I made a poll to the right, so vote on if the baby bean is a boy or girl. We have no idea yet, and are anxious to find out! I probably won't be able to get in this week for an appointment, but perhaps next week. I'm 20 weeks 3 days today, so we should be able to get a good "money shot" by next week, if the little one cooperates. We honestly don't care either way- just healthy and happy is all we are going for. Still, it is pretty darn exciting to know if it is a little "shonen" (boy) or "shojo" (girl). What do you think??
The last couple days we've spent just chilling, getting adjusted, watching TV (the Japanese play some hilarious things), and Brett cooking me dinner 2 nights in a row! Nothing too exciting, hence the lack of posts. Thought I'd just do a weekend wrap-up instead (stole the idea from a friend's blog):
best part of the weekend: exploring Japan with Brett, getting a car finally, getting the phone/cable set up so we could call/skype people
worst part of the weekend: jet lag
most random part of the weekend: going to dinner at the "Denny's" of Asia restaurant we randomly found
people I saw this weekend: Brett, some people around base and around Fussa, Japan (city that we actually live in- outside Tokyo) that I don't know
something I wish I did that I didn't get around to:the sheets we borrowed from the linen exchange don't fit our bed, so we had to sleep w/o a sheet- it was annoying b/c the blanket was scratchy. I didn't get around to going back to get another sheet until yesterday (Monday) so we had to sleep with jacked-up linens all weekend.
things I am looking forward to this week: Cherry Blossom Festival this weekend- we get to brave the Japanese train system; going out today to shop with a friend I've met here
things I am not looking forward to: laundry, having to call the hospital over and over to see if I can get an apt with the ob/gyn clinic here
Right over by the Joyful Honda, I discovered that there is a Babies R Us store!!
Haven't been in it yet, but I'm excited it is here. It's the same logo as back home, so I think it is the same store, just in Japan. I'll have to venture in there this week and see what it is like. We got a LOT of stuff from our awesome baby showers before we left the states, but I'm sure I can find a few fun Japanese things for the lil' bean :) On the way is also another Baby and Kids store. I have no idea the name of it (it is totally in Japanese) but it has a huge rabbit holding a 4 leaf clover on the sign and says "Baby and Kid" on part of the sign. I could see little clothes from the window, so I'll have to make a stop-off there too. I'll just pack my yen this time (already learned that lesson at Joyful Honda). Hopefully we can get in to the dr soon and get our sonogram to find out if Bean is a boy or girl, and I can go buy some cute pink or blue Japanese clothes- I can't wait!!!
We had our first weekend here in Japan where we live in our house and have a car, so decided to take advantage of it. We slept in (until about 8 am- that's sleeping in for us these days as I swear we are still adjusting to the 14 hour time difference) and then worked on unpacking and things a bit around here.
After that we got our cable/phone up and running, as well as internet/skype. We skype'd my mom and talked to her for a bit, which was really fun since I haven't talked to anyone since we left. Skype is great b/c you can see each other too. The other great thing here is that we actually have a US phone number- it's a 713 area code! We can call the US and people stateside can call us for nothing- it's like calling next door. How crazy is that? Cable (the 70ish channels we get- most of them being Air Force Network)/Phone (with that US # we can call here and the states for free)/Internet all together only cost us about $120 per month- not bad at all!
After we got that all set up and talked to my mom, we went off base to a place called Joyful Honda. It is the BIGGEST store- crazy for a country with such a lack of space and everything crammed together. But it is huge- a big grocery store, a pet store, an arts/crafts store, a wal-mart type store with all kinds of cleaning/organizing/furniture type stuff, etc. It was fun to just wander around and see all kinds of stuff. We did have a list of things we needed to pick up to start a household again. Unfortunately, we were low on yen and the ATM's in the store (4 of them) either didn't take our card, or were 100% in Japanese and we had no idea what they were saying, and the stores here don't take US money or credit cards. So... we went back to base, and to the BX to buy some stuff. They didn't have all we needed though (they have pet food and cat litter, but no cat boxes or scoopers or leashes) so we stopped by an ATM, got some yen, and went BACK to Joyful Honda. Pets here are SOOOOO expensive- it's insane. To buy a dog or cat is about $2k! Supplies are expensive too- we spent $75 (Y7500) on a cat box, dog bed, leash and 2 scoopers- isn't that ridiculous? Oh well, we spent $600 getting them here- gotta take care of them!
The really crazy thing is that Joyful Honda is maybe 5 miles away from base, but it took us about 20 min to get there. Driving here is weird. The streets are so narrow and curve around all over the place. Plus the speed limits are usually 40 km/h and that's if you can even go that fast b/c of all the other cars on the roads. Things look close, but are much further than you'd think, so you have to allow time for that.
After unloading our stuff back home, unpacking some more, etc. we decided to get off base for dinner. We had no idea where to go, so we just got in the car, went out the gate, and drove for a bit. We ended up finding a place called Restaurant Mitsoya. I think it was like the Denny's of Asia :) They handed us a menu 100% in Japanese and we just looked at each other wondering what we were supposed to do. Luckily, they handed us another one with a few pictures, so we literally just pointed to one, and tried to say a few word in Japanese (I had my handy-dandy Japanese translation book in my purse thankfully, so we could look up words like chicken, steak,beer...) It was good food, and you could tell they were proud of our efforts and attempts to speak Japanese (although I am sure they were hilarious at best).
The best way to get out and learn and figure things out is to just dive in, so we did just that today and it was really fun. Not sure what we will be up to this next week, as Brett doesn't really have to go into work yet, so hopefully we will have a few more opportunities to get out and get cultured very soon! I'll keep you posted!
I forgot to add earlier that we ate lunch at the Japanese Chow Hall on base (it's very authentic and sooooo good). Anyway, I've never been good at using chopsticks, but I ate the entire meal with them today- rice and all. I impressed myself (and Brett was impressed with me too- he's seen my fruitless attempts in the past). I figured I mights as well learn though- everywhere on base offers silverware, and some near the base do too. But if you venture out at all, you are going to be using chopsticks if you eat! I already love a lot about this land and culture and people, and I'm going to be living here 3 years- I better embrace the chopsticks, and think today is a day of complete success for me- getting a house, buying a car, driving the car, driving ALONE, and using chopsticks- I'll be a Japanese citizen before you know it!
Today was a big day! We got the keys to our new casa and our new car! This morning we were up bright and early, checked out of the Kanto Lodge (it is GOOD to get out of a hotel after 2.5 weeks!) and got a ride over to our new place. The inspector was there, walked thru the house with us and made sure everything worked and handed us the keys. We now live in a 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath garden home on the east side of Yokota AB. Not too shabby. It isn't renovated, so it lacks a little, but that has its plus side too. We have our our a/c and heat units which we can control (vs. the AF controlling them on the other side of base). Because they have rewired our unit for central hvac, we also have more closet space (the duct work in the new units takes away a lot of their closet/storage space). Not that we brought a LOT with us, but I think that storage space will come in handy once we have all kinds of baby toys around here!
Our other big news today was that we bought our car. We purchased a Toyota Surf (it's a 4 Runner stateside) for a nice $2K. (Yes, we literally bought a car with $2000 woth of $20 bills- it was quite hilarious). The guy we bought it from is PCS'ing out of here to Cannon AB, so it was a good deal for us both (he's a guy in Brett's new squadron). He picked us up this morning, dropped us at the house, and then took us to get the insurance set up for the car. Here in Japan you have to have 2 kinds- liability purchased thru a Japanese company (but it is cheap- like $300/year). We didn't get comprehensive coverage b/c it just isn't cost effective here. If you are buying a $2k car, and get in a wreck and really damage it, it is cheaper to just get a new car- isn't that crazy?? Us USA folks could learn a thing or 2 from these Japanese! Anyway, we also have to carry JCI, which is Japanese Compulsory Insurance- it basically is like a car inspection every 2 years, but VERY complete. Ours is good thru 2010, so that's a plus. We will have to pay a road tax coming up in April, but it isn't too much.
When you get a car here you have to get new insurance off base, go back and get a registration/bill of sale on base, then go back and get a title off base again. I went with Brett and Kris for the 1st trip, and then they dropped me back off here to wait for our temporary furniture to arrive. It did (right on time- go Japanese!) and so we have a furnished (sorta) place now.
We did all that before lunch, so Brett let me practice driving the new car across base and we got lunch and picked up our tv and a set of telephones (yay- now we can call home!). We also picked up some dishes, pots and pans, a microwave, coffee maker and toaster from the Family Readiness Center (to borrow until our stuff gets here).
We dropped that all back off, and I took Brett to work. I was nervous, but I'm soooooooo proud of myself now- I went ALONE to the other side of base and got some linens for our bed, and some towels. I also went to the Commisary and bought a few groceries to stock up, and some dish soap to wash off our borrowed things. And then I drove all the way back, all by myself. The hardest part is parking the car (I was in the last spot in the BX lot- I'm sure the guy who carried out my groceries was grumbing at me), but I managed to do all that, and the car is dentless and I'm alive. Not too bad for my first day!!!
I think we are FINALLY getting our sleep adjusted, although I still took a nap about 3pm today and we woke up early this morning. It is hard to adjust to the 14 hour time difference (and realize it is a different DAY here!)
This morning we had Right Start- where every organization on base comes and talks to you about everything they do. I guess it is somewhere between informative...and boring. I'll admit I went the first half, which was good as it was a couple of the spouse organizations, and the Tricare medical guy. But I skipped out the second half and went back to the room, read my book for a bit and took a nap. It was the commanders of various squadrons, and the guy from finance- nothing that really concerned me (well, we needed to turn in vouchers for all the various travel expenses we incurred on the way here, but Brett did all that). Tomorrow we get to take the drivers license test (cross your fingers and toes for me- I'm a bit nervous) and then we go on a bus tour around base and off base as well. I think we go to a couple of the shopping areas and things, so that should be fun. We also get a lesson on some various parts of the Japanese culture (big do's and don'ts around here- like don't stick your chopsticks up high in the rice, and do put your yen on the little tray and pass the tray to the clerk, and do NOT tip anyone- interesting things to know!) Tonight we went to a yummy Indian food place with some friends from back home actually. My little brother has a good friend from high school that is stationed here now, and is a helicopter pilot. It is a small world I guess. We went out to dinner with him and his sweet wife, and it was great. They live on the same side of base as us, so it will be nice to know someone else here and have a few more friendly faces. Maybe this weekend we can go explore some of Tokyo with them- I'm anxious to get out and do something in the city! I'll let you know how the drivers test goes- it is only written (thank God) but I'm still afraid of being the dummy that doesn't pass. Friday we get our keys to our house, our furniture and our car- big things coming up!!! I think once we own some wheels and aren't living in a hotel I'll feel like I LIVE here, and I'm not just on a vacation.
Today we got lots of errands run, but walked...A LOT!! I guess that is the downside to moving and not having a car yet. Oh well. Hopefully by the end of this week. And at least the weather is nice and the exercise is good for me I'm sure. Brett was going to go by himself, but I am getting antsy in the hotel room, so I joined him for the hike. First, we went to the housing office. The inspector had gone by our new quarters and found all was well, so we get to move in on Friday! Yippee!! No more living in a hotel (it sounds like a fun plan to have a maid clean your room, but after 2 weeks, it gets pretty boring and crowded and small). After that, we were off to the Furnishings Office to sign up for our temporary stuff. We have a 3 bedroom place, but just got enough to get us by for now- a lovely (ha) bed/dresser/nightstand set; couch and chair; table and chairs; and bookshelf and desk. Once our stuff gets here (hopefully in 90 days or less from now) we turn their things back in. It also means we will be off to IKEA (yep, they have one of those in Tokyo) to get a cheap desk, bookshelf, table and chairs and crib, as we didn't bring our own of those things. Maybe we can find some fun Japanese furniture to bring back with us eventually. After the furnishings office, since we had already hiked the 4 miles down that way, we went by the pet kennel and saw Maverick and Bandit for a few minutes. Poor guys- I miss them and I KNOW they are ready to be out of a kennel already. The girl said Mav wasn't eating very much- I think he is just sooo freaked out and scared of what is going on. He probably thinks we abandoned him. Hang in there guys- just a few more days and you can officially be "home" again! It was good to see them at least. After that, we were hungry so we went to the Japanese Chow Hall at the south end of base. We ate some authentic Japanese food- couldn't tell you what it was, but it was GOOD! I know I ate rice (shocking, right ;) and soba noodles. There was also some meat of some sort and an item that resembled an egg roll. I am sure by the time we leave here in 3 years I will be able to name, and possibly cook those items. For now, I'm just glad they were delicious, as we will be having a lot of that sort of cuisine I think. While there we ran into a few buddies of Brett's from Dyess AFB, so we sat with them to eat and then walked back to the squadron bldg with them. From there we ran into a friend of my little brothers that is also stationed here. We chatted for a few minutes. He and his wife also live on the east side of base, so I'll have another wife to hang out with over there. Then Brett and I went our separate ways- he went to his office to make some copies of some paperwork he has to turn in (so we can get refunded for all our travel expenses-important!!). I went over to the YCC (the BX and commisary building) and signed us up for phone/internet/cable. It is cheaper than back home, and we will have a Texas # that people can call us on, and we can call them on, without international rates! Yippee!!! I did all that, and managed to not get lost once- that is a BIG accomplishment for me! Brett is currently at the gym, and when we gets back we are going to test drive/buy a car hopefully. I'm feeling better by the day as we get settled and figure things out. This is starting to feel less like a vacation and more like home (and I am sure once we move in the house and out of the hotel that will help). I'll post my phone # and address for any one who is interested and would want to contact us. And don't forget we have a 3 bedroom house, so we expect visitors!!!
So, we already managed to score those AMAZING seats on the plane trip over, but today we did one better- we got housing, and a 3 bedroom house at that!!! We technically only qualify for a 2 bdrm (rank and # of dependants), so that is what we were expecting. Brett went in 1st thing this morning and they offered a tower first. We declined of course, because of the dog and cat. So, they offered us a 3 bedroom/2.5 bath garden home on the east side of base. We went to see it, and I believe that will be our new residence. It is one of the unrenovated ones, which is why they offered it I suppose, but it really isn't all that bad. It has some lovely linoleum floors thruout, so we will quickly be purchasing some area rugs, but that's ok. It's worth it for the extra room!
It is also on the east side of base (Yokota is split by the runway in the middle). We were hoping for west side, as that is where the BX, commisary, library, O club and gym are. But on the east side is the hospital and dental offices, indoor pool, and movie theater are, so it is really just fine (and you can easily drive from one side to the other in 5-10 minutes, unless planes are taking off/landing). Anyway, we accepted the unit and we should be able to move in this weekend. That's awesome news, as we are ready to get out of a hotel room, and get poor Maverick and Bandit out of the kennel. We will have the govt. furniture at first, as ours still has 1-2 months to get here, but at least it is a house we can call home. I think it will make this feel more like home and less like an extended vacation.
In other news, the pets are all registered here now, so we can keep them in our house with us (once we move in) and I just have to take them to the vet 1/mo until June 15th, when they are off quarantine.
Thursday we sit thru the class on getting our drivers license and should be legal to drive after that. I'll still be petrified though- the other side of the road thing freaks me out, but I'm sure I'll get it down. We are looking at getting a car then too- we found a 4 runner (it's called a surf here, but same thing) for $2k that looks good. It's funny- I always wanted to drive one of those, so now maybe my dream will come true :)
I'll keep you guys posted on what comes next- it's an adventure a minute around here! I promise to post pics soon too. I'm writing from the hotel lobby and don't want to drag all the camera equip down here to download pics. I promise to do that once we move in and have internet set up at the house. We already have a few good ones of Mt. Fuji, which is right behind base, and beautiful!!
When I try to log on to blogger, it all comes up in Japanese, which is funny b/c every other website is English. So...I'm having to figure out how to log on in Japanese. Ok, not really, it all looks the same, just the writing is different, so I can go from memory on what to type in where. It's still funny though. I'm sure I will have many more of those culture shock things along the way...but it is all part of the fun. We had dinner last night at our sponsors house and it was lots of fun. Andrew, Melissa, their 2 year old son Roman, and she is about to pop with baby #2 (a girl) are super sweet and we talked about all kinds of things we need to know about- getting a car, setting up bills, getting a cell phone, going to the hospital (biggie for me!), weird cultural things here...it was very interesting and fun to learn about. Brett and I can't wait to get our housing set up (we go tomorrow and hopefully will get a house soon), get a car, and go exploring more- I'll keep you updated on the Japanese fun (and download pics once we have our own internet service set up).
We flew from Abilene to DFW, DFW to Seatttle and then spent the night. Then yesterday (or Thursday, depending on what time zone you are in) we flew a long 11 hours from Seattle to Tokyo. But, we totally scored on that flight- we sat in 1st class. Since it was a military charter, it's 1st come, 1st serve on seating. We got there early- and it was worth it!! Nice, big chairs that lay all the way out into a bed, complete with footrest and lumbar support; your own tv screen with your choice of movies, games, etc; LED light on your chair...it was great (and neither one of us had ever traveled that way before- Brett said he spoiled me doing it that way on our 1st military flight together!)
Of course, in order for us to sit there, the poor dog and car had to ride cargo. We would have had to ride in the middle seats in the back coach part to carry them on with us...so they rode in cargo :( We saw a very cool view of Mt. Fuji as we were getting ready to land.
But, we are all here safe and sound and checked into the Kanto Lodge on base. The dog and cat are boarded at the pet care place for now, until we get housing (more cages for them- sorry guys!) We are going to spend the weekend sleeping, adjusting, and exploring base (we walked all around today and saw the BX, O club, a little bit of off base area, and the commisary).
Tonight we already have dinner plans with our sponsor for a BBQ and we get to meet his wife and 2 year old. His wife is also prego, so I am glad to have another person to discuss drs and hospitals with- yay!
Monday we head over to the housing office to see about getting our perm place, and go to the vet to get the animals registered. Tues and Wed are "orientation" meetings, and we get to get our Japanese drivers license. They drive on the other side of the car and road, so it should be an experience! I've been told to remember "heine on the linie" and I'll be alright. They also put a special sticker on your car (basically announcing to the locals that a stupid American is driving so watch out!) After we get our license we buy a car off the lemon lot (we checked them out today and they are about $2-3K, not bad for a nice used car with a suped-up stereo and GPS system- Japanese technology you know).
Anyway, I'll post pics soon and more info, but for now, I"m tired and don't know what day/time it is. I need a nap (but I'm going to try to stay up until about 8pm again and sleep later tomorrow morning- wish us luck!)
I was soooo nervous before we left, but now that we are here and I've seen how much there is to do/see/discover/learn- I'm nothing but excited!!!
I'll get better about posting more often. I promise. I'll add pictures too. But just had to write about the past 2 weekends. I guess now that we have our official plane ticket to Japan (March 18th is the big day), we've had to fit in saying bye to our families. Two weekends ago we drove down to Austin and had a "congradios" party (that's a combo of congrats on the baby and adios) and it was great fun. It was a combo baby shower/visit and we really enjoyed it.
This past weekend Brett and I flew down to Houston and visited with my family. It was a very special family reunion, as my brother and his wife flew in from Kansas City and my grandparents flew in from Virginia, and of course my parents were there as well. We really had a great time (my dad even busted out the old movie reel projector thing and played some home movies from when Cody and I were each babies).
It has been great to get those "good-bye" weekends in with our families, before our big departure. Although, it isn't forever. Mom will be coming over in August when the baby is born, and I expect others to visit as well....that goes for everyone...ALL visitors are welcome. We will have small quarters, but I promise to take you around Japan and try to be the best tour guide I can be!!