Alps Ho!

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Map of Tour de Mont Blanc

One more day to go. I’ve been so busy with work and preparations that I haven’t had any time to post anything here. As with all such things problems pop up at the most unlikely times. For one, another big typhoon is making its way along the Japan archipelago, but hopefully it will veer off toward Korea. Then there was the problem with travel insurance. I applied for membership with the Austrian Alpine Club, UK branch, specifically so I could get the mountain walking insurance (including health and rescue) and discounts on mountain huts in the Alps. However, when I recieved the membership card in the mail, my name was printed out wrong, with no sign anywhere of my last name. I emailed and then twice made an expensive international call to rectify the problem, and you know what, they flatly denied that there was any problem with either my registration information and the card, in spite of evidence right there in my hand. They cancelled my membership without looking at the scan I sent them and had the audacity to say that I didn’t know what I was looking at! Well, now I don’t have travel insurance and with diabetes that is a BIG worry. I just can’t understand what induced those people to treat me like that. It took me four months to find a travel insurer who accepts diabetics.

All I can do now is either completely give up going up to the mountains, or just damn the torpedos and hope for the best. I’ve been dreaming of this trip for more than ten years, so giving it up would be self-defeating.

I’m excited about getting out of Japan after all these years, but full of trepidation, too. Yesterday as I was wishing a good summer to people with whom I work and ended up walking home along my now daily route through the rice fields, I wondered why I was doing this, heading off yet again alone to some mountain somewhere, undoubtedly to go through bouts of loneliness and sadness. Why don’t I just stay home, find someone to settle down with and love, and forget about subjecting myself to the rigors of the road? The other day an old woman sat down next to me on the train and indicated two children across from us sitting in the “Silver Seats” for handicapped and elderly. “Japanese children these days are so spoiled, don’t you think?” she asked me (already a rare occurance… most Japanese will never assume that I can speak Japanese) “When I went abroad last year I was shocked when someone next to me told me that the two children standing next to me were not allowed to sit down, because to stand built character and showed respect for the elderly. Don’t you think that Japanese children should do the same?” She turned her coke-bottle glasses to me and blinked at me with big expectant eyes. Of course I had to agree. Then she asked, “Do you have children?” “No,” I replied. “Ah, but you’re still young,” she said, nodding. “I don’t know. I’m already 46,” I said. She shook her head, and then, in a loud voice so that everyone in the car could hear her, she boomed, “Oh that’s so sad. What is it, something wrong with your semen count?” I think I must have shrunk to the size of a grapefruit. “Oh, don’t worry about how much semen you have. You can always go to some countries I know, get an operation, and soon you’ll be squirting the stuff all over the place and having 20 or more little rugrats!”

In spite of the humor in that encounter, I thought a lot about her saying that it was sad that I didn’t have any children. I’ve often wondered if that is what is missing from my life, because I can’t seem to find that one piece of the jigsaw puzzle that makes me feel like a human creature that has filled its purpose in this world. I don’t know, maybe that has nothing to do with children at all, though.

So tomorrow I’m going to the Europe. I will arrive in Zurich, Switzerland, spend a day or two there, head over to Lucern and Interlaken, maybe catch a jazz festival or so, then head into France to Chamonix where I will spend two or three days acclimatizing to the altitude and seeing how my legs are faring. From there I hope to head up to the Tour de Mont Blance, about a 10-day walk about the biggest massif in western Europe. I hear it’s one of the greatest walks in the world. Most likely I’ll have some more days after that and if there is enough time I will head on along the Walker’s Haute Route towards Zermatt, where the Matterhorn is. Even if I can’t walk it I think I will at least take a bus there just so that I can see that famous peak. Then it’s down to Italy to relax and do some architecture viewing. If it’s not too far I’d like to go see the architect Carlo Scarpa’s Brion Cemetery, one of my favorite examples of architecture. But none of this is set in stone; I’m aiming to be very flexible and not be too hard on myself.

I’ll probably have internet access here and there and will try to post occasionally, but since I want to get away from the computer I will only post a little. Hope to stay in touch with you all!

Have a nice summer!

12 Responses

  1. Have a wonderful, wonderful time – we’ll all be anxious to hear about it. I will be thinking of you and will remember you in my meditations, wishing you good health, cheerfulness, and lots of traveling serendipity. And please don’t fuss about the children thing. Lots of us don’t have any and it’s not sad, it’s just different from the majority. Bon voyage!

  2. Bon voyage! Sounds like a fantastic trip.

    Sometimes I feel a pang of regret when I see cute little kids, but by and large I’m O.K. with being, like you, unattached and childless. I don’t know. As long as I can still make decent poems once in a while, that feels like enough of a contribution, I guess.

  3. *NOW* who’s jealous?

    Looks like an amazing hike. I would LOVE to get to the “real” alps one day…

    I’m glad to see you finally getting to do something you want to do instead of spending too much time at work. I wish you all the best on your hike and look forward to your photos from the trip and you visiting Tomoe and I at our new home once we are settled. If things go as planned, we will have a big house and enough room that you can stay as long as you like.

    As for your story about the woman on the train…. holy crap! Are you serious? I have had many strange encounters with old Japanese ladies, but never like that!

  4. Have a wonderful, fantastic, refreshing, delightful time. I look forward to hearing about it and maybe seeing some photos too. Go with Joy, my friend!

  5. The TMB is gorgeous! I want to do it again soon. The Haute Route – I may be doing it in a couple of weeks time if all goes well but that’s another story.

    Your travel insurance: I always see something like that as a puzzle so I called the British Mountaineering Council and asked them. They do excellent travel insurance but only for people with a UK address who are travelling too and from the UK.

    But they suggested that either the Canadian company:

    http://www.globaltravelinsurance.com/contact.htm

    or the British:

    http://www.snowcard.co.uk/pages/s_contact.asp

    May be able to help you.

    I hope they can!

  6. Bon voyage, Miguel, have a wonderful time.

  7. I am confident that you’ll have a great time here in Europe. Once that you’ll land in Zurich, life will look different.

    As regards the old lady, that was not her business, was it?

  8. I’m not sad I don’t have children. I did enjoy spending time with my niece and nephew last month and that was, and is, enough.

    Have a wonderful trip. I’ll think of you!

  9. Well, here I am, safe and sound in Zurich. It’s still hard to believe I’m here. Now that I’ve been up for 72 hours straight I’m more or less seeing the city through a lens of blurred sleepwalking. It’s hot, too! That was a surprise. Just as hot as Japan. The Swiss themselves as a whole seem to be amazingly fit, everyone doing exercise everywhere and Lake Zurich, a huge affair with a cruise ship plying its center, was alive with brown bodies swimming and sunning themselves. Made me feel very out of place with my little belly and ridiculous stretch hiking pants. Still everyone is friendly and already I’ve started meeting people on the street and trains. What a difference from Japan. Well, I need some sleep. Talk to you all again soon.

  10. Wow. Sounds fantastic. I trust you will be getting to cooler places as you get into the mountains. I so envy you your trip to Italy. Haven’t been yet, only tortured by gorgeous pictures taken by students several times a year. I so want to see the Sistine Chapel, and some of the sulptures and art. Hope you have a fantastic vacation and write about it so those of us here can vicariously enjoy.

    It might also be a great chance to pick up a tasty and healthy bottle of olive oil, cheap, to bring back, if it doesn’t weigh too much.:)

  11. Glad that everything is going well!

  12. bon voyage, Miguel!
    What an awesome trip you have planned. I am excited to read your posts along the journey.

    Intesting story about the old lady on the train. Thankfully, we don’t all have the same life purpose and we aren’t all meant to have and raise children. Despite this understanding, I’ve still mourned the fact that it an amazing experience that I will miss out on. But it often shocks me how much cultural expectation there is that one will have children without regard for whether it is part of what we are meant to experience in this life–if you don’t you are ‘defective’

    fun and safe travels to you!
    xo-L

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