So it’s official, we have survived 6 months as an expat family in Japan. I know we have some amazing stories to tell, and have been on some amazing journeys, seen new parts of the world and learned so much already but to be honest it has been really hard.
We took our home leave trip over Christmas break and we were so happy to see so many people we love. We choose to fly” economy comfort”, instead of the “business class” we were allotted. By sacrificing the lay down flat seats and other special privileges we were able to pay for multiple legs of our trip to see ALL OUR FAMILY and seeing some friends in MN and STILL have some budget to spare for 2017!!
We made quite the journey we traveled from Tokyo, Japan to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where we stayed 3 days and had a tight schedule to maximize time with our friends. From Minneapolis we flew to Chicago, Illinois. My parents picked us up at the airport and we got to spend a week in the wide open spaces of the country. From Illinois we then flew to Seattle, Washington, where all of Caleb’s family flew, or drove in. We spent a week at an Air B&B home. From Seattle we made the last leg of travel back to Tokyo. It was hard to leave each destination, not knowing when we would be back again. I believe it was most emotional for us to leave Seattle possibly because it was our return flight to Japan but possibly because it is still our desire to some day live in Seattle. Even with the winter chill the landscape, mountains, and nature were wonderful to take in. Who knows what the future holds!
It was amazing to see SO many people we love and that love us. I think what struck me the most is that in Japan, while we are so far away, it is easy to feel isolated, and lonely. We walk around most of the time feeling like a “nobody” to everyone. Our entire Facebook feed fills up while we are sleeping, yet is unchanged while we are awake. There aren’t many people that will laugh at our jokes, or seem happy to see us, we don’t get hugs from people at church, and very few people in our time zone seem to want to develop a deeper friendship with us. (I will say there are a couple exceptions and for you we are very grateful) While we were were in Minnesota, Illinois and Washington we were surrounded by people who actually care about us. People who took time out of their schedules to hang out with us, welcome us into their homes and show us kindness. I made a joke on and off during the trip that I was “gathering hugs” Thank you for being our friends and family! Thanks for all the hugs!
Here are some photos from our trip!
I recently posted on facebook regarding one of our favorite children’s books, “Fredrick” by Leo Lionni. It is a wonderful story of a family of mice. In the story all of the mice except for one are constantly working and preparing for the future. Fredrick is the outsider, he spends his time gathering sun rays, colors and words. I won’t spoil the story completely…. But Caleb has referred to me as our family’s Fredrick lately. I am not used to not working….. I have always had some sort of job since high school and have felt happy about contributing to our family income in some way but now I am not “working” yet to work I do is valuable. I take naps, spend time outdoors, gather hugs, read books, blog (not as often as I’d like) , and take classes on photography, flower arranging and Japanese because I know that my family needs me to be alive, engaged and happy this is how I gather the sun rays. I need to be their Fredrick, I WANT to be their Fredrick. I want to work out with my husband every day at 6:15 am because I love spending time with him and love the challenges of Crossfit. I want to be available and alert when my kids get home from school and need help navigating homework, friends, and teachers in a new school in a new country. I want to be engaged and loving towards my husband after my kids are in bed, dinner is made and we settle in for the night.
Here is a link to a youtube version of the story book:
-While in the US I found myself eavesdropping all the time. I guess I was just happy to hear people speaking english and also realizing I often listen in on Japanese conversations hoping I can maybe pick up a word or two and validate my Japanese lessons. But truth be told, I am a very slow learner when it comes to foreign languages.
-Target is glorious! And Kohls. We had such a fun time shopping at American stores. The Target in Seattle even had a escalator for carts! So cool! If you know us very well you know that neither Caleb or I are huge into brand names or feel we need to spend top dollar on our clothing. But let’s be honest we like what is familiar we like to have clothes that fit in styles we like. Months before travelling to the US we created a shared shopping list using the “AnyList” app (is you haven’t heard of it, it’s great). Here are some items on our list: workout clothes, insulated mugs, Aunt Jemima syrup, grape jelly, crystal light, dental floss, deodorant, dress shirts, kids socks and underwear, ibuprofen, benadryl and sudafed. I am happy to say we managed to get most of the things off our list.
-We still remember how to drive on the right side of the road. We just recently got a car in Tokyo It was a long process but Caleb fought to get us our Prius. We have taken a couple weekend trips to go to an aquarium, shopping or other errands. Before moving we both got our International driving permit. It’s actually really easy. All you have to do is go in to AAA and apply. It allows you to drive in almost any country for up to a year before getting your license in that country. I have not quite yet braved the driving in Tokyo but Caleb has done a great job learning to drive on the left and navigate the signs in Japanese. While in the US for our home leave trip we were happy either rent a vehicle or use our own van, that has been in storage! And we remembered how to drive!!!