The Lighter Side of My Journey, Continuously Beaten on the Head

New York, N.Y. Let’s talk a bit lightly. The other day, it was a day of continuous trials of challenging incidents. It was a very difficult day for me. In the end, the day turned out to be comical. It all happened when I went to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.

On that day, I headed to the airport by bus as usual. I always think about the orphan children I support at Manjushree Orphanage in Twang, India who are running only in summer slippers in the snow of Himalayas.

I think constantly that if I spend ten dollars by taxi, I can buy five pairs of shoes for them. I do not want to waste for even one dollar on myself. As a senior, I can go to Newark airport for only $9 in 30 minutes and I am so grateful to the bus. My friend laugh at me but I always take a bus to the airport.


That day, unlike usual, there was heavy traffic on the way. This was the First Trouble. For any flight, one cannot check in the baggage unless there is one hour before departure.  I arrived only 65 minutes before the flight! Originally the connecting route was New York → Brussels → Ljubljana (Slovenia), and I found that I could not get on to this Brussels flight with suitcases although I desperately negotiated.

The Second Trouble was negotiating a change to another routing via Frankfurt. Requesting a change without paying a lots of additional money was difficult.

The Third Trouble: I was relieved to change the route. But, and this time I was told I cannot check in and send suitcases to Ljubljana as the final destination. This was my fourth trouble. The airline said they can only send the luggage to Frankfurt and I have to personally collect the suitcases there and check in again to the Ljubljana flight.


I realize it will not be easy for me to go outside once in Frankfurt, and check in again! And although I tried to do this according the instruction, I was waiting for hours. Meanwhile I was surprised to find out I cannot go with the flight I booked in Newark due to overbooking! I could not get on to the plane!

The Fifth Trouble: After three hours there was another flight that night so I signed in for that flight, got a seat and was finally relieved.  But in Frankfurt I encountered yet another trouble… There was no one red suitcase when I arrived

This was the Sixth Trouble. We immediately began the track down process at the lost and found. Then, there,
I suddenly saw a suitcase of the same color and size that closely resembled my suitcase, I thought this was someone mistakenly took my suitcase!

Luckily, there was the cell phone number written in the tag! We learned the other party was in Frankfurt, planning to go to Seoul the next day. She agreed to bring my suitcase back to the airport and the airline staff said, “We assure you that we will put your suitcase onto you can fly to Ljubljana, so please be relieved.”

I took a flight to the final destination Ljubljana and finally arrived at midnight. In Ljubljana, I was scheduled to give a presentation at the medical conference at 3 pm the following day. I thought about going to the hotel, but without the suitcase as it had not yet arrived from the Frankfurt airport!

The Seventh Trouble: All of the materials used in my presentation, including clothes and shoes, were all in the missing red suitcase — and the time of presentation was only in a few hours! I did not have time to buy another outfit – it was not only a weekend, but midnight! The airport airline staff were few and the work finding my bag made little progress…

The Eighth Trouble: I contacted my staff in New York and attempted to get the materials sent again, but since it was the weekend, I could not reach them. While I was sweating cold, I negotiated with the staff of the academic society to change the presentation time, but was to no avail as the schedule was packed. No success here at all.

The Ninth Trouble: At the entrance of the hotel, watching the outside of the door while making a phone calls absolutely desperate, thinking Why I did not carry these important material with me into the plane?! etc. etc.

Then, suddenly, the red suitcase arrived exactly at 3:00 pm at the moment of the presentation time! There was no time to change the clothes I had been wearing for three days since I departed from New York. It seemed that someone (the Universe?) was still testing me, hitting my head many times, to test how much I could endure.

But I never give up through all of these Nine Challenges. I was tried to the my maximum of abilities – and survived… The presentation was a huge success and several doctors promised to use my therapy in their hospitals.

What I Learned from These Experiences

  1. Always arrive early to the Airport;
  2. Carry everything important with you on the plane;
  3. When depositing your luggage, keep things prominently visible such as a big sticker or ribbon that other people never have. If you think that it is okay because it is slightly different in color, you are wrong
  4. Write the mobile number on the tag of checked suitcases.

I have flown to more than 150 countries so far in my life — over twenty million miles! Perhaps it is strange there have been no such Troubles until now. While overcoming each and everyone of these nine difficulties, I desperately tried hard without giving up! It was really exciting to be banged on my head – truly a day of my own episode after all!

Originally published as Vol. 51 in Weekly Biz, November 24, 2018; translated by Jim Luce.

See: Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura Column in Japan’s Weekly Biz



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About Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura

View all posts by Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko was born into a distinguished old family in Kyoto, Japan, and graduated from Toho conservatory of Music in Tokyo. In 1961 she came to U.S. as a pianist sponsored by the Boston Symphony. She studied at Boston University, New York University, and received her Ph.D. in Oriental Medicine from New York State University and the International Academy of Education in Tokyo. From 1968 to 1992, she promoted cultural exchanges from East to West and vice versa, and became a world famous impresario, producing 2,000 events each year all over the world encompassing over 140 countries. In this connection, in 1972, she went to Dharamsala to find the lost Tibetan Folk Opera, and met His Holiness the Dalai Lama, with whom she remains a lifelong friend. In 1973 and 1991 she arranged and funded personally the tours of the Folk Opera of Tibet to the West. She has received many medals and honors from different countries. Her tireless life long work in Philanthropic field is vast and well known ranging from Save the Beacon Theater, Save the Boat People, Help the Homeless, natural disasters of earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as relief to AIDS and HIV positive children in Africa. She has been a dedicated Board Member to both the J. Luce Foundation and Orphans International for years. Her work focuses on the Tibetan people; Tibetan children remain especially strong in her heart. She raised fund for the new academic building for Manjushree Orphanage in Tawang, India and supported many aspects of the school. See HuffPo pieces entitled Japanese Holistic Healer in NYC to Build School for Tibetan Orphans in India, A Japanese Dinner with Raul Castro’s Daughter, and NYC Gala in Support of Tibetan Orphans Set for January.

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