Monday, July 30, 2007

Thunder and Lightning and Rain...Oh my!

When they refer to the typhoon season being nasty in Japan, they're not kidding. Living in Los Angeles for the past four years, we became well acclimated to one type of weather, sunny-warm and perfect. In the four days we have been here we have experienced sticky-hot, sweaty-hot, soaking-hot and torrential downpours with the most amazing thunder and lightening. The one nice thing about the rain is that it cools the temp down, it's downside is that it cranks up the humidity as soon as it ends. Other than the "fantastic" weather, we are working towards securing a house, buying a car and getting through the next four days of AOBICR (Area Orientation Brief Inter-Cultural Relations). Sounds to me like a lot of blah blah blah in conjunction with redneck sailors from Mississippi asking "where's the Walmart?".

We love the house pictured above. Our hesitation is that it's the only one we've looked at. It is in a good neighborhood, only fifteen minutes from base by car and a fifteen minute walk to the train station. The house is just under 1300 sq ft and has four bedrooms, 1-1/2 baths. I was really surprised how clean and tidy it was for a house built in '89 and rented several times over. The biggest bonus is that the owner will allow Winnie, even though they have a no pet rule and there is an actual oven and not just a Japanese fish grill. It is not the type of oven we are used to but it is very similar to the RV oven we had in the trailer. The agent is nice enough to hold it until tomorrow evening so that we can take a look at a few more before we make a final decision. So, one more appointment to look at some others, but we are having a hard time finding any faults with this one.

So by Friday our hope is to have Japanese driver's licenses, a deal in the works for a car and a contract signed for a house. In the spirit of Bob the Builder..."can we do it...yes we can!"

Friday, July 27, 2007

We survived day 1 you can see my Blogger page comes up in Japanese...I guess that's one way to learn quickly...

It's now 11:00pm on Friday in Japan and we have been here for about 30 hours. In order to get the full effect of our journey, I need to go back to Wednesday morning. Our alarm went off at 5:45am on the 25th giving the wife plenty of time to get ready and the husband plenty of time to stress about not having enough time. For the first time I can admit that Keith's stress over time was highly validated. If there was ever a morning where we needed to be way ahead of was this one.

Our flight was scheduled to depart San Diego at 10:40am so we figured, get there at 8:00am and that should be plenty of time to get Winnie on the plane just in case there were any copmplications. As we were checking in the ticket agent got a funny look on her face and then picked up the phone to call someone. This is where we looked at eachother and said, "jeeze, now what". She hangs up the phone and tells us that Keith's plane ticket has been completely voided for both flights. How does stuff like this happen? The agent claims that our travel agent voided his ticket but she cannot tell why. Keith called the travel agent and they told him that American Airlines voided the ticket for no apparent reason. Luckily, with a few key strokes, our travel agent was able to re-issue the ticket and we were checked through...including 9:40am. We walked through security sat down for ten minutes then boarded the plane to Los Angeles.

After we landed at LAX we were expecting the next "shoe" to drop. I went straight to the gate attendant and requested "big fat pregnany lady" seating, preferably close to a lavatory. She said that she could put me in business class but not Keith because his ticket was a government fare. I didn't want to sit by myself so I opted for bulkhead seats in row 20 and the agent was kind enough to give us three seats so we would have an empty in between. Keith went up after me and asked again why they were so insistent on not allowing us both to upgrade but the agents at the gate had iron fists when it came to "poilcy". They did offer to upgrade Keith's seats at the whopping discount price of $ We boarded the plane early to get comfortable before the masses piled in. The bulkhead seats were...let's just say...cozy. Plus, they didn't have t.v.'s in the seats like the standard economy class seats did. Here's where Keith donned his "shining armor" like the gallant knight he is. He made one last attempt to convince the flight attendants that there were going to be two empty business class seats. He explained politely that it was f":!$^g b(#?>{)t that they couldn't find it in there hearts to let us upgrade. The flight attendant said it would be up to the purser, so we sat in our "cozy" seats and expected the same answer...a big fat no.

Here's where American Airlines gained all of their kudos points back; The purser returned less than five minuted later with a boarding pass with my name on it bearing the magical number 12G. He said that my ticket was officially upgraded and that he was "personally" upgrading Keith to allow him to sit next to me, but on the manifest his seat assignment would still be 20C. We said "thank you very much" and did not hesitate to relocate to 12G and 12E, instantaneously becoming an episode of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous". Life is good in business class, spoiled doesn't quite cover it. There is absolutely nothing to complain about when you have divine food with five star service, complimentary slippers and toiletry kits, down quilts and personal t.v.'s with a myriad of viewing options. Both Keith and I are very familiar with the after effects of a twelve hour flight, seeing as this was our 7th or 8th trans-ocean flight in five years. Let's just say we walked off that plane as if it had been the 45 minute flight from LA to San Francisco. Next stop immigration, animal import and customs.

Immigration wasn't too rough, it took about an hour to get through which made Keith nervous because we landed at 4:00pm and animal import closed at 5:oopm. We cleared right at 5:00pm and he was convinced we were not going to make it. We rushed to baggage where poor Winnie, following the most turbulent journey of her life so far, was all alone sitting next to the rest of our luggage. We piled everything up and headed towards the animal import desk. Karma on our side, the animal import officer was waiting for us with a folder of our paper work in his hands. He looked at all of our original documentation, checked all of the important dates, stamped a few things then handed us an approval form and said "thank you very much"...or, "sank you vedy much". Piece'o'cake. Amanda was waiting for us out at the curb and we were off to Yokosuka.

A not so quick, but nice "catch up time", two-hour journey to the base was followed by checking into the lodge, a quick burger and tour of the base, then....after 24 hours of travel...ahhhhh, sleep. We woke up this morning at 6:00am, had some cereal and started our house hunting at 8:00am. We accomplished a few of the important tasks today: checked into Labor and Delivery at the hospital, opened a local bank account for exchanging Yen, obtained an official mailing address and set up an appointment with a real estate agent to see some houses tomorrow.

Our latest adventure has officially begun.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Last night in the United States...for a while

Keith and I both have "Happy Feet" knowing we will be in Japan in a little over 24 hours. Even though we still have a lot to do once we get there, it is almost as if we have been climbing a giant hill and once we arrive our descent will begin. Finding a new house, starting a new job and greeting Jack are all so much more exciting than packing, ending a crappy job and experiencing the "joys of pregnancy". And by "joys of pregnancy" I mean marshmallow feet, the worst heartburn I have ever had and the constant feeling that I have just completed an Iron Man.

We fly out tomorrow morning at 10:40 from San Diego to LAX, then LAX to Japan. We should arrive in Narita, Japan at 12:00am pacific standard time...4:00pm Japan time. So here's the trick:

Pacific Time Zone people: Take your time + 4 hours, switch am to pm or pm to am
i.e. If it is 1:00pm in California, then it is 5:00am the
next day in Japan

Central Time Zone people: Take your time + 2 hours, switch am to pm or pm to am
i.e. If it is 1:00pm in California, then it is 3:00am the
next day in Japan

Goodbye America!

Konnichiwa Japan!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The complete album of Jack @ 32 Weeks

Just copy and paste the following address into your browser and it will link you to our Picasa Web Album:

Captain's Log, Stardate 20070723

We are down to one day and a wake up...and yet there is no real excitement in the air. We have been preparing for this transition for so long now I think we just want it to be over with. The real excitement all lies within Jack's arrival. We had a 32 week ultrasound today and we saw our chubby little baby make all sorts of faces while he was being uncooperative for the technician. In this pic it looks like he is shaking his fist at us. He also gave us a great view of his right foot and a few big yawns.
Our goal is to complete all of our packing tonight so that we may have all day tomorrow to goof off. Our friend Amanda, who we know from England, is stationed in Yokosuka and will be picking us up at the airport in Narita. Thankfully we will not have to travel on the trains, now think the tune to '12 days of Christmas'...with Winnie in a travel kennel, four check-ins, two carry-ons and one pregnant wife with swollen feet. She is even kind enough to park and wait with us while we clear Winnie through Animal Import and Customs.
So, with a relatively easy flight ahead of us, very convenient transport to and from the airports and a comfy bed awaiting us at the Navy Lodge in Yokosuka...there is really nothing to stress about. This I know: we will be in Japan as of Thursday, we will arrive in one piece with all of our essentials and we have enough good Karma on our side to make all the little details fall right into place.
Life is good...the adventure continues.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Webber's are Single Digit Widgets

We are down to eight days and a wake-up, so of course, Keith's stress level is kicking into high gear. We have been trying to get a straight answer from the airlines about details of Winnie's journey but we either get "we don't know" or "ask at check-in". So the over-prepared people that we are decided to go down to the airport, with the carrier, and ask if we had all of our ducks in a row. So, we get to the American Airlines terminal, politely wait in line, then ask if we can talk to a supervisor about travelling with a pet. Without fail, we encountered the rudest agent on their payroll who basically told us to call the 800 number and that the agents were the supervisors. In the end we didn't get any more information then what is posted on their website so we are crossing our fingers that everything goes okay when we show up to the airport with "the Beast" in tow.

On a positive note, Japanese class is over. Five weeks of intense memorization...not my strong suit. My speech went if I would ever have a hard time talking about myself for three minutes. I may have to settle with an A- as my final grade, God forbid I get a B. I can't believe how much more important my grades have become the second time around. I have a nice long break while we move to Japan and welcome Jack into the world. I withdrew until the Winter 2008 quarter that will start in January. Unfortunately, my final grade in Japanese class doesn't make a difference in the big picture since The Art Institute will not allow me to take any classes outside of my program. I guess when you charge $350 a credit, why would you accept 5 credits for transfer that only cost the student $100 at a community college. Keith thinks I should call them and tell them I will not re-enroll unless they grant me the transfer credit as an elective. I think they will say "tough, fork over another $1750 and we'll give you five credits." Thank goodness the Navy is paying the tuition, eh? Fist fulls of college money and the love of my life, what a deal for five years of service.

According to my baby calender, I will gain 1 pound and Jack will gain 1/2 a pound a week from now on. That puts him right around seven pounds on his due date. He already feels so heavy I cannot imagine gaining eight to nine more pounds! I am glad that it is over nine weeks and not over night. Every day he finds a new painful way to kick his mom, he is already proving to be very creative and strong. Jack will be born, according to Chinese Astrology, in the year of the Golden Pig. A combination of Fire and the Pig that only occurs every 60 years. "The pig in general is considered by Chinese as a representative of fortune and luck, with a mild temper and an honest character, so many Chinese parents believe babies born in this year are lucky." I think we are lucky to have been blessed so quickly, karma must be on our side.

All that's left is packing and doing some last minute tourist adventures. We are taking in a Padres game with my parents this week and eating as much "American" food as we can get. You know what I mean...Mexican, Italian and Chinese...American food. Soon enough we'll be in the land of sushi and bento boxes but I am sure that we will crave In-N-Out sooner than later.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ookii akumu

or...big nightmare in Japanese. Keith and I have both been having very intense and bizarre dreams each night. My dreams are mostly about giving birth to baby girls, or aliens or some other bizarre creature, and Keith's have been about arriving to the wrong ship or getting to the ship and not knowing what to do. I've read that while we sleep our brains work through all of our anxieties. Clearly you can see what we are anxious about, we truly are each other's yin and yang. I have no worries about the move to Japan and Keith is completely calm regarding Jack's arrival.

Today was my final exam in Japanese class so my dream last night was entirely in Japanese. My hope is that the stress of having to be tested on what I have learned will subside but I am sure that new stress will take its place of having to actually communicate with native Japanese speakers. Keith and I practice every day saying; good morning - ohayoo gozaimasu, good afternoon - konnichiwa, thank you - arigatoo gozaimasu and good night - oyasuminasai. I have been using Keith as my sounding board throughout this class for practice and I am very impressed with how much he is retaining.

Tomorrow is the final day of class and I have to deliver a three minute speech in Japanese. Thankfully, it will be a piece of cake compared to today's final. I am sure that tonight I will forgo visions of labor for the typical, 'getting up in front of the class without my clothes on scenario'.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

14 days and a wake up...

Plane tickets, check.
Ride to the airport, check.
Twenty-five jumps through fiery hoops to import Winnie into Japan, check.
Our entire lives in four insanely heavy suitcases, check.

The two week countdown has begun for our departure to Japan for our next three-year tour. We are enthusiastically waiting until the 25th of July when we can get out of Southern California and on with our next adventure. Keith and I are making the last of the rounds with friends and family and we are excited that my parents are flying down for a visit on the 19th.

It's been nice down here in San Diego for the past six weeks, this weather cannot be beat. The Navy lodging is nice but we are ready to leave our little "studio" and move into something with tatami mats and shoji screens. Hopefully we will find something quickly and we won't have to live in the Navy lodge in Yokosuka for too long. All Navy lodging has a 'no pet' rule so we have had to be very creative with our little trouble maker. Winnie loves to sit in the windows and it's driving her crazy that we have them all blocked off. As for every day life, I will be finishing up my Japanese class this week and I am really looking forward to giving my brain a break. I knew it was going to be challenging...but it was really challenging. I am amazed at how much I have actually learned in just five weeks. Keith will graduate from his school on the 19th and then we can focus on all the travel ahead of us.

I am 30 weeks 3 days pregnant now and Jack is approximately 18" long, 3 pounds. I feel like he grows overnight, my belly feels heavier every morning. His kicks are getting stronger and he has found a nerve near my hip that makes his kicks feel like I am being stabbed with a knife. hopefully as he gets bigger he will have less room to kick me so hard. We learned last night at our birthing class that babies can break ribs, yikes! We also saw what 10 cm dilation looks like. Let's just say with each class I become less excited about labor and delivery, hopefully the epidural works really well.

Two weeks and we will be in Japan, nine weeks and we will be welcoming Jack into the world. The latest Webber adventure is kicking into high gear.