Beauty in the Ordinary

This is not about being brilliant, or extraordinary, it's not about wanting to be famous, or making headlines, or trying to impress...this about sharing a 'gift' each day with the lift the spirit of people when they read this blog, to show them the beauty in the ordinary.
"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." Raold Dahl

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Expat Life #1

"Honey...we are going to Japan...are you excited?"


And so the announcement of our first overseas posting came.

I was in my late 30s, with two daughters 11 and 13.

Up until this point in time, I had resisted overseas postings.  I truly felt our girls needed to form a solid foundation of family.  They lived within walking distance of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

But now was the time.  Husband had been patient, but if the career move was to be made, it could wait no longer.

And so we go. that first few weeks, I thought I had been kidnapped and taken to Mars...yes, the planet.

We are living in an hotel, albeit a beautiful hotel, but it is still an hotel.  Trying to 
1 - figure out where the heck we are;
2 - where we are going to live for the next 3 years;
3 - where the kids are going to go to school;
4 - and, more immediately, how do we get the dog out of quarantine.

So we struggle for the first couple of weeks of running down the hotel hallway in my bathrobe to the next bedroom (adjoining rooms you say? - wish I had thought of that!)
to get the girls out of bed, dressed, breakfasted and on the school bus, which amazingly came to the hotel to pick them up.

Then it was dress myself;  hubby to the office - did I mention the two weeks they promised him to 'settle the family' actually turned into 2 days? No? well no matter;
and head out with my Japanese entourage (who are these people?) to look for a flat/house/apartment/somewhere to live!!!

After two more weeks of this, and husband now telling me he has to fly, weekly, to California (and what am I doing here???) I am about to loose it.  I've been shown every, mold-infested, dark, dank, miserable apartment in Tokyo.  Time to call in the big-guns...President-of-company-san...can you help me please???

And so the apartment issue is suddenly resolved.  Dog is out of quarantine, no furniture? no matter, we rent futon (pillows so hard you wake up with pins and needles in your head) plastic forks, knives, plates and take-out food - but we, and Meg (the dog) are home (loud sigh).

"Honey...guess what?  The furniture has arrived! Wonderful, yes?"
"Great...the girls will be so excited to have their stuff."
"Small issue"
"I have to go to Hakone that weekend...Company golf-tournament.  Mandatory attendance..."

So furniture-arrival weekend comes.
Me and six white-gloved (no, I am not kidding) Japanese furniture men.
Everything, when being packed was marked for assignment as per room, kitchen, dining, bedroom, etc.
Well, given that I spoke zero Japanese, and they spoke zero English, that lasted all of about ten minutes.  So chaos ensued, and at the end of the weekend, everything was in the flat, unpacked and all over the show.
Enter husband Sunday afternoon, looking relaxed, tanned, stepping over kitchen pots, Hummel figurines and clothes and says 
"Honey...(tongue in his cheek,  so he thought)...I thought you were a bit more organized than this.

Mount Fuji erupts!!!

And, because timing is always everything, out walks Jessica from her bedroom,
miserable (about leaving Canada), crying (sixth day in a row) and says for the tenth time that day:
"Mum, I'm hungry...there's nothing to eat in this house!"
(Stab me in the heart right now!)
So...with tears streaming down both our faces, I grab her by the hand and say
"McDonalds...let's go...I know how to do McDonalds!"

So, she and I walk down to Bunkamura at the end of our street and, still crying, present ourselves before our local McDonalds (Teriyaki Burger? - no problem).
The doors, however, seem to be a big problem.  She and I walk up to what we presume to be the automatic doors and nothing happens.  Back up, try again, still they do not open.
Inside, a little Japanese girl is having her meal.  She sees our dilemma and exits by the side door and shows us (stupid white people) how to press the HAND PAD and open the door.  We go inside, order and all is well.

As Jessica and I are eating, it suddenly and hilariously occurs to me that that Japanese girl is going to go home that night and relate to her family how she helped a poor
gaijin family that day, who were in tears because...


Thank you and goodnight.
Not sure why that story jumped into my memory today, but it did, and I thought I would share.


  1. Like any undertaking, I know it had ti get better with practice and refinement, but I can appreciate the tear jerking frustration of the break in period.

  2. First year anywhere new Joanne is a throw-away year...good news is yes, it got better and better and better!

  3. Great story - really enjoyed it and had similar encounters during my visits to SEA.

    1. It was a great adventure JohnD...ended up loving every minute of it...even the hard ones!

  4. I lived a similar situation with a husband who traveled, with transfers always in the works, and me trying to figure out how to give my kids some stability. We didn't get to Japan, but sometimes I felt like I just wanted to run that far. It was hard but today I look back, and like you, I laugh. It was an adventure, a part of our lives that tested us, and we came through it.

    Great story, Jacqueline?

    1. Did not mean the ?, sorry, my finger slipped on my iPad.

    2. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!
      We went on from Japan to the US, Thailand and finally England. I know I can live pretty much anywhere now.

  5. I suspect that, if you could handle all that "fun," you could handle just about anything. Well done!

    Hope your husband's treatments are going well.

    1. It certainly made me adaptable Rob-bear. The one thing I did learn thought, we are all more alike than different.

  6. I can do Europe; no problem. But a country where I spoke not one word, couldn't even understand the alphabet, and can't read road signs; no thanks. Well done, you deserve a medal.

  7. It does give new meaning to vulnerability when you can't rely on your usual coping skills - especially being able to read. We had many adventures getting lost (but always carried a meishi {map with our address on} which one could hand to a taxi driver to get you home). The train system was amazing Cro...and we all learned how to use it.
    Strangely, moving to the US was more difficult - a lot of people there presume you know a lot of things just because you DO speak the language!

  8. Hope everything is well with you. Your experience reminds me of the disorientation period of moving to a Rome apartment with a toddler and baby of five months taking a huge, old-fashioned-type pram by car and all our worldy goods - the pram wouldn't fit into the small lift, but it was good being able to take a stroll with the little ones on warm evenings while husband worked 24/7. In the end I loved the experience of living in the heart of an exciting city.

    1. Important to have the 'stuff' that makes you feel at home. Rudy did continue traveling to California - every week until the new year. The girls and I new more about Tokyo than he ever did!

  9. Thank you for sharing that lovely memory J. When all else fails - there's always McDonald's (i.e. if you can get through the door)!! Hope your hubby is going on OK - you're both in all our thoughts xx

    1. First week has gone swimmingly....the only hiccup has been my FIL is now in the hospital with his heart - never rains but it pours eh Molly?

  10. Thanks for sharing - glad things going well for your hubby but hope your FIL is on the mend soon.

  11. Thanks SH...they have fixed FIL up with a pace-maker (or peace-maker, as he calls it LOL!) and he should be going home early next week. Hi Ho...on we go!

  12. you thought you would share..

    I am so glad you did! I was laughing all the way through but laughter tinged with much sympathy. It is alright for the working partner; they have their job, their routine, their colleagues at work but the homemaker is suddenly on their own, bereft of old friends in a strange land, incomprehensible languages and sometimes bizarre customs. And bewildering semi automatic doors...

    The photo on your side bar of the small child holding a puppy leaning on the kerb is beautiful, by the way.

    1. Thanks that little girl and her puppy too.
      I went to a lecture shortly after arriving in Japan...all about the role of the non-working partner...helped a lot.
      And mostly I'm glad you laughed...I still do every time I think of this story!

  13. Wonderful totaly wonderful. could be my words and actions....hihi. I do have to share this with my husband as soon as he sets foot in the house tonight. He will leave for China in november and might have a bite at Mc Donalds too....although come think of it...if I don't share....I might have a laugh too.
    Happy days my friend. Thanks for putting a big smile on my face.
    Hugs Dagmar

  14. Thanks for laughing along with me Dagmar. Traveling certainly does broaden the mind and the heart...what we don't appreciate sometimes is the way it all happens!
    Safe journey for your husband.


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