After a happy month at the orchard, it was time to move on and move south. Mr. K dropped me off at the Shiozaki Station early in the morning on November 29th. I had an 11.5 hour journey ahead of me with 10 transfers. Despite the length of the journeys, I really enjoy these travel days as a chance to think over my last place and look forward to the next. Out the window I could watch as we raced between mountains. An occasional river rushed by underneath us, and every little town we stopped in provided some clue to its character and purpose.
On a long journey like this, you have to be diligent about checking your transfer schedule. One wrong move could have you stranded somewhere far from your destination when the trains shut down around 11pm. I checked my schedule a couple times every hour. Most of the time I set alarms to warn me when I was about to reach a transfer station. I had been vigilant all day, yet still found myself in a bind when evening came. I was reaching the time of my next transfer, yet we were many stops away. In Japan you can assume all trains will be on time, always. Yet something wasn’t matching up. The conductor didn’t seem to think we were off schedule, so it’s possible that I got onto a slow train when it should have been a rapid. Whatever the case, my schedule was blown.
There was a little time at the next transfer station to try to contact my host and let him know I would be late. I spent the next 25 minutes rushing around town, hovering outside convenience stores to check if they had wifi. 7-11 came through, allowing me to send off a message and make it back for the next train.
I was feeling good. Crisis averted. Rain streaked down the windows, making the well-lit train seem even cheerier. As we sped along in the night, there was an unexpected bump. A big sigh from the conductor’s chamber and the train crawled to a stop. He made some calls over the radio, then got on the speaker. “We’ve hit an animal. A crew is on its way to remove it. I’m very sorry for the trouble. Please wait a little while.” Never had I heard one of these prim conductors sound so deflated.
My own mood crashed from there. We were 30 minutes behind schedule and there was no way my host would still be there after I was already late. His home was a half hour car ride, ruling out any possibility of my reaching it in the dark drizzle. Would there be any hotels in the little town, and would their front desks still be open at 10:30pm? Could I figure out the address and catch a taxi? It would all have to be worked out on arrival. I prayed for peace, and for something to work out. This was a good opportunity to exercise my faith, and to see what kind of stops God will pull out for those who ask Him.
The train pulled in to Toyooka station, and I rushed outside, ready to scope out my fate. There, just on the other side of the gate, stood a man watching the disembarking passengers. Only after clearing the gate did I allow myself to hope. “Are you Mr. A?” “Yes. Are you Rochelle?” “Yes.” I was so relieved. Gratitude welled up in me towards Mr. A for his patience, and to the God that has protected me through all my journey.