.

American Airlines contacted me a couple of days ago saying that my scheduled October 22, 2021 flight from Narita to Boston on JAL (a mileage partner) was canceled and they rebooked me for the 23rd. That would have made for just 6 days total in the US, which is a little hard with jet-lag and all. Plus things are still very much up-in-the-air (as it were) with the spread of the delta variant, and with continuing stringent two-week quarantines when returning to Japan.

Side-note: Japan started creating “vaccine passports” and anybody, like me, who is fully vaccinated and has a passport can get one. But… Japan does not recognize its own vaccine passports when returning to Japan! Everybody, including Japanese nationals, must have a verified negative covid-19 test done within 72 hours of arrival and still undergo two-week quarantine. And when they depart they also must have proof of a negative PCR test.

It just seemed safest to postpone again.

American Airlines was super cooperative. There were no penalties. And I got to keep my non-stop flight between Narita and Boston both ways, on JAL.  I was looking forward to that – it would be a first for me, and a big time saver not having to transfer in Chicago.

I also decided to increase the length of my stay to almost 2 weeks. I’m hoping I can do a side trip to St. Louis while I am there and visit my friends. And I would like to see my cousins. And maybe take a one-day-return Amtrak trip down to New York and visit friends. It should be more relaxed. There are a lot of people I haven’t seen for a long time now.

The only hitch was there were no economy seats available from Narita to Boston showing up at the moment any time close to my desired departure date. And only business class seats were available on one day. So for a 25,000 mile upgrade I will be going business class to Boston and keeping my economy when returning. That’s no problem since I have extra miles saved up (I haven’t gone anywhere in over two years).

AA simply juggled the miles around and all is fine. Plus, if over time, an economy seat comes available before April (they said it might simply be too early to show up just now) that I can just call in and they will switch and return the miles. I can then use those miles for the side-trip in the U.S. Round-trip between Boston and St. Louis, for example, is also the same 25,000 miles.

I would like to say that American Airlines has been super cooperative ever since the pandemic began. I highly recommend getting international seats with them, using miles for complete flexibility when you need it. 

So… now it will be 8-9 months before my departure! I feel more relaxed about it considering the upsurge in infections lately and everything else going on. I certainly hope the pandemic and quarantine issues are resolved by then, for everybody’s sake. Things are feeling weirder lately rather than anywhere back to normal.

What is special about this package of toilet paper?

Hint: it has nothing to do with the fact that it’s green.

You guessed it! Remember at the start of the pandemic early last year when fake rumors about toilet paper shortages started spreading? That resulted in there being actual toilet paper shortages.

Stores ran out of stock. When they came in stock you were limited to one per person. And then they became even stricter and limited to one per family.

Whenever I went out for daily shopping I would make the rounds of about six stores in my neighborhood to see if any were available. Sometimes I would see people lined up, indicating that some had come into stock. I would stand in line and get an extra package just in case. Then I would send a LINE message to my next-door neighbors letting them know where they could find some.

Now, of course, there are no more restrictions on buying toilet paper and there is plenty in stock.

This was the last package that I had stocked up on then. It looked sort of weird so I was saving it for last. It says 録茶の力, “the power of green tea.”

United in Emotion – with members of my Olympic volunteer group

Even though there was almost nobody there to help, our volunteer group seemed to enjoy today. We all get along together very well. I helped some people get around, and was asked to take a few pictures for some visitors.

Here is our group at the end of the day. While it’s not the exact same people every day, there is a large overlap, so a core of us have gotten to know each other.

Here another volunteer and I are discussing what to do about some stadium seats that nobody is using.

This volunteer is really into collecting pins for her ribbon and bag.

Going for the gold!

So far I only have two badges, a bronze volunteer badge and a silver one. All the volunteers get a bronze one. People who are here for three days get a silver one. And people who are here for five days get a gold one.

Because they eliminated spectators, my volunteer schedule was radically cut down to just four days which would have made me ineligible for a gold badge, but they allowed us to add extra days if we wanted to today. So I added one more day and I will get a gold badge when it’s done!

Tokyo 2020 Olympics – some scenes from volunteer days

Just some scenes from volunteering at the Oi hockey Stadium for the Olympics.

Trying on my uniform.
One of the tables in the Olympic Family lounge.
Outside the Olympic Family lounge above the north pitch.
This volunteer was telling us how to say welcome in Chinese to potential visitors of the Olympic family
Here I am minding the entrance to the Olympic family lounge, main floor in front of the elevator.
Do your credentials have a code 6 on them?

Taking a spin on a Segway in front of the stadium. Nobody knew what the Segways were there for, so we volunteers were taking turns taking spins on them.

Some of us practiced driving the electric car between the north pitch and the south pitch. There wasn’t anybody really to take back-and-forth though. So we just took turns driving for the fun of it.
In the parking lot in front of the stadium entrance. My job was to tell people being dropped off where to go to check in. One car came while I was there.
Up in the hockey stadium stands, just in case somebody came by and needed to know where to sit.
Playing the national anthems before the Great Britain versus Canada match began.

There hasn’t been a lot to do so far, but occasionally we help somebody find their way. We rotate between different positions during the day. We also applaud the athletes after a match is over and they return to get checked at the doping station. Even though it has all been eerily quiet, it will make for an interesting memory.