Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rainbows and Cheese

I finally have internet after weeks of computer near-silence. I didn't even have a phone for the first few days back. It's amazing how dependent we are on these devices. Anyway, I am connected again, so I can at last post about our last days in Japan and our first days back in Seattle. Let me tell you, it's been quite the whirlwind, and I'm going to need a detox period when the summer is over. Warning, this is going to be a long one.

So, before we left our abode in Baba-cho, we had a nice day at the beach with Cynthia and Osamu. It was the perfect summer day.

Some other stuff happened (it's kind of foggy), and then we had our last Buzz Attitude at Club Lizard. I got to make my DJ debut! And Yamato cried all over me.

Following that, we had our last home party. The usual mayhem, food and lots of drink, and the signing of the underside of the "Davis izakaya table."

I was too hungover to be of much use the next day, which was spent in preparation for the packer-movers, who arrived on Monday. It was a small army, and very entertaining to watch, as they thoroughly wrapped and padded all our stuff.

What they didn't move out, like the washer-dryer, the fridge, etc., we managed to get rid of (thanks Macky, his parents, and the Hooch guys).

We did get many gifts from various people on our way out the door, from Buzz Crew friends, the owner of our home, etc., because the Japanese adore giving gifts. We got some lovely fans, towels, a wind chime, sake, wine, and a "cricket" cage. Macky also loaded us up, with plenty of chopsticks and bamboo skewers so we would not lack for entertaining accoutrements back in the states, as well as 2 ramen bowls from the Yokohama Ramen Museum. And a lamp. That guy.

Left with a (mostly) empty house, we moved to the Landmark Tower for the last few days. This was a great place to say our goodbyes to Yokohama. Killer view from the 63rd floor (for which someone coined the term "rock me" floor - Japanese pronunciation joke),

and conveniently located to activities like Hard Rock Cafe (which we did twice), CosmoWorld, and the Mitsubishi Museum (which was cool, because it was fairly bi-lingual). The kids and I met Michiko and her kids Ricky and Louie for a day at CosmoWorld.

Michiko, also having two spastic boys, feels my pain.

Our proper last night, we had a dinner at a beer hall at Yokohama station. It was pretty much my gaijin crowd (Helen and Kevin, Martine, Cynthia, Michael), with which Osamu and Shingo are lumped because their significant others are gaijin, plus Yamato, who did not cry this time.

Much of this crowd went back to our hotel room for a party, which resulted in people sleeping illegally all over our floor.

This night was the last time I was to see my bestest friends in Japan (you know who you are), but I managed not to cry, despite the fact that Helen totally cheesed out and gave me a rainbow-colored Care Bear with an artist's pallette on it's fuzzy belly (State of the Heart Bear), which will live in my studio and remind me of her. Helen herself did not manage to avoid weeping, but we'll just blame the alcohol.

We packed up our remaining possessions into various suitcases and boxes and headed to the airport late the following morning. As we waited to check in, we spotted this by the door.

Macky and a bunch of others had come to see us off. This was not a cheap undertaking, as it is about $60 in tolls to get to the airport and back. We had lunch together and many bon voyage toasts, and they followed us all the way to security. It was at this point I lost my battle to remain cool and stoic, and some tears squeezed out. What an amazing two years. Although a lot of times it was difficult and frustrating, we met some fantastic people who really made our adventures unforgettable. It really hit me at that moment that we were actually leaving. I am trusting that the connections we made will be lifelong, because otherwise, I don't think I could stand it. And even though I didn't have a very deep relationship with a lot of the Macky crowd, they all tried very hard to make us a part of their crowd and were genuinely nice people. And Macky, well, what can I say about him that would express how much he did for us? We wouldn't have even been there if it weren't for him, and he helped us with so much once we got there. And my girlfriends: Helen, who found me a comfortable place in a land where I was at sea half the time. And Martine, who is one of the coolest people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. And Cynthia, with whom I was supremely comfortable and will be following me soon to Seattle, with Osamu, which is awesome. And everyone else who was nice to me and joined my extended worldwide family, thanks, and I hope to see you again someday soon.

On the other hand, I was supremely excited to get back to Seattle.

Here is my first glimpse of Mt Rainier, who was nice enough to be out to welcome us home:

We didn't go to our house right away, but stayed at Dan and Robin's, who happen to live just in front of Shannon and Ian, which made it all very convenient as re-acquaintance spot. Many of our Seattle family showed up to welcome us home.

Shannon and Robin:


Eric and Dan:


Tarran and Ian:

even Pat, who has apparently become more of a fixture since we left, was there:

We were surprisingly lacking in jetlag, maybe because we got to Seattle in the morning (several hours before we left Japan), and were outside all day. They say that being outside helps acclimate you to the day-and-night rhythm. M finally succumed in the evening, though, in a very odd, but very rock 'n' roll, spot.

We spent a few days saying hello and taking care of re-grounding ourselves (get phones, cars, house keys). We stayed at Kevin and Anna's new place for a night after helping them move into it, and re-met Silas, who was only a baby when we left.

We moved back into our house, with it's fabulously redone floors, and assessed what needed to be done while we are camping here without most of our stuff and no furniture. The house is in pretty good shape after two years of a renter. It just needs some repainting on the interior walls, really. The back yard, which we are thrilled to have again, was an overgrown nightmare. When we helped Kevin and Anna move with a small army of friends, we hit on the idea of having the same army help us get started on what was an overwhelming amount of yardwork. For the price of food and drink, our friends helped us make a huge dent in that nightmare. We also had volunteers for annoying jobs like getting the moss off the roof and covering the floor and painting the ceiling. These people really are the best.

We don't have a lot of useful stuff in our house right now, but we do have the costume box, which made for a fun first dinner with Anuska and Olivia:

Anuska (and Eric, I guess, but I doubt he had much to do with it) had a gathering at their place. As a bunch of us stood around the kitchen drinking and eating, I remarked how loud Americans are. I also enjoyed getting the wordplay and the jokes, and loved that I was laughing because I really got it, not just smiling in a confused manner because our Japanese friends were laughing at something.



Some things I realized about Seattle right off:

  • It's colder here. It's downright chilly in the evening. Apparently, it has been an unusually cool summer.
  • American toilets and showers are vastly inferior to Japanese. I miss my bidet, my deep, reheatable tub, and my whole-room shower.
  • Food is just as expensive, if not more, as in Japan. I was appalled. My sources tell me that there was a huge hike in prices a couple months ago. It has a lot to do with the ridiculously-high gas prices.
  • Seattle is a tiny city. You can get anywhere in 20 minutes or less. And it's practically empty.
  • You really do have to drive everywhere. Busses only run sporadically, there is no train system, and taxis suck. They are nearly impossible to hail, and even if you call one, it takes an hour.
  • Bar time is evil. You get kicked out the door at 1:30, despite the fact that last call is technically 2am. And they're rude about it. And there is almost nowhere to go after 2.
All that aside, I haven't been this relaxed in two years. I am back amongst the freaks-of-a-feather who really understand me and with whom I share a warped sense of humor. There is a whole passel of kids in our group who can hang out together. I can drive here, and I enjoy it (in my, sorry, our, new Jeep). There is a huge variety of food choice. I about exploded with happiness when I saw the cheese section:

Everything is really green here, and much less manicured. I have a garden to dig in. There are tons of trees. I have my own studio again (nothing in it yet, but still), so I can get some good painting done (I hope) while being surrounded and inspired by other artists. There is no humidity issue, and a lot fewer mosquitos. I can play music really loud in my house and not worry about the kids screaming as much. There is so much space. I can (and do) talk to eveyone around me.

Some things have changed. Everyone we know seems to be going through a transition of one kind or another: new homes, new jobs, new family. This is wonderful, because I was a little worried that we'd fall back into the rut we went to Japan to escape in the first place. Everyone seems a lot happier and more optimistic after the changes they've implemented.

Our two years in Japan almost seem like a dream now, especially since we are back in our old house and have none of the stuff we bought there yet. I don't know exactly what our life is going to be here yet, but soon we will settle into a new routine, surrounded by familiar faces and places. Like Jeff said, we have hit a huge RESET button. I think we belong here, and Nature gave us an affirmation of this the other day. That's our house:

Holy crap, I've been typing for 2.5 hours. Thanks to everyone who has followed our adventure on this blog. I may post once or twice more, I may not. Stay tuned.


Blogger Martine said...

just 2 or 3 more posts? NOOOOOOO!

in the same way that you were writing for your friends and family back home (and keeping a record), I would love it if now you chose to write about your reset life, for we that remain in this silly country - remind us of what life is really like in western countries...

i loved reading this post, really made me wanna go home. not that i know where home is anymore.

lovely to hear that you're so well settled in again already - though I would have expected nothing else coz it sounds like you have great people around you wherever you go :).

love from one of the coolest people you've ever met (ha ha ha, walkin' tall, today, let me tell you, thanks for the nice comment)

10:11 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

We are so happy to have you guys back. We love you!!

3:17 AM  
Blogger MissSin said...

Am going to echo Martine and say NOOOOOO! I also want to know what's going on in Sandi-land. Don't stop blogging.

And yeah, I'm proud to have been one of your bestest friends here. It was a joy & an honour & so forever. Just like the Care Bears. Because the Care Bears CARE. They really do!

Miss you, though. But i'm not weeping anymore. Out of sight, our of mind and all that ;)

9:49 AM  
Blogger Valerie said...

It's weird that I have been in your home in Japan, but not here in the States, no?

12:47 PM  

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