Saturday, February 23, 2008

Immature, depressed and 4+ hours to reserve a room: my saturday

Okay, I think we set a new record for making a hotel reservation, which is four and a half hours. BUT, we now have our first night reserved in Japan. It turns out that people in Japan speak....Japanese (yes, two slaps for our hoping/assuming there might be English speaking at hotels – “typical North Americans!”). Well, it also turns out that the year of Japanese language we took a couple years ago is pretty much in the corner of the brain reserved for how to beat Donkey Kong: We may “know it” but can we remember in time? Also, it turns out the class did not teach us to say, “Do you have stairs up to the room?”

So it goes like this: Linda is on the laptop because it has Vista and actually translates the Japanese kanji (while mine keeps asking for Disc 2 of Professional XP every time I try to load the language program – curse those geeks who reinstalled my operating system!). I find the numbers for hotels and make the phone calls because if Linda calls the number it says, “Number not in service” while if I dial, it goes right to the hotel (Yeah, mystery, but that is just how it works). Then Linda attempts conversation number 1 while I am googling like mad to find the word she needs. For instance, I FINALLY found that the word for “Wheelchair” was “Kurumaisu” on I found a list of phrases like, “I would like a twin room.” “A Western Room” and such on a site for Snowboarders who were going to Japan to snowboard all Winter. And I also found a site of polite phrases including three different ways to say, “I’m sorry” (informal, formal and VERY formal). Yes, we DO have a Japanese/English dictionary and NO, we don't know where it is. So we called some hotels back three times to find out that yes they had twin western room and yes it was available but NO on 'kurumaisu' because there are “kaidan” (many stairs). We did find one place that is “barrier free” in Kakunodate Japan, but we need to find someone who can write the Kanji for us to reserve the room and fax it to them as they speak no English at all.

Kakunodate is our second stop on the Japanese Tour and is known for its cherry blossom festival as there is a path by the river where over 200 cherry trees (imported from the original capital Kyoto) run for two km and have made this town a site of the Cherry Blossom Festival for over 250 years. In fact the river is rated as one of the 100 most picturesque places in Japan and one of the trees in the Samurai quarter is a “significant Cherry Tree” (they REALLY love Cherry Trees over here). This used to be a castle town which meant the samurai who served at the castle had houses: the highest ranked closest to the castle and then further down from the castle by rank. Six of the samurai houses are open museums while others are pickle factories and different converted but open businesses. So while the castle is gone, the Samurai Quarter remains. We chose it because it was a) a place to take a lot of pictures and b) Something we could see in 1 hour to 5 hours depending on my condition. It is a very flexible but also often unvisited scenic location at the top of the Japanese main Island, up in Northern Honshu, which will be interesting as we are taking the train through the mountains to get there. We have tried to visit almost all the islands and parts of Japan, AND both coasts and do it all in 17.5 days. Will I still be alive at the end?

The reservation we got was for Nikko, where will we be on April 2nd. Yes, this is where I originally wanted to go to the festival to see the sword maiden dancing in April 13th. However, the disability organization in Japan found that at 9:00 a.m. on April 2nd, the Shine Maidens dance the sword dance (reason for dance on that date both arcane at at this point...unknown) at the temple which can be accessed by Taxi (meaning, taken there and then wheelchair from there). So I CAN see the dance, because it is in a different building than on the 13th: and less people. Bad news is that Nikko is THE getaway place for all of TOKYO, which means that an accessible room is.....wait for it, $400 a night. We instead got a room in a wheelchair accessible hotel which is the budget room (this is what took another 2 hours, particularly after the confirmation was for the wrong night). The down side, I have to drag myself in through the door because they say it is TOO small for a wheelchair and Linda will need to break the wheelchair down to bring it in the room (that room is only $140). I did mention that Japan is NOT that wheelchair accessible didn’t I?

The good news is that we are staying at the over 100 year old Nikko Kanaya Hotel, a joint Canadian/Japanese design using Canadian Yellow Cedar, and built in 1873. It is the oldest continuous operating resort hotel in Japan and overlooks the bridge and the river from its place on the hill. It is also within wheeling distance to the shrines and means if I need to, I can lie back down after seeing the dancing until check-out. The down-side: crawling/dragging into the room (Pride, I don’t need no stinking pride!). Some of the people who stayed here (and did not crawl/drag) include: Charles Lindbergh, Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Indira Gandhi and even the Emperor. There is a sketch by Frank Lloyd Wright (the one who designed the train station we will be arriving at), at the hotel above the fireplace. COOL, huh!

But still, I have to hope the rest of the reservations go a LITTLE faster than this.

What is disgusting is that Linda is doing great reading out the sentences and has the whole intonation thing down pat (sounds disturbingly like a 17 year old girl – guess all those anime we watched together did come in handy!). While I, with my dyslexia, cannot say a single work without a) changing how I say the vowels every time and b) throwing out consonants which confuse me and putting in ones I like (I don’t think this, my brain helpfully just does it for me as it comes out of my mouth); which means I find the words but Linda says them lest I tell the hotel operator that I love his mother’s pickels).

Also much time was spent trying to make sure the neighbors (the assistant manager who was icy at us yesterday) are NOT pissed at us by baking them rice crispy squares to find out if last night was a bad night or more..... At which point they simply shut the door on Linda without looking in her face or accepting the squares. So, yes, neighbors pissed and not sure why (though think article MIGHT have something to do with it – but then, since they aren’t saying, who knows.) I mean, no person in their right mind hates Linda, if she puts up with me, and is kind to all people and small animals, we know that she is a saint and likely glows when I am not looking at her.

I also found that being disabled doesn’t actually mean you still can’t get depressed. So I did. Or I was. Only when you sleep 2/3rds of the day, getting depressed and staring at space or the floor makes time REALLY fly. So between, the “Let’s find out if the neighbors hate us.....YUP!”, me depressed and almost five hours trying to make hotel reservations (we did, in our defense call MANY non-english speaking places with western rooms which had stairs, so just kept going down the list). And I had a shower. And thus a day goes. I won’t bore you with pain but will mention that by the afternoon nap I had lost sight in both eyes, and was still trying to type emails, and saying, “No! Why do I HAVE to nap?” (yeah, lots of maturity – did I mention that you can be immature AND disabled too: all sorts of new discoveries.) How much sense I made is entirely up to my mandatory touch typing class and years of typing hours a day. So if you got a email of gobble stuff, that wasn’t spam, it was me.....sorry!

Anyway, new goal for tomorrow: 1) pretend to act mature, 2) LEAVE APARTMENT and 3) try to make TWO reservations. I know that is a lot for one day….but you have to dream!


cheryl g. said...

Bah, maturity and reality are both highly overrated...

Sounds like you're starting to get the system down to make reservations. Hopefully the process will go smoother as you continue.

Being rude or mean to Linda is pretty much like bitch slapping a kitten. It's just wrong on so many levels.

Hope your dreams come true for tomorrow but for now... listen to Linda and go to bed!

Marla said...

I am soooooooo exctied for you! Those pictures look amazing! I think you two are going to have a great time. I think it is weird they did not speak English for hotels. I guess being a rude American I expect everyone to speak English!;)

stacey said...

LOL @ Linda secretly glowing : )

have you heard of Mobility International? ( They have a clearinghouse on disability & international travel. I bet if you browse a bit you'll find some stuff on Japan since they've sponsored 2 or 3 crip trips in Japan.

ms.cripchick said...

oops it's me, cripchick, i was logged into the wrong blogger account :)

kathz said...

Congratulations on making your first booking. I think it's thrilling that you have got that far. And I hope the neighbours stop behaving so badly.

em said...

Thinking of you two scrambling to combine your resources and get lodging in Japan made me laugh. The thought of your eyesight fading out on you, not so much. And I'm so sorry about the neighbor, but really? If they are mad about the article, fuck'em.

Gaina said...

Aren't hotel rooms fun?

I go to Spain regularly with my parents and we quickly discovered that most doorways can accommodate a standard wheelchair - except the public ladies toilets or the toilet in our apartment.

The answer? We got a secretaries' chair (the type with wheels) and I had to transfer into that when I wanted to use the bathroom. When we were out, Dad just stood guard while I used the men's.

Fortunately Spain has been really on the ball as far as complying to new EU disability access laws are concerned so that problem is rapidly disappearing.

I had cause to stay in an english 'adapted' hotel room recently and it was interesting to see that, whilst they had generally done a good job, there were subtle little things that they hadn't considered like light switch placements, absence of mugs for people who maybe can't hold a coffee cup and placing the basin beside the bath so people can use the shower head to wash their hair (which I do at home).

It's funny to see how able-bodied people assess our needs. The 'disabled toilet' in my previous blog is a great example.

I'm glad to see you're cultivating a sense of humour, this will serve you well. :)

FridaWrites said...

Sounds like a great trip. We take that much time making reservations even without any accessibility planning, often because we wait too long.

Good thing you have plenty of practice crawling into doorways at home. (joking) :) I'd forgotten about the office chair trick Gaina mentions--I've had to do that several times at home.

Michael said...

Stacy/MS.cripchick, thanks for the site. I need to check that out myself for a trip that I'm planning.

Elizabeth, you're making all of us look forward to your trip! Remember to steal the camera from Linda occasionally. I'm glad you're going to be able to see the sword dancing. Does Linda's camera tape movies as well? Even short ones?


Michael said...

Wrong address for Mobility International. It's actually:


Lisa Harney said...

You may be immature, but I think you've earned the right to it.

As opposed to the assistant manager, who's being immature because you dared complain about being trapped in your apartment.

Sorry I've been quiet lately, things have been hectic around here and I've been feeling awful. :(

Elizabeth McClung said...

Cheryl: I don't about getting the system down quite yet but we are starting. I agree that being rude to Linda is like hurting a kitten, no sane person would do it.

Marla: Once we get the 1,000 things that MUST BE DONE finished then I will probably get excited too - it just seems that, for example, the most expensive room in the hotel is the accessible one.

Stacey/cripchick?: Yes, I've gone to them but the information they have is quite different between "going to Japan on a conference" and actually trying to go around Japan as just two women while one of you is in a wheelchair AND trying to carry enough oxygen AND clothes AND cold packs, etc.

Kathz: Well, while we can't control other people (like neighbors), they can make life a living hell.

Em: Well, both situations I seem to have little control over, but a little more over the booking system, hopefully we will get better at it.

Gaina: Yes, why is it that the bathroom doors are always the smallest, but we use a walker, and I sit on the seat and get pushed in, which is like the secretary's chair.

Frida: Well, crawling in a doorway or not going at all, crawling will have to do - It is just a little less accessible that I expected, and I didn't expect much.

Raccoon/Michael: Yes, I like to take pictures too, but we only have one camera - it takes films, all the videos I upload to youtube (which degrades them beyond recognition) are from the camera - it does a nice 640x480 video.

Lisa: No worries, I'm sorry you are feeling awful and I'm glad you spent the time and energy to comment, sometimes (my life) seems like living at the bottom of a well, a very busy and demanding well.