New Life, New Goals :Previous Chapter«Home»Next Chapter: Japan vs Panama

Going Abroad, First Day in Panama

The remainder of the week had gone by a little too quickly for either Saito or Keiko. Now, it was Sunday August 8th, and today was the day Keiko would embark on her week-long-trip to Panama with Nadeshiko Japan.

"Clothes packed. Passport? Check. That's everything." said Keiko, wearing her Nadeshiko team tracksuit, as she closed her duffel bag for the last time before she left

"Have a good time in America." said Natsumi cheerfully

"America and Panama are two separate countries!"

"But it's on the Central American subcontinent, so it's America!" said Miyuki cheerfully

"Most people from that region would find that insulting." said Keiko

"The last week went by too quickly." said Saito "I feel lonely already."

"Stop whining. I can hardly feel anything after the ten inoculation shots I had to get." said Keiko as she rubbed her left upper arm

"You took them all in your arm?" Natsumi asked

"Do you know where they wanted me to take them?"

"Come on Keiko, we have plane to catch." said Suzuka, also wearing her Nadeshiko team tracksuit, coming into the room with her own bag on her shoulder

"I'm coming, I'm coming." Keiko replied, lifting her bag onto her own shoulder

"You're meeting up with the rest of the team at Narita Airport right?" Natsumi asked

"Yeah. And our families and school team are coming to see us off." said Keiko

Since they couldn't take Suzuka's car, since she'd end up having to leave it at the airport, Suzuka handed her keys to Haruto to look after while they were away, and they let Mito drive them. Natsumi and Miyuki followed behind on their motorcycles, since they wanted to see them off too.

Although cars and roads had advanced much over the years, it still took them over an hour an a half before they arrived at Narita International Airport in Chiba. By the time they arrived, the Aizawas, Chloe, the Shirayukis, and Suzuka's sister Hibiki, were already waiting for them.

"There's our favorite teenage couple." said Kakeru when they got out of Mito's car, and Natsumi and Miyuki off their bikes

"Except I'm not the one who's going abroad today." Saito replied as they came up and hugged their families

"Plus, I regret to say that I'm not going this time around." said Nana

"Hibiki, didn't I ask you to not come see me off?" Suzuka inquired as she embraced her sister

"My little sister is going on her first trip abroad with the National Reps. Why shouldn't I?" said Hibiki

"Everybody, this is my older sister, Hibiki Akitsuki." Suzuka introduced as they let go

"I thought the last name was familiar." said Ushio

"Kake-nii, Nana-nee, this is Natsumi and Miyuki, they live at Sakagami too." Mito introduced

After those who didn't know each other were introduced were so, they proceeded inside to check in.

"What time does your flight leave?" Sanae asked

"1 O'clock, in a half hour. You all aren't gonna go past the security point with us, are you?" Keiko asked

"You don't want us to?" Nana asked

"A text from Ishiki-san on our way here informed us that the rest of the team is already waiting for us at the Gate." said Suzuka "Their very presence is gonna draw some eyes, but having our friends and families there is just plain embarrassing."

"Boring!" the middle schoolers cried in unison

"I'm sorry, but this is where you see us off." said Keiko

"Keiko-chan, Suzuka-senpai!" called Yukari Hayakawa as she caught up with them

"Yukari? Where's everyone else?" Suzuka asked

"Everyone apologizes for not being able to see you two off. They all had things they couldn't get out of, I was the only one free. So I'm here on behalf of the whole team, and they say 'good luck in Panama'."

"I know Yuki's busy preparing to move into Sakagami, but I suppose this isn't entirely unexpected." Keiko thought

"Text us if you see any good looking Panamanian men." said Natsumi

"Yeah, right." Keiko and Suzuka replied sarcastically

Keiko and Suzuka hugged everyone goodbye, Keiko giving Saito a goodbye kiss for good measure.

"Don't cheat on me." Keiko said playfully

"I-I-I-I-I wouldn't dare!" Saito said hastily

Keiko giggled in response and took off with Suzuka for the gates past the security point.

"Bring back some souvenirs." Koichi called after them

"Donnez-leur un bon spectacle! [Give them a good show!]" Chloe called

It took a few minutes, but they passed the security point without issue.

"By the way," said Suzuka when they were past security "Though your English has improved a bit, Panama is primarily a Spanish-speaking country. Do you know any?"

"Nothing! Not even the basics." Keiko replied "I was hoping I could rely on you for that. Japanese and English aside, you said you spoke Spanish, German and French. Wait... how much do you actually know?"

"I was exaggerating when I said I spoke those languages fluently, but I know enough to hold a conversion. Stick with me, and you won't get blocked by the language barrier."

They found Taeko and the team waiting at the gate.

"You girls made it." said Meiko when they caught up

"Like we'd miss this." said Keiko "Our first trip to a foreign country with you guys."

"I know this isn't really a vacation, but what are we doing first when we get there?" Suzuka asked

"Checking into the hotel we reserved, and getting a few more hours rest." Taeko said simply, causing a few stares "Planes are a bit more faster than they were last decade. Without the need for a layover, the whole flight will last about four hours. But since were going east over the dateline, it will be 3:00am Sunday morning when we arrive. Furthermore, we don't play against Panama until Tuesday, then we face Costa Rica on Friday. Except during training hours between games, feel free to use your free time treat this as a vacation until we are to return home."

Everyone whistled and clapped in agreement.

The whole team boarded the plane a little before 1:00, then the plane took off right on schedule. Four hours later, they were in Panama.

"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you you for flying with us and welcome to Panama City, Panama. Please enjoy your stay, and we look forward to flying with you again soon." said the pilot in English after they landed

"Panama at last." said Keiko as the plane docked at one of the gates of Panama City's Tocumen International Airport. Keiko then took a look at her phone, which had a GPS synchronized clock, it really was 3:00 in the morning

"We let everyone else get off before getting off ourselves." Taeko told the team as the crew started letting people get off "It might be early in the morning here, but be prepared to face the press."

"When I first joined the team, I was showered with the press for almost a week." Keiko told Suzuka, who had sat with her throughout the flight

"My name's not as well known, so I got off easy." Suzuka replied, taking her and Keiko's bags from the luggage compartment

After everyone else had left the plane, the team got off too. Taeko was right; the press was there to meet them. The press immediately closed in on them, taking pictures and asking questions. Finally one managed to get close to Keiko.

"Bienvenido a Panamá. Eres Keiko Aizawa, de 15 años, hija del famoso Kakeru Aizawa, ¿verdad? Actualmente estás el más joven en el equipo también? Va a estar jugando como el inicio de tu equipo en los dos juegos en el Estadio Rommel Fernández de esta semana? [Welcome to Panama. You're Keiko Aizawa, age 15, daughter of the famous Kakeru Aizawa, right? You're currently the youngest on the team too? Will you be playing as a starter for your team during the two games at Estadio Rommel Fernández this week?]" the reporter inquired, but Keiko, unable to understand Spanish, couldn't answer. Thankfully, Suzuka came to Keiko's rescue.

"Keiko no entiende por nada de español, por favor deje ella ser. Pero sí, ella será abridor en dos partidos. [Keiko doesn't understand any Spanish, please leave her be. But yes, she will be a starter in both games.]" Suzuka told the reporter in her best Spanish

"Y usted es? [And You are?]" the reporter asked

"Suzuka Akitsuki. Me uní al equipo el mes pasado. [Suzuka Akitsuki. I joined the team last month.]" Suzuka replied

It took some doing, but the team managed to get away from the press. After getting through customs, they finally got onto the bus that would take them to their reserved hotel.

"You saved me back there." said Keiko as she and Suzuka settled into their room. The duo would be sharing for the duration of the week.

"It was no biggie." said Suzuka, flopping down on the bed "Handling the press is no problem, but having to speak a language you don't normally use is exhausting. I'd be fine with English, but it's a rarity in this country."

"True. So... waddya wanna do later?"


"Taeko said today was a free day, and we wouldn't start serious training 'til tomorrow."

"I heard her. She also said not to go too far from the hotel."

"But we can still go sightseeing. Maybe spend a few hours by the beach. The Canal is supposed to be a sight to see too. Suzuka?" Suzuka had fallen asleep

After sending a text to Saito and her parents, telling them that they made it safely, Keiko tried to get a few more hours of sleep too.

Later, having the day free to themselves, Keiko and Suzuka went out to explore Panama City.

"Panama City is so different from Kamakura." said Keiko as they wandered around "I've only seen buildings this tall in Tokyo. The architecture is so different too. But the one thing that really gets to me is how hot it is here compared to home."

"What can you really expect? We're in Latin America, not Asia." said Suzuka, who was nevertheless awed as well

"Hola, cutie. ¿Quieres venir a jugar con nosotros? [Hey there, cutie. Wanna come play with us?]" said one of two local guys

"I don't understand what you're saying!" Keiko replied

"Un extranjero? ¿Qué fue eso, el ruso? [A foreigner? What was that, Russian?]"

"Sonaba como vietnamita. [Sounded like Vietnamese.]" said his companion

"Estamos japonesa, pendejo! [We're Japanese, jackass!]" said Suzuka "Tome una caminata! [Take a hike!]" Neither needed telling twice

"Were they trying to pick us up?" Keiko asked

"Indeed. I guess guys are the same no matter what country they're from."

Minutes later they came to the square of what looked like a roofless shopping area.

"Is this a shopping area?" Keiko asked

"Looks like it." said Suzuka

"Look over there." said Keiko pointing to the center of the square. Underneath a palm tree at the center of the square was a small group of four boys, and a single girl, no older then they were, with a much of instruments, looking really discouraged that no one was waiting for them to play "They look like a newly formed band, but they also look discouraged."

"Why don't we listen to them play." said Suzuka. The pair of them went to where the group was and beckoned them to play.

"Usted que realmente va a escuchar? [You'll really listen?]" said the girl

"Traerlo [Bring it.]" said Suzuka

Glad that they had even two people to listen, the band got up and prepared to play. The girl singing vocals, the boys playing the song.

♫ Saltos Amor en movimiento [Love leaps into motion] ♫
♫ Tratando de mantener colgado en [Trying to keep hanging on] ♫
♫ Cuando necesito una razón para despertar [When I need a reason to wake up] ♫
♫ Te encuentro inflexión [I Find you turning] ♫
♫ Riendo y sonriendo [Laughing and smiling] ♫

♫ Te quiero niña, pero a veces [Love you girl but sometimes] ♫
♫ Siento como si me dejas atrás [I Feel like you leave me behind] ♫
♫ Ahora usted no tiene que importarle [Now you don't have to mind it] ♫
♫ Te encuentro brillante [I Find you shining] ♫
♫ Cada día a día [Everyday by day] ♫

♫ Amor canta, mi hermana [Singing love, my sister] ♫
♫ En este mundo donde todo el mundo se siente solo [In this world Where everyone is lonely] ♫
♫ Todo va a estar bien algún día [Everything will be fine someday] ♫

♫ Recordar [Remember] ♫
♫ Jugando en el patio trasero [Playing in the backyard] ♫
♫ Ocultando mirarme en tus ojos [Hiding myself in your eyes] ♫
♫ parece que nunca me podría coger [seems you never could catch me] ♫
♫ Te encuentro llorando [I Find you crying] ♫
♫ Llorando en la oscuridad [Weeping in darkness] ♫

♫ Amor canta, mi hermana [Singing love, my sister] ♫
♫ En este mundo donde todo el mundo se siente solo [In this world Where everyone is lonely] ♫
♫ Todo va a estar bien algún día [Everything will be fine someday] ♫
♫ Otro día [Some other day] ♫

Keiko and Suzuka both clapped enthusiastically when they finished.

"Thank you both." said the boy on the bass

"He speaks English? Thank heaven." said Keiko when they stopped clapping

"We all do." said the girl "And thanks for listening."

"I guess we're your first fans. What are you names and, what song was that anyway?" Suzuka asked

"I'm Jade Rodríguez, the group singer." said the girl "And the boys; Twins Fancisco and Federico on guitars, Diego on bass, and Reynaldo on drums. And that song was called Face."

"Really nice melody. I'm Keiko Aizawa, this is Suzuka Akitsuki."

"Those names aren't Spanish or Panamanian. Foreigners?" Reynaldo asked

"We're Japanese. We just arrived in this country this morning with the rest of the Japan Women's National Soccer Team." said Suzuka

"Eres de Japón! [You're from Japan?!]" the Twins exclaimed excitedly

"Sorry, they always do that." said Diego

"They remind me of Hiroki and Ryo." Keiko thought

"You said you came with the JWNST. Are you playing against our girls later this week?" Jade asked

"We are. We're doing real training for the match tomorrow, but today is free time for us, so we're sightseeing." said Suzuka

"We don't know our way around though." said Keiko

"In that case let me accompany you two." said Jade, then adressed the boys "Pack it up and call it a day, I'll be home later."

Keiko and Suzuka then continued wandering around, with the local, Jade, guiding them.

"Panama is so different from Japan." said Keiko as they walked "It'd be easy for us to get lost without a guide."

"I'd imagine so." said Jade "I've been up and down this city my whole life. Stick with me and you'll be fine. Where ya from in Japan?"

"We're from Kamakura, Kanagawa. Well, Keiko is, I was born in Shizuoka." said Suzuka

"We're both members of our high school girls' soccer team too." said Keiko

"Either of you got a man back home?" Jade asked

"Keiko does. I'm still single."

"Still no luck with Yamato?" Keiko said in her native tongue

"Can it." Suzuka replied, then noticed Jade's face looked blank "Can't understand Japanese?"

"Not a word." Jade replied "The only stuff about Japan I really know of is the great delicacies. There are a few Japanese restaurants here in town, none of the workers speak any though. My favorite Japanese food is Ocanomeaki."

"It's pronounced: Okonomiyaki." Keiko corrected

"Really? Japanese is tough."

"Most Japanese say the same about English!"

"That aside, is there anything in particular about Panama City worth seeing?" Suzuka asked

"Nothing I can think of, being in this place your whole life makes it seem boring to you." said Jade "In my opinion, the only thing worth seeing is the Canal and the very few memorials to the U.S. Invasion. Although the tourists areas make for popular birthday spots."

All if a sudden, Keiko stopped in her tracks.

"Keiko?" Suzuka inquired worriedly

"Cheese brain." Keiko mumbled to herself

"What?" said Jade

"I AM SUCH A TOTAL CHEESE BRAIN!" Keiko shouted in Japanese, sinking down and hugging her knees

"What's wrong with her?"

"Keiko, what's the matter?" said Suzuka asked in her native, kneeling down and putting a hand on Keiko's shoulder

"Saito's been gloomy ever since he found out that I'd be here this week, and now I know why. How could I have not remembered 'till now?"


"This Wednesday, August 11th, is Saito's sixteenth birthday!"

"You're kidding!"

"I remembered when Jade spoke of birthday spots. How could I forget? I'm such a terrible girlfriend! I'm sure he hates me now."

"Come on, Saito-kun's not one to hold a grudge, you know that."

"You mind telling me what's wrong with her? 'Cause I can't understand a word you two are saying." said Jade

"She just remembered that her boyfriend's birthday is this Wednesday." Suzuka said simply

"That's not good."

"Tell me about it." said Keiko "Ooooh, how am I gonna make this up to him?"

"Offer him your body?" Jade suggested. Both Keiko and Suzuka gave her annoyance stares "What?"

"My boyfriend and I are already past that point. I don't need a useless suggestion." said Keiko as she stood up straight again

"Lo siento. [Sorry.]" Jade apologized "Why don't we think about it as we continue the tour?"

"How 'bout we find a spot for lunch? I'm hungry." said Suzuka

"Same. But, Jade, do you mind paying? We don't have any of the currency you use here." said Keiko

"No problem." Jade replied

"And none of those Japanese places you mentioned, something local." said Suzuka

"Como quieras. [As you wish.]" Jade replied with an okay sign

Jade led them to a small restaurant nearby.

"This is my favorite place. I'm a regular here." said Jade when they arrived "Yo, Pops! Mesa para tres. [Yo, Pops! Table for three.]"

"Ah, Jade. El tratamiento de algunos nuevos amigos? [Ah, Jade. Treating some new friends?]" said the owner as they sat themselves at a table near the door

"Uh-huh. Son miembros de la selección nacional de la mujer japonesa, que llegó al país esta mañana. [Uh-huh. They're members of the Japanese National Women's team, which arrived in the country this morning.]"

"Oh. Entonces creo que esta semana te voy a.... [Oh. Then I guess later this week you'll....]"

"Shhhhh... Esto se entiende español bastante bien. [This one understands Spanish pretty well.]" said Jade, referring to Suzuka "Mantenga en secreto por ahora. [Keep it quiet for now.]"

"Ha ha ha.... Haz lo que quieras, nena. [Have it your way, kiddo.]" the owner passed them some menus and left to serve other customers

"Sorry, he understands English but he doesn't speak any." said Jade

"Don't apologize." said Keiko as she looked at the menu, but couldn't read a word of it "Dammit. I can't read a word."

"My literary Spanish is a bit lacking too." said Suzuka "Can we go by your recommendation?"

"Certainly. Pops, tres órdenes de mi habitual! [Pops, three orders of my usual!]"

"Viene enseguida. [Coming right up.]" the owner called back. twenty minutes later, he came back with three sets of Jade's "usual".

"Gracias por esperar. [Thank you for waiting.]"

"And... what do you call this stuff?" Keiko asked

"The main dish is Arroz con pollo. Chicken with rice." Jade explained "The side is Carimañola. The drinks are fruit juices. Trust me, you'll love this stuff."

"It certainly looks delicious." said Suzuka "But first...."

"Itadakimasu!" both Keiko and Suzuka said

"That's a peculiar phrase." said Jade

Half of an hour later, they finished their main course.

"That was great!" said Suzuka as she set down her silverware

"Really. The stuff here is something else compared to back home." said Keiko as a waiter took their plates away

"A continuación, pruebe uno de nuestros postres también. [Then try one of our desserts too.]" said the owner as he placed three cake slices on the table

"And what's this?" Keiko asked

"It's Tres leches. A type of sponge cake soaked is three kinds of milk." Jade explained as she took a bite "Trust me, it's to die for."

Keiko and Suzuka both tasted it as well.

"It really is good!" Keiko said gleefully

"I guess she likes it?" Jade asked

"She does." said Suzuka "Panamanian cuisine is so great."

"As the land bridge between two continents, and a former Spanish and Columbian territory, Panama's always had such a rich and unique variety of things from several cultures."

Just then, Keiko received a text from Meiko, asking where they were.

"Just had lunch with a new local friend. We'll be back at hotel by seven." Keiko muttered as she typed her reply

"What'd she say?" Jade asked as she payed the bill

"She's replying to a text." said Suzuka

"And we still have time before seven. Where should we go next?" Keiko asked

Until seven o'clock that evening, the three of them explored various parts of the city. The last place they explored was Casco Viejo, one of the most historic sights in the city. Neither Keiko nor Suzuka could hide their fascination of a city full of both sights and history. Finally it was near seven, and both girls had to say goodbye to Jade for the night.

"Here's my phone number and e-mail address." said Jade as they prepared to part at the hotel's entrance "See you again later this week?"

"If we're allowed a break in between training." said Keiko "We have two games this week."

"Oh, that's right. Then I guess we'll be seeing each other again shortly."

"What do you mean by that?" Suzuka asked

"You'll see. ¡Hasta la vista! [Bye-bye!]"

Jade walked off, and Keiko and Suzuka went inside

"I had an odd feeling of Déjà vu." said Keiko as they rejoined the team in the dining room for dinner

"Why?" Suzuka inquired

"Jade said we'd be 'seeing each other again shortly.' That's a lot like what Chloe said when I first met her."

"She also kept that restaurant owner from saying something too. Maybe she's coming to Japan as well?"

"Get real." said Keiko "She's got a band to work with. She most likely mean she'd come watch our two matches later this week."

"I guess you're right." said Suzuka

Little did either of them guess, they'd be seeing Jade again in a different way than they imagined.

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