Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Place to Call Home

Well friends, we finally settled on an apartment. We went with the older apartment with 900 square feet, a great view from the 48th floor, and within walking distance to two different families that work with the church we plan to attend. To top it off, a friend wrote today and told me there is a new Indian restaurant in the shopping center close to our building along with a new international supermarket. (Sally, the Indian place is called Bombay cafe - it must be a sign) I love Indian food and I love me some international grocery stores! We plan to buy furniture this weekend and hopefully move in sometime next week. Thank you for praying for us. We feel blessed to have such a spacious place and to have community nearby.

If you think of it, please pray for us physically. We are all a bit worn down, although Miyako's is due to some teeth coming in the back of her mouth. Kan and I are pretty tired and would welcome a weekend of rest and relaxation. We feel like we have been going non-stop since Christmas, and over here it is hard to rest on the weekends because we have had so much to do, like find a place to live! Kan is working long hours during the week so it is not fun for him to work on "house stuff" on the weekends. So, pray for us to persevere and to keep the bigger picture in mind as we grind out this time. It is just temporary so we are trying to remember that and enjoy the transition. Once we settle down a bit, make our home, and find a routine it will be much better. However, we wanted that to come yesterday rather than a couple of months from now.

And we did survive the game on Saturday. HA! I did not DVR it as I had a feeling the Vols would come out on top. It is tough to win on the road in the SEC right? Kan actually did not even realize it was on until I told him Sunday morning after I checked the score on Thankfully we are still married and he did not rub it in my face too bad. :)

Wednesday is Girls Day here in Japan where they celebrate little girls and pray for their health and prosperity. They decorate their homes with this special doll on girls day and of course a cake is involved. So, I plan to get a small cake to celebrate Miyako and invite another playmate we have met over to the apartment. However we will not have the little doll as they cost about $300. We can go downstairs and pay respects to the little girl doll in our apartment building for free. :)

It seems like this post is a bit boring as we did not do much over the weekend but finalize our apartment. But hey, we finally have a place to call home for the next two years and that is exciting for us. We will not be living underneath a bridge somewhere in the middle of Tokyo come March 9th. :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fellowship and Friends

This weekend was all about fellowship and making friends, and let me tell you, it rejuvenated my soul. The honeymoon is officially over and I was itching to have some fun with people other than Kan and Miyako. Do not get me wrong, they are my two favorite people in this world to spend time with, but we all needed to make some new friends. And we did!

It began Friday morning with tea with the Dutch missionaries I met back in October. Walking into their apartment was a breath of fresh air for me. I felt so at home. We laughed and chatted and Miyako got to play with their little girl, who is older than Miyako but enjoyed watching Miyako while her mom and I drank tea. I also got to meet their newest additions to their family - they had twin girls in November. They invited us to church on Sunday and for me to help with ways to get a women's ministry started. It truly was great for me and I am so excited about the friendship that the Lord has given us with this family.

Friday after nap time we headed to the indoor play area to meet a new friend. She is Irish and her little girl is Irish/Australian. We let the kiddos run around and play while we got to know each other better. Afterwards we stopped by their apartment and the mom lent me several easy reads. Right up my alley - someone with a love for reading. I love meeting so many people from so many parts of the world. It really does broaden your horizons and show you how big this world is.

Saturday we had lunch with another new group of friends, also from the church. I met the wife back in October and they have a little boy born the day before Miyako. The children played well together (and looked like siblings since they are both Japanese/American) and the adults got to start a new friendship as well. We all went to a very cool bookstore together where I purchased the Tokyo City Guide Atlas, bi-lingual of course. I have a feeling this atlas will be a life savor for me many times throughout the course of our time here. The bookstore was really large and had a large selection of english books. It was fun to get out a bit and walk around the city.

Sunday we went to church and I enjoyed every minute of it. It is a small church plant through Redeemer Presbyterian Church out of NYC. The Pastor is Japanese but they have both an American family and Dutch family on staff. There were probably 50 people there crammed in a small room singing praises in both Japanese and English. We met lots of people from all over the world and just thoroughly enjoyed the new community God has provided for us. Miyako loved it too. She loved playing with the kids and running around after the service. We probably stayed for a hour or so after the service chatting and getting to know people. We could not be more blessed.

Another great part of church - it does not start until 3PM so I was able to watch the CATS beat Vandy (sorry Kim) on Saturday night/Sunday morning for me. What a game.

As for the apartment, Kan filled out an application on Sunday for the older apartment that is slightly bigger. We are excited about it and feel like it will be a great place for our new home. Turns out we will be within walking distance to both couples working with the church plant so we will have fellowship nearby. What a wonderful providor our Lord faithful to us on this new journey. On Sunday night while we sat and ate dinner, we both could not get over how excited we are to be here. God has shown us great mercy thus far and we know He will continue to do so.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Registering as a Foreign Alien

So now I am the one who is a foreign alien in this family, not Kan. Since Miyako is considered a dual citizen and Kan is obviously a Japanese citizen, they do not have to register as a foreign alien. I, on the other hand do within 14 days of entering the country, and I went to do that yesterday with a lady who was hired to specifically help us with the relocation process.

Some of you may not know this about me, but after college I lived overseas in Minsk, Belarus working with college students. I spent two years there and learned lots about waiting in long lines, filling out meaningless paperwork, only to be told I would have to do it over for some reason or another. I thought things would be different in Japan since it is a thriving country, but not really. Each country does things differently. "It is not weird, it is just different." HA! Well, I think it is a bit odd but I am sure Kan felt the same way when it took him nearly five years of paper chasing and immigration attorney fees to get his US green card. I guess sitting in an office is the least I can do to stay in his country long-term. I filed yesterday for a temporary foreign alien registration card. In three weeks my permanent one will be ready to pick up. Then I have to go and get a re-entry permit so I have permission to leave Japan and come back in without any hassle. No biggie, right?

Well, in three weeks we will hopefully be moving to a new apartment which means I will be living in a new ward which guessed it...I have to get a new foreign alien registration card since my address will be different. Sigh! One thing, Miyako is getting used to the subway with all of this and Japan is baby friendly when it comes to these offices. Nursing stations/diaper changing stations are easily accessible and Miyako is so cute nobody seems to mind her running around. All they say is "Kawaii desu ne" which means "Cute no?" to which I reply "Arigato gozaimasu (Thank you very much)." Oh and I forgot to mention we have to meet with an attorney to get my long-term spousal visa so I do not have to leave the country after 90 days of "visiting." You would think they would be the same but the alien registration card is simply to help me get things like a drivers license (no thank you) or a mobile phone. I still have to get my spousal visa to stay here longer than the permitted 90 days for a visitor.

As for the apartment search, we are in the negotiating process. Over here, real estate agents help you negotiate rent prices like they help you buy homes in the US. After all of the searching, we found two we liked. The pros and cons for each are quite different. And both are a bit more than what we wanted to pay so we are hoping the agent can pull some strings for us. Apartment A is very new, white floors, bright lights and the bedrooms are separated nicely by a door from the living/dining/kitchen area. It also has a gym in the building we can use and rooms to rent for when visitors come visit so they do not have to stay far away in a hotel. These are the pros. The cons are it is a 10 minute walk to the nearest station and grocery. This may not sound like much but when you have already commuted 30 minutes, you would like to come out of the station and be home. Or when you are pushing a stroller and carrying a backpack full of groceries, you would like to be right there at your apartment building. It also does not have a great view at all. You look out the window and see another apartment building.

Apartment B is a bit larger than apartment A, but is also a lot older. Not as bright and kind of dungy/old feel...imagine your grandparents house when you were younger and you thought it was outdated with the shag carpet. Also, Miyako-chan's room would be right off the dining/living area so could be a hindrance when she goes to bed at 8. However, it has a beautiful view of Tokyo, sits on a river with a grocery store at the corner of the street. It is also a 5 minute walk to two different stations giving us access to two different metro lines, which is big for commuting purposes. And it is a 5 minute walk to our Dutch missionary friends (they are voting for this apartment).

Both apartments have three rooms so Kan can have a home office when he needs it and Miyako has a place to store lots of her toys. And, plenty of room for us to blow up an air mattress. We like them both about the same so feel like we cannot go wrong, but if we think long-term as in we will live here for the next 3 years potentially, we are leaning towards the older apartment. We can always brighten it up with some lamps. We feel like the apartment with not so good station access will get old quick in comparison to the older apartment. I will keep you posted.

Oh, before I sign off, I have to add a big GO CATS. I DVRed the game but ended up watching the second half live. Which I am glad because my DVR did not get the OT. I would have been so mad if I had been watching it and missed OT. And for all of you from the deep south, I thought you were supposed to be prim and proper. No need Miss. St fans to throw water bottles on the court. No need. :) What would I do without the Sling box!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Our First Taste of America

Today was a holiday for Japan so Kan was off work. However, we had a not so fun day. We went apartment hunting again. Today we saw about 8 more apartments, none of which caught our eye or felt like "the one." It was rather discouraging as we thought by now we would have found at least one apartment that had potential. They all have potential I should say, but none of them have screamed at us "Take me. I am your new home." Plus, it was cold and rainy outside so it was not fun walking around or getting in and out of the car in the cold. I think total we have seen about 15 apartments. You would think out of all of these, one of them we would have some excitement about. The ones that have potential are a little bit above our price range so we are trying to figure out what to do. It would not be a problem if they included utilities, but on top of utilities you have to pay a monthly maintenance fee that is not cheap, a large deposit that I have read you rarely get much back, and key money up front which can be up to $2000. At one point I had tears in my eyes and told Kan I will never complain about the size of a kitchen pantry in the US ever again! He said he would hold me to it when we move back in a few years. Some of the kitchens we saw did not have a pantry at all. :) Plus, after seeing so many, they all start to look the same and that is when we knew it was time to call it quits for the day.

So, how after such a long day are we going to bed with hope...we went to McD's for dinner! As we were riding back to our temporary home on the metro Kan looked at me and said, "You know what I am craving?" I responded with, "What? Wah Mei?" (Wah Mei was our Chinese take out from our old neighborhood that we ate at almost every weekend and was within walking distance to our home, next door to our movie rental shop.) He said, "No, not Wah Mei. McD's." So, within four days of being here, we have already spent a large sum of money ($20) for a little taste of home. The only downfall is they did not have diet coke in their fountain drink selection, just coke zero. But, it did cure all things and as we sat at our little table munching on our french fries discussing our apartment options, we realized Saturday and Sunday are just around the corner and we are going to see more apartments. Hopefully by the weekend, something will have come up for us.

On a serious note, we know and trust God will lead us to the perfect place for us where we can have an impact on those around us. We are confident He wants us here in Tokyo so we will trust Him to provide the perfect home for us, pantry or no pantry. Our hope is not in McD's, but in the One who is able to do immeasurably more than what we can ask or imagine. However, He can use The Golden Arches to cure a little apartment hunting blues.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Things I Learned in Bali

Well, Kan and I had some cultural experiences in Bali the last two days we were there and learned a few things. On Saturday night we set out to have dinner outside the hotel, my first outing away from the hotel since we had arrived. Needless to say I was super excited. The hotel had a free shuttle that went to the "Bali Connection," a shopping center and restaurant area for tourists. It was pouring down rain, but we were told it was covered, so we thought "what the heck." The bus was an open bus, meaning the back of the bus was open and did not have a door. Yes, you could look out and see the headlights behind you. Obviously, not child friendly, but what could you do. We arrived at the Bali Connection to find the entrance was covered, but the shopping area was not. We did find an indoor art/flea market and bought a toy for Miyako and a magazine rack for our new home in Tokyo. The rain finally subsided and we were able to walk around, but it was definitely not the connection to Bali we had hoped for. The Russian restaurant had a live band for entertainment. We heard the worst rendition of Bryan Adam's "Summer of '69" that we had ever heard in our lives. If they had been on American Idol, they would have gotten the boot within 30 seconds of singing. We learned that our definition of shopping and eating is quite different from the Indonesian definition.

On Sunday, our last day, we had to check out of the hotel at 2PM but our flight did not leave until 11:50PM. We rented a taxi and went to this famous temple known for wild monkeys wandering around. We bought the appropriate attire to cover our knees so as not to disrupt the Hindu gods, bought our p-nuts to feed the wild monkeys, and were on our way. The view was amazing. We were up high and overlooked the Indian ocean from a cliff. We enjoyed feeding the monkeys and Miyako eventually warmed up to them. As we emptied our p-nut bags we were looking for a trash can to throw the paper away in. Our cab driver, who had walked with us through the temple, told us not to worry and threw it on the ground. We were both quite puzzled by this. He had just explained to us how old this temple is, how much the people respect it, etc, but then he throws the paper bag on the ground. We learned that our idea of respecting God's temple is quite a bit different from the minds of those in Indonesia.

He also told us of the "best, cleanest" restaurant in the area that also provides free pickup from your hotel. We decided to try it since we had lots of time to pass and did not want to just sit in the lobby of our hotel. The restaurant was called Casanova. That should have told us something. It actually was not bad. I tried a traditional Indonesian dish and Kan had his standard combination fried rice. He said the fried rice was a little bit different than our favorite Wah Mei from back home. My meal was actually decent. However, the high chair was not the cleanest I had ever seen nor was it the "best" food I had ever had. But, it was worth the experience. Again, a difference of opinion. As we sat there eating, Kan told me when he first came to America he thought American food was awful, the worst food you could buy, compared to Japanese food. In Bali, he found something that beat his first impressions of American food. I bet if he stayed in Bali long enough, he would learn to like their food like he learned to like our meat and potatoes (or rice with gravy for him:).

Overall, we were both quite sad as we drove through the countryside of Bali. It reminded us both of Mexico. You have nice, fancy resorts and a mile away you have poverty. Very sad. Very dirty. However, the people were super friendly and the views amazing. The people loved Miyako. Everywhere we went people would touch her, get in her face and goo and gaa over her. One Chinese man even took our family photo with his camera. Maybe he thought we were famous. I think he just thought Miyako was cute. We vacationed with lots of foreigners...there were Koreans, Chinese, Russians and other nationalities at our resort. I was very surprised to hear so much Russian. Signs in our hotel were translated in Japanese, English, and Russian. I was proud that I could still read the Russian and understand some of what was spoken around me. Oh, and one other random funny Indonesian custom. They truly value customer service. Everywhere we ate, whether at the hotel or out in a restaurant, the servers walk by your table constantly, asking you if they can take your plate when half of your food is still on it, and then bowing as they leave your table. When Kan and I would finish our breakfast plate, we would take wagers on how quickly the waiter or waitress would come to take away our plate. It was usually no longer than 30 seconds.

We took the Red Eye flight back to Japan. Only one word to describe that...miserable. Miyako at least slept about 6 hours but it sure did make for a long day. Kan and I were not very nice to each other. It is a good thing we are married for other reasons than just how we "feel" about each other. A driver was waiting for us in Tokyo and took us to our temporary apartment. Only one word to describe it...amazing. Our master bedroom is the size of a hotel room. Miyako has her own room with a little crib. The floors can be heated if you want! And I have a washer/dryer, dishwasher, conventional oven, microwave, and made service to come twice a week. Sigh! I better not get too used to it. The cost of this place for one week is what we have budgeted to spend monthly on rent. I will at least enjoy where God has me right now.

We are in the Akasaka area of Tokyo, somewhere I never made it to during our month long adventure in October. So, I am enjoying walking around and seeing some new sights. This afternoon I am headed to the local indoor play area with Miyako! Pictures of Bali to come tomorrow. I need to upload them on the computer and then put them on the blog and facebook. I am also hoping to make my blog cuter. I do not like computers so much so the less time I am on them, the better; however, I love some of these cute blogs and think I should probably make my blog a little more appealing. We will see. I may just watch American Idol on Sling and not worry about a fancy blog. :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Breaking all my parenting rules...

So, many of you want an update on how our clan is doing here in Bali. Kan is feeling much better and ate a fairly hearty breakfast with us this morning. Miyako is slowly on the mend. She is still not eating as much as normal, but she is in fairly good spirits and has not thrown up again. Thank you for your prayers and well wishes.

So, in the midst of my Priss Pooh being under the weather and jet lag, I have broken most of my parenting rules. Rule #1 - No pacifier except when taking a nap or in bed or at the doctor getting a shot (which it never stays in her mouth anyway because she starts screaming the minute she sees the nurse). Well, obviously I made an exception with the pacifier on the plane. I would not want to disturb any of my other fellow business class passengers (I still have fond memories of that 14 hour flight). And the exception has continued throughout Bali. Since she is not feeling well she keeps asking for the pacifier (which she calls Ba) and I give it to her. She now likes to hold one while sucking on one. Very cute. She has a rude awakening once we get to Tokyo and it is back to our rules.

Rule #2 - I really only wanted my children to drink water and milk and consider juice a special occasion drink. Juice has so much sugar, I did not want my kids to get used to it. Just a personal thing. Well, once I realized she could not have the milk here and she was not drinking enough water to stay hydrated, I bought some apple juice and mixed it with the water. She downed the sippie cup in like 5 minutes.

Rule #3 - No little babies sleeping in your bed. From the get go Priss Pooh has slept in her room, in her own bed or Moses basket, unless we have been traveling. When we travel she is either in the pack and play or her little tent, but not in bed with us. Well, I broke the rules here too. With jet lag she was waking up around 4/5AM and I would get her out of the tent and bring her in bed with me. She would eventually go back to sleep and sleep until 7. Thankfully once we get to Tokyo we will not have to share a room with our little angel.

Oh, and I realized I spelled lemonade wrong in my post yesterday. Yes, the woman with a Masters degree spelled lemonade wrong. Oh well. Just gives more ammunition for people to make fun of me if they did not have enough.

The weather is gorgeous here. So excited that today is Kan's last day of work and tomorrow we are on vacation together. It will be fun to have someone to hang out with and converse with since my conversations with a 15 month old can only go so far.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sick in Bali

So yesterday was not the picture perfect day I had for my vacation in Bali. When we woke up, at 5AM, I heard my husband moan "I don't feel so good." I asked him if he drank the water and he said no, but he did have two ice cubes which we think is the cause of him laying in bed all day long. No work for him on this gorgeous Tuesday in Bali. So my sweet girl and I ventured to the pool in hopes to give Papa a break from us. She was in a great mood but I noticed she did not eat much for breakfast or lunch. She took the normal 3.5 hour jet lag nap (yes, I love these naps and know it will only last a few more days) and woke up in her normal mood. However, at dinner, her milk came up. So, my little girl is now sick too. The hotel nurse did take her temperature and it was normal, but due to her little English and my non-existent Balinese (or whatever they speak here) we did not get much further with that.

Needless to say Priss Pooh did not eat anything all day and I had a hard time getting her to drink even her water. Today at breakfast she drank her milk but did not eat her pancake or egg. I even tried rice and she turned it down, which is very unnatural for her. Rice is one of her favorite foods. She is half-Japanese and prefers white rice to brown rice. I came back to the room to find my husband had researched "milk in Bali" on google (seriously, what would we do without google?) to find that you are to stay away from the fresh milk here, especially for infants. Well, aren't I the smart mother? Needless to say, I felt awful. I should have done more prep work and research, and if I had I would have brought powdered milk for my little Priss Pooh and we would all be fine. From here on out I am banning all milk in Bali. She did eat an apple for lunch and hopefully she will enjoy some plain rice for dinner and be back to herself tomorrow.

So what have I learned from this? Even in one of the most beautiful places in the world, life can throw you lemons. Will I make the lemon-aid is the question? I spent the evening soaking up time in the Word with my two sick family members on either side of me, thankful for a God who is in control, for a God who cares for both of these people more than I do and loves them and will take care of them, thankful for a God who can give me peace, thankful for a God who prompts friends to email me and help me to calm down and not stress too much about my circumstances, thankful for a God who in the quietness of my hotel room with a small little light on meets me while my sweet family sleeps. Through His Spirit, God helped me to make lemon-aid and He deepened my awareness of Him and increased my faith in Him. As Wednesday on this side of the world is half-way finished, I am praying to a God who knows what tomorrow will bring and asking him for healing and continued graces on our vacation here.