Yesterday our internet service was hooked up, the last step in achieving functional normalcy of life. In a way, it represents the very end of our transitional period, and strangely, I found myself wishing that it could have lasted just a little bit longer. It was equal parts vacation, retreat, mad dash, and annoyance, but now that we haven’t got anything related to it coming up – nothing we have to wait for – I feel as though I missed a step on the stairs and life has told me, “Okay, go!” I didn’t knit or crochet much at all, I read more books than I have in a long time, and we spent more time together than we’re likely to get for months.
That’s the view off of my porch. Aren’t those trees lovely? The white stuff at the bottom isn’t snow (that’s been gone for a few weeks now), but little plastic tents they put over whatever it is they’re planting out there. I don’t know a lot about rice cultivation, but I’m pretty sure it involves flooding the field with water, so I don’t think that’s it. Maybe they’re growing cabbages.
We’re getting nicely adjusted to the Japanese city in which we find ourselves. We chose to live off base because really, that’s the point of us being here, isn’t it? To gain an experience? This is my first time being out of the US (I never even made it to Alaska or Hawaii) and I’m shocked at the difference in perspective that it lends. For example, we get the currency exchange rate on the radio about once an hour. When we were first preparing to move here last summer, a dollar was worth about 120 yen. In the month and a half that we’ve been here, it plummeted from 114 to 95 yen to the dollar – although it’s beginning to come back up a little. It’s interesting that we get a lot of the same information about the economy that I remember hearing in Texas, but a better idea of what it means to have a ‘housing slump’ or an ‘economic downturn.’ I don’t want to dwell on that today, though.
One side effect of living off base is that our house is more in the Japanese style than the quarters on-base. The houses built specifically for use by military personnel have been ‘Americanized’ but there are still some standout differences. We have a very nice little shoe room, for instance, where people can remove their shoes before entering the main house. (On the left there is a spectacular coat closet with many shelves which has, for once, given us adequate space for all of the shoes we own.)
When the movers brought us our things they were always careful to remove their shoes before entering. Off when they brought a box in, back on to go out to the truck. You haven’t seen dexterity until you’ve seen a man walking backwards and carrying one end of a sofa remove his shoes mid-stride using nothing but the toes of the other foot. I know I was more than a little amazed.
The house also features three very nice skylights.
While I’m not sure whether that’s an element of Japanese culture evidenced in the building or they thought Americans expected skylights, or they just thought it would be nice – I appreciate it. The sunlight here is not as strong as it is in Texas (woohoo) although it begins considerably earlier. They don’t save daylight here, and I’m told that in the summer we can expect sunrise around three-thirty or four am. These days the sun comes up about five-thirty, and I’m still looking for a better way to block it in the boy’s room because it usually wakes them up. Me too, to be honest, but I usually have the sense to roll over and go back to sleep. Not so a three-year-old convinced it’s ‘morning time’ and eager to get at the toys.
Another unusual aspect of the house – albeit one we expected – is the bathing arrangements. We have a western-style toilet, of course (thank goodness) but ‘western-style’ is not the same as ‘American,’ and it has some interesting features. My personal favorite is the heated seat. Between that and the little electric heater installed in the wall right beside your legs, a midnight trip to the bathroom is not that cold. Seriously, though, when we moved in, a toilet technician came to inspect it and make sure everything was working correctly. Here’s a picture of the remote, complete with helpful illustrations:
That’s right: we have a remote-controlled bidet. Some of our friends have warned that when visiting certain other friends, we should always check to be sure the remote is in the bathroom before using it. Haha. Anyway, the bathroom is the last thing I’m going to touch on today. It’s in a separate room from the toilet and is divided into two sections – one part with shelves, a sink, and a mirror, and the other with the shower and tub. I say shower and tub because, as you see, they are separate. You’re supposed to do all of your washing and soaping and rinsing outside the tub (there’s a covered drain in the floor) and then soak in the tub , which is markedly deeper than a standard bathtub. It took us about a week to get used to it, but it’s really quite nice. I’m sure it’s something we’re going to miss about our stay in this country.
At any rate, we’re here. We made it. And all that’s left is for us to find the routines of daily life after two months out of them and an ocean away from them…