Using Japanese drums to bury French demons

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November 30th 2008
Published: December 4th 2008
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Last time I came to France I ran away. Literally. At least from the luggage dropoff point to the departure gate at Charles de Gaulle Airport, not even stopping to retie the shoelaces flapping in all directions.

Two days earlier I had arrived back at the hotel to find my passports and wallet hadn't. The next day was spent doing the rounds of embassy/police/lost and found (or as in my case, lost and not found). True to their word the staff at the New Zealand embassy had my emergency passport waiting for me the next morning, which I signed for before putting in the plastic bag which had now become my travel wallet.

Feeling a little as though I were playing a refugee version of Amazing Race I headed for the subway station to start the journey toward meeting up with family members who had left that morning to try their luck at getting a Eurostar seat (my flight was pre-booked, and an e-ticket), intended reunion in London where another sister lives. At least with a plan for rendezvous Plan A, Plan B, and Plan "This is where I'll try getting a room for the night if we don't meet up", I thought that surely that part would work out.

Armed with my day ticket for the train, thinking that to save money which I had little of I would get a train to the last stop of the valid zone, then get a cheaper ticket the rest of the way to the airport. But in my rush to get there I didn't realise initially that I had jumped on an express train. There was going to be no getting off at the end of the zone. Oh well, should be able to pay the difference at the other end.

Off the escalator at the airport and turnstiles galore, but no ticket office. Knowing full well that it would get rejected I inserted my ticket, did my best "that's strange" expression, shoved my bag under the turnstile and hopped over it - would've paid for a ticket if I could've Mum :-) Where's someone to take your money when you actually want them to....?

Into the check in area, and then had fun and games sorting my ticket when the self-check in machines rejected my code because the credit card used to pay for the ticket initially had since been cancelled - of course I had! Besides if my account had already been charged, what was that all about?

Eventually I made the rendezvous at Waterloo Station and an extended holiday while I waited for paperwork from Japan.

Burying demons

When the opportunity came to go back to France, this time with my taiko (Japanese drums) team - minus the ones who couldn't make the trip - to take part in Japan Week events, it was my chance to rewrite the France travel journal. Luckily I've got used to journeys not always going to plan.............

What was supposed to be a couple of hours stopover in Amsterdam turned out to be a one night stay when due to delays and weather problems KLM decided to downsize the plane going on to Strasbourg that night. Four of our group (including myself) who weren't scheduled for the opening performance the next day were elected to stay back and join the team the next day. Choosing to leave our luggage (why oh why) at the airport to save time the next morning we collected the toiletries package on offer at the KLM and headed to the hotel shuttle. Ice, among other problems, delayed the flight 4 hours the following morning. Luggage on the other hand took closer to 4 days to find us. Actually, it was the morning of the fourth day of the trip before I was to see it again.

The morning of day 3 was scheduled as a tour around inner Strasbourg, a good part of it on foot as buses aren't allowed in some places. The battery for my new Cybershot T700 had run down by then, and yes, the charger was in my suitcase. My ancient Powershot A70 had started having tantrums off and on (maybe it found out it is going to be replaced by a G9 in the near future). The upshot being that I ended up with very few photos of Strasbourg.....including none of the row of mini snowmen we made on top of a stone wall :-)

You're playing today 今日やるよ!

There we were at breakfast the next morning (our last in Strasbourg) when one of the 'aunties' of the team came up to our table with the vice president. "I'm lending you my uniform. Come up to my room as soon as you've finished breakfast". With that, a slap on the shoulder and 今日やるよ!from the vice president, suddenly the croissant and coffee didn't seem as important anymore - apart from the fact that due to the tight schedule schedule that day everyone had to be on the bus (ready in costume for the first event) by 7:30am.
(Strasbourg was actually the end of the performances as the next day was set aside for sightseeing in Paris, so it was nice they decided I wasn't going to miss out just because my luggage wasn't playing the game).

Although the main part of the costume is 'one size fits all' the rest of it isn't, and with the person standing down to let me play being probably the tiniest person on the team, I needed to get the rest of it from elsewhere. Elsewhere turned out to be other team members who one by one brought spare bits and pieces up to the room, to make up the set. A few knocks at the door later and I was set to go.

Ironically, when we arrived down at the lobby to check out we were told the missing suitcases had turned up the night before.......

Getting to travel overseas to play taiko was always going to be pretty cool. To get to play in the end after going close to missing out for want of a suitcase actually made it even more special.
Unfortunately I didn't even get around to handing my camera to someone at the venue to take photos for me, but am hoping to get some off the guy who was travelling with us as photographer. Will either post them here later or put them on FaceBook.

It was good to get back to France, but a shame to not have more time to visit family and friends over that way. So for now the trip to Skye remains unticked on the 'to do' list.

Last time I came to France I was reminded of what it means to have family around when things go wrong. This time I buried demons.

Additional photos below
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Taiko in StrasbourgTaiko in Strasbourg
Taiko in Strasbourg

Second event on day 1.

8th December 2008

The curse of Schipol
In years of travel I've only lost bags twice and one of them was in Schipol. Its a horrible feeling, but the consequences can be quite funny after the event ... as long as your bags turn up eventually. In my case, things got worse before they got better - due to a booking mix-up I have to share a broom cupboard in a hotel with my boss. The whole town was completely booked up with a major conference ... heheh, he made me promise never to tell anyone ... ooops!

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