Saturday, December 27, 2008

Japan-Day 9

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With only one day to go before we leave for the big ski trip, Gracie is on day three of a 102.5 degree fever. John and Karen's doctor speaks really good English (in fact he trained at Yale in the US) so we decided to take Gracie to see him. We took Gemma along as well because her cough was not sounding too good either and I was a little nervous about giving her the over-the-counter cough medicine, especially since I couldn't read one word on the label and had no idea how much to give her!

The doctor's office is tucked away on a narrow street packed with shops and markets. Karen had to drop us and wait a half an hour for a place to park. The doctor's office was very busy with lots of sick children so the receptionist was really thrown off when we just walked in with no appointment and no medical cards! They were very kind however and after I filled out some paperwork and declared that I was going to be a "cash customer", they were able to create charts and make room for both girls.

We waited in the lobby for about 45 minutes and when they called our name we were led past a curtained doorway and asked to remove our shoes. We were all provided with slippers and asked to be seated again while we waited our turn. When we finally got in to see the doctor I was relieved to hear him speak very clear English. He got right down to business, we discussed their symptoms and he asked me "what I wanted to do"! So, I told him I wanted an expectorant to thin the fluids so they could have a more productive cough and I wanted antibiotics for Gracie in case whatever this was turned bacterial on me. I told him she had only had one antibiotic in 8 years and that I wanted to let the fever do its job for another day or two but that we were going on a ski trip into the mountains and I wanted to have the antibiotic with me in case she would need it. I asked him what he thought about that and to my surprise, he totally agreed with me! He recommended letting the fever go another 2-3 days! He asked me about Gemma and I told him she had NEVER been on an antibiotic and I didn't want one, I just wanted the expectorant. He checked her out and agreed that was all she needed. He wrote out the prescriptions, we paid our bill and went on our way! Obviously I was VERY nervous about going to a doctor in a foreign country but it turned out to be a very positive experience!

In Japan, people where a mask when they have a virus so as not to infect others. Our kids had been coughing so much we were worried we were offending people in public so we purchased some masks from the drugstore and tried them out. Luke loved his but Gracie didn't like the smell of hers. Personally I think it's a great concept that should be used in the schools for grades K-4 when kids are less efficient at covering their mouths! I think I will buy a box or two to take home and perhaps we'll start a new trend at St. John school!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Japan-Day 8

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The kids and I had a pretty quiet day today. Gracie has come down with flu and spent the entire day in bed with a fever. I helped Karen get her new I-Touch up and running, as well as her new terabyte hard drive and USB port replicator. We installed I-tunes and Picasa and made some practice runs at uploading and syncing music.

Scott ventured out with John on a 15 mile bike ride (one way) to a local brewery. They bucked some serious cold, head winds on the way out but then flew home after enjoying a nice lunch.

Gemma took some pictures at the grocery store with her new camera. She was fascinated by all the fish.

I stopped at the drugstore and had an interesting experience trying get help finding some medicine for Gracie. The shelves are stocked so similiarly to a US drugstore that you can practically find the product by location and the color of the packaging. Once I got into the general vicinity I was able to ask the pharmacist for a recommendation on brand and ingredients. The Japanese can take their children to a doctor for free for the first 5 years so they don't tend to buy over-the-counter meds at a drugstore. Consequently, there isn't much of a selection but I was able to find some "vicks type" chest rub and what I "think" is an expectorant!

I also picked up some Japanese baby food snacks. Again, it's amazing to me how they have such similar "concepts" but totally different products and manufacturers. So it's not like they have Gerber baby food with a Japanese label, it's almost all totally different, just organized in a similar fashion. You do see some US brands (the big ones) but not as many as I expected to see.

Japan-Day 7 Christmas Day

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Japan-Day 6 Christmas Eve

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Japan Day 2-Jet Lag Sets In

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We woke up early again today (4am) but Scott and I did not feel right. When I described my symptoms (off balance, weak, headache, fluish, drowsy) Scott informed me that THIS was "jetlag". I felt so great the day before but several people warned me that the effects of jetlag usually set in a day or two after arrival. I'm glad I had the warning because otherwise I'm afraid I would have thought I was dying from some strange Asian flu!

After breakfast, Scott took the kids to the park across from our house and I stayed behind to clean up the house. Later, Karen picked us up and took us to downtown Tama to a local Soba shop for lunch. This is John and Karen's favorite local "hole in the wall" spot for great food and it was AWESOME! I kept thinking "if we were regular tourists we would never have found this place"! I loved listening to Karen, John and Shawn speak Japanese to the locals. John finally had to look up how to say "little brother" so he could introduce us.

In the restaurant, an older Japanese man was completely enthralled with Marshall. He took him from Shawn and held him the entire time we ate. They don't get to see little bald, blue eyed "Gaijin" babies in this neighborhood very often!

After lunch, John, Shawn, Scott took the kids to the park near their home and Karen and I went shopping in downtown Fochu. THAT was quite and experience. I was so amazed. The Japanese are just as exploited by product marketing as we are! They have their own pop stars, their own popular cartoons and their very own Japanese Disney characters. I was also struck by their fashion trends. They are similar to the US trends in some ways yet so different in others.

I wish I could explain the parking deck at the mall. It was the most futuristic thing I've ever seen. In Japan their is no space so everything has to go up or it has to go down. After driving about 4 stories underground we parked in a little space that reminded me of driving into a car wash and then the van was whisked away and filed like a record in a juke box!! You can see a video of a similar one here:

Everything in the grocery store is HALF the size of things in the US. Boxes of cereal, packages of bacon, boxes of laundry detergent, packages of toilet paper..etc. Even the shopping carts and the silverware! But guess what I DID NOT see??? Overweight people! I mean never. Once in a while you might see a slightly chubby person but never a morbidly obese person. It really made me wonder what about this culture keeps them thin? Is it portion sizes? Is it the fact they walk and bike more? They seem to have access to plenty of processed junk food and there is no shortage of carbs (they eat rice with every meal!). Karen said that as more and more US fast food restaurants open up (McDonalds, KFC, etc) they are starting see more overweight Japanese.

After shopping we had a nice dinner at John and Karens and our whole family crashed on their couches until 6am when John brought us back to our house.

Friday, December 19, 2008

First Day in Tokyo

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Flights all went really well.

Very short the plane in Omaha almost made us miss our flight in MN......plane was late into Portland but luckily so many passengers were flying to Tokyo they held the plane for us.

The first thing we noticed was that almost everyone on the flight was Japanese. The next thing we noticed was that everyone was so quiet on the plane (mostly Japanese)....Scott explains that when you put 125 million people into an area the size of California but they can only occupy 20% of the land because of the mountains, people are forced to respect each others space.

Airplane bathrooms are amazinglyl wet floors (from male drips) or pee on the seats. People actually wipe the sinks after themselves.

Half way into the trip I looked up at the GPS monitor and noticed we were flying over Anchorage Alaska (my birthplace) and it was -75 degrees! I started to get a little stir crazy at about the 7 hour mark.

Every seat on the plane had "on demand" video with games, movies, maps, shopping etc. Wouldn' have even needed the IPods!

Japanese passengers loved Marshall. Kids did REALLY well.....took walks around the plane, watched movies, ate, slept to pass the time.

Got right through customs-they didn't even open our suitcases! NWA lost one of our bags (the girls clothes) but it arrived 24 hours later.

JOhn picked us up at the airport and we took a 90 minute bus ride though downtown Tokyo to Cho Fu train station and Karen met us there with their van. The house we are staying in is owned by The McBrides (teachers at ASIJ) and is very large and "American" by Japanese standards. Mary and her husband were heading back to the states for the holiday but we were able to meet her and get instructions on the house.

There is no furnace in the house, just kerosene heaters in some rooms. Sliding doors in every room to keep heat hallways and staircase are very cold! Heated toilet seat in master bath-bonus!! Floors are very cold.

First night Luke got the "seal barking cough". Gemma got up at 1am and couldn't sleep so I ler her watch a movie and went back to sleep with Marshall. Everyone else was up by 5am.

We spent the first day at participated in Aunt Karens' gym class-4 times!! Luke attended the kindergarten class and Gracie went to the 3rd grade class for a while (Gemma stayed behind to be a helper for Aunt Karen). We all met for lunch in the school cafeteria where I discoverd that they are vermicomposting! They composted almost 2 metric ton of trash last year. There are 6 tumbler type bins behind the gym. The project is being managed by one of the elementary school class rooms.

We met lots of kids and had fascinating fun "interveiwing" them to learn what nationality they were, what other country they had a home in and where they were going for Christmas break. Gracie made a friend in 3rd grade who happens to live just a couple houses away from where we are staying. She was thrilled when the door bell rang later and "Daniella" invited her and Gemma over to her house to play!

Had dinner at John and Karens house (saw their house for the first time)then karen took us home on her way to pick up Shawn at the train station. Everyone woke up at 2am again but we were able to get them back to sleep until about 4am. The first day we felt great but the 2nd day Scott and I are really feeling the "jetlag". Felt like I was getting the flu! I am simply amazed at how hard it is to stay awake in the evening!! I fear we will hardly remember our first night at John and Karen's house.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Almost Packed!

Whew!....I was feeling a little light headed and I then I realized I haven't sat down YET today! Just when I was patting myself on the back about how everything was falling into place and how I might actually get us packed up early.......I was greeted this morning by projectile vomit and "pink eye"!!! The vomit was compliments of Marshall and Luke has come down with pink eye (which he decided to share with ME!) For some reason I'm sitting here smiling and not really feeling very stressed. Go figure!

Our plane leaves Lincoln in 33 hours. Scott is totally packed (of course), I am 75% packed, the girls are 50% packed and I haven't started yet on Marshall and Luke. Oh yes and we have one entire suitcase full of Christmas gifts and things for Karen, 100% packed! We purchased three new suitcases for this trip and I'm feeling tonight like we should have gotten four! The good news is the weather in Tokyo will feel like a heat wave compared to Nebraska. Apparently our "deep freeze" made national news because I got a call from Marcy in Florida asking if we were OK (tongue in cheek of course)! This morning's temperature was -4 with a -27 degree wind chill. Tokyo is in the 50's and 60's during the day and 40's at night so that will be a welcomed change!

We had a wonderful Christmas dinner last night with Scott's parents and our nephew Shawn out at the farm. Arlene served dinner in the dining room and afterward we opened presents so it really felt like Christmas. It was nice to have that time with them before we leave.

By the way...I still don't have my laptop back from the big crash so can't post any photos yet. Maybe John will let me upload a few on his computer in Japan so I can share some photos with you while we're there.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Count Down to Tokyo!

Gemma left a large magnet sitting on my laptop for several hours and it completely erased my hard drive!!! Consequently, I haven't had much access to a computer (I'm typing now on the kids' "slower than molasses" PC- I see now why they are begging for a new computer!).

I've been wanting to get on here and announce that we are going to spend Christmas in Tokyo, Japan this year!! Most of you know Scott's brother John and his wife Karen have been teaching at the American School in Japan for the last 30 years! They have a home here in Seward they enjoy for about 10 weeks in the summer and 2-3 weeks at Christmas time but otherwise they LIVE in Japan. Scott's been over a couple times and lived there for 6 months as a student teacher.

We've often talked about visiting John and Karen but could never decide on the best time of year to do it. Well, THIS is the time!! We are leaving on December 17th and will spend Christmas and New Years (and our 11th anniversary) with them and return on January 2nd! The big bonus is that Ben and Shawn (our nephews) are going along as well. Shawn is a student at Concordia here in Seward and Ben attends Wichita State in KS. This will be traveling "home" for Christmas break for them.

By the time we pulled the trigger and purchased the plane tickets, the one-stop flights were sold out, so we first fly an hour and a half to Minneapolis, then 3 hours to Portland and then 12 hours to Tokyo!! Between flights and layovers the trip will take approximately 19 hours. Then with the 15 hour(ahead) time difference, we will actually be arriving into Tokyo at 4pm the next day!

Our children are well traveled but they've certainly never taken this long of a trip. Heck I've never flown this far! So we'll load up the I-Pod and the I-Touch with movies and bring playing cards and checkers and storybooks and whatever else we can think of to entertain ourselves....and then just PRAY! The good thing about traveling with 6 people is that we'll pretty much take up an entire row on the airplane, so at least I won't have to worry about my 10 month old crawling across some stranger's lap!

We've decided to ask Santa to come to our house in Nebraska and just make a quick stop in Japan with a present or two since we won't have room to pack all those presents and bring them home on the airplane!! And that will have to do because with the value of the dollar weakened against the Yen, there will be no last minute Christmas shopping in Tokyo!

And by the way, because of this trip you will NOT be recieving a Christmas card from the Seevers this year. I'm hoping to send out "Happy New Year" cards at the end of January!