Sunday, January 13, 2013

In Over our Heads

This celebrity came through Haneda
 airport just hours ahead of us.
We arrived safely in Tokyo, Japan after a blessed uneventful 14.5-hour flight from New York's JFK airport.   These trans-oceanic flights are grueling any way you look at them.  We were grateful to fly on American Airlines this time around, because the girls whiled away the hours playing games on the seat-back entertainment systems (something we did not have on the last trans-oceanic flight, aboard a Chinese airliner.)

Immigration and customs are a chore, and yet as we passed through immigration at Haneda airport, we emerged with our Japan residence cards...eliminating a lengthy errand from an even more lengthy list of must-do items for the newly arrived.  

We are starting over.  Starting over usually means you start small and build up, and that's our story this time around.  Our apartment is sparsely furnished with temporary bedding,  a dining room table, and small couch.  We eat using borrowed dishes and utensils, and dry off with hand-me-down towels after bathing.  Our pantry contains at most a 2-day supply of groceries, since we are still discovering the local markets and stores.

Before you feel too sorry over this "minimalist" existence, I must add that Stew is posting regularly on Facebook, and Lissa on this blog, thanks to a tethered connection to Stew's I-phone (version 5).  We are, after all, carving out our new existence in Techno-Mecca!
The Apple Store in
Shibuya, Tokyo.

Jenna and Heather are sailing through these early days like champs.  They haven't complained about sleeping on the floor on the thin futons.  They are gamely sampling Japanese food everywhere we go, and they eagerly anticipate a visit to their new school where they start class on Jan. 21st.  They did suffer a dose of jet lag, waking up at 4:00 a.m. on the second day here, but they slept in until 8:00 the third morning and have been fine ever since.

We hit the ground running, eager to explore our new city.  Each day we've gone out to try something new, and to get more items checked off of that list.  After obtaining refillable bus and train cards, we've ridden both, including taking the train into downtown Tokyo.  The challenge of getting around a new city energizes us.  It also meant we made a couple of missteps in the train station, heading down a corridor toward the subway instead of the light rail.  Our cards suddenly activated an angry-sounding "reject" beep, which stopped us cold.  We uttered a sheepish "Sumi masen" ("I'm sorry") to the Japanese gate guard, and he cleared our malfunctioning cards so that we could continue on our way....the right way.

Enjoying Sukiyaki and other traditional Japanese favorites

Tokyo has a bit of a Hong Kong-feel to it, which makes our newest landing pad seem "familiar enough" without intimidating us.   We are having fun observing our new surroundings through the lens of 8 years of life on Mainland China.  We must definitely make some adjustments before we run afoul of Japan's Politeness Protocol.  For example, cell phones are turned on "silent" on trains and public buses.  Riders as well are nearly silent during their commutes, and Jenna has chided us more than once for talking too loud.  

We have seen more Starbucks coffee shops in 5 days than we did in 8 years in China.  The streets are immaculate.  Curious locals will discreetly peer at us (and turn away if spotted), compared to the wide-eyed gaping and gawking of the mainlanders.  We are slowly learning how to separate our trash into 3 separate bins for recycling, instead of tossing it all into one bag for the neighborhood trash collectors to sort through.  The pigeons here are very plump and healthy, instead of being served up on a mainlander's dinner plate.

We are also very weary and tired.  The initial days/weeks in a new country are exhausting as we find ourselves overwhelmed by the responsibilities of starting over.  We are truly "in over our heads",  and yet we couldn't be happier.   

1 comment:

  1. Hahahaha I love reading about the contrasts! Would you believe when I first arrived in New Zealand I had to check myself because I realized I kept getting all up in people's personal space because I was afraid someone was going to cut in front of me in lines...I had to actively tell myself that would not happen! And I looove sukiyaki!