we arrived

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

by the time we got to colorado springs we were sure that lady liberty’s message was directed to us.  we were tired, cranky, hungry, and stinky.  knowing we were going to need to get here and there and everywhere while we were in colorado springs i had taken a little time while we were in tokyo and found us a deal on a rental car.  my only requirements were that it be able to seat five.  i didn’t even care if it could seat five comfortably, i just needed for five us to be able to sit in the car – legally.  here’s what i had reserved.

except i had forgotten something.  there was no way all five of us and our luggage were going to fit in that car.  .

when michael went to pick up the car he was able to get us an upgrade.

and now we’re living the american dream in our mondo big s.u.v.

once the car situation was sorted we headed to the house of some friends who were putting us up for the first several days of our trip.  (spoiler alert:  this is where we learned that monica can not plan both a vacation to tokyo and a trip to america.)  we rang the bell and no one answered.  odd, but we managed to come up with several scenarios that had them out of the house at the moment we were due to arrive.  rather than wait around we figured we’d go grab dinner.  as we headed to dinner we realized we were gonna be awfully close to some other friends and we decided to stop by there first.  plus it would give me a chance to check my email to see if there was an update from our friends that weren’t home.  my email didn’t give me any new details, but it did answer our questions with some old information.  i’d penciled in the wrong dates.  oops.  rereading the emails i discovered that the friends who weren’t home weren’t home because they were out of state.  luckily, the friends we were visiting are kind and generous and all around amazing because they went ahead and put us up several days before we were due to arrive at their house.

and we spent almost the entire first week in america kicking jet-lag and trying recovering from a bad case of undiagnosed nastiness.

alive and mostly well

we made it to america and i still have a japan wrap up post to write, but it has pictures to go along with it and right now photos are proving to be a bit of a challenge.

one of the first things we did after finally arriving in colorado was drop off my laptop at the mac store. and they couldn’t fix it so it had to be sent out and is not due to return for another day or two (or three). i am now limited to an ipad and they aren’t so friendly with the pictures.

speaking of colorado – they should totally change their state motto to “the land that lacks moisture and oxygen” (or something witty like that). also, almost immediately upon landing i was struck ill. i was convinced i’d brought back some tropical japanese type disease, but have changed theories now and am pretty sure it’s just allergies. jet-lag plus allergy fuzzy headedness equals misery and also has the added bonus of making one a pretty lack luster contributor to any social situation. unless the social situation is improved by the presence of nasty flem-y coughing.

sumida-ku

you know how way-back-when when someone had their vacation pictures processed and then forced you to look through them all? that might be what my tokyo posts turn into.

the goals for today’s outing where the tokyo sky tree and ended up with a bonus – the world beer museum.  we started with competently managing the trains – well, mostly competently.  we also learned that if 5 white folks stand in front of the train map looking lost some kind person will step up to help.  thanks kind people.

  

michael was in charge of today’s itinerary and i didn’t study it too closely.  the only real goal we had for today was the tokyo sky tree.  michael knew he wanted to go to the world beer museum at some point, but we hadn’t connected the dots, yet, so we weren’t aware that they were at the same location until we were at said location.

we started with the beer museum – well, we actually started out getting our tickets for the sky tree and then ended up with a three hour wait and since we had empty bellies lunch was where we started.

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after lunch we still had some time to kill so we wandered the mall and took advantage of several photo ops.

   

then the tree.  the sky tree.

the first stop was 350m.

then we headed up to 451.2m.

the pictures from that high looked surprisingly similar to the ones from the level below – i can’t tell which are which.  but we did find a mirror.

after the sky tree we were all exhausted.  we picked up dinner to go and headed home.  we took the long way to the nearest train station.  or rather the second nearest, the nearest didn’t have a train going the direction we needed it to go in.  but while we were wandering we did come across two separate bicycle parking lots.  bikes seem as big here as motorbikes in chiang mai.

we also got a cool view of the tokyo sky tree.  i bet the view from up there at night is amazing.

we made it back to the apartment and tucked in for dinner.  what did we eat?  pork cutlet sandwiches.  they were on a must eat while you’re in tokyo list that google showed me, so when i saw that we could get them at the mall (the brand google recommended no less) we went for it.  they were good.  i’d put them in the comfort food category.  and there’s no shame in being comfort food.

  

    

movin’ on

“maybe it’s human nature to think one’s own situation is the unique and incomparable one, the transcendent exception.”  ~ sue monk kidd the mermaid chair

chan and i left chiang mai yesterday and the goodbyes at the airport were a validation that our decision to move here was a good one.  it was emotional and so very painful, but also proof of how he threw himself into life here.

knowing we’re not the first to make this journey doesn’t make it any easier.  but it is helpful to know others have survived it, their kids have flourished, and it’s all been worth it.  i can’t wait to see what the next few years bring for chan and i hope he takes on university life the same way he’s done it here.  but before we tackle the next few years we’ve got a week in tokyo to take on.  (it was on the flight from bangkok to tokyo that i came across that quote from sue monk kidd.)

we seem to like to take the not the easiest way possible route when it comes to travel when we go to and from the states and why would we choose to do it differently for a family vacation.  michael, a16, and s13 left friday night for bangkok and had an all night layover before heading to tokyo – via kuala lumpur.  maybe not the most direct route, but to hear them tell it it was up there with one of the most miserable.  chan and i left chiang mai saturday morning (16 hours after the other guys) we flew to bangkok had a two hour layover and then headed to tokyo.  directly to tokyo.

they took the yellow route. we took the purple one.

we arrived 1/2 an hour before them and our first stop was the fancy japan potties.

after our pit stop we went got our passports stamped and then on to collect our luggage.  since we were ahead of the rest of the family we went ahead and gathered their luggage, too.  they made it in, we all went through customs and then it was time to figure out how to go about finding the apartment we’d rented for the week.  luckily we had an address in japanese and our taxi driver could read japanese (amazing, i know.)  our two bedroom apartment was bigger than we expected.  it has a washing machine.  and best of all it’s vey own fancy toilet.

it was well past midnight at this point and we had 3 hungry kids on our hands.  so michael and i braved it and found a convenience store where we picked up some assorted snacks.  including the goldilocks and the three bear version of cup noodle.

we were all asleep by 3am.  that’s way past my bedtime and we ended up sleeping a tad late on Sunday morning.  which was alright, because i’d purposely left sunday as a pretty easy tourist day.

summer’s treacherous a**

“but then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass” –  stephen king salem’s lot.

i am so ready for september.

ok, that’s not totally true.  i’m currently eye ball deep trying to plan our family vacation to tokyo.  what feels like our last family of five vacation (that may or may not prove true).  and i’m liking being the one in control, cuz i’ve been able to throw a few things into the itinerary that i’m pretty sure no one else would have considered.  like a meat theme park.  that’s made the final cut.  a parasitological museum?  we’re doing that.   and 7 days of just the 5 of us?  mastercard got that right – priceless.  i’m totally sure it’s going to be worth the crazy way we’re getting there.  two of us on one airlines.  three on another.  different airports and different layovers.  memories galore.

but then we head to america.  i’ve got a whole lot of mixed feelings about that.  i know that the “omg – chan’s going to live in america even after the rest of us return to thailand” situation has me all kinds of out of sorts.  (chan is C19’s real name – or at least his real nickname – he’s an adult now.  no need to protect him any longer.) but there’s also the perceived expectations i’m already feeling (i bolded perceived on purpose, because i know there’s a slight possibility that it’s all in my head).  our time in the states – as a whole – is not a relaxing time for me.  it’s a go here, do this, get this done kind of time and by the time it’s over i’m totally ready to get back to my life.  my home.  my agenda.

it’s not easy to depend on others for almost everything.  where are we gonna stay?  we can’t afford hotels so we count on friends and family to put us up.  we do have plenty of offers and i’m pretty sure none of those offers are given grudgingly.  some people like us.

there’s also the getting to and fro?  we need to be picked up and delivered to airports.  we’ve got doctor’s appointments to make.  i’ve got a few courses to attend and michael’s going to need to get to and from work.  and sometimes it’s just nice to be able to get away.  for one hour (or two or three).  alone.  or with a kid (or two or three) who need a break because we’re overwhelmed.  because america is awesome and at times just way too much to take in.

it feels so ungrateful to whine and complain.  we have some of the most generous, amazing friends and family who we know are spending time and money to be there for us.  and i am so appreciative of that.  i am looking forward to being able to spend time with people who love us and who have loved us for a long time.  i crave the heart to heart talks i know we’ll have, the sharing of life that we will do (short as that time might be), and the ability let our guards down – to just be.  but the scary part of that is that i’m not sure i know how to do that anymore.

21 days? that can’t be possible

sidebar: i’ve been gone so long that i no longer recognise (my new fangled computer speaks the queen’s english and i find that rather quant.  eventually i might find it annoying and that’s when i’ll go about trying to figure out how to make it speak good ol’ american english) wordpress.  i’m not even sure how to work it.  but i’m sure i’ll get up to speed again – if i manage more than one post this time around.  end sidebar.  (i hope i’ve used the term sidebar correctly.  if not, oh well.)

so i was chatting with one of the kids’ teachers today and noticed a countdown on the wall.  a countdown for how many days of school are left.  if you guessed 21, you’re right.  which means 21 days until graduation.  c19’s graduation to be specific.  time keeps on moving right along, doesn’t it?

we have been preparing for it, sort of.  at least the school has.  we’re pretty lucky that the school takes care of ordering graduation announcements.

Image

because i haven’t been able to do much other than think about how all five us are heading to the states this summer and only four of us will be returning.  and that feels sort of impossible.  i know it’s all gonna work out.  he’s been accepted to university – his first choice (go him!)  and that school is close to family – and family is good.  but that’s only the first step.

we’ve still got to figure out the money.  the school gave an initial scholarship and yes, we’ve filled out our fafsa and it indicated that there should be some money for us – but should isn’t a very firm word.

and we’ve still got to figure out just how do we do this?  i know we’re not the first to do this, but it’s not really something someone can give you the play by play on because the experience is different for each of us.  (however, the tips i’ve gotten have been greatly appreciated. and knowing so many others have survived this transition makes it seem like we might, too.)

there are also the practical things like getting the stuff he needs for a dorm room.  making sure he has contact numbers for people he can reach in case of an emergency.  (not that his grandparents won’t do that, but it’s nice to have more than one number.)   and figuring out how he’s gonna make it without his momma. (that’s probably mainly my concern.)

but there are other just as important things that have to happen while we’re in the states.  a16 is gonna need to visit some colleges, most likely not her dream colleges, but we can see different kinds of campuses.  we’ve got some doctor-y type maintenance to see about.  and we’re gonna need to be sure we take time to just be a family.  which is hard to do when you’re couch surfing.  (we won’t exactly be couch surfing, but i feel cool saying that’s what we’re doing.)  we’re planning to get a good start on that – we’re gonna take a family vacation in japan before we head to the states.  but we also want to spend quality time with friends and family.   (each year that we are here i feel more of a need to work on the connections we still have in the states – and i’m really, really bad at it.  thankfully we have some amazing friends there who are very patient and determined to keep these relationships going.)

i keep thinking i’m going to get around to the actual planning of some of what needs to happen this summer, but i’m having a very hard time doing that because i want to be fully present in the here and now.  i have taken some baby steps – made contact and set loose-y goose-y dates for where we’ll be staying this summer – but at some point, preferably sooner than later, i’ve got to pencil in some concrete plans for this summer.

we’re home

 we made it with very little excitement on the way.  other than when we arrived at d/fw airport and they told me my itinerary had been cancelled.  but the kids were still good to go.  took a few minutes but the nice united employee – the only nice united employee we ran into – fixed it all up and had me flying with them.

here’s the kids 15 minutes after take off.

we had been at the airport since 4am, so i guess a nap was in order.