Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Happy Ending

What started as not-so-funny turned into funny, so I'll share.

Let me preface this by saying that we started the process for clearing Flavius for Japanese customs in December. On December 31st to be exact. We could have started a bit earlier since we already accepted jobs at Canadian Academy, but I have been known to procrastinate a bit and it just felt sooo early. This process consisted of multiple visits to the vet in Peru for multiple vaccinations, sending his blood to the Kansas State Rabies Lab for testing and at least a hundred documents were filled out/signed/faxed/revised. And this whole process in the end cost us over $1,000, I'll leave it at that.

John left this morning with Jon (who has a Japanese license) and Todd (who can speak Japanese) to the Kansai Airport in Osaka, about an hour's drive. I reviewed all the paperwork with him that morning, since I had multiple copies of everything. We hoped Flavius would come home today, but weren't feeling super confident, since we had to leave some last minute things (10-day travel check-up, purchase cargo ticket, Peruvian governmental stamp) with Moving Systems, the shipping company we contracted who has not been real competent. This including an "urgente" email I got from them, our friend, and our old maid (on Thursday) who told us that Moving Systems had to buy a new animal crate because ours was too small (it was the size I checked online @ KLM and double checked with the vet) and we had to pay for more cargo space. So they wanted (and frankly, still want) us to wire $500 to them.

About an hour after John left, I sent him a text:
ME: How's it going?
JOHN: I brought the wrong passport.
My blood pressure rises and heart starts pounding.
ME: Seriously?
John is with our "funny" friends who are known for their antics.
JOHN: Yep.
ME: I hope we didn't waste J & T's time today.
I know this wasn't the most supportive thing to say, but I was ticked off. If the cat wasn't coming home with us today, it was going to be the shipping company's fault, NOT OURS!
ME: I can take a picture of it and send it, if you need. Where are they?
JOHN: In the closet in our travel docs bag.

I go and check it out and pull his out. MAXIMO'S WAS GONE! And come to find out later, he actually handed it over to the security checkpoint guy who wasn't sure what was going on and then tried to politely figure out why a grown man was giving a passport of a baby.

So, I waited for more news, when John called:
"Jule, Jon's come up with a plan that might work. Give my passport to Celia, she can bring it to the Sheraton hotel where the shuttle leaves for the airport at 11:18 and we'll wait for it here (It was 10:58 am)."
I run upstairs (Max was napping) relay the message quickly to Celia and then take Denis down to our apartment to watch him while she quickly goes to the hotel.

She ran into a bit of a problem there, not being able to convince the driver to bring the passport and it being too late for her to purchase her own ticket on the bus to hand-deliver it herself. Luckily at that moment (her) Jon called to say they thought they could do everything with John's US license.

Three hours later, Flavius was roaming around our apartment, checking it out, looking healthy and better than we did after our long flight. He's now eaten a bit and had a little to drink, though we don't think he's used the loo yet, so hopefully he'll choose to use the litterbox.

Friday, August 28, 2009

All in a Day

Today Maximo turned 2! It was a full day, but a nice one. Here are a bunch of pictures spanning from AM to PM.
This morning, Maximo opened his gifts while we were hanging around the house before going to school. He got some trucks that run on his train track and a helicopter - a wooden pull toy with oscillating "blades". He loved the helicopter and lapped around the island pulling it chanting "Ahh-pita".

Soon after, we had to convince him that he had to leave the helicopter for when he got home from "school". We set off for school and Max's daycare. This is the dreaded part of our day (and has been for the past 3 weeks). He started to fuss as we crossed the intersection he now recognizes as the corner where "school" is located. We kept talking to him and I mentioned that I brought cookies to share with his friends at snack time. Maybe that did the trick. Maybe it's just finally time. BUT... he didn't cry when we left. So, Maximo gave us something for his birthday! I'm sure that doesn't mean he won't cry ever again as we drop him off, but maybe that is going to start tapering off.

We worked all day (ho-hum).

When we were done with school, we got Max, went home, changed and packed for dinner at the river. We met about 10 couples with their kids and relaxed (well, as much as you can with about 20 kids running around). We had some beers, ate some Indian take-out and thought we made it through our first full week with students. Only 35 or so more weeks to go!
Max and Evan snacking

Reunited and it feels so good.

Max eating everyone's food.

Los Lemley boys

Didi and Bax (this is what they call each other)

Happy Birthday, little boy! We love you!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mid-week Review

Max on his new bike! Note banged up knee and then stickers below to make it all better!

You may be able to tell from the scintillating post title that we're in the thick of it now, but I wanted to post something so you all would know that we're doing well in Japan.

Some tidbits:
  • Max is still crying when we drop him off (not fun)
  • We're enjoying our lifestyle here in Japan - riding our bikes, making dinner every night and eating as a family
  • Flavius is scheduled to fly in on Saturday, so John and a couple of WONDERFUL friends are going to the airport to try to bring him home.
  • Our shipment doesn't look like it'll be at our house until mid next week... C'est la vie.
  • Two weeks into moving to Peru we had learned about 100 new words. I think I can confidently say about 4 things here, but I'm going to make an effort. I'm writing Max's daily log in kanji, though I don't expect to memorize anything but milk, rice, chicken, egg, watermelon and toast.
Here are a few pics from the week. They aren't the best quality, since they're off the iPhone, but if I didn't have the iPhone, you'd get none.

Max's art outside of his daycare.
His face and legs matched his masterpiece when he came home

We found a water table at Toys 'R Us!

On the back of the Mama-san

Max and I at the Obon festival at the River Mall on Rokko Island.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Week In Review

We really started back to work last week. The week before was just for "newbies" so, while it was exhausting, it included trips to IKEA and the such, so it wasn't too bad. This week we had three in-service days and we saw kids on Thursday and Friday and now the weekend has flown by and we're ready to start our first full week with students.

After being on vacation for five weeks, and kind of living on easy street our last year or two in Peru, as far as work goes, it's been a bit hard. For both of us, the worst part of the day is from about 7:25-7:40 when we're walking out the door and getting Maximo to daycare. He cried every morning last week, though it lessened with intensity as the week wore on. When we picked him up Wed., Thurs., and Friday, he didn't start bawling when he saw us, so hopefully it'll continue to get better. Also, for me, it was a difficult couple of days as a new elementary school teacher. I have great kids, but it's been a bit hard to plan being with them all day and actually being with them all day. Hopefully I'll figure it out soon.

Otherwise, we're really happy here. Rokko Island is the perfect place for young kids - it's safe, there are a lot of activities for kids to do and it's super easy to get around (by bike!). I'll try to not go almost a week without writing, but it is going to be a busy year this year. It's almost like our first year of teaching all over again (Yipee! Bring on the 8:00 pm bedtimes and the long hours of planning). I remember it being like this our first year in Peru too.

We're hoping our shipment will arrive this week and Flavius is booked for a flight (unless the incompetent and unpredictable shipping agent out of Peru screws something up) to arrive on Saturday morning and the little one turns TWO on Friday! WOW! Hopefully everything will arrive so we can settle in next weeked and really make our apartment home.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dum..Dum...Dum... Daycare!

I don't mean "dumb", I was trying to write "ominous music" and that's not too easy to do. Hopefully it sounded menacing in your mind.

So. Maybe the hardest thing about moving to the other side of the world with a two year old is leaving him (with strangers, with jetlag, without being settled in). We've been with Maximo for about five week straight with very little time away from him. It's been a wonderful summer with him, but work lay around the corner. In Peru, he stayed in our home with a nanny, so he hasn't had to go anywhere except to the park to socialize with friends for the past almost two years.

We arrived last Saturday night in Japan and unfortunately had to report to work on Monday morning. Not real work. But we had to show up at school. It was an orientation week for the new teachers at Canadian Academy. So, in the midst of jetlag and still semi- in vacation mode, we stumbled into school on that Monday morning. We had breakfast with our new colleagues, then we ushered Max off to one of the preschool classrooms where other teachers' kids were and two babysitters (two lovely high school boys) were waiting. He was fine. Maybe a bit fussy, but he made it.

Tuesday brought us abruptly to another change. Max was going to "do" two consecutive half-day trials at his Japanese daycare on Tuesday and Wednesday. We had to do it earlier in the week than we would have liked because Thursday and Friday were national holidays. First day, I think he cried a bit. Day two, I think he cried a little less, but we left him screaming. My brave husband STAYED DOWNSTAIRS while I brought him up and pried him off my body (now, twice).

Thursday and Friday we only needed a few hours coverage when we had meetings, so two high school girls watched him at school. He screamed when we left, but recovered okay. (He's been spending a lot of time with his monkey and pacifier, which we normally just use for bedtime, but we know it's a tough time for him and he's chanting, "Mono, poo, mono, poo, peas".)
Translation: Monkey, pacifier, monkey, pacifier, please.

Today, our first day back with the whole faculty, was Max's first full day at the daycare. As soon as we pulled up at the pink building he started shaking his head "no', then started wailing, and arching his back and then continued to scream, bray, bawl, and shriek as he clamored up my side and tried to lodge himself onto my body. Finally after failing to distract him with toys, I used all my strength and handed him over to his sensei.

I figured that he would settle down after we left, but two other teachers who dropped their kids off after us said he was crying, one couple dropped their daughter off an hour AFTER we dropped Max off. I'm hoping he didn't cry the whole hour. Needless to say, that kept me on edge for most of the day. [Heather, I hope I'm not totally freaking you out.]

So, it's been a bit stressful, but we're looking at the big picture. We really like the place. Even with the language barrier, it's clear to see that his senseis are very loving and they have a lot of fun activities they do with the kids. I think it would be difficult no matter where we dropped Maximo off. For sure, we're happy not to have a nanny anymore. We just hope that he transitions sooner than later. I'm sure it'll break my heart (a little) when he runs for the door of the daycare and isn't stuck to my side, but I hope he'll be excited about it soon.

Some fun pictures of his daycare accessories:
His daily bag - that we had to decorate. John made a cute helicopter.

The sailboat patch we'll put on Max's PINK hat. They use these hats when they take the kids outside or on little fieldtrips. The patches are so the kids can identify their own hats.

A sticker for every day that Max is at Yume Club (or the senseis survive his screaming!)

Max has a little notebook that his senseis report in everyday. One of his teachers is really making an effort with her English which is really nice. I thought I'd have to have this translated daily. It tells us what he ate, when/if he slept, his diaper findings and comments. On the left hand side, I am supposed to be adding in what he's doing with us - what he's eating, his bathroom comments, sleeping, etc. I need to find out if it's imperative that I fill it out.

We're hoping for a better day tomorrow. And more than a 45 minute nap!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Little By Little

Our apartment in Japan was unfurnished when we arrived, except for a table with three chairs and roll-away futons to sleep on. This is very different than Peru where our apartment was almost fully furnished when we arrived. We received a hefty stipend for a moving-in allowance which we have already blown through at our trips to Ikea and Midori (an electronics store). We still need to go back to Ikea this weekend to purchase some more... but our apartment is slowly transforming! Our shipment is scheduled to arrive at port on August 20th, so we hope to have it by the end of the month.

We had an Ikea Party last night. Some of us tried to contain the kids and some helped put furniture together, though I think a couple were just here for the beer and Subway sandwiches. The kids had fun playing together, which is the most important of all!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What's Going On

This is another middle of the night post, so excuse the grammar issues and blandness of it, I just know that some of you are interested in know how life is going for Los Lemleys in Japan.

This week has been a bit hectic. We started at "work" on Monday. This week is just for new teachers, there are about 12 of us. We've had meetings on everything from curriculum to getting our new Mac Book Pros to how to use our microwave/oven and toilet (maybe the most important). This time around, it's definitely more difficult getting situated with Maximo. The school has graciously supplied childcare for us, but Maximo still isn't sleeping all the way through the night and it's been hard for him to be passed around to a bunch of strangers. On a whole he's been great, but he's been spending a lot more time with his 'pon and mono (his pacifier and monkey) than we would like.

On Tuesday, John went with the rest of the new teachers to IKEA with 300,000 yen burning a hole in his pocket. He purchased some needed furniture for us - a bed, couch, kitchen island... It will be delivered tomorrow (today, actually).

We've been finding our way around. It's been fun riding our mama-san bikes (like beach cruisers) to work in the mornings. Maximo and I got on the train yesterday and he LOVED it! The whole ride there and back he just chanted "choo choo" and was wide eyed and stunned by the fact that he was actually in a moving train. He was having a fussy afternoon and it was just what we needed. So, I've charged up my train card, so we can ride the rails if we need to get out of the house.

It is shockingly hot here. Our friends told us it was going to be hot, but I'm really surprised how hot it is. The first three days we were here it rained, but the past two have been clear. It's very muggy and buggy. I'll have to make a recording of the cicadas, they are deafening during the day! And the size of small birds!

Everyone we've met here has been super welcoming. Last night we met some other teachers who send their daughters to Yume Club which is the Japanese daycare that Maximo is going to (I'll do a separate post for that) at an Indian restaurant that is close by. It's nice to live somewhere with an Indian restaurant again!

All in all, everything is great. I'm looking forward to sleeping through the night. Everyone assures me it takes about 5 days to get over jetlag. I feel fine, but cannot sleep through the night.

Today at school, we have our first Japanese class and a Japanese tea ceremony which we're excited for, then I get to sit around and wait for our furniture to arrive, while John checks out the electronics store. Hopefully, it'll arrive early so Max and I can go outside and explore some more!

More soon.

Monday, August 10, 2009

First Impressions

Update: I fixed the broken link with photos below.

1. Customs and immigration was ridiculously quick - we were out of the airport within 15 minutes with all of our luggage (Lemleys 1 - Japan 1)
2. Our apartment is cute, but small (-er than I had anticipated). It's perfect for Max.
3. Sleeping on a two inch roll away futon is surprisingly comfortable (or are we totally exhausted?)
4. It's more difficult moving with a toddler.
5. It's great that our friends are here.
6. Many electronics - we need help using everything from the toilet, to the shower, to the oven, to... well, everything.
7. I like the smell of our tatami room, John thinks it smells like fish.
8. It's hot and muggy.
9. Lack of sleep makes it hard to function and be polite in another culture. Luckily, a bow of the head will do until I can say more than "Konnichiwa" and "Domo arrigato"
10. I don't remember in Peru, thinking I don't have any idea what this is. We unpacked our "gift bags" from the Canadian Academy PTA, and I had a pile of things I had no clue what they were. There is quite a bit of English here, but most products/appliance don't have those labels.

Sorry this is a bit lame. I think I had some other "first impressions" last night when we arrived, but I have already forgot them with my jet-lagged brain. It's 1:15 and I am up and wide awake. Tomorrow we have to report to school at 8:00 am for some meetings... not excited about that, but we do have to work in order to live in these amazing places.

Here are a few photos of our first day here. Don't worry, I'm not going to create photo galleries for each week here, I'm just trying to take a few photos of our surroundings this week, although they aren't fantastic.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Ready and Waiting

Bad news: I just (finally) checked out flights to find our Providence to Detroit flight has been changed, leaving us with a 4 hour layover in Detroit and we have to leave my parents' house at 5:30 AM. GREAT!

Good news: (and I hope I'm not breaking any rules or anything by posting this), but this is a shot of our apartment building's directory as of today:
They seem ready for Los Lemleys. Look out Japan, here we come!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Anxiety Vs. Excitement


A few mornings ago, I woke up early in a bit of a panic. What had I done? Why had I made all these arrangements for Maximo to go to Japanese daycare rather than the perfectly good early childhood class/daycare at the school where we are working at? What was I thinking? Maximo has been out of his own home and bed for five weeks. He has been doing remarkably well, but has had some moments where I know it's been too much. And now we're going to just leave him in a strange environment where no one speaks his language!

His English is BOOMING right now. I'm sure it's just the age and, of course, being in a total English environment, but we're loving the "airplanes, ah-pitas (helicopters), see yas, bye-ye, g'ornings, boats..." And as I lay there in bed, my heart racing a bit, I got a little sad that we wouldn't all be going to the same place every morning, that I wouldn't be walking over to his classroom at the end of the day to his smiling face and he wouldn't be serenading us at the dinner table singing little ditties like "Twinkle, twinkle" or his "ABCs" and rapidly increasing his English and language skills.

We're going to be putting him in a Japanese daycare. One in which I'll need a translator with me when I bring him in to introduce him on Tuesday. When we leave him on Wednesday for a trial morning, he will hopefully have shaken off most of his jetlag, but how will they know he needs his mono or he's spiraling out of control and needs to go to bed even though he looks like he's hyperly happily running around? They will. I know they will. They are professionals. There are other American kids at the daycare who thrive there. I've spoken to two different teachers at school, and American and a Japanese mom, and they both rave about the care.

I think (thought) that this would be the best thing for him. I hope it is. If we stay in Japan for 4-6 years (which is the plan), it would be a shame if we left and he had no Japanese to show for it, all because of my insecurities. I know kids are resilient. I'm sure he'll do great. I know we'll have a few rough days, especially recovering from the jet lag and having to report to "new teacher days" two days after we arrive. Again, I'll continue to use this blog as a form of therapy, as long as there are enough hours in the day to whine, gloat or worry after work and starting our new home in Japan.

Oh, and the 24-hour travel day. I don't need to go into details. I told Max that I'd give him $50 if he was excellent during our travels. And I will... it'll go straight into his bank account. I'm not above bribing my kid for a peaceful and uneventful travel day.


Really? We're going to be in our new apartment IN JAPAN in 4 days. We already know what our apartment looks like, but I cannot wait to sit (possibly on the floor) and enjoy our first cup of coffee in our new place. We can't wait to explore and meander around our new neighborhood and go to the grocery store to fill our frig and cupboards. We can't wait to be reunited with our bestest friends and watch our kids play together. I can't wait to take it all in like a little kid. To bathe my senses in the sights, sounds and smells of a place on the other side of the world, which is seemingly familiar, but foreign and exotic and such a juxtaposition of Peru.

We're excited to be in our own place. It's been a wonderful summer shared with family and friends in our hometowns, BUT, it's challenging to not have our own place. Soon we'll be back to walking around in the nude! (Not really, but we could if we wanted too!)

The excitement is definitely outweighing the anxiety; Thursday night will most likely be a sleepless one!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

To Combat the Rain

It has been a rainy, rainy summer. In both Georgia and Connecticut, Mother Nature has been trying to make up for the lack of rain we saw in Lima. Luckily, we've had a smattering of sunny days or parts of days to drag Maximo around our old stomping grounds.

Between rainstorms, it's been so much fun watching Max interact with his cousins. Amanda is a little leery of Maximo with good reason, he's not the best sharer and he isn't always gentle. Jessica is super sweet with Max and patient with the babes, even though she's 6 going on 16.

Yesterday we went to Buttonwood Farms which has a beautiful sunflower field and AMAZING homemade ice cream. Their sunflower proceeds are all donated to the Make A Wish Foundation, which makes the experience extra sweet.
Nana with her grandbabes

This has been a common face this trip - either extreme happiness or... NOT!