Monday, August 20, 2007

Moving to Japan, Take II

Dear Friends and Family,

Well, here we are again in the Land of Octopus Balls, except closer to the hustle and bustle of modern life. Although we miss our dear friends and assorted restaurants in Okinawa, we are happy to be near all the exciting offerings of a storied metropolis and ancient civilization--shrines and temples aplenty, the Great Buddha, concerts, museums, Tokyo Disney, charming Kyoto, IKEA and COSTCO! (Ironically, the Octopus Balls are better in Okinawa.)

After surviving 5 weeks in the Navy Lodge (think Ramada Inn, West Texas), we are now installed in our High Rise apartment. Our last digs were similar but this unit is on the eighth floor with an awesome view of the sunset. And it's literally 30 seconds out the door to Lily's school, where I will also be a substitute teacher. But the best feature is that it comes with a REAL LAUNDRY ROOM! No more washer and dryer in the kitchen. At the dinner table, no more, "What did you say, honey? I didn't hear that last part about your day because the spin cycle just started." Plus, we got our real furniture from storage in the states, so no more Midwest City Chic government furniture.

In a stroke of military blind luck that only military people can truly appreciate, the movers broke only half of our stuff, all of which was ugly and replaceable. We went on a crazed spending spree to IKEA and must of looked like people who just wandered out of the desert into a Water Megastore. The price! The selection! Heaven on earth...

Our jolt back to reality was driving our vehicle out of the IKEA, followed by the horror-filled, pitiful stares of the Japanese. Unlike Okinawa, the mainland Japanese take great pride in their vehicles. Every car in the 4 story parking lot was shiny, PRISTINE and brand new. And then there was ours...which we have dubbed "Frank"...short for "Frankenstein". Frank's driver's door is a completely different color than the rest of the car. A painful looking scar runs down the entire length of the passenger side. The back window is held up solely by duct tape.

Our only defense, if we could convey the communication to total Japanese strangers, is...IT WAS FREE. I was waiting for the bus at the lodge on our second day here and a panic stricken woman (she was leaving for the US the next day) stopped me and asked if I wanted a free car. Hell yeah! It runs great and the AC is arctic--what more could you want? Well, we couldn't anticipate that the mainland Japanese people would place such a great deal of value and status in their vehicles. They buy brand new cars every 5 years or so and their old ones go to Okinawa. True junkers like ours, although plentiful in Oki, are practically non-existent in Tokyo metro. If we strapped a mattress to the top, we could be The Tokyo Hillbillies.

We felt vindicated on our return trip to the base. On the local radio station, which plays jazz music, a japanese man was singing a ditty called "Tease Me" set to the tune of a be-boppin swing tune. Except his prononciation came out "Hey, baybeee, tweeze meee." Our self confidence shot up briefly.

But seriously, we are still amazed and humbled by the friendly and courteous people we meet here. We now have the best of both worlds, great people and culture, like in Okinawa, but way more things to see and do. We will keep you up-to-date on our adventures as we have them. Next month we are off to Tokyo to a shrine sale in Harujuku. Can't wait to see the people and antiques at that one. The girls are pros at moving now--they have already met a passle of friends and are part of the local swim team which they are really enjoying. Tim likes the people he works with and I am excited to go to D.C in a couple of weeks for my nephew's wedding. The girls must start school at the same time and can't go, unfortunately.

We have not been in touch with everyone very well over the past year or so. Hopefully, with Tim on shore duty, things will be less hectic and I can talk with more of you, more often. Please drop a line if you get the chance, and if you are ever our way, we will pick you up at the airport in Frank and you, too, will know our shame.