Saturday, June 30, 2007

A night in Tokyo

Our overnight in Tokyo on the trip to Saipan was an experience. After getting off the 13 hour flight and being awake for 24+ hours, we managed to get ourselves through customs and onto a shuttle bus to the Radisson Hotel, Narita (the airport city for Tokyo). The airport was very clean and people were very friendly. Everyone seemed to enjoy their jobs. The kids were paid lots of attention (not just because they were intermittently falling apart). The food venders sold noodle bowls and rice/fish combos with chop stix as the only utensil.
We got to our room which was much smaller than a US hotel room. The staff had already set up a single bed next to our bed for Nicholas. We asked for a crib and it came right away. With all the beds there wasn't much space left in the room.
I can't remember a time when all four of us were on EMPTY like we were that night. It was as though every move took 10x the energy. My body was heavy and my brain foggy. Decisions were very difficult. Everyone was passed out by 9pm.
Morgan was first to wake at 1am. I tried to ignore her standing in her crib. She entertained herself for a few minutes before calling out. I convinced her to lie back down but I couldn't back away from the crib. She started to doze and I sneaked away. Minutes later Nicholas was up. This woke Morgan back up and both kids were wired. Ryan got the first shift. He took the kids around the hotel grounds and managed to be away about an hour. Now it was my turn.
Nicholas and I pushed Morgan in the stroller down every hallway in the hotel. NO ONE was in sight. It was 4am and dark outside. We scoped out the gym and headed out to the pool. We were gently stopped by a night security guard that spoke no English (I guess I did have to inappropriately unlock a door or two). We walked around the hotel gardens and I saw a bike path leading into a wooded area. Security was not an issue, as I felt safer in Japan than anywhere in Nashville. We walked along the path which was littered with broken, rusty bicycles. The day started to break and the grounds got very foggy. A dense fog coated the the bottom of the trees and it seemed very surreal...walking through the woods of Japan...just me and the kids. When we returned to the hotel the sun was starting to come up and somehow I knew we would make it. We went back to the room and Ryan was awake and had already showered. We were first in line for a delightful breakfast at 6am. Surprisingly, we weren't the only Americans awake and hungry!

Getting settled

We just put the kids down, they are exhausted by the evenings. They are now sleeping until 4-5am, much improved (but still early). We are beginning to see through the fog. Saipan is really a neat place. It is truly a combo of the US and a third world country.
We found a place to live today! We traveled all over the island and found several houses, townhouses, etc. Each seemed to have its own advantages/disadvantages. Then we stumbled upon the 'Coral Island Condominiums' on the highest part of the island (about 1500ft). We loved it and the view is one we will never experience again. 15 minutes after we left we decided we wanted to live there and we move in tomorrow! This will promptly be followed by our first trip to Costco, I'm sure.
Ryan starts work on Monday. I am a little anxious for him to leave us 'alone', but this is all part of the growing experience. People are very friendly and we meet people everywhere. I am feeling a little homesick, however, but this is typical for me.

where one ends and the other begins

Our first day in Saipan, we went swimming in a still lagoon where the tops of two World War II tanks peek out of the water like turtles. Drunk on a combination of jet lag and the stunning physical beauty of the island, we stood shoulder-deep in the lagoon watching storm clouds develop offshore over the ocean. They rolled into form, grew into a tall column, and then the distinction between cloud, sky, and ocean was obscured. It was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began.
Shortly thereafter, the rain made its way to us. We stood in the perfectly still waters in a spirited downpour. The drops bounced off the water as if we were in a giant puddle.

The car we are borrowing for the week belongs to Pam, a Canadian physical therapist. It's a Toyota, I'm guessing early '90's, stripped and weather-beaten, taped and rigged, but nevertheless a hero considering the brutal roads and salt in the air. She said, "It's insured...If you get pulled over [by one of the three functioning police cars], tell them we're working on the registration." The license plate was last updated in 2004. It will be hard to part with "Lightin' McQueen"--its obvious nickname--but hopefully we'll find something with a similar union of flare and disrepair.

There is a point on the northern part of Saipan called Suicide Cliff. It is so-named because hundreds of Japanese civilians committed mass suicide by jumping (or being thrown) off the cliff in the last hours of the United States' invasion in 1944. They were convinced by propaganda that the Americans would torture any civilians they captured, so they chose death over such a presumed fate.
Today, Lightin' McQueen took us to Suicide Cliff. He was running hot after climbing the hills, and some of the sounds emerging from the hood were discouraging.
Others were there, mostly Japanese tourists. It was an interesting moment to gaze down at a breathtaking view with such intense and dark history together with our brothers and sisters from Japan.

We dined in a surreal restaurant in Garapan, a gaudy district apparantly geared toward the dwindling number of tourists. The Country Saloon is fashioned to resemble a log cabin. It is decorated with frames of John Wayne and Babe Ruth next to faux taxodermy and cigar store Indians. Willie Nelson's "Willie and Family Live" was playing, and the Phillipino waitresses all wore cowboy hats and western wear. We were the only non-Japanese family dining, and Nicholas and Morgan entertained and were entertained by their Japanese peers sitting in neighboring tables.
Sticking out like sore thumbs and feeling like a foreigner, driving a Japanese car in a US Commonwealth, digesting that 50000 Japanese and 15000 Americans died here in a few days of war, trying to figure out where one ends and the other begins, I asked Nicholas about the family sitting next to us, "Where do you think they're from?"
"St. Louis," he replied.

I start work Monday. I will be doing outpatient clinic combined with a few ER shifts (they call it "Emerg") and some work at the Saipan jail. In a couple of weeks, the hospital will fly us to Tinian, an island separated from Saipan by five miles of shark-infested waters. I will work there for one week while the family is "put up" at a resort hotel/casino approximately one mile from the runway used by the Enola Gay to drop the bomb on Japan to end WWII.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

We made it!

Well, we made it. It was rough but really no major problems. We are still very jetlagged -- the kids have woken up at 1am for two nights in a row. The island is very beautiful. Lots of lush green hills and gorgeous water. This morning we went to the beach for a swim. The water is warm and like a swimming pool, essentially no waves. Too tired to write many details, but wanted to send some pics. We are staying temporarily in a 2-bedroom apartment. The sunset was gorgeous last night and the rainbow greeted us this morning (when the sun finally came up after being up most of the night entertaining the kids!).

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Almost Outta Here

We leave in the morning. All has been pretty calm, except today things got a bit hectic. There are lots of last minute details! Plus, Nicholas has become very needy (his way of coping with stress). Nonetheless, we are excited and hoping for a sane trip. I received a voicemail tonight from Northwest airlines telling me our flight was cancelled and I needed to call to reschedule. I nearly wrecked the car when I got the message. Anyway, after declining a 6:40am flight to Detroit (our original departure city), we are rebooked to go to Minneapolis at 11am. Then we fly direct to Tokyo (13 hours). We will spend the night in Tokyo and fly to Saipan the next morning, arriving in Saipan at 3pm on Wed. The schedule is very similar ot our original one. Thanks to all of you who have given us moral support, plus airplane activities, etc. We will put them all to good use (including the Benadryl!).
We had great visits from our family. First my sister, Kelly, came, then Sherry and Ron (Ryan's parents), then my mom. Nisa (black lab) will be living my mom for the next year, enjoying the good life of lake living and RV camping. I hated to say goodbye (after 11 years!). Thanks also to our loving Belmont friends and neighborhood gang who helped us celebrate our departure. We will miss you dearly. The process of leaving has been a blessing in itself, with so many showing their love and affection.
Andy and Rich (Andy's brother) will take us to the airport tomorrow (yes, it takes two cars). Thanks in advance for your prayers!!!
Pictures of camping/cabin trip with Kelly, Andy, Sandra, Ryan and the kids (Nicholas, Morgan, and Jasmin)
love, love Kim

Friday, June 1, 2007

House is rented and movers came

We waited and the right renter came (we think!). Paige is a women who is graduating from UC Berkeley with a Ph.D. in economics. She is moving to Nashville to teach at the Vanderbilt Law School. Although the house is bit big for one person, she likes the area and will essentially 'close off' the upstairs. We welcome Paige to Nashville. I think she will be a great fit.

The movers came in a whirlwind to pick up our 'personal effects'as they say in Saipan. We only had 24 hours to prepare (it all happened very fast) so we threw what we think we will need into boxes and piled it onto our living room floor. The filled container takes 8 weeks minimum to arrive in Saipan and goes via steam ship across the Pacific. I was told not to pack candles or combustibles because it could get up to 150 degrees!

Sister Kelly comes this weekend, yea!

Departure date is set for June 25th.