Wednesday, August 23, 2006

We're not on vacation this time.

The jet-lag is gone and we have pretty much adjusted to Japan time. Except I keep waking up at 6 am. But the kids are no longer waking up at 4, so this is good.

Yesterday was a big day. A day that eased a lot of stress. A day in which the biggest boxes were checked. A day in which we became tourists no longer. 2 things happened: The kids are signed up for school, and we have a place to live.

The school thing wasn't hard. I wore long sleeves for the tats, but I don't know if it would've mattered. The teachers and board members all seemed very nice and open. I'm positive the Head Teacher is gay. He's also Canadian. The principal is Turkish. Anyway, they, and we, were satisfied with the discussion we had. And the kids apparently did fine on their assessments. D did so well, in fact, that they are putting him in second grade! His reading was advanced, and the teacher didn't want to put him in a class with kids who are just learning and some of whom have English as their second language. Now both of my kids are the babies in their classes. So, they start on Monday, in their new uniforms that we had to order in centimeters tall (we had to measure them because we had no idea). Today we are going to buy them 'indoor shoes,' as outside shoes are not permmitted in the school. (It was really odd to walk around in our 'fancy' clothes and the blue plastic slippers they provided.)

The place to live. Wow, that was a bit nerve-racking. We seriously could not have done it without Macky. We drove around an area we liked, near the Ooguchi train station, and walked into one of the billion real-estate offices. Unfortunately, the only places available near the train stations (OOguchi and Tsurumi, which are one other side of the area where the kids' school is) were 1-bedroom, small places. The lovely real-estate girls took us to a couple places, two in a really weird twisty tall apt complex, and one in a smaller, shorter complex. We decided on the latter, because it felt like a house more than an apartment, is in a safe, enclosed area for the kiddies, and BONUS, is a 3 minute walk from the school. No tatami room and not a ton of sunlight, but it felt much friendlier and the kids love it. One master bedroom downstairs (with a walk-in closet! I've always wanted one!) and 2 upstairs (one for the kids, one for hobbies and guests!). Wood floors. I'll take pics when we move in.

So, the whole transaction was conducted in Japanese. Once we decided we liked the place and applied for it, we had the anxious wait as the owner decided whether or not she liked us enough to rent to us. AND the paperwork would've been a nightmare w/o Macky. They want your boss or respected family-member to vouch for you, to guarantee their money will get paid if we decide to skip out. And they want LOTS of money upfront. I think it amounted to 5 or 6 months rent. It includes a company guarantee, a security deposit, 'thank you' money for the owner and the agency (read: bribe), and I don't know what else. It's a really good thing we took out a loan to come here, because the money we're shelling out upfront to enroll the kids in school and get a place to live is mind-boggling.

Business-stuff is mostly taken care of, and we can relax a little. With that in mind, here's some pictures of people from the BUZZBUZZ BBQ thrown in our honor (I think) last Sunday. I took all these pics with my cool new phone that has a million awesome features I can't use because the manual is in Japanese. These are the people I'll be seeing alot of:

Zukyan. Tiny. Rides a scooter.

Jay. He's Canadian and it's appropriate that his name is the same as a nickname for a certain kind of cigarette.

Mercy. He helped us fix our phone email addresses.

Emilie. Quebec. Speaks several languages. Older than her years.

Macky Ramone. Bad picture of a wonderful man.

Rick. Very nice. Pretty good English.

Taeko. Good friend of Macky's.

Tamara. Alaskan. She's been living here for 8 years. She has appointed herself my Japanese tutor. Very cool.

Toru. Father of Kyotoro. He and his family live near us.

Yuko. She gave us lovely fans and PBR to welcome us.

Lovely bunch of people. Very welcoming. The food was AWESOME. All sorts of things I've never had off the grill before, like chicken skin and octopus. Yum.

I don't know when my next update will be. We are moving into our place on Thursday, but I don't know how long until we get internet there. We're going to be sleeping on borrowed futons and sleepings bags until our stuff shows up and we've done some shopping. Shopping'll be fun. I know where there's a 2-story 100 yen store for all thise little household goods.

Friday, August 18, 2006

We Made It.

Talk about leaving things til the last minute. We were throwing stuff in the attic as the airport shuttle pulled up. The house is a mess. But now it's someone else's problem, because


Wilson, a work friend of Jeff's, picked us up at the airport in his minivan, tricked out with GPS, automatic tollpay (and there were a few tolls), and a camera out the back (which is good, because the view was completely blocked by our 7 pieces of luggage).

We're staying at the Yokohame Bay Sheraton for the moment. We meant to go out and get dinner when we got here around 7:30 pm, but we all decided to 'lie down for a minute.' We woke up between 3 and 4 am. We had baths and went out foraging for food. Luckily there are 3 or 4 mini-marts around the hotel, with my favorite seaweed-wrapped rice n tuna things. The kids had sandwiches (M was in raptures about the crustless white bread - I never get white bread) and mini-croissants. We sat on some steps in the dawn light and ate our breakfast. We went back in to the hotel and watched some weird TV. I fell back asleep and the rest of the family went to 'real' breakfast at the hotel lounge.

We had another walk in the real morning, down to this waterfront park we had been to before. I'll tell you what: August in Japan is hot. And the heavy, moist air reminded me forcibly of Cleveland in the summer. I saw a lot of women walking around with umbrellas against the hot sun, and lots of floppy hats. This makes me happy. I like hats, and they are very prevalent here.

After a quick trip to a depato to look at some futons (the kids will be sleeping on them when we get our own place, as will some of you who visit) and find Japanese-English dictionaries (and they had a MAC counter, too, so I could replace my nearly-gone favorite lipstick - joy!), we had some lunch at a noodle place. The kids then demonstrated how strung out they were as J & I had our ramen and beer. I looked up the word for annoying/tiresome: mendookusai. Now the kids are having some enforced rest time as J tries to lull them to sleep with a tennis match on TV. It isn't working.

Sorry this is so boring. We have only just arrived, and it's still surreal. As surreal as leaving Seattle was. That was exhausting. We crammed as much as we possibly could into the last week, I think. That was a lot of good-bye-ing amidst all the loose-end-tying (some ends are still loose, but many thanks to Dan for helping with that). I had a few lumps in my throat, and a few moments on the way to the airport and on the plane: Oh my god. What the hell are we doing??? I've already had some dreams of friends back home and a couple sad emails. To those folks: we love you and will miss you, but you wouldn't love us as much if we didn't do ridiculous things like move to Japan. Am I right?

But here we are. We are waiting to get a hold of Macky - whose phone is apparently not working at the moment - who supposedly has a list of potential homes for us to see this weekend. I don't like living in a hotel, especially with displaced children who are used to being more rambunctious than we are allowing. Nerves are getting a little frayed. Go to sleep, children, for all our sakes. Onegai shimasu.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sayonara BBQ

Well, that was a party. I think it went til 5am or so, but I'm not sure. I had reached my surrealism saturation point around 3 and went to bed. I had to start drinking heavily when people started crying at me, rendering me absolutely useless on Sunday. But I love you all, and will miss you. There's no reason why all of you shouldn't make the effort to hang out together just because we're not here making it easy for you.

Anyway, here's a sampling of the pics I have so far, courtesy of Colleen. The rest of her photos can be found here.

The next time I update this, we'll be in Yokohama!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

One week.

One week. Holy sh*t. Our 'box' has been delivered and will be filled by Friday morning, to go off to it's temporary home in a Kent warehouse. The remaining crap we can't part with is going in the attic, and the crap we can part with is going to be raffled off on Saturday, at the buh-bye bbq. You win it, you take it away, no matter what it is. In the immortal words of Mitch Hedburg (who was talking about a flyer handed out on the street): "Here, you throw this away for me."

I am and am not looking forward to this certain-to-be-memorable event. Part of me just wants to sneak away. My house may not be completely ready to go, but I am. It's time.

Mogs (and his fleas) will be off to his new home on Thursday. I'm glad Jeff will be taking him. Oddly, I don't even really want to meet his new owner. I'm not sure why. It's weird to think that I'll never see him again.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hasta luego, stuff

The movers-to-Japan came and went today. No more bed, couch, stereo, good kitchen stuff, half the wardrobe, video games (yea!). Thanks to Juan and Joe, and a lot of brown paper and boxes, it's all in a container, just like you see on a train or ship - which is where it's gonna be for 4-6 weeks.

M amused the movers with his Che Guevara doll that he got for his early birthday party.

We piled almost everything in the living room we wanted to go. It echoes, now that most of it is bare. It's amazing how much stuff we still have here, tho, to go into storage or the dump before we go.

We are sleeping on an air mattress (I sent J to get a new one, because Kristine told me her Fred Meyer mattress has never deflated). We will be sitting on camp chairs, cooking with camping pots and pans. It's just like camping!

Good news: Mogs will have a home. At Erik's suggestion, we contacted the Norwegian Elkhound Society. They find homes for Elkhounds with people who understand and love them. I had to explain to M tonight that once Mogs leaves for his new home, we most likely won't see him again. Even if he wasn't going to a stranger, he is already 12, and probably won't live long enough to see our return. He requested that we stop talking about it, because he was losing his appetite from sadness (I suspect the 14 pounds of goldfish crackers he had snacked on pre-dinner had something to do with it also). Ah, well, at least he will spend his last years with lovers of his breed and its quirks. It's weird, tho: we have to do paperwork for an official tranfer of ownership, because he's pedigreed, I guess. It's like he's a car or something. I hope he will be happy and get more attention than he's gotten from us since we've had kids.