Sunday, February 5, 2012

End of week 1 in our new house

Week one in our house that is.

Well in many ways it was an uneventful week.  With me working most of the day, there isn't much time left for anything else in the evening.  However, we did manage to get the rest of the car paperwork done, so now I can drive it anywhere.  Kerri, on the other hand, ran into a kink getting her license.  They let her take the test (written and practical) but won't issue her a license until she has a base ID.  Technically, all she needs is her passport + orders, but showing that to a Japanese police officer would probably not go down very well.  So instead we are waiting for the new orders that have us being here farther out than March 31st, which will allow me to get a card with privileges (right now, only base access), and Kerri and Rowan to get a card at all.  It will also allow us to finish getting our 90 day tourist visas upgraded to real SOFA status with multiple entry/exit stamps.  Hopefully that's coming soon.

Meanwhile, I'm the only one who can drive the car, which is a bummer for Kerri during the week as she can't go about looking for things we need like a dining table and chairs for example.  We did manage to find a used fridge which is doing nicely.  Also across the street from us is a recycle shop (used stuff) and we found 2 LP gas heaters that hook up to our gas outlets that exist in all the rooms.  One is now Rowan's heater, and one is heating our "entertainment" room (mac mini hooked up to a computer monitor).  Also a small electric heater for the bathroom which is cooooooold!

Yesterday (Saturday), we went to the base to do laundry (no washer/dryer yet), then on the way home stopped at every big box store we could find to assess our options for furniture.  There are some critical items we need to start feeling more comfortable in the house.  Oddly, we did not find very many good options.  The best so far is a store called Nitori, where we got our futons originally.  We ended up buying a lot of little things there, but even their furniture options were not agreeable to us style/price-wise.  We're thinking we'll need to make the trek to Ikea after least to see what they might have specific to Japanese homes.  There is an Ikea in Yokohama, but it's over an hour away by the toll roads which we have not had the pleasure of figuring out yet.  Today we've decided to just go to a candidate church and then come home to work on the many boxes of things scattered about the house.  Kerri will take the train in to Ikea to do an exploratory run tomorrow and see if it's even worth it.  I need to ask around at work for better furniture options.

Our internet is now on, and I have managed to make a perch out of a plastic box and cushion that is somewhat comfortable.  I'll try to get back into the habit of blogging again.  It's amazing how quickly the little things come and go in a single week, and all the cool stuff disappears from my brain.

I've tried numerous ways to get to work now:

1)  Bike to train, bike to work:  Verdict - not worth it.  I have to walk my bike most of the way to/from the station near base, and the pain of wrapping the bike up in the cover plus hauling it up and down stairs negates any positives to the process.  For a long train ride it might be worth it, but mine is only 15 minutes.

2)  Walk to train, walk to work:  Verdict - doable, but unpleasant feeling of being trapped on base.  I want me bike with me so I can get stuff done during the day and get off base easily for lunch.

3)  Drive to work:  Verdict - very easy, but unpleasant dealing with driving on base.  Plus - ick.

4)  Bike to work:  Verdict - I think this is the one for me.  I did a test run yesterday morning (saturday).  It took me about 50 minutes going there, but I was taking a weird route that sent me through back roads and tunnels.  This is not so good on Japanese roads as this means sidewalks frequently disappear.  On they way home I took main roads and did it in about half an hour.  This gives me the best of all the options and includes an hours worth of daily exercise.  It is unbelievably cold at the moment (and it isn't even raining yet!), but I can always layer up.

There's a liquor store nearby us and I've had the opportunity to try a couple of sakes.  I was worried a bit about Japanese sakes as I've found the ones I've had in the US tend to be a bit heavy on the "off-rice" smell (I think that's the koji), so I've always preferred Momokowa (Sake-One) Sake made in Forest Grove, Oregon.  But I'm happy to report the local stuff here is excellent!  One misstep though...the first bottle I picked out on my own turned out to be Shochu, a distilled 25% liquor that tasted awful.  It got poured down the drain and I went back and asked specifically to be shown the "o-sake" bottles.

We got to try out our o-furo (hot water bath) this week!  Very nice (and I'm not really a bath person)...first  your shower off, then get into the tub of hot water and soak.  You push a button to fill the tub.  If you've kept the water clean and free of soaps, you can push another button and it recirculates and reheats the water.  That way multiple people in the family can reuse the water and not waste it.  I also like the smaller, deeper bath tub.  You basically sit upright in it and the water comes up to your neck.  You can let the water spill over the sides as there is a drain in the shower floor right next to you.

There are plenty of other little annoying things that we're having to get used to in the house.  For example we finally got some nightlights to help navigating around at night.  It gets *dark*!  The heater in the bathroom is helping with the freezing cold showers in the morning.  And we are definitely looking forward to some basic furniture.

Well, that's it for now, I'll try and make updates more frequent now that we have internet again.